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Sodom’s Tom Angelripper Looks Back on “Agent Orange”

Twenty-one years ago, Sodom released a thrash-metal beast in Agent Orange. Recently reissued by SPV as a two-disc deluxe edition with bonus tracks galore, the record has become one of the genre's triumphs, becoming what's rumored to be Germany's best-selling thrash-metal album. The band wouldn't last, though. Guitarist Frank Blackfire would leave soon after to join Kreator, and drummer Chris Witchhunter, who passed away in 2008, would leave the band in 1992. Here, vocalist-bassist Tom Angelripper—the band's sole original member—looks back.

REVOLVER Why do you think Agent Orange was so successful?
TOM ANGELRIPPER I remember that we had been on tour at that time and we got phone call from our label. They informed us about the chart entry. We were surprised, because we entered the charts as the first metal band ever! That was awesome. Now we got the respect we deserved but we didn’t do the music for any labels or the music industry; we did it for the fans. Agent Orange also changed my life in one important way. That was the right album at the right time and got a good-selling album. From that time I quit my job in the coalmine, where I had been since 1979. My dream came true to live just from the music and spent all my time for touring and rehearsing with the band.

What do you think of the album today?  
It represents the spirit of the end ’80s. But it’s not my favorite Sodom album. Every album marks another step in our career and history. We also love to play a couple of these songs in the current set list. The title track is a real classic.

Coming out of Persecution Mania, what did you want to do differently on Agent Orange?
The songwriting was the same like it was on Persecution Mania, but the production was better and more powerful. We mixed the tracks in a different studio in Hannover, a state of the art recording in that times. But also SPV did a great job, and they started a big promotion campaign hat helped us to get more respect from the magazines and promoters.

Why were you so fascinated with the Vietnam War, which influenced many of the album’s lyrics? 
I`ve been always interested in history and I try to describe the bad things in this world without any political opinion or message. I know that we can`t change the world, but to be a singer in a thrash band gives me the opportunity to scream it out. Vietnam is just symbolic for all the wars in this world

Why did guitarist Frank Blackfire leave after this release? 
I think he had a good friendship with Kreator, and they offered him to join the band for the upcoming U.S. tour. That was very sad, ’cause we also booked a sold-out European tour. Many years later he told me that he was unable to work with Chris [Witchhunter, drums] anymore, ’cause of massive problems during the recording session to Agent Orange. But nowadays I am still in contact with him. I’ve organized reunions over the years. I like it so much to talk about the good old times with all the ex-members.

You’ve said you’re still friends with Frank. How has his opinion of the album changed over the years? 
He always tell me that he is proud to be a strong part of the Sodom history and he will never forget the good old times.

What are your fondest memories of writing or recording Agent Orange? 
I remember that there was a personal crisis brewing between the Frank and Chris. During the the last days they didn’t had any conversation, ’cause Frank was pissed off about Witchhunter`s attitudes. It’s possible that he got the offer to join Kreator at this time, but he wanted to finish the production. In this bad atmosphere, we got drunk every day to get the same level. Harris [Johns, producer] was very disappointed about the situation, but he always pushed us to bring it to the end, but the problems got so massive and our anger discharged by destroying the whole hotel equipment. But anyway, we did it, and finished the production as professional as possible.

Interview by Kory Grow

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