Interstellar Experience - 1988 - Steamhammer
The Assassin... Live Forever - 2003 - Independent
The Club - 2005 - Independent
Breaking The Silence – 2011 - SPV
Combat Cathedral – 2016 - SPV
S= Sadist, Schrottkomplott, Agressor, Checker Patrol, Raging Mob>>Robert Gonnella>>Checker Patrol, Raging Mob, Raging Rob – New Damage, Lord Of Giant, Supersoma>>INGO BAJONCZAK>>Supersoma
G= Jürgen Scholli Scholz>>Neon Dream - Checker Patrol>>Michael Hoffman>>Checker Patrol, Sodom, Mekong Delta – Sadist>>Dinko Vecic – Neon Dream>>JÜRGEN “SCHOLLI” SCHOLZ>>Neon Dream – Checker Patrol, Sodom, Mekong Delta>>MICHAEL HOFFMAN
B= Sadist, Checker Patrol>>Markus ‘Lulle’ Ludwig>>Checker Patrol – Sadist, Checker Patrol>>Markus ‘Lulle’ Ludwig - Ufo Walter - Skinny Bold>>JOACHIM KREMER
D= Danger Psycho [Andreas Süther] - Frank Nellen>>Twilight Zone - Twilight Zone>>Frank Nellen>>Twilight Zone, Raging Rob – Chimaera, Wicked Kemao>>BJÖRN SONDERMANN>>Wicked Kemao
When Assassin's transitions from the debut to the sophomore album saw a slight alteration in style from death metal to thrash metal the fans were not very impressed. Still had the line-up problems not brought the band down, Assassin would have probably achieved the same kind of success that bands like Kreator and Destruction were experiencing in the thrash world. The band had contacts with the German and Norwegian scenes and could have made it. The band was intense but also had a sense of humour often singing about atypical topics like junk food. The group split up initially when in 1989, out of money, it lost its gear to theft.
The thrashers reformed in 2002 and played live in 2002. Wacken was hit by the band in 2003. The 4th Demo was also issued and fans were surprised by the emergence of Atomic Steiff as part of the line-up, not to mention the return of drummer Frank Nellen. The band also announced work on a new live album. The band's third studio album was entitled The Club and was issued in mid-2005. Ufo Walter replaced Achim on bass just before the sessions. The band shot a video in the summer. As of 2006, the band was again seeking a bassist and a record company. The band was touring Chile, Brazil, Peru and Argentina in June of 2008. Bassist Michael Hambloch replaced Ufo Walter as of spring of 2008. The band was hitting South America in June until the tour got cancelled. Assassin took a hit in its rhythm section. Gone were bassist Michael Hambloch and drummer Frank Nellen and replaced by Joachim Kremer and Björn Sondermann (Wicked Kemao) respectively. Assassin would release a new album, Breaking The Silence, in February, 2010 through SPV/Steamhammer Records. Producer Harris Johns recorded the album. The band was returning to the label after 20 years. Chaos And Live Shots DVD of Assassin was slated for September, 2012. The DVD featured footage of the band's 2010 concerts in Japan.
Assassin parted ways with singer Robert Gonnella in mid-2014 and replaced him with Ingo "Crowzak" Bajonczak of New Damage, Lord Of Giant and Supersoma. The band was recording an album. Following Robert Gonnella’s departure from Assassin he formed his own band Raging Rob with ex-Assassin drummer Frank Nellen on drums, Warrant's Dirk Preylowski on lead guitar and two ex-Human Bastards, Maik Jansen (rhythm guitar) and Rudi Görg (bass). The band was preparing a live set including old Assassin and Raging Mob (Robert's former Chinese band with which he won the Wacken Chinese Metal Battle 2010) songs and was composing new songs for a debut album to be released in 2015. Assassin would release a new album, called Combat Cathedral, on May 20th 2016 through SPV. Ingo Bajonczak was singing.
ASSASSIN - THE CLUB
It is too bad that Assassin never made it. The band’s second LP, Interstellar Experience, was a staple at Metallian Towers in the 1980s and beyond. The record, as with its predecessor The Upcoming Terror, had all the hallmarks of a successful metal career, but as former singer Robert Gonnella explains things go awry and the potential remains unfulfilled. The band has reformed and is together again of course, still here is a conversation with the German singer mostly revolving around the heady olden days conducted by Ali “The Metallian”. - 17.08.2014
ROBERT GONNELLA: Hey, Ali. This is coool.
METALLIAN: How are you?
ROBERT: Fine. OK, Ali!
METALLIAN: You have been at the metal game for so long. Great, but what keeps you going?
ROBERT: I think you do what you like and always did, for me it is metal. Since I was young I was a metal fan. I formed my first band Assassin while I still was in high school and in-between I lived for 20 years in Asia. In my Beijing time I had a band called Raging Mob where we released an album and won the 2010 Wacken Metal Battle China next to my band Assassin. In 2014 I left Assassin and formed my new band Raging Rob with great musicians. We rehearse hard which is fun and we are going to release our debut album in 2015. All this is very exciting and keeps me going with lots of power because the most important thing which keeps me going is the fun and enjoyment factor to produce thrash killing metal and have kick-ass live performances! What can be better?
METALLIAN: Were you in any bands before Assassin? It is documented that you had a band called Agressor.
ROBERT (laughs): You are really well informed as not many know this. In 1984 two good friends and I formed a combo called Agressor. We still needed a guitar player as we were only drums, bass and me vocals. Then I met Dinko of Assassin and he told me about his band, which was looking for a vocalist and I told him that my band is looking for a guitar player. We arranged for Dinko to come by, but soon found out that technically Agressor was not a very high standard band and Dinko told me to check out Assassin, which had no vocalist yet. That’s how it all started.
I was in Agressor, Sadist, Schrottkomplott, which were the so-called bands, but were not taken seriously. There was Checker Patrol which was a rehearsal room fun at when Necrobutcher and Euronymous of Mayhem along with Metalion from Norway came for a visit.
METALLIAN: I want to ask you about Checker Patrol. You were touring and friendly with parts of the scene like Kreator, but how did a connection with Mayhem come about? Of course, the Mayhem guys went berserk. What is your take on that?
ROBERT: ”¦same as you Ali, I was an old school metal head, trading tapes and kept in touch with different people in the scene which included Metalion in Norway. He said that he will travel around Europe and bring friends which were Euronymous and Necrobutcher of Mayhem. We right away became friends and pen pals. In time the contact get less and less and suddenly I hear the news of Euronymous which made me very sad (referring to Euronymous’ murder).
METALLIAN: Was the band rehearsing in Germany and why the name Checker Patrol?
ROBERT: I noticed that there was something going on, to me Euronymous never said anything racist or totalitarian. Who knows maybe because he knew I would not accept it”¦. but who knows?
Well, the three lads stayed at my home for about a week and met my whole family. We always took the tram and never paid for the ticket so we had to watch out for the checker who checks the tickets (laughs)”¦ so the band name came from that. We went to the rehearsal room several times and one time we just took the instruments and fooled around and the outcome was this tape. We also went to see Kreator and Sodom in Essen.
METALLIAN: That is interesting. Back to Assassin, I wondered how you got Warlock’s Rudy Graf to produce your demo tape. Especially in those days there was a line between heavy metal like Warlock and the underground death/thrash.
ROBERT: You are right. You have to know that when I was 14 to 16-years old I often hung out in the old Warlock rehearsal room - which in 1985 became the Assassin rehearsal room - and listened to their tunes. At that time Warlock was heavy. Then the first Metallica and Slayer albums came around and we loved them. I remember when Hellhammer’s first EP”š Apocalyptic Raids, came out. I had no idea what they sounded like, but I bought it because of the cool cover and name of the band from the record store. I went straight to the Warlock rehearsal room and Rudy had a look at my new record and smiled because he probably knew I would like it but he would not (laughs). Anyway, we kept in touch and when the time came for the second demo to be recorded we wanted some guy with experience. We were just teenage thrashers and Rudy agreed to do it. I am still in contact with Rudy to this day.
METALLIAN: Interesting story! You hung out in their rehearsal room?
ROBERT: That was the only metal band in Düsseldorf at that time!
METALLIAN: I liked Warlock. Then Doro became a princess and the album was Doro featuring Warlock and it was a pathetic sell-out! Doro and Mr. Gene Simmons whatever... anyway...
ROBERT: Later came Warrant, but we never got to know them properly.
METALLIAN: I remember Warrant! The first Assassin album sounded death metal-ish. Then the second one came and the style changed to more thrash. Why the change?
ROBERT: DDT stands for Düsseldorfer Death Thrasher. It was set up in the '80s by all the thrashers who hung out at our and Deathrow’s rehearsal room. We still have a Facebook group and we are going to meet once more next Friday!
METALLIAN: There is a photo of the Warlock record which they autographed for you...
ROBERT: It was funny. I bought the single in London in 84 when I went to see the Monsters Of Rock at Castle Donnington. I then brought the single into the rehearsal room where they all signed it for me. They were astonished that this single even existed. They had signed with Mausoleum and their LP's Burning The Witches, was released there, but they did not know that a single existed at all until I came in with it.
ROBERT: I think it was ”˜87 or ”˜88 in Düsseldorf when Death came. I think at that time he already had cancer and Chuck was rather quiet. Terry Butler told me that he had the Assassin Upcoming Terror album after I told him I am a big Death fan and have the Mantas and Death demos and the record too!
Mille is an old friend. He hung out my place and I at his a lot in the '80s. Regarding the change of style well, the first album Upcoming Terror was rather thrashy with heavy metal or power metal influences - never death. I also never sang about Satan or such. We were rather politically motivated like on Holy Terror, which is about how the good wins over the corrupt or Fight (To Stop The Tyranny). The guitar work was done by Dinko and Scholli. By the second album Scholli had left and Micha who was also a skater at that time. Bassist Lulle had joined and the music became more hardcore and faster thrash. The lyrics varied from political to fun. Resolution 588 was about the Iran/Iraq war, for example, and on the other side was Junk Food, the stuff we ate every day.
METALLIAN: By the way who was Dick Eckert?
ROBERT: I never met him. I think it was Frank’s buddy who passed away. Believe me not many Assassin or ex-Assassin members apart from Frank could answer that question.
METALLIAN: How did you obtain a Steamhammer contract?
ROBERT: Well, our first offer came from the States’ King Klassic, but we did not know that label. They wrote us but we wanted to try a label we knew. So the first label we tried by ourselves to work with was SPV/Steamhammer and they took us on. We sent a demo there and they replied positively.
METALLIAN: Sounds easy, doesn't it? What is Baka?
ROBERT: It was sudden for us to go from being a demo band to a signed band. At the end of 1986 Anthrax had a tour with Celtic Frost and Crimson Glory and for the last show in Düsseldorf, same place where Death had played, their drummer got injured and could not play. The official reason was that their drummer broke his arm. We came in as subs out of nowhere and started the show in front of 800 disappointed Anthrax fans, but soon they saw we kick ass too and started to like us. The Upcoming Terror was already recorded but not released yet and that was also one step to Assassin becoming a bigger band.
ROBERT: I attended an International School and had many Japanese schoolmates who also liked heavy metal. DÃ¼sseldorf is, after London, the second largest colony of Japanese. There are two Japanese schools lower and middle school, but no high school. Especially during the cold war Düsseldorf was a good base to reach western European countries like Holland, Belgium, France quickly so many Japanese companies settled here. Even today we have an annual Japan day. The kids went to the Japanese schools and the older ones to the International School where I was. Because of that experience I visited Japan in 1986 and met Casbah and later between 1992 and 1994 I lived in Japan and learned Japanese there. Before that the only Japanese word I knew was 'Baka,' which means 'stupid.' In 1988 the band and especially our drummer Frank were motivated to make a crazy fast thrashing album. After the recording we found out that the album is just too short. We needed at least one more song. We had already started with Baka in the rehearsal room, but then were forced to finish it in the studio to add it to Interstellar Experience which was still a bit short.
ROBERT: On my Facebook homepage I have a great picture album from Casbah’s live shows from 86 to 88.
METALLIAN: How does it feel to write the first anthemic thrash tune about junk food in the world?
ROBERT: As I said in the beginning you do what you like and what you are. In 1988 Assassin also became more colourful. Micha and Lulle as Skaters and graffiti artists and myself as a chocolate milk maniac meant that song needed to be written! Also, apart from drummer Frank, we were never the drinking alcohol faction. We were and are the Hashish smoker faction. The word Assassin comes from the Hashashin the hash smoking warriors who fought the knights of the cross in the holy land.
METALLIAN: So you are smokers, eh? How did the band break up? Was it really the theft of the gear?
ROBERT: Well, first Dinko was caught with two kgs of weed at the German and Dutch border and was locked up for one year. The equipment was really stolen and there was no way to come back. Before the theft we tried briefly this guitar player Olaf, but it was not going to happen with him and we decided to play just with four instead of five members. When the equipment was stolen I was also busy graduating from my German apprenticeship exam and soon Micha played in Sodom...
ROBERT: Between 1989 to 2002 we had several attempts at getting the band together, but it was also harder as I lived in Asia, but I often came by to visit.
METALLIAN: So was the band rehearsing and together between 1989 and 2002?
ROBERT: No, several attempts were made. We met up, even met in the rehearsal room, but in the end all attempts failed.
METALLIAN: What were you doing in Japan and then China?
ROBERT: In Japan I learned Japanese and taught English and German to stay alive. There I started to run a soccer team called Fortuna Tokyo - like my home team Fortuna Düsseldorf. We did quite well. The team was comprised of Korean and Chinese students combined with my old Japanese high school buddies which was rare as Chinese, Korean and Japanese normally don’t play on one team, but with a German captain”¦ they did! I went to China for one year for the language and then did my BA and MBA at Peking University. On the side I founded a whole football club, league actually, with up to 1,000 members a year. I was the founder, owner and chairman of the International Friendship Football Club in Beijing, which is quite famous still. Actually after 2012 when I left named a whole competition the Robert Gonnella Cup. Check them out at www.iffc1994.com.
METALLIAN: Who is the guy in the suit in the Assassin reunion photo?
ROBERT: That is Dinko Vekic who left and went back to Croatia in 2005 when Micha replaced him and recorded The Club. Dinko wrote a lot of material for The Club. Also Atomic Steif (ex-Sodom, Living Death and Holy Moses) is in that picture. He was replaced by Frank in 2005.
METALLIAN: Let's talk about the reunion quickly. You won't like my saying so, but the comeback music was nowhere as good as the two original LPs.
Robert Gonnella (screaming): I hate you now!!!! Ahhhhhh (laughs). Well, you have to know that Assassin came together again in 2002 and different people at different stages were involved. The material became not so hard or thrashy as the first two albums. Overall, it was the only way to get Assassin going again with me in Asia and the other guys out of the scene. In the end for us we produced and released a decent album by ourselves. To this day the songs Bushwhackers and Raging Mob are played live and the crowd is headbanging just fine with them. There were also some weak songs, like Price Of Power or I Swear, but they are in the past now and we (Raging Rob) don’t play them.
METALLIAN: OK so what happened? You quit Assassin and have your own band now.
ROBERT: Well, there was still Breaking The silence, the Assassin DVD, my Chinese Band Raging Mob in-between, but OK let’s jump to Raging Rob.
I left Assassin in 2014. First of all I must say that it wasn't for any personal reason. It was how the band was run and the atmosphere which resulted from it. Unlike former experiences all new songs had no more band input rather each musician was doing his own thing. After the guitarist finished a song, it went to the bass, then drums and then to me the vocalist last. In the past, the song writing was done together and each musician could input ideas to the other musicians and vice versa. Then when I wanted to check out a new text with two different vocal lines the band rejected playing together, I rather should do all vocals decisions by myself and if needed rehearse alone in the rehearsal room. I objected to that and wanted a band to play with as I am not a goddamn studio musician. So the whole fun and meaning to play with a band together was not there anymore. I left with a disappointed and sad feeling. Just a few weeks later Assassin already had a replacement vocalist and I knew that I definitely wanted to continue the old-school of thrash metal and needed a band.
METALLIAN: Why would they try to run the band that way?
ROBERT: Micha and the drummer Björn, plus the other two Scholli and Joachim get along like that! They say I want to make thrash the old way and they want to make it in a more modern way.
For Raging Rob, several people were checked out and in the end a top line-up emerged between April and May 2014. Assassin's old school original drummer Frank Nellen (who else?), Warrant's lead guitar player Dirk Preylowski who is an old friend from the early thrashing days in the '80s and a top guitar player, Maik Jansen on rhythm guitar and Rudi Görg on bass who are both ex-Human Bastard, a hard and tough metal band which Dirk was in made the final line-up along with me for Raging Rob. It's very fun to play with them and the band is very eager to do well.
METALLIAN: Let’s talk about the new band?
ROBERT: '80s style thrash. We plan to release our debut album next year and play live shows including old Assassin stuff. We will look for a deal. There is already some interest from smaller companies but we want to produce a kick-ass demo with a good producer and go for a bigger label.
METALLIAN: When can we expect that demo?
ROBERT: It should be ready mid-2015. It will be like the 2009 Breaking The Silence demo of Assassin that only labels will get to hear.
METALLIAN: Is there anything I should have asked and did not or any other news we should include?
ROBERT: I thank you, for the good knowledge and being a good expert especially of the good old days. My band in China Raging Mob released 2008 an album. Then there was Breaking The Silence by Assassin, which was my fourth Assassin album. I greet all the thrashers and headbangers in Canada and the rest of the world. Stay tuned and be ready for 2015 when Raging Rob will attack. Please visit our websites https://www.facebook.com/ragingrob1 and http://robertgonnella.wix.com/ragingrob.
Big Thanks bro.
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