Praying mantis may have arthritis in their fingers, but they will tip until they fall

Formed in 1974 by London siblings Tino (guitar, vocals) and Chris Troy (bass), Praying Mantis broke through the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal and continues to play powerful, melodic hard rock.

Next year will see the 40th anniversary of the debut album Time doesn’t tell lies (the one with the classic Rodney Matthews sleeve), while the band’s latest album Kartharsis, their 11th, arrives via Frontiers in January.

Below, Tino Troy gives us an update.

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How was your pandemic experience?

I liked it the first few weeks, but it lasted way too long. I built a studio at the back of the garden and also refurbished some of my old guitars including an Explorer bought from Dave Murray on our tour with Iron Maiden in 1980.

In November 2020, between confinements, Mantis played a festival in the Czech Republic …

Yeah, that was a little strange. There were 80 people in a place that usually had 200, but it worked well and people came from miles around. Then, of course, we got back to staying home.

Were the musicians sold downstream by the powers that be during these 18 months of testing?

I love football, but when we had 60,000 fans kissing during the European Championships it shocked us that we weren’t allowed 20 people at a concert that could hold 500 people. The arts have suffered greatly.

Does it seem possible that Time doesn’t tell lies is now four decades old?

[Laughs] It does! The group is almost five decades old. My bones are cracking, I have had surgeries, I have arthritis in my fingers, and I also suffer from tinnitus. Chris [Troy] and I’ve talked a lot about hanging up our guitars, but it always seems like there’s another album in us. We will rock until we fall.

Looking back, did Praying Mantis sign on the wrong label to Arista?

Yes, and we ended up with mismanagement as well. Both of these errors caused long-term damage.

We imagine that having an anti-vaxxer in your group must be a problem …

Hans is entitled to his opinions, but I hope he sees his mistake next year when the band start touring internationally. We have a lot of festivals, including Sweden Rock and Bang Your Head, also a Spanish tour, and Hans must realize that he can’t work outside of Europe without getting his jab. We keep reminding him that we [as a band] are all in the same boat, and unless he gets the vaccine, it won’t work.

In these post-Brexit days, how problematic is it to have two foreign members – Hans in’t Zandt and his compatriot, frontman John ‘Jaycee’ Cuijpers – in the group?

When they joined us [in 2013] no one was aware of the logistical nightmare that awaited them. Brexit is definitely putting spikes in the group’s wheels right now, but it’s up to us to keep going and get out of it.

While the decision was justified, ousting the former singer and drummer from the band to accommodate the two Dutch seemed a pretty ruthless thing to do..

Mike [Freeland] was a great singer, but as a leader he apologized too much on stage, and we reached a point where something had to be done. We tried to cheer him on, but towards the end Mike lost his mind. And because Gary MacKenzie [drummer] had introduced Mike to us, he felt he had to express his solidarity. In the long run, it has worked very well.

What is being prepared for the coming months?

We were writing an album right before the virus hit so it had to be done from a distance and there were times when being apart was a bit difficult 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 finally got there. Oh, and next year I’m almost certain to make 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 it’s Milk Troy [he laughs loudly] – not Ferrero Rocher, where everything inside is the same. We are really delighted with it.

What advice would the current version of Tino Troy give to Tino who was about to release his first album?

I would tell him to listen [über-manager] Peter Mensch who approached me after a concert at the Rainbow Theater and offered to hire us if we brought a lead singer. We were just too arrogant. By the time we realized we needed a singer, it was a little too late.

Praying Mantis’ Katharsis to release via Frontiers on January 28.

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