Thursday 16 January 2020

The Spotlight: Interview With Bernd ‘Bernemann’ Kost of Bonded By Paul Hutchings)

Interview with Bernd ‘Bernemann’ Kost Of Bonded

If you were asked to list the behemoths of German thrash, alongside Kreator and Destruction stands Sodom. Led by Tom Angelripper, the band has been at the forefront of German metal since the mid 1980s. From 1996 to 2018, the lead guitar and driving riff work was delivered by Bernd ‘Bernemann’ Kost. Alongside Bernemann for a decade sat drummer Markus ‘Makka’ Friedwald. That is until January 2018 when Angelripper decided that he wanted “fresh and hungry” musicians and promptly fired the rest of the band. Undeterred, Bernermann and Makka grabbed the new songs they had not had time to show to Angelripper and headed for Makka’s studio in Dortmund where they formed Bonded. The band is completed by ex-Suicidal Angels guitarist Chris Tsitsis, Marc Hausechild on bass and Assassin vocalist Ingo Bajouczak.

Bernemann was at home in Dortmund, where he was born, when I caught up with him recently, and I started with the more obvious question which was about the split with Angelripper and how difficult it was for him and Makka. “Honestly, it wasn’t that bad for us. Of course, we were disappointed. I always loved Sodom; It was one centre of my life, for sure but in another way what have I lost? I’m still playing with Makka, my new band mates Chris and Mark and our producer Corni (Cornelius Rambadt), who was our drum tech for many years, and we enjoyed our time together very much. We travelled together around the world I don’t know how many times. This was very important. We have a very good relationship and enjoy the time on stage or in the rehearsal room and we like it. Finally, of course I was a little sad because it means a lot to travel around and to meet friends. I have friends in so many countries, I met so many people.

We are at the beginning with Bonded and we’ve played a few small shows and at each show people I know have come. I hope that the people I like and who like me will come to the shows so that makes things a little easier for us.” Bernemann confirmed that those first shows went well. “They were good. A small festival in Bavaria and then a show in Switzerland and about four weeks ago we played a slightly bigger festival with Amorphis and Powerwolf in North Germany. People are seeing what we do, it sounds well, and I have very good musicians in the band. Makka, Chris, they are great on their instruments and Ingo is a great singer so I guess people can see that we are enjoying what we are doing and so far, I cannot expect anything more”.

I wondered if the name Bonded was chosen because of the tightness of the band as a unit. Bernemann laughs, “yes but we only realised it after we had found the name. It was so difficult to find the band’s name, and every time we found one, we would Google and there would be another band already using that name. Finally, we found Bonded and we like it because it ‘s short, it’s a message and finally we said, yeah, this makes sense. But it wasn’t the intention … but it fits!” The band name does fit well and when you listen to Rest in Violence you can hear the tightness of the band as a unit. They also have a smart logo which works well.

Having been in a band for 22 years you may have thought that Bernemann would have wanted some time out to do other things, but this wasn’t the case with Bonded. “We wanted to go back straight, because you know Makka and me, we live about three kilometres from each other, our rehearsal room is in Dortmund, it belongs to Makka, and we were used to meeting there. We had already prepared songs for the new album. I’ve known Makka since he was 16 so we know each other for a very long time and of course, in the same moment when we were fired, we were calling each other and decided quickly to continue. We have everything; we have the best connections; we love to make music together and enough friends who want to play with us. It doesn’t change for us that much. Okay, we are not travelling as Sodom anymore and Tom is not there, but we are doing the same that we’ve done what we’ve done in the last few years. We are doing what we love, and we can listen to the new material and it sounds different because of the vocals, but we continue with the music on the path that we were on”.

For a thrash metal album, there is a lot of variety on Rest in Violence, something that may not have happened if the guys had remained with Sodom. “For me it is very important to have different speeds, to have the variety you are talking about. Sometimes when you are watching a show from a band and you have 45 minutes, maybe an hour, and all the music is one speed, like a train, sometimes it can be boring. We love to make our music a little different and it is only possible because we have a singer who can do this. We have two songs on the new CD which we had never done with Tom together because it was not his style. No Cure For Life and The Outer Rim, I like these songs because they are still hard enough to fit into the set and Ingo was able to sing them and I am happy about that”. This led neatly into the challenges of finding a singer who could carry the band’s sound.

We acknowledged that without a decent singer, it doesn’t matter how good the band is, they will fail, and we know of many bands we review here who fall into that category. “We needed most of the time to find a good singer and it is difficult to find someone with the voice, love of music and personality. I asked some friends and writers from magazines and one friend told me about Ingo and I was listening to Combat Cathedral, Assassin’s latest release (who ironically also have Frank Blackfire, former and current Sodom guitarist), and their bass player Joachim (Kremer) is a good friend of mine so I called him and asked him about Ingo and if he’d be happy for me to meet with Ingo because Assassin is not touring too much. I didn’t want to have any trouble, but Joachim was cool and gave me Ingo’s number. We meet up in the rehearsal rooms and the sound was fantastic. It took a while as Ingo doesn’t have that much time and he was a little shy about saying yes but we’ve found a good solution now”.

When you listen to Rest in Violence, the title track will grab you immediately because there is a distinctive voice on it. Overkill’s Bobby ‘Blitz’ guests on the song along with Christian ‘Speesy’ Giesler (Kreator bassist 1994 – 2019) and it transpires that the legendary frontman and Bernemann go back a long time. “Bobby and I have known each other a long time. The first time we met was probably 1996 when we played a couple of shows together. He knows my family and we meet so often and like each other. When we meet it’s always a few beers, talking shit and enjoying the time. He knows where I live and always calls me when the band are in Germany so he invited me to a gig in Osnabruck, maybe an hour by car and after the show we were having a couple of beers and he asked me about the band and I told him we had a contract with Century Media and I told him that Speesy was playing one song for us and he looked at me and said, “ hey Berne, do you think it would be okay if I sang on the CD?”

And I was so happy, and I agreed to send him the files. I was honoured but didn’t want to push him too much so I said if you want to sing the chorus that would be brilliant. So, I sent him the files and a few days later he went into the studio and was singing the whole song and he changed the lyrics a little. He said, “ah, this is German English”, so he changed it a bit and the arrangement and made suggestions. He really enjoys it. As far as I know he doesn’t do this often and it fits perfectly on the song. For me it is one of the highlights of my career. He’s a real character from the scene with a huge personality. It means a lot, for me and the band”. As an Overkill fan, this makes me happy as this is exactly what I would have expected from Bobby ‘Blitz’.

The last time I saw Sodom play was at 2017’s Damnation Festival where the band ran over such was their enjoyment. I asked Bernemann if he had some standout gigs that stuck in the memory. “There are a few I remember, not only the show but everything around it. There are some great shows. Here in Germany, on the Rock-Hard Festivals, they mean a lot to me. It’s the Ruhr area, we have a special relationship with this area, you know this is where Sodom are from and Kreator are from here, Angel Dust are from here so shows here are very special to us. I had a special show in Switzerland with Kreator and arch Enemy and I asked Michael (Amott) and Sharlee (D’Angelo) to play Blasphemer with us. I said to Jeff Loomis, sorry Jeff, I guess you can’t learn this song. Oh my god!! But he wasn’t angry. That was killer”.

We moved on to talk about the thrash scene and of interest to me was the difference between German thrash and the US thrash which sound totally different. I wondered if Bernemann had thoughts on why this was. “I really don’t know. It’s not only the vocals but of course that is a big part of it. I guess it may be that the older releases may sound a bit rawer. I was influenced by British bands rather than American bands so in the 80s I had different favourites to some of the German bands. I don’t know”. What about the thrash scene at present? How does Bernemann feel about the new thrash bands? “I am not sure if it is a good idea for younger bands to find a sound that has already been done. Of course, each band can do what they want but I prefer it when bands look forward, It is not what I would like to do, looking back in the past and repeat the same. Of course, a lot of people do like it”.

Wrapping up the conversation, we finished up talking about the promotion for the album. Rest in Violence is due out on 17th January. “We will release two more singles. On 13th December we will release Suit Murderer, and then on 17th January when we are playing in Oberhausen, we will release a lyric video. We will hopefully get some festivals to play next summer. I was talking to Ronnie from Rock Hard magazine an hour ago and maybe we can play on the Rock-Hard line-up in May. We’ve also got a licence for Brazil so the CD will be released there and maybe we will get to Brazil to play. We have only released one singe so far so hopefully we can jump on a tour as a support band.” Good luck to any band brave enough to take Bonded on as support because Rest in Violence is a superb slab of thrash which will be hugely received in the metal community. It would be great to see the band hit the UK next year but for now, make sure you catch the album when it drops, you wont be disappointed.

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