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Bonfire - Biography




Bonfire has a unique history to them as currently there are two bands who have held the name. The original group started out as Cacumen, became Bonfire and currently performing as Charade. The second group began as Lessmann/Ziller and then purchased the rights to the Bonfire name, which they have used ever since.

In 1972, in the West German town of Ingolstadt a teenaged guitarist, Hans Ziller, put together a rock band called Cacumen with his brother Karl, whom also played guitar, then gathered a bunch of friends to complete the band. The name of the group was from a school test Hans had taken and it translates from Latin meaning "the top of a mountain". For the next six years, the band played at local small venues, but had a fan base in their hometown. In 1978, the group consisted of Hans and Karl on guitars, Horst Maier on guitar (in 1983, Horst's last name would become Maier-Thorn), Hans Hauptmann on bass and Hans Forstner on drums. When the band was seeking a replacement singer at that time, Claus Lessmann, a fellow student of Hans', was hired.

Claus previously was in the bands Ginger and Sunset and was known for his harmonic vocals and he fit in perfectly with Cacumen. With this line-up, the band had a chance to start branching themselves out to venues outside Ingolstadt. A single record was recorded called Riding Away, which featured the song Wintertale on the flip side in 1979. The group used this opportunity to begin touring at clubs, schools and even in parking lots. The fan base grew and Cacumen was finally signed to an independent label. By then though, Karl had departed the group. The self titled Cacumen album was released in 1981 and featured a new version of Riding Away.

By some circumstances Cacumen get in contact with Hanns Schmidt-Theissen, who owned a small music studio (Hanns had played with the group on the Riding Away single). Since money was poor and Hanns a good guy, they recorded the album Bad Widow at his studio in Rodgau / Germany in 1982. Hanns tried to help these guys to get a contract, but this wasn't successful at this time.

The fans of the band were growing, as were performance dates. In 1983, Robert Prskalowicz replaced Hans Hauptmann on bass and this group became the well-known Cacumen band, but when they signed with BMG, the group had a total make-over. Robert and Hans Forstner were no longer with the group as of March 1985. They departed because they decided that they could not commit to the group full time and were replaced with Joerg Deisigner, previously from Rascal and Dynasty, to play bass while Dominik Huelshorst from Darxon became the new drummer. Next, the group updated their image, donning the standard look of an 80s hard rock group. Finally, the company requested a name change as they found Cacumen was too hard for the average Joe to pronounce as well as was not a very marketable name. After a brain storming session, the new name selected was Bonfire which came into effect in May 1986.

Their world-wide debut album was released that June as Don't Touch the Light. During recording of the follow-up album, Dominik was fired in May 1987 due to musical differences and Bonfire proceeded to release their Gold seller album, Fireworks, as a quartet, the drums being recorded by Ken Mary from Fifth Angel. Two versions of this album exist, the world-wide version and the North American version (cover features the four members as well as the represented 'You Make Me Feel' song from the first album).

Between the second and third albums, Bonfire went through many changes. Although Tommy Wagner filled the drum kit for a TV spot, a new drummer needed to be hired which occurred in December 1987 when Edgar Patrik from Sinner, Samson and Tyran Pace joined. In July 1988, during the Fireworks Tour, Horst had to leave due to his rhumitizim becoming too much of a crippling factor to play the guitar. Taking his spot in August was Angel Schleifer, formerly of Doc Savage, Red Alert, Sinner, Mad Max, Pretty Maids and Helter Skelter. The tour went on and once it was completed, the band settled down to collaborate for a new album. It was then that Hans had problems with the record company and the band's management due in part to his family commitments at the time. Against the band's better decisions, he was fired from the group for not having his focus on the band in June 1989 and Bonfire carried on as a quartet. It should be noted that Bonfire's first two albums were the only ones that were released commercially in North America.

Despite the business decision, Claus and Hans maintained a great friendship. When Hans formed his own group, Claus was asked to write songs as well as perform vocals. Cruel fate would intervene and the record company wouldn't allow him to do so, leaving Hans to find a replacement singer for his new band, EZ Livin'.

The decision to remove Hans from Bonfire was beginning to show on Claus though in Bonfire. After many attempts to break through in the North American scene and what he deemed was a failure for the fourth album, Claus left the band on September 25, 1992. His announcement was not a total shock to the rest of the band, but it did leave them with the dilemma of who would take his place. One vocalist that had the group's attention was Michael Bormann, whom was singing for Letter X and had his own group on the side called Jaded Heart, plus he was previously in High Voltage and the J.R. Blackmore Group. Even though he was willing to sing with Bonfire, he was committed to his two other projects so the group continued looking. The unsuccessful attempt to find a full-time vocalist lead to Michael becoming the new frontman of Bonfire in March 1993. Although he did leave Letter X, he maintained his band Jaded Heart.

Despite the new singer, Bonfire was in a rut now. Their record company refused to release any new material that did not have Claus singing and the grunge years in music had started. The band kind of knew that the end was in site so a live album that featured concert recordings from the Point Blank Tour was released and had Claus on vocals. The album Michael had sung on was shelved and Bonfire performed for the last time on July 29, 1994 without officially breaking up.

Meanwhile, Claus had reunited with Hans after he left Bonfire and together they became Lessmann/Ziller in 1992 (Hans broke up EZ Livin' for this project). In 1993 they released an EP, Glaub Dran, that was all in German. This was followed by a few single releases of songs that were not on the initial recording. The duo's following was slowly growing, but was not as what was initially expected. In 1995, Lessmann/Ziller evolved to become a group called Ex and in May featured Joerg Deisinger on bass and Dominik Huelshorst on drums, almost a reunion of the 1986 Bonfire line-up. The project was ok, but Claus and Hans realized that their only means of recapturing their fan base was that they needed to be Bonfire again. In 1996, they decided to start legal proceedings to get the rights to the Bonfire name as well as the music from 1986 to 1992. On July 3rd, a one-time payment was made to the last Bonfire members of 1994 and Claus and Hans renamed their project to Bonfire and the second coming began with the reissue to Glaub Dran with other songs in English in 1996. In 1997 they hired Chris Lausmann on guitar and keyboards, whom played with Affair and Frontline; Uwe Kohler on bass, formally from Black Tears, Paradise Leaf, Big Apple, Lipstikk, Blitzkrieg and British Steel; and finally Jurgen Wiehler on drums whom played with Backdoor Affair, Heaven Sent, Chain Reaction, Loud & Proud, EZ Livin', Parish Garden, Wet Paint and 88 Crash.

Also in 1997, Michael and Angel got back together and wanted to release the shelved Bonfire album they had recorded previously in 1993. Joerg was not interested in being involved and Edgar had other commitments so the reunion was a duo and due to the legal decision Michael and Angel decided to call themselves Charade. The shelved album was then released in 1998 in Japan, becoming a highly sought after CD. The duo continue to work together.

Since 1996, Bonfire has released at least one album a year and their fan base has grown, surpassing their 1980s popularity. In 2002, Chris left the group, but that did not stop the band. In 2004 after successfully gaining the rights to more material, the band released a 5 part CD series called The Early Days. Part 1, 2 and 3 were the reissuing of the Cacumen albums, part 4 was the EZ Livin' album and part 5 was the Lessmann/Ziller album, every one of them featuring bonus material.

In 2006, Bonfire celebrates their 20th anniversary and now Chris Limburg from Vice, Wet Paint and Lustfinger has taken the reigns as the band's co-guitarist. In 2008, The Rauber was released, a rock opera. A special DVD of the opera performance as well as a regular concert was released soon afterwards which included a remixed version of the classic song, You Make Me Feel, as a music video, their first new music video since the song "Under Blue Skies" in 2001. The new version of the song is featured on the Playstation game "Sing Star".

In 2008 The Räuber has been released. Not only the new Bonfire-album but also the soundtrack to the hugely successful new rock opera-version of the classical Friedrich Schiller-play that has been brought to the theatrical stage in Ingolstadt and has already seen dozens of sold-out performances. One of them has also been presented on the official The Räuber-Double-dvd - next to tons of spectacular bonus features and the video to the new version of the chart breaking ballad "You Make Me Feel". In the meantime "you make me feel 2008" appeared on the latest edition of the mega selling playstation game "sing star".

After a storming performance at last year's rocklahoma festival - the band's first concert in the usa after 21 years - next to the likes of stryper, twisted sister, ratt, night ranger, warrant, danger danger or skid row - and after the release of the compilation you make me feel: the ballads bonfire have released a very special single on universal music: the sensational rock version of the german national anthem simply called "deutsche nationalhymne". Bonfire's first top 40 single ever and a single that stayed in the german single charts for weeks.

in 2011 the band is celebrating it's 25 anniversary with the new studio album "branded". That came out in january hit the official german album charts and the band celebrated that fact release big-style throughout the year. Many concerts and festivals with the likes of journey, foreigner, thin lizzy, cinderella, hammerfall, john waite, edguy, h-blockx or again night ranger and stryper have been played followed by the release of the live-cd "fireworks…still alive" in the fall.

The pre-production for the next studio album have already started but have been interrupted by three prestigious projects - the cooperation with the world- famous organization peta through the beneficial ep "cry 4 help". The ep "treueband" and the tribute sampler "schanzerherz" - as well as concerts with the likes of gotthard, helloween, in extremo, tyketto or krokus.