PRAYING MANTIS “Somewhere in Time interview”
The NWOBHM brought about many good bands, most of them met with a cruel fate and, at best, got round to show their talents on one vinyl single. The true survivors were IRON MAIDEN and SAXON. But then there is the stories of a handful of bands who have survived, being rather true to their origins and all. And then there is PRAYING MANTIS. Far from their roots they keep convincing fans and new fans that their finest hour started after the boom in England. With brothers Chris and Tino Troy at the steering wheel they have changed their sound and survived, in a way that no one probably even dared to dream of in the early eighties. Chris Troy took the time to reply to my questions about how the band has managed to always stay around and his thoughts on the band, past, present and future.
Hi Chris, cheers for your time.
How did the the band come about? Who came up with the name and why?
-Tino first teamed up with a guy that was going to the same college at him at that time which must have been around 1974 (a furniture design college). They were playing songs mainly from THIN LIZZY, STATUS QUO and WISHBONE ASH. Tino then asked if I wanted to join as a bassist but at that stage all I really know was Spanish guitar which was my very first instrument! However that was the start of it and things really grew from there.
Who influenced you to start playing? Many musicians have music in their blood; do you have musicians in your family too?
-Well actually there is no one that we know in the family history that was musical. I remember when I was about 12 years old my mother who is Spanish bought me a Spanish acoustic guitar. And gradually I started teaching myself and it surprised me and everyone how quickly I picked it up. Soon Tino got jealous and actually built his first guitar when he was at this college and like me he started teaching himself, but his influences as mentioned earlier were bands like THIN LIZZY and WISHBONE ASH where undoubtedly the twin guitar influence came from.
How do you feel about the music scene back then? You had not exactly released a great deal of material but still made it onto the bill of the Reading Festival, how come? How would you compare the early eighties to today?
-The NWOBHM became pretty big on UK scene and hence it relatively easy for any of these bands to get on festivals such as Reading. The early eighties were great; there was a sort of magical excitement that really isn’t there now. It was sort of pure whereas now I think a lot of the bands particularly the really heavy stuff seems a bit contrived.
It took ten years from “Time Tells No Lies” to “Predator in Disguise”, how did those years affect your musical development?
-“Predator in Disguise” really came on the back of the very successful venture in Japan when there was the dual Maiden / Mantis set up where Tino and myself teamed up with ex-members of IRON MAIDEN; Dennis Stratton and Paul Dianno (Paul being one of the first vocalists). We played half the set of Maiden songs and the other half with Mantis songs and it went down a storm!! It really got the ball rolling again and hence we then recorded the Predator album.
How would you describe your back catalogue, ups and downs, hits, etc?
-Well “Time Tells no Lies” did set the scene and it is amazing how everything else seems to be compared to that album…personally I did think it´s pretty good but I think people should really step back sometime and really question that. For instance I really think “Sanctuary” shits all over it. It was good for its time but we have done some much better stuff. “Cry for the New World” again I think was a really good release and it remains one of my favorites.
Ups :- has to certainly be being pretty big in Japan. I absolutely love the place and it surprised me how much they took to the band there.
Downs – never being as big as IRON MAIDEN though when we supported them on countless occasions we gave them a real good run for their money
How did the new band come about? What were your plans after “The Journey Goes On”?
-“The Journey Goes On” was a bit experimental and not sure if fans took to it because it was a little different. We had two vocalists being Doogie White (RAINBOW and YNGWIE MALMSTEEN) and John Sloman (LONE STAR and URIAH HEEP). Both are great vocalists but maybe there was some inconsistency in the album and that made it more conceptual. However a lot of people said they did really like that album.
After this, I think the plan was to really concentrate on making an album that would top everything we had ever done…nd that would take some time (six years in fact).
The new album, how would you compare it to the previous seven studio albums? Is it a collective effort or how was the music conceived? Could you please describe the individual tracks.
-Most of the fans and people that we know believe Sanctuary is the strongest album that PRAYING MANTIS have ever done. I need to take my hat off to Frontiers as they did really push us to make this album. But not only to release any old array of songs; they wanted something that they would be totally happy with and hence wanted to approve every single song on the album. And that exactly is the process that we went through… every song approved!
Answer: This song is about the plight that the parents of Madeline McCann (British girl who was 4 years old at the time who went missing whilst that family were on holiday in Portugal) are facing in their never ending quest for their little one. The guilt that they must be enduring and whether they can ever really recover from that nightmare.
Answer: “The lyrics were written some time back when a lot of things in life are going wrong with very little to smile about. It is about dark times and questioning one´s dreams.
“Tears in the Rain”
-It´s about the bond we have with our children which cannot be matched with anything. In this case the young girl has a limited time to live and it´s the mother`s perspective of trying not to show the extreme pain and devastation as the final days approach.
Answer: Basically this song is about taking an LSD trip to oblivion…with no return ticket.
“Turn the Tide”
Answer: About a passionate love that can never be but may have a chance in another life.
“Touch the Rainbow”
Answer: I remember when I was about seven years old and began to wonder what happens after you die. I was just thinking about the way space just goes on forever and why we are really on this planet? And then is there anything beyond that? That is quite deep thoughts really. It took a number of years before I put that into a song!!
“Threshold of a Dream”
-Mike wrote the lyrics and it is a song inspired by the power of Witchcraft and Magic. The strength of the will through spells, the seasons, the Sun and Moon and the four elements, Earth, Air, Fire and Water.
Answer: This song is based on a true story involving a friend of my stepson who managed to ‘Total’ his car and kill his best friend while walking away unscathed himself. All he wants is to swap the event such that he was the one who dies and not his friend.
Answer: Out of all this darkness comes this plain good old escapist stuff… Getting on that open road… top down, radio on, cruising and ‘all that jazz’. Real Good ol’ MADE IN THE USA stuff!
Answer: The title track of the album tells the story of bunch of young kids based in Wales who got involved in this internet pact whereby for some reason unknown, they all ended up taking their own lives. The suicide pact is there sort of escape from reality and into their fantasy or their “Sanctuary”
What happens next?
-Maybe this is where it really kicks off:-)
Who knows, many people that have heard this album think it may well catapult us to another level but if for whatever reason it does turn out to be the last PRAYING MANTIS album then I think it a cracker to go out with!!
Right on the spot Chris! The new album is quite possibly the best to come out of the PRAYING MANTIS camp. But the last?? I really hope not because the sheer quality proves that there is more mileage in the band; and quality mileage too. Amusing that such an English band goes for a typically American style track like “Highway”. I really wish them all the best and cheers Chris for being so friendly.
Don´t miss out on the new PRAYING MANTIS album “Sanctuary”; critics have been overwhelmed and it´s out now on Frontiers Records!