Interview and live pictures by Marko Syrjala
This interview comes out a little bit late, but it’s still up to date because the band releases a brand new double live album and DVD called “Fire and Gasoline” at the beginning of next year. I managed to catch legendary guitarist and founding member Fernando von Arb backstage after their brilliant show in Sweden Rock this summer. Enjoy!!
EDIT: THIS INTERVIEW WAS ORIGINALLY ARRANGED AND RELEASED IN 2003
This is the first time you played at Sweden rock, and you just finished a show in front of thousands of people. What kind of response did you get from the people?
It was very good, very relaxed. People are friendly, and they seemed to love it. They seem to love it, but you know? I have only seen my way from here to the stage and back about a million times. So this gig was a very positive thing for us.
So are you going to see any other bands here tonight?
I definitely want to see Whitesnake. I want to see a bit of Jethro Tull because of the old days, and I wanted to see these guys (referring to Queensryche on stage at the time of the interview), but…I have no time! (laughs) (Laughs)
You’re a too busy man!
Yeah, I’m a busy man.
This is the second or third time when you reunited with vocalist Marc (Storace)?
Yeah, actually, this is the second time because back in 1995, we made a reunion with the whole band, so it wasn’t just Marc (laughs)
And then you did the album “To Rock Or Not To Be” and also some touring.
Yeah, but the drummer and one guitar player and Marc, they all had little kids, and they didn’t want to tour outside of Switzerland. We only played in Switzerland, so I said, “Let’s stop again,”.. but NOW the drummer and the guitar player are still living the normal Swiss life – they are not playing in bands, but Marc said, “I’m ready. Let’s go for it! I can still sing like…whatever.. “and that is absolutely true. I think he is better than ever. So we got together again and made this “Rock the Block” album, and then BANG! It went to Number 1 in Switzerland in one week, and we were very happy with that. We needed to do it now or never. We could not wait ten years. We had to do it now. So that is what we are doing now. In 1995 we had half of a reunion, but it was only half-hearted.
But “To Rock Or Not To Be” was also a solid record from you then!
It was a great record! I wanted to go and play and play, but they didn’t want to go abroad, but now is another time, and that is why we are here. That’s the reason. Some people want to go and play, not everyone.
A couple of years ago, there was a Krokus album out, called” Stampede.” The record was released under the name Krokus; even it was more or less just you and some other guys?
Well, it was not like people left – it’s just that we did so much playing non-stop in America from 1980 to 1988 that people got burned out. On “Stampede,” I played bass. Everyone wanted to do other things, and it was a mistake to call that album Krokus. It should have been called…
Fernando von Arb?
No, no, something… metal-ish, something else? That’s why I stopped that formation because I knew it was not the right thing. You see, I was basically waiting for something like this to happen. I actually planned to go on with another singer because I wanted to go on and play. But then the phone call came from Marc’s side, you know, and he said he would be ready to do this now. We were discussing it, “Is this a full tour? Is this REALLY going to happen?” And he said, “Yeah! So, ok, let’s do it!
Before Marc called you, they’re still released another album called “Round 13”. The album had another singer and another line-up. What are your honest opinions of that record?
Well, It was a very weak album with a horrible mix. We had rough mixes that were much better, and this English engineer made this sound that we could not accept. Even before it came out, I said, “Forget it. This is just not happening.” This new album is self-produced, and it can be heard. We just let us show ourselves. Let’s not have other people turn the soup.
I guess that when you and Marc are together, you don’t need a producer. There’s no need for that.
You know, we don’t need a producer, but sometimes it is good to have an outside person who is feeling the rock from here (points down) and not from here (points to his head). Yeah! From the balls! When you start to think about it, something goes wrong. Rock has been like Mick Jagger says. It never has to be secure. It has to be dangerous. There always has to be danger in it. Never make it too sure. Not too clean. Leave it open.
I like the new album a lot. It’s brilliant musically, and the production is terrific. If you had to compare it to the older records, what would you say?
We all feel as a band that this album should have come after “Headhunter” and then onwards. We cut those years out…snip! (laughs) And that’s the way we feel. We play songs from “Metal Rendez-Vous” to “Headhunter” and then this one again. That’s the way it is! (laughs)
Well, maybe you would like to cut out the making of “Change of Address”? What happened to the band back then?
Could you not ask me about that? (laughs) In briefly. Lots of money, Hollywood, producer, lots of powder…it was all bullshit. It was too clean, and we said, “That’s it.” Even the demos of this album (Change of Address) sounded really good, but the final product was horrible. We wasted a lot of money on that shit. It sounds like the clean floor in the palace of a king. It was just too clean.
What was the point of making “School’s Out” then? (Alice Cooper cover)
Yeah, ask me who an idea it was is? It was the record fucking company’s idea. That’s who’s the idea it was. No, forget it. We were forced to do it, and we hated it.
So if I understand you right, your record company pressured you into making a record like “Change of Address” because they wanted you to have softer and more commercial sound?
Yeah, they wanted us to be a hit band!
You were not the only band who made that mistake back in the mid-eighties. For example, Saxon tried to change their style to be much more commercial, and so did many other groups. But they mostly failed.
Yeah. That is the worst thing you can do as a rough rock band. You clean out everything and cut the balls away, and that was the end of it. All of us were., “No, no, no, no!” For me, all the alarm signs were going when the record company guy said, “You have to take the edge off Marc’s voice.” And I was…. (makes alarm bell sound and laughs)
CHANGE AFTER ANOTHER
After “Change of Address,” you did the album “Heart Attack.” It was a lot better album than its predecessor, but there was still something wrong with the band?
Well, I was burned out and not really in tune, in truth. BUT, we still play ‘Rock and Roll Tonite” on every gig wherever we play! Some people don’t even know the song, but they like it. You know it’s a big sing-along (sings a bit of the chorus), But we are not playing anything from “Change Of Address,” so maybe that answers your question (laughs).
Damn, I was hoping to hear “Hot Shot City” or “Hard Luck Hero”! “Laughs”
I’m sorry to tell you, but it will not happen (laughs)
I understand. So you decided to break up after that album and tour?
Well, everyone kind of walked different ways because we were just tired. We were tired of the whole thing. Everyone had a rough year. We were always on tour, all the time in America. We just wanted to go home, eat European bread, not wonder bread! (Laughs)
How about Chris von Rohr? (original bass player and a founder member) You never asked him to rejoin this new Krokus line-up?
With Chris…yeah. He is kind of the local rock guru on the radio and this and that, and we are more of band guys. We don’t want to go to the champagne. (meaning media events) You know, that whole scene. We love to party, but we are a playing band. We don’t want to give too many interviews in these family magazines and all that stuff. I don’t want to be a star. I want to be in a band. I don’t give a shit about stardom. I want to be in a band, but he’s a totally different person. That’s why we are not working together.
BITS AND PIECES
What is Chris von Rohr is doing nowadays besides producing Gotthard albums?
He is not doing that anymore. The last album he was not in.
Well, Gotthard is an entirely different type of band to Krokus.
Yeah! It’s that particular type that the Germans like. We are more of a Blues-oriented rock band. That’s why we are different. You know we haven’t worked with Chris for years now.
And there are no plans to work with him in the future?
Well, he is doing all these ballads with, I can’t remember that name, and we are…” Bleah!!” We are a dirty rock band, and that is what we want to do! So there is no need for us to work together.
Ok, how about the music scene overall in Switzerland. What other bands are coming from Switzerland besides Celtic Frost and Gotthard?
We have some bands from Switzerland that are successful in Germany, like Shakra and Crystal Ball. And then we have all these bands that play this German rock, German metal…
Do you mean that power metal stuff?
Exactly. It’s not too much my cup of tea kind of stuff. (laughs)
Speaking of Krokus. What are some of the future goals of the band?
Goals? To have good gigs! And then good songs and later good albums. That’s the thing!
Do you have any plans ready for the next year?
Oh yeah! We have got an album, or a live one or a DVD, something like that. We are recording every show in Switzerland on a multi-track.
Ok. Our time is up now. Thanks for your time, and see you next time!