Interviewed by David Felix
Date: August 2009
After over three decades in the music industry, one of the NWOBHM’s founding fathers PRAYING MANTIS have returned to the spotlight after an over six year breather since their last studio album. With the recent release of "Sanctuary" on Frontiers Records and to critical acclaim all over the world, this band is ready to once again reclaim their title as one of the best bands the NWOBHM had to offer.
Via email, I recently had the chance to speak with "part" founding PRAYING MANTIS member and bassist Chris Troy. Here’s what he had to say…
David Felix: Hey Chris! It’s so nice to speak with you (well… kinda!) Thanks so much for taking the time to do this and welcome to ROCKEYEZ.com! Congratulations on your new release… it’s an incredible album!
Chris Troy: Firstly, we thank you for a superb review and thank you so much for making it the CD of the month.
David Felix: It’s been over 6 years since the last PRAYING MANTIS release… why so long?
Chris Troy: It is a good question!! In many ways, it just does not seem like 6 years as they have flown by. Personally in that time I have got married and had a wonderful child so in many ways I can say that it has been a successful and great period! From a band perspective, of course, we should have been more productive but we are not in the business to churn out albums for the sake of it. We believe that in that six-year period we have put together a selection of songs that are as strong as anything we have ever done…
David Felix: When did you start writing material for "Sanctuary" and how long did it take to put the whole thing together?
Chris Troy: Some of the early songs such as ‘Touch The Rainbow’ and ‘Tears In The Rain’ go back about four years. But in the end it seemed to come together very quickly. There is no doubt that Frontiers did assist so much as they were pushing us to get a product out under a worldwide deal. Over the last year about 40% of the songs sort of came to fruition really quickly and then we went off to Atlanta USA to record it!!
David Felix: Was it just as easy to come up with material this time around after such a long break between albums?
Chris Troy: Yes, strangely enough… I think having the break of that duration helped the material be different from previous albums. A little more matured, like us :) …
David Felix: Other than being the closing track on the release, what made you decide to go with "Sanctuary" as the CD title?
Chris Troy: Sometimes agreeing on the title of the album can be harder than writing any of the songs. In principle, it sounds easier enough however, the name is important as it needs to be memorable and be representative of the material on the album. After many, many ideas we all honed into "Sanctuary" as it was nice and short and sort of rolls off the tongue. In addition we thought that IRON MAIDEN might be nosey to hear it :).
David Felix: Although the cover art is VERY cool, I noticed you didn’t stick your familiar "praying mantis" mascot that adorned so many of your CD covers… or at
least that theme. Why the change and what’s the idea behind the new cover?
Chris Troy: Personally, I love the cover as it paints a deep mental picture. We did toy with the idea of more "mantis" type creatures but somehow I think we have outgrown that and we needed artwork with much more impact. This artwork, for us, hit the mark and also really compliments the music.
David Felix: Who came up with the concept behind the cover art and who designed it?
Chris Troy: It was an artist named Rainer Kalwitz. He was actually a friend of ours on the PRAYING MANTIS MySpace page. One day we were thumbing through his artwork on his site and this "Sanctuary" design just jumped out at us… although he does have some other stunning artwork. It is, of course, the head of the Statue of Liberty, but part of it is decaying which can signify a dying nation, or world, etc. The interpretation no doubt varies for each person that observes and analyses it.
David Felix: How did Andy Burgess, Benjy Reid and Mike Freeland all get recruited into this version of the band?
Chris Troy: They were not new to the situation, as in one form or another (other bands). We had played with them before and hence knew their capabilities as musicians
David Felix: How much have they influenced the band and its musical direction?
Chris Troy: I think they have certainly stamped their mark on the situation and no doubt have pushed it in the right direction. The classic MANTIS style is there but in many ways, the album seems to appeal to a much wider range of audience.
David Felix: Being seasoned veterans in the industry, what keeps you going and where do you get your inspiration from after all these years?
Chris Troy: Veterans!! :) To have the opportunity to commit the songs to CD’s or MP3’s, etc is all one can really ask for. That is inspiration in itself as there are so many great young bands out there that may never get the opportunity to do that. Hence I think we are pretty grateful to have had all the opportunities we have had in our musical lifetime. Also, I think as you live life you are constantly exposed to more things that it throws at you, and no doubt the more extreme of these become subjects of many of the songs.
David Felix: Are you please with how "Sanctuary" turned out overall and is there any track you are particularly happy with and why?
Chris Troy: Undoubtedly we are very pleased the way the album turned out and we think this is reinforced by the great reviews we have had from the press and fans. ‘Tears In The Rain’ is one of the tracks that sticks out to me because initially, it didn’t seem as though it would make the standard of the other songs. But it seemed to come through the ranks and has become one of my favorites on the album and to play live .
David Felix: Are there any songs you wish might have turned out better or would change in any way and why?
Chris Troy: Normally at the end of each album recording I sit down, listen to it, and criticize it thinking that the mix could have been better, or maybe the chorus should have been shorter, etc. But this time around unbelievably we think we are totally content!!... I know that’s almost impossibility!!
David Felix: I’m going to go back in time a bit here… After several stellar releases back in the early 80’s as well as successful tours with the likes of IRON MAIDEN, the band disappeared for almost a decade. Tell me a little bit about what happened and what do you feel could have been done to prevent losing that time?
Chris Troy: We supported IRON MAIDEN on countless occasions and no doubt there were a few occasions when we went down better than them! But they really had the edge with the great promotion etc and we knew they were destined for big things. In a naïve sort of way, we thought we could follow their triumphant trail on but then we had some terrible times with management problems and people who thought they knew the business backwards but really knew Jack Shit! Had we have stayed under the same management as MAIDEN then things may have been somewhat different.
David Felix: Was there anything positive that you learned or that came out of that whole experience?
Chris Troy: Yes we should have had our version of "Eddy" :) (referring to the IRON MAIDEN mascot.)
David Felix: After everything you went through, the industry must have left a bit of a bad taste in your mouths. What inspired you to pick up the pieces, put the band together and push all that negative crap aside?
Chris Troy: The thing is that one can often blame things on other people but we have to take it on the chin as well. I listen back on some of the early stuff and think we were lucky to be as big as we were! The goal was to drive forward and show people what we could really do and maybe after 34 years we have achieved that in "Sanctuary".
David Felix: Not only were you able to come back and put out another great release with "Predator In Disguise," but you put it out during a time when the so-called "grunge era" was taking over the airwaves. Furthermore, you continued to release albums all through the 90’s and that time period. How difficult was it to do that and still survive in an era where a lot of bands in your genre simply rolled over and died?
Chris Troy: Rock is very cyclical and I really believe it is now going through a very strong revival. Actually, I think now is one of the toughest times for competition because you are against some incredible bands. I think the talent now is at a level far beyond that which existed in the NWOBHM era.
David Felix: So what would you most like to accomplish with the release of "Sanctuary?"
Chris Troy: To get big enough for IRON MAIDEN to support us! :) …only kidding !!!
David Felix: How pleased have you been with the reviews and success it’s had so far?
Chris Troy: The reviews have been unbelievable and far beyond what we ever expected. There is definitely a great vibe in the industry about the album which we will wait to see where that takes us.
David Felix: So now for the BIG question… I understand you guys have been out playing some shows in support of the release through out Europe and soon will be returning to Japan! What’s it going to take to get you guys to play a few shows here in the states? I mean, the album was done over here at Muse Studios in Atlanta so it’s only fair, right?
Chris Troy: Yes, the album was recorded at Muse Studios in Atlanta. We had a great time recording it and the remote location we believe also helped come up with a winning formula. There are a number of "hot irons" now for the states and certainly next year, at last I think we will finally play there!! Really looking forward to that!
David Felix: Thanks so much Chris, that’s about it! In conclusion, is there anything else you’d like to add or say to your fans?
Chris Troy: It’s only recently that we have found out that our first album "Time Tells No Lies" did have more of an impact in the States than we ever knew. Maybe after this huge amount of time, "Sanctuary" will surpass that! So many of the press and fans have said that our music belongs in the States so… fingers crossed! :) Huge Thanks!!!