Metal Perspective Interview – Praying Mantis – Interview with Chris Troy
Interviewer: Steven Reid
After a hiatus of six years, Praying Mantis returned in 2009 with the excellent Sanctuary album which contains a stunning mix of hard rock and classy melodies with intelligent and interesting lyrics. Metal Perspective staff writer Steven Reid recently caught up with bassist and founder member Chris Troy to find out what’s been happening with the band both before and after the album.
Hi Chris thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions. Your latest album “Sanctuary” was released last year, I have to say I think it’s a tremendous set of songs. You must be pleased with the reaction to it?
Thank you very much. The reaction has been brilliant, far better than we ever expected. The hardest part of it is to come up with a new one as everyone will naturally expect the new album to be better!!!
I think a lot of people were a bit surprised when it was announced that Sanctuary was about to be released, what with your previous album “The Journey Goes On”, being released some six years before. Had the band effectively split?
No not at all. It’s amazing how time does go so quickly!! In that time I got married and had a child, so it was a very busy time for me. It also gave us a chance to sit back, scrub the writing banks and come up with a solid album which we hopefully accomplished. Admittedly though 6 years was a very long time!!!
I think the aspect of “Sanctuary” that most impressed me, was the fantastic mix of a really heavy rock sound with a massive injection of melody, which along with the crystal clear sound makes for an intense listen. How much input did producer Andy Reilly (FM, Pigface, UFO, Skin) have towards the sound, or was the vision painted out before he got involved?
Most of the album had already been recorded in the UK and we went over to Atlanta to do the final bits of drums, vocals and guitars. We then let Andy get on with the mix and for him to do his magic stuff. We certainly loved what he had done as the mix is so clear yet powerful. It’s amazing how difficult that is to achieve and how few producers can do that.
Your new front man Mike Freeland is a real find, he is blessed with an amazingly expressive, yet powerful voice and his performance really helps raise the album to the next level. How did you get together?
We have actually known Mike for ages, he was always there and we didn’t quite see what was directly in front of us! He was sort of doing his thing and we were doing ours. It was only when we were both looking for something at the same time that we thought we would give it a go. Straight away we knew there was something special and it just seems to have grown stronger and stronger
What about the other new guys Benjy Reid and Andy Burgess, have you worked with them before recording “Sanctuary”?
Yes we have actually worked with them in a few other bands so again saw the potential which was there. The chemistry seems to have grown and grown and there is no doubt that this is one of the strongest line ups we’ve had ever in our 30 years!!
As with so many bands that have long and sometimes troubled histories, you have had more than your fair share of members that have passed through the ranks of the band. I haven’t had the pleasure of seeing the current line up live; however the reports and album suggest that the five of you have gelled really well and that Mike is the real deal live as well. Are the five of you a settled band now?
Yes that was what I was meaning about the strong chemistry we have, there’s no doubt that the manner in which we now work together is great and it all seems to be getting better!! Something has to go wrong! (laughs)
The band has been touring quite heavily in support of the album, how has that gone and how much of the new material are you including in the set?
Yes we are working more now than we have ever done in the past and each performance seems to be going down incredibly well. There is about 50% of the new album in the set, so it’s been great to prove that Sanctuary is no way just a studio album!
My Metal Perspective colleague Giannis was recently very impressed by your set at the “Up the Hammers” festival in Athens, can you tell us about the show and what it was like to be back in Greece again?
We always love playing in Greece because the crowds are fantastic. In so many of the choruses it was hard to hear the band over the fans singing which just feels incredible!!! We would love to go back there, and hopefully that will happen very soon.
I was intrigued by the choice of cover art for “Sanctuary”, as it depicts the skull of a rather crest fallen Statue of Liberty, what was the significance of pairing that image with the album title?
I remember Tino seeing this image from the artist Rainer on his website and we both looked at one another with this instant sort of agreement, as it just seems to fit so well with the music, it’s probably my favourite mantis cover.
The lyrics on the album are a lot deeper and thought provoking than many standard rock words, how important to the band is it to convey a message in the lyrics that isn’t clichéd and stereotypical to the genre?
I don’t think it is that important really for most bands, but for us it ranks very highly. I detest the clichéd lines and want to shoot myself if I suddenly see that I have used them (laughs). The whole aura of a song can be made complete by a really good set of lyrics with deep meanings and this we strive to meet each time.
I was especially touched by the lyrics to “In Time”. Can you elaborate on the sentiment behind those words and any other songs that are particularly close to your heart?
This is actually about the little girl Madeline McCann who was kidnapped in Portugal a couple of years ago. I have a little girl who was of a similar age at that time and my heart just bled for how those parents must miss that little girl and how the memories of her will haunt them forever and whether they can eventually come to terms with it.
That must have been a tough lyric to write and something that most metal bands would shy away from.
My lyrics are never happy ….I don’t know why, but the serious lyrics seem to go with the minor chord structure so well.
Frontiers Records are becoming an even more major player in the rock scene. In recent times they have been involved with Toto, Journey and now Whitesnake. The label seems like a perfect fit for Praying Mantis, how did that come about?
Frontiers have actually been fans of the band for such a long time, so it was a natural progression for us to go with them, as they seem to concentrate on the melodic bands and hopefully we fall in that category.
Has the extremely positive media buzz surrounding the band resulted in “Sanctuary” being more successful than you possibly hoped for when you were putting the album together?
Yes!!! It still seems to be generating a great buzz even though it has been out for a while. I really hope that it continues!
Considering some of the harder times that have surrounded the band, it must be pleasing to be in such an upbeat situation now?
Unbelievably so, it’s fair to say that we have had more than our fair share of extreme downs (laughs) so it’s nice to have this sort of positive news coming in now.
Every time Praying Mantis are talked about in the media there is the inevitable mention of the NWOBHM, which gives the connotations of being “retro”. Did you ever consider that the name was becoming a hindrance and that it was possibly time to break with the past and call yourselves something different?
Yes that was something we did look at as do possibly most bands that were in our situation however at the end of the day being philosophical about it, it is NWOBHM that taken us where we have been and brought us to where we are now. So we salute it!!!
So how long do you plan on spending promoting the album?
Until it sells a million copies, (laughs) but that could take a few hundred years (more laughs).
Are there any plans on a follow up yet? I hope there won’t be another six year wait!
Yes we are currently beginning to put some songs together. However we will not be putting out another album just for the sake of it. We will make sure that it is at least as strong as Sanctuary before we contemplate releasing it… so it could be another six years (laughs).
Thanks for taking the time to answer the questions Chris, is there anything you’d like to add, or is there a message to the fans who have stood by you all these years?
Well what can you say except a massive, massive thank you.
Keep on Rocking forever.