If you were to look for a band that has embraced Metal in it's most aggressive and purest form with a consistency unmatched, Sodom would definitely come to mind. Going back to the earliest of their releases to their new album 'M-16', the band has remained aggressive and true to their beliefs. With the release of 'M-16', the band has taken a look back to the Vietnam conflict. The timing of this release is definitely ironic but not intentional with the current events and conflicts erupting in the world. Join me for an interesting chat with one of Metal's most interesting artists, Sodom's Tom Angelripper.
Dave: Is the new album now out worldwide??
Tom: Yeah, it's on the SPV label in Germany and it's coming out worldwide. That's really important. Albums before like 'Code Red' and 'Til death do us unite', through Drakkar Promotions just came out in Europe and now we get the chance to release worldwide.
Dave: Looking at the new album 'M-16', the album is about war, Vietnam in particular. I understand that Sodom recently took a tour of some war related sites. Talk about that experience a little bit.
Tom: We did pick Vietnam and the war for this album. Everybody knows about Vietnam and Vietnam war movies, but the idea was to get more information about it, to go and talk to the people and get more information on the war. I didn't really get the information I want because they really didn't want to talk about war. The only thing they would say was 'I killed many American soldiers, but don't want to talk about it. I just want to talk about the future'. With what happened in Vietnam, it is now becoming commercial. There is a lot of war tourism. A lot of people go there to see the war crime museum and the Cu Chi Tunnel system. The Vietnam people want to make money with it. It was a great experience though, I liked it.
Dave: That Cu Chi Tunnel system was the large network of tunnels used in the war??
Tom: Yes it is. Now it is like a park that the American people will visit. You go through the Cu Chi Tunnel system and you can buy Coca Cola and T-shirts. It's really, really commercial there.
Dave: That is really interesting. Did you get to play a show over there while you were visiting??
Tom: No, we tried but it was impossible. We tried to get a show in a disco, but we couldn't. There is a very small Metal scene which is underground. I talked to some of the Metal fans and they had never heard some bands because the cannot buy Metal albums there. I don't know why. It's communism or the political system there. It's forbidden for the young people to have long hair or to hear Metal music. With the political system, they don't want any American or German bands playing there. It's really strange.
Dave: Sounds like the fans may be getting the albums in interesting ways.
Tom: Yeah, they can go to the internet and download it or get bootlegs of the albums. You cannot buy the official albums. It's a big market for the bootleggers over there. Dvd's and videos are really cheap. The people are really poor and cannot pay the price for official cd's. The cost is just too expensive for them.
Dave: With a lot of your material dealing with war, how do you feel about the current events in the war on terrorism??
Tom: It's really bad. The people in Germany are really afraid of the war. When I saw the pictures for the first time, it was incredible, I couldn't believe it. Now a lot of people ask me why I bring out an album like this now. Everything like the music and the lyrics were finished before the World Trade Center. I don't know whether it is wrong or right, but I can understand that the Americans want the President to act, and I think for President Bush, war is the only answer. In Germany everyone is afraid of it because of the biologocal warfare and Osama bin Laden and the Taliban possibly having nuclear weapons. It is really, really bad. I have got a lot of inspirations for a new album and the new lyrics.
Dave: That would definitely be an interesting approach. Lyrically, that would be some intense material.
Tom: We never try to put our political opinions in the lyrics. I just want to describe. I am interested in the history. I cannot write something about World War II because there is just too much misunderstanding from Germany.
Dave: So just to reiterate, it is descriptions of the wars the way you see them.
Tom: Yeah, in my opinion this new album is an anti-war album. The message in the lyrics is please stop the war. It is my opinion that mankind cannot live without any war. When I want to write a new album about the Gulf crisis or Kosovo or all of the type of wars raging, we also want to shock the people and wake them up. I know most of the Sodom fans just like the music and don't read the lyrics.
Dave: The timing was really ironic with this album coming out, but just so everyone realizes that this is something that was in the works long before.
Tom: We also talked with the record company because they wanted to change the cover. I said 'Why?', It's like the movie 'Apocalypse Now', it's anti-war movie. We just wanna shock the people.
Dave: There not gonna change the cover then??
Tom: No, there not.
Dave: So how is the album doing??
Tom: All of the reactions have been positive. Most people say it is the best Sodom album ever. A lot compare it to 'Agent Orange'. When we arranged the songs it was important to write good songs and to better reflect the chorus in the songs. There are a lot of songs on the album that will be classics. It's positive and most people like it. In Germany we have talked about a Thrash revival. We now get more support from the magazines and the radio stations.
Dave: You have a large catalogue from being around for a long time. How do you pick a setlist from all of this??
Tom: It is gonna be really difficult because from the new album we have to play 5 or 6 songs like 'Napalm in the morning', 'M-16', 'Genocide', and 'Minejumper'. We also have to play the all time classics, the German songs with the German lyrics like 'Agent Orange'. We will be going on tour in December. It will be really difficult.
Dave: The tour in December is with Destruction and Kreator isn't it??
Tom: Yes. This wasn't possible in the past. Now we are getting older and more serious. This will be especially for the fans because the Destruction, Kreator, and Sodom sounds are the same. There may be a fourth band as well.
Dave: Are you gonna play any places on this tour you haven't played before?? Are there any plans beyond the December tour??
Tom: We start the tour in December just for Europe. We will also try to keep this package together to play worldwide. If we get the chance we will stop in Russia. We also wanna do Asia in the next year. I also hope I get the chance to do a big U.S. tour.
Dave: So nothing is confirmed for the U.S. yet??
Tom: Not yet. We are looking for a tour booking agency. Sodom played one time in America at the Milwaukee Metalfest. We were never really satisfied with this. We got no promotion or support and only played a 1/2 hour at this metal festival. If we find a serious booking agent we will do it because that is what we want to do.
Dave: Do you feel that the recent security issues will affect your decision to play some areas??
Tom: Last week I got an offer to play Israel which is a very dangerous place. I cannot change my life, I wish to go on tour. I'm not really afraid. This cannot stop the music you know.
Dave: So there are a lot of fans in some of those areas of the world then??
Tom: In Israel, yeah there are a lot of fans there. I know that some bands don't want to go because it is too dangerous, but I never mind. You don't make a lot of money there. They just pay the flight tickets, the hotel and the food is free and that is enough.
Dave: How are the fans over there??
Tom: They get more crazy than in Germany. The thing in Germany is that you can see bands every weekend at any place. In Bangkok, the fans get really, really crazy. It's incredible and it's wonderful. It is really hard to prepare for Germany because everything is getting so commercial.
Dave: Speaking of Germany, I ask a lot of the German musicians that I interview, the key to the longevity of the scene there. How do you weigh in on this??
Tom: Well, right now the market in Germany is getting reall, really commercial. Hundreds of new bands come out every month. It's a problem. The power and true metal bands are getting really big in Germany. The Thrash bands never really seem to get the support from the media or the magazines or anybody. I think that metal music has to get more aggressive and extreme, a revolution in the music. The scene there now can't be compared to the 80's because it is not a real metal scene. In the 80's the scene was more like a family. Right now there are too many different styles. I hope that the Thrash metal bands get bigger in Germany. The scene there is just too big right now.
Dave: So what is the secret to Sodom's success and longevity?? You guys have been around for a very long time now.
Tom: When we created this band we tried to create our own style. We didn't want to copy other bands like Venom. There was a bit of a Venom influence in the beginning, but we created our own style. It is important to not change and become trendy. That is why everyone in Germany is talking about a Thrash revival. Destruction, Kreator and others are getting more heavy. Sodom really is the only band that never changed really in 20 years. We never changed our way. We just do the music we want to do and like to do. That is the reason we are still alive.
Dave: Let's look at the web. I looked around a bit to find Sodom sites and found some, but which one would you say is the official Sodom site??
Tom: There are 3 or 4 different websites that are not official. The Sodom Web Squad is the best Sodom site because it is updated and I always give them new material and information. It is important for a site to always be updated and be informative. I think the Web Squad is the best one.
Dave: Talk a little bit about the Onkel Tom stuff you put out.
Tom: I have some new material for a new album, but need to secure a label for it sometime next year Some want to hear the pre-production like SPV, but that will probably come together next year. Right now I am concentrating totally on the new Sodom album. The solo stuff does pretty well in Germany and is becoming more popular.
Dave: That's about all I have, but do you have any parting thoughts for the fans??
Tom: I hope to find a booking agency and that everyone is interested in the tour. We do wanna go out. I think the time is right and that we need to go to America. Maybe we will do it next year in the Summer. I hope it all comes together.
Dave: Well, thanks a lot for that chat.!