VOCALIST MARC STORACE SPEAKS IN THIS RARE US INTERVIEW!
The history of Switzerland’s KROKUS goes back to the 70s, but the band hit big in the USA with 1983’s HEADHUNTER. The video for “Screaming In The Night” was an MTV favorite. The followup, THE BLITZ, also did well in America, and yielded a bunch of videos (“Midnight Maniac”, “Ballroom Blitz”, and “Our Love”) that all received a nice amount of airplay. Upon the release of 1986’s commercial sounding CHANGE OF ADDRESS, the band’s popularity began to wane. Even a return to form with 1988’s HEART ATTACK couldn’t save the group from eventual breakup.
Guitarist Fernando Von Arb kept the band alive over the years with different supporting players, and even regrouped with vocalist Marc Storace and several other key former members for 1995’s TO ROCK OR NOT TO BE. While that didn’t last for long, Storace did eventually return a few years ago to record a new studio album, ROCK THE BLOCK. Now, with a live album, FIRE AND GASOLINE under their belt, as well as a new American label supporting them, the time seems right for Krokus to hit American shores again. I recently spoke with Krokus vocalist Marc Storace from his home in Switzerland to get an update on the band.
Metaldreams: I’m glad to see that Krokus is back with a U.S. record deal. I guess HEART ATTACK was your last official release here in the USA.
Marc Storace: That’s right. In ’88.
Metaldreams: What kind of effort did you have to go through to find a decent US record company to work with this time around?
Marc Storace: It all happened like it was made by destiny. Last year, I worked with a U.S. band from Los Angeles called "Warrior". That is a band under the new company whom we’re working with in the States, Reality Entertainment and Warren Croyle. The whole thing had a good vibe and I really enjoyed being there again after fifteen years and it was really exciting for me. When I came back [to Switzerland], I sat down and talked with our (Krokus) manager and told him, “Why not keep everything under one hat if possible and make one big family out of this? I know the people already. I’ve been comfortable with them so why don’t you talk and see if you feel the same”. In the end, it worked out that Reality was the best choice. There was more openess and more trust. The whole thing just seemed to fit like a glove. I’m very lucky that it worked out this way because I’m singing in two bands under the same hat. The whole coordination, agenda, and the whole synergy of this has a positive effect and both bands can profit from each other in these hard times. I’m just hoping for the best now. We’ve had good reviews so far and I know that a lot of old Krokus fans are happy. They’ve been contacting me through my website and I’ve been answering a lot of them. They’re looking forward to our eventual visit.
Metaldreams: The first release on Reality Entertainment is FIRE AND GASOLINE and then came ROCK THE BLOCK, although those records were released in the opposite order in Europe.
Marc Storace: I think it was a good idea to release FIRE AND GASOLINE first because it’s like a refresher. There are loads of fans that have vinyl but don’t have their [record] player anymore and can’t listen to the old Krokus stuff. FIRE AND GASOLINE is twenty Krokus classics with a couple of new ones from ROCK THE BLOCK, all "live".
Metaldreams: The new songs fit very comfortably within the realm of the older songs.
Marc Storace: Yes, we did that deliberately. We were very conscious about trying to carry on the same feel we had with ONE VICE AT A TIME and HEADHUNTER and skip THE BLITZ and CHANGE OF ADDRESS, and kind of latch it all up with a little bit of HEART ATTACK. I have nothing against THE BLITZ and CHANGE OF ADDRESS as such. I think the songs stand up for themselves but the production fails because it’s too poppy and too light. For Krokus, it sucks. It’s a pity. You could take some of those songs and do them again, beef ‘em up so they fit with all the other stuff we have on FIRE AND GASOLINE, and they’d stand up as well.
Metaldreams: The first song that turned me on to Krokus was “Our Love” from THE BLITZ.
Marc Storace: Really? Hardcore hard rockers, they’d probably find “Our Love” a little bit too soft compared to “Long Stick Goes Boom” and “Eat The Rich.”
Metaldreams: Obviously HEADHUNTER did very well in America, but wasn’t THE BLITZ a big success for Krokus in America too?
Marc Storace: Yes, it was. Basically, that was one of our best sellers too but it was also a matter of THE BLITZ being a followup to HEADHUNTER, which was a very good seller. THE BLITZ was the limit, production-wise that’s where we screwed it up. Then on CHANGE OF ADDRESS, we completely screwed it up production-wise. If we had a different producer, someone who was more into hard rock/metal, and the record company wasn’t trying to turn us into a Top 40 band…. They were telling the producer to cut the edge off Storace’s voice, and [doing] photo sessions [that made us] look good for the girls.
If you compare that to Metallica, who were up n’ coming, they kicked our ass. We were on the wrong track and we didn’t make it into the Top 40, except with “School’s Out.” It went into quite a good position and that convinced us that we were on the right track but it was an illusion. We were really caught in the mill and lost our objectivity.
Metaldreams: The video for “Burning Up The Night” found you guys dressed in pink. (laughs). Pink and bright red.
Marc Storace: Ozzy, Kiss, Motley Crue, everybody looked like that.
We were all like that. It was crazy. If we had pulled the handbrake on that, I guess we would have gone the Metallica way and become huge. I believe that would have done it.
Metaldreams: If you were to play in the US again, would you play anything from THE BLITZ?
Marc Storace: I have a solo band that every now and then I pull out of the garage and do a gig, and then I play “Our Love,” which is a new version, a beefed up version, and it’s even shorter. And I love doing “Midnight Maniac”. [Krokus] has talked about it, and we’ll do [“Midnight Maniac”] again for the American fans, and probably “Ballroom Blitz”.
Metaldreams: Let me put in my vote for “Our Love.”
Marc Storace: That’s going to be difficult to convince the other guys.
Metaldreams: That song brings back fond memories of me getting into Krokus, plus I loved the X-rated version of the video and your big smile at the end.
Marc Storace: Ah, yes. That was funny. So tongue-in-cheek. I was so serious through the whole [video] because it was melancholic. The whole story was one of these typical lover relationships. It was about my divorce, my ex-English wife, basically living apart, both having lovers, and in the end this doesn’t make sense anymore. We’re still very good friends, so it’s the kind of love that never dies. I fought hard to have my girlfriend in the video with me, instead of having some stand-in. That was Nikki Sixx’s ex. She was only nineteen. I met her in the Rainbow in Los Angeles. Apart from being amazed because she was young and beautiful, I also had a soft spot because she was crying. He really put her through hell. [Our] relationship lasted a year and a half. When we were doing the video for “Our Love” and I had to do this part, I said to our manager, Butch Stone, “Hey, Butch, please help me get Dini on the video. I don’t think I can lay in bed and do this scene with anyone else.” This was after my divorce, my father had just died, my Alfa Romeo was totaled, and my cat died, and I had no home as well, so I was living in a suitcase in Los Angeles.
Metaldreams: I saw you on the "Heart Attack" tour and it’s still one of best shows that I’ve ever seen.
Marc Storace: Back in ’88 for the "Heart Attack" tour, unfortunately the whole scene seemed to be waning. We started to suffer and couldn’t stay on the road, so that’s when I decided to call it a day.
Metaldreams: Was the rest of the band feeling the same way?
Marc Storace: Well, I was feeling that way most of all out of everybody and it was leading to some friction at the time. Then Fernando and I fell out. There was quite a negative vibe happening. It was really time for the band at that time to "make or break" anyway. We had been going non-stop since 1979, that’s when I joined. From then on, it was uphill and the big success came very fast. By 1988, Krokus had become an American band. We were never back in Europe for too long. The last one was in ’88 as well with Ted Nugent and that was one of the longest ones we did. We had really lost touch with the whole European thing and it showed in our stage clothes and it was showing in the music.
HEART ATTACK was actually a survival thing, trying to get back to our identity, but because the way the times were, we didn’t make it back to our normal position with that album, so for me it was definitely the time to take a break, whether the others accepted it or not. Boston was the last time I saw the guys, and I didn’t see anybody for years after that because as I said, there was some friction. People took it against me.
Metaldreams: It was definitely a weird time. 1988 was a huge period for a band like Poison. Krokus was overshadowed by a lot of crummy bands.
Marc Storace: Yeah, that was a really strange time. Metallica was doing well. They were really coming up.
Metaldreams: There was the commercial stuff like Poison and the heavy, thrash stuff like Metallica, but Krokus was caught in the middle.
Marc Storace: But glamour bands were dying out – Motley Crue, Twisted Sister, all the fancy dressers. We had become the same.
Metaldreams: Especially on THE BLITZ and CHANGE OF ADDRESS. At the time, did you realize the image was a mistake or did it seem right at the time?
Marc Storace: At the time, it seemed absolutely right. That’s the problem. Before writing HEART ATTACK, being back in Europe and being up in Canada, we had realized that we had become to Americanized. Our European identity was part of what made Krokus attractive to the US fans initially. We wanted to regain our identity and get back to our roots. Song ideas started to come back like “Axe Attack” and “Let It Go,” so it was a confirmation that this is back to our core. When you get in touch with your core, it just flows, and you’re not fighting, looking for songs. But it was too late, unfortunately, and the energy in the band was very weak, and I had basically had enough. I needed to get back to my roots. My very roots are not in Switzerland but in the Mediterranean, the island of Malta, so I wanted to walk on the cliffs and visit the temples of the Gods.
Metaldreams: So you got away from music entirely?
Marc Storace: I got away from music physically but spiritually and mentally I was searching for creativity. After that, I did my first solo album, the BLUE album. It’s a pop rock album, very radio oriented with some heavy stuff in there, some rock n’ roll, and some quite sensitive stuff. It didn’t sell that well. I was really unlucky. The company (Eurostar) I was with died after a month. Then there was a re-release after that and that didn’t work out too well either. The last people that had the rights were BMG. They re-released it about four or five years ago. They didn’t really back it up. They thought it would sell on its own. We couldn’t afford to tour. After that, I closed the shop again. I’ve been writing ever since. I’ve got a pile of songs for my next solo thing but obviously I don’t have time for it at the moment because "Warrior" came up last year and Krokus is doing fine. That’s my first priority now, Krokus.
Metaldreams: Going back to FIRE AND GASOLINE: LIVE, I was pleased to see that you performed “Fire” from Metal Rendez-Vous. Is that a song that Krokus has played "live" in the past?
Marc Storace: “Fire” was something that we did "live" a lot and very significant here in Europe and significant for the spirit of the band. Wherever I can, I use the word “Fire” in my lyrics. It’s a song that we don’t always do live but when we do it’s real fun doing it. This year, it’s not in our repertoire but we might put it back in for the USA.
Metaldreams: You’ve got a lot of songs to choose from. Picking a set list must be difficult.
Marc Storace: The more albums you do, the more difficult it gets. After every concert there’s always someone who goes "why didn’t you play this or why didn’t you play that?", and it’s frustrating because you want to please everybody, but that’s life.
Metaldreams: Fernando Von Arb continued on with all new members for the STAMPEDE album in 1991. Did you have any contact with him at that point?
Marc Storace: No, no. As I said, I was burned out on Krokus. For me, I saw no point in doing heavy metal or very hard rock. I got into my solo thing and I was happy with that. I fell in love [with Cornelia and got] married and have two lovely kids and moved to Basel, where I still am today. I was really beginning a new life and I had enough of Krokus. Fernando and I were not on speaking terms when we broke up after the "Heart Attack" tour, so that was it. I let it be.
Metaldreams: TO ROCK OR NOT TO BE came about in 1995, right?
Marc Storace: We bumped into each other at this festival backstage. He immediately said, “Before anyone else tells you this, I have to tell you that I’m very sick”. [I said,] “What, do you have AIDS or something?” He said, “No, no. I’ve got cancer”. So, I immediately buried the hatchet. I thought, “My God, this is my old comrade. Forget any bullshit. Now’s the time to pep him up with good spirits, so I invited him home and he met our newborn baby boy. We had a meal and that’s when I put it on his plate. I said, “How about a reunion?” We did the reunion tour called "The Living Legend in Switzerland". That worked out fantastic. The spirits were great and we managed to get old band members.
Metaldreams: Freddy Steady, I couldn’t believe that!
Marc Storace: And Mark Kohler. That was a really exciting reunion. It was like the old band back together, all except for the bass player (Chris Von Rohr). This was followed by [To Rock Or Not To Be]. Then we went our ways again. We never called each other. Nothing was ever said. Really weird.
Metaldreams: How is Fernando’s health now?
Marc Storace: He had five years in which to go through re-healing. I think if nothing reappears within five years, I think you can say you’re healed to a certain degree. He seems to be okay again, full of energy. But he needs to be, I guess, on his own. He’s not very sociable when we’re not working. Not the guy that drops in to visit.
Metaldreams: What’s the reason for that?
Marc Storace: We live about three quarters of an hour drive away from each other. We don’t live in the same town. I’ve got a family – two kids, they’re very, very demanding and energetic. I’m happy to work at home on my Internet and in my little basement studio. Fernando doesn’t have a family. He has a girlfriend and lots of freedom. Much more freedom than I have.
Metaldreams: After you went your separate ways, Fernando put out ROUND 13 with another Krokus lineup. How did you get back into the fold after that?
Marc Storace: After ROUND 13, I listened to that and thought, “Oh, no! Ridiculous. The Krokus name is really going down the drain”. At the time, I carried on writing for my next solo album, which hasn’t appeared. I did a lot of performances with this acoustical trio and on my own with this classical opera singer. Another one of the things I did was this guest appearance with Switzerland’s Swiss dialect rock singer. I performed “Beside Radio” towards the end of a show and the whole stadium went nuts, and I thought, “Wow!” I had already called Fernando (in 2001) before this happened. I said, “Fern, I look into the Internet and see bands reforming. If you ever have something in mind to do something again together, now’s the time. I’ve got plenty of songs. I could go for a solo album now but I thought I’d call you. Krokus makes more sense now. What do you think? It’s the quickest way to get back on the big stage and get back on decent tours”.
Metaldreams: The bottom line is that no one wanted to see the ROUND 13 version of Krokus.
Marc Storace: One thing I threw in was, “The band’s name is going down the drain. I’ve got songs twenty times better than that. I know that we can write better stuff than that. That’s not Krokus”. He said, “Let me think about it”. I didn’t hear from him until this big thing happened with this Swiss dialect singer. This was televised nationwide and there was a big thing about it. Obviously, it hit on the right nerve on Fernando’s side. Then he called back and we talked again. I went to see Krokus’ next concert with the ROUND 13 formation, and got on stage, signed autographs. He was like “C’mon, c’mon, c’mon” so I said, “Okay, the door’s open.” The next time we talked it was like, “Let’s do it”. He gave me a cassette with his ideas, song titles and stuff.
Metaldreams: There’s been a revolving door with respect to musicians in Krokus.
Marc Storace: Yeah, yeah that’s it and that makes me sick to tell you the truth. I get to like somebody and I want to have them as my friends for life, especially when you share all these emotions when you’re on the road. Some people you fight with. Some people you don’t want to see again but shit happens. It happens in a relationship with a woman and that’s just two people and it happens with relationships in bands and that’s five people, plus all the people around you.
Metaldreams: Do you keep in touch with former members like Mark Kohler?
Marc Storace: Yeah, Mark’s got a couple of kids too. He’s working for a production company, mainly on light design. He’s living in Solothurn (Switzerland). Freddy Steady is some kind of general manager in a company. He has thirty five chicks working under him so I guess he’s happy.
Metaldreams: How about Chris Von Rohr? I know that there were some problems with him.
Marc Storace: Chris, I see only when I watch TV. Thank God I don’t see him in person. Lots of people have had problems with Chrissy.
Metaldreams: I know he was producing for awhile.
Marc Storace: Yeah, for "Gotthard" but they parted eventually. Now, he’s found this young band called the "Lovebugs" and he’s managed to get himself in there. They’re still young and naïve I guess because he can’t work with anybody that gets wise.
Metaldreams: He’s got to keep them young and dumb.
Marc Storace: It’s a pity. I don’t think they’re dumb. They probably look at him wide-eyed and legless as the guy who has done it all, and he’s always pushing that.
Metaldreams: What happened to Jeff Klaven?
Marc Storace: Jeff, I haven’t seen for a long long time. He’s American. He’s out there somewhere. Last thing I heard but I don’t know if I can believe it, is that he’s working in a bank.
Metaldreams: Tommy Kiefer?
Marc Storace: After HARDWARE we had to leave Tommy behind because he couldn’t keep up with the band because he was already addicted to heroin. Towards ’86, he got AIDS and then he hung himself [on December 24, 1986]. That was really tragic. It’s still a very sad part of our history. It was front page news in Switzerland.
Metaldreams: How about Steve Pace, who played drums on the HEADHUNTER record?
Marc Storace: Unfortunately, he was kicked out by Chris because of timing fluctuations. He was a really nice guy, and I don’t think it was him who was fluctuating at all. It was Chris because Chris was the least capable musician on stage. He was good image-wise. He played the part. It was really a pity to see Steve go and that built up aggressions that were released later on by other members of the band.
Metaldreams: And Tommy Keiser, who played bass on CHANGE OF ADDRESS?
Marc Storace: He married an American and is living in San Diego, I think.
Metaldreams: And finally, Dani Crivelli, who played drums on HEART ATTACK?
Marc Storace: I saw him lately. He lives in Solothurn. Cut his hair short. I don’t know what he’s doing but we just met briefly for a "hi" and "bye" chat.
(Ed. We forgot bassist Andy Tanas (1984-1985). After a bit of research Metal Dreams found that Andy is still playing music, but now he’s into Country music. His website is www.andytanas.com and he's got some really cool Krokus pix and background on his time with the band.)
Metaldreams: On FIRE AND GASOLINE: LIVE, your voice is as good as it was in the 80s.
Marc Storace: Well, I’m using the same technique. Although I’m older, I still care about my fitness. I don’t smoke cigarettes and I don’t drink that much. I have a beer, I have red wine with my meal, and after that I like to have a grappa. I even drink that before going on stage because it gives me that edge. It’s really powerful. This stuff wakes you up. You take a couple of shots and hit the stage. We do it all together in the band, except Fern of course. He watches his diet.
Metaldreams: Tell me a bit about your singing on the new "Warrior" album, "The Wars Of Gods And Men". It was an interesting change from Rob Rock on the last Warrior album, "Code Of Life", to you on this one.
Marc Storace: For me, Rob is a typical metal/hard rock singer. I have more blues and soul. It was a nice change for me to be singing not so high. What really made me decide [to sing on it] was the album sounded so aggressive. I really got off on that. I already threw in my vote and said, “Whenever you guys want to tour…I believe if we want to sell records we’ve got to do at least a few festivals”. I don’t think "Warrior" is gonna be able to rig up and hit the stage because it takes two weeks to rig up a band like that. Right now, Krokus is the priority but I don’t see any harm in doing another album with "Warrior" and then give Krokus a rest. It would be good for me. When you do something else it gives you objectivity for what you did last. Then you can come back and do that wiser. It’s the same with my solo thing. One of these days, I’ll find a little window where I can get in a studio, do it, release it and do some gigs.
Metaldreams: Do you know if Krokus has plans to reissue "The Video Blitz" and your promo videos in some sort of DVD package?
Marc Storace: I haven’t heard of any but it’s a good idea.
Metaldreams: Final question. What are the chances of Reality Entertainment reissuing the entire Krokus catalog in America?
Marc Storace: That’s a question of rights.
Metaldreams: Well, I hope to see Krokus in America.
Marc Storace: I hope we get a good tour together and have a good reaction and get a whole new energy going. It’s in Adam Parson’s hands. He’s doing the U.S. management. He’s managing Motorhead. Motorhead is as hardcore as you can get so maybe we’ll latch up with them. It has to fit economically to pay all the bills because touring is expensive.
Metaldreams: Especially with gas prices the way they are.
Marc Storace: We’ve got the fire but we don’t have the gasoline.