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Krokus On Board with Hard Rock Upswing

The every changing world of sound.

The past few years, music lovers have been deluged with trend after musical trend that never seems to end. Compound it with the advent of MTV, and you now have a powerful visual component to go with the aural. One of the primary beneficiaries of this ‘new wave’ delivery system is the world of heavy metal. Whatever clubs you go to, whenever you listen to the radio, you find this glorified art form of crunching guitars, crashing drums, screeching vocals and banging heads is enjoying a massive rebirth. Whether the music is performed by glammed up theatrical bands, or groups whose members are sporting a pair of jeans and a tee shirt, the resurgence is undeniable.

Metal  is enjoying its greatest heyday since the architects of the sound – Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Black Sabbath – were in their prime. Bands like Def Leppard, Motley Crue, and RATT have managed to take the ‘come on feel the noise’ and give it commercial appeal. How long this will last is anyone’s guess. One group singing its praises is a five-man electrical band out of Switzerland called Krokus.

 "Yes," nodded guitarist Fernando von Arb, "there is a tremendous upsurge in the heavy rock today. However, at the same time there is a weeding out process going on that may very well determine the future of several bands labeled heavy metal.

"The interest the music is drawing isn't something that’s new to Krokus. We have been playing this same type of music since we started in 1975. Our group started when heavy metal was on a downslide. It forged to the forefront for a while, but then it slid back down again. Everything that has been happening right now we've prepared ourselves a long time for it to happen."

Krokus' endurance was rewarded with the explosive 1983 album, Headhunter, which spawned the band's first major international hit, "Screaming in the Night" and sold over a half a million copies in the U.S. alone. After that recording and subsequent tour, Krokus found itself being overhauled for the second time in as many years in the form of two new members joining the group and band founder  bassist Chris Von Rohr being asked to leave.

"We made a major change during the winter of 1984," offered von Arb. "For several reasons, we changed one of the original members. The Headhunter tour was a major step forward for us not only in gaining popularity, but musically as well. Some people couldn't handle it, in particular the bass player."

Krokus was on tour supporting Def Leppard and headlining smaller venues on their own when trouble erupted in the band camp.

"Over the winter,” replied the guitarist, “it was like a major war, a personal war, so we cleaned the whole band up. We decided that since we were already cleaning up the band, let’s do it completely. We recruited like-minded musicians who could help us push Krokus forward, not hold us back."

In came Jeff Klaven on drums and Andy Taylor on bass.

"We never thought about changing the name of the band," insisted von Arb. "We just wanted to remove the negative factors. Towards the end of our last tour, things were getting real bad. We decided to put together a group of musicians that lived for rock and roll and were absolutely into it. That is why we dropped the drummer as well. Now, for the first time in a long time, we feel absolutely great as a b and. We have a happening group onstage as well as off."

The mainstays of Krokus have been von Arb, who joined the band in 1976 and singer Marc Storace who subsequently through in with the band in 1980. Second guitarist Mark Kohler became a member before the Headhunter recording sessions began, and even helped write the mega-hit "Screaming in the Night." Tanas and Klaven made their presence felt immediately with the bands platinum selling single, the Sweet remake “Ballroom Blitz” off the new  LP, The Blitz.

"Heavy metal will never disappear,” insisted von Arb “and the cycle that it’s currently going through doesn't bother me. Those things didn't bother me before and it doesn't now. The bottom line is people want to be entertained. There have always been these cult type of followings for any type of music that suddenly becomes popular.

"The real staying power of a band is its ability to develop a true following of fans. We have always been playing this kind of music, and one of the dangers that we have realized is the popularity of the music has finally caught up to us. With the metal sound becoming more melodic, at least for some bands, we could suffer some fallout from metal fans who think we have sold ourselves out just to get on radio. That’s not true.

"The music we play comes and goes like waves. It's a forward and backward motion constantly rolling along waiting to make a big splash. That splash, If you look around, has become a tidal wave today."

Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple gave birth to heavy metal. They almost spelled its death. When Purple guitarist Tommy Bolin died under mysterious circumstances in Miami in 1976, and then Zeppelin drummer John Bonham choked to death in 1980 on his own vomit while passed out from heavy drinking, it marked the end of an era. Some think it helped generate the waves that are washing over rock at this very moment.

"There is absolutely no way you can fill the shoes of those great bands," observed von Arb. "The desire for rock music, the search for heavy metal, it is always left up to the new generations to find and create.

"Today's generation of music fans has created the metal phenomenon that lied dormant for years. They may very well be the ones that end it as well. Some bands are capitalizing on and benefitting from this new-found popularity, like ourselves, and rightly so. Others were created because of it. Whatever the reason, the music is back and here to stay.

"There will never be a second Led Zeppelin. There never could be. There are always new bands coming up to replace old ones, just like there are new rock and roll fans coming up to replace the ones that have grown older, have families and a steady job. Every year is a new year. Right now heavy metal is the word. Next year or two years from now, it could be something else."

It is hard to ignore shadows cast by the rock giants of the past, and it should be noted that the classic Deep Purple lineup has reformed, released a brilliant comeback album, and has been headlining a sold-out tour around the country. Even though Krokus respects its elders, they don't feel  beholden to them.

"It didn't surprise me when Deep Purple announced they were getting back together," said von Arb. "Right now heavy metal is the word. Deep Purple is going to have to deal with their own thing just like every other band has to when it comes to their own careers; their own faith in what they are doing.

"Right now, everyone is in this scene. We didn't care in 1977 about the metal wave and that attitude still stands today. As long as the music is good, the songs are good, there is always going to be people listening to it."

The fact that America is so big, says von Arb, is one of the reasons that it takes the U.S. a little bit longer to digest something new, or old depending on how you look at it.

"Krokus is a European band," noted the Swiss native. "We are aware of what is happening musically around the world. Music is forever changing in England and Europe. Most Americans never get the chance to hear any of it. That's why heavy metal is a phenomenon here whereas in Europe, it has already come and gone. The structuring of your radio has a lot to do with that.

"People call us heavy metal, but we never call ourselves that. The reason is simple. Those kind of bands have ‘a no future approach’ when it comes to music. They are always too caught up in image. Those musicians think that they are bad asses and try to be as destructive as they can. We don't like that. We try to be a little bit more practical.

"This is a game we play with music. The reason is this. You are always trying to fulfill some void in the world of music. We try to satisfy what kids need first with music, then the show. Hopefully the combination of the two will make them fans of the band. Some groups play complete garbage and they have to make their image stand out strong in order to get noticed. Krokus wants to stand out based on its musical talent above anything else."

Krokus is currently in the midst of its first headlining tour of the U.S. You may wonder if it is a problem for this veteran global rock crusaders to communicate their music across various cultural borders they are going to cross in any given year.

"I am sure that you have heard the saying music is a universal language," responded von Arb. "I’m here to tell you that it is. You must remember there are many people and cultures around the world. Because of the lifestyles in this country and in Europe, there will always be a difference between America and England, America and Germany, etc.

"It goes along the same principle as the difference between the lifestyles of the North and South, the East Coast and West Coast, in your own country. What may seem normal in one place would be seem odd in another. Think about music in those terms. You will have a greater understanding on why it holds such and enchanting spell over people throughout the world."