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20 Nov 2014

Praying Mantis

Praying Mantis is one of the most beloved bands in Greece and most definitely a band that has left its permanent mark on the musical map all these years. They visited Greece for a show and we tracked them down for an exclusive interview that took place before the concert at a local café/bar in downtown Athens nearby where Mantis was staying. It surely wasn’t the best neighborhood of Athens but nevertheless Chris Troy, Tino Troy & Andy Burgess gave us a most enjoyable interview!
Interview: Sakis Nikas

 

Rockpages.gr: Guys, how does it feel to be back in Greece?prayingmantis6

Tino Troy: Warmer than England (laughs)! We are looking forward to playing tonight for our fans. We have some of our biggest fans in Greece and we had great response last time that we played here so…yeah, we are looking forward to the show.

Rockpages.gr: For all those out there who haven’t kept up with your latest activities, what is Praying Mantis doing nowadays?

Chris Troy: Well, we just completed the recording of the new album which was obviously our top priority in the last few months and we hope to have it out by spring or early summer 2015. I think you are gonna like it and I believe that it is one of our strongest albums ever.

Rockpages.gr: Would you like to elaborate a little bit on this one…? Will it be in the vein of “Sanctuary”?

Andy Burgess: It’s a step up from “Sanctuary”…obviously we have two new members in the band since our last record. Hans (In’t Zandt) and “Jaycee” (Cuijpers) have joined the band and added a new dynamic. Especially the vocals are powerful and melodic and Jaycee has helped us tremendously on the new record. We have the same melodic songs with a more powerful voice compared to “Sanctuary” and the three of us, Tino, Chris and myself, has written a bunch of classic Praying Mantis songs. I think it’s gonna be a good one. We are looking forward to its release; it’s been produced in Atlanta by the same guy that did “Sanctuary”, Andy Reilly.

Rockpages.gr: “Sanctuary” was a great record, far better than “Journey…”…

Tino Troy: Journey the band or “(The) Journey Goes On” (laughs)?

Rockpages.gr: (laughs) Journey with Steve Perry…well, they are unbeatable!

Tino Troy: Yeah!

Rockpages.gr: Now that you look back on that record, are you satisfied with it?

Chris Troy: Well, by the time the new record arrives in stores, it will be six years since the release pf “Sanctuary”. Yeah, I am totally satisfied with “Sanctuary”…I really like this record. Some bands, maybe because they have to fulfill their contractual obligations deliver new albums every 1-2 years. It doesn’t mean it’s going to be a quality product so hopefully what we have here with the new songs is a quality product because we have been working on them for the last 5 years or so to make sure it’s going to be something special. We strongly feel that this is the case with the new record.

Andy Burgess: When Hans and Jaycee joined the band, it took us almost a year to adjust to the new situation and get a proper feeling of the band. We could have easily delivered the album 2 years ago but we just wanted to make sure everything was perfect.

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Rockpages.gr: What’s going on with the singers in Praying Mantis…? Is it a curse or something?

Tino Troy: They die (laughs)!

Chris Troy: It’s difficult, you know…we thought that Mike (Freeland) was suitable for the band but…Mike did a brilliant job on “Sanctuary” but after that he went downhill…I don’t know what it was but he wasn’t up to our standards.

Tino Troy: We don’t mean to sound brutal by that’s the way it was…Mike was not doing his job properly anymore. He just didn’t have it anymore.

Andy Burgess: It’s tough out there…you have to compete with the best. Praying Mantis is proud of being strong as a unit and the vocals are an essential part of our music. With Mike we reached a certain point where we couldn’t take a further step up; maybe there was a plateau there and we couldn’t “climb” above that point. When we saw Jaycee we thought immediately that it would take us to another level. And we strongly believe that we were right with our choice.


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Rockpages.gr: Dennis Stratton is also in Greece for the Rock You To Hell II Festival. Did you have the chance of talking with him?

Chris Troy: Yeah, we saw him this morning.

Rockpages.gr We did an interview with Dennis and we asked him of course about Praying Mantis and he said that nowadays Praying Mantis is a part-time thing for you, guys, as you have your regular jobs and he works, on the other hand, as a full-time musician. Is it the main reason of not being together with Dennis anymore?

Andy Burgess: It was never a full-time job.

Chris Troy: Dennis works as a full-time musician now because he works with all these other bands, doing covers and stuff like that. He doesn’t have to work…we don’t do that kind of shows.

Tino Troy: We prefer to focus on Mantis and play the original stuff and not doing tributes or cover tunes.

Chris Troy: The original stuff is more difficult to do than covers…don’t get me wrong; being a full-time, professional musician is a great thing.

 

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Rockpages.gr: You used to be a professional musician back in the day…

Tino Troy: Yeah, back in the day…well, as you know from the history of the band we had some problems with our management and we had to stop working, after a certain period, as Praying Mantis and we short of lost the momentum, as they say. Lots of people think that we could be bigger than Iron Maiden if we didn’t face so many issues with the management. But that’s how the story goes.

Rockpages.gr: In the early 80s, it was management and later on when you had reunited and released a few records, your Japanese label, Pony Canyon, closed its rock/metal department…

Chris Troy: Yeah, they decided to fold that department and focus on various homegrown acts. But there were no hard feelings…as a matter of fact, we talked recently to the A&R guy from Pony Canyon and he still loves Praying Mantis. If he was the manager or the owner of Pony Canyon, we would still be on that label. It’s one of those chapters in the history of the band that obviously changes the path of our course.

Rockpages.gr: You know…the funny thing is that Praying Mantis is considered by many people to belong to NWOBHM but you are not really a NWOBHM band, right?

Andy Burgess: Well, I was a fan of the band in the early 80s when Mantis was obviously a NWOBHM band but then they went on a more melodic route in the 90s up until now and to be honest, I prefer the melodic route. But there are still parts in our music which is NWOBHM really. It was just a category of that time, in the 80s. After all, Praying Mantis had always more melodic element compared to the other NWOBHM bands.

prayingmantis4Rockpages.gr: There used to be an ongoing discussion in various websites debating on the subject of whether Praying Mantis is a heavy metal band or not. Do you see the band as a heavy metal act?

Chris Troy: In certain ways you could argue that we were never part of that NWOBHM movement. Quite honestly, it was like a vehicle that included many bands and we kinda get on board with that…we always had that melodic side. Nevertheless, it was a vehicle to us and it was an overall good progression for us. Sometimes, it can work against you because people may come to the shows and will be surprised by the melodic side of our songs. We are still having a good time as melodic hard rock band.

Rockpages.gr: Which is your favorite Praying Mantis record or if I had to put it better, which is the most representative album of your career?
Tino Troy: Well, most of our fans seem to say that “Time Tells No Lies” is their favorite album.

Chris Troy: That’s a very difficult question…

Rockpages.gr: Well, “Time Tells No Lies” is not the most representative record of your catalogue, right?

Chris Troy: Right. It doesn’t represent where we stand as a band but we always strive for something better.

Tino Troy: “Time Tells No Lies” was a pure rock album…not as melodic as the rest of our albums. Certainly, we had “Children of the Earth” and “Lovers To The Grave” which were definitely melodic but the rest of the stuff was more or less straightforward hard rock music.

Chris Troy: For me personally, “A Cry For The New World” represents perfectly the band…

Andy Burgess: Yeas, “A Cry For The New World” is a great album and it was actually their most successful album of Mantis’ career.

Tino Troy: “Live at Last” was the beginning and then “Predator in Disguise” followed which was really a mismatch of an album. Pony Canyon was really satisfied with how “Live at Last” turned out and they decided to book us a studio and record an album which ended up being “Predator in Disguise” although Paul Di’Anno and Clive Burr were not part of the band. The title of the record signals the rebirth of Praying Mantis…these exacts words were on the lyrics of “Children of the Earth” which was on our first album. That was the sequel, the continuation of the Mantis story but I believe that it’s not our most representative work. “A Cry For The New World”, on the other hand, elevated the band on a whole new level with a more melodic feel to it. Also, it sold well…it was our best selling album.

Andy Burgess: Lots of people cite this record as their favorite one, too.

Chris Troy: “Sanctuary” also shows exactly where we are as a band. Again, it is a melodic album but with a more modern feel, especially in the production.

Andy Burgess: Another thing is that the artist can’t really be the most objective judge of his work because he feels so closely to the songs after having listened to them so many times…over and over again.  
 
Rockpages.gr: You know, I was reading the autobiography of Rod Stewart…prayingmantis5

Andy Burgess: Did he mention Praying Mantis (laughs)?

Rockpages.gr: (laughs) not really! But what he did say was that when he records a new album, he does the “balcony test” where he records the song and then goes out to the balcony of the studio and listens to the song from a distance so as to get a different angle of the song…a more accurate and objective view of the composition…

Andy Burgess: Yeah, that’s a good trick. To tell you the truth, when we arrived yesterday and we saw our hotel room, we wanted to jump from our balcony (laughs)!

Chris Troy: (laughs) we were grumpy and tired and we just wanted to get some sleep.

Tino Troy: Yeah, five people in one bedroom…we all took a shower together (laughs)! We are a very close band (laughs)!

Rockpages.gr: (laughs) Not so close, I hope…

Chris Troy: (laughs) No!

Rockpages.gr: My favorite Praying Mantis record is “Forever in Time” and my favorite Mantis song is “Best Years”. Which were really the best years of your life?

Tino Troy: For me, personally, the best years were when Praying Mantis was coming out and becoming popular with our first record. I thought that we actually had a chance and we could make it in the big scene. In the same sentence, the most disappointing time was when we didn’t make it big with the management problems. Of course, there are those personal moments as well…when you lose friends, when we lost our father…that was a hard time. As a matter of fact, that loss of our father inspired lots of the songs on “Forever In Time”.

Chris Troy: When we did “Time Tells No Lies”, we hadn’t really gone abroad…I remember that the management was saying to us that we are doing really well in Japan! And I thought that this was strange. In 1990 when we reunited, it was really an amazing time and the people in Japan treated us in the most beautiful way. All the venues held up to 3.000-4.000 people and our shows were sold out. It was like we suddenly catapulted! We went from being booked at “bed & breakfast” hotels of the early 80s to having our own separate, deluxe room in Japan! I was pinching myself…it was an amazing time! To me that was one of our best times in our career and an inspiring period for the band, too.

Rockpages.gr: Why do you think Praying Mantis have such a loyal fan base in Japan all these years?

Tino Troy: Because the are deaf (laughs)!

Chris Troy: (laughs) I’d like to think that it is the quality of our songs and people can sing along with the big choruses of our songs.

Rockpages.gr: Do you keep in touch with past members of the band?

Andy Burgess: Well, with Facebook is much easier now…yeah, we have kept in touch with some of them. Because the band was not working as a full time thing, many singers decided to leave and do something else which was fine. So, as we said earlier, for us to retain a singer proved to be a difficult situation in the work side of things. But we are still here and we carry on!

Tino Troy: We still keep this bloody band together…that’s for sure (laughs)! 

 

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