Heavy Sound System – Interview with Praying Mantis from June 2009 – rocking xx
Praying Mantis started back in 1977 when Spanish-Greek brothers Tino and Chris Troy, founded the band and recorded a demo which received great acclaim in the british Heavy Metal scene. The famous DJ Neal Kay often played their songs and thanks to his support, three of the demo tracks were finally published in 1979 as a maxi-single entitled “The Soundhouse Tapes”. Another demo song was later included in the “Metal For Muthas” compilation, the same one
which launched Iron Maiden to the stardom! Praying Mantis were therefore able to support the first Iron Maiden UK tour and later went on to record their debut album with Dave Potts (ex Ten Years After) on drums and Steve Carroll on guitars and vocals. “Time Tells No Lies” is still considered as one of the best expressions of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal phenomenon, even though it did not have much commercial fortune. The band decided then to add a new singer (ex Grand Prix and later Uriah Heep, Bernie Shaw) and a keyboard player in order to give more depth to ther sound. With this line up, Praying Mantis recorded a single “Turn The Tables” and again appeared on the bill of the Reading
A new line-up change (ex Iron Maiden drummer Clive Burr entered the band) brought later also a name change: as STRATUS, the band toured the UK and released the album “Throwing Shapes” in 1985. In 1990 Praying Mantis finally reformed with a new line-up featuring two further ex-Iron Maiden cohorts: Paul Di’Anno (on vocals) and Dennis Stratton (on guitar), with Bruce Bisland on drums, thanks to the interest of some Japanese promoters releasing a live album (“Live At Last”) in 1990 recorded during that tour. The success gained in the Eastern lands, convinced the band about the possibility of a permanent reunion and with a renewed line-up (the band featured in this time ex MSG singer Gary Barden, then Mark Thompson-Smith and later Tony O’Hora on vocals) they released six studio and one live album.
After the release in 2003 of “The Journey Goes On”, an album that featured different singers, most notably John Sloman (ex Lone Star) and Dougie White (Malmsteen, Rainbow) the band went into a sort of hiatus period, which was broken in the summer of 2007, when a new incarnation of the band – formed by the Troy brothers with Benjy Reid on drums, Andy Burgess on guitars and Mike Freeland on vocals – appeared at the Bang Your Head festival and later – in the summer 2008 – at the Headbanger’s Open Air Festival in Germany and at the Bloodstock Festival in the UK, while writing and recording the brand new stunning studio album.
Entitled “Sanctuary” the new Lp was recorded in Atlanta, USA under the direction of producer/engineer Andy Reilly (Asia, The Cult, Bruce Dickinson, FM etc). The music is again very personal with plenty of great melodies and songs. The mix of lead and harmony guitar breaks and solos with great vocals and keyboards is fantastic with an overall songwriting on the highest levels all over. What we have here is a band that contains some very fine and experienced musicians who have put together a collection of songs that create a really classicalbum. A truly welcomed return !
Source : Frontiers Records
At first, can you introduce yourself and tell us in few words your own career ?
TINO: I built my first guitar at school at the age of 16. I then went on to college in 1972 where I met fellow student/guitarist Pete Moore. I then asked brother Chris to join the band on Bass and the line-up was completed with Chris Hudson on drums. Praying Mantis was born in 1973 after briefly being known as “Junction.”
BENJY: Afternoon, I’m Benjy Reid, the drummer with Mantis. I heard live drums for the first when I was about 10 or 11 and that was it, I knew what I had to do. I’ve collectively been in about 30 to 40 bands on either side of the Atlantic, some famous and others not so, but one things for certain, you are only as good as your last gig. Luckily, I got lightening for sticks and thunder heels so as long as it’s raining, I’m in… why do think I moved to England?
What are your own favourite styles and influences?
TINO: Our influences back then were Thin Lizzy & Wishbone Ash who we respected for their use of melody & harmony both vocally and on the guitar. The Eagles had just burst on the scene and I was wowed by their amazing vocal harmonies. Influences now are Toto (love those guys). Especially guitarist, Steve Lukather who inspires me greatly. Still love the oldies like Journey… I suppose I’m just showing my age… Ha-Ha!
About the band:
BENJY: I’ve been listening to classical and it’s derivatives for quite some time now as I’ve heard enough drums to last ten lifetimes. That may have to do mainly with not wanting to cop anybody else’s vibe or approach. Influences? Alcohol mostly…
ANDY: I was a NWOBHM fan at School and remember adding a Mantis logo to my local bus stop! My mum was a great influence being a great classical guitarist and my first electric guitar was an awful Les Paul copy from a pawnshop then it all changed when my brother brought me back an old Strat from the states. I played with various rock bands through the 80’s and 90’s and joined Mantis in 2007 after playing with Chris and Tino, and later Benjy, in the legendary London based Paddy Goes to Holyhead. My influences have always been based around strong guitar sounds from bands like Lizzy through to Van Halen and individuals like Jeff Beck, Neil Schon and Stevie Lukather with some jazzier tones from Larry Carlton. Its great playing with Tino as there is total synergy with our styles and influences.
MIKE: Spent the 80’s playing in a few rock bands with Axon IV becoming local heroes playing the South London Venues, recording songs with Colosseum drummer Jon Hiseman as producer. I had a short spell with Brian Connolly’s Sweet, which did give me quite a few lessons in vocal harmonies. I also spent a couple of years in the mid 90’s playing rhythm guitar and lead vocals in the Back Alley Blues Band before joining Kenny Cox’s More in 1999. After a series of strokes, Kenny could no longer play and the band folded before it could make any form of comeback. In 2006 Tino heard some songs I had recorded with a band Called Dangerous Breed and produced by Chris Tsangarides (also producer with Mantis at some point). He asked me to do the Head Banger’s Open Air festival in Germany that summer and I’ve been with them ever since. Influences: First big influences I guess, in the 70’s were The Moody Blues, Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin. When you’ve got an older brother you tend to start by listening to his albums when he was out. My vocal influences focussed a lot around Ronnie James Dio and Bruce Dickinson. I’m a big fan of the power vocals and drama they put into their work and I hope there’s some of their influence in my performance.
Which artist you work with or you worked with impress(ed) you the most?
BENJY: Phil Grande (guitarist from Joe Cocker) had/has (not sure if he’s still with us) fingers from heaven. ‘Stuck Mojo’, for their discipline. Derek St. Holmes (singer/guitarist from Ted Nugent and PRS Band) for his shot with a buffalo rifle!
TINO: Phil Grande? Is that Rio’s Brother? …. To tell the truth Mantis has been my life and I’ve not worked with that many musos on the outside. We have had some great musos and untold vocalists in the band previously – Dennis Stratton was a great player and a brilliant joker but we never quite gelled as players, not sure why. However, the bond we have now is the strongest it’s been since I can remember. The guys around me are fantastic and like the parts of a well-tuned engine we work together in absolute harmony to achieve unsurpassed performance. Aaaarrgh!! Am I muso or mechanic, je ne sais pas!
What about your promotion work and your relation with press at the moment? Do you get a good feed back about your SANCTUARY new album?
TINO: The feedback so far has been absof*****glutely staggering, everything and everyone is so extremely positive, we can’t wait to take this beast on tour. It’s been the best reaction to anything that we have ever done. Thanx everyone.
What’s the mood of it? What would you say to make people listen to it and buy it?
BENJY: It rocks like f**k!
TINO: The mood is varied. It borders from being very dark one minute then it lifts into a more escapist mode. It’s really cool stuff that many people will be able to identify with. No one will feel cheated if they buy this album; every song has a quality second to none. It has been almost 6 years since ‘The journey goes on’ but we assure everyone that this has not been wasted time we wanted to nail the band line-up once and for all and with it deliver something that we and our disciples could be eternally proud of. Sanctuary is this ‘Trophy’… ”Check the web guys”.
Where do you find your inspiration for music and lyrics?
TINO: As mentioned above most of the stuff is written from real life experiences and situations. For instance. “In Time” was written about the disappearance of Madeline McCann from the parent’s perspective. ‘So High’ is about Hot air ballooning…ha ha! I’m sure everyone can work out the subject matter from the title 😉
We could go on and explain the subject matter of the entire album but then it wouldn’t be as much fun for you guys…and you might not buy the album if you thought our song were about outdoor adventures such as Hot Air Ballooning 😀
BENJY: Music is all around us, every moment of everyday. I can hear it best in the silence because it is then one must truly listen. So endeth the lesson ; )
What’s your favourite new track? Why?
TINO: As you probably can gather from my earlier answer, they are all my favourites but if there’s one I enjoy playing live, it’s gotta be “Highway”.
ANDY: “Tears in the Rain” for me, this one really came together while we were all in Atlanta and is great fun to play live.
BENJY: That’s a toughy because there are some magic moments sprinkled throughout Sanctuary. Will have to put some thought into that…. Bollocks, just blew up the last brain cell!
MIKE: “Turn The Tide” is a superb power ballad. It has a fantastic chorus without going all vocally soft in the verses and bridges. Also some great acoustic work as well.
Do you think you will bring something new in music with your new cd?
BENJY: Yeah, honesty, integrity and ability which seem to be greatly lacking these days – at least here in the UK – and not just in the music!!!
TINO: To be honest I don’t know the answer to that one… Do we compare with anyone – not sure, is our music new? No, not really but we are talking about great songs here and these songs are original and exclusive to Praying Mantis. Maybe ‘Sanctuary’ would serve as a cure for “Swine-Flu” Ha ha!
Will you be touring soon and what can the audience expect from you on stage?
TINO: We are currently trying to get a few dates together, possibly as a “Classic Rock” line-up featuring ‘Tank” & “Rock Goddess”. We will also have “Fire Eating Chimps” and a “Raffle” at the end of the evening.
The lucky winner will get to buy us all a very large drink!!
I wish you a big success with your new album!
TINO: Thanx so much
And I thank you for this HEAVY SOUND SYSTEM interview!
Message to HEAVY SOUNDERS:
TINO: Please get yourselves an early X-mas present and buy “Sanctuary” and I promise… you will not be disappointed, it is great for the soul and has the XXX Factor…. No! It’s not ‘porn’
BENJY: One must never, ever, stop the ROCK…even if it is a four-letter word!
PRAYING MANTIS interview juin 2009 – Sanctuary (2009)