DATE OF INTERVIEW:
20th August 2009
METAL DISCOVERY: I think part of the Anvil movie as well is there’s interview footage with Lars Ulrich on there and various other luminaries from the scene and they’re saying what big fans they were, and all these other bands were getting big off the back of Anvil’s minor success and, of course, Metallica became huge but Anvil didn’t. Have you ever given a second thought…because you were contemporaries with Maiden and Def Leppard - did you ever think “ah, that could’ve been us if we had the right break”?
CHRIS TROY: Oh, without a doubt. I mean, there is this famous story where we were actually supporting…I believe it was Mötley Crüe at Hammersmith, and we had a couple of promoters coming down, and it was a special night, and things were going really well for Mantis at that particular stage. There was a musical management company…I think it was called Leber and Krebs…Peter Mensch from Leber and Krebs, and he was invited down by our management company, and he actually flew over from the States. They said they wanna sign a band as part of this NWOBHM, and they were really interested in Praying Mantis, so they came to see us and they said “well, we really like the songs, really like the material and everything, but we think it needs a couple of changes including a keyboard player, and maybe an actual front man” which we actually thought we did need at that time. But the management company said they came to us and told us a different story, that they weren’t really interested. We actually heard this through the grapevine afterwards. But we would’ve gone with it. You know, had Leber and Krebs said “look, we want you to have a front man, you know, do the songs you’re doing and maybe get a keyboard player too as it’ll add some depth to the music”, we would’ve said yeah. But the management company said “no, they’re not really interested” and they went away. They had all that money, literally half a million to invest in an English band, and they went up to Sheffield and signed Def Leppard.
(Chris Troy on what might have been if Praying Mantis had better management)
"...the management company said “no, they’re not really interested” and they went away. They had all that money, literally half a million to invest in an English band, and they went up to Sheffield and signed Def Leppard."
PART 3 BELOW
PART 3 ABOVE
Praying Mantis onstage at Bloodstock Open Air, Derbyshire, UK, 15th August 2008
Photograph copyright © 2008 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com
Interview and Photography by Mark Holmes
MD: So you could’ve been Def Leppard! You could’ve been headlining the Sunday of Download this year! Wow!
CT: [laughs] We supported Maiden about 140-150 times in total, and there were times when we blew them off stage. We were going down at least as good as them as a support band and a couple of times better.
MD: Yeah, I guess that’s the greatest challenge as a support band, particularly supporting someone as big as Maiden, however big they were then…blow ‘em off the stage and prove your worth.
CT: Yeah, but I mean you’ve got to take your hat off to them. You know, it’s not just them. The management, the way it was managed, and this whole aspect of the Eddie thing, it worked superbly, and look at them now. Even now, they’re growing to bigger strengths, aren’t they.
MD: Yeah, of course. Bruce Dickinson rejoining a few years ago obviously helped!
CT: Yeah, I think that was fundamental. I personally believe that had he not joined they would’ve actually died a death.
MD: Well, they went from arena venues in this country to playing Brixton Academy a few years ago and Rock City in Nottingham with Blaze Bayley - you know, like a two thousand capacity venue, and that’s not what you associate with Maiden! I think they were still massively popular abroad, but as soon as Bruce left, people over here turned their backs on Maiden a bit which is why they turned their backs on the UK a bit and don’t play many lives gigs here anymore. But definitely, yeah, you’re right, Bruce was fundamental I think.
CT: He is. He is the pinnacle. In a way, I know they were doing quite well at that point but when Bruce joined, it then started catapulting them to success.
MD: You’ve already mentioned about Paul Di’Anno and Dennis Stratton being part of your lineup at one point - were, or are, you ever worried that the Maiden connection to your band will overshadow what you’ve achieved in the past and set out to achieve in the future? You know, like people saying “oh yeah, Praying Mantis, isn’t that the band who had people from Iron Maiden once” kind of thing.
CT: It’s a very good point, and a good question. Sometimes…funnily enough, we recently, in fact today, I was chatting to an American promoter who wants to get us over there to play a few shows. He did mention…well, he said “is Dennis still in the band?”. I said “no, he’s not now actually”, and he said “well, I think you need to if we’re going to do these shows because of the Maiden connection.” I said “well, let’s forget about it”. We have to be what we are, you know. We are Mantis. We are not Mantis with an ex-Maiden member. So I think that typifies that question. We have had that; a lot of that. Maybe we’ve been our own worst enemy in as much as we’ve had Paul Di’Anno, we’ve had Dennis Stratton, and we’ve also had Clive Burr.
MD: Oh did you? I didn’t realise you had Clive Burr at one point.
CT: Yeah, Clive Burr was one of the first drummers Maiden ever had.
MD: Yeah, on the first two albums…actually the first three as he was on ‘Number of the Beast’ as well.
CT: He was, yeah. So he joined Mantis for a few years but I don’t think it was a case of Burr and Stratton at the same time.
MD: Yeah, half of Iron Maiden!
CT: [laughs] It would’ve been! But I suppose that’s what I’m saying. For some reason we supported them so many times, there was that almost incestuous type thing! [laughs] You know, if they left Maiden, or were sacked from them, it was almost like we were a natural dumping ground for the ex-members! It sort of became like that.
MD: You never ended up with Bruce Dickinson though!
CT: [laughs] He’s welcome! He’s welcome to join us! [laughs] But saying that, Mike Freeland does look up to Bruce Dickinson, but Mike’s done a really, really good job on this album.
MD: Definitely. Yeah, he has an incredible voice with a very good range. What kind of stuff do you listen to as a fan these days?
CT: Er…I know some people say they listen to everything, but I do like this sort of music. There’s a band called Fair Warning.
MD: Yeah, they’re on Metal Heaven I think. I had a promo through recently.
CT: They should be on Frontiers now, thinking about it. I think they’ve split, and I think they’ve reformed now. They’re a really good band. You know, really melodic, strong, good players. I do like them. There was another band recently…Evergrey are good.
MD: Evergrey, yeah, they’re a Swedish band.
CT: Yeah, they’re very, very good. And there’s another recent one I’ve heard - ColdSpell. Have you heard of ColdSpell?
MD: ColdSpell? That’s a new one on me.
CT: It’s only recently I heard them and I thought they’re a very good band. Quite young, I think, as well. Funnily enough, even Threshold…I don’t know if you’ve heard of Threshold?
MD: Oh yeah, I saw them in Holland last year at ProgPower, and at Bloodstock a few years ago at the indoor Bloodstock. Yeah, they’re a good band.
CT: Do you know who was singing with them at that time? Was it Damien?
MD: Not at Bloodstock. I think it was the second Bloodstock, so that would’ve been 2002. It wasn’t Damien then from memory. It was Damien in Holland last year though.
CT: Right, because Damien was in our band as well.
MD: You’ve had everybody!
CT: [laughs] We’ve had more singers than you’ve had hot dinners! [laughs] It’s a huge list! There was this thing that Pony Canyon did about twelve years ago, I think it was, called ‘Demorobilia’ and they asked Tino if he could do this family tree of all the members we’ve had and where they came from…
MD: On an A1 sheet of paper!
CT: [laughs] It could fill a wall! It was quite incredible. When you look at it, you think good god when you look back at all those years, and the number of members that we have had.
MD: Maybe that’s some sort of world record or something!
CT: Yeah! Funnily enough, this lineup now, touch wood, is relatively stable. We’ve had this lineup for three years now…three or four years.
MD: My final question - for people reading this interview who have yet to purchase ‘Sanctuary’, why should they rush out immediately to buy the album?
CT: I would give them their money back if they don’t like it! [laughs] I think it covers sufficient areas; I don’t think it’s too samey. Sometimes, you can listen to an album and it can be too samey. I think there’s enough diversity in there, and some good, really melodic hooks. Even the ones that are reluctant to buy it, they’ve come back to me and said “Chris, honestly, it’s a really, really good album.” It means so much, obviously, but hopefully I think people will be relatively pleased with it.
MD: It’s had such good reviews, so that’s the best press you can hope for. Hopefully you’ll find a whole new audience out there.
CT: Totally, thank you very much indeed.
MD: Well, thank you very much for the interview and your time. It’s been great speaking to you.
CT: No problem, I enjoyed it. Alright Mark, you take care.
Official Praying Mantis Website:
Official Praying Mantis MySpace:
PRAYING MANTIS DISCOGRAPHY
Time Tells No Lies (1981)
Throwing Shapes (as Stratus) (1984)
Thanks to Sonia Waterfield for offering and arranging the interview.
Thanks to Chris Troy for his time.
Live At Last (1990)
A Cry For The New World (1993)
To the Power of Ten (1995)
Captured Alive in Tokyo City (1996)
Predator In Disguise (1991)
Nowhere To Hide (2000)
The Journey Goes On (2003)
The Best of Praying Mantis (2004)