SODOM’s Frank Blackfire - “F*ck That Stupid Coal Mine!”

February 24, 2024, 5 months ago

By “Metal” Tim Henderson

feature black death sodom frank blackfire

SODOM’s Frank Blackfire - “F*ck That Stupid Coal Mine!”

The Police had a moderate hit from 1980’s Zenyatta Mondatta called "Canary In A Coalmine”. Which always got me wondering. The proper definition states “A person or creature unwittingly used as a test for danger, often destructively." Coal miners brought canaries into coal mines as an early-warning signal for toxic gases, primarily carbon monoxide. Suffice to say, this wasn’t the ideal job if you valued your life, or at least wanted to extend it. Sodom legend Tom "Angelripper" Such worked in the coal mines in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. Frank “Blackfire” Gosdzik worked in the coal mines in Essen, Germany. The cities are about 15 km apart. They escaped with their lungs, their lives and musically united in 1987 for the German thrash legends stellar second album, Persecution Mania. The band had actually never seen the classic CD long box of the album which I showed them on the recent 70000 Tons Of Metal cruise (see photo below). 

Back to the coal mines. During the BraveWords Rapid Fire questions, I asked Blackfire when he wanted to pursue music as a career, did he have family support.  

"Oh yeah, I got a lot of support from my parents,” he recalls. “Of course I started by having, like a 9-to-5 job. I started working when I was 16, and I earned my first money. I was kind of like independent from my parents, because I paid everything by myself. My drivers license, my first car, everything. And that was good, earning money. But, after a while I figured out that 9 to 5 jobs like this – I used to work in a coal mine, same like Tom – and it was a bad job, dirty, and everything. But it was a good experience also. I knew from the first years I was working there that I'm not going to do this my whole life. I want to do something different. I want to be a musician one day. I mean, for most it starts as a hobby, having fun with it and everything – that is the most important thing. And then, if you are successful with a band then you can make the step from there; from I don't want to do a 9 to 5 job anymore to I only want to play music, and I want to dedicate myself totally to music and be a full-time musician."

BraveWords: Have you ever reconnected with someone who worked with you in the coal mine? 

Blackfire: "Yes I met a guy. I met two, actually, two guys that used to work in the coal mine with me, and the funny thing is one day I met the one guy that started with me in the coal mine, we were working together. We started in '82 or something like that. We met each other in the flea market and it was like, 'Hey, what's up?', and that guy told me, "I have three more years and then I can retire', and that was like early, he was like 50 or something, you know? And I thought, ‘Wow, that is fucking cool. Why didn't I stay in the coal mine then then I would retire right now too?' But in another way I was thinking, man, what I had in my life, with bands and everything, I would never have wanted to miss that, you know? Fuck that stupid coal mine."

BraveWords: Well, it can't have been the healthiest job.

Blackfire: "No, no, definitely not, man."

BraveWords: To get to 50 working in a coal mine, that's probably a record.

Blackfire. "It is, man, it's fucking disgusting working there. I didn't like. I mean, the only great thing was that you earned some good money there, back then. I used to earn 2.5 thousand Marks, and that was good at that time. But, my bones were hurting, everything. My grandfather used to work in a coal mine, and he died when he was 50. His lungs were bad, and he was like, broken, you know? Fucked up, you know? I thought to myself, 'I don't wanna do that for my whole life. I want something different."

After releasing the glorious Agent Orange album, in 1989 Blackfire left the band and joined Kreator for five years releasing Coma Of Souls (1990), Renewal (1992) and Cause For Conflict (1995). In January 2018, Blackfire officially returned to his Sodom roots and is enjoying creating new music with his longtime cohort Tom Angelripper. 

BraveWords: What is fueling the creative juices in terms of making new music? Where does it come from?

Blackfire: "To create new music and where does it come from? Yeah, it's kind of like a special magic, that you get into your music, and feelings, you know? Something like that, make something happen."

BraveWords: But you created some really special music back in the day that influenced a lot of people, right? So when you look at that résumé, and you say to yourself, 'I need to write a better song than "Agent Orange".

Blackfire: "I guess. This is a little bit difficult because back then it was heard worldwide, so to write a better song I don't know. I was, at that time, with this feeling, and it was a special moment how you created the music back then. Nowadays, it's a different vibe, a different feeling you know, so it's hard to redo stuff like this. Maybe you can get the riff, and keep it in mind, and write around it, but at that time you had a special feeling."

Tom Angelripper walks in.

BraveWords: Hello, Tim from BraveWords. We've met before. 

Angelripper: "Hey, how are you?"

BraveWords: So, tell me what is the bond right here? The brother bond. Like, what makes it work? Or not work?

Angelripper: "The ’80's"

Blackfire: "Yeah, the ’80's. What we did in the ’80's is kind of still there, you know? It's, I don't know, kind of like a special feeling together, you know? Yeah, like I don't know if you get along with other people like this, and sometimes it fits sometimes not, and here it fits. We've gotten a little older, but we are still into it."

BraveWords: That's crucial, that magic back in the ‘80s, I mean you were still just a kid, right?

Blackfire: "A kid, yeah. I was a hungry kid that wanted to create music, to play live shows, and to be a musician, a full-time musician, you know?"

BraveWords: And now you're not a kid, but the kid is still here [motions to chest].

Blackfire: "Yeah it is still there, man. Still. Definitely. I don't want to grow up, I don't want to be an adult.  I hope I never will be. I want to be stupid, like a kid."

BraveWords: Where did the Teutonic Four come from? Because in Germany there was the four, there's obviously the big four in the States and Canada, like Exciter, Razor. Were you paying attention to all these things growing up, and listening"

Blackfire: "Yeah, it started in the United States with the big four, and then they came up with the German big four. And, I don't know if every country has a big four? Maybe yeah? Maybe not? I don't know. It's kind of like those four bands especially for Germany were the most influential thrash bands that came out and they were successful, you know? There are other bands, too,  that didn't get to be that successful, but they're good bands too, other bands. But I think Kreator, Sodom, Destruction, Tankard, they really – some bands had a little break in between, but Sodom never had a break in between, they always continued. I guess Kreator too. Destruction had a few breaks in between."

BraveWords: Well Schmier left. 

Blackfire: "Yeah, Schmier left, and stuff like this. And I guess that's what keeps the band together, you know? We always continued somehow."

BraveWords: Was there a record from that whole era, from whatever territory, that really resonated with you, really influenced you? Was it Reign In Blood? Was it Kill 'Em All? Was it Morbid Tales?
Blackfire: "Oh yeah definitely Reign In Blood was a big influence back then. Hell Awaits, for me, got me into thrash metal. Yeah, there's always some special albums."

BraveWords: I called this the BraveWords rapid fire questionnaire. So, what is your favourite song on British Steel?

Blackfire: "Ha ha, good question man. The song I most played was Breaking The Law, because we were covering it, but the whole album is great. It's hard to pick one song, man, it's like really hard. 'Metal Gods' is great too. I don't know. I was listening to that album over and over back again when it came out."

BraveWords: Who's your rock star?

Blackfire: "Rock star? I don't need a rock star. I never had that like, 'Wow' - maybe KISS are rock stars. And not even AC/DC I think. KISS, they are really rock stars. And they wanted to be rock stars. I don't know if certain people consider themselves rock stars, you know?"

BraveWords: Angus and Malcolm definitely didn't.

Blackfire: "No, definitely not. But they are so big. They are, somehow, they are rock stars. But, I don't know it's a thing that – who's acting like a rockstar and who isn't. I guess KISS is a good example for rock stars."

BraveWords: Oh those two definitely act like rock stars. Do you remember the moment that you actually wanted to do music. Where you said "this is going to be my career". 

Blackfire: "Yeah. Yeah, I remember that. I guess it started with the dream to start playing guitar. There was an AC/DC show in 1980, the Back In Black that I saw in my hometown, and this was like a magical moment for me. I said, 'I wanna do this, I wanna be on stage like this guy', so I knew that I had to start playing guitar I already had a little, like a friend of mine had an acoustic guitar, and I was playing a little on it and I thought, 'Wow, this feels great', you know? But then when I saw AC/DC I was like, 'I need an electric guitar and I wanna play like this, I wanna play hard rock, rock 'n' roll like this'. I guess that was one of the main moments for me to be a musician."

BraveWords: Last night you told me a really funny story, because you were wearing an AC/DC t-shirt, and I said what was that AC/DC song for you, what was that moment? And you pulled one out of the hat, that I didn't expect.

Blackfire: "Yeah, it was ‘Touch Too Much’. That was the hit single of Highway To Hell and that was the song that caught me, you know, to get into AC/DC, to play Highway to Hell. Yeah, that's what it was."

BraveWords: Have you ever asked for an autograph?

Blackfire: "Not really, no. Maybe, I remember I had some albums from Eloy, a German band, and we were recording at Frank Bornemann's studio, which is the singer and guitar player from Eloy, and I thought to myself, 'Well I have Eloy records, maybe they can sign or something. But I never really asked about autographs. I'm not that guy."

BraveWords: Do you remember your first vinyl record?

Blackfire: "Yes, sure. Like the first album? Yes. The first album, well the first vinyl I bought was Highway To Hell and before that a single it was some stupid German Schlager or some thing like that that I got for a present. I never bought that much back then. Like, sure, yeah I bought a few albums later, like hard rock and metal, but before I wasn't really into buying a lot. My parents had a lot of singles, like very old stuff from the ‘60s. The Shadows and stuff like that. Instrumental stuff. I was listening to those when I had my first record player. They had a lot of singles that I listened to, that I wanted to listen to, and those were songs that influenced me too, you know? Instrumental guitar and stuff like this from the ‘60s and ‘50s."

BraveWords: Do you miss the days when you had to get up and turn the album over?

Blackfire: "Yeah. But I still have a record player, and I still use it, and it's great."

BraveWords: So, you're at a bar and there's an empty bar stool next to you. Who would you like to sit on it, beside you? Dead or alive. Male or female. Whatever. Who would you want to sit and have a chat with? Is it Bon Scott? 

Blackfire: "No, my father; who is dead already. I would love to have him sit at this bar in our garden house. We had this little - you know how garden houses are, they have a little bar, and I want to have my father sit there. Because I miss him. He died in 2019, and we had a very good relationship. We were always hanging out in that garden, having a beer and stuff like this. I miss him."

BraveWords: Wow, that's touching. dude. I was reading Keith Richards biography, and the first Rolling Stones record was all cover songs. And then Keith was like, "Mick, we need to write a song". Do you remember the first song you wrote?

Blackfire: "The first song I wrote…"

BraveWords: The first original song.

Blackfire: "A real whole song that came out? Or even riffs and ideas, stuff like that? Yeah, I was trying to play something like hard rock and mostly you come up with some easy parts and riffs and stuff like this, and we record it on tape you know? We had a tape player. Yeah, but I guess that never became a song, actually, those were only ideas, loops, random playing. stuff. I guess the first real songs I wrote were with Sodom, that were recorded and on vinyl."

BraveWords: Can you give me your three desert island discs?

Blackfire: "Desert island? That I would take to a desert island? I guess it would be AC/DC Highway to Hell, Judas Priest's British Steel, and Saxon’s Ways Of Steel or Strong Arm Of The Law. Or both."

BraveWords: What's left to conquer in your life?

Blackfire: "Still playing music as long as I can. The most important thing is that I feel good about what I'm doing. What I can conquer? I don't know, I never knew actually. For sure I had ideas where, I want to be on stage, and I want to play live, I want to record, and everything, but you never know where you're going to go. So it's like, I want to stay healthy as long as I can, I want to play music, and I want to have fun with it. That's the main thing I want."

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