Bonfire is the pure legend. For over 20 years the band rocked and rolled and although hard times used to hit the band once in a while the German guys were always strong enough to come back and fight for their rights to rock. After about six years of legal battles records of pre-Bonfire band Cacumen resurfaced on the market with a load of bonus tracks in remastered versions. What's more, Bonfire is going to visit Russia and play a show in Moscow! Keep your fingers crossed and read on! Hi, Claus! Congratulations on winning over the legal battle for Cacumen records!

Claus Lessmann: Thanks a lot! We finally made it happen. I was wondering who owned copyrights for those old albums? No doubt that "Rockport Records" and "Boom Records", companies that originally released Cacumen albums, do not exist anymore.

Claus Lessmann: No, they don't. But there are still people who worked at those companies and they still hold copyrights for those releases. That's why it took such a long time to make the Cacumen albums available on the market again. What's the sense for holding albums and not releasing them?

Claus Lessmann: I have no idea. Maybe those people are too greedy and they are waiting for someone to come and give them enormous loads of money for the albums they still control. But we were able to get the Cacumen albums back. Along with two albums and one EP of Cacumen you managed to re-issue the album of EZ Livin' and the Lessmann/Ziller EP. Does it mean that you now have the rights to both of them as well?

Claus Lessmann: Yes, that's right. All the re-issued albums contain lots of bonus tracks. Let's talk about them. Since I heard snippets of those tracks on I was wondering how many songs were written in Cacumen times that would up on the first Bonfire record?

Claus Lessmann: I guess only two of them, "Longing For You" and "No More". The rest were composed when we changed the name to Bonfire... Oh, there was another one! It was called "I Still Need You" but on the debut Bonfire album we called it "You Make Me Feel". I was really surprised to see the following comments in bonus live songs on the "Down To Hell" album. They said, 'live bootleg version'. Does it mean that Cacumen had live bootlegs?

Claus Lessmann: Yeah, there are three or four of them around. But they are very hard to find. At that time there were no CDs so all of those bootlegs are on LPs. One of them is the double-LP with ZZ Top on the first LP and Cacumen on the second. That's where those tracks are taken from. What about EZ Livin' bonus tracks? "Anytime" was released on the single but the rest three tracks are obviously with your vocals.

Claus Lessmann: Yeah, I sang on those demos. You know, when Hans left Bonfire back in the 80s we said, "We are friends and we won't let managers or record companies stand on our way." That's how we thought and started writing songs together. And those demo tracks were the songs we wrote after Hans left Bonfire. But he couldn't record them with me so he found another singer, Peter Henrics, and released the "After The Fire" album. What about the song "Can't Stop Rockin'"? It surely has nothing to do with the one from the "Fuel To The Flames" album. Why two similar titles?

Claus Lessmann: You see, the song "Can't Stop Rockin" on the "Fuel To The Flames" album was written way back before the album. We did it for "Fuel To The Flames" but later Hans searched through his archive and found this song with the same title. We thought, "OK, what the hell?" and released it as the bonus track on the EZ Livin' re-issue. I heard a rumor that after Hans split from Bonfire you and him first met at a football match. Is that true?

Claus Lessmann: Yes, absolutely! (laughs) I think, music and football are two things that can unite lots of people around the globe. Let's talk about the "Glaub Dran" period. Why only an EP was released at the time and not a full-length album?

Claus Lessmann: The problem was that our record company "WEA" did not want to release a full-length album in German. That's why only the "Glaub Dran" EP was released and a couple more songs were on singles. But when we left "WEA" and signed the distribution deal with "Sony Music" they said, "OK, no problem, let's do it!" So we added several songs to that EP and the "Freundfeuer" album was the result. Is there a difference between the "Glaub Dran" EP and the "Freunfeuer" album?

Claus Lessmann: If you mean the songs, the mix is different. Tracks were remixed for the album. The song "Mama" on the "Feels Like Coming Home" is the same track as on the "Glaub Dran" re-issue or not?

Claus Lessmann: Well, the lyrics on the re-issue are in German! (laughs) (laughs) I mean in terms of lyrics.

Claus Lessmann: Yes, the lyrics are different. The English version tells about a guy who is a musician and he goes out, becomes famous and writes letters home to mother about his love for her. But the German version has a deeper meaning. It tells about a guy who comes from a broken family and who didn't know his mother since his parents divorced a long time ago. So he is dreaming about his mother and that's what the song is about. Another interesting track is "Deutschland". Is it a patriotic track or something?

Claus Lessmann: No, no, no! It's a funny song that tells about politicians, people in Germany, traditions, cultural things and that kind of stuff. No deeper meaning here. I was really surprised that there are so many songs in German you wrote at that time!

Claus Lessmann: And there are even more of them. Really???!!! So can you tell me how many songs do you write for an album?

Claus Lessmann: We usually write 20 or 30 songs like it was with the recent "Free" album. There were times back then when we used to write 50 songs for one record. Can you tell a bit more about the involvement of other musicians in the songwriting process? Seems like Hans always writes music and you write the lyrics.

Claus Lessmann: Actually on this "Free" album we decided to change the process and other musicians got more involved in the songwriting process. They had really great ideas so we decided that since that time we will make changes in the structure of the songwriting process and all of the musicians will be involved in it in the future. The "Free" album marked a line-up change since guitar and keyboard player Chris Laussman left the band. What was the problem?

Claus Lessmann: Chris got more involved with the engineering school in Munich. He's working there as a teacher and he couldn't give the band 100% anymore. There were also some problems on the personal level. That's why we decided to part ways with him as friends. Does he play in any band now?

Claus Lessmann: No, not at all. Did you ever think about adding the second guitar player to the band? I guess, Bonfire has a more solid and melodic sound with twin guitars.

Claus Lessmann: We already played three shows with the co-producer of the "Free" album and it's going great, we like it a lot. When we start writing songs for the new album we will try to find the second guitar player. I was wondering why you decided to make some changes to your style on this "Free" album.

Claus Lessmann: I don't know! We just did it. One day an idea came to our mind that it would be nice to try some different things and we tried them. I think, it was a good experiment because sometimes you need to shake the style of music you are playing in order not to get stuck in one thing. And in October we plan to start writing the new album and we still don't know if we still don't know how it will sound. In my opinion the "Free" album lacks fast songs, most of them are mellow and mid-tempo ones.

Claus Lessmann: Yeah, I agree with you. Maybe on the next album we'll write some fast songs again, I don't know so far. How much time does it usually take to make a Bonfire record?

Claus Lessmann: Well, three months go for songwriting and about one month for lyrics. Then we start recording songs and selecting the right ones for the upcoming album. Then goes the mixing process. I guess it takes about 10 months or a year to make a Bonfire record. Claus, I would also like to congratulate you on finally getting the Gold Disc for the "Fireworks" album!

Claus Lessmann: Thanks a lot! Was there a party dedicated to this event? If yes, who was there?

Claus Lessmann: Yes, there was a big party. Even Scorpions played a show at the event. But only the current line-up of Bonfire was there. Other former musicians like Jorg Deisinger (then-bassist) and Horst Maier-Thorn (then-guitarist) were mailed their gold discs. On your official web site there is a single called "Stern Des Studens". What is it?

Claus Lessmann: Well, actually it's not a Bonfire record. We just recorded the official anthem of the FC Bayer Munchen football team. It's a very famous team that played around the world many times, with Russian football teams as well. But Hans did not want the name Bonfire to be on the record since I am the fan of this team and Hans is the fan of another one. The official site recently issued a statement about the purchase of another single called "Schanzer Herz". What is it?

Claus Lessmann: Oh, it's a single dedicated to the people of Ingolstadt, which is our hometown. 'Shanzer' is the nickname of people living in Ingolstadt. The name of the single actually means 'Strong Heart' or 'The Heart of someone from Ingolstadt'. A while ago your web site said that you plan to release a very special album.

Claus Lessmann: Yes, there are still some plans for it but we will think about it only after the new album is released. What about the poll you did about the cover-version?

Claus Lessmann: We still got all those e-mails and we're still thinking about what song to choose. Probably the next album will contain some cover-version. OK, finally the dream will come true in about a month when you are supposed to come and play in Russia!

Claus Lessmann: Yeah, we are really looking forward to it and hope people will like what we do! Do you plan to play something special or the standard set?

Claus Lessmann: Obviously there will be some surprises but in general the set will be the same as usual. What about playing a song in German?

Claus Lessmann: You think people will like it? Why not? Those songs are good and it would be really a big surprise for lots of your fans.

Claus Lessmann: OK, we'll think about it! Is it possible to release other Bonfire albums in Russia like it was with the "Free" album? I mean do you have copyrights for "BMG" releases?

Claus Lessmann: Yes, we have copyrights for those records and it's totally up to the Russian company to release them or not. We'd be glad to do it! OK, Claus! Hope to see you in Russia in September!

Claus Lessmann: Me too! Take care and come to see Bonfire live in Moscow!

Dead Ripper
(August, 2004)

Special thanks to Helen from "Art Music Group" for the organization of this interview.

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