Assassin Interview with Michael Hoffman

April 1st, 2005
by Arto Lehtinen

In the 80?s when thrash ruled the world bands popped up all around. Especially in Europe where German got a dominating role what comes to having the outstanding thrash metal scene. Sodom, Kreator and Destruction have already become and gained the legend status in eyes of every extreme metal fan. But besides the unholy triangle of the thrash names, the German thrash metal scene had a lot of great bands to offer which remained more on the ug and cult status level and released a couple of albums and vanished around the change of the decade. Assassin used to be one of those bands having released two albums and was forced to withdraw until a couple of years ago Assassin got back  together and did a real metal thrashing mad set at Wacken.  Assassin?s guitarist Michael Hoffman (who was on Sodom?s Better Off Dead) quickly answered my questions?

 

 

I think it would be a good opportunity of taking a glance at the historical aspect of Assassin to kick the interview off because the band thrashed around in the glorious era of the German thrash metal genre in the 80?s, before going any further but I gotta ask first of all what exactly led the old Assassin members to resurrect the old band from the beyond ?!

In reality, we tried it several times to reunite Assassin. Fans had never forgotten and were asking for a reunion for years. This time it worked out and now we have a thrilling line-up.

When the band reunited approxiately three years ago, how was the feeling and the magic still there between the old members right in the first place when you entered your rehearsal place for the first time or did you have sceptical prejudice thoughts about how this reunion will carry out after all ?!

You know, we were still in contact for all this years. Even when I was living in Brasil, I called our drummer Frank to join a brasilian project and he did. Robert is living in China but he is in Germany frequently. Our new bassplayer Ufo Walter already played with Frank before Assassin. So nothing really changed when we decided to reunite, because it was just like before.

By the end of the 80?s Assassin split up and all the members continued their life on their own by either leaving the metal genre to focus on other things or then joined other bands for example you Michael, who joined Sodom to replace Frank Blackfire, of which I will ask a little bit later, but as to the split up, but what the hell went wrong in Assassin as the band just broke up even though you had new material for the new album and the whole thrash metal was raging all over the world ?

Some motherfuckers broke in into our rehearsalroom and stole most of our equipment. That was the end. No money, no amp?

When forming Assassin over 20 years ago you were definitely not aware of other possible bands named after Assassin, but there was another Assassin hailing from San Francisco and another one from South Korea. Obviously you gotta have heard of the one from San Francisco, at least I have traded the SF Assassin thru the old school tape trading?.

I knew about these bands and even one rapcrew from France with the name Assassin. I don?t care. WE are the REAL Assassin. Everbody knows this.

CHANGING LINE UP

All right, let?s get straight to the most recent news around the Assassin camp. The line-up has expanded to the three guitarist job instead of the standard double guitar work. At least that?s gotta be something new in the thrash metal genre as I don?t recall any band having three guitarists in the line-up. Obviously you didn?t wanna match to Iron Maiden, so how did this happen anyway !?

The problem was, and it still IS, that Dinko has some private things to do in Croatia and as you will see on our new CD ?The Club?, he didn?t play any guitar on it, neither he is on the photos. We are a ?usual? two-guitarists-band at the moment but this can change daily.

Of course it has to be inquired that what sort of problems as well as advantages this three guitar work will possiblity bring to Assassin ?! For example how will you share solos between three guitarists ?!

Because we have quite different styles of soloplaying, we decide by the music we are playing. Dinko has this Slayerlike style, Sholli is more in psychadelic effectful playing and I am more Blues and Rock orientated.

It seems like each other from the Assassin line-up has been somewhere in the world, you spent six years in Brazil, Dinko is in Croatia quite often and Robert has been to China. How the hell do you cordinate all the schedule and long distance problems to set up the recording of the new album and mandatory rehearsals ?!

Mostly by phone and internet.

But however there have been  a few essential line-up changes during this reunion, as Atomic Steiff, known for being a member of Sodom Violent Force Living Death, was hired to sit behind the drum battery, but left the band and was replaced by Frank Nellen, he played on INSTELLAR EXPERIENCE. How did you manage to lure Frank back to the band ?!?

Frank and me are like musical brothers. We already played so many things together that it was easy. ?Frank, I am now again playing at Assassin, you want to join?? was my question and he said :?OK!?

Why was Atomic Steiff then dismissed from Assassin ?! Did he want to focus on his bands or was there some kind of personal disagreements with him ?!

First it was the way he was playing. Though he is a good drummer, I miss a little innovation in his playing. Frank is a kind of drummer who invents new beats instead of playing BuTaBuTaBuTaBuTaBuTa on every riff I throw in. That is, what we need. He also understands the musical speech. If I want more ?pressing? drums, he understands and plays just like this. The same to our new bassman named Ufo Walter. You can hear that he is an expierienced musician who is sleeping with his bass.

I found out the former Tusk bassist would have teamed up with Assassin, Markus Ludwig would be involved in the reunited Assassin, so what?s up with this bassplayer situation as a matter of fact ?!

As I just mentioned, we found a bassplayer that fits. Ufo came for the first rehearsal and it was just like we playing together for years. I love his playing and he is a cool person.

As to the old days, after the Assassin split up Destruction approached him, asking Rob to join this  was asked to jam with Destruction, but he turned down the offer of joining the band ?!?

Oh, I heard that tape but I don?t know why he didn?t join. Good question. I will ask him later about this. You know, Robert is a teamplayer and I don?t think that he would fit into Destruction. They are more individual like Venom or Motorhead. Can you imagine Robert with curls and Destruction outfit ??? I mean, I like Destruction and the guys are cool, but Assassin has a different spirit.

As for you Michael, as mentioned above you teamed up with AngelRipper?s Sodom, touring around and did one album ?BETTER OFF DEAD?, I guess Blackfire?s departure from Sodom was a major shock for the Sodom fans all around the world ?!

For me it wasn?t. I am still in contact with Frank ?Blackfire? and we switched our language to portuguese

Your co-operation with Angelripper didn?t last about one year if I am right, did you face some unsorted disagreements with Angelripper causing your departure from the band ?!

No, I never had any problem with Tom. We are still companheros and our meetings are funny everytime. My leaving had more than just one reason. First I met a woman in Brasil, which gave me two children. Then there was this other thing with the drummer, that are not to be mentioned here. I also had an offer  from a brasilian recording-studio to work there as a producer/engineer/musician and if you stand there at the bahian beach at sunset and somebody gives you the offer to stay there for long, you do it. It was no error to do this. I could tell you hours of stories but this has to wait until we reach Finland for a show ?

WHO WILL RELEASE THE NEW ASSASSIN ALBUM ?

INTERSTELLAR EXPERIENCE and UPCOMING TERROR were both released by SteamHammer/SPV, but I read somewhere you would be still under the deal with SteamHammer, I could guess that it is pretty much obvious some other label will be putting the third Assassin album out however, so what is the current situation with the policy of these record labels right now ?!

We are negotiating with a big majorlabel in China but in Europe and overseas we will start releasing the new cd by our own until we find a good distributor . Time has changed and the internet is a good platform. SteamHammer/Spv is not our label anymore.

I remember having read Schmier?s quite negative comments on the activity of Steamhammer/SPV toward Destruction in the 80?s, but what kind of deal did you have with them ?!

None at the moment and I am happy about it.

 

OLD SCHOOL THRASH METAL ATTACK

Since the band was put together after the 13 year hiatus in 2002, Assassin announced working on the follow up to INTERSTELLAR EXPERIENCE released back in 1988 and according to the official website of Assassin, the recording of the third album will start in the mid of January. So will the stuff for the next album be alike on those two albums which came out in the late 80?s, or have you wanted to aim to feature some updated elements to the new stuff ?!

 I think you can define it better by yourself but I can say that Assassin has improved a lot.

Between before the split up and the INSTELLAR EXPERIENCE output you recorded a three track demo in 89/90 and probably previously unreleases have to be canned somewhere, but are you going to re-use, re-do, re-arrange, re-write them for upcoming releases and especially for the third release ?!

We recorded one of the tracks at our actual sessions but it will be released later on?.

When putting the band together you recorded a five track demo, were all those songs new ?! How did that new material turn out in your opionion ?! And will all of them end on the album ?!

Every song from the demo IS on the album.

Despite the tracklist of the upcoming third album has been revealed in the Assassin site, but however could you politely repeat it to all the readers and tell a little bit more about those new songs ?

The sound is powerful, every song is different. It?s worth an hour of time to kick back, relax and smoke a fat ass joint, too. Most people that could listen to the whole album said, that after ?I swear? they wanted to listen to the whole album again. We also covered one song called ?Thunder and Lightning? from the great ?Thin Lizzy? which is a killer. Great Solos (even a solo from the bass) and stunning vocals by Robert. ?No Fear? is written by Scholli and it is a nice tune, too. Every song has its rights to stay on the album, like the speedy ?Real Friends? or ?Go Insane?, like the slow ones ?The Price of Power? or ?Pscho Terror? or all the other great ones. I love them all. I think Assassin has, more than before, its own style and it?s own fans. I mean, after 18 years people were asking for a new album, that is patient ?

Why has the recording of the third album delayed cos your original plan was to release within 2004 ?!

Always changing the line-up costs some time ?

Speaking of your old demotapes ?Holy Terror? and ?The Saga Of Nemesis? still being spread around amongst the old school traders and besides those demos can be found from the net, but have you ever thought of putting them out in official CD formats ?!

?Nemesis? is already published on our online-fanclub ?AGD?. We will put out ?Holy Terror? in the same way soon. Maybe later we will put it on a official CD, let?s see.

As far as the lyrics are concerned, they used to deal with a wide range of all kinds of topics from the scifi stuff to the political things. For example JunkFood off from the second album INSTELLAR EXPERIENCE could be described your protest toward this fast food culture.. Your were quite keen on penning the lyrics about the everyday even though the scifi issues had an important role anyway ?!

You will like the new lyrics. Robert is an expierienced guy who has a lot to tell about life. This is learning by banging.

 

 

THRASH METAL REVIVAL !!

Does it bug you somehow, when it is talked and written about the German thrash metal it mostly culmiminated around the German thrash triple Destruction, Sodom and Kreator whereas other bands having been in a part of creating the German thrash metal scene are forgotten to be mentioned ?!

I still see Assassin showing up in many playlists and favelists in the top 10. And this WITHOUT bringing out new cd?s every year and WITHOUT playing live whole time. No Video but still Airplay. Wait until you see us live and there will be no doubt that Assassin is a top-act.
 
The Thrash Metal was the most extreme and aggressive metal that came out in the 80?s as bands usually rose up all around the world, In Europe, In North America, in South America, Austalia and so on. Bands usually created the sounds and style of their own, but of course they were influenced by other so called big names, but above all thrash metal bands used to have unique and their own souns where they could be recognized, whereas nowadays most of bands usually teend to sound like the identifical same like some big bands. Or How do you view this originality of the sounds of the thrash metal bands of the 80?s, for example Assassin didn?t sound like Destruction or Slayer and could be recognized Assassin?

This is what I was telling you before about our drummer. Improvement. This is not just based on how good you are on your instrument but on how you feel the music and WHAT you play not HOW FAST you can play. When you make a song, it is already in the air. Just grab it and play what the song is telling you to play. No thinking, just doing. We don?t give a fuck whather the people like our music or not. It is important that WE like what we are playing.

Rob and Mille have remained close friends during all these years even though Rob has spent several years in another side of the world ? But have you remained friends and kept any contact to other old school German thrash metal people ?!

I met Tom Angelripper and Mille once in a while. Frank Blackfire as I just said. Milo from Deathrow and other guys from the past

Rob did a few background vocalist for the Israeli techno thrash combo Nailed Within. Mille Petrozza did a visit to the album as well, but how the hell did Rob end up to doing the vocals for them, and were you kinda surprised to find out there was a demand for you to vocals for other bands ?!

Thrash is still a big family worldwide. 1985 it was just like that. This is different from the Heavy Metal Scene. I remember back in the days when we were trading demotapes from zillion of bands from all over the world. Every city had its own fanzine and it was a big, peaceful community. This has not changed until today.

In 2003 Assassin was testified at the prestigious Wacken Open Air Festival. There was a lot of old school fans thrashing during the Assassin set whereas the young metal fans were in the other side of the festival area because of In Flames. Were you anyhow nerve to play in front of the huge crowd was definitely ?

I didn?t play at this show.

Well After the INTERSTELLA EXPERIENCE had been unleashed, Assassin hit the road together Rumble Milita and the Bay Area thrahers Death Angel, I can?t help asking how was that tour, how did you get along with the DA guys and what kind of reception was received on gigs ?!

Though, Death Angel was the headliner, it was a family tour. The DA guys are just the same as the rest of us. We were trading skateboard tricks, smoking a lot of pot, drinking beer and playing loud for the people.

When will Assassin be witnessed on the stage again ?! Soon I hope.

Tell all people in Finland about Assassin?s new album and we could already play at your area this summer.

All Right Danke Schon for the interview and your time? so I wish all the best to Assassin and the last words are yours?

Thank you for your support. Keep thrashing and buy our album..

 

 

 

The official ASSASSIN homepage :

http://www.assassin-online.de/

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