In this lineup there's Bobby on the drums, Bernemann on the guitars, and this lineup has been together now for about five or six years. For me it's the strongest lineup ever. I always try to keep a lineup. I'm really satisfied. These guys are really cool and are good friends of mine. We can talk about everything. About all the problems. That's wonderful.
Are you the only original member then?
Yes. I formed the band in '80-'81 and everybody knows I sometimes change the lineup. I kick some musicians out. I'm a member of the original lineup. That's right.
You've been playing for 20 years. What do you attribute your longevity to?
I think it's about 20 years. Because I like to do it professionally. When we started the band in '81 I never realized that the band would exist 20 years later. Those 20 years went by fast. The fans keep me going on. When I started to be a professional musician in '88-'89 that was great because I could live off of the music. I didn't have to get a job at that point. It's a dream come true to be a professional musician and not have to get a job. Just do the music, go on tour, and the studio. A dream come true. That's wonderful for me.
I bet it is. I understand that the single "Ausgebombt" from your album Agent Orange made Sodom the first German thrash band to enter the German album charts.
Yes, that's right. We started with "Ausgebombt" to sometimes do a song with german lyrics on an album. This is also the best album, the one from '89. Sodom was really big in Germany and also worldwide. Agent Orange was the first metal album coming to the media controlled charts in Germany. No metal band had done that before. We placed #36 in the charts once which was really, really good. Up to this time the metal scene was getting bigger in Germany. That was really great but I didn't care because I just do the music for myself. I just do the music for my fans. I never tried to get commercial, to get into the media controlled charts, or anything. I just do the music I want to do. That's the way.
Was that the only song on the album written in german?
On the Agent Orange album, it was just "Ausgebombt" in german. Two albums later we had a song in german called "Wachturm". We also have a song in german on Masquerade In Blood. On the new album you don't find a song in german. There was no special idea for a song in german because I wanted to write a new album against the war. Most of the lyrics we have done in german are a little humorous. On the new album we just wanted to make serious fresh music. We wanted to write really good lyrics. We wanted to give a message. We wanted to wake people up. We wanted to say please stop the war. There was no place for a song in german on this album.
In 1993 you put out an EP titled Aber Bitte Mit Sahne. Was the whole EP done in german?
No, just one song, "Aber Bitte Mit Sahne". There were also two songs with english lyrics. They were "Sodomize" and "Abuse". "Aber Bitte Mit Sahne", it's called German schlager music. There is one famous guy in Germany, Udo Juergens, he just does German songs. We get a lot of inspiration from him because he's really funny. "Aber Bitte Mit Sahne" up to this time is a light classic and we have to play it at every concert in Germany. The single from this EP was selling really good because it's not typical for a thrash band to write songs in german. For Sodom it's typical.
Your albums center around death and destruction. What's your fascination with that particular subject matter?
That's a really good question. I always wanted to write lyrics about things that really happen in the world. I don't like bands writing cliche lyrics like some true metal bands. Even the bigger bands like Judas Priest or Saxon. If you read the lyrics you can just laugh about it. I don't like it. I want to write lyrics about things that really happen in the world and this is war. All the time when I start writing lyrics for a new album there is a war raging in this world. When I wrote the Better Off Dead album there was the Gulf crisis. When we wrote the Code Red album there was the Kosovoc crisis. All the time there was a war raging. For the new album we used some parts and some fragments and some symbols from the Vietnam war. The message is stop the war. For example, what's happening now in the world. What's happened to the World Trade Center gives me a lot of inspiration to write new material against terrorism for the next album. When I start writing lyrics, I want to do it in a fantasy way but always based on historic effects. I do the lyrics mainly for me. I know that most of the metal fans don't understand the lyrics and just like the music. I'm always inspired by war things. I hate war. Everybody hates war but war is always present.
Seems like people can't go for too long without killing each other. Your 1989 album Agent Orange refers to a horrible chemical agent that was used during the Vietnam war. Can you elaborate on that album?
When I write lyrics I'm looking for titles nobody knows. When I started writing Agent Orange most of the metal fans didn't what Agent Orange was. I'm really interested in historical things also, like war. I also like the Vietnam war movies. I can remember when we went to Vietnam at the beginning of this year and we visited the War Crime Museum and then I saw the Agent Orange victims and napalm victims. That's really heavy. I thought it was a really wonderful album title and a special war scene I was writing about. Always when I start writing lyrics I want to do something really special.
Your 1999 album, Code Red, refers to a punishment code used by the Marines. Can you elaborate on that?
That's also a thing that happens mostly in the U. S. Army but it also happens in the German Bundeswehr. I remember when I was in the Bundeswehr, it happened all the time and this is a really bad thing. For example, a general in a company, he's allowed to do it. Code Red is also a really wonderful title for an album and for a song.
How do you view the concept of war itself?
I get a lot of questions because I write lyrics about war. You have to see one thing. I can't write anything against WWII because I'm a German. If I wrote something against WWII I'd get a lot of problems in Germany. I'd get a lot of misunderstanding. The people said they had some problems with the song on the Persecution Mania album called "Bombenhagal" because we used the German national anthem and the Germans had a big problem with it. They said that the band Sodom were fascists. They played the German national anthem in a song, but why not? We are Germans. There is no political opinion in all the lyrics. If I wrote something against WWII, the people don't know what is behind the lyrics. Most people don't try to read between the lines to get more information about it. This album we used the Vietnam war because everybody knows the Vietnam war movies. Everybody knows movies like Apocalypse Now, Full Metal Jacket, or The Deer Hunter, one of my favorite movies.
I remember the first time I watched The Deer Hunter. I was a kid and I cried at the end because he couldn't shoot the deer.
I like it because it's not so commercial like Apocalypse Now or Full Metal Jacket. I don't think The Deer Hunter will never get as famous as Apocalypse Now but I like Robert DiNiro. I like the story behind this movie. Sometimes it's really authentic and really, really heavy.
It shows you what that war was actually like. Is there any particular war that strikes you the most brutal and devastating?
I don't know, I think every war is brutal and devastating. What's happened now, it's the most brutal war I think. It's a war against an enemy you cannot see. It's a war against terrorism that's really brutal. When we visited Vietnam, we also visited the Cu Chi tunnel. It's getting really commercial. A lot of people go to Vietnam. There's a kind of war tourism. You see all the guns they used. You see the big bombs. You see the traps they used in the jungle. I think that was really brutal but I think every war is brutal.
In May you visited a number of Asian countries in order to experience first hand what war leaves behind. Can you elaborate on what you saw?
We saw the War Crime museum. We wanted to talk to the people there. I wanted to get more information about the war. I wanted to talk to people who fought in the Vietnam war. We met a lot of people but they didn't want to talk about the war. They said "come on, I don't want to talk about it. For me the war is over". The guys were really cool. We also visited the hospital where the injured veterans live at. We talked to them. I didn't get the information I wanted because the war is getting really commercial there. At the War Crime museum we saw a lot of things. I saw a lot of pictures and books and movies I've never seen before. You cannot see on TV. That was really, really heavy. In a second way we tried to find a metal scene because that was an idea from a record company to do a metal concert in Vietnam. No metal band's played there before. This was impossible at the time. There's really not a metal scene in Vietnam because of the political scene that's a form of communism. It's forbidden to hear this music and you cannot buy the official albums there. We also talked to the metal fans in Laos. We talked about other bands and they never heard of bands like Motorhead for example. The metal scene is just in the underground. We tried for next year because we want to go back there. We want to try to get some more connections there to do a rock concert in Saigon. That will be the first time. In the same month we played in Bangkok, in Thailand. It was no problem because there is a big metal scene. That was really crazy. Asia for me is not just Japan. I know that the Japanese have a lot of money. You cannot make money when you play in Bangkok or in Malaysia or in Vietnam. People are really poor. I like to do it because we have fans worldwide and they want to see Sodom live too.
Can you elaborate on your extensive tour of the Cu Chi tunnel system?
That was really funny because it's also getting commercial. When we walked through the tunnel system and came out of it, you could buy T-shirts there. You could buy Coca-Cola there. The Cu Chi tunnel is viewed especially by Americans and Europeans. You pay 20 dollars to see it. You see the Cu Chi tunnel, you see all the things in the jungle, you can also shoot M-16 rifles, and you can see the traps. It's getting so commercial. It's unbelievable. You can buy T-shirts any place. They make a lot of money but I wanted to give the money because it's really interesting. The trip through the Cu Chi tunnel, it's about half an hour and then we have to leave. I don't know that what I saw was really wrong or right. I don't think that what I saw there was really authentic. What I saw in the War Crime musuem was really heavy. The pictures. You see Agent Orange victims and all the guns they used. The Americans used also. American aircraft and tanks. That was really interesting but the people in Vietnam are really nice. They were really thankful to see European people. We got a wonderful hotel. You can vacation in Vietnam. It's a wonderful place but it's not for a metal band. You cannot go. It's impossible.
You can have Coca-Cola but you can't have metal.
There's no metal scene. I don't know why but they cannot buy anything there. Most of the people I talked to knew the band Sodom. They knew other bands. They get it from the Internet. They download the music in MP3 files. If they're really Sodom fans, they get the music. That's no problem. They cannot buy official albums and T-shirts.
Your new album, M-16, deals with the Vietnam war. Can you elaborate on some of the tracks on the album?
Oh no, it's too much to talk about every song. This is not especially about Vietnam as I've said before because I write lyrics about things that really happened. There is just the message in every song. Please stop war. If you try to read between the lines, you try to understand what I mean. You will find out that I want to wake the people up. When we perform a Sodom concert I always talk about the bad things in the world. I just want to describe how bad war is but always try to do it in a lyrical way based on historical effects. That's really important to say. There's one song I can talk about. "Surfin' Bird" is a cover song from The Trashmen. For me The Trashmen were one of the first punk bands and I like this song a lot. If you talk about music, I think when we arranged the songs for the new album we talked about what we were going to do. For me it was important to write better songs. To write better choruses and refrains in the songs. Now you listen to the songs once or twice, you never forget them. Most of the songs go straight to the ear. The songs like "Napalm In The Morning", "I Am The War", "M-16", "Gendocide", are the best songs ever.
The songs that I liked the most were "Among The Weirdcong", "I Am The War", "Napalm In The Morning", and "M-16".
Also "Minejumper". We're going on tour. We will start a big tour in two weeks and we are writing the playlist. It will be really heavy because on the new album there are so many classics and we definitely play five or maybe six songs from a new album and also play the all time Sodom classics on this tour. This tour is starting at the end of December. I think you've heard about it. We are touring with Kreator and Destruction. That will be wonderful.
Where are you touring primarily?
We start the tour just in Europe. We will tour for five weeks. We just do it in Europe. There are no special plans to go to America. We also plan to go to Russia. We want to go back to Asia again. This time we are looking for booking agencies in America who are going to help us over there. I want to try to keep this package, these three bands, together for a big U. S. and South American tour. I know we have a lot of fans in America too. Sodom never got the chance to do an American tour. We just did one concert three years ago at the Milwaukee Metalfest.
We'd love to have you guys.
The problem is to find a serious booking agency who can help us. That was a problem in the past. When Code Red came out on Pavement Records in Arizona we got no support. They didn't help us. We played at the Milwaukee Metalfest and Jack Koshnick gave us nothing. We have to look for a really serious promoter, booking agency.
In August you performed a gig in Bangkok. How did that go?
It was really amazing. It was really great because I think we were one of the first metal bands to ever play in Bangkok. I heard that two weeks ago The Scorpions played an unplugged tour and played in Bangkok. That was a really metal concert. The people came from Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand. That was really great. There was a small rock club in Bangkok. I think about 400 or 500 people got in. It was so crazy. The people were so thankful to see the band live onstage. In Bangkok it was amazing. Everybody knew the songs and the lyrics. They cannot buy the official albums. They also get it from the Internet and there was a lot of bootleg stuff you can buy there. That was wonderful. I know we're the first band to play there. I know a lot of other bands don't go because you cannot make money. They paid for the plane tickets. They paid for the hotel. We got the food for free. The drinks for free. We had a big party there. It was a wonderful concert. It was really great and we want to go back.
Any other thoughts or comments?
For the fans we definitely want to get the chance for a U. S. tour. We give 100 percent. It will be a historic moment to see all three bands onstage. Destruction, Kreator, and Sodom. We'll have a great party and share a lot beers together.