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Jon Hinchliffe


Pony Canyon Head Office Interview with Praying Mantis in November 1995.

Last Modified On 21 Mar 2009

Conducted mainly by Mac Takekawa and Tets Mario but also with Ikuko 'Sarah' Takayama for Disk Unions Progressive Rock Magazine Archangel.

I have transcribed this Interview much as it was said. Hence the questions are not always very well phrased. The interview was made in Japan and conducted by a translator (Huts Hujibayashi) who is translating the Japanese as she heard it and then translating the band's answers as they spoke. I might occasionally have named the speaker wrong as I had difficulty identifying Dennis Stratton (DS), Chris Troy (CT) and Gary Barden (GB) voices. I feel sure I know when Clive Burr (CB) and Tino Troy (TT) spoke though.

Int: Let's start with the member change. Clive Burr came into the band right after To The Power Of Ten was finished. I guess there wasn't time to re-record the album with Clive. Clive could you tell us what method you used to learn the songs.

DS: With great difficulty!

The band: Laugh

CB: Well there were 20 songs and at I first listened to the original recordings for a while and then went to rehearse with the band. And it all came together then. And I had some ideas for just slight changes to the rhythm.

[Clive is talking really slowly to allow time for the translator. He is told he can talk at normal speed. Tino butts in that he talks like that anyway.]

CB: I had some very small ideas for slight changes to the rhythm because I don't think any two drummers, you know, see the rhythms of songs exactly the same. And I talked with the band about these when we rehearsed. And a couple of little extra ideas that I had. And we rehearsed them and it all came together there really.

TT: It was a bit difficult because Clive doesn't play double bass drum where as Bruce plays double bass drum and we had to adjust a lot of the fills accordingly.

Int: So who can tell us the difference between Clive's playing and Bruce's style?

TT: Well basically every drummer has a different style like every guitarist , every musician has a different style. They are both excellent drummers in their own right. There is no real choice. There was a couple of songs where Clive put a different rhythm into the song and like we said we discussed it between us and we said to Clive this is too far from the original we have to compromise here and in the end we got it together.

CT: I think it was a difficult task because many of the arrangements aren't simple. If there was straight verse chorus verse choruses it would have been an easier job but there are many variations in the songs and it made it that much more difficult but that is the Mantis style I suppose, push, push, push.

GB: I would like to add actually because of the incredible tour Clive's actually going to crack open a bottle of champagne tonight live in our rooms.

TT: One that he has been hiding since the start! I have been trying to find a way through the service duct in the bathroom ceiling to make it to his room, while he is out of his room so I can take a bottle of champagne (CT: and to knob him during the night). But there were too many spiders up there …

Int: So you are going to try again tonight?

CB: I will be waiting for him tonight!

TT: I made friends with the spiders last night. So they are on my side now, so they are going to open the hatch for me.

CB: [Quietly] Thanks for pointing that out loud Gary. I appreciate that.

GB: That's all right, no problem.

Int: You are singing earlier material. Were you quite familiar with all the early tracks from Praying Mantis?

GB: Actually I never heard any of them. Hand on heart. No I didn't hear them. But they are very catchy. Incredibly poppy[?] tunes. Great melodies. I want to tell the guys. And honestly they are a very strong band at writing material. No trouble learning at all.

CT: Except "Flirting with Suicide" has too many words.

DS: If you believe that mate, you believe anything!

Int: Your name is credit on the second album of Praying Mantis

GB: Her hum. That was on a sing song and we were talking about actually doing like an album (which never happened) but I was actually there anyway. Talking to the lads. And working out tunes.

CT: "Can't wait forever".

GB: Had a go at it as well.

TT: Really that was like a experimental thing at the time as a lot of the vocals were all ready put on the album by Dennis and Chris. And we thought it would be nice to get Gary in to see and from that moment on we bore him in mind.

GB: They have been sniffing ever since. It is in a vault somewhere in England.

Int: Did you play some shows in England?

DS: Yeah, they were very low key, sort of small marquee or pub. Just to pull the band together slightly in front of an audience after the rehearsals.

TT: We did not do any big advertisement on it is was just in a local paper, Time Out which is a magazine. We did not want to attract any press because we were just warming up for the shows.

GB: Eleven O'clock at night?

TT: That's the other thing. Go on stage at 11 o'clock at night and then have to play for 2 hours.

DS: We find that the band, we find that there is no excuse for playing live in front of an audience. No matter how much rehearsal you still have to play in front of a crowd. It's a different atmosphere all together.

Int: How big was the crowd in the UK?

DS: Only very small, maybe 100 say.

Int: Did your friends and family show up?

DS: Yep, my children turned up.

CT: Then they ran out!

TT: Dennis's son was Dennis's guitar technician. He tuned the guitar for him!

DS: He helps me set the equipment up. He looks after the leads. After the show he came backstage to one of the talks to tell us how it went. He, he, he. What's it he said?

CT: You said "It's getting there boys" and Jack went [In a tiny voice] "It is there Dad. It is there"

Int: He has a severely critical eye has your son?

DS: He has a small guitar and in his bedroom he has a Praying Mantis CD on and a music stand and the CD sleeve open and he sings all the songs in his bedroom.

TT: Better than Dennis! When we go back we will have Jack on the next album!

DS: Dennis Gets the Sack!

TT: I could put him on my shoulders and we could play many solos together.

CB: Well he is already big as Angus.

Int: What kinds of songs did you play in the UK before coming over here?

DS: How long is our set? 2 hours?

TT: More

DS: So one week one show we did half the set. And the next week the second show we did the second half.

TT: Because in London they have to have a support band before us. The second week we had 3 bands. It was like a nightmare.

Int: How were the gigs here?

TT: Brilliant. Brilliant as usual. We enjoy it so much. We do enjoy so much coming over here and playing to all our fans.

DS: I think this time we were under a little bit more pressure. We were a little bit nervous because of the live recording and because of the video but it was still fantastic.

GB: And if it is any consolation there were more laughs on this tour than there ever was with Michael Schenker Group. I had a great time.

Int: Is it totally different in the studio?

GB: Absolutely. These like to laugh. Michael like Ritchie, … No, these are OK.

Int: Because every time Praying Mantis brings a new singer. Looking for the next album will Gary still be there?

DS: Yes

CT: He will be there.

GB: No, No in the past there was a reputation of many singers but I think I know that it is OK with this band at the moment.

TT: It was very nervewracking for us because we have never actually seen Gary play. With jet lag and tiredness and everything it was worrying.

DS: Also on the serious side of it. The line up changes has not always been our fault regarding the band. We have found that certain people that have come on tour with us have come to Japan with Praying Mantis maybe to further their own career rather than commit themselves to Praying Mantis. And we have found this happen a few times. So maybe now we have settled with Gary because Gary has committed to Praying Mantis and that is what we were looking for.

GB: 100%

Int: You mean Dougie White?

DS: Well, you know, when we came here he did an interview with Tino and when they asked him if he was going to stay with the band he would not commit himself. So it is not always the band's fault that we change singers. It is just that we find they are not committed to the band

CT: The other thing as well. I think that's partially the reason they always keep their options open. People like Dougie and Mark had their own projects and music they were trying to write. Had they come into our band we think our music would have differed considerably. And probably changed the Praying Mantis style completely which we did not want and I am sure the fans did not want either. So it was a good choice to get rid of them I think.

Int: Can you trust Gary?

Band: Laughs

GB: I came over August and I toured with Tino doing the magazines and I said there were too many egos in the band to actually give and take but you give because in the end it is all for one and one for all.

TT: It's easy for you to say when you haven't got a moustache any more.

DS: He misses his moustache

Int: What happened to your moustache?

TT: I lost my moustache last night. We had a football match with the fans and I promised a couple of fans that if Praying Mantis lost the match this time, I would shave my beard off. And I really wanted to have a shave so we lost intentionally.

CB: I like it.

Int: I hope you win next year.

DS: What?

Int: The Game

DS: We won. We just let them catch up. We were winning 6-2 and we felt sorry for them so we let them catch up.

TT: It got to 6-5 and we knew we had about ten seconds to go but unfortunately Clive let us down.

GB: Actually it was me. I shot the last goal.

DS: In the last quarter we were winning 6-2 and they were crying so we felt sorry for them so we let them catch up to 6-6.

GB: And then they brought on their prize. A new goalie 6 foot by 6 foot.

DS: For the penalty shoot out they brought in a professional goalkeeper. A secret weapon.

Int: So Clive, you were the goalkeeper? So do you have a forfeit to fulfil for letting in so many goals?

Band: The bottle of champagne!

CB: I was not expecting to lose the game.

CT: Not at 6-2 up nor did any of us.

CB: My full backs let me down.

Int: Sorry?

CB: My defenders let me down. Plus the fact we had the same team and every quarter they changed these for fresh people. And seeing as we were probably twice their age I thought we done very well.

TT: And drunk

CT: Jet lagged, drunk and twice their age.

Int: You played a show before that game? And you had to play next day? You had to be in good shape?

TT: We did not go to bed until 7 o'clock in the morning. But we do this every year. We know it is a mistake but it does not bother us.

DS: And we don't get any better!

TT: Yeah , we don't get any better. We just go out there and enjoy ourselves

GB: The fans enjoy themselves as well.

TT: That's the important thing.

Int: He wishes he could have seen the match yesterday

Band: It was very exciting

DS: I must have hit someone because I have bruised my fist!

Int: How did you choose the 20 tracks for the shows?

DS: Over the last few years when we have tours in Japan we can tell by the audience reaction the favourite songs that the audience want to hear. So we then work from the ones that are favourites and add to it. So we already know that the fans like songs like "Letting Go" "Can't see the Angels" things like that. And basically it was just down to us deciding what songs to use on the new album.

Int: Why didn't you play "Another time, Another place"?

DS: We had "Lovers to the Grave". We had "Dream On". So we thought there would be maybe too many slow songs.

[Dennis to the band. Then they are going to say why didn't they drop "Dream on" and put that in ]

GB: I'll say something on that then. "Dream on" is a lovely song but "Another time another place" will be next year.

TT: "Another time and Another place" I wrote on the keyboards and it is actually a sequence passage that I programmed myself. And if the monitoring on the stage was a little bit difficult for Clive, he would not have heard where the sequence changes. It had to be so rigid and it could have moved around and been very embarrassing for us.

Int: He saw the two nights at Club Citta and the new songs like "Don't be afraid of the Dark" and the kids were into the new tracks although the length of the songs that they are exposed to are shorter, since they are new tracks but still the kids reacted the same like the older tracks as well.

GB: Yeah, yeah. I was amazed because as a singer I have the mic and the kids were very responsive to the chorus's and that was very heart warming. Your know because the album has not been out long. Yes I was impressed. I was impressed with the kids on that.

Int: Tino, first night at Club Citta, you weren't very happy with the performance or something

TT: It was not that I was displeased with anyone else's performance. It was my own personal nightmare.

DS: I think everyone felt the same!

TT: With the tension of knowing it was a live album being made with the audio, my fingers just cramped.

CT: It's too much wanking!

TT: My fingers cramped up and I could not play. I was having to change things every time I was doing chord work and my whole hand was aching through the back and I just could not relax. It was the longest two hours of my life.

Int: At the last show you were running everywhere and you had a good time.

TT: Yeah, I decided to put the previous night out of my mind and had a few drinks and relaxed and went for it.

Int: But you were always looking to the camera.

TT: No, the camera was always looking at me!

GB: He is not shy.

TT: I was looking everywhere and it just so happened every time you moved somewhere the camera was in your face.

DS: They are still trying to fix the camera now anyway! They reckon the can rebuild it.

Int: Tino, you tried counting in Japanese. But everyone else ignored you.

DS: As usual!

TT: The thing is with any Mantis show, it's not rehearsed or choreographed. It is spontaneous.

GB: I don't remember him saying anything in Japanese

DS: It does not matter what he says, he just rambles on, you never know what he is up to. Talking about Ken?

TT: You weren't here on the promo tour when we did the karaoki. He was going mad singing every song.

[Tino has to go to another room for more interviews. The main translator also leaves.]

Int: Is there a reason why you played "Armed and Ready". Did you expect the Japanese fans wanted to hear you play it?

GB: Well I can't hide a light under a bushel. I have actually been here quite a few times. 5 times now. You know I was in a band called MSG and that was a track I did and Mantis were happy to do it for me. And they did a good job as well.

DS: I think actually we were asked. I think during rehearsals we were asked by some one in Japan. I think Ben [Chalsis - the band's manager] came to the studio. And think for some reason there was a conversation from Japan to our office and we were asked would we being doing a Michael Schenker track. And we then thought perhaps it was a good idea because the Japanese fans maybe asking the radio station are Praying Mantis going to be doing a MSG song so that is why we did it.

GB: It could have been two songs but I have a small ego!

Int: Was there a particular request for Armed and Ready?

DS: No, it was just because Gary sang it and it is a well known popular song.

CT: It is a nice simple good track that everyone recognised and Gary was associated with singing it.

Int: Do you think that the idea of playing "Armed and Ready" worked?

GB: I am not sure because it was the first actual try. We don't know

DS: Do you think it did any harm?

CT: To me it seemed to go down …


CT: Yeah

CB: And it was combined with a Mantis track at the beginning if you remember "Pieces of Eight"!. [Can someone explain that joke to me?]

Int: He enjoyed it very much

GB: I am nervous now. I am not sure if it was a good choice

DS: No, it was all right.

Int: Today I got some opinions from fans on the Internet. Some fans said that song should have been a more minor song. [It was an encore]

GB: Yeah, sure.

DS: I can see that but we don't know until we try.

Int: If you had been forbidden to play "Armed and ready" which song would you have played?

DS: >From MSG?

Int: Yes

GB: I would have played none of them if it was actually forbidden!

DS: Not if it was forbidden!

GB: No, no way. I don't want to upset the apple cart. We would have finished with "My old man's a Dustman" [A traditional English musical hall song]

Int: She recommends you play "Cry for the Nations" for the next tour.

DS: We better ask our boss. We get permission!

Int: Not!

CT: Yeah, it's a good song. But it is not so …

GB: Internet. We will actually put something on the Internet for our Japanese fans. Yes on the Internet. It's up to you guys, it's not up to us.

Int: Why does Tino have a funny style?

CT: T-shirts?

GB: English humour!

DS: I can't remember where that started but we have been doing it for many years.

Int: Serious question. What are your future plans?

DS: The most important step is to mix the live recording for every song. And then once every song is mixed between the record company, Tets and the band we will hopefully decide for the live album. Is it OK to mention the double album? And maybe on the single album there will be maybe 12-14 songs. Maybe less, maybe more. But then the record company are to bring out a double album with all the songs on for a limited edition. So the first step is we mix all the songs and then we have to sit down to write new songs for the new album.

DS: [quietly] Oh Chris, tell them about the new album being more in the Praying Mantis frame because of the reaction we got to the different style.

CT: Yeah, it's probably worth them printing that. [To the interviewers] And as we said previously we will concentrate very much now on the natural writing of Praying Mantis. As opposed to being lead by external forces. We will now cast those aside and now write purely from how we feel. And the next album will be very, very traditional Praying Mantis and which we hope the fans will really like. The next one we think will be the best ever album.

DS: No more experiments.

Int: How do you think about the new song writing for the new album Clive?

CB: Well I mean, just do the best I can do it. The guys write songs and everything else. I will be there. Everyone makes little suggestions here and there. But just try to drum it the only way I know how really but keeping writing the Praying Mantis framework and style of the song. You know, I would not drum it any other way. I mean, they come to it with ideas for songs and I sit behind the drums and play with that idea and say "What do you think guys?", "Does this work?" "Does that work?" And we all talk and "Yeah that's best" "That isn't so good" That's just how we do it. Step by step.

Int: The last thing, please give your message to the Japanese fans

DS: I think as usual every time we come to Japan we have a great time. The fans are absolutely fantastic, the people that work with the band, the record company, the crew, and the people like yourselves are all there to help Praying Mantis and I thank you very much and we love coming here and we are really glad the fans like the shows. So I am very pleased.

CB: Also I would just like to thank the Japanese fans for making us feel like we are all part of a big family. And that's a fantastic feeling. And we pick up on all the love coming from their hearts and it is fantastic.

CT: Yeah, just following on from that. Each time I come here I find it harder and harder to go back to boring London. Like they said I love all the people here. It's so hard to go back to quite a cold nation and I am quite seriously thinking of coming here to live. And I am serious about that actually [Laughing]

CB: It would be a bugger for rehearsals.

GB: I would like to say I had a great time with the kids and it was actually quite nice to see Mac in the audience headbanging. No, no it is actually great everyone loves us and hand on heart we love you. So are we going to sing this song or not.


We Wish you a merry Christmas
We Wish you a merry Christmas
We Wish you a merry Christmas
And a Happy New Year

GB: Thank you until next time!

[Dennis then took a few minute to express his disgust at the release of the "Original Iron Man" CD which all the fans had. He said he did a few demo quality recordings with Lea Hart back in England and that Lea was now mixing these tracks with other musicians and has now released the Original Iron Man album. Dennis had no knowledge of this before he saw the CD's in Japan and he was very embarrassed about the whole release. Especially the cover with two men with iron helmets hiding their faces on it. He was also not pleased at the way the same tracks were being released over and over again. See the True Brits Session page]