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The Almighty Bonfire and the MMXXIII Recordings

The Almighty Bonfire and the MMXXIII Recordings

Photo Credit: Leonard Ludwig

The Almighty Bonfire and the MMXXIII Recordings

Bonfire are one of the most iconic German hard rock bands of the past forty years.  Their first three releases Don’t Touch The Light (1986), Fireworks (1987) and Point Blank (1989) still hold a special position in Bonfire’s career and remain much sought after collector items.  And now with one of their strongest lineups to date. the mighty Bonfire presents the MMXXIII re-recordings of all three albums, and the results are absolutely stunning to behold.  In addition to the standout guitar artistry of founding band member Hans Ziller, Bonfire features longtime members Frank Pané (guitar) and Ronnie Parkes (bass) performing with a grand amount of passion and conviction.  New converts within the ranks of Bonfire are Dyan Mair unleashing an astounding vocal performance and Fabio Alessandrini of Annihilator and Enemy Eyes driving it all home with a vengeance on drums.  The MMXXIII recordings of these three classic releases present a modern update of the much-revered songs!  Highwire Daze recently caught up with bassist Ronnie Parkes to discuss the ambitious MMXXIII project and other current happening from the Bonfire brigade.  Read on…

We’re here with Ronnie from Bonfire. First of all, what made you all decide to re-record, not one but three Bonfire albums from the past?
Yeah, I know it was a major undertaking. Actually, the reason was, back during COVID, 2020, 2021, we decided that we wanted to make a documentary of the band. It was at that point that we realized that we do not own the rights to the first three albums. We knew already, but that’s when we really found out that we had no access to them at all. That’s why those songs from those albums, they’re not on Spotify, they’re not on Pandora or any of these other streaming services is because we don’t have the rights and you can’t really buy that album new anymore. So that was the reason. So we’ve decided that since this is a hot thing to do now, the idea actually came from… Taylor Swift had done this to get her rights back.

But she had done it exactly the same. Of course, this is 30 years later. So we figured, okay, well, since we’re going to do it, let’s spice up the guitar sounds a little bit because we have much more technology than we had back in 1986. So, we just rerecorded it. It’s not like a competition. I know a lot of people are like oh, the original is better, and this and that. We’re not trying to compete with the original recordings, it’s just we wanted to get the rights back. These songs are really good songs. They deserve to be on Spotify and everywhere else. People who never heard of Bonfire before can now hear the songs and maybe they’ll like them. They could always check out the original recordings if they like the originals. People can still listen to the originals if they like them and they have them, but it’s not some kind of a competition or anything like that. We’re not trying to be better than the originals.

Don’t Touch The Light MMXXIII

What were you doing during the time that those three albums were originally released? I think it was ’86 to ’89.
1986 to 1989, I was playing in a band in New Jersey, so I was in a different location at that point. Totally different location.

Had you heard of Bonfire at that time?
No. Actually, I hadn’t heard of Bonfire until I was actually in Ez Livin’, and that’s when I found out about Bonfire, because I was working with David Reece and we were in a band in New York together, and I was helping him with a lot of things. I eventually became his musical director. I was booking shows, I was taking care of the merchandise. I got all the band members together for his solo project and helped him with the recording. He’s like, man, you really helped me out. You’re doing so much for me. He goes, the next call I get, I’m going to bring you with me. The next call he got was from Hans Ziller (of Bonfire). So that’s how the story went. Actually, he said, okay, I’ll do it, but I have to take this bass player. Hans said, yeah, of course. That’s fine and here I am.

I believe next year actually marks your 10-year anniversary with Bonfire. What goes through your mind knowing that you’ve been doing this band for 10 years now?
Well, of course, I realize that I’m not one of the original members of the band. But to me, this is still my band. I appreciate and respect everything that was done before I got in the band, and I take care and appreciate and respect everything that we do now. So for me, it’s my band.  I mean, not mine like I’m the leader or something, but like it’s my band, that’s my band I’m in.

Exactly. 10 years is a long time. So, what was it like to learn so many songs all at once for these recordings?
It was really crazy to do so many songs. We’ve been doing a lot of these songs anyway. We always played certain songs live like American Nights and S.D.I., Don’t Touch the Light, Ready 4 Reaction, Champion, we played all these songs always anyway in our shows. We always did new songs too, but we still played old songs, so some of them I already knew. So I didn’t actually have to learn all of them because I knew some of them already. So it wasn’t super, super hard in that respect. Some of them, I referenced the original, and some I didn’t. We just tried to do what would make it more modern sounding and just a little bit of a fresh face. So basically in the end, it’s not that much different. It’s very much the same, but it’s just a little icing on the cake, just to try to make it sound a little more modern.

You have a new singer, Dyan Mair. How did Dyan become involved in the band?
Well, actually we had played with them… we had played in Greece in 2019 maybe. I think we had played there a few times, but the last time I think was 2019. Cyanide 4 had opened up for us and Dyan was the guitar player. He wasn’t even the singer. So when Alex left the band, somehow he heard about it and he sent an email to Frank, and Frank sent it over to me and Hans, and we are like, okay. So, we contacted him and said, okay, send us some video so we can see. Because at that point we’re like, wow, what are we going to do now for a singer? Are we going to get somebody that’s really popular and a famous singer already in their own way? But with that comes then all these different things of expectations of what it’s going to be or what it would be like. Then they have their own persona, so, I don’t know, could be weird depending on who it is. So, we were unsure of what to do, and then he sent us these videos and we’re like, wow, this guy’s really good. Then we’re like, and he’s never been a singer in a band before. We’re like, wow. We’re like, okay, well, why is he not a singer? He’s so good. Why has he never been a singer in a band? Then we’re like, okay, maybe this is fake. Maybe he’s faking it. At this point, when Alex had left, we had already finished the recordings for all three of these albums. We finished everything, including the vocals. So, for Alex to leave, we were left with this situation of, do we release these albums now with the old singer, because we have to get a new singer if we’re going to continue or do we just do it and rerecord the vocals with the new singer, which would make more sense. So that’s the direction we went. So, we sent him a couple of demos of a few of the songs that he can sing on them, and we can see what he sounds like.

He really did a couple of really cool improvised parts. We were like, whoa, that was really cool, man. Did you hear how he did that in that song? Wow. We didn’t expect that. So, we’re like, okay, this guy’s the guy. We called him up and talked to him, and he is like, “yeah, I was a Bonfire fan since I was a little kid. I lived in Athens at the time, and every weekend my family would go to Thessaloniki for a little holiday weekend. My dad had a tape of Bonfire, and he would play in the car.” He goes, “So I knew the songs and I knew the band. So for me, this was like a dream come true.” So that’s a really cool thing. It’s like the Rockstar thing where you’re in the movie where he gives him the microphone and he sings. So it was cool.

Fireworks MMXXIII

He sounds really amazing on these albums, that’s for sure.
He’s super amazing. He recorded all these three albums, which is, I think it’s 34 songs or something like that. He did everything in 12 days.

Whoa, nice.
Yeah. Everything, all the songs. So, he was doing like four or five songs a day, which is really incredible. A good testament as to his ability to sing consistently. So, we were really shocked and very happy at the same time about how good he is.

Bonfire has gone through a few lead singers. David Reece, Alex. How disappointing was it for you guys, for Alex to suddenly leave after the single Freedom Is My Belief?
Yeah, it wasn’t planned. It was almost surprising. But you know how everything is now, everybody is so politically charged in one direction or the other. There’s no really talking about things and people get so wound up in their politics that it’s like oh, they like this person, so I don’t like them. Or they’re talking this shit and they’re just watching TV and reading the news, you know what I mean? And believing everything. So, Alex was on one side of the spectrum, and Hans was on the other side of the spectrum, and they just started to really butt heads about that. Hans was okay with it, but Alex wasn’t. Alex, he’s a very true kind of guy, and he has his beliefs, and he doesn’t want to do anything about his beliefs. That’s the way he is. If he doesn’t care what it is, we could have been playing Madison Square Garden every single night, or $10 million tour, he still probably would’ve done the same thing.  It is what it is.

You have another new member Fabio Alessandrini who was Annihilator and in Enemy Eyes with Johnny Gioeli. How did Fabio become involved with the band?
We do a lot of work with Alessandro Del Vecchio. He did some production, and he’s always been a part of the band behind the scenes on the recordings doing background vocals. When André left, we were like, okay, we need a new drummer. And Alessandro said, “Hey, this kid, Fabio man, he’s really great“. He just had left Annihilator, so he’s like, “Yeah, you should check him out“. And of course, he’s great. He’s amazing. The kid is really great.

Ken: Nice. Seems like Alessandro Del Vecchio gets mentioned in almost every interview I do. Someone should write the Six Degrees of Alessandro Del Vecchio.
Yeah. People who don’t know who he is, he is like the main producer and content creator for Frontiers.  He has a big hand in a lot of the songwriting for a lot of the different bands and a lot of the production he does.

What do you think has kept Hans Ziller so passionate about Bonfire after all this time? It’s been a crazy history with Bonfire.
It’s really been a crazy history. This is Hans’s baby. He started this whole thing as the band Cacumen in 1972 or something in his basement, him and his brother. Hans is just that type of guy that he’s very driven. When he puts his head to something, people say stuff, but when he says it, he does it. So he’s that type of guy that really is always… he’s all about Bonfire. His whole life is Bonfire. He’s writing his book now which is really cool because Hans also suffers from bipolar manic depression. So, he’s now finishing up his book, which will be available with the next album that we do. It’ll be like a book set. So, it’s cool. He just tells a story about his bipolar and his life with Bonfire and how it affected the band and the different things that have happened through the life of the band and where it is now and where it’s still going. Hans is an amazing guy.

Point Blank MMXXIII

Is there any chance of Bonfire playing here in the States?
We would love to play in the States. The problem is that it’s really so expensive to play here. At this point, we lost our manager. We didn’t lose him. We got rid of him because he was ripping us off, which is the typical rock story. “Oh yeah, I had a manager that ripped me off. Yeah, of course.” So, he ripped us off, I don’t know, it was 2017 maybe or something like that, that we finally found out what was going on and Hans got rid of him. So, since that point, we’ve been working without a manager. We’ve been “the lunatics are running the asylum,” as they say. So, it takes a bit of a… we would need a promoter or maybe be on some tour as a package to come over to the US because it’s just so expensive. In Europe, the band is much more known than they are here in the States. So, when we play over there, there’s people always, and it’s almost like, well, why are we going to even risk anything to pay all this money to go do a show when we don’t know what we’re going to have or how it’s going to be, and we already have everything here. So, there’s no driving force to say, okay, we got to go to the United States and conquer the United States. We’re a little bit older at the same time. I would love to get here and play some shows. I think there would really be some people there, which would be cool. In this climate, I don’t know how feasible it actually is to just jump over and do it. But you can never say never. So, we will see what happens.

Are you involved with any other bands or projects outside of Bonfire currently?
No. Bonfire for the last, I don’t know, maybe four or five years. Since I left Seven Witches, it just takes my whole time and my whole life, and I give everything to the band. I’m at a point in my life where I don’t need to play in 10 bands anymore and constantly do that. Fabio on the other hand, he’s leaving, I think today for a tour playing with Enforcer and he plays with different bands, so some people can do that, and I used to do that, but nowadays I’m just like one band’s enough, man. It’s a lot of stress and it’s a lot of work to really jump around to all these different bands and play all these different things. You’ve constantly got to be working on songs and constantly learning new songs and it’s just so much work and a lot of stress because it’s like, oh man, I only had one day and I got to do this show today, but I got to learn these songs by tomorrow. Now, I’m just like, fuck that shit! I know what I got to do. I’m in one place. I could really just concentrate on this. I don’t have to worry about anything else. For me, that totally works.

Do you have any messages for Bonfire fans here in the States who are reading this now?
Yeah, check out the three remixes and really check out the new album when it comes out next year in July. Hans will have his book out and also we’ll have a new album with Dyan on vocals and I promise Dyan will definitely deliver! Hopefully, we’ll see you guys soon.

(Interview by Ken Morton)

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