A few years ago when you played the Bang Your Head Festival in Germany I did this great interview with you and your brother finding out already many facts about the band Praying Mantis. Readers that interested in that interview can surf to this link. So with this interview we'll stick to the period since that interview till now because finally the band has come back with another (strong) album. First question would be, why did it take so much time, almost six years, till the band recorded their next studio album, as I recall, the last one was 'The Journey Goes On' released back in 2003?
Man… Don't Time Fly, is already that long? It has been a long time, I know but I think this is a blessing in disguise. We now have a really solid line-up and it continues to get stronger. Plus the time, as you can probably decide for yourselves, has been spent writing some real quality stuff. They have not been “Wasted Years”.
This album is another release on the Frontiers Records label; please tell me how you came to a deal with this record-company?
It originated from our Japanese deal with Pony Canyon. Frontiers were their Licensees. Since Pony Canyondecided to scaledown operationsand concentrate on their internal market we were at a loss to who we could approach. Enter Frontiers. These guys were so into the band with President, Serafino Perugino quoting us as one of his all time favourite bands. This is one helluva healthy relationship to have with the CEO of your record label.
Unlike the past, this time the band already has a steady line up since I met you for the last time on the Bang Your Head Festival, the band has been known for changing vocalist's more than clean underwear, hahaha. What is your feeling now about the newest members of the band, could this be the line-up to grow old with?
There are already many grey hairs [and brown ”Go Faster” stripe pants] between us…Ha.Ha! So I reckon there's a fair chance that this will be the case. As I said earlier, those six years were not wasted.
Mike Freeland sounds great on the new songs; his voice really fit's the total picture of what Praying Mantis' music is about today. I am wondering how his voice comes along with the older stuff of the band, does his voice change the original sounds when played live much or does he stick to the original singing.
He sticks to the old stuff as best he can and does a mighty fine job of it but we also encourage him to stamp his own mark wherever he feels comfortable. My only criticism of Mike is that he's too bloody nice sometimes. When asked or told to do something, he obliges straight away but sometimes I wish he would just say… “Eff off, I ain't doing that!” He's also a very shy guy and sometimes when on stage I feel like shoving a pointy guitar headstock up his Tradesmen's entrance and say, “Work that Audience Dude”… But man who am I to complain… What a Singer! Anyway, there's always Chris or me to shout out that s***! ;-)
Is the writing of the songs more of a band effort or is it more the work of you and Chris that created the tunes?
Neither. I wrote, produced, engineered, sang and played every instrument on “Sanctuary”… I even did the Artwork…. Hahahahaha! Actually It was very much a group effort this time but Chris did the Lions share of the writing on keys at his home and we arranged and recorded the stuff as a more guitar friendly production with keyboards colouring the songs in a subtle manner. It was great to have Mike write his own lyrics, we have not had that luxury with previous singers. I mean, you can't sing passionately about something you are not directly associated with.
I read that the new album was recorded in Atlanta in the U.S.A. why did the band choose to record there instead of closer to home?
We could never get everyone to agree to meet in the same place at the same time back home. Geographically we live quite far apart and when one could make an engagement the other couldn't for no reason other than he was washing his hair… Not guilty ;-) Benjy our Drummer, Andy/Guitar and myself all knew Andy “Riles” Reilly for some years and contacted him with regards to recording the album out there. We did most of the groundwork back in the UK including recording some of the vocals, guitars and bass and went to the States for a good 'ol jolly up!! Ha-Ha! Actually, we were only there for just over two weeks and bashed out the remainder of the stuff. The main aim was to get a real drum-kit down on one of our productions for a change. We left the whole thing with “Riles” for a couple of months [it seemed like an eternity] with Frontiers breathing down our necks but in the end it was delivered “Piping Hot”- we were totally blown away, we knew we had a potential Monster in our grip.
A bit confusing is that the first video clip that was made for this album is called 'Turn The Tide', on the album download I received from Frontiers Records for my review this song was called 'Lonely Way Home'. What's the story about this name change and how will this song be called on the finished product of the album?
Ha-Ha… It is now called 'Turn the Tide' once more. It was my fault really, I thought that Tide would remind everyone of a washing powder product. 'Tide' was a brand in England and still is in the States, I am told. Nevertheless when it came to checking out the two different titles on youtube, we found loads of other stuff called 'Turn the Tide', notably a dance track by Sylver with over 1.2 million hits. It would be more beneficial for us if we managed to collect a few stray hits. Although an original title (at least on YouTube) 'Lonely Way Home' probably wouldn't have got the same amount of exposure. Quite quirkily the Audi TT featured in the vid sports the registration number as TT03TT [TURN TIDE]. I wanted that car after the video was shot, as it was also the initials of my name Ha-Ha. Someone posted a comment on YouTube saying: “Audi TT- the Heavy Metal Hairdressers choice of transport”. I thought that was hilarious!
The title of the new album is called 'Sanctuary'. Is there a deeper meaning about why this title was chosen and if so why was this album called like this?
It happens to be the title track of the album and the song depicts freedom from something, that's why the amazing cover art features a sad looking 'Statue of Liberty' She also needs her own Liberty, hence the decaying face. The full explanation of the song itself is given below. We also thought that it might turn a few Maiden heads… ;-)
It would be great if you take a minute to go over all the new songs with me and tell me some more of what each of the tunes are about and what kind of music the listener could expect of each and every song
'In Time': This song is about the plight that the parents of Madeline McCann are facing in their never-ending quest for their little one.
'Restless Heart': Mike says: “The lyrics were written some time back when a lot of things in my life were going wrong with very little to smile about. It was a dark time and I started to doubt and question my own dream. I was close to calling it a day with music altogether.”
'Tears In The Rain' Chris says: Another happy song!! It'sabout the immense attachment we have with our children and how this massive bond is affected when there is a chance of losing them. Here the child is very sick and the mother does not want to show the negative emotions. Wow we must have been taking too many happy pills when writing these lyrics! But in seriousness the more powerful the lyric the more the emotion of the song can come across to the listener.
'So High': Basically this song is about taking an LSD trip to oblivion, with no return ticket.
'Turn The Tide': A weird one this! Believe it or not 'Turn The Tide' & 'Playing God' started life as the same song. As it was evident we did not have a ballad on the album we decided to (don't get squeamish now) separate them at birth! Essentially one can hear a common element in the lyrics. While Chris & I wrote the Chorus we gave Mike the job of tackling the Verses and 'TTT' is now a healthy example of clever 'Mantis Song Surgery'. We are in fact the pioneers of this great art that dates back to the early 1970's when we started dissecting various epics of ours.
'Touch The Rainbow': Chris says: This is about life and how we tend to set ourselves goals that are relatively limited and then being dissatisfied with our lot in life. It means to break down the limitations and the boundaries and 'go for broke' regardless of the consequences!!!
'Threshold Of A Dream': Mike says: 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. Tino says: Don't you mean a song inspired by 'Earth, Wind & Fire' …Mike?
'Playing God': This song is based on a true story involving a friend of my brother's stepson who managed to 'Total' his car and kill his best friend while walking away unscathed himself. The mental scars however, will never heal. Very sad.
'Highway': Out of all the darkness comes this plain good old escapist stuff. Getting on that open road. Top down, radio on, crusin' and 'all that jazz'. Real Good ol' MADE IN THE USA stuff!
'Sanctuary': 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.
Will the release of this new album mean that the band will be going to tour to promote it or are there no plans yet to bring the music to the road?
There is nothing we'd love more than to take this to the streets. We have already done a couple of shows in London that have received great kudos from fans and press alike. We need this thing to burst forth. We need to get promoters involved and get touring, 'Big Time!' Any takers out there? We are available for Weddings, Bar mitzvahs and corporate events. Ha.. Ha! There has been talk of us doing a possible 'Classic Rock' tour with Tank and possibly Rock Goddess (who've recently reformed) but as yet we don't know have any more info Cliff Evans from Tank is looking into the logistics of it all. Hopefully by the time this goes to press we will know something. Then you can put a whopping great advert in your Fab Mag and get them to come from miles around. It would be a great touch also to do a 30th anniversary gig of the NWOBHM with Iron Maiden. The wheels have been set in motion….
Okay Tino, to end this interview, this is your chance to promote your album to our readers. Let's assume there is a guy or girl that has money to buy one new record and he has to choose from ten albums. One of the CD's will be 'Sanctuary' from Praying Mantis. What is it about your new album that the wisest choice would be to buy yours?
I'd prefer the girl with the money for sure! I would just have to seduce her and tell her when I saw her standing in the audience of a concert somewhere, sometime ago she inspired me to write an album of 'Love Songs' dedicated to her… hahaha! Seriously speaking, I would say: “Before you decide to buy any of these albums, take them home and give them all a listen. Then come back tomorrow morning with your money. Oh and by the way.. You can trash the other nine.” Those songs are Sticky Man.