Where heavy metal and hard rock collide, there will always be the legendary Krokus. Formed in 1975, this tremendously influential band from Switzerland has been all around the whole in various incarnations, entertaining the masses for well over 35 years. And now in the year 2010, the classic lineup has returned, unleashing the mighty Hoodoo to a whole new generation of fans. In the grand tradition of Headhunter, Metal Rendezvous, and The Blitz, Hoodoo will surely launch the band back into the stratosphere – where they rightfully belong.
Vocalist Marc Storace has been in the music business for a long time. During our interview with the celebrated singer, we found a humble, knowledgeable gentleman sharing his thoughts on a wide array of topics, including his colorful musical history, time spent with the late Ronnie James Dio, his advice to young musicians, their latest and greatest Hoodoo release, and so many other topics of interest. It is an absolute honor to present the Highwire Daze interview with Mr. Marc Storace…
How did this reunion of the classic Krokus lineup come about and whose idea was it?
Well, I was out on the road promoting the Hellraiser album and my personal manager came on the phone and told me that Swiss Television had this great idea to put the Krokus originals – if they were still alive – back together for three minutes – live on TV on this program called The Greatest Swiss Hits. And they insisted – only the originals or nothing – no deal. So I thought it’s good promotion – and it’s good for the old fans anyway to see the old band back together again – and I guess three minutes is not that long to get together, because we weren’t talking. Anyway, things went very, very well – so thanks to this TV thing, that’s how we got back together. And the hysterical reaction by the media – they’re what made us really decide that there’s no doubt about it – that our fans want us back in original form. And it’s high time! And of course, the reunion in itself – we didn’t start jamming together until a couple of months later. Things had to sink in first. I had to decide whether to go with the old guys or the young band I had around me doing the Hellraiser album – because they were good guys – good musicians – pretty loyal to me – and we had been having a great time on the longest European tour ever promoting the Hellraiser album. It was quite a heavy decision, but in the end they understood and they wished me luck. It was a very emotional moment, and so I could walk on to the old guys with their blessings – thank God. And since the first day we got together and jammed – I mean the original guys – it was really like a flashback in time. And I realized that it was the right thing to do, because the magic of the same guys from 1982 – from the One Vice At A Time era being together in one room – the vibe was positive. Everybody wanted it and they were happy to be reunited again – even as human beings. And when we played the music, it just was like it hammered in the nail so to speak – that we’re on the right track. And the energy was so great – and it sounded like way back then. And I was happy from that day on…
How do you think the new album Hoodoo compares to the classic Krokus releases?
I think what we set out to do was achieved – because we wanted to actually link up with Headhunter. The new album is actually the missing link. It links up straight with the Headhunter album – our biggest album which was released in 1983 to which we did the biggest tour. We achieved the highest placing in Billboard Magazine – right there when Michael Jackson was doing the moonwalk with his album Thriller. On Number 2 we had Def Lepperd with the great Pyromania album. And then there was Krokus from Switzerland – a land which is not really known for rock and roll – at Number 24 in the Billboard Charts! We felt as though we were in heaven! But in the background, there was trouble and the band soon split up. That formation broke apart. If that hadn’t happened, I guess the Hoodoo album is what would have come out instead of The Blitz. Even though The Blitz was, in it’s own way, a good album with a great ballad Our Love Will Never Die – and an album that many USA fans still hold close to their hearts today – however Hoodoo sound-wise, vibe-wise, and songwriting-wise is really taking that step back, although it doesn’t sound that old fashioned in the way that it’s a museum piece. It still sounds fresh and fits in with today. But it links up with Headhunter – so mission achieved! We’re all happy about it and it’s also doing very, very well.
Will there be any shows with the classic Krokus lineup here in the US?
It’s buzzing in our heads obviously. We have very positive memories of the US. We were always supported like one of your own. We were treated with white gloves in the USA and we’ll never forget that. Of course we’d like to get back there yesterday, but we have to take things step by step. This is a business – it involves a lot of costs – shipping of band members to the USA nowadays is even more expensive than back then. So we’re waiting. (Hoodoo was recently released) and we still have to check the sales results. And here I have to plea to our fans who are listening or reading – please buy our albums. You say, “Yeah, well everybody wants that!” But I tell you; it’s the key to our ever returning to the USA to tour. So please help us make our wish come true. We’d like to come and play for you. We’d like to party with you – sign your old vinyl’s and new CD’s. And let’s boogie down and hoodoo together. Go to the next store and buy it live! Hold it in your hand. Enjoy – appreciate the artwork – the production which we went out of our way to do. Chris von Rohr produced it – our bass player. He did a great job at it. Dennis Ward did the Engineering – he’s an American like you living in Germany – he did a great job! The whole band is so fired up; so let’s keep the fire. Help us – don’t download – don’t go the piracy way. Buy it legally and help the band. And if you can’t find it in your local store, then resort to Internet – there’s a site called Amazon dot com and they’re really great at that. Hold the CD in your hand while you’re listening to the great quality, big sounding production of the new Hoodoo album.
So how did you wind up in Krokus back in 1980, and had you heard of them prior to joining up with the band?
Well, yes of course. I used to sing with a band called Tea – a progressive rock band in Switzerland. We toured all over Europe. We toured with bands like Queen and the Baker Gurvitz Army, which contained the drummer of none other than Cream – Ginger Baker. As a matter of fact, coincidence has it that I’m going to see Eric Clapton and Stevie Winwood tonight at the Arena close to home – just 20 minutes to where I live. In Tea, we achieved all that a Swiss band could achieve in Europe. We never came over to the USA. Unfortunately things got a little shaky after the third album. Our albums were all produced by Dieter Dierks, the guy who kind of discovered and made the Scorpions into what they became. He produced many of their albums in the beginning in their early days. And so on our last tour in Switzerland, before we went our ways without splitting up – officially we never split up – we took Krokus on the road with us for the last Swiss tour. And it was really great! I used to party with them every night. I really loved listening to them. Chris Von Rohr used to sing, but I was especially turned on by the guitar player Tommy Kiefer. You can still listen to Tommy’s great guitar playing on Metal Rendezvous, which later on became the debut album for me and Krokus – and you hear Tommy play on Hardware. So thanks to being around Krokus and getting to know them and partying, we developed a nice friendship. Then after that, I went my way and returned to London because that’s where I had started. I originally come from Malta, the Mediterranean Island which saw so much action during the Second World War – but that’s another story. And from there, I had gone to London, and then from London to Switzerland I had joined Tea – met Krokus – and then went back to London. So one day, Krokus contacted me and I ended up joining the band about a year later. And this was the end of 1979 and we learned all the songs for Metal Rendezvous and went and toured all over Europe – then came back and went into a studio and recorded Metal Rendezvous. We then all went home for Christmas, and when we came back, the album was released by Ariola Switzerland – and it went straight into the charts all over Europe. And we even had the first reaction – which to me was a dream come true – from the United States – a positive reaction. So that’s the story about how I got into Krokus.
You were in two movies Anuk and Handy Man. Tell me about those movies, and is there a future acting career for you on the horizon?
(Much laughter) Well, maybe I’ll be discovered one day. (Laughs) Acting is actually something which I had to do by sheer luck every now and then through my whole life span. The first time I ever went live on TV was when I was still in primary school. They did this program, which was an anti-smoking/cigarette program – this was 1960-something. And I went on as a child and I had to say this whole line why I didn’t think it was fair for people to smoke on buses – because when there’s non-smokers on a bus and all these people smoke, then the non-smokers get their lungs polluted too. That’s what kind of broke the camera fear – that’s what broke the ice with the camera. I had to tell you that.
And later on it came with a neighbor who was doing his amateur films – who took a friend of mine and myself and a couple of girls from the neighborhood and made these short movies. So we had to act – it was real amateur stuff. And then later on it started with videos and TV shows – which I did a lot of in Malta, with my early bands there – The Boys and Cinnamon Hades – but that was kind of singing more than acting. But still, there’s the camera element – you’re singing the lyrics and acting the emotions and looking at the camera – and behind that is your audience. And later on came the first videos for MTV- which we did in the USA. Then suddenly this offer to do Anuk and Handyman came before that. Handyman – that was short and sweet – but it was fun. There’s a lot of hanging around, I guess in general, in show business. I learned that in the film business, you hang around as much as you do in the music business before you get to do anything. But it was fun. As for Anuk, we were out in the mountains, and the whole nature of the thing was great! Nice, great people around and it was fun. Whether I do anything else in the future – I don’t go fishing for acting parts. People know where to find me – and if they have anything that would suit me that would enrich their film, then I’m here and they can reach me – and we can talk about it.
Sounds good! Now is it true that you were offered a spot in AC/DC when Bon Scott passed away – and if so, did you ever consider taking it?
The whole way the thing stood at the time, I was so pro-Krokus – as I am still today. But my loyalty to Krokus was so huge. I was so proud. I was younger, cockier, prouder. So when this happened – I heard about Bon and the band were pretty much all AC/DC fans. We were working with a production company from Birmingham – and when one of the guys took me on the side and asked me the golden question – I told him, “Well, I don’t know if I’d like to fill in someone else’s shoes when I feel so happy in my own.” In my mind, I thought, “Well, Krokus has a huge potential,” and I really believed in what I was doing. And so I really didn’t take the suggestion for AC/DC that serious, because I thought I have a bird in the hand and it’s worth more than two in the bush. So who knows if AC/DC fans would accept me in the first place – and then I would have ended up with nothing. It was very quick – I didn’t need a long time to answer. You know, the brain and the mind goes fast – and I went through all these points and I said, “No. Really I’d like to stay in my own shoes and see how far we could get. We were on the rising star and I don’t want to let the guys down either. And I feel pretty happy. I think we’re going to go far.” And that’s how it is. In life, you can’t look back – you can only look forward. You can’t change what’s happened – you can only change what’s going to be.
Tell me about The Blue Album you did, and is that your only solo album in existence?
(Laughs) Yeah, that was it. The Blue Album – the name says it all. There was a time after the whole Krokus success – 18 years on the road – and we ended burnt out and it was a sad ending. I flew down to Malta after selling my penthouse and there I knew, with the great weather, the sun, my old friends and my family around me, that I would soothe my blues – and actually tank up my spirit enough to be able to access what to do next. Luckily then, a good friend from the past came into my life – his name was Vic Vergat – a great, fantastic guitar player – he was like the Jimi Hendrix of Switzerland. We were actually rivals during the early 70’s when he played with his band Toad and I was in the band Tea. The two “T.” We were the top Swiss bands at the moment, so we came kind of full circle. We always used to jam for hours backstage whenever we met. He was a really great help. And our songwriting partnership started already a couple of years before that when I was in Krokus. So I flew back to Switzerland to Basel – that’s why I’m still in Basel today – thanks to this relationship. And we worked everyday on songwriting in between taking walks on the Rhine and filling our energy with friendship and good vibes. And these songs that came out – if you notice there’s less aggression – if you listen to Blue, it’s not that aggressive. It rocks, but it’s very melodic. It’s actually typical singer / songwriter material if you’d like. We had a pop rock band around us and not a heavy metal band. It goes into some hard rock songs. There’s a song called Hold On actually, which would have been good for AC/DC – it’s that heavy. On the other hand, there’s a cover by Percy Sledge – When A Man Loves A Woman – that drove the girls nuts and got loads of overplay. And even the song Rainfall – “You can’t stop the rainfall” – it’s got a melancholic note to it and it’s an up tempo forward pushing song which also got loads of airplay here in Switzerland. It was a good experience for me. It was a good way to get my spirit high again and let out certain emotions and certain melodies, which were inside me, which I couldn’t use in the Krokus vehicle. I guess all musicians have this kind of thing inside them. Whatever band they’re in – there’s a certain style they have a deliver. The spectrum, although for Krokus, is pretty wide; it still is limiting your total personal abilities – which is good. That’s why Hoodoo sounds like it is, because it has the philosophy that less is more. So that’s basically how Blue came about. And I still like to listen to it maybe once or twice a year. Because to me, it’s like a diary. Every album has so much more to say than just the songs and the lyrics. For me, there is a lot of hidden data, which reminds me – and I can reminisce while listening to any old album.
Ronnie James Dio recently passed away. Did you know him, and do you have any comments regarding his passing?
Ronnie was a great person – a very kind-hearted man – not the wild, obnoxious kind of rock star that a lot of them are. I was really pleased to get to know him. He played a couple of times close to where I live – about 15 minutes away in this theater called the Zed Seven. Most of the American bands pass through Switzerland and most of them make stops there. And we talked about different things – musician talk. And we also delved onto the subject of Rainbow – Ritchie Blackmore, Roger Glover and the boys. It was great to see his point of view, because I thought this was an honest guy, and I could believe everything he tells me. I was really looking forward to meeting him again- to hearing that he’s back in Zed Seven – and I would have been there again and looked forward to after show time. But anyway, that’s all gone now – it’s no longer possible. We have to accept things as they come. I guess it’s harder for Wendy and his son and his son’s offspring and the close family and the close band members who saw him every day than for a person like me who just got to know him for a few lucky minutes. I can still hear him on the CD’s whenever I wanna communicate with Ronnie. I know he must be in a good place. His spirit is everywhere with us. He’s there, here and everywhere. It’s a good spirit. We’ve lost a great talent. We’ve lost a great pioneer and an important landmark in the history of rock. And he will always be there in the history of rock. He has a big place. And he’s a big beacon in the dark.
What advice would you give a young band just started out and looking for a record deal?
Well I would say write good songs. If you want to get a deal, you’ve got to have good songs. Record companies want to have good songs. Musicianship alone doesn’t get you there. It’s great to be a great musician, but sometimes great musicians do not find the musical compositions that set the spark in their fans. Songwriting is something you could learn by “monkey-see, monkey-do, parrot wise” by listening and listening again. I would advise them to try three or four record companies, and go for the best – and not to give up if they’re turned down because that’s been in many band’s histories. They’ve offered one bunch of demos to one record company and they were turned down – and the next company signed them up, and their whole album was a hit. It takes a lot of dedication also – and it takes a lot of patience. And the last thing that I always remember is hope – don’t give up hope – keep up your faith and your hope. And don’t wait too long and don’t burn yourself out just before you get started either. Balance things out and do things with your head and your heart – and let the passion follow.
And do you have any messages for Krokus fans here in the States?
I’d like to say that first of all, I miss you. In the name of the band, we miss you. And that we can’t wait to get back stateside and burn some rubber. Let’s get those wheels turning and crank up the volume and party with you – and write a new chapter in the Krokus history when it comes to the USA and Krokus. We wrote a few chapters in the 80’s, and then it suddenly stopped more or less. And we want to get the ball rolling again. So please support us, give us your opinions, write to us on our guest book – krokusonline.com – and if you don’t find the record in the store – then go to amazon.com – you’ll have it in a few days and you can hold it and while you listen you can read the lyrics. We’re just hoping that the door will open and that we can be there again. And in the meantime, keep the faith – and rock on!
Krokus 2010 is:
Marc Storace (lead vocals), Chris von Rohr (bass, vocals), Fernando von Arb (guitar, vocals), Mark Kohler (guitar), Freddy Steady (drums)
(Interview by Kenneth Morton)
Krokus on Myspace