KERRANG! issue 10 MARCH 1982 – CHRIS WELCH
LIKE a spring flower pushing through an ice wall of indifference, Krokus fought long and hard for recognition, and have bloomed into a band unique among power rockers.
Prophets without honour in their own country, the Swiss band with a Maltese lead singer have won friends and allies throughout Europe and America, and now even the Swiss are beginning to recognise their home grown talent.
Krokus have won through on the strength of their music, which impressed British fans way back in 1 980 at the Reading Festival, and since then they have been accepted on equal terms with the heavyweights. There is no denying the importance of singer Marc Storace in the saga of the band. Known as ‘The Voice’, Marc, who lives in London, joined them in 1978 and brought vocal qualities to match giants, like Plant or Gillan.
And yet Marc is of remarkably diminutive stature, a small curly headed man who gives the impression of being vague, and easily distracted, and yet manages to rivet the attention, He talks in an erratic series of anecdotes and vague thoughts about the world that invariably ends in a smile and cry of “What was I saying?”
Marc, the man who bellows his way through the suggestive ‘Long Stick Goes Room’, the opening cut of Krokus’ new album ‘One Vice At A Time’, and can be seen baring his teeth like an irritated tiger on the cover, is a mild mannered, cultivated, and sophisticated and a far cry from the frothing ago maniac I half expected as I searched for his lair in Streatham,
Somehow I envisaged a man shaving with a broken bottle, repairing a motorcycle in his bedroom, and living in a squalor of empty beer and baked bean cans. Instead Marc Storace, painter, fisherman and squash player, inhabits a neat, tidy flat, tastefully decorated with antiques, where he drinks the odd glass of wine and extols the virtues of keeping fit.
Admittedly we drank rather more than a glass of some rare Sainsbury’s vintage, during a long free ranging conversation that touched upon everything from Maltese politics to the art of using a harpoon gun, but Marc seems able to cope with most of life’s challenges, except it seems, ego tripping rock stars, Krokus had a of a brush with Shakin’ Stevens recently, and they were not impressed with old Shaky as Marc imparted with some scorn.
In case there are some among you who know not Krokus and think Fernando Von Arb is a First World War airship pilot, it should be explained he is the group’s excellent lead guitarist, supported by newly joined Mark Kohler on rhythm guitar, They are backed by Chris Von Bohr on bass and Freddy Steady (drums), whose real name is probably Count Zeppelin von Stronheirn.
Their history goes back as far as 1974 when being both Swiss and heavy metal was voted the combination most likely to arouse hoots of derision. Swiss kids gave their own band very little encouragement, but they struggled on producing their own albums ‘Pay It In Metal’ and ‘Painkiller’. They had a few changes in personnel and Chris Von Bohr decided to concentrate on bass and give up lead vocals in favour of new boy Marc, He had met the group while
supporting Krokus in another Swiss band Tea, Since then they have recorded two albums for Arista, ‘Metal Rendezvous’ and ‘Hardware’, and toured extensively but in Britain and America, are about to tour most of the known, civilised world and Marc was busy lubricating his throat with tea and honey, after an energetic game of squash, when I arrived to probe the mysteries of Krokus. “Sometimes people talk tome and my mind is somewhere else,” he warned as he juggled with a recalcitrant gas fire, and turned up the volume of an old Rolling Stones album. As soon as he was in one of his periodic states of distraction, I turned down the gas, and the volume, “I always hope I haven’t offended anybody,” he prattled merrily, “especially when I’m tired after a concert and trying to do an interview. My mind goes yoga!”
I ATTEMPTED to steer him onto relevant Krokus topics and he roared with laughter and explained to me in great detail how Maltese hotels are supplied with fish, and also aired his theory that fish are naturally friendly towards mankind, and are hurt and annoyed by our constant attempts to eat them. I had to insist. What was Marc doing in Switzerland in the first place? “Oh I was just seeking peace of mind and a band. I was living in London for a long while and found everything so hard — to keep a job and a band.” After Marc joined jazz-rockers Tea in Switzerland for a while, he gave up and came back to London. “It was because I HAD NO MONEY!’ He suddenly began singing, and it occurred to me the fully vocalised interview might be the next craze to supplant roller skates and video.
“THEN CAME KROKUS — AND I DON’T REGRET A S-I-N-G-L-E DAY!” sang Marc. If only there had been a drum kit to hand, we could have got a passable jam session going. But he reverted to plain speech to explain that Krokus had a great sense of humour. “They are crazy — just over the top. Yet the Swiss are not known for their sense of humour, anymore than for being hard up or oppressed. I suppose once life gets too easy, there is no point in getting up in the morning. There is nothing to try and achieve.
Marc’s eyes suddenly glazed over, and he began to tell me about his recent skin diving exploits off the Maltese coast, when he caught a fish that weighed ‘‘half a ton”. I gave up and listened to his exploits for half an hour or so, then during a suitable lull, asked when he had first taken up fishing. Sorry. SINGING. Mr Storace confuses the mind wonderfully.
“Oh, I was 14 when earned my first couple of quid for a gig. I thought if I could do a support, then I could go on to be a headliner one day. I’m talking in Maltese terms.
“Basically I was a rock singer, and started off doing ‘Lucille’ by Little Richard. I used to love that harshness in his voice, and I was into soul a lot as well, I liked Wilson Pickett and Otis Bedding, God rest his soul. There was a whole variety of songs I liked, until Deep Purple released ‘Hush’ and THAT switched I on another light in my head,”
Sure there was no fish involved in all this? No — right carry on. It transpired that his first band was called The Boys and they changed their name to Cinnamon Hades as they beefed up their music. “I loved that aggressive rhythm behind the vocals. I was also into The Who, and Alvin Lee — the fastest gun in the west!”
When he was 20, Marc decided to leave the holiday isle and come to London in search of work and opportunities as a heavy rock singer. “I wanted to work and take it seriously, get on the road, tour and play with a huge PA system to THOUSANDS of kids, y’know? And I wanted to be appreciated because I wasn’t appreciated by anybody down there in Malta, and the band is not appreciated by everybody STILL. But there is a bigger percentage of positive feedback now. I’ve never experienced such a great change in my life since I joined Krokus, Everything has escalated and got better all the time.”
But Marc admits that Krokus have only just come out of a period of owing large sums of money, and album sales aren’t likely to make them all millionaires. Their main interest is improving the music and reaching as many fans as possible.
“Life has never been as exciting for me as it is with Krokus, I love the whole thing, whether it’s traveling on a bus or singing on stage.’’ How had Marc developed his
“Well, if you listen to Metal Rendezvous I think my voice was slightly softer then. It has evolved and I can’t really say what direction it’s gonna go.”
MARC thinks he is most influenced by the music of the band, in particular the guitar work of Mark Kohler and Fernando Von Arb, He conceives of some mysterious physical force that seizes him by the throat when the band starts playing, over which he has little control, “You can’t describe it, except to say it’s like a mysterious energy that comes from the
metaphysical plane and into my body. ‘It’s almost like being a medium, conducting the energy and using bits of it, There is much more energy in the band than comes across on the album, That’s just nine songs. But we are a band that can jam along for hours.
“You need to, be physically fit to stand the strain of rock singing,’’ he vowed. ‘l don’t smoke, except for the occasional . . Hargh, hargh, hargh.” He suddenly broke into a coughing fit and rolled his eyes. I couldn’t imagine what he meant by his demonstration. “Even that is being phased out nowadays, I drink the occasional glass of wine, but generally I’m a tea addict,”
By the time we had finished the occasional glass had turned into a bottle and our conversation became more and more disjointed.
“Tea, lemon and honey •. . oh great, It fills me full of life again,’’ said Marc rolling on the floor in the direction of the wine bottle. “I wish they’d learn how to make a bloody cup of tea in America,’’ he bellowed from a prone position, glaring up at me, “They don’t let the bloody water boil,”
“Terrible, terrible,” I muttered sympathetically, allowing the sparkling Sainsbury’s to gush down my throat. “By the way,” I said, “I’ve been meaning to ask you something, ever since I got here. Look here old man, who are you
Meanwhile Marc (for that was his name) was still complaining about the Americans, “The average British housewife can boil water and make a cup of tea. WHY CAN’T THE AMERICANS?”
It was the kind of tragedy that could make strong men cry, but I urged Marc to continue talking about the mysteries of his vocal chords, for the benefit of all fascinated Kerrangl readers. “I’ve never had any trouble with my throat, thank God, I wet the sheets once.” I recoiled somewhat at this information, but he explained that he had been suffering from a high temperature and had been covered in sweat. Even so the show had gone on. ‘The doctor would give me a jab up the bum and I’d go all funny, and drowsy and slow, and then I’d goon stage and that’s when THE FORCE of Krokus re-enters the body. It’s something from outer space I think. It’s the same feeling you get when you practice karate. You can smash your hand right through solid objects.’’
Musically speaking; both Marc and the rest of Krokus are all self-taught and have little idea how their technique has been developed, except in terms of practical experience. “I just compress the air in my lungs, and POW — it all comes out like a lizard’s tongue. Have you seen how fast they can catch a fly? That’s how fast you need to shoot out the air through your vocal chords. But the moment I start to analyse my singing, that’s when I’ll start to go backwards. If you can do something yourself, why the hell take lessons? It will only hinder your natural instincts.”
WAS Marc surprised that Krokus could achieve a breakthrough in Britain, in view of the competition? “Well, Switzerland has no credibility as a rock source, although it has some great venues. It WAS a big surprise for us, and for the British rockers, that this band suddenly came out of nowhere. It was like Golden Earring coming out of Holland a few years ago. That took us all by surprise, and Focus too. There were good musicians in Switzerland, but it was a matter of getting the formula right. And keeping a band together there was a pain in the ass. There’s always a lot of changes in the line-up, and there are no small clubs where a band can play. There’s no in between, you are either unknown — or huge!”
But despite all the problems of operating a group spread across two countries, and without much appeal in either, somehow Krokus struggled through. Spain was one country that helped them out with appreciative audiences, apparently, and then in 1980 came the break through. During last year they spent months touring with Ted Nugent, Rainbow, Pat Travers and then Nazareth, who Marc claims they blew oft stage.
“You can become a vegetable very easily on tour, and we spent hours sleeping in coaches, with bunks one above the other. But it’s better than flying everywhere, because you then become a machine, programmed to arrive in each town and play a concert, without ever seeing any of the country. So we will be coaching it for a long time yet.”
As Krokus are on their way up, they can see many of the old stagers of rock on their way down. “I think they have lost a lot of zest, and energy and a lot of it is from too much fast living. The musicians have had an excess of booze, sex and drugs, I think that probably they are beginning to lose their popularity. But some of these bands are getting on and if you do a lot of drugs, then the body doesn’t have a light that flashes on, it becomes anaesthetised. If you want to go on an upper — then run up the stairs. If you want to goon a downer, go for a walk in the cemetery, or read the news.”
Marc says Krokus refused to be inhibited by any kind of negative vibe, be it hard drugs or bad reviews. “We like to enjoy a child-like freedom on stage. We don’t give a damn where we are playing, whether it’s London or Switzerland, it’s all the same. The audience comes in and you know they have been turned on by the same sort of band, or they wouldn’t come and see you in the first place. Our job is to entertain them, and if we don’t do it right, we know they are gonna walk out. It’s so simple really.
“We’ve always managed to hold an audience, and in some places they’ll climb on stage, where they are held back by the security, who sometimes get out of hand themselves. In a way you can’t blame them. They’ve got a bunch of maniacs behind them and a horde of wild beasts in front of them! So a lot of them get very tense and paranoid. I think security people should, by law, smoke a joint before a concert, so it will calm their nerves, and they can see things as they are, Those kids aren’t aggressive, they are having FUN.
“A football crowd is more aggressive when they have been drinking a lot. The barricades are enough and we can control a crowd. We have had times when the kids have climbed onstage, and I have strict orders that if anyone lays a finger on a fan they are fired straight away. I’m talking now as if every concert was a riot! But I can usually control it.”
IT seems that when they are not onstage, Krokus are either swimming, ensconced in a sauna bath or engaging in physical exercise. It was all a far cry from the drunken sixties. I said reaching for the wine bottle. Were Krokus intent on becoming a race of supermen? “Oh we still occasionally get drunk. But the difference is we can stop,”
Krokus have seen the example of overweight, boozed out smoked up wrecks among the flock stars, and are determined not to go the way of all flesh, at least for as long as possible.
What were their ambitions now? Was there a long term Krokus strategy or were they just enjoying the success they have achieved thus far?
“There’s no intricate planning. But things are very positive for us right now. We are out of debt, and only good management can get you out of these problems. ’We had a lot of lovely bills to pay at one time. We got a big advance from the record company but it all gets eaten up by the costs of running a band, We travel a lot of miles! It’s like going to the pub with a tenner, It just disappears in a flash! I can remember when I could get through a whole weekend with a couple of quid. The times they are a changing. Dylan said that ages ago.”
So that’s who it was. I always said the man was a poet. It seemed to me that despite their HM appeal, Krokus conceal a wide variety of influences in their music, They did not solely rely on the famed boogie shuffle, for example.
“I think faster than sound tempos are not good for music. You can have it at certain points in the show, but if it’s too fast, it will go above an audience’s head and they won’t appreciate it, Aim lower — right at the crutch! When the new wave of heavy metal came out, too many bands were sounding the same, and Krokus made it a point to put in a lot of variety. We put a lot of that good old passion, which comes from the heart. Our music is not just about aggression, because aggression is very weak. An instrument is not a machine gun, but a way to express your emotions, The same with singing. You don’t need 100 words a minute and a scream on every chorus.
“SURE I SCREAM. – – BUT I SCREAM WITH FEELING,”
The bottle of wine was empty, and before Marc felt inclined to emit a piercing scream of rage, I lurched unsteadily into the night. “If there is no feeling, there is no art!” said Marc.
Right on, If I had a gas lighter, I would have lit it.
KROKUS/MAGNUM – Hammersmith Odeon, London 20/2/82 – KERRANG! ISSUE 11 CHRIS WELCH
ROCK’N’ROLL — the international passport to smoking pleasure. Smoke, great billows of the stuff, wreathed around the strutting skinny legs of cosmopolitan heavy metallists, Krokus, when they stormed the gates of the Odeon Hammersmith,
The ‘gates’ were constructed of stout cardboard, and made a suitably theatrical backdrop. The smoke was of the quick evaporating type, but there was often so much being generated back stage and pumped out through the scenery, that lead singer Marc Storace frequently disappeared in a fog. One might have expected him to choke to a halt, but Marc is aptly nicknamed ‘The Voice’, and those tonsils, inspired by the likes of Little Richard and Ian Gillan, roared with ungassable fury. And when Marc wasn’t yelling, and the band wasn’t blasting like an avalanche demolishing an alpine village, then the audience was chanting
Krokus are Swiss and Marc is from Malta, but it doesn’t matter what part of the world a band comes from, as long as they can deliver — with conviction. Krokus could be Albanians — it wouldn’t have bothered Hammersmithies eager for a good night’s mayhem. Did they get it?
Well, Krokus are a highly professional, extremely competent band, with a ‘find’ in Marc who is the perfect frontman, They leapt into action with all the confidence and polish that befits a band who have won a worldwide following in just two years.
Their opening shot — a gut wrenching sustained guitar chord that leads into the earth shaking ‘Long Stick Goes Boom’ is the equivalent of most bands’ finale, encore and farewell.
Such a grand entrance can pose problems. They had to struggle to maintain their impact, and a broken guitar string at a crucial moment didn’t help. Fernando Von Arb (lead) had to dash off stage for a replacement axe, seconds before he was due up front for a solo. Not that this put them off. But there was an unspoken feeling that the band had probably enjoyed more ecstatic responses on earlier nights of their tour.
Krokus material is refreshingly free of stereotyped block busting.
Apart from the dramatic use of power chords, they vary their dynamic approach, so that drummer Freddy Steady can lay down a relaxed back beat as well as switching on more frantic modes of delivery. Indeed his drum battle with bassist Chris Von Rohr, switching to a secondary drum kit, was one of the show’s highlights. Freddy’s sonorous bass drum work and expert command of snare drum rudiments were a joy to behold.
Mark Kohler’s rhythm guitar showed just the right combination of reticence and reliability for what is often a thankless task, and he provided just the right platform for the rest of the band to bounce off. Sometimes the twin guitars sounded like the Rolling Stones fighting their way out of Altamont.
More tracks from their new album, like ‘Down The Drain’ whipped up the audience to greater fervour and matches were lit in time honoured fashion. They returned after several moments to girlish screams as Marc appeared stripped to the waist and ready to tear the remnants of his throat to pieces, on ‘To The Top’ and a brace of encores, They had to work hard, but it was worth it. The audience clapped football style and chanted, and Storace could stagger off in search of honey and tea.
Magnum probably felt they should have been topping the bill after all these years, but accepted support status with good grace, put on a good show and were rewarded by successfully attracting a large percentage of the crowd from the bar. Lead singer Bob Catley was every inch the seasoned rock hero. Like Storace he’d dispensed with the warmth and comfort of a vest and leapt about bare chested with cat-like grace. He also sang with a tonal sophistication rare in the barrack rooms of rock.
The band too are well versed in the traditions of what used to be called progressive rock, utilising a device like the clipped keyboard accent stamping on the beat with bass and drums while synthesisers and lead guitar, courtesy of Mark Stanway and Tony Clarkin, swirl in a unison chorus.
Tunes from ‘Chase The Dragon’ their new album were given prominence and Bob also introduced ‘Changes’ a number he freely confessed they had been doing for years. I liked the acoustic piano sound used to introduce the big ballad ‘The Lights Burned Out’, and was impressed by the funky backbeat drumming of Rex Gorin.
Recognising quality the audience gave them a standing ovation.
KERRANG! issue 10 MARCH 1982 Dante Bonutto
KROKUS – ‘One Vice at a Time’ – Arista Spart 1189
THAT KROKUS owe a debt to AC/DC is not a bad thing in itself. Styx, for example, were once little more than a US version of Yes while Rush, in their formative stages, followed closely in the footsteps of Zeppelin. The difference, however, is that Styx and Rush have now moved on and developed their own recognisable styles where as Krokus’s infatuation with AC/DC seems to rule out even a hint of progress. On the evidence of ‘One Vice At a Time’ (and it’s true of previous albums also) the band are less concerned with creating something new than apeing a tried, tested and successful formula.
With the help of produce Tony Platt, who engineered on ‘Highway to Hell’ and ‘Back in Black’. Krokus create a passible facsimile of Angus & co’s distinctively layered sound. The motivations behind the music and that all important AC’DC swagger, however, can’t be reproduced, a fact that leaves the album sounding two-dimensional and soulless. Music by numbers (largely) predictable and uninspired.
From the opener ‘Long Stick Goes Boom’ to the last track ‘Rock and Roll’, the songs follow the same narrow guidelines. Guitarists Kohler and Von Arb supply the riff, drummer Freddy Steady plays with all the versatility of someone knocking a nail in a wall while vocalist Marc Storace, formerly with jazz-rockers Tea(!), gets his mouth around lines of unquestionable logic as ‘Life’s for living, and that’s for sure’.
Storace, though Maltese born, resides in Streatham and speaks excellent English so there’s no reason why the lyrics, reproduced in full on an inner sleeve, should be quite so daft and the imagery emplyed quite so hackneyed. On ‘Playin’ the Outlaw’, for instance, the band make a calculated theft of the ‘Given A Dog A Bone’ chorus while Storace comes on like a Spaghetti Western extra. ‘Don’t shoot the man with the iron star’ he warns without a whit of humour. When he does 10 gallon hat and bow legs, he means it!
It’s significant that when the band vary their approach, even slightly, (‘American Woman’, ‘To The Top’) the results are instantly more interesting. But, for the most part, Krokus are content to copy a band who, by all accounts, refused to let them play at last years Donington Festival.
AC/DC clearly aren’t flattered by the imitation and without wishing to condone paranoia, you can see their point. Musically and lyrically it’s time the Swiss Rockers came of age.