Bonfire is one of those interesting cases in Hard Rock music in Europe: despite being around in the business for many decades now, this German band doesn’t get a lot of exposure in the mainstream media of the genre, and they still manage to play over 80 shows per year on a very consistent basis. American bassist Ronnie Parkes is well-aware of that and he doesn’t take it for granted.
I had the opportunity of doing an interview with Ronnie and we discussed all things Bonfire. If you are fan of the band or just want to know them, this is the interview for you.
Well, Ronnie, first of all, I would like to thank you for being here. It’s a pleasure.
Thanks, it’s a pleasure to speak with you.
What is the part of being a bass player that people don’t talk much about?
The bass is a very underrated and appreciated instrument, in my opinion. It is really important to the overall song. It covers two very important parts of the song: the instrumental part with the guitars and also the percussive part with the drums. Often I feel it is under appreciated. Songs would be a lot more boring if there was no bass lol
And how did you get into bass playing? Who were your idols?
Originally I started playing at five years old. Piano and guitar. My brother, who was originally a bass player, switched to lead vocals and had a band together that was looking for a bass player. He asked me if I would be interested and that is how I switched to bass and just continued with the bass.
Considering that Bonfire is an already stablished band with so much history, how was the process of joining them and bringing your input to the writing process?
I started working with Hans Ziller in a band he had together called EZ Livin’. Eventually Bonfire was going through some changes and I ended up playing bass in Bonfire. When I first got in the band I was only writing the bass parts and wrote one song musically, but eventually I started writing the lyrics and some input in the rest of the writing process.
You’re from New Jersey and Bonfire is obviously a German band. Was there a cultural shock by joining a band of this stature in Europe?
I did have a little experience with the European music scene with EZ Livin’, so most of the culture shock of being in Europe as an American musician was learned there. Everything was just amplified and a higher level with Bonfire.
You’re about to start your European tour. What do you have in store for us in that regard?
Well, we have been touring pretty consistently the past couple of years with Bonfire. We finish out this year with shows in Germany, Switzerland, Russia, Finland, Greece, Italy and Spain. We do have a new album coming out in April of 2020 called Fistful of Fire. We have a big start in April next year of about 25 shows in a row and then continuing throughout the year.
Being a band with so many albums released and that has gone through so many musical stages, how do you decide the set list to make it more balanced?
That actually does become a difficult decision. Bonfire has so many good songs. There are songs that we feel people expect to hear so we try to keep as many of those in the set as possible but we also try and add some newer songs. So we just go with what we think it works.
Do you think there is a difference between European and American audiences in the concerts?
There seems to be more of an appreciation for live performances in Europe. That is my observation: more people go to see live concerts more often in Europe and they basically have the whole summer season where there are festivals every weekend all over Europe. I think it is really great and would love to see more of that in the USA.
Focusing more on your work with Bonfire, of which album do you feel more proud of and why?
Probably Bite the Bullet because it was my first experience writing lyrics for Bonfire and we received a lot of praise for that one. I am proud of everything I have been part of with Bonfire and we are still trying to put out the best albums we can.
I read an interview that you did a few years ago about you guys doing about 70 or 80 shows per year. How do you prepare to that kind of demand? It must be exhausting.
Yeah, between 80 and 100 shows a year. It does get exhausting travelling so much, but it is really a blessing to be playing so often and seeing so many amazing places. So I am very grateful for it.
Bass players don’t get a lot of spotlight in music, especially in rock music. From your perspective, what are the biggest contributions of your bass playing to Bonfire’s music?
I don’t look at it quite that way. I feel the songs are what’s important. The bass contributes as do all the instruments. Sometimes it is just a more prominent voice in the song. Other times it is not so important to be prominent. Its job is to keep the groove. It’s all about delivering the song.
Thank you so much for this opportunity, Ronnie. It has been a pleasure. Any last message for our readers? Where can we follow you and Bonfire on social media?
Thanks, the pleasure was all mine. Yes, keep your eyes and ears open for Fistful of Fire and tour in 2020.