1986 – present (32 years)
Ingolstadt, Bayern, Germany
- Alexx Stahl (2016 – present)
- Chris Lausmann (1997 – 2002)
- Chris Limburg (2006 – 2014)
- Claus Lessmann (1986 – 2015)
- David Reece (2013 – 2016)
In 1972 in the West German town of Ingolstadt a teenage guitarist, Hans Ziller, put together a rock band called Cacumen with his brother Karl, who also played guitar, and gathered a group of friends to complete the band. The name of the group was from a school test Hans had taken; it translates from Latin to mean "the top of a mountain". For the next six years the band played at local small venues but had a fan base in their home town. 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. The band was seeking a replacement singer at that time; Claus Lessmann, a fellow student of Hans', was hired.
Claus was previously in the bands Ginger and Sunset, was known for his harmonic vocals and fit in perfectly with Cacumen. With this line-up, the band had a chance to start branching out to venues outside Ingolstadt. A recording entitled Riding Away was made, which featured the song Wintertale on the flip side in 1979. The group used this opportunity to begin touring clubs, schools and even parking lots. The fan base grew and Cacumen was finally signed to an independent label. At this time, Karl departed the group. The self titled Cacumen album was released in 1981 and featured a new version of Riding Away.
Cacumen got in contact with Hanns Schmidt-Theissen, who owned a small music studio (Hanns had played with the group on the Riding Away single and was supporting the band at live venues on keyboards). Since funds were low, Hanns helped them out; they recorded the album Bad Widow at his studio in Rodgau / Germany in 1982. Hanns also tried to get the group a contract but was unsuccessful.
The fan base of the band was growing and more performances were planned. In 1983, Robert Prskalowicz replaced Hans Hauptmann on bass and this group became the well-known Cacumen band. The group was later signed by BMG and received a make-over; Robert and Hans Forstner were no longer members as of March 1985, after departing upon deciding they couldn't commit to the group full time. Their replacements were Joerg Deisinger (previously with Rascal and Dynasty) on bass and Dominik Huelshorst from Darxon on drums. The group also donned the stereotypical image of an 80s hard rock group. Finally, the company requested a name change, as they thought Cacumen would be too difficult to pronounce and not as marketable a name as they desired. After a brainstorming session the name Bonfire was chosen, which came into effect in May 1986.
Bonfire, the First Coming (1986-1994)
Bonfire's worldwide début album, Don't Touch the Light, was released in June 1986. During recording of the follow-up album, in May 1987, Dominik was fired due to musical differences and Bonfire proceeded to release their next album, Fireworks, as a quartet, the drums being recorded by Ken Mary from Fifth Angel. Two versions of this album exist: the worldwide version and the North American version (the cover of which features the four members as well as the song 'You Make Me Feel', taken from their début album).
Between the second and third albums, Bonfire went through many changes. Although Tommy Wagner performed on drums for a TV spot, a new drummer needed to be hired. In December 1987, Edgar Patrik from Sinner, Samson and Tyran Pace joined. In July 1988, during the Fireworks Tour, Horst had to leave due to his rheumatism becoming too much of a crippling factor to play guitar on stage. Taking his spot in August was Angel Schleifer, formerly of Doc Savage, Red Alert, Sinner, Mad Max, Pretty Maids and Helter Skelter. The tour proceeded and at its completion the band settled down to collaborate for a new album. At this time, Hans had problems with the record company and the band's management, due in part to his family commitments at the time. Albeit with reluctance, he was fired from the group in June 1989 due to the lack of commitment and Bonfire carried on as a quartet. Bonfire's first two albums were the only to be 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. The record company wouldn't allow him to do so, however, leaving Hans to find a replacement singer for his new band, EZ Livin'.
The decision to remove Hans from Bonfire troubled Claus, and after many failed attempts to break through in the North American scene and what he deemed was a failure of a fourth album, Claus left the band on September 25, 1992. His announcement was not unexpected, but did leave the remaining members the decision of who should take his place. One vocalist the group has interest in was Michael Bormann, vocalist for Letter X and his own side-project Jaded Heart, who had also previously been a member of High Voltage and the J.R. Blackmore Group. Although he was willing to sing with Bonfire, he was committed to his two other projects, so the group continued looking. Unsuccessful attempts to find a full-time vocalist led to Michael eventually becoming the new front-man of Bonfire in March 1993. He departed Letter X but remained with Jaded Heart.
Despite having a new vocalist, Bonfire seemed to be stagnating; their record company refused to release any new material that did not have Claus singing and grunge was an emerging new scene. The band suspected the end was nigh, so a live album that featured concert recordings from the Point Blank Tour and Claus on vocals was released. The album Michael had performed on was shelved (albeit to be released later as a bootleg entitled 'Bonfire - End of an Era Demos') and Bonfire performed for the last time on the 29th of July 1994, without officially breaking up.
While Bonfire were attempting to continue with their new lead vocalist, Claus reunited with Hans after he left the band and together they became Lessmann/Ziller in 1992, with Hans disbanding EZ Livin'. In 1993 they released an EP entitled Glaub Dran, which featured lyrics entirely in German. This was followed by a few single releases, of songs not present on the initial recording. The duo's following was slowly growing, but not in accordance with initial expectations. 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. Claus and Hans realized that their best chance at recapturing their fan base was to become Bonfire again.
The Return of Bonfire - Charade Emerges (1996-2000)
In 1996, Claus and Hans decided to start legal proceedings to get the rights to the Bonfire name and their music from 1986 to 1992. On July 3rd, 1994, a one-time payment was made to the remaining Bonfire members and Claus and Hans renamed their Ex project to Bonfire. They reissued Glaub Dran, with additional songs in English, in 1996. In 1997 they hired Chris Lausmann (Affair and Frontline) on guitar and keyboards, Uwe Kohler (Black Tears, Paradise Leaf, Big Apple, Lipstikk, Blitzkrieg, British Steel) on bass, and Jurgen Wiehler (Backdoor Affair, Heaven Sent, Chain Reaction, Loud & Proud, EZ Livin', Parish Garden, Wet Paint and 88 Crash) on drums.
Michael and Angel also got back together in 1997, with a desire to release the shelved Bonfire album they had recorded in 1993. Joerg was not interested in being involved and Edgar had other commitments, so the reunion was a duo, and due to Claus and Hans owning the Bonfire name Michael and Angel decided to call themselves Charade. The previously shelved album was then released in 1998 in Japan, later becoming a highly sought after item. The duo continue to work together.
Worldwide exposure (2001-)
Since 1996, Bonfire has released at least one album each year and their fan base has grown, surpassing their 1980s popularity. Chris left the group in 2002 but the remaining members continued. After successfully gaining the rights to their pre-Bonfire material in 2004, the band released a five-part CD series called The Early Days. Parts 1 to 3 were reissues of the Cacumen albums, part 4 was the EZ Livin' album and part 5 was the Lessmann/Ziller album, each disc also featuring bonus material.
In 2006, Bonfire celebrated their 20th anniversary and Chris Limburg (Vice, Wet Paint and Lustfinger) took on a role as co-guitarist. A rock opera album entitled 'The Rauber' was released in 2008. A special DVD of the opera performance– which also featured new music videos of several of the songs from the album– was released soon afterwards and included a remixed version of their song 'You Make Me Feel'. This new version of the song is featured on the PlayStation game Sing Star.
January 15th 2009 saw the return of Dominik Huelshorst, when Jürgen left the band unexpectedly, followed by a long anticipated return to the North American stage, as the band performed at the Rocklahoma Festival on July 12th in Pryor, Oklahoma, USA.
On March 25th, 2010, Bonfire were signed to Universal Music. The album 'Branded' was released on January 22nd, 2011.
* Claus Lessmann - lead vocals, backing vocals, acoustic guitars, bass, rhythm guitars (1978–1992, 1992–present)
* Hans Ziller - lead guitar, rhythm guitar, talkbox, acoustic guitar, backing vocals, sitar, slide guitar (1972–1989, 1992–present)
* Chris Limburg - guitars (2006–present)
* Uwe Köhler - bass, backing vocals (1997–present)
* Dominik Huelshorst - drums (1986–1987; 2009–present)
* Michael Bormann - lead vocals, acoustic guitar (1997–present)
* Angel Schleifer - lead guitar, keyboards, programming (1997–present)
* Karl Ziller - guitars (1972–1980)
* Hanns Schmidt-Theißen - keyboards (circa 1977-1980)
* Hans Hauptmann - bass (circa 1972-1982)
* Hans Forstner - drums (circa 1972-1986)
* Robert Prskalowicz - bass (1982–1986)
* Horst Maier-Thorn - lead guitars, rhythm guitars, backing vocals (circa 1972-1988)
* Michael Bormann - lead vocals, acoustic guitar (1993–1994)
* Angel Schleifer - lead guitar, acoustic guitar, backing vocals (1988–1994)
* Joerg Deisinger - bass, backing vocals, mouth drums (1986–1994)
* Edgar Patrik - drums, percussion, backing vocals (1987–1994)
* Chris Lausmann - rhythm guitar, lead guitar, keyboards, backing vocals (1992–2002)
* Jürgen Wiehler - drums, percussion, backing vocals (1997–2009)
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