Singer Marc Storace was originally born on the Island of Malta in 1951. At the age of 19 he moved to London while he was trying to start his musical career but only one year later, in 1971, he ended up in a Swiss band called TEA. Together they released three studio albums and toured a lot, mostly in Switzerland but also in U.K and other European countries. In 1976, Marc moved back to London and formed another band called Eaze Money but they never make it big time. A few years later in 1979 Marc was invited to join another Swiss band KROKUS and things really started to change. The band sold millions of records during their “heydays” in the early eighties and up to this date they are still the most successfull Swiss band of all time. Albums like HEADHUNTER, ONE VICE AT TIME and HARDWARE are highly praised hard rock classics. Unfortunately things started to go bad at the very end of the eighties and after several line up changes and some less than successfull albums the band broke up in1989. After the breakup in the early nineties, Marc did several projects and albums with such names and artists as China, Glenn Hughes and Amen. Althought the band did a brief reunion and one studio album in 1995 things really started to roll again in 2003 when KROKUS released their highly acclaimed ROCK THE BLOCK album which went directly to number one in Switzerland and did quite well in the rest of the world. Then, after two very succesfull years of touring and the release of another live albun FIRE AND GASOLINE, lead guitarist and only remaining founder member, Fernando von Arb surprisingly decided to leave KROKUS. Against many expectations the band decided to carry on and they hired old friend Mandy Mayer ( ex -ASIA, Katmandu,Gotthard) , who used to play in KROKUS in 1981, to be their new lead guitar player. At the moment, in the sping of 2006, KROKUS are once again in the studio putting the final touches on the upcoming studio album which should be out in the upcoming months. I met Marc in Stockholm last December and here are the results of our long and interesting discussion about the past,present and future of Marc Storace and KROKUS.
INTERVIEW, LIVE AND OFFSTAGE PICTURES BY MARKO SYRJÄLÄ
TRANSCRIPITON BY DUKE
THE EARLY DAYS
Before you joined Krokus you had a band called Tea. How was it to be in a hard rock band in Switzerland in the 70’s?
Very difficult! We were very progressive and avantgarde. We were ahead of our time doing complicated progressive rock. C´est la vie “laughs”
You also did some gigs outside of Switzerland, like in the UK?
Yeah, UK and all the way up to Germany, Hamburg, and even Wales, Scotland and went to Belgium, France, down to Italy. Actually that was the most extended tour compared to the whole Swiss scene. We were pioneers, you know! Like the Vikings discovering America before Columbus.
How much did you know about Krokus before you decided to join them?
Not too well. We were doing the last tour with Tea and we took Krokus on the road with us with Tommy Kiefer and Chris von Rohr was singing. We got to know each other backstage, partying and smoking big joints “laughs” That’s as how far as we knew each other. We didn´t actually meet apart from this tour time. Then I got a phone call. We did have a connection, they guy who managed them was also working in the record company for Tea. His name was Harry Sprenger and he worked for Phonogram/Philips. We were on the Vertigo label. He was the guy I met in London after leaving Switzerland after Tea and he got us connected again.
What is your honest opinion about the very early Krokus albums?
When they asked me about joining them I asked them to send me their albums and demos of songs they intended to do in the future. They were writing songs and wanted to go on tour and then make an album. I received everything and I thought it wasn´t so professional and the singing….. Well, I agreed that they needed a new singer! Song material wise I thought it sounded quite naïve but I thought they were a good band and that this kind of music could take another form.
When you released your first album with them, METAL RENDEZ-VOUS, did you have any idea how big the album was going to be? I mean it went into triple platinum in Switzerland!
We had no idea. I just did it because I thought Krokus would be able to be on the road for the next ten years, but I didn´t think it was gonna be that good.
One year later you released second album HARDWARE. It was your first world wide success album and you did your first US tour. You also had lineup change when Tommy Kiefer decided to leave. What memories do you have from that period overall?
Well, it was sad to see Tommy go, but we were having lots of problems and they became worse. The last thing that made us decide was in Scotland where he came on stage for soundcheck with an untuned guitar, already drunk and fell against stuff. We were going to the USA and we gave him a final warning. He was a much bigger friend of the other guys in the band since he was there from the beginning. So when they decided that his time was up, I really thought that was it. Then we took Mandy Meyer and Mandy was working out really well. But then the whole jealousy thing started happing in the band, which was something really new for me. For me, if the band gets pictures in the press it´s good publicity, helps sell albums and gets us more work. But other guys in the band looked at it a different way, from an ego point of view. They were not too happy with Mandy being in the band and taking all the attention. So we had a problem there and Mandy never recorded with us despite the great tour we had. After the tour Fernando called me from Switzerland and said “We found this guy (Mark Kohler), and he´s really great! He plays for my wife´s band…” and he became our new guitarist back then “laughs”
Fernando was more like old friend of Mark or…?
Mark Kohler? Not really, he was more his wife´s guy. (laughs) Her name was Bertha Pierra, from Copenhagen actually. Mark´s the kind of guy you have to like. He´s an easygoing guy, does his job well, he calmed me down when Mandy wasn´t there. He was in the band for quite a long while.
Is it true that you were asked to join AC/DC at that time?
No, that was before. That was before HARDWARE, in –80 or –81.
Did you ever do proper audition for the band?
No, it never went that far. It was just when we were having a production rehearsal in Switzerland and some guys drove down from Birmingham with our new light show. One of the guys from Birmingham asked me and I said, “No, no, no, no, I´m happy here! Krokus is going places, why should I want to fill someone else’s shoes?” I am me and I had a chance to be myself in Krokus. It was the early days of AC/DC so there were no millions flashing in my eyes. “Let´s get him and offer him a hell of a lot!” It was none of this. Krokus and AC/DC for me were on the same level. They won the race! (laughs)
Anyway your next album HEADHUNTER did succeed very well and it went platinum in the US. It´s still your best selling album to date and at the same time it’s the heaviest album you’ve ever done. Why do you think it sold millions while you other albums didn’t? Do you think it was because of the massive success of “Screaming in the Night” or…?
Could be, could be. I think it was the mixture of all things, the videos, MTV was beginning and we had two great videos for “Screaming in the night” and “Eat the Rich”. It was a really nice time, I remember, creatively. We put in more of the theatrical aspect of the band in the live thing and the videos as well. We had this big production on stage with a castle and a portcullis and the way we dressed when we started the whole “Road Warrior” thing. Actually we copied it, but it was new in the whole rock band thing. I don´t know if we even started the skull and crossbones thing. The pirate thing, we started that when Fernando was dressed like a pirate and I came up with the idea to paint half the face as a skull and put it on the back with the guys´ names. That was copied again. It was a pioneering stage, like a second wind that came. METAL RENDEZ-VOUS was the first big change after the first three albums and then HEADHUNTER came, that was another change and then with THE BLITZ, too fast, you know, the another change. We were on tour with Def Leppard and the record company wanted to make a Def Leppard album with Krokus.
I agree with you on that thing. By the way, where did you film the video for “Screaming in the Night”?
San Francisco, on a beach in this very old first world war fort, a big massive fort. They had guns there for protection and those are probably still there today? In the background in the beginning when you can hear the wind, you see the Golden Gate bridge.
At that time you had another line up change when drummer Freddy Steady decided to leave?
Yeah, that was also very tragic and sad thing for us…
Do you remember which bands did you play with on the HEADHUNTER tour?
I´m not sure if we played with Judas Priest… No, the HEADHUNTER tour we played with Def Leppard and then we headlined and we took Gary Moore with us. That was before he became so big and Ian Paice was playing drums so I was watching the show every night “laughs”
Probably they had Neil Murray playing bass then?
MARC: Neil, yeah! And Don Airey on keys, it was a really nice team. We used to meet in the bar. With Judas Priest, we toured before and probably afterwards again. The big stuff started with Sammy Hagar and the tour with AC/DC.
Next album, THE BLITZ, as you mentioned it came out too soon and in my opinion it´s a bit too commercial. How much you had external pressure when you were writing that album after the huge success of HEADHUNTER?
Yeah, we had two different pressures. First to write songs as good as HEADHUNTER and then to write songs that were more commercial sounding, going more into the Def Leppard thing with double refrains sometimes, you know, they have two choruses that really get the crowd going. Then the production, when you think of the people we worked with, Bruce Fairbanks and Bob Rock – Metallica. When you listen to THE BLITZ you think, “Huh? Were these guys sleeping?” It´s really not that kick’s ass. The sound is not beefy and it´s not gritty enough!
They tried to put you sound more like Def Leppard?
“Laughs” Not even. Mutt Lange is a great guy, great producer, but nobody can afford him.
Founding member Chris von Rohr left before album was finished. How much that affected to you as a band and what were the reasons behind his decision to leave?
Chris left before album was released. He had to leave because we had a psycho going on in the band at that point. He left after the Def Leppard tour. That´s what success can do. We were kicking ass and had the best album we ever did in our world and suddenly we´re compared to the biggest guys. “Why can´t you be like this?” Hey, come on, I am me. Let me be myself. This also screwed up Chris´s head a little bit and he had big clashed with the management and the whole thing started to go crazy. Chris was getting crazier and had to stay at home. He showed up at this big festival we were playing in Dortmund with all the biggest bands like Def Leppard, Ozzy, Judas Priest and Iron Maiden and we had to put Chris on the next plane home. We already had another guy there and Mark Kohler played bass that night. It´s all on video. Everybody has this in Germany.
Things got even worse after THE BLITZ. When I talked with Fernando some years ago he said that CHANGE OF ADDRESS was your biggest mistake in your whole career. Do you agree with him on that case?
Yeah, I agree. But you have to remember why it went in this direction. I think you could take the songs on THE BLITZ and CHANGE OF ADDRESS and go into pre-production and rearrange and produce them again in a way that is similar to the HEADHUNTER style and attitude and they will be totally more acceptable to our world. But we went away from what we are. With HEART ATTACK we tried to get back. Then we had missed the train because grunge was here. Hello grunge, bye-bye heavy metal!
Actually Chris decided to come back to the band prior HEART ATTACK release?
Yeah he did, for a while.
How did that work?
He was very quiet. He kind of learned a lesson I guess?
You did a tour for HEART ATTACK and it was becoming your last tour back before you split up. Did you guys know what was going to happen sooner or later?
Yeah, we went back to the States and did another tour. The whole feeling of the tour was like trying to save a sinking ship. There was no sunrise on the horizon because heavy metal was going down. The last gig we did was in New Orleans with Iron Maiden and they were all depressed. The hall wasn´t sold out and they knew we were gonna split up. It was in the air. We had been doing this for eight years and we needed a break.
LIFE AFTER KROKUS AND GOING BACK AGAIN…
Well, when Krokus finally split up at 1989, what you did after that?
For the first half year I went back to my island home where I was born and grew up, Malta. My mother was living alone and I spent time with her. I had an American girlfriend with me who took my brother´s place. I just went through this personal tranquil period after eight years of mayhem, trying to think of what to do next and thinking about new things more in a pop-rock direction. Then I teamed up with Vic Verca who was an old friend from the Tea days. He was actually in a rival band called Toad. We always met and played Beatles songs for hours, just dressing room jams for fun. He agreed to work with me on my first solo album. What came out of it later on was that the material was so good and we got so many compliments that we should both call it our album, because he was starting to have a problem about the album being called Marc Storace. So I said, “Ok, let´s call it Blue”. So the Blue album was born but the infrastructure around it was too weak to give it the backing that this type of band would need. It was re-released later on. But in the meantime while I was doing this I met my present wife. I got married, had a family and got together with people like Glenn Hughes and did the Amen albums and got together with a local Swiss band called China who had a song called “In the Middle of the Night”. That went gold and the whole album went gold in Switzerland, so they asked me to do this special guest tour and we released and album called MARC STORACE AND CHINA ALIVE. Then I did the second Amen album and kept getting involved in things. Short projects, thinking “if it takes off, it takes off”. If you do nothing, you get nowhere. If you do lots of things and can balance it out in your whole life then you´re always working, otherwise you spend too much time waiting and you´re not creative. Your whole chemistry keeps working in this way and when you´re needed for something you can focus much quicker. It´s a whole good exercise. There was other stuff I kept doing.
In 1995 you did a re union and one brilliant album “TO ROCK OR NOT TO BE” with Krokus, but that thing didn´t last too long?
No, because it was the wrong time. Althought album was really strong and it did well in Switzerland, it was too tough to tour and to go out and leave Switzerland. Freddy (Steady) had kids, Mark (Kohler) had kids, I had kids and there was too much in the balance just to get in the bus and hit the road.
What you did between years 1995 and 2000? I do know that there was another Amen album released but there must have been something else too, right?
There was another Amen album and there was some re-releases, China and the definitive collection of Krokus. Then I did this special project, “Rock meets Classic”, with this baritone singer. This guy is big as a house with a voice like thunder. It was a really good experiment. This was at a time when a lot of other fusions were happening.
In year 2003 you finally decided to give another try for Krokus. If I’m right, Fernando tried to get you back a couple of times before that?
Yeah, it took a while before Fernando had decided that he really wanted to do something. In those three years before I had been in the studio writing, preparing for another solo album. I came to a decision to call him. I could try to go alone again, and that´s not easy, and at the same time Fernando was trying without the original singer so it made sense to join forces again.
Krokus in backstage at Swedenrock 2003
Did you ask Chris von Rohr or any other ex members to rejoin Krokus at that point?
No we didn’t.
Do you still have your own solo band active?
We have never disbanded, we just never got back together because I was so busy doing allthe other stuff. That´s always kinda in the air. I´ve had a few gigs with two different bands but the same guitar player, Charlie. I even recorded the vocals for ROCK THE BLOCK in his studio with him behind the desk. Charlie also plays in the trio Acoustical Mountain. We have a tenth anniversary next year and we play a lot of personal favorite covers. I think it´s a good project to chill out from the other stuff I do. I do a lot of things, some hidden things. In another movie I wrote another song with Doro singing it.
That sounds cool. When it is coming out?
The film will be released in April I think. There are all these things coming out in the spring like “Handyman” and the other is called in German something like “About a Warrior”. Doro is acting, she has a nice part and I got the part of the medicine man. It´s cool, I enjoyed that. I even talked! We wrote a good song and that will be released as a separate single.
Have you ever heard Krokus albums, “Stampede” and “Round 13”, which they did with other singers?
“Stampede” is brutal and I don´t really like the vocals. There are no melodies there. I think with brutal music like that you need that. The other one, “ROUND 13”, is unmentionable. To be honest it’s a piece of crap. Songs to make you cry “laughs”
In my opinion some of the vocals are horrible on that album…
Well, I don´t like anybody putting down… (laughs)
Tell me something about collaboration what you did with the American metal band Warrior?
It was one of those things. We released ROCK THE BLOCK, it went straight to number one in Switzerland and suddenly the phone rings. “Hey, we want you to sing on our album! This is a project where you don´t have to tour.” Then you´re not gonna sell any albums, I said, but they said “We don´t care”. It was really Joe Floyd, he´s a producer, he´s an engineer, he plays guitar for fun and he really didn´t care. So I said, “Ok, I´ll come, let´s have some fun and let´s not care!” I didn´t care either. The main thing is Krokus and that´s it. We really did it having pure fun and I think sometimes it´s good to do things with this mentality because the result can be very surprising.
Warrior album is probably the heaviest stuff what you have ever done, I think?
Was it difficult for you to sing such a heavy stuff?
No, not at all. I have an aggressive side to me like we all do. For this album I was allowed and even encouraged to let out the beast, let out the animal. But the lyrics are all positive. The lyrics are against the dark side. There´s more a feeling of torment and agony and pain in the whole thing which is actually expressed in a more extroverted way rather than the bluesy way that I do it in Krokus. For me, Krokus is in the middle. On the left side, there is Warrior and on the right side you have Biss. For me I had the freedom to expand and I think that Krokus can benefit from these experiments and me personally as well.
THE FUTURE OF KROKUS ?
Well then some things about the future of Krokus. Have you already written some stuff for the upcoming Krokus album?
We have recorded one song. It´s going to be released first on a movie called “Handyman”. It´s a comedy movie by this Swiss comedian called Malcolm Reamer who is also big in Austria and Switzerland. He has starred with the people who do “Wochenendshau” and he´s been in a couple of other films as well. He´s very popular and he never stops joking. He´s born for this part. The song is called “Hellraiser” and it fits in the film. We have a small part in it where we get smashed in a limousine.
What kind of direction does that song represent in your opinion?
I think the direction is typical Krokus with the METAL RENDEZ-VOUS and I would say HEADHUNTER influences. I think why it has a touch of METAL RENDEZ-VOUS is because Mandy Meyer has a touch of Tommy Kiefer, a bit of slide and a slide guitar was never heard in Krokus after Tommy Kiefer. Now you hear it again. We even did it live on the whole US tour, it was nice to add something extra, a little bluesy stuff. He can play aggressively as well, so it´s cool.
In 2004 you did some writing sessions for the upcoming album with Fernando. Are you going to use any of that stuff?
We´re not sure? We thought we´re definitely gonna use at least one track but then Fernando started putting some pressure on what tracks we were going to use and I don’t know how we remain. But we got enough tracks without Fernando to be able to do a whole album – even two. Now we´re just doing this gig and the next task is to sort out the material we have, finish them, write some new songs and maybe in the end of January we´ll go into the studio.
How about the record company? Do you still have a record deal with Warner in Switzerland?
No, because Warner packed up in Switzerland. It doesn´t exist there as a record company anymore, only for DVD’s. The chief of Warner is now the chief of Gadget Records and we are with Gadget, so we´re still with the same guy. We still have the same manager and we even have the same promo lady who worked with Warner. Obviously the budget is not the same, but the return is bigger and I think it´s nice to be a horse in a stable where you don´t have internal competition. More focus and a more personal touch, you know. Obviously we have to expand again because in America things went wrong with the record company so we have to see how to deal with that. But we have time. This is being done while we´re in the studio, the manager is taking care of the rest of the stuff. When we release in spring, it just goes out.
Marc and Fernando at stage 2003
Well at the end I have to ask if there is a possibility that you and Fernando would still work together at some point in the future?
I don´t know. It´s not my goal at the moment.
But there is a possibility?
I don´t know. We´ll see which way the wind blows. You have to find yourself with somebody before you can work with them. Right now I´m working with Mandy and it sounds good and the stuff the other guys are doing is sounding good
Ok. Good luck with your new album and see you later on the gig!
Thank you and see you later.
Marc says HELLO to all Metal-Rules.com readers !!!
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MORE KROKUS PICS FROM SWEDENROCK KICK OFF PARTY AT DECEMBER 2005