Last Modified On 21 Mar 2009
Here is a conversation I had with Chris Troy at Markus Studios, London. It took place on 10 March 98 during the third and final week of mixing of the new album "Forever In Time". There are a lot of pretty obscure/random questions in this one as I was trying to fill in the gaps in my knowledge and also asking questions on someone else's behalf.
JH: Do you ever hear from Dave Potts or Steve Carroll?
CT: Steve - Like I said earlier, I don't know what happened to him. Dave Potts - I'd like to know where he disappeared to. His wife - I don't know if someone told you but she does Eastenders (a UK Television Soap Opera). She is one of the extras on Eastenders, you know the type you see in the background, but she has done it for 10 or 11 years. Often I have wondered about ringing up the programs and asking where's Dave, but I don't know if they are still together
JH: And Steve Carroll we don't know about. What about Bernie (Shaw)?
CT: Bernie - all the time. We're very good friends. In fact we wanted him to do some background vocals on this album but then (sorry someone else in the room spoke too loud compared with Chris and I can't make it out. It might be "we need to come up with the same sort of facade") He's a great bloke.
JH: When you did the 1987 reunion concert is it correct that you were sharing the same building as Uriah Heep and Bernie was having to go between floors to practice with you both?
CT: Mmm no. Which reunion was that?
JH: The 87 one where he had just joined Heep
JH: And you did the one off gig at the Marquee
CT: I think, well unless he told us a lie, I mean really at the end of the day it was the final dregs for us really. We knew things weren't going well for us really and Bernie said he was going to join Uriah Heep (the last few words are my best guess. I need to position my mics better if I record an interview in a crowded room again. :-( ) and good luck to him. It was good for him.
JH: So you might still have actually done Mantis again then?
CT: It's possible, he loved being in the band but you know .. (lost it again)
JH: Do you think he might ever talk to me?
CT: Of course, Definitely. He is a very, very easy going chap. He is one of the .. I mean he is a lovely, lovely person. I really like Bernie.
JH: Yeah, It sounds from someone I was speaking to in Germany that he has a soft spot for Mantis.
CT: Oh Yeah. Definitely. He would do anything for us.
JH: Have you ever played gigs in Germany? You have recorded there.
CT: We have never done a gig in Germany. We have recorded twice there.
JH: Stratus and the second album that was never released?
JH: Did you actually record "No Mercy" and "Heartache" with Tom Jackson on vocals?
JH: So they are sitting around in Tino's cassette tapes somewhere?
JH: Oh and why did he leave?
CT: Tom Jackson?
JH: Yes. Another one that didn't fit?
CT: Yes. A lot of people used to come up to us and say "he does not fit in the band". He's not *****???Quick enough because of the Alcohol???. He just did not seem to fit.
JH: On the "Predator in Disguise" tour why did Dougie White only appear half way through the set?
CT: It was a number of reasons, it was similar to the first time we went over to Japan. It was Paul Di'anno that was going to do the lead vocal and what we would do was do a few of the original Praying Mantis songs and then Paul Di'anno came on. We tried to sort of re-emulate that with Dougie. We did some of the songs that we could sing and then Dougie came on half way through. I always think it's nice for an audience to see a bit of diversity as opposed to 'Bang' there's the singer, there's the drummer, there's the bass player and guitarist and that's it. Just that little bit of change.
JH: Yeah I thought it was really good when you did "Lovers to the Grave" on the last tour. You had rearranged that a lot and it was probably the best track as well. It's was great hearing you and Tino sing. It seems to grate with a lot of people that Tino won't sing any more.
CT: The most I could hear above the noise of Dennis and his son play pool, Tino laughing and other conversations was a few quiet Yes's from Chris.
JH: How did you feel about the Di'anno/Praying Mantis tour? Where you supposed to be Praying Mantis. Or Praying Mantis with Dennis Stratton and Paul Di'anno?
CT: I think that's a very difficult one that one because no one really knew what they wanted out of it. At the time it was a little bit of a power struggle because we had never really played with Dennis or Paul before. I don't think there was any animosity at all.
JH: It really grates with me that nearly all your songs are at the front of the set and then it is solid Maiden until the Encore.
CT: The thing is in fairness that because Maiden were so big over there we had to make it like
JH: You couldn't have mixed it?
CT: Not really because, like I said earlier, we did our set, we'd sing 5 or 6 songs whatever it was and then once Paul came on
JH: He did do a couple of your songs
CT: Yes I think he did.
JH: It was Visages "The Step" that was the intro music used for the 1982 Mantis tour and the 1983-4 Escape tour?
CT: It was Visage but I can't remember the exact title.
JH: It was actually their music played and not anything you knocked together?
CT: No, no.
(I have since doubled checked the title with Tino and queried what they were doing listening to Visage. And he quite rightly said they should not be blinkered by types of music. But that in fact it had been a manager's suggestion. And it does in fact seem a good piece of intro music for the band)
JH: Is "A Question of Time" an early version of "The Horn"?
JH: Because I did not spot that it was "A Question of time" you were playing as the first song after the Visage Intro. I just picked up on very similar drum patterns.
CT: They are different songs. "A Question of time" was basically the theme from Lawrence of Arabia, I don't know if you have ever seen the film, mmm I have forgotten it now but it's actually a classic thing and what we did is take the classical aspect of it and put double bass drums behind it. If you ever see the Film "Lawrence of Arabia" listen to the music.
JH: With "Time Slipping away" why was it called "I know it" at Reading 82 and three days before it was "Time Slipping Away"? Could you not make up your minds at the time
CT: Probably. I think it was as simple as that. I like "Time Slipping away". It sort of said it all. Sometimes you call a song by the most obvious one but I think it just a case of that.
JH: Do you have any objections to me having Real Audio files on my site. I have uploaded a track from each album to give people some idea what you are about.
JH: You don't mind that at all. And what about the new album?
CT: If it could be snippets.
JH: You prefer snippets as opposed to a whole song.
CT: Yes I mean just from the copyright aspect until it's all sorted out.
JH: Why did the sound change so much when Bernie joined the band? It's as though you did not like "Time tells no Lies". You had just done a really great album
CT: Yeah, I don't know actually.
JH: In a newsletter you were already saying how you had changed the sound
CT: Yes. To be honest it was not a conscious thing. It changed
JH: What made you get keyboards in?
CT: To be honest I am a keyboard fan. From the aspect I said before (I had earlier queried why the keyboards were so up in the mix on the Captured live album. Especially as they, to my ears, were too simple. Chris had not noticed they were) I found the guitar alone just a little bit raw and when I wrote a lot of this album it was basically one keyboard. It was just a sequencer thing. I just sort of played the parts. It was great because you can put the drums down and the bass down altogether and instead of saying to someone "Oh come and listen to this song" and play them an acoustic guitar you just press the play button and you have almost got the finished thing there. I find with keyboards, they just give another dimension. To me it has always been that aspect. Maybe I remember them from the very first time I joined the band and we were supporting this other band once and while we were doing our sound check the guitars were sounding a little bit rough. And then the main band came on and - um - it was an open air festival and this guy walked up to this keyboard and twisted a few knobs and then put his hands down and there was the Gorgeous sound. (Chris is talking very quietly but thankfully everyone has gone now). I mean it was probably crap
CT: I remember this open air festival and this sound came from the speakers and I thought "Isn't it amazing!"
JH: So you prefer keyboard and guitars to guitars.
CT: I like them all basically but - um - I like the breadth that keyboards give. I really do like the breadth. In simplistic terms I find guitar a little bit two dimensional. Whereas the keyboards add a third dimension, they come out of the speakers a bit more.
JH: I have to say I agree with you myself. Do you think as an intellectual challenge "Can't see the Angels" can be played without keyboards?
CT: Oh yeah. It could be. I think any song we do could be.
JH: I must admit that I was quite impressed that you did "Moment in Life" and "Dream On" acoustically in Japan.
CT: Oh yeah I think that any song we have ever written can be sort of manipulated into totally guitars and a guitar sound. In fact some of the songs we have done here we have actually experimented with trying to take out. Like one of them has a keyboard intro and we have actually tried taking it out completely and just having guitars there and it seemed to worked out quite well. So yes.
JH: In October of the year you were doing the second album you were convinced the album was coming out that December
JH: And then it has never seen the light of day. What happened? What did happen to the second album? Did it just disappear completely?
CT: Which second album?
JH: The one where you were going to do "Battle Royal, A Question of time"?
CT: Yeah. I think it.
JH: (checking my notes) "Heartache", "Raining in Kensington",
CT: Yeah because we were with Jet at the time. When we did "Raining In Kensington" and all of that.
JH: Oh was that when the money disappeared and they lost interest?
CT: Yeah. Because Jet were going through a bad financial time themselves anyway. So the money was drying up.
JH: So did it get fully recorded?
CT: No. We had them recorded but there were a lot of big gaps. "Raining in Kensington" was recorded. Have you heard it?
JH: Yeah I think it is a good song.
CT: Yeah I think it is a lovely song. It has never been properly recorded you know it's never been actually put on proper vinyl.
JH: Yeah it's not an official release. It's a shame that. Tets (from Pony Canyon in Japan) was asking you about putting them out. Did he ever get on to you any more about that?
CT: No, because there is a little bit of this aspect as well. We're thinking we can't always rest on the past. You know a bit like the "Time Tell No Lies" thing. We need to move forward. I think with this album, although in some ways we are trying to bring back some of the history. These is only a certain amount of the history you can bring back. Now the melody I think will certainly be there on the tracks. I think to try and capture something exactly that happened 20 years ago is impossible. You couldn't ask the Beatles to do it.
JH: No. Do you not think the fans would be interested in a sort of cheap retrospective?
CT: Of "Time"?
JH: No of the second album that was never sort of finished?
CT: It's possible.
JH: I know I am you see.
JH: And a lot of people do like that era so do you think it would ruin your current sales? Or is that what you would be scared of?
CT: No, the sales thing doesn't really sort of scare me or anything like that. But you know if there was any sort of interaction I don't think it would cause that. I am certainly not adverse to doing that if they really wanted us to go down that line. I know Tets has been asking about the re-release of the Stratus thing and - um -,
JH: Ah right yes, who would do that? Because Oliver Kleem (from High Vaultage records in Germany) is supposed to be doing that as well isn't he?
CT: I think so yeah
JH: So would Tets take it off .. Presumably you would lease it to both would you?
CT: I think Tets would just take it off Oliver and do it like he did "Time Tells No Lies" because "Time Tells No Lies" was never well released on CD in Japan so somehow they got hold of the original 24 track or 1/4 inch tape or what ever it was and transferred it to CD.
JH: Do you have any extra large T-shirts or know where they can be got?
CT: Any tour?
CT: I might have some. I will have a look.
JH: What sort of sales figures have you achieved? You were talking about 20,000 for "Time Tells No Lies"
CT: I think "A Cry For The New World" did around the 35,000 mark.
JH: World wide? Or just Japan.
CT: Japan was about 35,000
JH: I had heard about 2,000 for the UK. Would you believe that?
CT: It is very feasible yes. Like I said the market doesn't really exist for us over here now. It's very probably nostalgic. You know we have to concentrate on the market as the hand that feeds you.
JH: What would you like to achieve with Praying Mantis now?
CT: In many ways, I think the epitome was once when my ex-girlfriend used to say to me "Why do you keep listening to your stuff? Don't you think it's a bit conceited?" I said "Why do you listen to an album?" and she goes "Because I like what is basically the sounds I want to hear" I said "Yeah, you like hearing that particular melody, that particular sound" and she said "Yeah". I said, now put yourself in my situation. If you can totally adapt that record you see that record can only be a compromise. It is particularly what you want to hear. It can never be totally. An album that I do is totally what I want to hear. If I have written the songs that's because that is what I want to hear. So you're bound to want to listen to it.
JH: And brings back memories of the time as well.
CT: Exactly. But that to me in a way, I get so much enjoyment of composing and ultimately hearing the final product going to CD. Because it is something you want to hear. You wouldn't compose something that you don't want to listen to. Well if you do that just means you have been sucked into churning out something purely to try and make a hit which I have never done. I wouldn't say that anything we have done down there today is trying to fit into a niche. Trying to fit into a market. It's purely because how I like it.
JH: Would you like to hear some of the bootlegs of concerts you did about?
JH: They're great for me because I have never heard them
CT: Yeah sure, sure. I think yes. Yes and no because the trouble is
JH: They are going to be awful quality.
CT: Yeah that's what I am saying, you want to hear it as you'd like to hear it basically i.e. the right format. I have never been one for live albums so I don't think I would ever play a live album personally speaking because I like a slightly more polished thing i.e. the band playing quite tight. The production doesn't have to be ultra refined but you want to hear the song as it can be played. As it can be recorded. And that's why. I might still like to hear the vibe of an album but I still want to hear it at the potentially best it can be.
JH: Would it interest you hearing some of your old performances?
CT: Yeah, just from a nostalgia point of view.
JH: Where do you think your influences derive from? I saw Wishbone Ash the other day and it's the first time they struck me that you sound like them.
CT: They used to be very much our - I mean - "Live Dates" I used to listen to a lot - um - what's the other one "New England". What's the one before that? All those I really enjoy them. Those and Thin Lizzy were our two major influences.
JH: You all quoted Rainbow in your questionnaire responses for the 1980 Fan Club.
CT: Yeah I like Rainbow.
JH: Why did you change your names to Troy?
CT: Neophytou was too long. It was too much of a mouthful. And I hate it.
CT: Yeah. Troy's alright.
JH: What bands do you find really fantastic?
CT: I have always liked Toto.
JH: God that's three of you then.
JH: Yeah, Dennis said that and Tino would have used the guitarist in his all star line up.
CT: Really? Yeah. I do like Toto. That's probably why in some ways we don't have too many arguments in the studio. Yeah, there are a lot of those influences that don't necessarily come out but you can still sort of admire someone for their playing. - um - The Eagles I like the singing and playing and writing abilities. I mean I have never really been a heavy metal type.
JH: I said something I can't make out.
CT: Bon Jovi, I do like Bon Jovi.
JH: So you're into quite mellow bands?
JH: What musicians would you like to play with in an All Star band?
CT: Oh right
JH: Actually have you ever played in any other bands?
CT: No, none at all.
JH: So you have only played with Praying Mantis? You have not appeared on All Stars like the others?
CT: No, nothing. No, I am very faithful. Ha, ha. I know maybe it sounds a little bit boring but playing doesn't particularly strike me. Maybe the playing aspect isn't one of my priorities. It's really the songwriting. I think the aspect of songwriting rates far higher in me than actually playing.
JH: How do you actually set about doing a song? Do you write the lyrics or the melody line?
CT: It is almost always the song first and then I write the lyrics. It is very rarely the other way around.
JH: Who did the lyrics to "A Moment in Life"?
CT: Actually Colin did them. I did do the initial set but he modified them quite a lot. But again I had the basic melody lines. He thought his were a little bit more commercial and on this one I agreed and made way but I did have a set of lyrics for it but I let him use his ones.
JH: What about the chorus?
CT: Well all the lyrics used were Colin's.
JH: In which countries are you most popular? Ha, ha.
CT: Without a doubt, Japan. It would be nice if we could become effective in other countries like Germany. I mean
JH: That's another thing, do you know that "Live At Last" has been deleted in Japan?
JH: Mmm could you believe that?
CT: No, that seems strange.
JH: A friend has just tried to order it and that is what he was told. I would have thought Pony Canyon would have kept them all on unless they decided to replace it with Alive.
CT: It could be, yeah. It's 8 years ago now so I suppose it could be.
JH: Sorry, I was trying to get you to tell me what musicians you would use.
CT: I would have to think about that. Can I tell you another point? Ha, ha.
JH: Which Praying Mantis do you suppose to be the best and which songs?
CT: I still like "A Cry For The New World". There is a lot of my personal favourites on that album. I do "Letting Go". I don't know why but - um -. "A Cry For The New World" I do like that one as well. I can't recall what else is on there.
JH: Journeyman ..
CT: Yeah, most of the things I did like. "Fight to be free" as well. There was one track when we were writing it I had this mental image. And sometimes it does happen like that. You get this mental image of what you want a track to sound like and I thought that one would be brilliant. I really thought it would shine and it didn't quite make it. When it came out eventually, you know we did all the recording and Colin's singing and everything. I thought this wasn't what I envisaged. It was OK but it was 60% of the track I wanted it to be. Had it worked out exactly the way you have this mental image of it would be a stonker but it just didn't quite make it. I still like it. I still like that track.
JH: Who wrote "Beads of Ebony" that's my favourite track.
CT: Tino actually did. Many, many years ago obviously. But I always liked that one. I think it's got a lovely chorus.
JH: It's been even better for me since he told me it was about "Seal Culls" last year.
CT: Oh, you didn't know.
JH: That's the thing about all the tracks. It did not even occur to me Flirting with Suicide was about Praying Mantises. Unless you know what the topic is sometimes you just don't know. I have given the lyric to Beads of Ebony to all sorts of people to see if it was my poor comprehension skills and no has ever come back with "Seal Culls"
CT: It is. It is very well hidden that one. I don't suppose you know what "Letting Go" is about?
CT: Death. Ha, ha. It's actually about when you see the light. And effectively about going towards the light. Some people have read into it, some haven't. Many of my lyrics are quite morbid to be honest (Whispers "Death")
JH: Yeah, it's good that. I liked the explanation of the "Concept" of "A Cry For The New World" because the English CD of it did not have the story in it. So I had never considered the songs might be related until I heard you explain it in an interview.
CT: Tino came up with it as a concept and it was quite interesting. I don't think we are continuing on this particular album but it's fair comment. And it is something we partially believe in. I mean, recently I have been reading this book about it called "Fingerprints of the Gods". And all it is, is basically looking at the things like the pyramids and temples of the Aztecs and the - um -, I can't think of them and basically they found maps of the Antarctic going back 15,000 years and it just proves really without doubt there was a very advanced civilisation. How it disappeared and where it came from is another matter, but those things couldn't conceivably have been constructed.
JH: Yeah. That brings me back to the current album. Do you know who is doing the cover for it? Have you talked Rodney Matthews back into it despite his religious beliefs?
CT: We couldn't find him, basically.
JH: Oh right.
CT: But we have some general ideas. And these people here (Tony O'Hora's friends) are actually working on them.
(When we returned to the studio a bit later, various ideas for designs were being shown around. They were graphical pictures in the Matthews style/"Live In the East" bootleg style. They looked pretty good. It was mainly a blue back ground with from memory a couple of pyramids. And a crying eye from "A Cry For The New World". The skull from Time "Predator In Disguise" or "Time Tells No Lies" etc. in various positions.)
JH: Is there any basic premise behind the album?
CT: What, the title or just the cover?
JH: The songs - have they got any linking to them or whatever? Tino thought they might end up being about your father.
CT: There is quite a lot as it was a major thing for us.
JH: But would fans notice it?
CT: Probably not. It is quite subtle.
(I then ask for the title of each track which I have listed elsewhere)
JH: Do you have any interesting stories behind the lyrics?
CT: Most of them do, yeah. Like I said, some of them are subtle, some of them are a little bit more obvious. One of my favourites is "Changes". It's just basically about the struggle for life. How it can suddenly become so sort of monotonous, basically. And of all the lyrics I have written. I don't know why, you just read them and ..
JH: Who wrote "The Story"?
CT: I wrote the lyrics to "The Story"
JH: And what was it about then?
CT: Ha, ha, ha. If I tell you it's basically death again! It's not something that interests me greatly but - um - maybe I don't know it's - um - I find it very easy to write about.
JH: Well you have got to get your emotion from somewhere, haven't you.
CT: But yeah, exactly. It was very similar to "Letting Go" that same sort of theme.
JH: But you wrote a lot of the new album?
CT: Yeah the majority of the songs.
JH: But it is sort of arranged by Tino, Tony .. Has Tony done any of the lyrics?
CT: Yes. "Do you Remember my Name" is his song basically. So yeah - um - it's a lovely ballad that one. On the other stuff, a lot of it I did on the machine and then just transferred it over and we just started adding the real guitar parts. Real guitars substituting what was done on the keyboard.
JH: I will let you off now!
CT: Excellent. I will pop down and see how they are getting on downstairs