Formed in 1974 by London-based siblings Tino (guitar, vocals) and Chris Troy (bass), Praying Mantis broke through during the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal and continue to perform powerful, melodic hard rock.
Next year sees the 40th anniversary of debut album Time Tell No Lies (the one with the classic Rodney Matthews cover art), while the band's latest album Kartharsis, their 11th, arrives via Frontiers in January.
Below, Tino Troy brings us up to date.
How was your pandemic experience?
I quite liked it for the first few weeks, but it went on for way too long. I did build a studio at the bottom of the garden and also refurbished some of my old guitars, including an Explorer bought from Dave Murray when we toured with Iron Maiden in 1980.
In November 2020, between lockdowns, Mantis played a festival in the Czech Republic…
Yeah, that was a bit strange. There were 80 people in a place that would usually hold 200, but it worked well and people came from miles around. Then, of course, we were plunged back into staying home again.
Were musicians sold down the river by the powers-that-be over those trying 18 months?
I love football, but when we had 60,000 fans kissing each other during the European Championships it rankled that we weren’t allowed 20 people at a gig that could hold 500 people. The arts suffered a lot.
Does it seem possible that Time Tells No Lies is now four decades old?
[Laughs] It does! The band is almost five decades old. My bones are creaking, I’ve had surgeries, I’ve got arthritis in my fingers and I also suffer from tinnitus. Chris [Troy] and I have spoken many times about hanging up our guitars, but it seems there’s always another album left in us. We will rock till we drop.
With hindsight, did Praying Mantis sign to the wrong label in Arista?
Yes, and we also ended up with bad management. Both of those mistakes inflicted long-term damage.
We imagine that having an anti-vaxxer in your band must cause problems…
Hans is entitled to his views, but hopefully he will see the error of his ways next year when the band starts touring internationally. We’ve got lots of festivals including Sweden Rock and Bang Your Head lined up, also a Spanish tour, and Hans must realise he can’t work outside of Europe without getting his jab. We keep reminding him we [as a band] are all in this together, and unless he gets vaccinated it won’t work.
In these post-Brexit days, how problematic is having two overseas members – Hans in’t Zandt and his countryman, frontman John ‘Jaycee’ Cuijpers – in the group?
When they joined us [in 2013] nobody knew of the logistical nightmare that lay ahead. Brexit is definitely putting a spanner in the works for the band right now, but it’s up to us to keep on going and ride it out.
Though the decision has been vindicated, the ousting of the band’s previous singer and drummer to accommodate the two Dutchmen seemed a pretty ruthless thing to do.
Mike [Freeland] was a great singer but as a frontman he was just too apologetic onstage, and we reached a point where something had to be done. We’d tried to encourage him, but towards the end Mike just lost it. And because Gary MacKenzie [drummer] had introduced Mike to us, he felt he should express solidarity. In the long run it has worked out very well.
What’s in the pipeline for the coming months?
We were writing an album just before the virus hit, so it had to be made remotely and there were times when being apart was a bit fraught for all of us, especially when I wanted to put my arm around John and say: “C’mon, you can do better.” I missed that physical contact, but we got there in the end. Oh, and next year it’s almost certain I’ll do my first solo album.
What can you tell us about Mantis’ 11th album, Katharsis, which arrives in January 2022?
It’s like a box of Milk Tray – or maybe that’s Milk Troy [he laughs loudly] – not Ferrero Rocher, where everything inside is the same. We’re really pleased with it.
What advice would today’s version of Tino Troy offer to the Tino that was about to release his first album?
I would tell him to listen to [über-manager] Peter Mensch who approached me after a gig at the Rainbow Theatre and offered to take us on if we brought in a lead singer. We were just too cocky. By the time we realised we did need a vocalist it was all a little bit too late.
Katharsis by Praying Mantis will be released via Frontiers on January 28.