INTERVIEW WITH MANDY MEYER
INTERVIEW AND LIVE PHOTOS BY MARKO SYRJÄLÄ
TRANSCRIPTION BY DUKE
Canadian-born Armand “Mandy” Meyer was born in 1960 in Saskatchewan. His family moved to Switzerland some years later, 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 the 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 band’s 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 Sweden Rock Festival, and then we had this nice conversation about the new album, the Krokus tour, his past bands, and many other interesting topics. I 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 somehow. 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 a” Those both sound classic Krokus in every aspect.
“Hellraiser” is a song that is not a risk, but there are really heavy songs and one or two songs that are like “ooh, isn´t that soft?” The album 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 come 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, and 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 also released in the States?
I really don´t know, I hope so? It is really difficult these days, and we´re just looking forward to better times. Hopefully, this album will bring a bit of life back; it sounds really fresh. You have to listen to it, and 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 the 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 from Switzerland to London to take the measurements for the clothes to wear in the video. It took a week to make them, the 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, one more line-up changed when you got a new drummer, Stefan Schwarfmann. In 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 to kick some ass from the back “laughs”!
Stefan live at Sweden Rock 2006
when you just played some of the old songs, I have to say that he brought some new, fresh breath of life to those songs. Some cool double bass kick and stuff like that every then and now!
You know, I have known Stefan for 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. It just needs to have a good release time. People get bored, and 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 played with a girl in a new age band, but Iheavy bands like Black Sabbath also influenced me. 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 a 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 have 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 from the 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 good publicity. 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, and I was really young.
Many years later on you worked again with Chris when he was producing Gotthard albums. About Gotthard, why did you decide 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, I think it is way better than “Human Zoo.”
FROM KATMANDU TO HOUSE OF LORDS AND MORE…
Before Gotthard, you played with another interesting band, Katmandu!
Yeah… It was great!
How did it start, how did you meet 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, and 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 afterward, it was Epic Records. But John Kalodner doesn´t do it for the money. He loves it and hikes 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 did you do touring with the 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, and 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, and we could have stayed together and done more albums. I think it´s a shame, really. But that´s how it sometimes happens 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 does know each other?
Yes, everybody. We have eight million there but not too many musicians…” laughs.”
In the late eighties, you did some work with the House of Lords?
“I Wanna Be Loved” was my song. It was a single on their first album. I was working with a 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 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 Loudness’s Japanese rock band. 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 were originally born in Canada, but you have lived mostly in Switzerland, and the U.S. Which country citizen are you now?
I have 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 there.
Say 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 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 playing 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 a 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 afterward, 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 a possible Asia reunion next fall? They apparently have some problems doing 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 bands was called Cobra. Do you want to tell me 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, a 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. It was a shame that we didn´t get further with Cobrabecause 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. 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 to 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 many 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 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 luck with your new album!
Thank you and see you later.
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MORE PICTURES FROM KROKUS SHOW AT SWEDENROCK 2006