INTERVIEW WITH MANDY MEYER
INTERVIEW AND LIVE PHOTOS BY MARKO SYRJÄLÄ
TRANSCRIPTION BY DUKE
Canadian born Armand “Mandy” Meyer was born at 1960 in Saskatchewan. Some years later his family moved to Switzerland where he started his musician career in the late seventies. Now, years later, his list of credits includes work with such names as ASIA, Gotthard, House Of Lords, and Katmandu. At present, Mandy is playing in the legendary Swiss band Krokus. Although he worked with Krokus in the early eighties (two years touring), it wasn’t until last year that he kind of returned in fold when he replaced founding member Fernando von Arb, who had just parted ways with the band. Last year was a busy time for Mandy and Krokus. There has been a lot of touring, including the bands first USA tour in a long time. Last month Krokus released a brand new studio album called HELLRAISER.This interview was done in June 2006 at the Swedenrock festival and then we had this nice conversation about the new album, Krokus tour, his past bands, as well as many other interesting topics. Hope you like it!
NEW ALBUM, NEW LINEUP AND THE PAST OF KROKUS…
“Hellraiser” is your first album with Krokus. What kind of expectations do you have for this album ?
To be honest I really don´t know? It is hard to expect anything these days. It´s hard to expect too much, maybe we have some songs that could succeed in some way. I think you have to listen to the album and make up your mind, because I think it got some really good stuff on it.
So far I’ve only heard the title track and “Angel Of my Dreams and those both really sound classic Krokus in every aspect.
“Hellraiser” is a song which is not a risk but there are songs that are really heavy and one or two songs that are like “ooh, isn´t that soft?” The album actually has a wide range of musical influences. It´s definitely still Krokus, but some of the stuff is really soft and then there´s some really fast stuff also. Krokus has always been this mid tempo band except maybe for “Headhunter”?
Before Krokus you played many years with another Swiss band Gotthard. Do you think that there are some elements from their music on this album?
Yeah, but they didn´t have so many fast songs. OK, there´s sliding and stuff, but I didn´t write all of the album. I just wrote four songs and the rest comes from Marc and the other guys. They worked so long on it and I just play guitar on it.
There isn’t too much slide guitar used on the past Krokus albums, right?
Yeah, actually there are some. In early times like on “Metal Rendez-Vous” there are some slides on it and well, they seem to like it. If you just do the other things, that´s great, but you would sound a lot like AC/DC. That´s me, they could have gotten somebody else to do the stuff. I like it, I´m not the kind of guy who comes in and imitates something, I do what I do all the time, which is influenced by some great musicians from when I grew up. I don´t like to copy this style because it fits this band, which makes it more interesting for me to do. On the new album you see a lot of my influence with a lot of fast shit and a lot of slides.
Do you know if the album is going to be released also in the States?
I really don´t know, I hope so? It is really difficult these days and we´re just looking forward better times. Hopefully this album will bring a bit of life back, it sounds really fresh. You have to listen to it, I think it´s like the old stuff, we have fast songs and Marc´s singing is amazing. Fast solos and shredding and everything and also some melodic stuff.
It has been a while since Krokus has done promotional videos and actually the last one I have seen was “Screaming in the night” and that’s from year 1982 … Do you have plans to do any for this album?
Really? Distribution shit. I think there was one made for “Rock the block”?. It got shown, but maybe not so many times so you have to make a cheap video. So you have to get away with the live stuff because at the moment you can´t spend 50 000 francs on a video like they used to. For that money we do an album! Time has changed so much. When I was in Asia, they flew me in from Switzerland to London to take the measurements for the clothes to wear in the video. It took a week to make them, most expensive clothes I´ve ever worn. But they sold seven million albums “laughs”
That sounds quite absurd in my opinion “laughs”
I know, but the funny thing is, everything gets cheaper to buy. When I was in Asia we had this synclavier, which was an amazing machine, I think it cost maybe 50 or 60 thousand pounds. Now we have Protools “laughs”
After you joined Krokus there has been one more line-up change when you got a new drummer Stefan Schwarfmann. On the past he’s been working with such names as Accept, Helloween, Running Wild and U.D.O among others. How is he now doing with you guys?
We just needed somebody kick some ass from the back “laughs”!
Stefan live at Swedenrock 2006
I have to say that when you just played some of the old songs he really brought some new, fresh breath life on those songs. Some cool double bass kick and stuff like that every then and now!
You know, I know Stefan since a long time and we´ve worked together on tours. I know he´s a great guy and a great drummer. Finally I know someone is sitting behind there! We need someone who can kick some ass and hit the fucking drums hard. When we supported Little Angels I saw their drummer and thought he was fantastic. One year later he was playing with Plant and Page. Stefan is also in this 80s direction. We haven´t been that long together and haven´t rehearsed that much because we did the album. If this band goes on a tour, after five nights it´s like WHOA! We´re all waiting for the album to come out, right now we can´t do more than what we do. The last one came out three or four years ago, that´s a long time. This year we won´t do much more, maybe five more gigs in Switzerland. We just need the new album, it´s done and mixed and everything, just needs to have a good release time. People get bored, it gets cold and dark again, they need something. Now it´s the soccer world championship and summer is a bad time. The best time for me is always February, March or the fall.
In the early 80s when you did a tour with Krokus. It must have been a great experience for you back then?
Yeah, I replaced Tommy Kiefer. It was amazing because I had been doing high school bands and club gigs. I was playing with a girl in a new age band, but I was also influenced by heavy bands like Black Sabbath. There was this phase with new age and it made sense playing this girl, but then Krokus just came along and I always liked that hard rock sound. I was never intimidated by guys going “Forget about that Black Sabbath stuff, you need to do new wave!” and we had an old drummer and couldn´t get any further with the new age shit. I did a lot of musical directions because I was searching for things.
Krokus at 1981. Mandy far on the left
Did you had an option to join permanently in the band after the tour?
No, they changed so many people all the time. I wanted an opportunity to go to the States and do something else. They wanted to do that but they wanted to be like Van Halen at one point.
I have read from some old interviews that Fernando and some other guy didn´t want you in the band because you got too much attention on press. Do you agree with that?
I don´t know, that was a long time ago. But that was stupid because today we would love to get a little notice in a magazine and back then there was a lot of publicity that was good. These days you fight for everything. We didn´t know what we had, I guess. Stupidity…?
Was it Chris van Rohr who asked you to do the tour?
Yeah, Fernando and Chris saw me playing with the new age band. They saw us a few times and asked if I wanted to try. It was great for me, I was really young.
Many years later on you worked again with Chris when he was producing Gotthard albums. About Gotthard, why you decided to quit with the band?
It was a good time, you know. The only thing was that we let ourselves be directed by outside people in Gotthard. They had great songs, but it was just a bit too tame at times. Just to give you an example, on the last album I did, “Human Zoo”, we had this producer from America, Mark Donner. He had produced The Calling, a really hip band in America. Of course he didn´t understand as an American what was happening here. He said “I want a bit of scratching on the album” and we just said OK because we were all so intimidated by this guy. You know, the title song “Human zoo” doesn´t even have a guitar solo on it. That is how far he got his power into the band. I think I like the new Gotthard album better actually. Although I´m not on it but I think it is a way better than “Human Zoo”.
FROM KATMANDU TO HOUSE OF LORDS AND MORE…
Before Gotthard you had one really interesting band, Katmandu!
Yeah… It was great!
How did it start, how did you met Dave King and so on?
Dave King has a band called Flogging Molly now, you know? I was in contact with John Kalodner, he was working with the Geffen label, and I knew him from the Asia days. He brought us together, he said that this manager had a young singer and wanted to put together a band for him. That´s how it came along, even though Geffen didn´t sign it afterwards, it was Epic Records. But John Kalodner, he doesn´t do it for the money, he loves it and he likes to help. He has a list of musicians and when somebody calls saying “I want to try this guy” he brings people together. I don´t know what he does now, but he did then and that´s how we met. We did some demos, actually James Kottak (Scorpions, ex-Kingdom Come) played on them because he had broken up with Kingdom Come. Then we got the deal with Epic and did the Katmandu stuff.
Katmandu only released that one album. How much you did touring with band?
A lot, but we never came to Europe except for England once, supporting Little Angels, which was a good tour for us, a sold out tour. We played in America, England and Japan but never came to Germany or Switzerland.
Why did you guys break up?
It wasn´t because of us, it was more because of the record company. Dave King didn´t really know what he wanted to do, he wanted to go more for folk music with arrangements from Ireland. And I just wanted to rock a bit. But I think it was mainly the record company, we could have stayed together and done more albums. I think it´s a shame, really. But that´s how it happens sometimes if you live in a big city like LA. You have so many opportunities and you might think this is an opportunity but it doesn´t work out later. You´re so blinded from left and right that it´s easier to break up or join in this city than it would be in Switzerland or Sweden, you stick more together because there are not so many distractions left and right.
I can imagine that Switzerland is such a small country that everybody who is a musician do know each other?
Yes, everybody. We have eight million there but not too many musicians…”laughs”
On the late eighties you did some working with House of Lords?
“I Wanna Be Loved” that was my song. It was a single on their first album. I was working with singer who was also working with Tommy Aldridge in a band. It didn´t work out, Tommy Aldridge and Rudy Sarzo had a band called Project Driver and it didn´t work out, so I was working with this singer, writing a few songs. This one song went on the first House of Lords album.
Did you get any royalty money from “I Wanna Be Loved”?
Yeah but not that much, maybe a few cases of beer every once in a while “laughs”
Gene Simmons produced that album and if I remember right House of Lords was the very first band in his Simmons Records label? Did you ever meet Gene back then?
I just knew Greg Giuffria, I have seen Gene Simmons once at a party and never talked to him. Giuffria was more of the connection there for me in the band. I also know Chuck Wright, he´s a really good guy.
You mentioned a band called Project Driver. Was that the same band where Rudy and Tommy had Rob Rock singing with them?
No, it was Steve Jones. I remember they did Showcases with Steve Jones singing. He can really sound like Glenn Hughes and stuff like that. He was always producing and writing songs for bands, he did a lot of work with this Japanese rock band, Loudness. They came to LA to record the albums and he was writing lyrics for them. I went to one of their gigs supporting Stryper and they had all these water guns and they were spraying everywhere. That was the highlight.
WORKING WITH ASIA, COBRA AND OTHER BANDS …
You have originally born in Canada but you have been living mostly in Switzerland and in U.S. Which country citizen you actually are at the moment?
I have a double citizenship. My father is Swiss and my mother is Canadian. But I grew up in Switzerland.
At some point you also lived in London?
London? Yeah, when I was working with Asia I was two years in there.
Tell something about your time with Asia. It must have been difficult for you to replace Steve Howe?
Yeah, but it was the most amazing thing I had ever been doing because it was so far away from everything I had done before. The guitar things they do don´t always follow through, they are just lines that go da-da-dam, da-da-dam and then nothing, you wait a bit and another line comes along. I think I learned a lot from these guys and I almost started palying keyboards at the time because they taught me about a lot of things other than guitars. I was working a lot on keyboard things for myself, because I got influenced by all this music by Geoff Downes and Rick Wakeman.
Asia at 1983. Mandy far on the right
How was it to work with Geoff Downes? I have heard that sometimes he´s not the easiest person to get along with?
Yeah, but I think that when I was working with him he was very straightforward and polite. Difficult, maybe…?
Was he demanding person?
No. It always depends on who you have working together as a team. We had a great producer, his name was Mike Stone. He´s dead now, but he made all the best Journey albums. He was a great guy who could bring people together and be creative. Geoff is a bit dry, you know, but he has the greatest sound and I have nothing to argue about that. The album I did with Asia, for that time it´s really a fantastic sounding album, really high-tech. That was in 84 and he got the sound up to date, just what we needed back then.
Now afterwards, how does that album sound in your ears now?
It´s still good, it´s incredible. It´s not a guitar album or fast, but it´s very well orchestrated. And I think the video we did had a lot of class. I still like it, it´s not too much. It´s different with loads of keyboards and that´s ok, I love keyboards, I really do.
What do you think about possible Asia reunion next fall? They apparently have some problems to do that because John Payne owns the name…?
I think that´s stupid, how can a guy own the name when he didn´t make the band big? Asia was always big because of Carl Palmer and Steve Howe. The other guys too, but not as much as Palmer, that´s a fact. I think John Payne should just say “Hey, you guys deserve the name”. This is just silly.
One of your very first band was called Cobra. Do you want to tell something more about that?
Cobra for me was very cool because I was moving to Memphis, Tennessee, where Elvis was living. Back then Elvis´s horse was still alive and I was petting the horse. Every time someone was visiting me we had to go and see the house of Elvis and in 81 and 82 the horse was still alive. It was in a movie, I think, and they gave it to him after the movie. It was white and beige, great horse. But Cobra was great because we had a fantastic singer. First when we got there we couldn´t make any money, so we did some club gigs with cover songs like Free and Bad Company. Jimmy did great on the Paul Rodgers shit, he had it down. With Cobra it was a shame that we didn´t get further, because I thought that we had it. We never got on MTV or had a big deal, because of our stupid manager I think?
Was that album ever released on cd format?
I think it was available on cd, just not a lot of copies. It wasn´t selling much in advance and I had to buy it myself, actually. I bought two of them!
Then you did one project called Stealing Horses?
It was a producer that I met during Asia. Mike Stone had enough of us and said “Fuck, this album is too much!” So they got Greg Ladanyi who had produced Jackson Brown and Toto and everything in but Mike Stone was the key how I got the job with Stealing Horses. That band sounded like Fleetwood Mac or something, totally different music. I didn´t do all the guitars, there are Steve Lukather and a lot of other great players on the album, same with drummers, a lot of great guys came in and played that shit! It was a good experience too. I was in LA and I did everything, so now I had played with Lukather on the same album, the same track but not together. Things like that were to me what I would rather do than waste time in Switzerland with some band who sold 2000 copies.
Well our time is up now… Thank you Mandy and good luch with your new album!
Thank you and see ya later.
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MORE PICTURES FROM KROKUS SHOW AT SWEDENROCK 2006