Chris von Rohr of KROKUS
INTERVIEW AND PICTURES BY MARKO SYRJALA
Switzerland’s most successful hard rock band of all time, Krokus, are back with their new album DIRTY DYNAMITE. The new album presents Krokus at their best. It’s all about bluesy hook-filled hard rock performed by the classic line up of the band: vocalist Marc Storace, guitarists Mark Kohler, Fernando von Arb and Mandy Mayer and bassist Chris von Rohr. The band enjoyed large international success in the early 80’s. During that period the band released such classic albums as ONE VICE AT TIME, METAL-RENDEZ VOUS and HEADHUNTER but later on the band went through several personnel changes and slowly their popularity started to vanish. The classic line up announced re-union in 2008 and the band released album HOODOO in 2010. It’s been five years since the reunion and as said earlier the band is now back with DIRTY DYNAMITE. Krokus performed at Sweden Rock festival in early June and there I was able to sit down and discuss various topics with bands founding member Chris von Rohr. Read on!
Metal-Rules.com: Let’s start with the new Krokus album DIRTY DYNAMITE. You have stated in many interviews that this album marks the true return of Krokus and it puts the band back where it belongs. Would you tell us what you actually mean with that statement?
Chris von Rohr: You know you talk with the founder of the band? What changed this? I look through these guys and from HEADHUNTER it went downhill. So, one day I came and said, “Let’s put that band back on the map”. Really, let’s go back with the original, let’s go back with three guitar and bring Mandy back as well. And it was very important thing when we were doing that last album, DIRTY DYNAMITE. It was going back to… it was about to really going back to the original Krokus stamp, like riffs like, “Better than Sex” or riffs like “Hallelujah Rock’n Roll” that’s the typical, that’s what the original brand of Krokus is about.
Metal-Rules.com: Bluesy hard rock.
Chris von Rohr: Yeah, exactly. So, we took almost a year to do that album. We did record it in Abbey Road studios. It took a long time to write and finish the album but at the moment, wherever we do rehearsing or a show, there’s are big smiles everywhere around. I was a long time in this band but I never saw the band happier than now. So, you are going to hear it tonight and on stage you’re going to see smiling faces. It’s great, it’s really great. The ingredients you need, like Fernando and me who basically build up this whole band in the beginning. It’s just the pizza has now all the spices again. Before there was already one spice missing, now it’s all, even the fucking pineapple is on it. So, it’s great.
Metal-Rules.com: You’re definitely right about the sound and elements you have on DIRTY DYNAMITE album but the previous one HOODOO wasn’t bad either if you ask from me?
Chris von Rohr: Yeah, but something was a little bit missing with HOODOO because it was made shortly after our comeback. We had to do it pretty fast and we couldn’t grow up so fast, you know, we had to really find the relaxed way of doing songs. So, that’s the typical thing. Off the HOODOO album there’s one song “Hoodoo Woman” in the live set and off the new album there are four songs. And not just because it’s new but because we like to play them. We had the wrong drummer still on the album but now we have new drummer who is really kicking ass and that means some fresh oxygen to the band. So things are slowly coming together. Mandy Meyer was not on the HOODOO. So, it was a good album, I like it, but DIRTY DYNAMITE is really what it’s all about for Krokus. We can compare it to the big four. For us the big four albums are METAL RENDEZ-VOUS, HARDWARE, ONE VICE AT TIME and HEADHUNTER. That’s the big four, where we play the songs from. All the other songs, there’s always something missing, a bad chorus, bad bridge or not interesting enough riffs. So, now we are starting to melt songs to get the ultimate set. And that’s how the whole band feels and it’s going great.
Metal-Rules.com: Mandy actually rejoined Krokus during middle of DIRTY DYNAMITE sessions. What made you decide to have him back and have three guitarists in the band?
Chris von Rohr: He’s the melancholic guitar player, more than just a lead player. He is that guy when Fernando is more like Chuck Berry or Angus Young type of solo player. Mandy is more the lyrical and… You are going to hear it tonight, it’s totally another style how he plays. And nowadays, it’s like when Buffalo Bill went tour with his Indians. Everybody sees, he brought the new Indian, he brought some new attraction. So, nowadays you cannot just stand there and then that’s it. You have to give people some extra, like what Survivor did when they now had a second singer on stage with them. So, you have to bring to the people something new and Mandy was already at Krokus once…
Metal-Rules.com: Actually he’s been in the band twice?
Chris von Rohr: Twice, exactly. And he just fits in great.
Metal-Rules.com: Mandy, he’s currently also a member of the band Unisonic. Don’t you are any worry about possible overlapping schedules in the future?
Chris von Rohr: Yeah, yeah. But that is not like something… it’s not going to be a problem for us because Unisonic is not too active band. So, that’s okay and it keeps him fit and ready. Mandy is now really important piece of the band and I wouldn’t play without him to tell you the truth. It just came together so nicely. The Krokus line up we have now is the best ever. There is no doubt about it.
Metal-Rules.com: It was actually Unisonic’s Kosta Zafiriou who played drums on DIRTY DYNAMITE. At some point, did you say that you’re going to use only session/touring drummers in the future but now you have a new permanent drummer Flavio Mezzodi in the band. How did the story unfold?
Chris von Rohr: I don’t remember an interview where I ever said that we don’t want a steady player. We were just… Of course you go for a session drummer if you don’t find the right man but if you find the right man then things will change. This guy is coming from Solothrum, where Krokus is from, he knows the songs and we all get along with him so good. It was just a decision to do, you know, we even had the Helloween drummer coming to tour and jam with us but we had to say sorry to him.
Metal-Rules.com: I think he was too different of a drummer for Krokus?
Chris von Rohr: Yeah. We found that out already fast, although he tried to adjust to our style. But it was a clear and fast decision to go on with Flavio. If we jam, if we do new songs, whatever, he’s just the right man. There is never going to be another drummer in this band anymore.
Metal-Rules.com: Freddie Steady left the band some time ago. Apparently there must have been some problems with him for a long time because the man did not even play on the HOODOO album?
Chris von Rohr: The problem with him was that nowadays the drums are like no other instrument. And I think that playing drums is nowadays more physical than it was before. And with a 60-year-old, you need to get really, really fit, stay in shape and the problem with him was he had to do other 100% job somewhere else. And he didn’t want to stop that for Krokus. So, we said, “Sorry, we cannot have somebody who has a 100% job to play with Krokus, there is no way.” So, that was basically the reason to let him go but we are very happy that this happened because otherwise we wouldn’t have met Flavio. So, we are going now forward with Flavio Mezzodi and he’s the right man for us.
Metal-Rules.com: I also learned that you have plans to get back in the States after a long, long break.
Chris von Rohr: Yeah, yeah. We are going to go there at the end of year. First we do American cruise titled 70 TONS OF METAL and then we go for a couple of dates in the States too. We’ll are planning to go there but sometimes the problem is you cannot go there if they can’t pay you, that’s the problem. We’ll see but at the moment it’s planned that we go there.
Metal-Rules.com: When was the last time you toured in U.S. with Krokus?
Chris von Rohr: Yeah, it was I think when… It was in the early ’90s or something like that.
Metal-Rules.com: You were away from the band for a long time and I was wondering how much you followed what was going on with Krokus during your off time of the band?
Chris von Rohr: If you found a band and if you see your baby going down a course of bad management, of lots of wrong decisions, wrong style, whatever, you are not very amused. I was shocked in a way. And it hurt a little bit at first but then I have to go my own way and look for myself. And then I was working as a producer, doing Gotthard and doing all these other things. So, for me it was actually an advantage to do that. Because so I could learn a lot as a producer, song writer, this and that. And for me, I had a television show, I had a radio show. For me it was like, in the beginning I was shocked and I was very sad. But then suddenly it turned out to be an opportunity for me, which I never thought is going to be happen. So, and then suddenly when I see these boys going down that much. I said, “Hey, how would it be to bring back that band to a level where we can really ride into the sunset and say, “Hey. We deserve that.”” Because we made such a long way together. This band deserves to end on another level. That’s what we think then started and it was five years ago basically. And I don’t regret it, it was very important to do that.
Metal-Rules.com: I think it’s really great that the band is now back together and you have managed to sort out all the personal issues you had in the past.
Chris von Rohr: I tell you. We all learned about that and now on every rehearsal you see the whole band smiling. It’s never been like that before. It’s working now even if we have the long bus rides. There is a conversation, there is a respect for each other. Everybody’s learned their lessons, life has taught us a lot. So, that is unbelievable. Now it’s like a really friendship whereas earlier it was just like a business and work… It was just job and there was some asshole attitude there. Even Marc Storace has changed a lot to be good. He’s much more down to earth now and he sees the reality more. Because singers are always a little bit LSD, “lead singer disease” “Laughs” So, there’s some true brotherhood in the band now. What can I say? It’s a good for us all and we are really very thankful that this could happen again.
Metal-Rules.com: So, once you decided to get back together, what kind of goals you did have in mind? I mean, how many years might this continue on and things like that?
Chris von Rohr: There was no speculation. We just came back together and said, let the music do the talking. Let’s see how much fun we are going to have, how much… At the age we are, you just take year by year.
Metal-Rules.com: Or from day to day?
Chris von Rohr: You go from day to day and everybody’s day is healthy and fine but you cannot make plans too long. The driving force behind this reunion was the moment when we plugged in again and played together. It was the real spirit on this band. It was really coming back the way we had it in the ’80s. We remember that spirit, we lived it out, we toured and that was basically the glue which was holding us together and it bring us back to do two more albums. It’s easy to stay the hell out of recording studios, not to write new songs and all that stuff. You know, it’s easy to go on a stage and just play your old classics but we think that the band is only alive if they do some new stuff.
Metal-Rules.com: It’s great that you are not just a nostalgia act playing the old stuff.
Chris von Rohr: No, we don’t like that. I’m very glad that with the new songs like “Hoodoo Woman” or “Hallelujah Rock n’ Roll” or “Better than Sex”. These some new additional spice to the set. And I always wanted that in the end for me career, I would like to release the ultimate live album. I know the name already, it’s going to be called LONG STICK GOES BOOM. It’s going to be the ultimate Krokus live album with the best songs on it.
Metal-Rules.com: To be honest, the live album from the late 80’s, ALIVE AND SCREAMIN, it wasn’t that great release…
Chris von Rohr: Sure, you tell me.
GOTTHARD TALK AND THE LAST WORDS
Metal-Rules.com: You’re also known from working with the band Gotthard. Would you tell something about it?
Chris von Rohr: Yeah, yeah. I was working there as a producer and songwriter for 12 years, this is a long time. So, we built it up the band from zero basically. And in the beginning it was very hard, you come from nowhere, you have no name, nothing. We toured a lot and it was great to work with Steve Lee and all their excellent team. In comparison to this direction, it’s a more of a melodic kind of music when I was producing because of his strong voice, but yeah, it was just great. But I produced as well some other bands, not only Gotthard. But you probably don’t know them…
Metal-Rules.com: Some bands from Switzerland?
Chris von Rohr: Yeah, yeah. But do not forget that I already co-produced many Krokus albums. I was also the guy who had the idea for the HEADHUNTER album cover. I also wanted the two cars on the cover of METAL RENDEZ-VOUS. I was already producing, designing and helping the band in the studio. So, for me that was just the next step to produce foreign band not a Krokus itself. So, I always co-produced sometimes with Fernando and sometimes alone. And that for me was like a natural thing to do.
Metal-Rules.com: I have to ask about Steve Lee, how you reacted when you first heard about his death?
Chris von Rohr: It’s life, and sometimes you don’t understand it, it’s just like… you never know but I would have never expected that’s what would happen. And still today, when I meet Leo and people in the band. They still say “What was that?”
Metal-Rules.com: So, how do you like Gotthard’s decision to carry on with the new guy?
Chris von Rohr: There was no other choice. If people like your songs, you go on. What can you do? You cannot stop. I think it’s a good decision but of course it’s never going to be the same anymore because the band was built around Steve’s incredible voice. Jon Lord said it right once. “There aren’t no other singer in the world in that style who sings like him.”
Metal-Rules.com: Okay, the last question is about the Dee Snider thing… He’s not been talking too friendly about Krokus in public recently. What is your version about what happened back in the day?
Chris von Rohr: To tell you the truth, we even don’t want to comment. Because it was ridiculous, it was basically a management problem. We of the band, we have nothing against him or his wife. I’m going to smoke something or drink something with him in two weeks in France, this is going to be a way. And we see each other in five minutes but it’s a press thing. It’s… Because it was so long ago and we may have all been a little crazy then. But I think it was about the payment from the management, and the management was not treating his wife with respect or something like that. We didn’t know about that.
Metal-Rules.com: No, it wasn’t your fault.
Chris von Rohr: No, no. I tell you. With everybody who is nice to us, we are nice to him. We are just a basic band and we know how to treat people right.
Metal-Rules.com: Okay, 20 minutes. This is great.