Praying Mantis will always be my favorite band of the so called New Wave of British Heavy Metal movement…mainly due to the fact that it was never an essential part of that genre. All these years, Rockpages has supported the efforts of brothers Troy because we so rightfully believe that Praying Mantis is a brilliant outfit. Period. In the frame of the band’s upcoming concert in Cyprus, we talked exclusively to Chris Troy and we asked him to take us with him on a…journey in time and in Praying Mantis’ story…
Interview: Sakis Nikas
Rockpages.gr: Chris, Praying Mantis was formed before NWOBHM, you were identified as a part of that scene yet you were not the typical band of that era mainly due to your more melodic side. Do you agree with this assessment?
Chris Troy: I agree…of course, we have always been a melodic rock band. We haven’t changed much really…as you said, we were there before NWOBHM so we didn’t have or didn’t want to change our music to become part of that movement.
Rockpages.gr: Did you feel restrained by that categorization?
Chris Troy: Not really…naturally there were some bands from that era that got huge…Iron Maiden and Def Leppard especially. It certainly was a good vehicle for us and we were really pleased to be part of such a great movement. I suppose that it didn’t propel as at the same heights as the aforementioned bands but nevertheless being a part of NWOBHM worked really well for Mantis.
Rockpages.gr: Recently, Rock Candy reissued your debut record “Time Tells No Lies”. Reading the liner notes, I noticed that you consider that album as a good one but definitely not your best work…
Chris Troy: Yes, that’s true! I suppose there are many bands that classify their debut albums among the best ones they ever did. Obviously, it is the time when many fans get to notice one band. On the other hand, you are still inexperienced and basically you are not aware of the professional music business. Working on “Time Tells No Lies”, I’d say that our approach was correct. The sound was fresh and the songs were well-written…a big credit should go out to our producer at the time Tim Friese-Green because he really understood what our songs were all about. But…yes, I prefer other albums of our catalogue, like for instance “A Cry For The New World”. Also, our last record “Sanctuary” is a really good one. I can never criticize, though, “Time Tells No Lies” because it was not only our starting point but people show a lot of interest on this record hence Rock Candy decided to re-release it.
Rockpages.gr: In your opinion, why did it stand the test of time?
Chris Troy: I think any good music…hopefully a melodic type really stands the test of time. You know, that’s what people like. Listen…when punk was born, people got into it because it was different but then, after a while, it died.
Rockpages.gr: Do you believe that if the band had released “I Surrender” as a single things would be different for Praying Mantis?
Chris Troy: (laughs) Well…it’s a difficult question. The good thing was that it got us some press because Tommy Vance, a very famous radio DJ in England back then, liked Mantis and he learned that we recorded the song…he mentioned us a few time on his radio show…but as you know in the end Rainbow beat us! I am sure everybody knows that “I Surrender” worked well for Rainbow. It was a big hit here in England…I think it got to number #2 on the charts. But, it wasn’t meant to be for us.
Rockpages.gr: You know some TV shows or news articles called “Where Are They Now?”…I believe that Praying Mantis was missing in action throughout the bigger part of the 80s. Really, what have you been doing at that time?
Chris Troy: It’s not been an easy process…the beginning was really good for us because “Time Tells No Lies” was a successful release and things seem to be getting really well for Mantis. But, there were a few management problems and we could have done some things differently. When you look back on things that you have done in the past, you tend to seek ways of how you could have been better…how you could have improve a situation. On the other hand, there is a part of me that strongly believes that if it wasn’t meant to happen then simply…it wasn’t meant to happen! You can always be very philosophical about it. The truth is that we are still hanging in there; we have survived…we continue to release albums and as a matter of fact we are now working on the new Praying Mantis record…maybe, I am jumping ahead a little bit now and I am answering another question of yours…we are in the process of doing our 10th or 11th studio album. There are not that many bands of our time that have survived so many years. To get back to your question, in a way we didn’t really disappear in the 80s but we were visible, if that makes any sense (laughs)!
Rockpages.gr: Although, I had prepared that question for a little bit later on, now that you mentioned it, tell us a few things about the new album that you are working on…
Chris Troy: Right…“Sanctuary” did open a lot of doors for us. There were a lot of reviews that said that this was the best album that we did since “Time Tells No Lies”. So, we are really cautious with the next one because we want to better, if possible, “Sanctuary”. I love the whole songwriting process…I always write; it’s a hobby of mine. I tend to be more…hopefully creative. Being old and wise has its advantages (laughs)! We know exactly what we want to achieve with Praying Mantis and we know the way to do it…obviously, being melodic is a very good starting point as we were always very melodic on our records. As we speak we are looking forward to recording the songs because the whole songwriting process is nearing the end. I believe that there are many great and strong songs on the new album…actually, some of the strongest songs we’ve ever produced.
Rockpages.gr: Getting back to the original order of questions…just when you were essentially missing in action, you got back armed and ready in the 90s. Do you thing that the Japanese Tour in 1990 re-energized the band?
Chris Troy: Very much so…it was definitely our comeback moment. There was a guy called Masho Hito (ed.note: hopefully, that’s the right spelling) in Japan…a big name in Tokyo, for sure. He wanted to bring over there some of the original members of Iron Maiden and Praying Mantis and it was phenomenal! It went far beyond anyone’s expectations. The shows in Tokyo were sold out and we had to do 3-4 encores playing actually the same songs because we didn’t have any other songs left (laughs). So yes, you are right; it definitely re-energized the band.
Rockpages.gr: You released many studio albums in the 90s but I strongly believe that the quality of the band is best captured in “Predator in Disguise” and “Forever In Time”. These are the two albums that I would recommend to someone who wanted to get started with Praying Mantis. What’s your opinion and how about you…which albums would you recommend?
Chris Troy: You know…I like when people chose various Praying Mantis as their favorite ones. As I said, I am really fond of “A Cry For The New World”. “Forever In Time” was a very emotional record for me because it was recorded after my dad died…so, a lot of my emotions came out through the songs with that album…like “Blood Of An Angel” or “Tomorrow Never Comes”, the slow song which I sang on. I think it was an extremely emotional album. But yes…“Forever In Time” is also one of my favorite Mantis records.
Rockpages.gr: Would you care to take us back in England of 1980…these were some great moments in rock history. Did the bands feel that way? I mean, did the bands feel that they were making history?
Chris Troy: Probably not. Maybe we were naïve or young…probably both (laughs)! Now, that I look back on that era, I realize that we were making something very important for rock history, as you said. We created something very interesting that it touched the lives of many people throughout the world. There were some really good bands…Angelwitch, Tygers of Pan Tang, Samson. The awesome thing is that it still means a lot to the fans; especially in countries like Greece, Spain, Germany…as a matter of fact, Germany is the second strongest market for Praying Mantis after Japan. Incidentally, we are not very popular in England where the whole thing started. Also, there are many NWOBHM bands around touring and recording. Well, the majority of them have one original member but it still counts, right? Those were some great years and yes, we wrote history in music!
Rockpages.gr: Out of all the NWOBHM bands that emerged in the early 80s, apart from Praying Mantis that surely deserved a far better career, which other band would you say didn’t have luck on its side and failed to make it although it deserved it, too?
Chris Troy: Well, I quite liked Tygers…they had some good songs on their albums. One other interesting band that Dennis (Stratton) had was Lionheart but come to thing about it they weren’t a big part of NWOBHM as they were more melodic rock or something.
Rockpages.gr: Chris, do you consider yourself to be first a bassist and then a singer or the other way round?
Chris Troy: I’ve been a songwriter, bassist and singer. I think I have a good voice but it could have been more powerful, I f I may say so. But again, I had a powerful voice then there wouldn’t be any need to have lead vocalists in the band. Mike Freeland is really good, he’s got a really nice, big range and he helps to bring melody across on the songs far better than I could have done.
Rockpages.gr: Now that you brought the subject of lead vocalists, I have to say that the choice of Gary Barden was not the best one, especially for the release of a live DVD…that’s my opinion.
Chris Troy: I couldn’t agree more with you. It was strange…for starters, it should have been Bruce (Bisland) behind the drums. I can’t remember why he couldn’t make it…maybe he broke his arm or had a problem with his back. If my memory serves me well, it was Bruce who suggested Gary for the lead singer spot. We thought that Gary was a well-known name but it proved to be not the ideal choice. From all the Praying Mantis singers, I’d say that he was my least favorite one.
Rockpages.gr: In a few weeks you are playing in Cyprus. What can you tell us about that coming show?
Chris Troy: We are really looking forward to going to Cyprus and play for our fans there. Obviously, we have some relatives there…well, our roots are in Pafos and we are playing in Nicosia in a Festival called “Power of the Night” on the 27th of July. We were scheduled to do that festival a year before but we couldn’t do it. So, as you can understand we are really looking forward to that show. Tino and I will go there earlier for a short vacation and then the rest of the guys will come there for the show. The very next day we are flying to Germany for a gig…it will be a tiring yet pleasant experience.
Rockpages.gr: After more than 30 years now, would you say that music history was kind and generous to Praying Mantis?
Chris Troy: (laughs) That’s another interesting question…I think it could have been a little bit kinder. But, Sakis, if I had to put my hand on heart, I’d admit that it was our fault! We should have capitalize more on the success of “Time Tells No Lies”…we had the opportunities but as I said, we were young and not wise enough. So, music history has been relatively nice and kind to us. We are still here, alive and well…34 years on and still counting! We surely had some fantastic times over the years and we recorded some great music along the way. So, I am extremely grateful to people like yourself who still keep the faith and support Praying Mantis all these years. It means the world to me.