SOUNDS - February 13th, 1982
Krokus blares their press release, ‘are firmly ensconced among the top twenty crossing HM acts in the world today’.
Not bad going, and on the surface perhaps a rather unlikely situation for a swarthy. Mediterranean type, a Fred Scuttle loony, a promoted roadie and a two-man drum solo team. Nevertheless Krokus are indeed up there with the big names and positioned firmly above a number of acts that you already knew were huge.
The Swiss aren’t usually noted for their aggression but Krokus have taken the bit between their teeth and struck out mightily, working intensely hard to forge their way through the nether regions of rock and roll into the public eye.
The main earner for a band is of course the US market, and it’s there where Krokus have scored particularly heavily. Much of 1981 was spent on the North American continent capitalizing on the interest generated by their first visit the year before.
The successful outcome of this endurance test was not an unnatural topic with which to interrogate vocalist Marc Storace when we met recently at the record company offices in London.
In complete contrast with his stage persona, Marc’s a quietly spoken and thoughtful character with an interesting sideline – he successfully deducted that I was an Aries on the basis of a general suspicion and a single chance remark that I made.
But back to the tour: It started with the Swiss (rock and) rollers opening for Pat Travers (who alternated headline status according to who was the biggest draw in the city they were playing), then a couple of dates with Cheap Trick, then a tour with Nazareth, and finally another with Ted Nugent.
Headline bands moan about grueling US tour schedules, so imagine doing three on the trot! The objective was to be seen and heard of course, and Krokus certainly worked hard on that.
“We always had to break the ice for other acts, but it was okay, we’ve got a big hammer! It was very exciting, especially the places we were playing for the second time around, or even the third where the tours we did crossed over, like we’d played a place with Nazareth and then later the same place with Ted Nugent. The reaction has increased so much, and nobody stays in the bar. We were national breakouts on the radio too, that helped a great deal.”
“We’ve done two years of supporting now, next time we’d like to go as special guests, not headliners yet – we don’t like to try to get too fast.”
Nevertheless they’ve succeeded in going pretty fast in the UK, considering their minimal status and erratic live performances only two years ago. Last year’s tour demonstrated their true potential and this one looks like lifting them into major league status.
He’s fully aware of the economic realities of today though – ‘three million unemployed and more to come. I wonder where the kids find the money to come and see bands these days’ – but Krokus have reached the level, it seems, a welcome highlight worth saving the cash to see. He believes that they owe their rise to giving the kids what they want, the way they want it.
“After all, you’re playing for the people, not yourselves. It’s incredible, it’s what we love doing most and the kids love it too, so why change and make everybody unhappy, both the kids and us? It’s very relaxing, a comforting thought to know. Maybe the sound has changed, we’ve had different engineers and producers, we had other ideas about how to twiddle the knobs, but I don’t think we’ve moved much to the left or right or straight ahead.”
“I think the thought of success gives you more positive energy, or creativity. You know that your music is going to fall on more ears, so it’s liable to more criticism – plus the more popular you get, the more people try to cut you down. When you get to platinum level some people have a hard job staying there.”
The band is positive enough not to be worried though, hence one track on the album – ‘To The Top’: “The band still jokes about me – I came into the rehearsal room in a flurry, with that certain drive, because I’d been spending a lot of time listening to people’s problems and ended up with ‘To The Top’. Even Switzerland has problems, you know. It’s not a land of perfection – they try t make it so, but the more perfect you try to be the more you screw up people’s minds. Like Scandinavia is supposed to be so perfect and yet they have the highest suicide rates: there’s nothing left to fight for, they have it all. You need positive ideas and ambitions; being in a band is a bit like trying to go freelance, setting up your own business. Some people have good ideas but their impetus for carrying them through is switched off by negative suggestions from other people. ‘To The Top’ means hit it and go, don’t give a damn about what people say.”
So do you give a damn about the fact that I thought ‘Celebration’ and ‘Winning Man’ were the best tracks on ‘Hardware’, and I’m more than a bit gaffed off that they aren’t paralleled in excellence by anything on ‘One Vice At A Time’. Talking to bassist Chris Von Rohr during a mixing session at Battery’s Studios I’d been interested by the apparent pleasure he got from the revelation that my favorite tracks were the uncharacteristic ones, and wondered whether Krokus were beginning to feel slightly limited by their avowed intention to give the kids what they want, the way they want it, and are a little worried that no one wants to know their ‘slow side’ (Marc’s description, not mine. Slow???)
“I don’t think it’s a case of being worried about doing things like that; as Krokus we just get more of a kick out of that full power thing, fast rock and roll. And to do a good slow number like they were they have to come out of thin air. You have to grab that energy and control it, and at this time it just didn’t come. Most of our songs are a matter of coincidence. Sudden inspiration - you have to grab that energy before it goes off into eternity and make a song whilst the adrenaline is running, whilst the excitement is there. And this time around, from every direction, every member of the band, the feeling wasn’t for slow numbers. We’re going through a fast rock and roll phase I suppose”.
The album surprisingly incorporates a cover version for the first time. ‘American Woman’, which was a big hit for The Guess Who (Canadians!!!) aeons ago. Whilst Marc’s description of it as ‘a fragile trophy from the past’ hardly does justice to the vigour of the original. Krokus certainly have overloaded it with doughnuts this time around. “We thought we’d either mess it up and make a lot of people angry – sometimes you hear such crappy versions of great songs – or else we’d be able to add some spice to it. That was the sixties and this the eighties. And there’s been a certain change in sound, I think we managed to bring it into the eighties. We all prefer it the way it is now, but we’ll have to wait and see if the public like it or not”.
It’s a likely choice for a single, both in terms of the commerciality of the original song and the greater willingness of radio programmers to fall back on songs that have already been successful. Even geriatric radio producers were young once and “American Woman’ may spark off fond memories of youth.
The idea of cover tunes was apparently first mooted by Clive Davis, the potentate at the head of their record company Arista (which he started himself), who surprised and gratified Krokus by showing up at a New York gig they played last year.
It nearly didn’t surface this time around though, and in view of Krokus’s ‘flash of whole of ‘One Vice At A Time’ might never have been written, let alone recorded! Fact is that this album was originally planned to be a live set, but that’s now been rescheduled for next time around. There’s a possibility that this year’s Castle Donington festival could be one of the venues to be recorded, since Krokus are under consideration for this year’s bill. Just as they were last year until AC/DC pulled the plug on them…
“We thought: Hell, what have we ever done to the band? Is it because people say we sound like the band, and I sing like Bon Scott? Can they possibly care about things like that? We have played with them in Cincinnati and it seemed okay, the feeling was alright and we like the band. Then we were told we were playing Donington, then we were told we were not playing Donington because AC/DC management didn’t want us. And then after that it was AC/DC the band who didn’t want us. That confused us, and we never found out the truth over whether it was the management or the band. Just recently we were in Battery Studios when Malcolm Young turned up because we gave them four days out of our studio time to let Mutt Lange remix their album. We didn’t show any hard feelings because we didn’t know the exact truth and the band and he had a drink and a smoke together – I wasn’t there that day myself – and talked rock and roll, totally sociable. If it’s the truth that they, the band, turned us down, it shows that they’re worried we might be too strong a band to have playing before them, and obviously I like the sound of that. I’d be stupid not to (be). I just hope that we can play Donington this year and it seems to be possible. We’ll knock off in America, just to come back here and do it if we get it.”