A Chat with Frank Blackfire of Sodom and Assassin
A Chat with Frank Blackfire of Sodom and Assassin
The almighty Sodom is a legendary band from Germany who has been assaulting Planet Earth since 1981 with their thrash metal attacks – their latest manifesto being Genesis XIX now available via Entertainment One in North America and Steamhammer/SPV in Europe. With the release of the super intensive Genesis XIX, Sodom is primed and ready to blast their way through this pandemic age and beyond. Highwire Daze recently interviewed guitarist Frank Blackfire, who played on the Sodom classics Persecution Mania and Agent Orange – and now returns to the battalion with the raging Genesis XIX. Also discussed was his time spent with the iconic Kreator, current membership within the ranks of Assassin, his solo work, and a whole lot more! Read on…
First of all, what made you decide to return to Sodom after being away from like 30 years?
Actually, what made me decide to rejoin Sodom was when Tom Angelripper wrote me a message on Facebook and asked me if I wanted to join Sodom again. That actually made me rejoin them. I was pretty surprised that Tom wanted new band members – and when asked me, I was pretty into it and said, “Yeah, sure, let’s do it!”
What has it been like working with Tom again after all of this time?
Yeah, it’s pretty cool! We both got older. I had a contact for Tom for the whole time actually – we always saw each other somewhere and we played together when I was in Kreator. Once in a while I would join Sodom live onstage and played a few tunes with them. It was pretty nice. I always had a good relationship with Tom and even with the other band members.
Is there any overall story or concept behind the new album Genesis XIX?
Genesis XIX, which is the part of the Bible that talks about the cities Sodom and Gomorrah – and I think it fits pretty good with Sodom. So that’s why Tom and we decided to call the album Genesis XIX.
How did you think Genesis XIX compares to the previous Sodom albums that you were on?
Back then when I wrote Persecution Mania and Agent Orange, of course I was much younger – I was 20-something. I tried always my best, but I didn’t have that knowledge that I have today – like music theory. I was doing songs by feeling, and actually it came out pretty good. People all over the world liked it. And during the years, I never stopped playing guitar. I was always a musician and I always tried to play in all kinds of projects and bands. And I always tried to elevate and get better and everything. I’m pretty trapped in the 80’s, because what I did with Sodom and then with Kreator were milestones, and I always try to keep that spirit somehow of my songwriting. And of course, nowadays, I got a little older and I learned a lot – but I still try to capture the spirit of the 80’s a little bit.
What has it been like to record and release new music in the middle of a pandemic and so much social unrest in the world?
For Sodom it was, at the time, to bring out a new album and we were working on it and we wanted to bring it out in 2019 already. But as we had touring and festivals and everything – we released a single and a Maxi-EP Out Of The Frontline Trench to give something new to the people with the new lineup. So, we always were writing songs for the new album – and finally as we didn’t have any shows this year, we thought “Let’s do the album right now. Let’s work hard on the album and let’s release it this year – because we have no shows at all.”
So, there’s two other new members in the band – Yorck Segatz on guitar and Toni Merkel on drums. I know Toni you’ve worked with before on your solo album. Tell me about these two new members and how they became involved with Sodom.
When we first met with each other (Tom, Husky and I) – when the new lineup came up – Tom was telling us that he wanted a second guitar player – and he was already still searching for a guitar player – and then one or two years later he came up and said, “I want Yorck in the band.” He knew Yorck already so that’s how he got him in the band. As we played two years with Husky – Husky has another band called Asphyx and he was playing with Desaster at that time also – and he has a fixed job, and he has to work there too. That was a little much for him to keep everything together – and finally he couldn’t stand it anymore to play in two bands and do his regular job as a booker, so that why he quit. And as I knew Toni already and he played with me in my band – he recorded my solo album with me. I knew he was a very good drummer. I asked Tom if he was interested in giving him an audition and Tom said, “Yeah sure, let’s try it.” And that’s how we came together – and pretty quickly Toni was involved into the band. He’s a very good musician and he can get songs pretty quick and play them and work them out.
So, after you left Sodom initially, you joined up with Kreator – another very legendary thrash metal band. Looking back on your time spent with Kreator – and those amazing albums that you did with them (Coma Of Souls, Renewal, Cause For Conflict) – what do you think of it all now in retrospect?
What I did with Kreator at the time – I guess time is always a factor that influences the band to record certain albums at certain times. And this was my time with Kreator. Nowadays they sound a little different, I guess. I didn’t listen to Kreator’s newer stuff too much because I have a lot to do with my own stuff and my own work and projects and everything I have. So, I don’t listen much to other bands or to my ex-bands – but they sound a little more modern and melodic than before I think. That’s what I’ve heard.
And do you still keep in touch with Mille Petrozza from Kreator?
With Mille, it’s been a long time since I’ve seen him – maybe 5 years ago was the last time I met him. But Ventor is living pretty close to here – we meet each other somewhere, somehow, at some shows or festivals and he’s always around somehow.
You had another album coming out at the beginning of 2020 – Bestia Immundis with Assassin on Massacre Records. How did you become involved with Assassin?
I became involved with Assassin in 2016 when Michael Hoffmann left the band. Joachim Kremer the bass player asked me if I would be interested in playing with Assassin, and at the time I didn’t have much to do with my own band and I said “Yeah, why not? Let’s do it!” And that’s how I joined Assassin. And it was around that time that they released Combat Cathedral. We played a couple of shows and played some festivals – we even played in Santiago, Chile on a big show with Anthrax. And we played the Bang Your Head Festival here in Germany – and it was some nice shows. The guys are very cool – we have a lot of fun together – and that’s the main thing that you need in band – that you get along pretty good and that you have a lot of fun together. With Assassin it was always cool and a lot of fun and we were laughing a lot together. That’s how I actually joined then and why I’m still a part of the band.
Do you think Sodom and Assassin would ever want to tour or do a few shows together? Or has that already happened?
That already happened. It was before I was in one of those bands. At the time, Assassin and Sodom were doing a couple of shows here in Europe. I even remember back in the 80’s we played with Assassin together- like when we played in Belgium at some festival. We knew each other because we lived pretty close to each other. The lived in Düsseldorf and we lived her in Essen, so we’ve known Assassin since the beginning of the 80’s or since I joined Sodom actually. I mean the very last show we played in 2019 – we played with Holy Moses, Assassin and Sodom here in Oberhausen – pretty close to our hometown. Yeah – that was the last time we played together.
How did you survive doing two shows in one night?
For me as a guitar player only – that’s no problem. I’m still fit for my age and I can do two shows easily only on guitar. If I would have to scream or to sing a whole set, that would be a little harder I guess, because I would lose my voice pretty quickly – and two shows one after the other – that would be a little difficult. Playing guitar and jumping a little onstage is okay for me.
You did a solo album in 2015 called Back On Fire which also featured drummer Toni. Would you like to do more solo albums in the future?
Oh yeah, definitely I would. And maybe I would like to do something different – like something more mellow – like instrumental guitar playing and maybe something different. Everybody knows me in thrash metal. I can play other things too! I can play a little blues and instrumental guitar stuff. Yeah, I would like to do something else – maybe if I have some free time and we are not doing something with Sodom, maybe I could try to make a new album. We will see…
Has Lemmy from Motorhead ever heard or commented on your cover of Iron Fist from Persecution Mania?
(Laughs) Oh, I don’t know exactly. Tom and Lemmy have met each other a couple of time I guess, and we even played together at some Christmas festival metal shows here in Germany – but I am not sure if Lemmy knows we did a cover of Iron Fist – maybe he heard it – maybe he wasn’t even interested. Who knows! I don’t know exactly.
What do you hope 2021 brings for Sodom?
We definitely want to play live shows and we have already booked something. I hope it happens. We are all wired to play live again – especially our drummer Toni who didn’t do his first show with Sodom – because we were supposed to play in Greece at the end of April – I guess two weeks before the lockdown came – and it didn’t happen. It would have been the first show with Toni – so he’s waiting for his first show to play with Sodom.
Do you have any messages for Sodom fans here in the States who are waiting for you to come back?
Hi American fans. I know it was always difficult for Sodom to come to the United States. The last thing we did was the 70,000 Tons Of Metal, but that actually wasn’t in the United States. It started in Miami and then we went to Haiti or somewhere – and there were some people from the United States who actually had the chance to see Sodom live and they were crazy! They were like “You have to play in the United States!” We’ve always wanted to play there and somehow it always didn’t work out – they always had problems at the border, and they couldn’t come in – there was always something. Tom told me about that. And I hope that in the near future – maybe next year if possible – that we can play in the United States too! Definitely everybody’s up to it, and I hope it can finally happen.
Tom Angelripper – bass, vocals
Frank Blackfire – guitars
Yorck Segatz – guitars
Toni Merkel – drums
(Interview by Ken Morton)