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06 Aug 2013

Krokus Featured

Krokus released “Dirty Dynamite” and Chris Von Rohr, the band’s bassist, and producer was going to talk to us about it. But, a lot got in the way, his love for Greece and Greek people, for example, his change of roles in the band, his mobile phone (with a train whistle ring tone) that kept ringing, memories from the past, his hilosophy in life, his busy schedule and so on. Oh, yes we also said a couple things about the album as well!

 

Interview: Yiannis Dolas
 
Rockpages.gr: How hard was it to come up with an album as good as “Hoodoo”?
 
Chris von Rohr: It was like a middle day siesta! It was very easy to tell you the truth! Because when we made “Hoodoo” we were naturally coming together as the original band. After that happened in 2008, we played a lot, we wrote songs, we jammed together… we came closer. We had time to write, to make good songs, to get together again… basically, it was a very easy write this time. Of course, it took a lot of time in the studio getting the sounds better, because this time as a producer I wanted to make our sound more natural, and less distorted… more open… to have a better vocal sound… a better drums sound… so, we worked a lot on sounds and songs, but basically it was a great experience.
 
Rockpages.gr: The album sounds like a follow up to “Hoodoo”, what do you have to say about that?
 

Chris von Rohr: No, I don’t think like that at all… if you watched the four biggest albums that Krokus ever made “Metal Rendez Vous”, “Hardware”, “One Vice At A Time” and “Headhunter” it’s like a logical follow up. But, me and the band think that this album is better than “Hoodoo” for two reasons. We play out of the “Hoodoo” album we only play one song, “Hoodoo Woman”. Out of the new one we play five songs, and these songs are going to stay because it’s more live material. It’s better material to rock live on stage. We are very convinced that this album not only sounds better, but it ha

s better material. But, of course it’s a follow up because it comes after “Hoodoo” hahaha!
 
Rockpages.gr: Actually, on this album you have Kosta Zafiriou playing drums as a guest, who is half Greek, half German. How was it to work with him?
 

Chris von Rohr: You know, I go every year to Crete, I love Greek people, Greek musicians…
 
Rockpages.gr: I’ve heard about that and I was going to ask you…
 

Chris von Rohr: I like the mentality, there is something in the air, I cannot describe it. When fall comes in October I need to go to Greece! Not to Spain, not Portugal, not to fucking whatever… I don’t know why! Maybe I was Greek in a former life, I don’t know, it’s just something hard for me to explain. But it’s something very good, the quality of life… maybe you see it different with all the problems you have, but for me as a Swiss guy who comes there I feel very welcome. I know a lot of people, unfortunately I don’t know the language, but they speak English, and it’s great, I feel like home there!
 
 
Rockpages.gr: Do you know any Greek words? I know it’s a hard language, but maybe you remember some words, except from the bad ones!

 
Chris von Rohr: One comes to my mind “parakalo” (“you’re welcome”) hahaha! “Giaourti” (“yogurt”)… it comes back when I am there… most of them is food!
 
Rockpages.gr: So, I hope we can see you here playing a show…
 
Chris von Rohr: I really wish that, because this version

of Krokus now is definitely in my opinion the strongest live version we’ve had, and that’s why we are planning for the fall of 2015, it’s our fortieth birthday, a live album, to really bring that spirit across. At the moment we are playing with Helloween drummer, Dani Loeble, we record a lot of things, and let’s see what happens. Krokus are more alive than ever!
 
Rockpages.gr: Actually, one more thing about Greece is that Krokus have always been popular here. Even the last two albums did well in the charts. But, since the charts is not a safe way to make assumptions about music, if you go to the clubs, listen to rock radio stations you can listen to some Krokus…
 
Chris von Rohr: Yeah, what I hear is that “Tokyo Nights” is a big hit in Greece, what about the last album, “Dirty Dynamite”? Did they like it?
 
Rockpages.gr: I don’t know about that, because it’s too early, but they surely liked “Hoodoo”…
 
Chris von Rohr: Then, they will love this one because it’s kicking more! The sound is more… how can I say it? it’s Abbey Road sound! It’s the British power! That’s why we recorded it in London, because we wanted to get a better sound! So, let’s see what happens! Greece feel for Krokus, and Greek people understand what we are all about. I think from the old bands which are around there is nobody else who has a vocalist like we have! He still sings the high notes, he doesn’t sing low, or somewhere below… we have a better singer than AC/DC! Point finish!
 
Rockpages.gr: So, how was working in Abbey Road, at this historical studio?
 
Chris von Rohr: It was very emotional, that’s why I wanted to go there, not because of technique! Music is all about emotion… if you want to give something extra to the singer you put a John Lennon mic in front of his face! Then he sings 120%, because this is history, this is the most known studio in the world, and outside the studio there is a party, young people, the seagulls crossing there, and inside the studio you hear all those stories, you can see Keith Richards amps, microphones of the Beatles… this is a trip that never ends! It’s very exciting, and we have the best summer of all time there. And I think that you can hear all that in the album. You hear that there is really a special fresh something, as well as on the ballad, “Help” we did from the Beatles, a very special cover, we wanted to make it really “Krokus”, and different, not an uptempo song, but a ballad, and you know there is a lot of feeling going on… we owe that to Abbey Road too! It was great, really great, and for me as a producer it was the absolute highlight of my life, to go and work there. I mean everything from there, like “Dark Side Of The Moon” by Pink Floyd, I could spend an hour saying what was recorder there, it’s part of rock’n’roll history…
 
 
Rockpages.gr: Actually, when you mentioned “Help”, the song you recorded as a cover, it must be the most diverted cover you’ve made so far, and it reminds me of the version Deep Purple recorded during their first era…
 
Chris von Rohr: You’ve got very good ears my man! That’s right! That’s absolutely right what you say, I can’t say anything more… but, there again we have some better singer! They changed the singer after that, this wasn’t Ian Gillan singing! I think we have a great vocal performance here, and a great guitar performance… it’s a step higher because we’ve put it out in 2013 and this that we are talking about is 1968, so, there is almost sixty years (Ed, more like fifty actually!) since that. We are very happy with our version…
 
Rockpages.gr: Okay, since we mentioned the Beatles, I have to ask you… who would you chose on the classic debate, the Beatles, or the Stones?
 
Chris von Rohr: Oh, you know it’s the same question if you ask me if I’d prefer a blonde or a black girl! There is no answer to that, because I don’t like the sound police. I prefer to take this from the Stones, and take that from the Beatles… it’s a two thing game you know. I love both bands, but if you ask me who we are going to still talk about in a thousand years, there is no doubt that it’s going to be the Beatles. Because they made much more experimental, much more strong songs in the long run. And if I travel around the world to Japan, or Russia, or whatever… hey man, the Beatles are gigantic! The Beatles is the shit. The singing, the song writing, and the songs… the Stones are more a rock band, which I love a lot. But, what will survive when we are dead and the Beatles are dead, and the Stones are dead, all dead… it’s the songs… (phone rings… like a train)
 
Rockpages.gr: So, how is it to have Mandy Meyer back in the band for this one?
 
Chris von Rohr: It’s very good, because since Tommy Keith, who played on “Tokyo Nights”, we kind of missed the lyrical melancholic way of lead guitar playing, which we have on “Help” and on the “Dirty Dynamite” album… and we are very glad because vocals has always those two faces you know, there is one face the AC/DC one which is more in this direction and this is covered very well by Fernando’s (Ed, Von Arb) lead playing, but then we have more balladesque, melancholic side, like “Tokyo Nights”, “Screaming In The Night”, “Winning Men”, “Easy Rock” and so on, and Mandy Mayers is perfect for that he fits that style. It’s just great… it’s the full rainbow! That’s why I say that this is the best Krokus ever, because we have three guitar players covering every territory in the best possible way and I only hope we can make it to your country. That for me will be perfect because I could invite all my Greek friends at the show. Let’s just hope that the whole crisis thing comes to an end soon, you know.
 
Rockpages.gr:  So, after all those years, and all those albums have you changed the way you compose music as a band?
 
Chris von Rohr: Not at all! I mean it’s always the same. The music we do had… it was invented in the ‘60s basically by coming out of rhythm and blues by bands like Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Free and since then this is like a blues band. You don’t reinvent this style. You just, the most important thing for me as a songwriter and producer is to make Krokus music. Because, we have our own tone, and our own style. We always build our songs around that, and it’s always the same. You take a few chords, you look for a great melody line, good music, good to play live, we keep it really simple, because that’s the secret. The best songs in rock’n’roll are based in a couple of chords, and then you look for a good title… when I go to the titles like “Hoodoo Woman”, “Long Stick Goes Boom”, Rattle Snake Rumble”, whatever… I will go to YouTube, and I put that title, and it has to be No.1, you know what I mean? It must be up there, not somewhere in the middle with some other bands. So, for me as a lyric writer as well I try always to have a couple of original songs that haven’t been overused through the years that’s for me is very important. But, otherwise music comes and music goes you just have to be a channel and just let it come. Things have changed since the ‘60s for me.
 
Rockpages.gr: OK then, let’s go back when you were a kid and you wanted to make a rock band. What influences made you want to make a rock band?
 
Chris von Rohr: Well, like i said it was the Stones, the Beatles, Chuck Berry, some black musicians, basically that came out from the radio. And I thought that I wanted to do that job too, it’s a good job, this is rock’n’roll, it’s great, it’s an entire life philosophy, not just music! It was also the philosophy that only working getting money is not the answer! It was a revolution after the Second World War, so… yeah, a whole different spirit. The inspiration came from everywhere, we were very open, we were listening to every band, even the flower power bands, like the Doors… then the British bands came Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Free, AC/DC… that was the inspiration for us to find the formula and make a great pizza! A great sound pizza!

Rockpages.gr: You were the band’s drummer, then you became a singer, and later you switched to bass. I think that this is one of the most extraordinary role changes in a band in rock history. Can you tell us a bit about that?
 
Chris von Rohr: Hahaha! That’s good! I’ve never thought about that! But, you are probably right. It’s very simple when I found it in 1975. The band was more like a prog band, an experimental band, young musicians who were still searching their way then suddenly the band said you’ve got to sing, you have a certain personality, like David Lee Roth, or something like that, you have to stand up there. And as a drummer you always had the worse chicks, so what the fuck? You get to be the lead singer. So, I did that and we were like a hard rocking blues band, not so hard, more like a blues band… and then suddenly we found out that we wanted to go further than being No.1 in our own country, which we were, we have to become harder, less compromised, less melodic, more hard and then we wrote some new songs, but I don’t have a 3-octave voice, more like a bluesy voice, so I decided to go to the bass, because I always played guitar for myself and I was composing. So, we made this switch and we got a 3-octave vocalist and I took the bass, and of course the whole trip was very interesting. Also, for me as a producer it helps me a lot to understand each instrument…
 
 
Rockpages.gr: When did you realize that Krokus were successful?
 
Chris von Rohr: Well, in the beginning it was more of a thing of surviving and trying to really find a way, since we didn’t want to have other jobs but the music. It was very difficult, because music was no industry. In one way it was nicer because it was not only profit, it was more enthusiastic stuff but it was harder to survive. After the “Heavy Metal Rendez Vous” album the telephone came from America and England, and then we knew that there was going to be a success, but before it was very uncertain. We never did it for the money because we liked what we did, our work and our music. This was very special, and it’s always two sides, when you are not successful and as a unity you fight for your life, and for survival, that’s a certain flair and energy. And when success comes it becomes more dangerous with all the ego games, the money games, and management and all that bullshit. I wrote a book about it!
 
Rockpages.gr: Actually, that was my next question, can you tell us more about it, and can we find it in English?
 
Chris von Rohr: I always liked words, and stories, so after the split with Krokus in ’85, or whenever, I thought I should write a book about all that stuff, and what happened here, exactly what you said before: the astonishing way of the band, and me changing this and that, coming from a little village in Switzerland, going to America and playing with the biggies, sure this was an interesting story. So, I wrote that before all the others wrote their rock biographies, and it was a best seller in Germany and Switzerland. But, the problem is that it’s not translatable, because otherwise, the fun, the irony and the jokes are not coming across. It’s hard to say, it is what it is. Actually, I wrote three books, the one is about Krokus, how I grew up, and how we went to America and broke up, this kind of stuff. The second is about my life as a producer, and then I have a more philosophical book which is more like living in a capitalistic driven country like Switzerland with all the different sides of the story, which I write for a newspaper in Switzerland for six years every month, like comments about living in Disneyland-Switzerland you know…
 
Rockpages.gr: Is there anything that you don’t do? You play in Krokus, you write in a newspaper, you wrote three books, you are producing bands, like Gotthard for example… what is it that you don’t do?
 
Chris von Rohr: Hahaha… well, there is a lot of things I don’t do! I am not good with homework, I cannot build a house, I am not very good in sports… OK, I play a bit of tennis and football… there is another side of me too, but I am happy that the things which I do with passion, most of the times come out good. I also have a late night show, a casting show… different things, I think that you are right! So many different things, it’s like a rainbow, it’s crazy! Maybe I should say thank you to somebody for having such a pretty fulfilled life. It’s very important to do something that people enjoy. It’s really really sad for the books, which from all my work I consider almost the best, because it’s the most me… I can really say something which goes directly, like a song… I believe that the Greek people would have loved my books. I know the soul of the Greeks because I am there always, but what can I do? I don’t speak Greek unfortunately!
 
Rockpages.gr: Switzerland has never been a traditional country in rock and metal, although there’s been some significant bands and artists coming from your country. How different do you find that things have been since Krokus begun their career? And do you think that Krokus are the ambassadors of rock for Switzerland?
 
Chris von Rohr: Yeah, in one way for sure, because I think there is no other Swiss band that made a gold or platinum album in US and Canada. And, to this day there is no other Swiss band that made to America than we, so there is a certain ambassador thing going on. Unfortunately, young bands didn’t come, and I am always waiting for a band to kick Krokus’s ass! Now, we’re 60 years old, so imagine this, it is unreal. So, I was always waiting for a young new Swiss band to follow us up, go to America, really no compromise, kick some bad ass, but this never happened! The only band that made some steps, but more in Europe, was Gotthard, which I discovered many many years ago in the ‘90s and worked for 12 years with them, which was very important for me. That’s the only band that made it a little bigger outside of Switzerland, but even they didn’t make it in America, and Canada. Maybe, it has to do with different times, different styles. I just did an interview with Los Angeles, before your interview, and we talked about that too, and I told them that in the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s there were almost no American bands, except ZZ Top, CCR, and some hillbilly bands, there were not yet Van Halen, or Motley Crue, and all these bands. Nowadays, there is so many bands in America that the competition is so much stronger. For Swiss bands it’s almost impossible to break in America, if you are not something very very special. You have to be special to break America. You see the picture, you see what I mean. It’s like the same thing in sports, there is this saying “timing is everything”! It doesn’t help you if you have the new “Sgt.Peppers” album or the fucking “Black Album”, or if you are AC/DC, or Metallica, or whatever…  if the timing is wrong, you can stay home!
 
Rockpages.gr: So, I guess it’s all about a “Heavy Metal Rendez-Vous” in the end, right?
 
Chris von Rohr: Yeah, that’s it, exactly!

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