Bonfire and their KISS connections: "We wanna cover Hard Luck Woman"

By Jurn Schulze

Bonfire, originating from the band Cacumen which was founded in 1972 by thebrothers Hans and Karl Ziller, formed in 1985 and have been quite big at the end of the eighties, grew even bigger in the early nineties and became one of the most successful German hard rock bands. As you might or might now know, there are a few KISS connections within the Bonfire camp: they have recorded a song which was co-written by Paul Stanley and Bruce Kulick, and bassplayer Chris Lausmann is a big KISS fan. Reason enough for KISS Kollector to arrange an interview with Bonfire. On May 20th, 2000 Bonfire played in Emden (Germany) as support act for British rockers Status Quo. That evening KISS Kollector Fanclub was invited to see the show and do an interview with Bonfire afterwards. But let's quickly run through Bonfire's history first for those who aren't too familiar with this German band. Their debut album Don't Touch The Light, released in 1986, hit with media and
critics like a bomb. In the following year the album Fire Works (recorded in L.A. and produced by Michael Wagener) was released in the USA, too. The critics were unanimous, and for example Derek Oliver from Kerrang! magazine wrote on 29.11.1987: "Fire Works is the type of monstrous melodic metal that both Keel and Dokken should have recorded." As support for Judas Priest (Ram It Down Tour) Bonfire knew to convince the critical European audience too and afterwards they went to the USA, in order to play a club tour there. In
1991 the third album, Point Blank, saw the light of day (once again produced by Michael Wagener). Additionally Bonfire received the chance to record a song for the soundtrack for the Wes Craven horror movie Shocker. Obviously I'm talking about the Paul Stanley/Bruce Kulick/Desmond Child composition Sword And Stone (also recorded by Paul Dean in 1988). During the recordings for Point Blank, Hans Ziller was asked to leave the band. He still contributed some songs for it, while photos in the albums booklet did not show him anymore. The remaining members recorded the album Knock Out, which was produced and mixed in 1991 by Queen producer Mack. The album title was synonym for the situation within the band and sealed its end when Claus Lessmann stepped out and showed loyalty for his friend Hans Ziller. The two recorded a German-languaged album (Glaub' dran) under the name Lessmann/Ziller, while Bonfire looked for a new singer, who was never found however. In 1993 BMG Ariola published Live... The Best, the last Bonfire album (still recorded with Claus Lessmann). In 1996 Hans and Claus bought back the rights for the name Bonfire as well as the publishing rights. They recorded and published the album Feels Like Comin' Home on their own label LZ Records (distribution: Sony Music), additionally the album Freudenfeuer (="Bonfire") appeared, which contained old Lessmann/Ziller Songs and some other German titles. In 1997 the album Rebel Soul got released, and after changing back to BMG as their distributor in 1999, the album Fuel To The Flames was released. The album debuted in the German charts at 32 - from zero! But subsequently, Fuel To The Flames
suffered the same fate many KISS fans have witnessed with KISS albums too: the album instantly lost ground and dropped out of the charts. Anyways, following below are the highlights from the interview that we did backstage after the show. First we sat down with guitarist Hans Ziller who was later joined by other guitarist Chris Lausmann, and towards the end of the discussion the rest of the band (singer Claus Lessmann, drummer Jurgen Wiehler and bassist Uwe Kohler) sat down with us too. How did you get the chance to record Sword And Stone? Hans Ziller: "We had written a song called Price Of Loving You together with Desmond Child, which was used for our album Point Blank, and Sanctuary Management offered us to record Sword And Stone for the Shocker soundtrack."Did you ever work together with members of KISS or meet them, or did you work together with Desmond Child? Hans Ziller: "We met Bruce Kulick during the recordings for our album Fire Works in 1987 in L.A. He worked in the same studio, but we didn't work together. We also lived in the same
appartement building in Hollywood back then. We worked together with Desmond Child for Price Of Loving You. We met with him at the Record Plant Studio and did the song from scratch. We were the first to release it on our album Point Blank, then Desmond wanted to use it for his solo album, too. However, he didn't want us to be credited as co-writers. He said he'd pay our royalties nonetheless, but wanted to appear as the author for the song, and we said 'Okay, what the hell' and therefore we don't have any credits on his album Discipline [1991]. It went well then. We have also worked with Bob Halligan, we recorded a song together of which the working title was Read My Body. He then asked us if he could have the song from us, and he got it. Later Chris told us there is a song called Read My Body on a KISS album, going "bah-bah-baba" (sings the melody of the song we all know from Hot In The Shade). It was the title we had co-written, but we didn't get any credits for it. We still have a working tape where Claus is singing the song on." Is there anything funny or unusual you could tell from meeting up with KISS people? Hans Ziller: "Yes. Claus met Gene Simmons at the MTV Music Awards, but was not certain who it was standing in front of him and said:  'Hi Paul'! Our bassist, standing right behind Claus, was almost breaking down and was whispering 'Good Lord...' and just wanted to disappear from the face of the planet right there and then. Gene was super cool and answered: 'Well, actually I'm not Paul, I am Gene Simmons, and you are Claus Lessmann of Bonfire'." Do you have any plans to record a KISS song like Pink Cream 69 did with Detroit Rock City in '91? Hans Ziller: "Claus has a KISS song he'd like to record..."
Claus Lessmann: "Hard Luck Woman! The Garth Brooks version is great!"  Hans Ziller: "If we could get KISS as background singers, we'll definately do it - then we'd have the right promotion too! [laughs] When we recorded
Sweet Home Alabama [album: Fuel To The Flames, 1999] we had tried to get the guys from Lynyrd Skynyrd, but that was a problem as they were in the studio themselves at that time."  I like the version you did, it's cool...
Hans Ziller: "We wanted to make a different song, it would have been foolish to record it the way Lynyrd did it back then. We wanted to keep our very own style, and I think it worked out fine."  Did you hear anything about the KISS Deutschland Tribute CD? Have you been asked to participate? Chris Lausmann: "Yes. We were in the studio and one day Hans came in early and said: 'Chris, I've got something for you; we're asked to record a KISS song for a tribute album - do something..!'" Claus Lessmann: "I directly said: Hard Luck Woman. If we do a KISS song, it's got to be that one!"  Chris Lausmann: "...we immediately said: 'Let's do it right away', but somehow it didn't  work out. But I can't remember why." Since when have you been a KISS fan, Chris? Chris Lausmann: "My first record was Smokie: Greatest Hits when I was eight. Right afterwards my second album was KISS: Love Gun and Destroyer. In 1981 I witnessed my first KISS concert in Munich. I was totally pissed off because originally the concert was scheduled for May, but Peter left KISS [and the tour got cancelled - ed]. I remember I wasn't allowed into the arena, but had to sit on the gallery because I was too young. My father went down to the ground floor and took photos. Since then I'm fully into KISS."  How did you like the last two tours?
Chris Lausmann: "The Reunion Tour was great, I attended the show in Stuttgart and when the light went out I felt like being 16 again..." (Claus from behind: "The lights went on afterwards and he was 80 again!") Chris Lausmann: "...shivers ran down my spine. But I have to admit I was a little disappointed with the Psycho Circus Tour..." Jürgen Wiehler: "...we got to see the show  in Stuttgart, there's sort of a VIP-area upstairs, and Die Ärzte attended, sitting up front and telling everybody things like: 'Pay attention now, Paul's going to say this...',
'Gene is going to shout that...', and so on. I thought that was very funny." Chris Lausmann: "I didn't like the show that much. It was somehow worse than the Reunion. Okay, Paul was injured, but one could feel and see they were totally tired, completely out of power. Ace was drunk all the time..."  Claus Lessmann: "You should be happy they are still doing it! They don't need to do it anymore, nobody does!"   Chris Lausmann: "In 1984 I saw KISS at the Löwenbräu-Keller in Munich. They had hired an engineer who used to work for the Scorpions, one of the best engineers I know. He was great. But every time Vinnie was about to start his solo, the guy just shove up the knobs to their highest position and disappeared under the soundboard until Vinnie had finished his solo... He just couldn't stand it, it was too hard for him..."

Reprinted with permission from KISS Kollector issue 33. Editorial address:
KISS Kollector Fanclub
P.O. Box 1159
1200 BD Hilversum
(check out KISS Kollector Online:


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