Praying Mantis

Praying Mantis has been around for over 30(!) years now. Formed by brothers Tino and Chris Troy in the mid-70s (although they have been associated with the NWOBHM movement back in the day…) they managed to break those musical boundaries and they became one of the best melodic hard rock bands. Thank God they are still “on the run” making good rockin’ music. I always wanted to interview the band, so I couldn’t let this opportunity slip through my fingers… Read what Chris told us below...
Praying Mantis band pic

Hi Chris… Nice to see the band alive with a new singer after all these years… Congrats on “Sanctuary” as well. Tell us, why were you away from the music scene for about 6 years?
C: Time has really passed so quickly and it’s really hard to believe that it is six years. In some ways it has been advantageous as the album and the playing, etc seem pretty fresh and we probably then needed that break from the music scene for a while. We are really not into the thing of releasing product to order just to fulfill a contractual arrangement.
OK… so new album, new singer… a new era for the band I think… tell us about Mike, how did you find him? Do you believe that this singer will be the one? You have changed so many singers all these years… is it like a curse for the band or what?
C: Mike we had actually known for a number of years but initially did not think that his voice would fit the music. After the last album “The Journey Goes On” we realized that neither John Sloman or Doogie White would be permanent members of the band and that we needed a really stable person with a voice that would take us to another level. After we tried Mike on a few demo songs we realized that potential was there. Also we think he has a lot more to give yet, so yes we think he is the one. A curse for the band… (ha ha), maybe. Or perhaps it’s just that we are such a bunch of bastards to work for… cheeky
So, how did you come up with the title “Sanctuary”? Does the artwork represent the atmosphere of the album?
C: The title really represents the songs as there is a sort of mystique about much of the album and the title really compliments that. And of course it keeps the association we have had in the past with Iron Maiden…
Are you, in general, satisfied with the production? How is a label like Frontiers able to help a band go further and deliver their best?
C: Yes, really pleased with the albums production. It is normally very hard to get the real separation in instruments without it sounding cloudy and even muffled and yet still deliver power. It’s a lot harder than it sounds. But Andy Reilly the producer really has delivered that aura. Frontiers also gave a big kick up the ass occasionally and that really also helped !!!
The best song of the album – and one of the best songs in 2009 – is “Turn The Tide/Long Way Home”… that was also released as a video clip… tell us the story behind this song… and why did you choose it to be released as a video clip?
C: The song has gone down a storm and most people really do love it. The video describes the story well where the guy loses the one he loves most due to an act of stupidity and the last bit where the ghost appears is great as it send the shivers down me, so it did work!. Effectively it is the single from the album and hence why it was released as a video clip.
What generally inspires you in order to write music? Are there any boundaries on your musical horizon?
C: If you feel really strong about something then music is a perfect way to channel it out. How else can you do that as opposed to writing a letter to a newspaper and hope that it gets published so that others can read you’re thought process. Lyrics in a way is the vehicle to get those thoughts and themes not only put in a form where thousands of people can read them but also set  to music that best compliments the subject of the lyric, and hence it is the perfect combination.
Are there any details about the album that you would like to share? Stuff, way of recording it?
C: Well because it was recorded in the producer’s house, he had to ship his family out for the three weeks of recording. He thought we would trash the place, but believe it or not the band are a pretty civil bunch and we left the place tidier than when we took over the place!!!. The producer couldn’t believe it!! (i.n.: Ha… metalheads are civilized people or what??... hehehe)
What are the expectations from this album? What should we wait from Praying Mantis in the future?
C: We have been here for some 34 years now and no doubt one day it will end, but we have a great stint and cannot complain about that, however in saying that the feedback on this album is some of the best we have ever received so maybe there is hope that we will still gain worldwide domination.
I believe that the 90s was a weird time period for the band… but on the other hand the Asian market kept you alive and also gave you the chance to release some great albums like “Forever in Time”. What was the problem with Europe and the US back then… why was it so hard for a band like Praying Mantis to be trusted by a big label?
C: Music is very fickle no one really knows why a band can be huge across the border or waters and yet be small in another place, even their home territory! The Mantis stuff went down a storm in Japan and hence we went back to them time and time again. How can you bite the hand that feeds you? It is only now that there is movement in the States and Europe.
What do you think of all those newcomer bands that are trying to play melodic rock/AOR music by stealing the big bands like Survivor, Journey etc… what things can renew this kind of music?
C: Let’s face it, it is a bloody tough market out there and any new band needs all the help it can muster up. I think it must be 50 times harder now compared to when we came through during the NWOBHM era. Personally though I love those two bands you have mentioned.
Can you tell that melodic rock/AOR music is here again stronger than ever (if we also consider the fact that most of the big 80s hard rock bands have re-united again)… or melodic rock music has followed a new, more “modern” path?
C: A most definitive yes!!!... strangely enough in these hard times it is definitely on the increase. I think people with other taste in music are suddenly realizing how crap that other music stuff!!. In addition there is no doubt that there are now some very talented rock bands and music writers out there in this field.
Are you satisfied with the press and the fans’ reaction, so far? Were you expecting it?
C: The press and fan reaction has actually been incredible …way beyond our expectations and a big thank you to those responsible. Did we expect it?? ….no not really, because you never know how things may pan out. When you think something is good, it gets canned and vice versa. But in this case we did have a feeling that this album would leave far more of a mark than any of our previous products and no doubt it is doing just that.
Praying Mantis band pic

Before we go on to the “Weird Questions”… as you know I’m from Greece… so I can’t help but ask you about your homeland, Greece… Tell us some things… How hard was it for two kids back in the 80s to be part of the rock/metal scene and become popular?
C: That’s such a difficult question as when we were doing the really small pubs in London, there is no way our brains ever contemplated doing music on a full time basis and that we would record lots of albums. Like everything else, you need that big bit of luck, and the right people being there when you need them ( i.e promoters, possible managers , etc ). Our dad (god bless him!) always used to hum the old Greek songs and we use to laugh… but maybe subconsciously that Greek traditional music flavor was sinking in!
By the way how did you come up with the name Praying Mantis?
C: It took ages!!!.... For weeks, we thought of everything and nothing seemed to really fit. One day Tino came up with this name and we all suddenly loved it. The mating instinct and the sexual ritual is actually quite incredible, where after the sex act the female suddenly bites off the head off the male !!!... so it’s really quite human really... smiley
And some Weird Questions now!!! Which are the things that piss you off in today’s music industry?
C: The things that make it go round are gradually disappearing... for one there’s not much money in it anymore. That is not a greedy statement as the bands at our level never make any money from this industry. But like any industry there needs to be a financial input, and with free downloads, illegal CD copying, etc now there just isn’t that input anymore.
Are you playing music to become popular or you just want to give your own messages to the people with your music and your lyrics?
C: Definitely will never do what we think people want us to play. It’s just not worth it. To me you can only do what is natural to do as then it will be natural. If it’s contrived, it will come across like that, and the truth is any band can do that, but what’s the point of that.
Do you believe that the internet has helped the bands become more popular or has caused many problems?
C: Well that is an interesting question and relates to what I said earlier. On one hand it’s awful as now people have all the tools at their fingertips to get really cheap or free downloads and similar for the CD’s. However there is no doubt that it makes the worlds smaller and allows bands such as ourselves to get the music across to far extremities of the world.
Do you believe it is easy for a band to differ in today’s music industry than in the past? And if yes, what shall it do in order to achieve it?
C: Much much harder… there is an incredible level of musical expertise now both in the playing and songwriting and there are tons and tons of bands doing it … that can be seen from the huge swather of new albums that come out on a daily basis.
Do you prefer to get good scores from the press or please your fans with every new album?
C: Both laugh… in all honesty if it’s good enough you will get the thumbs up from both of them. In “Sanctuary”, for instance, we appear to have done that.
I believe that quality is what our music is missing in this time period. Everything is so similar and so easy-going that most of the fans are truly confused. Which is this “force” that will bring things back to what they used to be… to a time period that music was art…?
C: It may seem similar because now everything that can be done has been done, and although bands will try to make it a bit different, it is bound to sound a bit similar to another band or one of their songs. It is hard to know where it can go from here.
How difficult is it to survive and succeed in a music world that is ruled by irrelevant people that promote shit-wannabe-good pop music all the time… without caring about music quality?
C: Incredibly difficult… but that part of the banal industry is suffering now and hopefully the people that followed it are fed up of being brainwashed and deserting that field.
What things can make you laugh and cry in your life?
C: Now my daughter brings a whole meaning of laugher into my life, I cry when I wonder where we are going in this world and how long it can go on for with the stupidity of mankind putting us on this path to disaster… too much talk but never any action.
What would you do if you were not afraid to fail?
C: Putting everything I have behind this band to see where it would take it.
What is your favorite place in the world?
C: My home… you can go around the world and marvel at its splendors but it’s what you make your home and the members of your family that make up the worth of your life. That’s my attempt at being philosophical.
If you were an animal, which one would you be and why?
C: An eagle… one who rules the skies, the only really predator is man!
If you could go back in time, in any time-period ,where would you go and why?
C: The NWOBHM era knowing what we know now about the business!! It was ripe for the taking and I don’t think we were properly prepared for it.
That’s all for now Chris. Thanks for everything, please leave a note to Grande Rock readers… Take care!
C: Thanks so much and for the readers please give “Sanctuary” a listen and realize that it is written from the heart and not to some sort of recipe. See you soon!!!! Thanks.