MARC STORACE (KROKUS) INTERVIEW:
June 25, 2010
Websites: www.krokusonline.com – www.myspace.com/krokusonline
Interviewer: Ruben Mosqueda
Krokus has been a staple on the hard rock scene for over thirty years, and 2010 saw the release of one of the Swiss band’s most consistent efforts Hoodoo. Reuniting the classic One Vice At A Time lineup, Krokus and vocalist Marc Storace have successfully recaptured the sound of the band’s glory years. In this exclusive interview Marc Storace talks about how the reunion came together, the pain of having to disband the Hellraiser version of Krokus and how it all went wrong with Change Of Address.
Sleaze Roxx: I’ve had the opportunity to interview you a few years back when you released the Hellraiser album.
Marc Storace: Right, that was 2006.
Sleaze Roxx: It doesn’t seem like that long ago, but it has been about 4 years.
Marc Storace: That was another era before the big reunion of the originals from 1982 — the One Vice At A Time album to be precise.
Sleaze Roxx: I was going to ask you, how long after you completed the touring behind the Hellraiser album did you reunite with the Krokus guys again?
Marc Storace: Actually it was during the tour, which was the longest Krokus tour of Europe to date — the Hellraiser tour with my loyal younger buddies. I got this phone call from my personal manager Roland Eggli and he said, ‘Swiss television wants you’. I said, ‘is this a joke’ and he said, ‘no they want the reunion of Krokus originals for 3 minutes’. I said, ‘yeah and what’? He said, ‘it’s the greatest Swiss hits TV program which will be a three part series and it’s going to be nationwide and they want a three minute medley from you guys if you are still alive and kicking’. So it was a medley from Metal Rendez-vous and we performed to a really enthusiastic and hysterical studio full of fans, and the next day the media all over Switzerland was hysterical too. Thanks to this it also broke the ice and we managed to reach a formal gentleman’s diplomatic (laughs) kind of friendship again and it was obvious then that we had to take this further.
Yet I had my boys to worry about, Hellraiser, and we continued to tour, and before the reunion got really serious, I started to get impatient — kind of thinking, I know the guys are already rehearsing and I’m not sure I want to go with this. But to cut things short, I said ‘guys we need to have a jam. I need to see if you guys can still do it after all — how it feels, and we can only reach that by having a jam together’. So I went down and we went through the paces and it sounded like magic. It sounded like fast rewind to the beginning of the ’80s. Then I knew I had to tell my boys the sad news, luckily they took it very good, and we ended up hugging each other and they told me they understood. Because this was like the beginning of a new chapter, and probably the last in Krokus history. So I was relieved and I could focus on the reunion and we all started rehearsing for a big reunion concert which happened in 2008, at the Stade de Suisse to a sold out audience of 10,000 that turned up and celebrated the reunion of the originals. It was so magical and so emotional that it kind of propelled us into the future.
Sleaze Roxx: I recall years prior to this reunion that you had made an effort to get together with some of the original members, and that for whatever reason, it didn’t work out. Is there any fear on your behalf that this may turn out to be short lived? I know you mentioned when you talked to your previous band, the guys that you had in Krokus, that it was pretty sad for you to deliver the news that you were getting back together with your former bandmates and that this was going to be the last chapter. Do you have any fear that this won’t work out for whatever reason as it didn’t before?
Marc Storace: I don’t think anything will go wrong with the way the situation is now and everyone is highly spirited with the new album Hoodoo doing so well. It was released here and went straight to number 1, then to gold and now to platinum a couple of weeks back now. I guess only illness, sickness, tragedy or death can part us at the moment, that is the way I see it.
Although as I said, with the Hellraisers, the younger guys, they were loyal to me and we had a great time and their musicianship was really up to par — very good musicians. It was still not the original chemistry around me and the only guy I could relate to, or the only guy that could relate to my emotions regarding Krokus, was actually Mandy Meyer, the guitar player who had toured with Krokus in 1982 — replacing Tommy Keiser who had to leave the band due to totally excessive drug abuse, he couldn’t even tune the guitar anymore, and later on succumbed to his addiction.
So anyway, I had Mandy with me and when you are on a tour you are kind of alone with your mates. You are enjoying your night lives and hotel stops and doing the gigs and life is great, but you need company which goes a little deeper than just a couple of years. So I used to reminisce about the older days, the ’80s, and every time I thought about the older days I always reached 1983, the year of the Headhunter, which was the zenith — the best year for Krokus so far. Number 24 in the Billboard charts and a part of the biggest tour of the year together with Def Leppard, who were selling their best album in my eyes, Pyromania, and they were at number 2 right below Michael Jackson with Thriller doing the moonwalk every night (laughs). This was a great year for music in general and we were part of it.
So I used to reminisce about that and when the reunion happened, sad as it was having to tell my new team goodbye — but as I said even they understood that. So it made me free, and freed my spirit, that I was not hurting anybody and that I was actually doing the just thing because this is now the real Krokus with the real Krokus sound, writing real Krokus songs again. With the same spirit back on the boat because people in general get wiser as they get older, but basically they don’t change.
Sleaze Roxx: As you mentioned, the reviews for the new album have been pretty consistent in terms of people liking what they hear. In your opinion how does the new album measure up to some of the classic stuff? I know you threw out Headhunter as one of the stand out moments in your career, but there are other classic albums that you guys have put out. How does the new album measure up — both in the song writing department and also in the production value to some of the classic stuff?
Marc Storace: Important question, yeah. I would say the new Hoodoo album — we went at pains to try and deliver songs and the production that would hold against the first four albums since my debut album, which was Metal Rendez-vous. That was the first album for me with Krokus — so we had Metal Rendez-vous, Hardware, One Vice At A Time and Headhunter. Out of those four I would say the most influence you will hear in Hoodoo is from Metal Rendez-vous and One Vice At A Time, and maybe Firestar the last track on the album — it’s a speedy track and the only track with double bass drum on it is symbolically a tribute to Headhunter, although it’s pretty much different.
In general, on Hoodoo, I personally don’t go out of my way seeking to put screams all over the place — I’ve done enough of that (laughs) and I didn’t think the songs needed that. There are certain songs that demand that and other songs don’t. The general motto within the band, within the songwriters especially for Fernando Von Arb, Chris Von Rohr and myself, was keep it simple. Less is more and that is why the songs breath and the notes are well placed. We were using less notes, but well placed notes and beats and the right chords, and not too complicated — simple, fresh with air. There is breathing space there and the songs live. They really fit in with the earlier days. So basically, although Headhunter was the biggest ever selling album in the Krokus repertoire, and that was also thanks to our USA fans because they were really hot on Krokus — that is why we toured there so long. In spite of that, Headhunter is only representative of I would say one song, Firestar, on Hoodoo.
Sleaze Roxx: Which brings me to the question how did you guys settle on the title Hoodoo for the album?
Marc Storace: That’s a long story. I’m trying to keep my answers short (laughs) but some stuff needs some explanation. Hoodoo to start with, the song, was a demo which our new manager Jan Bayati handed us and said ‘guys, what do you think of this, what do you make out of it?’ This was during the songwriting period. Chris handed it over and said ‘come listen to this’ and we listened together and I thought ‘funny song, kind of cheesy’. He said ‘wait a minute let me play it to you again’, and he played it again. After that he said ‘what do you remember from this?’ I said ‘well Mama was a Hoodoo’ and he said ‘that is it. You hit the nail on the head. This demo has a great chorus!’
Chris, being the producer of Hoodoo with all respect, because he has put in a lot of producing mileage since Headhunter into his career. I said ‘yeah you’re right. It’s catchy, it’s great. It’s got a certain mystery about it to’. Hoodoo — what is Hoodoo anyway? Then I looked into Wikipedia (laughs) and I found out it is something close to voodoo. So this really fits into our repertoire because we used to spend so much time down in New Orleans, a great town to party in and let your hair down when you are a band on the road, from six to nine months on the road as we used to do in the ’80. And I said ‘that is great but the rest of the song is some damn cheesy’ and he said ‘let’s rewrite it and keep the chorus’ so I said ‘ok, go for it’.
So that is how it came about and then over the following weeks — when you are writing you hear songs hundreds of times, you do the demo then you do the production. In the end everybody was one voice, let’s call the album Hoodoo because it’s not voodoo (laughs) but it sounds so mysterious and it really fits to the band. It’s got a touch of humor in it and a touch of a mystery in it at the same time. So it’s rock n roll, let’s go with that title and that is what we did.
Sleaze Roxx: Obviously you guys have been consistently touring in Europe, whether it’s the newer Krokus band and the reunited Krokus band, but what about doing anything in terms of North America? Have you guys had any plans to do that? Obviously there are probably always plans, but is there anything waiting in the wings in terms of potential tours, or at least appearances in North America? Now there are some various different festivals occurring here, not as big as in Europe, but nonetheless there is still an opportunity for the hard rock bands from your era to play live.
Marc Storace: First of all I’m really happy to hear from lots of interviewers that the rock scene, especially the revival scene from the ’80s, is getting back on its feet and we as a band really hope we are so linked. In the ’80s we spent so much time touring the USA than any other place on this planet and we enjoyed it, and we owe our US fans a lot. We even gave them more than we gave our own European fans, although rock n roll has no flag… no boundaries. It was just because when we landed in the USA we felt so free, we really felt this is the land of freedom. No borders, no changing currencies going from one state into the other, or any of that — every place had a Walmart (laughs). So it’s so much easier, you can relax on tour.
Here you are stuck at the borders and they come on board with the dogs and they want to check if you are smuggling anything. Whether its equipment or drugs or whatever, it’s a hell of a situation anytime you go from Germany to France. Although nowadays you don’t change currencies because we either have the Euro, and the borders have lightened up because of the European unity… European union. I guess you also know Switzerland is not a part of it yet. So we stay with Swiss Francs, so we have to change to Euros when we leave Switzerland which is ridiculous. Anyway, I’m no politician so I don’t understand certain things.
America, North America, gave us so much and we would like to give it all back and come back and party because the party spirit is so free there. You really realize when the weekend comes and when it’s Monday (laughs). We would like to be a part of it again and at this point I would like to make a plea to more old fans, drifties like me and our young fans because in Europe we have been seeing fans up front from 14 years old upwards… I guess it must be the same in USA. All I ask in the band name of the band Krokus, please support us, don’t resort to downloading the piracy way, the illegal way. The reason is simple. You are going to make it impossible for us to be able to finance a US tour if we don’t have the resources. It is as simple as that. So please, the album is there in your country now, it’s just been released a couple of days ago. Go to your next store, buy it, hold it in your hands, listen to the CD, go read the booklet, appreciate the artwork — because we went to pains to make it look good and sound good. Chris Von Rohr produced it and Dennis Ward, an American like you, engineered it and Krokus is a part of America. You made us. We spent 8 years touring — blood sweat and tears and having big parties with you in coliseums, arenas and the like. We would like to have another go while we still can and I tell you, we still can.
Sleaze Roxx: I think you make a good point in terms of how one particular action such as downloading trickles down and has a bigger impact overall. Especially for a band like yourselves that is based out of Europe and can’t tour the US because people are downloading copies of the CD and aren’t buying, which then you can’t promote elsewhere outside of your home land.
Marc Storace: That’s it! Germany and the rest of Europe is only a bus ride away. But to get to the USA we need to ship all that freight and then there is airline tickets and even these days the permission we need from your government to come over. That is also a big paycheck gone. So there are a lot of things, so there is no way we are just going to come blind folded at the risk of making a loss. Those days are over because things have changed, like you said — we are no longer in the ’80s, we are in 2010 and in the meantime it’s not just blues, jazz, classical and rock we are talking about. In those days it was still classical and soul but today you have techno, rap, house, you have so many other divisions of music which are all demanding to split the same dollar which means budgets are very low and nowadays for example, record companies and record labels don’t support tours like they used to do. We used to get tour support in the ’80s and that helped pay the crew and the bus and hotels and so on and so forth. Because we are not as big as Led Zeppelin or AC/DC we really have to flip the dollar before we give it away.
Sleaze Roxx: Thinking back to the career you have had with Krokus. Is there a particular event or album you think was somewhat regrettable at this point in your career thinking back.
Marc Storace: Yeah I guess Change Of Address for me was my nightmare era within Krokus. In my humble opinion we had the wrong producer for the album. I said that in the ’80s and I got shit for having being so open about saying it but I’ll say it again (laughs). We had the wrong producer and basically it might not have been his fault either. We had the wrong commands from the record company too. Because already for The Blitz album, which we recorded in Canada with Bruce Fairbairn and Bob Rock who now produces bands like Metallica. We did The Blitz album and that has a few good tracks on it, not so watered down as Change Of Address. Change Of Address became like ABBA. The production had no balls — talking to you in rock n roll language.
Although most of the songs were pretty good. I wish one day we would have the luxury of — I know it will never come — but to re-record the whole album or maybe a few songs with the same attitude we have today. Because then those songs would really stand on their feet and they would sound like Krokus, but Change Of Address did not sound like Krokus at all.
I even know other bands go through these problems. Even Led Zeppelin had albums that didn’t sound like Led Zeppelin anymore and then there are other numerous other bands who go through these problems. It is the changing of the times and changing of attitudes and people around the band and moods. Change Of Address was very bluesy and there were some good songs there but we were told to lighten up and keep things more fresh and more polished and think Top 40. How can you think Top 40 when you’re most successful album reached 24 in the Billboard charts and sounded like Headhunter (laughs)? So the change came too fast and it really broke our legs. It was the end of Krokus. We gave it the last try by taking Chris Von Rohr on board and Dani Crivelli on drums and really putting the balls back in Krokus. But you know how it is, once you make a mistake it takes a few years to put things right and by that time grunge had taken over. We as a band were burnt out. I threw in my towel in Boston on the Heart Attack tour, at the end of it. I said ‘guys, goodbye. It’s over.’
Sleaze Roxx: I thank you very much for taking some time to answer these questions and we will get it up on the website and I hope to see you in North America sometime soon.
Marc Storace: I hope so. Let’s keep our fingers crossed and hope the Gods of Rock and spirits of our old fans in the USA will buy the CD and make everything possible for us to fly out there and do a great tour.
Sleaze Roxx: Without a doubt I hope it happens and take care. We love the album and best of luck with the rest of the remaining interviews you have going on.
Marc Storace: Thanks very much. I’ll look out and try and catch the interview on Sleaze Roxx.