Having found Martin Missy of PROTECTOR working in tourism business in Sweden and Frank Gosdzik living in Brasil, I didn’t expect any other of German Thrashmeisters from the glorious times of the genre to catch me by surprise any more. I thought I was ready for anything – how wrong that naive belief of mine turned out to be. But how the hell could I expect finding ASSASSIN vocalist Robert Gonnella in China? The new Metal paradise? Hmm, well… Do you know any Chinese Metal band, by the way? Neither do I. But don’t worry, Rob is still singing in ASSASSIN anyway, even thousands of kilometres between him and his colleagues in Düsseldorf turned out to be uncapable of cooling the temper of our old Thrasher. Yeah, you got it right – ASSASSIN, pure cult and one of the most underrated bands of German Thrash legion is back, featuring, besides Robert, also both original ASSASSIN guitarists: Dinko Vekic and Jürgen "Scholli" Scholz. I thought it would be too cruelly of me to torture you, our dear readers, with some long introduction, as even without it this interview happened to be the longest one I’ve ever done. The most unusual too, as it isn’t every day when there are three musicians answering your questions, let alone two of them doing it from Germany (Dinko and Scholli, hereinafter referred to as D&S) and the third from Peking, the capital of China. OK, to hell with long senseless intros, let’s content ourselves with this short senseless one and stop it right here.
Looks like even as many as 14 years out of the scene weren’t enough to kill your hunger for playing some Metal, were they? How was it to meet and play together again after all these years?
Rob: “Yes, it’s been a very long time. The last three, four years there was always a discussion for a re-union with all old members involved, but at the very end it was Scholli, Dinko and the new bass player Joachim, as well as myself, who pushed it through. We started in January 2002 rehearsing with “Jason” on drums, but then he left in summer for whatever reason and since we had Steif asked before and once managed to rehearse before he okeyed it and so we are now us five since June /July together. It was not that hard to play since we all still make music here and there and we are 100% fully motivated.”
D&S: “It’s good for our ears (he, he) and minds and we have a hell of fun with our new members Joachim (bass) and Atomic Steif!!”
When did the idea of a re-union first come into consideration and how was it finally put into practice?
Rob: “As I mentioned, a longer time ago. First with Micha, Franky and Lulle even involved, but eventually the chemistry did not work so we ended up like that.”
D&S: “First plans and few rehearsals were made in 1991, 1995, 1999. Since the end of 2001 we’ve been rehearsing almost continuously. We got three original members in the band: Robert (vox), Dinko and Scholli (leadguitars). Steif (drums) came in July 2002, Joachim in April 2001. The original members Lulle, bass on debut LP / CD "The Upcoming Terror" (1986) and second ‘last’ album "Interstellar Experience" (1988), Psycho Danger (drums on "Upcoming Terror"), Micha (leadguitars on "Interstellar Experience") and Assassin’s (second) drummer Frank ("Interstellar Experience") do not participate in the present-day formation: Human reasons and / or other interests. We wish our former members Markus (Lulle), Andreas (Danger), Michael and Frank best luck!”
Can you feel more or less the same chemistry when making music together again like it was back in the 80’s or is it different in any way?
D&S: “At least we’re a decade and ½ older now and discovered a lot of things from beyond Metal, hell and death. HAHAHAHAHA!!!! It’s always different!”
Rob: “In the 80’s we were all in our teens and extremely motivated. Of course, we dreamed like all bands do even now to be the professional musicians. The experiences with having to be nice to the press, record company paid “Metal Hammer” for stories made us clear that its very hard to survive just from music, so we all did understand we have to work and do music more or less for ourselves. Now we are still the same just with 12 years more experience and that helps a lot too. In the 80’s at some point we rehearsed 6 times a week. Now its just twice or three times a week cause we all have our job to do.”
You’ve been rehearsing for about a year by now but none seems to have any idea about it. Do you keep it in a way secret on purpose till the time is right?
Rob: “Yes and no. Yes, we do not wanna make a big fuzz about it cause we first wanna see the end product and if we all like it and agree to publish it then here we go. No as well, cause if we are asked we tell and it should not be any secret that we are back, but as I said we do not make any promotion until we have the product right.”
D&S (whispering): “…we need time to progress… we don’t like pressure, any kind of stress while preparing… we’re assassins… we came to die… HAHAHAHAHA… Arrrrrghh!!!”
Do you really feel yourselves 14 years older now and distinctly different as the persons? Or maybe as if being almost the same crazy 80’s Thrashers?
Rob: “If you asked a 24 year old how he / she felt when he / she was 10, then, of course, there is a big difference. I believe we are still the very same people, just with 14 years more of life experience. I also believe that we are still crazy. My lifestyle is still: living for today and I have lots of fun in my life too.”
D&S: “Music’s what’s left to stay. Times change (yes?). Hey, Headbangers, Stagedivers and all forms of life from this and other planets: we want to play for you!!! We got (fine!) shocking killer-riffs (absorb!), strong lyrics ‘n’ drums for our Metal music… (he, he, and we need money, we’re not philosophers… beg your pardon, sometimes we’re honest… HAHAHAHA… even if our promoters could kill us… No, no, no… ARRRGGGHHH!!!)”
How were you introduced to Heavy Metal for the first time? Was it a love at first listen or did it take you some time to get into the stuff?
Dinko: “I’d say, love at first listen! AC/DC, 1979 / ’80. They played ‘Highway To Hell’, ‘Touch Too Much’ and later ‘Hells Bells’ very often at German radio stations / charts. Some time later I had luck finding in a local record store a mint, unplayed copy of another early AC/DC 7”: ‘Whola Lotta Rosie’ / ‘Dog Eat Dog’ (!!!), Aug. 1977 (first German pressing). AC/DC forever!!”
Rob: “My oldest friend Peter W. (ex – AGRESSOR / Ger) brought one day AC/DC “Highway To Hell” when I was 12 to my place, and then came MOTÖRHEAD and IRON MAIDEN. Then I got into METALLICA and SLAYER which I am still in.”
How long did it take you to turn from a fan to a musician?
Rob: “I am still a fan!!!!! And then I am also a musician now!”
D&S: “We’re fans and musicians, musicians and fans!!!”
Were any of you playing in any other bands previously to ASSASSIN?
D&S: “Yes, former members Frank (drums on 2nd album "Interstellar Experience") and Olaf (leadguitars with Micha on 1989 three-track ASSASSIN-demo, soon available) played in other early to mid 80’s local Metal bands. Scholli (leadguitars on debut "Upcoming Terror", ’86) played in one band before. Olaf joined ASSASSIN when Dinko (leadguitar on both albums) left in mid ’89. (Dinko: "Ya’ know, just one of these old days motivation-blackouts, he, he!!!") But Olaf stayed only a few months with ASSASSIN: the band continued with Micha on one lead guitar in 1989 / ’90. Until burglary!”
Rob: “I played in AGRESSOR / Ger with Peter before, actually while I was in ASSSASSIN in 1986.”
I used to think that ASSASSIN was born in April ’85, but have also heard that either some early incarnation or simply the basic idea of the band goes as far back in time as to 1983. Where is the truth here?
D&S: “Yes, mid to end 1983… Original members and friends Lulle, Micha and Danger came together to found German’s Thrash Metal legend ASSASSIN (if ya’ don’t mind… HAHAHAHA). Demos from these early times (unfortunately, he, he) do not exist.”
Rob: “April 1985 is about right. 1983 Dinko, Lulle, Psycho (Danger) were around and Scholli was found by an ad, but ASSASSIN really came into being in 1985.”
How was ASSASSIN born in the first place: was it a bunch of old friends thinking it would have been cool to form their own Metal band and it went from there, or rather some professional musicians (not necessarily familiar with each other before) teaming up to unite their skills?
Rob: “Oh, we were Heavy Metal fans all the way. Only difference was we never drank, only Cacao milk. Psycho (Danger) and Lulle found Dinko and Scholli through an ad. I met Dinko in a guitar shop – long hair, leather jacket with VENOM on it and I immediately got friends with him. I played with Peter and Bachmann (Diiiieee) under a church for fun and Dinko came here and there and Lulle came once too. Then Lulle and Dinko invited me to come to play at ASSASSIN. I was the last to join and we rehearsed in a cellar of a “retired people home”. We started with little skills, but there were talent and motivation which kept us at the start.”
D&S: “We’re Rock and Metal fans and friends who had one goal: to play in a band, to make records and concerts! Scholli came via newspaper advertisement and had lessons in classical guitar… Dinko met Lulle and Micha for the first time in Feb.1984 after visiting a JUDAS PRIEST concert. Robert met Dinko in a music store… Dinko introduced Robert to Lulle, Danger, Scholli; Micha was in the army at that time…To hell with the army or just think of Scholli’s quite obscure army-time!!!!! HAHAHAHAHA”
As a highly intelligent question dealing with the bandname’s meaning makes no sense in your case, then all what’s left for me to do is to ask why did you baptize your band exactly that way? Did it have anything to do with SLAYER, as the meanings of both words are quite similar and they were the band any young Thrasher would dream of being associated with at the time?
Rob: “First of all, some people of our band and around that time called themselves “the SLAYER generation”. We loved SLAYER totally and still do. “Psycho” came up with the name and he got it through a dictionary, that’s what I heard and know. We also had an alternative to call ourselves SADIST, which later a project band was called. But we did not have any intention to call ourselves like SLAYER cause a) too much respect for them and b) we wanted like any other band to have something original.”
D&S: “Original members Danger, Micha and Lulle tried to find an objectionable bandname. Danger suggested in 1983 / ’84 ASSASSIN… as you see, this name for a band is (and was) a good choice…. "Assassin" will never loose its shocking, even weird effect, and, with such a bandname, your’re almost in every time period up to date… just like these synthetic pop dance groups with lotsa cloned standard beauties and friends… HAHAHAHAHA”
Such original sound of ASSASSIN could make one think that the band had been formed by people with very different musical backgrounds and influences. Was it really so?
D&S: “Yes, you can interpret it this way. Dinko and Lulle listened enthusiastically to Hardcore Punk pre debut record sessions. Robert bought almost all Metal records he could find in the first half of the 1980’s. Frank learned to play drums, even for jazz music…”
Rob: “As I said, we started with just playing our intruments for only a short time. We all loved Metal and that’s what we did. Though characterwise we all were and still are very different. Our common thing was and is still the music and that’s what put us together. Like a soccer team: team play is No.1.”
Wouldn’t you be so kind to shed some light on the situation with the drummers in the beginning of ASSASSIN’s career? Is Psycho and Danger the same person?
D&S: “Yes! Psycho Danger left the band after recording debut LP / CD "The Upcoming Terror" (1986)! It was his free decision.”
Rob: “Psycho is Danger. Psycho II is Frank, our second drummer. Psycho III is Steif (maybe, hahaha). There were drummers here and there, but these are the real and consistent ones and worth to mention.”
Russia has never been the best place for Metal, especially in the 80’s, so I’ve never had an opportunity to check out either “Holy Terror” or “The Saga Of Nemesis” demos. I wonder whether I lost very much?
Rob: “Dinko has a copy of both. He can send a copy to you. I tell you one thing. When in the 80’s the Thrash was booming, there were two great scenes: Bay Area / San Francisco and Rhein / Ruhr valley (Düsseldorf / Essen) in Germany where lots of bands came from. But all over the world Thrash became popular. Russia too hosted great concerts and I heard so much crazy things about concerts also from Mille (KREATOR) that I would love to play there once. I came to Russia a couple of times and I personally have some very best Russian buddies. Believe me, you lost nothing, cause you enjoy Metal like we did and that’s what counts.”
D&S: “Just listen to the pictures: we’re planning to release a CD with the old stuff: ASSASSIN – Demos 1985-1989. Yep, we know, the sound quality can’t be compared to high end products… but it’s real rough and pure amusement, even for music historians… HAHAHAHAHA… Yes, there is a further demo from 1989: first ASSASSIN studio recordings after the second album "Interstellar Experience".”
Your second demo “The Saga Of Nemesis” was recorded with former WARLOCK guitarist Rudy Graf, wasn’t it? Did he really produce it or just help you here and there with some hints and things like that?
Rob: “Rudy was a buddy around that time and he actually did produce it and helped finding a nice little studio. The final production though was done by another guy and ourselves with Rudy deciding the end sound.”
D&S: “Rudy and Rick (owner of the studio) worked with us as producers and sound engineers. We had fine teamwork and the demo became a success: March 1986 we had an offer, short time later a contract with SPV / Steamhammer. Did ya’ know that we already got a deal-offer for our first demo "Holy Terror" (1985): King Klassic Records from Waukegan (Illinois) were the first who wanted to sign this obscure German band ASSASSIN. Of course, for a full LP!!! HAHAHAHA… "great, mega Heavy Metal" they found out! The band decided to wait resp. to find a company inland, because of easier and faster communications, contacts…”
How did you manage to get a deal with Steamhammer? Back then it wasn’t as easy as it is today
D&S: “See above: a good, original demo!”
Rob: “Nothing is so easy, even today to get a good deal. We were young and were so happy to be at Steamhammer those days. The flip of the coin was that we found out about the corruption, we got nothing from the USA or Japan Steamhammer releases. We signed blindly which was good for the record company but not necessarily for us. Though we still had good contact with the Steamhammer guys.”
Was there any EP called “Interstellar” released in 1986 previously to “The Upcoming Terror”? I’ve seen it mentioned by different sources a couple of times but don’t have any further information at all.
Rob: “Not that I know of. We had a three track demo in 1989 / 1990 for a third record which never came out. Also ‘Religion’ from “Holy Terror” was never on an album.”
D&S: “No, with exception of the demos "Holy Terror" (1985) and "The Saga of Nemesis" (1986) there exists no other ‘offical’ tapes or records predating the debut LP / CD. Maybe your EP information regards the above mentioned 3-track-demo from 1989?”
Looking back at your debut longplay “The Upcoming Terror” from the viewpoint of your nowadays experience, how would you judge your personal work on it and the final outcome of the album in general?
Rob: “I still think it’s great. You know, we started as pure amateurs and with all talent and our almost daily rehearsals managed to put a great album together. We never made an album before and had no experience. It will always be something special to us.”
D&S: “We had a band, maybe even a concept, good ideas, riffs and lyrics. The recording sessions were great fun. Today’s world is one more time unfortunately no fun. It seems we’re quite unable to find a peaceful coexistence of all nations, religions and tribes. (Is that really so?) As artists we feel free to "terrorize" and express our feelings and thoughts with our Metal music. You can ignore any ASSASSIN-record or leave any ASSASSIN-concert! Easy and fair. Pain and death is very, very often unnecessary, only tradition says it must… example: when you are in your thirties and you don’t live in extreme climate regions, in many cases you can stop to eat meat and live as (lacto-)vegetarian without any problems for your health! (Hey, there could be much more artists ‘n’ open minded philosophers, even dieticians, on this planet! We got enough mind darkness here!!)”
Did it (I mean “The Upcoming Terror”, of course) change anything in your life?
D&S: “Yes, we made a lot of money… HAHAHAHAHA (… just ask these business cracks… HAHAHAHA!!!)”
Rob: “Yeah, of course. I was still in high school and when the album came out I was the king in school. We were (and still are) Heavy Metal fans, and when the record came out it gave us extra strength in life. It’s like a soccer team winning a Cup and appreciating the situation.”
I can’t help feeling that the more I listen to this album now preparing this interview, the more I like it, perhaps even more than back when it was just released. Hey, what’s the secret here? What did you put in it to make it only better with the years like a noble wine?
D&S: “… may be it is or was our enthusiasm for power chords, light, chaos and upcoming terror from beyond space…?!!”
Rob: “You see, in art (music, paintings, etc) you can do it a lot ways with lots of variety. If someone eats something every day from childhood he will like the food for the rest of his / her life. “The Upcoming Terror” was made with our passion and at the endproduct you can hear / feel that out. As the old Alice Cooper was great and then the new stuff came out without passion it sucked. We wanna make ASSASSIN now cause we love it and give all our passion into the music.”
ASSASSIN has always seemed to me "the band for the musicians” above all, as the complexity of your music was tending to draw the attention rather of a musician, not a mere fan. You see, it was pretty hard to swallow it at once because of it’s being very complex, overloaded with rhythm and tempo changes, because of its a bit chaotic nature after all, and many fans simply weren’t giving it a second chance as there were plenty of good records to choose from back then. Don’t you think all this must be one of the main reasons that prevented ASSASSIN from achieving more recognition and success?
D&S: “Who knows… However, there are these ASSASSIN re-releases (France, Japan) which means we still reach people with our Metal sounds… let’s wait and see what time will bring… we never stopped playing our instruments…”
Rob: “The Thrash market at that time of course had loads of bands and we were not the only one. Most critics that time also valued our band for the musician playing level (more than KREATOR / SODOM), but that was never important to us. We always wanted to present ourselves the very best we could and not just make a record, no, we wanted good quality and set high staked for ourselves. Since our music was very hard and definitely not commercial, we always knew then that only as ASSASSIN we would economically survive. It’s never important how difficult and how excellent you play your instrument, it’s much more important to play as a unit (team) and put feeling to your songs.”
On the other hand, it must be very frustrating for a creative individual to realize that stuff you put your heart and soul into is simply being not understood and, as a result, overlooked by the masses striving for something more easy and listener-friendly
Rob: “As I said, we never had the intention to be extra complex or have a special high level of listeners. We were never frustrated for that. We had a great time in the 80’s and now we still have and we wanna always have a great time.”
D&S: “…there are much more frustrating things happening… and: ars longa, vita brevis…”
Even though your music has always been considered to be Thrash, upon a much more closer listen “The Upcoming Terror” appears to be either your very own vision of Thrash which had very little to do with anyone other’s one, or even not Thrash at all. Which of these options do you yourself tend to?
D&S: “… yep, it’s possible that we created an original vision of hard, very fast, guitar oriented music… somehow we combined Metal, Speed and Thrash, even Punk ‘n’ Rock, sci-fi, utopian themes and politics on our debut Terror…”
Rob: “The Upcoming Terror” was definitely THRASH for the 80’s. Rather “Interstellar Experience” was Hardcore, even though we thought both were Thrash. At that time music was very defined: first Rock, then Hard Rock, then Heavy Metal, then Thrash-, Black-, Speed- Metal, etc. Our lyrics at that time were the first one in Thrash about social issues. At the time other bands sang about Satan or violence, etc.”
Both music and lyricwise my most favorite ASSASSIN track is ‘Forbidden Reality’. What’s yours and why?
Rob: “Yeah, great track that I love too. I like ‘AGD’ best, cause it was a great fun which talked also about our friends (Mille, Schmier, etc) from other bands and was the hell of fun. ‘The Last Man’ I like lyricwise too, which described the end of mankind.”
S&D: "’Nemesis’… original riffing, chaos in the beginning, interesting lyrics… first ASSASSIN-drummer Psycho Danger gave all…”
By the way, didn’t the fact that most of ASSASSIN fans did not care at all about the messages of your let’s say “politically correct” lyrics bother you?
D&S: “Yes! We think that all our listeners should behave like real heroes, even better: Superheroes!! Apropos, he, he, superhero-, horror- and sci-fi-comics: Dinko collects this stuff and even writes articles for periodicals concerning bibliographic registration of certain comic book titles / series… if you like comics and these themes, you can also visit his web-pages at Astounding Images: www.astim.de. And if you don’t enjoy this comic and political correctness stuff, then ###’kdxyxysklk##*!!! (hey, wait… we can forgive!!! HAHAHAHA)”
Rob: “Lots of Metal fans don’t care a lot of the lyrics. They want powerful songs as Metal is. In Punk it’s different: the lyrics must be “politically correct”. I like that expression cause lots of people think “politically correct” just because it’s cool to be, rather than really meaning it. Since I wrote the lyrics, I always wanted to mirror the days we live in. I never made one lyric cause ASSASSIN might get a better sales or so. Fuck that.”
Scholli, did you really leave the band to start your career in the army? If that’s the case indeed, don’t you find it very funny taking into consideration ASSASSIN’s antimilitaristic themes?
Scholli: “The army time was a joke… (As we all!!!!! HAHAHAHAHA)”
Rob: “Well, Scholli must have answered that. In fact, that time (after “The Upcoming Terror”) the drummer Psycho / Danger left and we got a new drummer Frank who had played with Micha. Since Scholli also missed lots of rehearsals and at one point we thought to go with 3 guitar players, Scholli quit cause he did not want that, and furthermore Micha used Scholli’s equipment without proper respect which was also my and other members fault that time. Plus Micha, me, Lulle, Dinko & Frank had privately more in common.”
Scholli, how did you like the second album, the one without your guitar and Psycho’s drums? Didn’t you think that anything very important was missing in it?
Scholli: “Well, here and there I would criticize some parts regarding songwriting. Though, it’s a good second ASSASSIN-album!”
As for me, my first reaction when listening to “Interstellar Experience” was like “Looks like you guys must have been listening to too much TANKARD lately”. Or vice versa? Anyway, with due respect to our favorite beer-Thrashers I nevertheless would prefer ASSASSIN staying just ASSASSIN. Any comments?
D&S: “Micha’s excellent riffing and melodic-solo playing gave high reasons to make "Interstellar Experience" one of the best and original Thrash records coming from Germany in early 1988!! We had good gigs with TANKARD, but we can’t locate any big influence on us. We were space Thrashers who reflected ‘Speed Of Light’ and ‘Interstellar Experience’… of course, we know much about beer and ‘Junk Food’ too… HAHAHAHAHA”
Rob: “TANKARD? No way! Well, now with two new members ASSASSIN definitely became more modern. That time Thrash became harder and faster and that was what happened at “Interstellar…”. By the way, we were and are friends with TANKARD and know them for some time now, but we never really listened to them or they to us.”
Is there anything funny to narrate about the fact that TANKARD on the thanx-list of their "The Morning After" album back in 1988 said cheers to ASSASSIN and called you "poor kakaodrinkers"?
Rob: “I think I know why. On the “Interstellar Experience” our manager Donald put TANKARD on the list (poor alcoholics) and that was their answer. Actually we (the band) never had anything intentional against TANKARD, rather they were and are cool guys and that fucked up a lot, at the end we kicked out Donald.”
I must confess of being a bit disappointed with your loss of some originality, some caveman charm and primeval beauty of “The Upcoming Terror” on your second album. From a unique sounding entity ASSASSIN turned into just another (really good though, no doubts about that, but just one of a million anyway) Thrash band out there. Was it caused mainly by the new persons in the band or just a result of natural progression regardless of any line-up rearrangements?
D&S: “We don’t think that we turned in any ‘wrong’ direction with our 2nd album… We had with Micha and Frank two new talented songwriters on board to prepare and form "Interstellar Experience"!! What’s true, there is not one real sloooow, groovy ‘n’ doom-like guitar part on our second album… Unfortunately, the "Interstellar Experience" re-release (France, Summer 1998) does not content ‘Strange World’ which appeared as a bonus track for the CD’s first edition. This song works very good as epilogue for our second album… it’s also missing on the "Interstellar Experience" – LP because of these bonus tracks concepts for CD releases in the mid-end 80’s… sorry, may be even our fault resp. we realized this too late…!”
Rob: “As I said before, the Thrash was also developing and so did we. You see, we got lots of fans just because of the second album (the first they did not like) and then there were fans like you who only liked the first. Most liked both. I am, myself, very happy with both ones cause both albums had their character. Too many bands have made lots of records which all sound the same.”
Or was it maybe just a matter of sound? Did you get exactly the sound you wanted on both ASSASSIN albums in the end? I mean they are so different that it’s easy to assume that at least one of them didn’t turn out to be what it should have been
Rob: “As the beginner, SPV / Steamhammer send us to Karo studios with Kalle Trap as a producer. He even influenced the music a bit cause he was well experienced and we were not. On the second album we had much more influence on Harris Johns (Mesa Boogie for guitars was one) cause we had almost 2 years of experience in recording. So what came out at the end always represented the best we could at the time being.”
D&S: “All in all we’re happy with both productions. For the second album "Interstellar Experience" we tuned our guitars a half tone down to Dis and used Mesa Boogie amps for the guitar sounds… For the debut "The Upcoming Terror" we took Marshall amps and recorded in standard guitar tuning… So that could be one or two points to answer your question… we like experiments!”
Dinko, whose idea was it to bring guitars so much to the forefront in the mix of “Interstellar Experience”? I guess it’s exactly what in a way killed the unique atmosphere inherent to your previous work, giving to the second album much more usual Thrash sound. What’s your opinion?
Rob: “I think it was rather Micha, but Dinko, here you go… ASSASSIN always made sure that the guitar was not just a back effect, rather put them front with the vocal.”
D&S: “Hey, we’re guitar band: we got two lead guitars… Hm, usual Thrash sound…? Ugh, we could talk days and days about this topic… we liked the distorted and dynamic guitar sounds and effects on "Interstellar Experience": aggressive, hard, dry, spacey…”
Why and when exactly did ASSASSIN die? Was it a quick and easy demise or, on the contrary, a long and painful agony?
D&S: “The end came abruptly and without warning: 1989 / 90 after burglary in our rehearsal room. Almost everything important was stolen and we had no insurance. In those days even the emotional situation between the band-members wasn’t the best… there were differences… the boys decided to stop with the band…”
Rob: “ASSASSIN will never die for myself, cause it will be always part of my life. After “Interstellar Experience” we had a tour with DEATH ANGEL and RUMBLE MILITIA and had some concerts here and there. Then we went back into the rehearsal room to make stuff for a third album. At the time, when three new tracks were made already, Dinko left the band. Another guy called Olaf joined, with whom we then made a three track demo with. Then all our instruments were stolen from the rehearsal room, Micha soon left for SODOM, Olaf left too, and I prepared my final exams at college, at the end we split up by just leaving everything as it was.”
When ASSASSIN was no more, did you feel like some part of you had died together with it as well?
D&S: “Yes and no. All former members carried on making music…”
Rob: “Of course, something was missing, but on the other hand we all kept moving on in life. If we would kept ASSASSIN under every circumstances then that would not be honest cause the motivation was not there at the moment.”
My information may not be 100% correct, but it seems like for all the original ASSASSIN members this band was also the last (at least more or less known) one all of you have ever taken part in. Micha went straight to SODOM, Frank was later seen in TWILIGHT ZONE, but what about the classic line-up? Does it mean that for all of you ASSASSIN meant too much to think of being involved in anything else?
D&S: “Not necessarily. Scholli recorded an album with SECRET DISCOVERY (dark metal like) in the 90’s… Lulle and Dinko played in Punk ‘n’ psychodelic retro-bands and recorded demos… Rob started to sing Karaoke in Japan and China (HAHAHAHA) and Psycho Danger: no infos….”
Rob: “Micha went to SODOM, and Frank played at TWILIGHT ZONE? That I do not recall, or I wanna say I never heard of TWILIGHT ZONE ever. Frank and Micha later, after Micha left SODOM both went for a couple of years to Brazil and got married there. Lulle continued his job as a painter, Dinko studied at university. With Scholli I was not in touch at that moment.”
Anyway, what were you doing after ASSASSIN’s demise up to now?
Rob: “Dinko played in a 60’s Psychodellic band with Lulle partly for some time. Frank and Micha made South American sound and myself was just a week in a studio with DESTRUCTION. That time Schmier was out and they checked me out, but I declined at the end cause a) Schmier was a buddy and b) I would not move from Düsseldorf to South Germany.”
D&S: “We played on…”
And what about a session project CHECKER PATROL with Necro Butcher and Euronymous of Norwegian MAYHEM? Which of you did take part in it and how did it happen at all?
Rob: “All my good buddies took part. Micha and Lulle for sure. I had a great contact with Metalion and he said he wanna see us in Düsseldorf. He came with Euronymous and Necrobutcher and stayed at my place. It was a hell of fun and I will never forget that time. We introduced them to DEATHROW and KREATOR as well as to SODOM. Metalion, by the way, with all his input for Thrash with his Slayer Mag has my biggest respect for keeping the scene all alive. Best regards!”
Robert, how the hell did you end up in China, by the way?
Rob: “After ASSASSIN I graduated college and worked for a Japanese company for 3 years. In 1992 I left for Japan and lived in Tokyo for 3 years, studying Japanese and working in the logistics business. I got then a scholarship to go to China in Japan which I took then advantage of and so in 1994 I moved to Peking where I live now over 8 years and run a soccer club IFFC (International Football Friendship Club): www.triggerfish.de/iffc. Check out the site.”
Talking to the musicians of the 80’s bands I can’t get rid of the feeling that many of you simply have no idea how well-known your bands were back then and what fond memories of you (let alone your albums themselves) your old fans still keep up to these days. This isn’t different with you either, is it? I guess you’ll be amused to hear that I, for example, first heard your music from a big reel of tape (remember those archaic forefathers of compact-cassettes?) in some small Ukrainian village you won’t find on any map ; -)
Rob: “As I always said before, I never really cared for fame or something, ASSASSIN was at that time something what put us all together and we had loads of fun. Life continues and does not stand still. I still live a crazy life and I am 100% behind the re-union cause I love to make music and since all those years we did not do really anything musicwise, we are therefore even more motivated.”
D&S: “It is honorable to be held as a musician / artist (?) We thank all those people for their support over the years!! (But we’re not sure whether you can take us serious… HAHAHAHA… maybe we’re charlatans… HAHAHAHHA)”
How long did it take you to realize that it probably hadn’t been the best decision at the time to put ASSASSIN into a grave?
Rob: “First, almost all old members were in the plan of re-union. At one point we had Scholli, Micha, Frank, Dinko, Lulle and myself as a 6 member line up. Then Frank missed too many rehearsals and up to now Scholli does not wanna play with Micha in a band. Since Scholli was the most serious and Dinko followed him, I decided to go with them. Anyway Frank was never 100% believing since he did not show up. Lulle as well, so he quit too. When then Joachim came on bass and over Jason, Steif joined, at that time we all knew that was it and that was 2002.”
D&S: “We were informed by friends (thanx André!), that there exist these ASSASSIN CD re-releases… this gave us motivation and impulses for a new (heroes) return… HAHAHAHAHA!!”
Were there any songs written for the third album? In case there really were some, are you going to use them or at least some of those old riffs now, in your upcoming comeback album?
Rob: “As I mentioned, there was a 3 track demo out. ‘Man vs. Nature’, ‘Controle’ and ‘A Whole Life In One Moment’ were the titles. We have not decided if we will use them yet.”
D&S: “5 new, original songs are finished… maybe we’ll choose one track from the above mentioned 1989 demo for a forthcoming 3rd album… Two songs on this demo were still written and arranged while Dinko was with ASSASSIN in the 80’s…”
Dinko, is there any difference for you whom to share your guitar parts with? Is it more comfortable to play again with Scholli or was it maybe with Micha?
Dinko: “It’s very difficult with both of them! (believe me)”
Rob: “In ASSASSIN Dinko had always had great ideas. On the first album Scholli put all ideas into a final song, on the second album it was Micha. Now Scholli with Dinko is a great line-up for guitars.”
Even if it may be absolutely unfair, somehow I used to blame that loss of ASSASSIN’s unique sound I was talking about earlier mainly on the new members of the band. But now, with Scholli back in the ranks and the new drummer in the person of none other than Atomic Steif, may I hope that the wild charm of “The Upcoming Terror” is going to be brought back?
Rob: “You are definitely an “Upcoming Terror” fanatic, right? I stand 100% to both albums, but since Scholli is now back, I think its fair to say that the direction will go towards “The Upcoming Terror”, but in a modern sound. We have some new tracks we are very satisfied with.”
D&S: “It isn’t easy to answer this question adequately: just wait and hear the third album and then let’s talk again… All current members take their part in writing new songs… the basic ideas rise from Scholli and Dinko and Robert.”
By the way, how did you manage to get hold of Atomic Steif? The last I’ve heard about him was his new band STAHLTRÄGER he formed after leaving SODOM.
Rob: “He is still there. Now he plays in two bands. That’s tough for him, cause besides loads of rehearsals he still has a financial contribution to both bands as well.”
D&S: “We couldn’t manage to continue neither with Psycho Danger nor with Frank on drums! We got Steifs phone-number from Anja, our first promoter / manager… Steif showed interest and we made sessions… hey, and now we have already five (fresh ‘n’ original) new songs!!! In July 2002 Steif joined the band, gigs and concerts will be given in 2003…”
Don’t you find it a bit unfair that when it comes to Teutonic Thrash everyone (well, apart from the old fans of your own age, of course) is speaking about DESTRUCTION, KREATOR and SODOM only? I mean they are all great bands and really deserve what they achieved, but at the same time weren’t it their outstanding figures that overshadowed many others, not less talented Thrash bands from your country? LIVING DEATH, POISON, NECRONOMICON, PROTECTOR, HOLY MOSES, DEATHROW, EXUMER, ASSASSIN, the list goes on and on. What do you think did all of you lack to grow as big as those three celebrated bands?
D&S: “Well, who knows where we would stay today (or not), if we continued after the burglary?! However, right now we think that we got enough potential to create original sounds and images for Metal and high speed musical culture… believe in us! We’ll never disappoint ya’!!! HAHAHAHAHA… (mistrust anybody… HAHAHAHAHA)”
Rob: “To be fair, KREATOR, SODOM and DESTRUCTION were the very first row of German Thrash, like SLAYER and METALLICA in the US. The second row ASSASSIN, DEATHROW, EXUMER, etc, in the US it was DEATH, DARK ANGEL, etc. We respect that too and it’s definitely not unfair. I respect KREATOR a lot cause they were the only ones who pulled through all the way and personally I’d always loved them.”
Robert, you seem to be long time friends with Mille Petrozza, don’t you? How do you estimate his input into the rise and fall of Thrash?
Rob: “Mille is the man in German Thrash. He is the reason that KREATOR stayed so long alive and he earned all our respect for that pulling through for such a long time. He is an important figure in the music business, but it would be too much to say that Thrash is dependent of him. If he would hear that, he would have a bright sunshine smile.”
Just out of curiosity: have you ever envy him as a musician?
Rob: “I met Mille a long time ago in the mid 80’s. We were teens that time and at the first time he came up to me and talked to me. Mille privately is a great person. He takes good care of his good friends and until now I never saw him letting anyone down. For me he is a dear friend. I envy him as a musician too. Maybe at the early KREATOR he was not the very best guitar player, but he was and is always a great song writer and vocalist. And now he is also an excellent guitar player too.”
Anyway, I found it pretty amusing and encouraging that in the news section of our magazine it was not Mille’s guest appearance on the upcoming NAILED WITHIN album that was particularly emphasized, not that the album was recorded with Harris Johns, but exactly your appearance and possible ASSASSIN reunion above all. Doesn’t it say anything? You see, people still remember and appreciate what you have done so long ago, isn’t it a great thing to learn?
Rob: “In summer 2002 I went to visit my two sisters in Berlin, and after Mille told me he would go to Berlin as well, we decided to go together. He told me about the project and I was still in the dark about the band, but I was really happy to meet Harris after such a long time. Anyway when we arrived it turned out that NAILED WITHIN were really great guys and I immediately agreed to sing some lines too after I was asked. For me it was special cause NAILED WITHIN were at the same age as I was when we recorded at Harris studios. It was a backflash. Nevertheless, ASSASSIN was anyway in the pipeline and NAILED WITHIN was great fun for a one time guest appearance.”
D&S: “Yes!! Thanx to all people who supported (us and our) Metal music over the years… may the sun shine for you!!! Take care! Thanx for interview!”
Thank YOU in the first place! There’s just one little question left: Dinko, how many bottles? How many beer bottles have you emptied together with Scholli while answering this interview?
Dinko: “Beer? No, we "took" Space Cakes… HAHAHAHAHA… we’re space thrashers…”