INTERVIEW: Tom Angelripper – Sodom

With their new album Decision Day released recently, Distorted Sound had the absolute pleasure of talking to the front-man of German thrash metal band SODOM, Tom Angelripper, about the album and how current affairs, politics and terrorism are all major influences for the music. On top of that, we find out what’s next for one of the biggest pioneering bands of the genre and how they don’t want to go on as SODOM forever.

First things first, how are you?

I’m fine! A lot of promotion activities around the new album you know but I love it!

Decision Day has just been released, and you’re loving the promotional side as you’ve just said. How are you feeling about the reception of the album release so far?

Ah, it’s great! In this week we’ve got so many reviews from magazines and fan reactions on Facebook and all this stuff you know. It’s amazing, I think people love this album, especially the fans you know, they say it’s the best SODOM album so far or since Agent Orange or whatever. I don’t think so, for me it’s just a new SODOM album and we had a good production and good songs so I never mind but it’s awesome. We’re getting a lot of offers for tours, for the next festivals, it’s unbelievable, yes I’m really happy about it.

Some of the album is based on or around D-Day, what made you write material on that?

Well, it’s not the whole album about it, I think it’s just one song Decision Day. It’s about the historical event from World War II, I’m very interested in such historical events but it’s just one song, it’s not a concept album about it. I think the other songs, the other lyrics of the songs bring out all the state of the world we live in and the current state of the world and the political situation, and I’m so scared of the next world war. It’s so scary, sometimes I wake up in the night and write it down because I’m so afraid of all the stuff. I think songs like Who Is God? and Vaginal Born Evil are about terrorists and about what happened in Paris, you know it was unbelievable. It’s mad, this man went to a club where people went to see a concert and wanted to see a band and shot down so many people, it’s er, it’s a big inspiration for me writing lyrics.

It is a very scary thing that is happening and as you’ve said there’s been events such as concerts where people have been killed. Have there been any specific events in particular that made you write about them for Decision Day?

Ah there are so many you know, there is bad news everyday but this in Paris was very, very important to me. I don’t know, SODOM played in the club years before and there are so many festivals around in Germany and a lot of friends of mine they told me ‘I don’t want to go to this concert or festival because I’m afraid of a terrorist attack’ but we can never can change our lives, what we do; we have to go to shows and to pubs and public viewings and everything, it’s big days but we cannot change our life and I don’t want to. I’m scared about it myself, I’m scared about the next generation, and my kiddies you know and what’s happening in the next ten or twenty years and I think there is so much stuff, the European Union is breaking down, the Brexit and everything. It’s unbelievable but I cannot change anything but I try to write it down and I can scream it out when I’m up on stage and that is the thing I’m writing about. I don’t want to write any fantasy lyrics like MANOWAR, I want to write lyrics about real life.

Do you think writing music about real life helps your fans gain a better understanding on current affairs and give them a better understanding on the reality of what’s actually happening?

Yeah! I know the fans read the lyrics to but I don’t have to write an article for a newspaper, I have to write lyrics. It’s very important to me, writing down, it’s like a therapy for me. I write it down in German and try to translate it with my stupid English, but a friend of mine she’s an English teacher and she helps me to get it finished to get it all perfect in the end. There are so many other things like Blood Lions, it’s a song I wrote about, I’m hunting to but these guys who go to Africa shooting male lions just to get a trophy and a lot of money for it you know. All of the stupid things that are around, that’s what I write you know but I think most fans are just interested in the music, not always the lyrics.

As you said, the fans are more interested in the music rather than the topics, but what do you think the reception of a potential outsider might be in terms of the topics on Decision Day?

Erm, Oh my God, what can I say? Yes! I think for us they like the music and I remember when I was a young kid and I bought my first records, I tried to read the lyrics and tried to understand but I think the most fans, like 80% just like the music and some of the titles like Vaginal Born Evil and Who Is God? They never think about this, like what is the meaning? You never find any political opinion in the lyrics, I just describe like when I write about war, I describe how bad the war could be or was. My grandfather for example, he was in World War I and World War II fighting and he told me when I was a little kid, he told me some stories about that you know so it’s very interesting and when you write a new album you have to write lyrics about something you know and I always want to write lyrics for myself, like a therapy.

Moving on from the whole political side, the album from many people has been said to take on a more classic approach to SODOM but still keeping a current sound, what made you want to take an approach to some of your earlier material?

When we start writing new songs we never think about what we’ve got to do or we never have any direction in doing an old school album. SODOM is a band who will never change really, even if you look back to the 90’s when a lot of bands tried to get more commercial and change the music but we never. I think back in the 90’s as SODOM we had some of the heaviest albums of our career and when we’re sat writing songs now we don’t think about what we’ve got to do. We just rehearse, it’s very old school, we have a rehearsal room and we do it one time a week and we just start it with a jam session, of course drinking a beer and start a guitar riff or a drum fills. I know other bands who are going to write songs on MP3 trading, one guy is living in America, one guy is living in England, the other one in Germany and that is not a band, SODOM is a band. Yes we never look back because there are some people who say it sounds like Agent Orange or Persecution Mania, there was one guy who told me it sounds like Obsessed By Cruelty. I never mind, but we just don’t think about that, we just want to write good songs and a good album but always try to keep the spirit of SODOM, we never want to try and change anything, we’re gonna do thrash metal, we have no dictations from our pride, there is no label or record company who will dictate to us off doing that. I want to be free, I want to do this kind of music but we love this kind of music. All of the inspiration for me is the older bands like VENOM, MOTӦRHEAD, the old MOTӦRHEAD, but when we start writing songs we don’t think about writing a song like MOTӦRHEAD or whatever, we just keep it a SODOM song. The difference between the new one and the older releases like Epitome of Torture and In War and Pieces the way we produced this album, we never had a release date with our label, we just recorded the songs and we had a lot of time, we recorded in six months and it was very relaxed working and the studio was near my home town so I could go there doing some vocal work, some bass lines and going back home and relaxing. We never had this kind of work before and we recorded some of the guitars in his house and some of the drums in the SODOM rehearsal room, very very relaxed, no pressure and that is the main difference. We got a chance to do a pre-production and change things we weren’t satisfied with and had a lot of time to make it perfect.

This is the first time you’ve had Joe Petagno work on a SODOM album cover and the result is fantastic, what was it like working with him and seeing the final result?

For me, oh wow! When I got in contact, he is the God-father of artwork and I just sent him an email and said ‘Hi, I’m Tom from SODOM and I want you to do the new SODOM album, we’re looking for artwork’ and he sent ‘Oh yes, I’ve known SODOM from the beginning and I want to do it and I love your music’ and this man is 70 years old you know. It was amazing and then we talked a little bit about the songs and I sent him some of the lyrics and song fragments, pre-productions, he told me ‘I need everything, I need inspiration’. Later he sent me some scribbles and some ideas and three or four weeks later I get the cover, I get a file on the computer and I was like ‘wow’ it’s amazing, it’s perfect for the music and I’m so glad he did the job you know, really. We never talked about the price, I was scared about the bill but he was really payable like every other artist, because it’s all come from hand, he’s never worked on Photoshop! The only digital on this cover is a scan! Joe always keep original artwork at home, we never get this, we get the scan and a copy but it’s perfect, it’s perfect for the music, it’s perfect for the merchandise and the fans like it and I love it.

It does sum up the album perfectly.

Some people say it looks like MOTӦRHEAD‘s Overkill, that’s his style you know! We never talked about a MOTӦRHEAD tribute, people say it’s a MOTӦRHEAD tribute and no it isn’t! I never give tribute to Lemmy after he died, I did a tribute before he died, we did a couple of songs but I don’t want to make any money with it. I told the guys that this album cover looks like MOTӦRHEAD a little bit but it has nothing to do with it.

Decision Day - Sodom

You’ve got a few dates coming up, the notable one being in Russia. You always hear a lot about predominantly metal bands who have been banned from playing there due to controversial subjects such as war, politics and religion; is this something that worries you as a band, that you could potentially be stopped from playing there because of your topics?

No I never think about it, we have good fans in Russia and we have a serious promoter who will help us out with that. I don’t want to bring politics into the scene or stage, I know it’s always a problem, I think there are some countries we have never played and never can play nowadays but Russia we have so much fans over there and we also have so much fans in the US America, but I also think about whether Donald Trump will get the next president, so I don’t want to go to US anymore. In Russia, we have so much fans, the fans are so loyal and supporting the band as much as they can as possible, so we go, we never think about, but sometimes it’s dangerous, it’s never a problem but the promoters have you know, so there’s a lot of shows we can’t do but Russia, it’s a problem between the European Union and Russia nowadays, it’s not easy but we go. I want to live in a free world, we want to play everywhere in the world and that’s my dream, to play everywhere. We’ve never had any problems in Russia, we get our visa, our working papers and all the sheets and we need to go there so it won’t be a problem no. I’m not a big fan of Putin but who cares? I love the fans over there, they’re always so happy when they’re gonna see bands you know, it’s not like in Germany where they can see every metal band every week, any place and any time but in Russia, when German bands or American or European bands go there it’s always something special and they really enjoy it when we go there. I don’t want to leave them disappointed so I don’t bring any politics into the music, we just enter the stage doing our show.

Now that Decision Day is out, what are your plans for SODOM? Any tour announcements coming up?

I think we’ll talk about a tour, some festivals, we’ve got so many offers for some of the bigger festivals like Wacken and it’s amazing, we also talked about a tour because it’s been a long time since we’ve played a US America tour but we’ll see how this album goes, I think we’ll get more serious offers after this, I don’t want to say we’ve got more money but we’ve got better slots on the festivals and when SODOM play on the festivals sometimes we just have 45 minutes, it’s not much we need more, we need more time on the stage and we’re really looking forward. As long as we stay healthy and creative then we want to go! We also have some ideas for our next album which we want to bring out in 2018, and talks about a new ONKEL TOM album which is my side project, I’m always busy in the music because it’s the biggest part of my life we always have future plans. I never think about when I retire, but it’s not like Lemmy, I don’t want to die on stage, I want to die in bed, I saw Lemmy two weeks before he died and he played in Düsseldorf in Germany, that was not good. I talked to my friend and said this is the last time we’re gonna see him on a stage and I don’t want to do this music til the end, never. I think for the next couple of years I’m still I want to do this,but when I’m 70 I can’t, I don’t know, I don’t want to end like Lemmy. He wanted to die on stage, I don’t want to die on stage, I just want to do a couple of albums for the next ten years and I want to retire, sometimes every party is over. If you are not able to do a show for one hour or 45 minutes, then you’re gonna leave the fans disappointed because you’re gonna have to break the show, cancel the show, I don’t want that. I keep on going, I smoke to much cigarettes sometimes and I drink sometimes but I don’t want to stop now, I have so many ideas for the next album and other stuff.

It’s been an absolutely pleasure talking to you, Decision Day is absolutely incredible!

Thank you for supporting us so well!

For more information like SODOM on their official page on Facebook 

Jessica Howkins

Co Editor-in-Chief for Distorted Sound Magazine, Music Journalism student.