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Interview: Praying Mantis

mit Mike Freeland, Chris Troy und Gary Mackenzie vom 21. Oktober 2011 via E-Mail
Die britischen NWoBHM-Urgesteine von Praying Mantis haben soeben die japanische Version ihrer EP MetalMorphosis fertig gestellt. Allem Stress und Workload zum Trotze haben sie es sich dabei nicht nehmen lassen, uns in einem ausführlichen E-Mail-Interview gleich im Dreierpack zu allem Rede und Antwort zu stehen, was es um die Band gerade so zu berichten gibt.
Viel Spaß beim Lesen!

Das Interview:

Alex: Hi everybody! Thank you for taking the time for this interview! How is the work on the new album going right now?
Mike: There’s a few great song ideas on the horizon. With such great reviews around the world about Sanctuary in 2009.
Gary: We have got a few ideas we’re working on but, to be honest, we’ve been fairly busy recently and the schedule for the new album has slipped a bit. We’ve had some great interest from Japan to do some further tracks in the vein of our Metalmorphosis EP, so we’ve been recording some other songs from the band’s backcatalogue – I think anyone who enjoyed that release will LOVE the other tracks we’ve done !
Alex: What can the fans expect from the new stuff? Compared to your in 2009 released album „Sanctuary“, which kind of stylistic innovations and changes are planned now?
Mike: More great songs. With this line up, there wasn’t a plan as to what should be written for Sanctuary. Andy and myself’ may have added a different influence but the Mantis trade mark is still there, with twin guitar lead, big choruses and brilliant harmonies. Trust me the Troys are masters at writing harmony vocal lines.
Alex: Is there any working title or estimated release date yet?
Mike: No working title yet, we’ll get to that once the songs are chosen.
Alex: Can the fans expect an exhausting tour after the release of the record?
Mike: I hope so, there’s quite a few fans that are waiting to see us.
Alex: You played some festival-gigs this summer like at the Headbangers Open Air in the north of Germany. How was the show? Did everything work like expected?
Mike: It went really well with the old and new material. The German fans are so fantastic it’s always a pleasure to play for them.
Gary: We’ve played some terrific shows this year, although they’ve all been somewhat different. The Headbangers Open Air show was a strange one, because we were asked at a fairly late stage to fill a slot when another band cancelled, so we had about 9 days to prepare and to work out travel arrangements, etc. On the day, most of the band had travelled by road from the UK and hadn’t slept for over 30 hours, and we arrived at the show literally 10 minutes before we were supposed to go on ! It was all a bit manic ! As soon as we hit the stage though, much of the tiredness just melted away, and we had a terrific time – we were knocked out by the enthusiasm of the fans, and were amazed that so many people were there to support us, singing along to the songs and everything … brilliant !
Alex: Did you make any special experience with the German crowd at your shows, which might be a typical characteristic for us?
Mike: They’re always fantastic and a total pleasure to play for.
Chris: Without doubt we have two very special territories in the world and GERMANY is certainly one of them !!
Gary: The words that come to mind for me are “loyalty” and “commitment” – I just felt that the fans at HOA were fantastic and clearly took their metal very seriously !! Actually, I’d like to put in a special thank you to one fan in particular – Andy and I would have been stuck if it hadn’t been for a guy named Tommy who agreed to pick us up at 4.30 in the morning from our hotel to get us to Hamburg airport – a complete star !
Alex: In general, do you prefer playing on bigger stages and venues or do you prefer gigs in smaller clubs, where you can better interact with your fans?
Mike: I love playing the big stages as I think the songs lend themselves to the bigger stage, but it’s also a real buzz to get closer to the fans in the smaller venues.
Chris: As Mike has put, there is something magical about a huge stage as the Mantis style of music just seems to demand that big sound.
Gary: Although smaller gigs can be a lot of fun, and obviously give fans the opportunity to get “up close and personal” with the band, I think the way we work on stage (have you seen Tino in full flight ?!) and the material we play lends itself to a big stage. If you haven’t seen the band play a large show, then you haven’t experienced us at our very best !
Alex: What reactions about the new album did you get from fans and the press for your 2011 released EP „Metalmorphosis“ so far? Was there any special moment during the production?
Mike: As I answered in an earlier question, we released it on our website as a thank you to the fans for their long support and I had a great time recording some of the classics. Not long after the release, we were getting great reviews around the world again and the EP found itself on the shelves in HMV in the UK. The whole gang including Wes and his crew had a wicked time recording it. Maybe that’s why it came out so well. The fans loved it which is a real big thing for me as the latest of many superb vocalists.
Alex: You produced this EP on your own, why? Is that also your plan for the upcoming album?
Mike: There was no big plan to do anything more than say thank you the fans with Metalmorphosis. How wrong we were!!! This line up is a monster and we have every intention to better Sanctuary. I’d Love Andy Reilly and his company, Muse to be involved, so maybe a bit of both….very similar to Sanctuary really.
Alex: Regarding your music, I think you have changed a lot over the years! From NWOBHM to more melodic hard rock and AOR. What was the reason for such a big change in your musical style?
Mike: I don’t quite agree with that. Take a listen again to Sanctuary, there’s a lot of light and dark in that album. Lovers To The Grave and Turn The Tide have a great similarity. The title track Sanctuary is nothing but dark, with Touch The Rainbow and Threshold Of A Dream, being total heads down. Come see us live.
Chris: I think I am with Mike here … The style is actually very similar. When you listen to the original album “Time tells no Lies” in 1980 and the latest album”Sanctuary” , the trade mark sounds are without doubt still very much there such as the dual guitars and huge melodic chorus’s.
Alex: Would you say this might be a kind of typical development in the aging process of a band? So to say a kind of „slow down“ and becoming more quiet in the musical style?
Mike: praying Mantis haven’t slowed down, they’ve just got better in their craft of mixing NWOBHM with great melodies, harmonies and wicked guitar work. That’s what they’ve always been doing since the start. Chris: Strangely I think we are now more energetic on stage now than we have ever been , mind you they need a few Oxygen cylinders waiting in the wings just in case !!! :)
Gary: I don’t know if that’s entirely fair – if you listen the early albums, all the classic Praying Mantis elements are in place – the vocal harmonies, the twin lead guitar work, and a range of styles from heavy rock to ballads … the band was never a purely metal outfit. The only major difference I’d detect is in the arrangement and production of the material – some of the early single releases and even “Time Tells No Lies” are a bit rough and ready compared with more recent work. As musicians, there’s always the challenge to move on with your playing and writing, and to refine what you do, and I think that this is what’s happened with Mantis. We have always been a heavy rock band and that won’t change, but it doesn’t mean we should stand still and regurgitate the same material album after album, I think that would be an insult to the fans personally.
Alex: What aspects of music are the most valuable in your opinion? Do you intend to make music for others or rather for yourself? Or maybe both?
Mike: Always both. There’s no way we’d release a song without the whole band behind it. I’ve spent a long time in different bands, writing songs with a melodic metal feel and Praying Mantis have been pretty much a home for me. Damn good to write with and the outcome is always bloody wicked.
Chris: It is strange I don’t think I have ever thought about writing for another band but that could be that if there is a song that is written and it sounds as though it could be a winner there is no doubt that the Mantis thing comes first and it would automatically be tailored to suit the classic mould.
Gary: If you listen to tracks like “In Time”, “So High”, “Touch the Rainbow” or the title track from Sanctuary, I think you’d hear a band who certainly weren’t “slowing down” or becoming quieter !! If it was about taking the easy route, we’d just copy the feel and arrangements of 20 or 30 years ago. In many ways, it’s actually far more difficult to marry the rock edge with more melodic elements in an effective way, than it is to write straight ahead heavy numbers. We’re primarily concerned with the song – and if that calls for an up-tempo rock work-out or a more thoughtful, slower approach or, indeed, both in the same track, then we’ll try to do what’s right for the song.
Alex: Generally, what’s up next for the band?
Mike: Everything!!! We’re looking forward to saying hi in Bologna and Barcelona with another visit to Japan in the new year. We have many fans in South America and the States, not to mention Eastern Europe who are waiting to see us. Watch this space guys ;-)
Gary: We’ve got the extra Metalmorphosis tracks being released in a limited package in Japan in a month or so, then some shows in Italy, Spain and back in the UK. Then, in January, we’re going to Japan to play in support of the Metalmorphosis release. After that, it looks like we’ll have a bit of space to look at brand new material with an album on the cards for later in the year. Hopefully, as mentioned earlier, we’ll be able to put a more substantial tour together in support of that. We’re also looking at doing some more high profile gigs next summer – a slot at one of the big rock festivals would be ideal ! Obviously, if anyone would like to see us out in Germany or further afield, we’d love to arrange something – book us and we will come !
Alex: Do you have any final words for the eavesdropping fans out there?
Mike: Thank you. The fans are fantastic, what more can I say.
Chris: Keep eavesdropping :) … without you, quite simple we are no one ! Or !
Gary: Praying Mantis is still a band committed to putting out great material and to playing wherever and whenever we can for our fans. We’re probably busier now than for the last 20 years or so, and we’re still hungry for more !
Alex: Thanks again for taking the time for this interview! All the best for your future!
Mike, Chris and Gary: THANK YOU!!!!
Moderation: Alexander Kipke

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