Hi Tom, it's awesome to be able to do this interview with you. Tell us how Sodom formed. It's said that you started Sodom as a means to get out of the coal mines you were working in. Why did you turn to music as a way out instead of say going to college or getting some training of some sort in another profession?
Yes, getting out of the coalmine was always my aim. But I took the decision to quit my job there in '89, when Agent Orange came out. In the beginning of Sodom, in 81-82, we never thought about to get professional musicians. Making music was just our hobby and kind of revolution against the parents, teachers and establishment. But I never regret my decision to quit and I was so lucky that our music was so successful all over the years.
When you first formed the band you were inspired by bands such as Venom, Motorhead, AC DC, Tank, Rainbow and Accept. I do hear those influences in your music but honestly your music is much heavier, thrashier, and speedier than those bands. What about these bands influenced you so much back in those early days?
But the band Venom was the reason to form a band. When their first album came out, my world has changed. But also Raven and Tank and for sure, Motörhead were our great heroes. So we took the decision to form an own band, that should sound heavier than Venom and faster than Metallica. That was our slogan ;)) but we created a brand-new and own style called “witching metal” so we wanted to get separated from all the other bands around us in that times.
Frank Testagen started out singing vocals back in 1981 but you took over singing duties by 1984 and have been singing for the band ever since. Why? What made you decide to become Sodom's full time singer?
I also sang some lines on the first demos. But when Frank left the band I took the vocal part. Witchhunter liked the way I sing and there was no reason to find a new singer.
Sodom has not had a very stable lineup over the years. You've been the most stable member being there since its inception. The longest staying members are drummer Bobby Shottkowski (13 yrs) and current member guitarist Bernd "Bernemann" Kost (21 yrs). What made it click with these guys but not the others?
Oh yes. Maybe the same age helps. Now after all the years we are able to talk about problems and always try to help each other. These guys fits perfect to me. I am proud of them. Awesome musicians and good pals. In my opinion, Makka is the best german drummer. His drumming is accurate, superfast and always dependable. He had so many good ideas and came up with awesome drums to get these songs realized.
Each member has the same right to be heard. What would i do without a creative band? Berni came up with the guitar-riffs and gave me the initial sparks for the basslines, vocals and the lyrics. I just love his hard riffing combined with melodic solos. So there is no reason to change something. I always want to keep a line up as long as possible….
Are you the main lyric writer for Sodom? How do the lyric ideas come into your head? Do you have to sit down and think them through. Do they just sometimes pop into your head In the most unusual circumstances such as standing in the grocery store line?
My biggest inspiration is the life itself. Specially for the latest release I got so many ideas for lyrics. It`s the current state of our world. The disturbed relation between Russia and the United states, the foreseeable end of the European union, and other conflict. Bad news every day. And it never stops and it is running out of control. Especially when you consider how much the world has changed since the latest albums. Sectarian killing, cold war, nuclear armament, abolition of democracy in many countries’, starvation and all the destructive frenzy …that inspired my lyrical mindset and fits so perfect to our music. That is sad but true. I am not politically active, but this music gives me the chance to enter the stage and to scream my rage out. That is like a therapy for me.
You also have a band called Onkel Tom Angelripper. When did you start that and why is it a band where you sing metal versions of Christmas carols and pop songs? What is the idea behind that?
We started out in 95. In the beginning we came up with the idea to produce an rock album with german traditional drinking and student songs. In the end, the first album was so successful that we got an option from our label for a second and a third one. That was amazing. The band is still performing and at the time we write songs for the next album. 10 songs are already arranged but we think about to release a double album, one side with covered drinking songs and one with own material…..
Its so funny to do but you have to realize, that Sodom is my main band.
Tell me what its like playing in front of thousands of people at festivals such as Wacken? How do you prepare for a major gig like that? Any pre show rituals? When do you guys start rehearsing for stuff like that?
Oh yes, that is amazing. But we also love to play in small clubs…very close to fans. I like to get in contact to them for signing sessions or just getting some beers with them. We rehears every week, it does not matter if there is an upcoming show or studio jobs. We do more sessions when we changed the setlist or writing new songs. We have no rituals before the show, just shaking hands and drinking a beer…cause god will always be by our side ;)
Bassinvaders sounds like an interesting project. Started by Helloween's Markus Grosskopf, it a project using nothing but bass guitars for the lead solo playing , rhythm bass playing with accompanying drums and vocals. You guys put out an album Hellbassbeaters in 2008. How were you approached for this project? Are there any more albums? Where can fans pick up their copies?
It was just a “one time” project, to show the people, how important bass players are for the songwriting process in a band and what bass players are able to create with their instruments. We never thought about a second release…and we never did any live shows. Many people don’t understand the meaning of this project and still miss the guitars….But I love it…
Tell us about Die Knappen.
This band was established by myself and some good friends. The idea behind was to create music dealing with the soccer team schalke 04 and coalmining songs. But I am not more active in this band. Playing in 3 bands seems to much for me. So the the bass player “schiri” took the vocal part.
Dezperadoz (formerly Desperados) is a band you played in with Sodom guitarist Alex Kreft. What albums were you on? Are there any out there to buy?
I was the singer of the first album. They released a couple of albums after the debut and they are still around. But i am not more in this band. But i am still proud to be a part of their history. The first album was very strong but underrated. I love it. Alex kraft produced a new album, which tells the story of the famous gunfighter billy the kid. I took some guest vocals on it.
You've been putting out albums with Sodom every two-four years since 1984! Where does all of this material come from? Your brain must be constantly in music making mode which is awesome. Are you going to keep putting albums out for us until the very end? The thought of you as an old metal guy is just cool haha
As long as I stay healthy and creative I will do it. I always have so many ideas for new songs, lyrics and concepts. But the secret is very simple. Do what you want and create your music without any dictation from outside. We also try to keep the spirit of all the older records and to separate us from other bands.
Where exactly did you get the name Sodom and what does it mean?
The idea came, when I saw the movie “120 day of Sodom” and also venom’s “thousand day in Sodom” helps a little bit ;)
A. What is your favorite brand of bass, amps, bass pickups , pedals and strings? Do you have a favorite bass guitar you own?
It`s a sansamp (preamp), Marshall amplifier EL34, EMG pick ups, rotosound swing bass strings. At the time my favourite bass guitars are Fernandes Tremor and warwick Stryker.
B. Have you ever bought a bass and modded it up, then regretted it later and couldn’t reverse it?
C. Do you use a processor?
No, but I think about to use a modern and digital Kemper amp, cause it sound fantastic and is easy to handle on touring by plane cause of the less weight
D. Have you ever broken strings in the middle of a show?
I think one two or three times in my carreer, but I could handle it to keep the show go on. But I was always shocked and helpless, when it happened..
E. Tell us your tour setup
I use a sansamp (preamp) and a local ampeg amplifier with 8x10 ampeg cabinets.
F. Please explain the following: Natural harmonics, artificial harmonics, tapping and sliding harmonics.
What is that? Never heard about…Hahahahah!!!!
G. How many pics do you go through in a show?
Need 6 or 8 pics…cause I throw them in, but just need one to perform
When did you first pick up the bass and what attracted you to the bass guitar out of all other instruments? Are you a self-taught bass player or did you take lessons?
I bought my first bass guitar in 1980 in a small music store in my hometown. I did not know the manufacturer, but I loved the shape, that looked similar the the Ibanez destroyer. The saleswoman told me, that it is a Japanese guitar called hondo. I still own this :)) I never had lessons, but we practiced 3 times a week. It was important to play own songs, and that was very easy back in these days…
Do you give bass lessons or have bass clinics?
Who has influenced your music and life musically or non-musically?
I think, growing up in a coalminer family, living in a worker milieu. That shapes the way I thought about life. That’s also the reason, why german thrash sounds different to US bands. We had a really hard life and my parents worked so hard to survive and they did anything to bring up the kiddies well protected. That real life was the biggest influence and also my success is the result of a hard working
What do you do in your downtime? Any hobbies, favorite foods, tv shows , books etc?
Spending time with my family and friends, driving motorcycle. But my biggest passion is hunting and I try to spent so much time as possible in my own hunting district…that helps to relax
Interview by Heather Williams