Heart of Steel: Interviews

Interview with Tom Angelripper of SODOM

Questions By Arto Lehtinen and Luxi Lahtinen
(with the co-operation of Jussi Helenius - Thanx pa!l)

When the ”HELL COMES TO YOUR TOWN” tour featuring three German legendary thrash metal acts on the bill arrived at Helsinki, the Finnish Metal Rules team literally did a real bestial invasion to interview a couple of them. One of three names was Sodom, whose long career with natural upper and lower hills and a bunch of outstanding outputs have influenced thousands in the death and black metal genre. It was obvious it was a great chance and honour for us to interview Tom Angelripper, to inquire about the golden era of thrash metal and especially his interest to pen lyrics about war issues. Here is the long and in-depth interview with the Sodom himself Tom Angelripper….


It has been 12 years since your last visit to Finland in 1990 at the Giants Of Rock festival. You played there with such bands as Running Wild, Pretty Maids, Uriah Heep among with others - remember?

90? Yeah, there were all kind of different bands. Uriah Heep were very cool. I can remember their show. It was a cool Open Air festival indeed…

Yeah, I guess it was. I was there, too. I remember there was a huge three meter wall in the front of the stage where I was hanging on and yelled "Nuclear Winter" several times and then you said "You got it… Nuclear Winter", I dived back off from the wall to the audience...

Hah-ha-ah!! It was really fun to play with Uriah Heep there; they were one of my fav bands when I was a young boy, y´know.




This ´war´ theme has been the main thing for you since you released PERSECUTION MANIA, but then later on you started to deal with more subjects about Satanism and stuff. What was so fascinating about writing war topics back then? I mean, Motörhead does it, Slayer does it and Sodom has been doing that for many years thus far as well?

This war theme has always been around us. If you read newspaper every day and watch TV shows every day, there is always a war raging. I just wanna describe wars; I can't write anything about World War II because of Germany. I use the Vietnam War because everyone knows something about it. If I talk about Vietnam, everybody knows what I mean. Every war, Vietnam War, WW I and II, Gulf War, Bosnia crisis are all bad signals. We want to awake everybody up and say: “C'mon stop the wars! Do something!!” But you can't do that something; you just can't describe how bad it is. At that time we did BETTER OFF DEAD the Gulf War was going on...

If there is no more war, then I would have to write about the peace and love.


What kind of process was it to get the new album done?

It was important to write even better songs for the new album and it was important to have choruses in the songs. That's very typical for songs on M-16. If you listen to it once or twice so you will never forget them at all. There is "Genocide", "Napalm In the Morning", "I Am the War" and "M-16" dealing with the Vietnam issues. The album stands for the real Sodom classics and are really straight.

The songs are really simple to understand and you kind of never forget them. I really am satisfied with them. Maybe the production could have been a little bit better, tho. Probably we will record our next album at another studio, so we will see what happens, but overall I am really pleased with it and especially when people have been telling liking it and compare it to AGENT ORANGE by saying that this is the best album we have done after AGENT ORANGE. That’s their opinion and… mine, too, he-he!! But I feel proud when people are saying so. They say that Sodom is back and this Thrash Metal revival, but we have always been around and never walked away.


Does your interest towards war topics come from your own experiences, like you must have done the military service?

Oh no no… It was too long time ago. The military service has to be done in 15 months. I am not really interested in the military stuff. I am not a military expert. Maybe I am an expert with guns and weapons because of the hunting, but no, I am not really interested in the military. Actually I don't need any militaries and a lot of money can spent on better things.


But do you however agree that these military lyrics fit to the concept very well as far as these aggressive aspects of your music are concerned?

Yes. That is one of reasons why we visited to Vietnam last year because I wanted to talk to some people who really fought in the war, but to see Vietnam - and I wanted to see all these people and talk to them. There is also a huge war crime museum and famous architecture systems. I didn't get that much information about the war ´cos people weren´t that talkative over there. You know the war is over, but now the war is getting more commercial. People in Vietnam are making the money with the war; there are a lot of American products for example Coca Cola, Martini T-shirt and so on. It is getting really commercial indeed and they make the money, but I still think it is somewhat ok.


I read some interview ´bout you like a couple of years ago when you played at the Milwaukee metal fest that you were interested in writing some lyrics about animal rights as well, is that correct?

Yeah, I have already done that in a song called “Silent is Consent”. It is about the killing of the whales. That's really bad. Well, I kill deers because of the hunting, but it can't be compared to the killing of the whales. Every year you have to kill deers because of the population is growing up too much, but for me it is totally senseless to kill whales. There is no reason why to kill. This way they will really die out. That makes me really angry.


So you have a personal touch to topics like killing animals?

Let´s just say that I don't smile when I go to the forest with a gun and kill a deer, but someone has to do it anyway. But you really can't compare it to the senseless killing of animals. It is not senseless when I kill a deer, y´know. Of course it is sad cos another deer comes behind the fallen one.


You just said you are not able to write lyrics about the World War II because Germans are sensitive people about this matter. What about such brothers of metal like Lemmy Kilmester from Motörhead, Jeff Hannemann from Slayer as they both collect the military stuff from the WW II. Just wondering has Lemmy been asking for any military stuff from you?

Yes, I know a lot of other guys who collect these symbols of the WW II - just collecting, y´know, without having any political opinion involved with. I don't know what Lemmy's political opinion or Jeff Hannemann´s either. Americans are sometimes very strange. Sometimes they use symbols to look they have like Iron Cross and so on.

I do know Lemmy is a real serious collector, he is really interested in the German history and all the stuff of the war and reads the books. He is really interested in the war themes. I don't know Jeff Hannemann's opinion, maybe just wants to use to show people "maybe I am fascist" or then not or something like that. If someone collects that stuff, there is not always any political opinion. It is kind of the German history.




Ok, I guess you must have been asked several times about the war things by now, so I think it is about time to jump into a time capsule and return to the early days of Sodom. When you started out Sodom, I guess you were heavily influenced by Motörhead, Angelwitch and Venom. I think the Venom influences still reflect in your mind because of your name Angelripper?

A little bit yes, but when we started to do music for Sodom, we tried to create our own style. We tried to make the music without any influences, but you can't do that without getting any influences. I was a big Venom fan in the beginning and Motörhead - yes. We tried to make the music in our own way and tried to get it heavier than Venom. That was our aim when we started. As for the name Angelripper, well ok, it was a fashion at that time: Witchunter, Grave Violator, Aggressor, Destructor. It was kind of in fashion, you know. In the lyrical way, it was really interesting to pen about the Alistair Crowley stuff and other magic things, but it gave me nothing, so I changed the lyrics on PERSECUTION MANIA.


What do you actually think of your first album IN THE SIGN OF EVIL now after several years it was released?

We played three songs tonight. I am standing 100% behind every single song on that album. I am looking forward to doing something from OBSESSED BY CRUELTY for the new kids, but OBSESSED BY CRUELTY was really strange. I can't hear exactly what I played there for you at this time. It was really strange…


So you are very proud of those albums, I mean, OBSESSED BY CRUELTY and IN THE SIGN OF EVIL, ´coz those albums were sort of a head start of Sodom and put the whole metal scene wondering who are they indeed, where are they coming from and so on…

Yes, yes… these two albums interest a lot of younger bands. Young metal bands and fans are really interested in the beginning of this kind of music. That makes me really proud. There is even a tribute album to Sodom on the CODE RED album and a lot of bands have recorded their versions of the Sodom material and that makes me very proud. Sodom was definitely one of the very first Thrash Metal bands at least here in the European continent.


Before the mini-album you recorded a couple of demo tapes; one was called VICTIMS OF DEATH and the other one was titled WITCHING METAL. I found out that both demo tapes would have been released as a bootleg-CD called SATAN´S CONJURATION? You may probably have got a better idea about this than us, so kill our curiosity… NOW!

Well, there is one vinyl single called SATAN´S CONJURATIONS which is a live recording from 1985 - and not from 1984; from one of the first shows, but there is also a CD called SATAN´S CONJURATION with both demo tapes and another live recording. It is a real bootleg and nothing else. I have seen a lot of Sodom bootlegs around and we can do nothing. But I still am very proud. I never got the original mastertapes of the demos, so if somebody is really interested to get a hold of these demo tapes, then let them buy the stuff as those bootleg things if they so wish…


I did some investigation before starting doing the interview and learnt that you would have had some kind of previously ´unreleased (!!!)´ album called PRETENDERS TO THE THRONE and that album would even have included one extra track which is not on the OBSESSED BY CRUELTY album?! So would you enlighten us what is exactly the whole truth behind this album anyway?

We recorded this album twice actually, I mean, OBSESSED BY CRUELTY. The first version was recorded in Berlin and the record company said that: "No, it is awful - …so bad and shit…". We had to record it twice and the second recording we did nearby in Nurberg, Germany. This recording has one bonus track because we had another guitar player called ´Saitrool ( I gotta admit that I am not that sure about the spelling of these names - AL…)´. It was a completely different recording and as for that trash press made in Berlin, it was just for the US import. And it was a mistake of the company as they changed the tapes, so there was a complete new recording of OBSESSED BY CRUELTY.


How large was the edition for that one?

I don't know… Hmm… Maybe 5000 for the US press I guess. Later the second recording came out on CD and the first press came out on vinyl as the US press.


Then came the SODOMY AND LUST album - followed soon by the great PERSECUTION MANIA album. Both albums are definitely some sort of the highlights of the whole Thrash Metal history whereas AGENT ORANGE was definitely the most successful album from Sodom to date as far as the selling figures of that album was concerned. And then you headed out for the tour with Sepultura. I remember having reading a lot of reviews that people said Sodom sucked and Sepultura was great, but I guess nowadays it is completely opposite?

That was a really big and successful tour, but the problem was that after the tour Sepultura got really big, really famous - and Sodom have always stayed on the same level. And I like the Sepultura guys. There were rumours that we got in the bad contacts with them after the tour. No, no way... It was a really funny and successful tour after all. I wish them all the best.

And yes - you are right, for me AGENT ORANGE was a successful album and for me it is the best album personally that we have ever done. After PERSECUTION MANIA came out and it got really successful, our previous record company wanted to have kind of a sequel to PERSECUTION MANIA, but we did AGENT ORANGE that is simply AGENT ORANGE and not PERSECUTION MANIA part II. For me AGENT ORANGE is much more real album because we wrote the material already before BETTER OFF DEAD. But the record company wanted to have the same good selling as with PERSECUTION MANIA. There was a little commercial thinking behind again, I can tell. So, for me AGENT ORANGE is the real best album. It got really what it deserved - and it is a really special Sodom album.


How do you like their current situation now when Max is no more involved with them and they have gone totally down if their ´REAL breakthrough albums (i.e. BENEATH THE REMAINS and ARISE, that were…)´ could be drawn out from the shades of the godly past times of the band to comparison…

Do you mean the new Sepultura line-up or…?!

Yeah, I do mean the current one...

Noohh… no way!! I am not a fan of them any longer!! When we made the tour, ARISE was out (actually it was when BENEATH THE REMAINS -era. Ed note.) and it was such a wonderful Thrash album. I hope Sepultura could go back to the real Thrash some day. I like their new singer; he sounds rather ok even if he is not really a Thrash Metal singer. I hope they could do a reunion thing with the one and only original Sepultura line-up some day, though. I would never mind that - it could be up to them, however.


But in my opinion Sodom have always been loyal to its own sounds very well during all these years and I think that's one of those reasons why people admire you Sodom as a metal band so much these days according to all those articles what I have read from the press; Sodom have ever neither changed its own musical direction nor jumped into any bandwagon and you have managed to stay away from all these trends and just been doing your own uncompromising Thrash Metal from one year to another - never selling your true soul for the sake of sort of commercial thinking, whatsoever…

You got it all right. Sodom have never been trying to be trendy or commercial. What's ´commercial´ anyway?! If you sell more albums, that doesn´t automatically mean you could be any commercial than others. But as one fact still remains the same, we never change our music; we never want a record company to come to say that: “C'mon… this and that song is too slow and should be more commercial...”. We have always been going in our own way and writing the music what we feel good to us. That's it. That´s how it has been for us during all these years really.


But in the middle of the 90's you had a very tough time to go on because of new waves of metal were coming up and a lot of new bands were coming out whereas at the same the whole Thrash thing was wanted to forget and that time you had some problems with the line-up, too?

Yeah, that was a period when we always tried to get our music much heavier; more aggressive in the Sodom way. That's why YOU GET WHAT YOU DESERVE and MASQUARADE IN BLOOD are the heaviest Sodom album ever done!! They are really hardcore and especially MASQUARADE IN BLOOD is a really fuckin´ brutal album because we always said Sodom is the heaviest band in the world...



At that time you had Atomic Steiff on the drums and previously he had been in Living Death, Violent Force and so on. But in this magazine (Tales from the Macabre) he criticized you very heavily, so that makes me wonder what kind of relationship do you have with him - or did have with him to be more precise?

Really bad, he always wanted to get the money…


As far as I can remember this particular mag which I´m holding in my hands at the moment, came out back in ´98 or something… And here is the article where he criticized you quite a lot indeed...

Yeah, that's it. It was always ´the money-money thing´ for him. He got so much money that he has never got before in his life. He is a real asshole. He got a big chance in Sodom for a long time, but he was always after more money and money. I gave so much what I had. If I had given even more money to him then I would have had to get to the work. Everybody in the music scene knows that he is a real asshole, just attempting to make money constantly and only money; that´s really all he cared for. These guys here in the pic (a few dudes in a Sacred Chao promo pic), he had that kind of contract with them that he would have got all the money and other guys wouldn’t have got anything. He was really greedy after all… I gave him my best in the band and supported him as much as I could, but he was such a greedy asshole. I gave him the best in the band and the best support, but he didn’t care for that at all and just ripped us constantly off.




What about Witchunter; I guess he left the band because he didn't get along with you because you are the chief in the band of course... And he had problems with alcohol...

Well, yeah. He really got problems with the alcohol; he cancelled shows, studio jobs and was pissed off all the time, didn't want to go to tours and I had to go forward and not back, so I had to kick him out of Sodom. We were together over 13 years and had really good time together, but he was getting so stupid all the time.


By the way, did Chris Witchunter participate in some Bathory rehearsal session in the mid-80's? I heard this strange rumor about it…

Yes, but he never recorded anything or touring with him. He just visited him for a couple of days without any results. Then he came back and said: ”NO BEERS” over there, he-he!!


Well, have Sodom had any problems with some ex-members of the band in the past?

If you are talking about Blackfire, he left the band. There was no really problem ´coz I have to say that we were really a good band at that time. I gave all the best support to him and he was a great guitar player, but he saw bigger chances in Kreator to go to America. He left Sodom three weeks before we started working with AGENT ORANGE. He played a couple of years in Kreator and got kicked out of that band, too.

And then he formed a black metal band called Black Messiah?

Yes, he did.

And nowadays lives in Brazil?

Now he lives in Brazil - yes. I have seen Andi Bricks a couple of times and he does the music for himself - being more focused on Tracy Lord's power Gothic. He went his own way.




Have you ever had problems with the police? I mean you have a very interesting video called "Fuck the Police" where a nasty looking officer has some beating thing going on...

He-he... No, no… it is not personal at all. I had some problems with them for some years ago when I drove a car and I was a bit drunk. Nowadays when I see a police I just go away.


So what are you planning on doing for the future, by the way?

We try to keep the package together to make some more shows in Greece and we will probably do some gigs in Russia and obviously in South America as well. We also have plans about the new Sodom album and a DVD.


You have also your own solo project and you sing in Desperados. How important are these bands for you compared to Sodom? Have you had any other side projects during these 20 years or so?

At the time I have a lot of ideas for the new Onkel Tom album, but I don’t find the time cause we have so much to do with Sodom which is my main band and my life. Onkel Tom is very popular in Germany and it is so funny to do. I try to bring it out in the end of this year.

It´s very sad to say that Desperados get no deal! The second album is entirely recorded (MARCH TO DESTINY) but nobody is interested in releasing it. I don’t know why ´coz, for me it was the best newcomer album for the last years. But I guess it is all about the business…


By the way, I saw your adventures in Grand Canary on Viva doing this Onkel Angelripper thing...

This is another project. I am doing a new album this year. It is completely a funny project and I like doing it. It is really funny to pull audience to the stage and sing and drink the beer together with them. Yeah, it was funny to go there Canary, cos there is always a lot of drunk people...


How do you view the current metal scene, cos it has been changing a lot during all these past years?

I think the metal scene is divided to several sides. It is no longer any family like in the 80's when the metal scene was a big common family. And nowadays everybody is trying to go his/her own way. That is also a reason why it is over the top. For example, when we are doing like German beer drinking songs, everybody likes it and when we played at Wacken last year, everybody was like a big family and liked the music and drank the beer. That's ok. That's the reason why I do this music. Nowadays the whole metal scene is completely commercial. Hundreds of new bands are coming every month and everybody wants to make some money in this business. The 80's will never comeback, that´s for sure…


Have you ever pondered why these three particular German Thrash Metal bands in question i.e. Kreator, Destruction and Sodom have become so popular and huge that people are constantly talking about them, leaving some other great German bands more in the background like Deathrow, Tankard, Assassin, Living Death, Poison and so on. I think it´s just strange that people don't remember them at all…

These bands never got the power to continue their music. Well, for example Kreator and Sodom don't have a proper deal with our record company; we have to make a deal every year. That was a problem for Assassin and Living Death. They couldn't continue their careers because of having no deals with companies. They never got the power to make it. But I wanna do this thing indeed. Of course, I am married and have kids, but this music is also a big part of my life and that´s what I really wanna do until I die.


Well what do you think about these reunion things, I mean for example Exodus, Vio-lence, Death Angel, Agent Steel, Candlemass, Necrodeath and so on ? And oh yeah… Destruction as well, heh...

Yeah, I know... If they got a chance to make a good album that would be ok. I do know there is a lot of reunion bands put together to make some money. If there is a real reunion and comes up with a really good new album, that's perfect. There is always a little bit commercial thinking on the background, but even that's ok anyway. If you live for the music you have to get something. Destruction did a really good album… and Agent Steel, too. Agent Steel is a real wonderful band and I am really looking forward to hearing some new material from them again and I have already heard of the new Venom release that´s supposed to come out this year. If these reunion bands do really good albums, then I have nothing against it.


Did you manage to see Exumer last year at Wacken?

Exumer… yes, I did. They were really good onstage…

Holy Moses…!?

Welll… yeeaahh... Actually they were on the bill of this tour. They lost the support from their record company cos they couldn't do that. They simply just didn't get the money for this tour which is kind of sad for them.


(In this part of the interview Tom Angelripper started taking a closer glance at Tales From The Macabre mag… ed. note!)

WO-HOO… Bulldozer!!!! They were one of my old fave bands. I have all of their albums myself.

What about other Italian bands like Necrodeath, for example…?

Yes!! Have they come back, too?! Actually, I don't have that much time to check out new releases any more...

Yes, and they have done two totally excellent old school Thrash Metal albums since they came back. I guess you - in spite of lack of time, however, do follow the scene from time to time by checking out some metal magazines occasionally at least, right?

Yes, I get a German magazine called Ablaze for free every month which is the biggest black metal mag over there. I always do read it, though.

All right we wanna thank you for sharing some of your time with us, so… (-eh?!) danke schon Onkel Tom!

Danke schon und bitte schon… and metal fuckin´ rules!!!!!!




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