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Praying Mantis: Rocking It at 50 with Defiance

Praying Mantis: Rocking It at 50 with Defiance

Praying Mantis – Photo by Fin Carrol

Praying Mantis: Rocking It at 50 with Defiance

Praying Mantis is celebrating their 50th anniversary as a band by unleashing Defiance – their 13th studio magnum opus now available via Frontiers Music Srl!  Founded by the Troy Brothers Tino and Chris – who remain with the band today – Praying Mantis has delivered their own thrilling take on melodic rock and heavy metal throughout the years. Past members have included the likes of Dennis Stratton (ex-Iron Maiden, current Lionheart), Doogie White (Alcatrazz, Michael Schenker Group, and Gary Barden (also Micheal Schenker)! The current lineup has been together for over a decade, releasing modern day landmark manifestos such as Legacy, Gravity, Katharsis and now the almighty DefianceHighwire Daze recently had the honor to interview guitarist Tino Troy to discuss the dynamic new Defiance experience, as well as other highlights from an epic career in music!  Read on…

We’re here with Tino from Praying Mantis. First of all, congratulations on the amazing new album, Defiance. You guys knocked it out of the ballpark with this one.
Excellent, glad you liked it.

Is there any overall story or concept behind the album title and the song title Defiance?
Yes. I mean, we’ve been working on a one-word title for quite some time now as Journey did as well, but not necessarily in alphabetical order. But Defiance, the song Defiance is actually, it’s about a certain war going on in the other side of the world from you. One begins with a U and the other begins with an R. It is the defiance, the defiance stand of the people of the Ukraine against Russia. That’s how Chris wrote the lyrics for that one. We thought, well, this is a great title for the album as well. We’ve actually defied all the odds because we’ve been around for 50 years, and 50 years is a long time for any band. With Defiance, we’re not going to let it end anytime soon.

KeLet’s talk about a few of the other songs. Standing Tall is the second single. What does that song mean to you?
Standing Tall is a modern-day version of Children of the Earth. One of our old classics. We were writing, and Chris wrote the lyrics to that one. I wrote the music to Children of the Earth back in 1975, something like that. It came out on the Time Tells No Lies album in 1981. ‘We were, pretty much ahead of our time then with the whole ecological thing. The environmental issues and what we are doing to the planet itself, as destroying the natural resources of the planet. This Standing Tall is basically a modern-day version of that 50 years later.  Not quite 50 years, but can knock it on. So, no one’s listened. Maybe they’ll listen now.

Defiance is Lucky album number 13, and you actually have a song called Feeling Lucky on this album.  Is there any coincidence to the Lucky Number 13 album and Feelin’ Lucky, or tell me about that song?
Actually, to tell you the truth, didn’t even think of that, so that’s amazing. Actually, it’s great that you picked up on that. It’s a song penned by Andy Burgess actually. He had this idea just like someone’s like shooting me like pool, whatever, like playing roulette and playing blackjack and stuff like that. Feeling lucky. It’s all about gambling, basically. Yeah, album number 13 and Feelin’ Lucky. Well, that’s a good one. We’re going to have to use that. Thank you.

Why don’t you select any other song from this new album and what was the inspiration behind it? Maybe one you don’t talk about a lot.
Let’s see. I quite like the last song on the album (Let’s See). It’s very powerful. Again, it’s a great metal way to finish the album, really rocks out. Again, that’s penned by Chris. It’s another war-torn song about a certain leader on the other side of the world. If you read the lyrics, you’ll start to get the picture as it were. But yeah, every time Chris writes very powerful lyrics, but very depressing lyrics a lot of the time. I sing about love and happiness and Andy sings and writes about gambling and Chris writes about, well, destruction and the wars and things like that. But he loves that. He’s good at that sort of thing, so we leave him to it.

It all comes together as one cohesive Praying Mantis.
Indeed, yes. It’s like a bit of a box of chocolates, this album actually. The hard sensor and soft sensor have different flavours. But that’s a good thing about albums these days, and not so conceptual anymore. You can actually get away with writing different material. It doesn’t have to jell too much because people will just pick one song and stream it, whatever. But as an album, I’ve actually listened to it for the first time. The other day we did three shows in the UK here, and I just listened to it in the car for the first time, back-to-back everything, back-to-back without any distractions and it sounded great. Really jelled man.

How did those recent live shows go over the last weekend and what were some of the highlights for you?
Oh, they were excellent. It’s great to see people stepping out again after the COVID thing because we’ve been suffering quite a lot here and people haven’t got the confidence to go out. But we did the big campaign on social media and said, “Come on, get your asses out. It’s my birthday as well.” Which was my birthday on Sunday.

Oh, cool. Happy birthday!
Great stuff. Thank you. 68 years young. Yeah.

Tino Troy of Praying Mantis – Photo by Fin Carrol

Would you like to tour in support of Defiance?
Of course, yes. Well, we’ve got a few dates now. We’ve got three more dates in Germany at the end of this month. Then we take off to Japan and do a couple of dates in Japan as well in early June. Then we haven’t got much until September, October later in the year in the autumn while people have their holidays.

When was the last time Praying Mantis was here in the States? Or have you ever played here in the States?
Never played in the States. We’ve recorded in the States. We recorded with a friend of ours in Atlanta, the album Sanctuary. But we’ve never actually played. We’ve been trying to get that sorted out and there’s a possibility that next year we will. Maybe doing North America and South America. We’re looking at different options with that because my friend Cliff from the band Tank, has been over recently, so I think we’re going to do something similar.

Let’s cross our fingers…
Yes. We’ve got to be able to play America. We’ve been around for 50 years, and we haven’t played America. That’s just crazy, isn’t it?

Insane if you think about it!  Now John Cuijpers has been your vocalist for 10 years. He’s been one of the longest-running vocalists of Praying Mantis. What makes you work so well together with John?
Yeah, it’s been great. This is the fourth album. Legacy, Gravity, Catharsis and Defiance. That’s it. Yeah, it’s great. It just gels and we just love each other but it’s a bit when we would meet up. It’s great because the two guys come from Holland, there’s JC our singer, and Hans our drummer, they’re from the Netherlands. It’s great that we don’t do long, long tours because we’re all still buddies. We’re not living in each other’s pockets and nagging at each other all the time. But it’s gelled. It’s gelled really well. We work really well together. It’s great to have a singer that’s been with us for this length of time. It became a bit of a joke. We were like, ours was the singer, Spinal Tap was the exploding drummers!  It’s been nice that it’s been stable for this amount of time. Let’s see if we can get another album done.

Amongst your previous singers are not one, but two former singers from the Michael Schenker Group. Doogie White and Gary Barden. What was it like having those two in your band?
Oh, it was great. We had some good times, and we had some arguments as well, but they were quite great at work.  They did great jobs on the albums themselves and Gary did the Japanese tour with us as well, and we did a live album there with him. We were like a stepping stone to those guys. We asked them to do it but they didn’t stick around. They had other, what do we call it? Fish to fry.

Does Praying Mantis have any history with Michael Schenker? Have you ever played with him since you’ve had two of his singers?
We did a get a show recently Winter Storm Festival up in Scotland, and Michael Schenker was actually playing the night before, but we didn’t get up there till the day after, so yeah, we didn’t get to meet him. But yeah, we’ve crossed paths before at different festivals but never actually played as a support or together, basically.

Tino Troy on Zoom!

Looking back on your time spent in Stratus with Bernie Shaw what do you think of it now in retrospect?
There was a different time when we lost the option for recording the second album with Arista. We had bad management, and everything went wrong from there. Our drummer, Dave Potts, decided to go into management and manage the band. He was friends with Clive Burr at the time. We got Bernie Shaw who came from Grand Prix and put a band together. It was great. We had a good time recording. The Stratus album Throwing Shapes – we recorded that in Germany. Yeah, we had a good time recording it, and there were some good songs on it, but I’d like to do it again. I’d like to mix it again for Stratus. You never know. I might do that in My Twilight. When I get into my seventies.

So maybe Stratus 2?
Yeah, I mean, you never know. Stratus was a big thing because we formed with Clive. God rest his soul. It was great working with Clive and he had a lot of fans around the world and he still does. It was lovely to work with him and yeah, you never know. We might rekindle that thing on someday.

Do you ever keep in touch with Bernie Shaw?
From time to time, but not. He only contacts me when there’s like a song. Did we ever get any royalties for the– Yes.  And I said, “No because you didn’t write it.” I did.

Are you currently involved with any other bands or projects outside of Praying Mantis?
Well, I’ve been toying with the idea of it. I mean, I’ve got 1,001 songs of my own that I didn’t think was suitable for Mantis. But having said that, Standing Tall was one of them but the guys loved it. I said, right, we’re going to rock this one up here. I always wanted to do a rock song with a dance beat to it. A real metal song with a dance beat to it. It’s great. Everyone’s just like, it went down a storm, the last three gigs. Everyone was just like, bopping up and down and they said, “Wow, what a song!” Yeah, I’ve got quite a few things like that, sort of little ditties and I was thinking about doing, I’ve been thinking about doing a solo album for quite some time actually, as well as writing a book. This is all in the pipeline at the moment.

What goes through your mind knowing that you’ve been doing Praying Mantis or anything for 50 years?
It’s quite unfathomable actually. People just like to say, why weren’t you bigger? Why weren’t you a bigger band? And I said, well, you’ve got it. Why weren’t we? It is just down to bad management and that, but here we are 50 years later. Like I said, we don’t do it day in, day out, day in, day out. We decided we were going to record an album. We start the ball rolling and then we’ll do a few dates around it. Probably this band, if we don’t look at tours, we’ll probably do maybe just 40 dates a year or something like that, maybe 50. We don’t tour like crazy. Because everyone’s got sort of families now and now it’s when you get to the age of 50, unless you can do it in style and you can spend some money on tours and stay in lush hotels and have yourself looked after, then it doesn’t become very cost-effective for us really to do long tours.

Do you have any messages for Praying Mantis fans here in the States who are reading who are reading this now?
I want to come and see you. I want to come and play to you guys. We all do. Listen out for us, just plead with us to come over. Plead with your, whoever. Just share us, share the heck out of us. Just spread the word and we’d love to play in America we’d love to play in the States. It’s the United States. It’s something that’s always been our dream, but we never got around to it. It’s like this case with the Visas as well. We could do a one-off thing, but the Visas are so costly. You guys can now come over here for about $30. We just look forward to playing in the United States of America and we’ll have a real package with you. We’ll have a real party!

(Interview by Ken Morton)

Praying Mantis re:
Chris Troy 
Tino Troy
Jaycee Cuijpers
Hans in’t Zandt
Andy Burgess

Praying Mantis on Facebook

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