Krokus kicked butt and took names in the early '80s before hitting a bit of a speed bump as did most of the bands from that era. They carried on however and have always released a record every few years. Their latest is Hellraiser and for my money, it's one of their best since Hardware and Headhunter. The traditional Krokus rockers have been augmented by some excellent material that is a little less aggressive. Songs like "Angel of My Dreams" and "How Long" really expand the range of the band and help make this the record that should put them in the CD players of a lot of people. I spoke to vocalist Marc Storace at the end of a long day of interviews. It was midnight but Marc was still pumped up about the new record and was terrific to speak with. Here's what he had to say:
antiMUSIC: Hi Marc, I'm a fan from the early '80s. I saw you guys in Montreal opening for Def Leppard and you blew them off the stage, so I can see why you ran into trouble with them later on.
Marc: Well cool, cool thank you. It's a great start. So I don't have to convince you about anything. (laughs)
antiMUSIC: Absolutely. I have to admit I kind of lost track after Change of Address but I got this new record a few days ago and it's excellent. I particularly like "Hangman", "So Long" and "Angel of My Dreams".
Marc: Thank you very much. What everyone's been saying is it has very much of a snowball effect potential.
antiMUSIC: Absolutely. Before we get into the new record, can we back up just a little bit for all the North Americans here? Can you tell us what led to you getting back together with Fernando in 2002 and why he isn't in the band at present?
Marc: Well, I always have my finger in the air to see which way the wind is blowing and keep tabs on the Internet to see what's going on in the music scene and so on. So being…I was for a long while, doing other projects and towards the time before I called Fernando for the reunion I had just finished a bunch of songs for my second solo album and I thought well rock is in the air again. Hard rock is in the air. Revival bands and so on. Let me just give Fern a quick call and see if he's interested at all to team up with me again. And you know we put our forces back into getting Krokus back onto the rock and roll map of the world. And it took a while (laughs) until he answered. What really jolted him into answering was because I was invited on this, for these 2 big concerts, by this huge Swiss troubadour who really sold loads of records and sold out a huge hall in Zurich which is a 10 thousand seater for two nights and I was invited because Krokus had been the first band ever in the early 80s to sell it out. So I got up there and we did a long, special rendition of "Bedside Radio" with a sing-along, the whole crowd, everyone sang and it was televised direct and so it only took a couple of days later, Fern was on the phone. (laughs) And he said, yeah, that reunion you were talking about, it makes sense to me now! (laughs) You know it's like, yeah okay, I'm glad you had your coffee (laughs). And anyway we got back together and it was a nice feeling. Started writing songs again, and you know, we got ourselves surrounded by good musicians and Rock the Block went from zero to no. 1 for the first time in Krokus history and it was a reason to celebrate real bad. We went on tour for the first time, as far as Sweden, because in the '80s we were basically…we toured coast to coast in the USA and Canada and didn't do very much in Europe after lets say the first two years and so anyway, yeah, we were reaching new goals. We played the Sweden Rock Festival which is one of the big ones, and one in Germany and we even played the Mantra Jazz Festival which is actually not just for jazz. We have bands like Deep Purple and you know heavy, heavy stuff in there too. So anyway, we made a DVD of the event and put it on the next album to follow was a Best Of collection, 20 classics, Krokus classics, which we recorded live during the European tour and did a pretty good job out of it. Sounds really great. And we shoved in the DVD to go with it, but unfortunately only the European continent. You know, so yeah, then to get to the second question. Fernando had gone through a streak of bad luck in the '90s, early '90s. He had lymph node cancer and that's when I got back with him then, and we did the reunion and followed by an album called To Rock or Not to Be, and on the strength of that, I hope (laughs) because that's reason why I got back with him then, because in '88 we had parted on bad terms. You know after the Heart Attack album, and the downfall of the new wave of heavy metal, you know, it came to an end.
Grunge took over. Then we were invaded by the Martians with their techno music (laughs) you know…so anyway, yeah, then we parted our ways again because the rock scene was not here. It was here in Switzerland but it seemed to be dead everywhere else, so we went through another period of drought. And then I called him again. And we got Rock the Block / Fire and Gasoline, and then the question came from our US comrades, you know Reality Entertainment, about a US comeback. The big Krokus comeback to promote Rock the Block and Fire and Gasoline. And Fernando pulled up the hand break and he wouldn't budge, because you know, his health, and stuff like that. So it happened twice and before he could do it a third time he already threw in the towel and he said, hey guys, "I'm blocking the way, I want to have my own little blues band or something like that and carry on low-key and just go for it." So I had to get over the emotion of that and by the time I got home a few hours later I was ready to call Mandy Meyer because he was first on my list, and being an ex Krokus lead guitar player who had toured with us in '81 and '82 promoting the Hardware album, and Mandy jumped to it and was full of enthusiasm like a stallion rearing to go, you know. It fired us all up. The first thing I did was go down to his place and we spent three days getting song ideas sorted out, he had a lot of guitar ideas, and so I sat on the drums out of emergency (laughs). Better my drumming then programming a drum machine which really puts…I call it coitus interruptus (laughs) you know, it's not…the creative flow is more bang, you know, everything goes cold while someone programs...so anyway I was sitting behind the drums, singing into the mic. Mandy had his guitar turned up full blast, and I had this tiny little walkman there, and I just pressed record every time we did something worth putting down. And after three days we left there smiling and with six new songs in our back pockets. (laughs) And obviously in very rough form and some skeleton lyrics and so on. So we met about a week later and he had everything down. He's got this recording equipment so he had demos. All the music down. And I came back with melodies and lyrics and we put everything down and presented six songs to the band and of course this was additional songs to the collection that we already had because we already had about 35 songs at that stage, from the rest of the band. Because Tony Castell, the bass player and Dominique Favez, our guitarist, came sending me these demos with music on them, pretty good stuff which really fired me up and got me writing and singing down in my cellar, looking for the best melodies and so on. So together, all of a sudden, I was full of joy. How we got, we call it "qual de val"(?) pain of the choice, which do we throw out? So we involved the whole team including Dennis Ward who entered the scene at that point, all ready to record Hellraiser, because that was the first song that we recorded and also to have a test run with Dennis, and it was even with another drummer, before Stephan entered you know, Stephan Schwarzmann. Yeah, it happened really it was exciting, high spirited, and very emotional. Everyone was, you know, in good spirits working on the new stuff. We did the right choice, I think. I worked about three days long making the running order in the end for the songs, and this was after going in the studio with Dennis of course, and doing the recordings of all the songs. First of all we did the drums at breakneck speed and they continued working, you know, putting down the rhythm section first. I mean as soon as Dennis had us all on these guide tracks, private tracks, then Mandy and I left, you know, we went home. Mandy started working on solos, and I polished up my lyrics and melodies. And the next time we saw Dennis. Dennis came up with his Pro Tools and he went to Mandy's place and got guitar solos loaded on, and that took a while to sort them out and then he came out for awhile, we went to the same little studio where I had recorded the vocals for Rock the Block. It did the job. It was all we needed. And it took about six days to get all the vocals done. And backing vocals and ad-libs and everything. And then off he went back to Germany. Dennis is an American guy and it was nice to have that accent and that flair in the earphones rather than a German accent, for me anyway. And he was a great guy working with, everyone in total harmony, not stopping us just for the sake of it, just going with the flow. If there was something really important, he'd put his foot down, and say: "I think it should be like this, not like that." And everyone respected his opinion because Dennis is a musician too with Pink Cream 69. He's a bass player and that's how we got to know him actually. They opened for Krokus and Mandy knew him too, Stephan knew him and we'd heard some of his work, you know, and yeah, he did a great job. He made us sound fresh and ballsy and you can hear everything and he didn't overdo any affects or echoes or stuff like that unless necessary.
antiMUSIC: So you can replay, redo it live without problems.
Marc: Yeah, it's very natural. It's a very natural thing. The band really sounds like we sound. When we go on stage, obviously there's some overdubs which we can't reproduce and we're not going to start using samplers or keyboard players to...you know what I mean. Krokus is not that kind of band. But yeah, it was great, you know. We were happy. Then obviously we started with artwork and everything ran parallel to mixing which he did at his place. We controlled the mixing, you know, sound and volume and levels and so on through Internet, so everybody could stay at home and we received mp3 from Dennis. It's the age of Internet so make good use of it instead of all driving to the studio, staying in a hotel, being away from home and blah, blah, blah, and spending hours and hours of hanging around like it used to be in the '80s. You receive something. You listen to it at your leisure. Write your comments down. Stick it on an email. Send it back and Dennis does all the sorting out. Then we'd receive new versions you know. Okay, it goes on for a while. It takes a few weeks that way, but it doesn't cost anything, except Dennis' input and our feedback.
antiMUSIC: How did the dynamic change in the band with Mandy taking over from Fernando in terms of lead playing and writing?
Marc: It was like, I mean, I don't want to sound negative toward Fernando or anything like that, he did a great job and held the flag flying for so many years and deserves, you know, the gratitude that he deserves. But Mandy came with fresh energy and a pent-up urge to play a more radical brand of rock music than what he had been doing for the past 10 years. You know, he also wanted to break out of Switzerland because they played mainly in Switzerland for all that time, you know, going around in circles in his little country. So he wanted out and it was great opportunity, so the difference if you like, if you place Fernando and Mandy in the same room, Mandy was vibrating with energy to go for it, and Fernando was like, you know, yeah, just been through so many battles and needs a rest, you know. So that's it basically. And you know, I mean, basically also Fernando was, he didn't start off as a lead guitarist, he was basically the rhythm guitar player when Tommy Keifer, god rest his soul, who played up to Hardware when he had to leave the band. But Fernando did a good job. But we noticed a big difference between a person who is a born guitar, lead guitar player for playing solos and someone who climbed his way into that position. So Mandy in comparison is like a magician. It's magical what he does. He's fully there. And details and everything and he's more concentrated on what he's doing that doing a big show on stage, you know. But at the same time, what he does is a show in itself, it's Mandy. The guy concentrated on his instrument, and I mean, he's a good-looking guy (laughs) so there's also that difference. Visually he's also great to watch him play. And the audience appreciates that totally. And we haven't had any bad criticism whatsoever because anybody who sees him live is taken by his energy.
antiMUSIC: Your vocals on Hellraiser are as strong as ever. Do you do anything special to maintain your voice or are you just naturally lucky?
Marc: I always have a mature attitude towards health, you know with overdoing it, after the gigs with the partying and stuff, knowing when to go to bed and stuff and how much to drink and how to drink and stuff. And I was never the whiskey drinker, if anything it's vodka. And vodka is something that doesn't give you a hangover and it keeps you up, you know. And nowadays I drink Grappa, which is very popular in the south of Europe. When they pick the grapes and crush the grapes for the wine, what's left in the barrel is like this sludge, it's fermented, cooked like, and the steam of it turns into droplets and you get schnapps. And this is highly potent, alcoholic, like up to 40 per cent, and you drink it in small doses, this is something you drink to help you digest after a meal, you know, especially if you've eaten meat. And I eat pasta for carbohydrates before a gig and I try to eat 3 hours before so my stomach is free. And then I have these warm-ups exercises. This Tibetan monk thing (laughs) that I do, like urrhhhhggg. It's vibrating the vocal chords using the belly to press the wind and from deep down and the vibration relaxes the vocal chords and gets them ready for pummeling you know for heavy duty work. And I must have developed a callous or something over the years, and even if I don't sing for say two or three weeks… if I'm lucky (laughs)…it doesn't take me too long to get back into top form, like two or three days of giving my throat a hard time in order to toughen it up again. And you know, in the end, it's a little bit of Zen, a little bit of yoga, a little bit of physical therapy (laughs). Plus through all the accidents and in the past, and just basically not being, not hanging around in smoky places, like I spend a lot of time at home, and even when I'm on the tour bus, the guys respect the fact that I don't appreciate polluting my lungs with smoke you know. And of course at the concerts, it's not like in the USA, I don't know what it's like in Canada, it's forbidden to smoke in public places, and I wish they would do this in Europe everywhere. But it's slowly coming in and I think in Switzerland it's going to be law next year in restaurants, so that's a start. Because people working there, the staff, you know, hey come on, they're doomed. It's amazing. For me too, I mean, of course, there's no way I'm going to say, hey there's no way I'm getting on that stage unless the audience stops smoking or anything daft like that, because I have no right to say that. It's one against thousands. (laughs) And they might even brand me for being square or something, you know what I mean. (laughs) But I'm no health freak, but I stay within the limits and keep in balance, after all I'm a Libra. (laughs)
antiMUSIC: With the climate for rock and a lot better than in the past few years. Priest is back together. Maiden is doing well. Do you feel that Krokus will finally now get its due, especially with a record of the calibre of Hellraiser?
Marc: As I said to you in the beginning, the feedback that I'm getting from journalists doing phoners, especially the phoners, they tell me straight away, this album is going to snowball. It's starting slowly but word of mouth is going to get it out there in, you know, and you guys are going to be back in the top league. Right now we've worked from the bottom to the middle again and what's going to put us back on top, is actually securing a couple of great tours, you know, rock package tours. And that's what our agents in Europe and in the USA are looking for right now. So we should be, if we're lucky, and they get what we're looking for, we should be on the road in mid January, doing the whole or Europe, like extensive release, a month in a half including new territories that we haven't played ever in Europe, which is a shame, you know. We're European, we've played everywhere in the USA and Canada, but not everywhere in Europe.
And centrally, we are based in Europe this time, whereas in the '80s we were based…we started out in Europe until 1981 and then we shifted to the USA. So really I do believe we, Krokus, has the potential with a record like Hellraiser, you know. There are no fillers on it. It kicks ass and it eases out at the right time, then punches back in at the right time, and we even are not repeating ourselves. We don't sound jaded. It sounds like a fresh, innovative album actually. And I think that's what the scene needs. We don't need to start repeating ourselves and one thing, one comparison I'd like to make as an end, to end this interview is that when the new wave of heavy metal appeared the first time in '79-'80, this was an evolvement, a slow evolution from the '70s music. And right now, it's not an evolution. It's a revival of human made handcraft, with passion and soul which had been missing because the Martians took over for so long, you know. (laughs) And human beings with soul, and you know, and not high on ecstasy, have the need for natural things, you know, like hand made pottery and whatever, it feels good, you know. It's nature. And this is what rock is all about, even though some of the lyrics might sound crazy some times. Some bands go to extremes but that's usually tongue n cheek, a load of fun behind it. You know, we managed to create something that people can relate to lyrically and the music content is very high quality and it's got the high power energy of the '80s mixed with the modern technique and freshness of the new millennium that we like you know. (laughs) And can you please mention for our fans to go to our website and sign in to our global newsletter. Because this way they'll know as soon as we have new dates and they will know specifically for example if it's going to be Canada, all the Canadian fans are grouped. They'll get a special letter. Or if it's going to be only the USA, they'll get a special letter and the same letter won't go to Europe. That's the way we're trying to build it up, because in the past, this was really one of our weaknesses, and obviously we didn't have email, we had snail mail, so it made things slower but now there's no excuse, we're ready to answer their questions. And I'm communicating with the fans every day and whether we're on the road or not. Wherever they are we're going to come and try to reach them live wherever possible. And where not, we're working on this new DVD and we're playing down on my island, birthplace, in Malta. We're going to film it and see what happens and hope that it's going to exuding the excitement that we expect. (laughs) Thank you. It was a pleasure. Thanks for your questions.
antiMUSIC: It was more of a pleasure on my part, Marc. Thanks for doing this.
Marc: Okay Morley. Take care.
Morley Seaver and antiMUSIC thank Marc Storace for speaking with us.