KROKUS' Chris Von Rohr On New Album - "For Me It Would Be The Perfect Follow-Up To Headhunter, Because I Think That’s Where The Band Lost It"
April 5, 2013, a year ago
By Martin Popoff
Swiss boogie merchants KROKUS have been impressively prolific in recent years cranking out solid, grounded, AC/DC-sensible rock, and even if the lineups have shuffled, Marc Storace’s unmistakeable and good-natured howl has always been there, dependable, never waning. But then the “coach” of the band, Chris Von Rohr came back, for 2010’s Hoodoo, and now, for Dirty Dynamite, well, even many Meyer is on board. No mistaking it, Krokus, fully legitimate of lineup and of strapping health, is back... singling ‘Help’ in the Alps and spooning up Alpo (more on that later).
After pleasantries with bassist Von Rohr over the mutual freezing of both Canada and Switzerland, Chris tells us why Dirty Dynamite blows up so good...
“Well, you know, when we did Hoodoo, the whole comeback situation was pretty fresh. The main difference is that this time we took much more time playing together, playing live, and really taking care that the songs we do are going to be live killers. Because Krokus is a live band, and with the new lineup anyway, including Mandy Meyer, we tried to get it closer to the live situation. Because on Hoodoo—good album, great album too—but there’s too much stuff on it that we never play live. And this time around, we already know now, that for sure, five songs are live killers, and we’re gonna play them with the big sound. So yeah, it was double long, in some way, double long in recording, double everything (laughs).”
It’s always been endearing that the band has never shied away from the inevitable comparisons to AC/DC. Von Rohr wouldn’t cop to an assessment that the slight added nod to poppy melodics on the album injects some late-years STATUS QUO into the melange.
“No, I don’t think so. This influence from AC/DC... the energy is very simple, open, three, four chords, playing, which they took from CHUCK BERRY, ROLLING STONES. This type of music was always very close to us obviously. But Status Quo, this is maybe one or two songs that sound a little bit this direction. But they are hard songs that are very much in the AC/DC vein. But then there’s a whole different face of Krokus which AC/DC never had. Just take a song like ‘Screaming In The Night’, ‘Hoodoo Man’, ‘Tokyo Nights’, ‘Easy Rocker’, or on this album a couple too, which is that second phase, I call it, of Krokus. One half is very AC/DC-ish, and the other half is typical Krokus.”
And upholding the band’s penchant for innovative covers (‘American Woman’, ‘Stayed Awake All Night’, ‘School’s Out’ to name a few), Dirty Dynamite includes an almost SKYNYRD-bound version the BEATLES’ ‘Help’.
“That was maybe the influence of the Abbey Road environment,” says Chris. “We spent almost two months there, so it was almost getting a kind of... how about doing that song? The lyrics fit very good to our situation in the band, and even to our age, to everything. It’s just a beautiful song with very strong words. So we started jamming around, and I came up with the idea, why not do it the slow way, instead of up-tempo (sings it). Beatles do it up-tempo, you know? So we tried to do it our way, or a little bit more like GUNS N’ ROSES would play it, or any band like us with power chords, and to bring up as well the voices, which we can celebrate very good in a ballad. It breaks the album up a little bit, instead of having all rock, all the time.”
“Like, for example, the last AC/DC album, to me, is a little bit boring—there’s a lot of the material on it. Because I compare AC/DC to things we liked about AC/DC, the early, early AC/DC ‘til, let’s say, For Those About To Rock and the early albums with Bon Scott; it has that energy, and I’m talking about songwriting-wise. Even over here, the press is talking about, yeah, there are two or three riffs on our new album that couldn’t have hurt on the last AC/DC album, two or three riffs we did here (laughs).”
“But ‘Help’, you don’t need to tell anybody that that is a very good song,” continues Von Rohr. “And we always did cover songs. And it’s important that we make it sound like Krokus, because a lot of people don’t even know that song. They come to me and tell me, ‘Wow, great new Krokus ballad here,’ and I have to tell them that that’s unfortunately not written by us. No, not everybody young knows ‘Help’. And it’s good to maybe as well tell the young people, hey, listen a little bit to the Beatles stuff, because they wrote the best songs in the world, ever. So check it out, you know? So yeah, that’s why we took the risk. Some people like it, some don’t. That’s always like that.”
I asked Chris what record from the illustrious past catalogue Dirty Dynamite feels like most in terms of spirit. “That’s a very good question. For me it would be the perfect follow-up to Headhunter, because I think that’s where the band lost it. We listened too much to other people we shouldn’t listen to. After that, I wasn’t in the band anymore, and this was very... it was like the pinnacle, that album, and that’s where Krokus at its best was. And then they started to fiddle about with a kind of DEF LEPPARD sound and strange melodies album and the look and the artwork. If you look to the big four, which is Metal Rendez-vous, Hardware, One Vice At A Time and Headhunter, this has a line, you know? As the coach of this band, I was always looking for that line, even if those album are a little different, that maybe Headhunter is a little bit more metal than the others.”
“So for me, Dirty Dynamite would be the perfect follow-up after Headhunter, to go back to the groove element. It’s very important for Krokus to keep that blues stuff in it, like the greatest songs like ‘Heatstrokes’, or ‘Bedside Radio’, or even later on other albums. There are songs that have this blues injection, and that’s where the band is best, especially on One Vice At A Time, which was really, really, one-way direction there, you know? And so I see Dirty Dynamite more or less as the consequent follow-up of those four albums. I think that’s what we as a band think. You see it in the live set—they don’t play nothing from the last 20 years, absolutely nothing, except ‘Hoodoo Woman’ from the last album. And the rest is the old stuff we really like—and now five new songs.”
As for the bulldog on the front cover of Dirty Dynamite... “Well, you know, we were basically the inventors of the death heads album, the skull,” notes Chris. “Because as I remember, the guy from Sweden Rock, a big festival in Sweden, told me that this cover from Headhunter is cult. It just… It seems to be the first real cover that had a chrome skull-and-bones on it. So as long as I was in the band, we always were experimenting a little bit with the skulls—with Hoodoo, you see a variation of the skull. So this time I said, come on, let’s try something else. You know, let’s go for something which nobody did. So I was looking through the old albums, I see this PINK FLOYD album with the cow and I see the AEROSMITH cover with that pierced cow, and then I thought, what could be next? What would be cool? And then we first came to this British bulldog, because this bulldog looks very philosophical. The expression is very ‘I don’t give a shit about this whole world as long as I have my food!’ It’s a perfect expression, you know? We liked that, and we wanted to make something that people say, ‘This is the album with the dog.’ And all over here, this dog is already a fucking star. It’s really funny. People, you know, in my little country, six, seven million people, one million people have a dog! So they can relate.”
In closing, as alluded to, a “heritage” band can only be as good up to and including the condition of its lead singer. This puts Krokus in great shape.
“I believe that if anybody would see us today,” says Chris, “they would say, ha, well, that good ol’ Krokus spirit is back, and even more, you know? And I really hope that we still have the chance to tour in North America, because the band is definitely better than ever. And I don’t say that just because of the promotion effect. I mean, we know it, because we are not only older, but we are definitely better. We are better now. That is a fact, because of the two things I told you, as well as a third thing: in comparison to other old fart bands, our singer doesn’t sing an octave lower. Like a Coverdale, like many, Plant, all those people, they sing… They don’t sing anymore that good—let’s face it! They lost half of their voice. And with Marc, if you listen to that album, you don’t tell me that this is shit singing. This is great singing! And that’s important too, at this stage, that people say wow, this singer is still doing these three octaves! So that is the big, big advantage we have here in this band. It’s not sounding like an old automobile trying to do almost 100 miles per hour.”