Bass guitarist Chris Von Rohr founded the Switzerland based hard rock band Krokus in 1975, rising to prominence in North America and Europe in the 1980s with albums like “Metal Rendez-Vous” and “Headhunter”. The Krokus guys forged on through the 90s with lineup changes but reunited with the classic lineup in the late 2000’s, releasing “Hoodoo” in 2010. This year the band has released possibly their most no-nonsense album in some time, “Dirty Dynamite” and I recently had the chance to ask Chris Von Rohr about the album, their original breakthrough and more, read on….
LRI: Thanks for talking to us Chris…Krokus has a new album out “Dirty Dynamite” and it has gotten a good response from both fans and critics. After spending so much energy making it how does that feel???
Chris Von Rohr: We worked on this new album for a little bit more than a year. In 2010 we released “Hoodoo”, which was received very well and sold equally well. Our goal was to create a product that would outdo the previous release. From starting to write new songs, preliminary recordings, re-arranging some of them, eliminating what we consider the weaker ones in order to present to our fans only the best, the entire thing is a long process. It takes time. In our case longer than the pregnancy of a woman. But the end result is what counts, and we are proud of our new “baby”. And that’s just one aspect. Then we have to think of an idea to make the “package” appealing to the fans. Like the cover art work. So, after we put so much heart and soul into this to the point of total exhaustion, it obviously feels great to watch/read/listen the positive feedback “Dirty Dynamite” has received.
LRI: The album rocks in a very straightforward way and the title track truly reflects this…who brought that song to the table and did you have as much fun recording it as it sounds??
Chris: Thank you for your compliment. Often “less is more” and we believe in that philosophy, especially when you go back to our work from the early to mid 80’s, like “Metal Rendez-Vous”, “Hardware”, “One Vice” and especially “Headhunter”, which was our best sold album in the USA. The “Dirty Dynamite” title track was written by Marc, Fernando and myself. So were 6 more tracks. Marc, myself and the other guitarist, Mark Kohler, composed another four. Recording it was great, especially since all vocals were recorded at London’s Abbey Road Studio, where the Beatles and others recorded tons of hits. That’s why we covered the Beatles “Help” song, but in a slowed down, almost ballad like version.
LRI: Its not as if the band has stood unmoved in time. This isn’t a direct replica of mid 80’s Krokus, it is more a picture of where you guys all are today and doesn’t feel forced. How much of your individual personalities made it into the mix here on the new album?
Chris: You are right, it isn’t a direct replica of the early to mid 80’s, because we all have grown, matured, more life experiences, etc. But it is, as I already mentioned, somehow a continuation of that spirit, as today’s KROKUS line-up is pretty much the one from our very successful heydays of that time. Over the decades we had a bunch of line-up changes and that somewhat affected the product that was released under the name KROKUS. The originals of 1982 reunited in 2008 and in 2010 we released “Hoodoo”. And “Dirty Dynamite” is the natural and logical continuation.
LRI: As a bass player you are obviously a major player in the creation of the basic tracks but you are also a great songwriter and function as producer. When you just plug in and play do you enjoy simply being a part of the music or are you always wearing multiple hats?
Chris: As a bass player I am part of the “rhythm section” of the band, providing that strong and steady foundation. As a songwriter I have grown, as have the other songwriters in the band, because I have been “around the block” for almost four decades and go by my instinct and intuition. As a producer I am the “glue” that puts all the pieces of the puzzle together, not just musically but also the entire marketing concept including cover art work, video productions, etc. In that function I wear multiple hats. When I work, it’s all-consuming to me and I push myself and others to the limit. And that makes it overall a better product. The end result speaks for itself, I hope.
LRI: One major, MAJOR difference between your band and countless peers of your band is that not only are all you guys in step playing wise but Marc’s voice DOES seem like it is timeless. There was a time early on in the bands career that YOU were the vocalist, does that give you any special appreciation for what Marc does?
Chris: You did your homework! In the beginning with our first KROKUS release I was the drummer. Then I switched to vocals out of necessity, not because I wanted to. I know my limits and I saw the potential of the band and the future. My voice lends itself more to bluesy songs and not powerful rock songs. So, after the 3rd KROKUS album I re-invented the band and myself again. For me, hands-down, Marc was the only vocalist that could make us the powerful band we knew we could be. And the success of “Metal Rendez-Vous” in 1980 solidified it. And again, out of necessity, I switched to bass. Being a multi-instrumentalist helped me in later years to become a successful producer (NOTE from the Editor: During his hiatus with KROKUS he wrote hit songs and produced platinum award records with other artists before reuniting with the originals in 2008). And I agree with you, Marc’s voice is not only timeless, he’s gotten better with age. The man is in his early sixties and belts out 3-octave songs that many of his peers simply cannot do anymore or do not even attempt, LOL. I appreciate Marc today even more than when we started.
LRI: For our readers who may be unaware, Krokus was a MASSIVE touring act here in the States during the 80’s and enjoyed a great deal of popularity. Were there any particular tour packages that really stand out to you all these years later and any areas you really enjoyed playing?
Chris: We loved touring the States! Keep in mind we come from Switzerland, a country that is a sixth of Colorado. So, here we are, in this great country of opportunities. The tour that stands out the most in my mind was when we toured all over the States with Def Leppard in support of “Headhunter” in 1983. Huge arenas, great response from the crowds. We enjoyed all areas in the US, as each of them were different in landscape and the people’s mentality, thus a new experience for us in any and every part of the beautiful United States and Canada for that matter.
LRI: You have gone on record in recent years that you would like very much to have been touring here these past few years but it just hasn’t been feasible. Do you foresee any opportunities to play here coming up or do you have a great deal of festival commitments in Europe?
Chris: In the early 80’s we lived for years in the United States, as we were touring non-stop in your country. Because of that we neglected our home base in Europe and had to almost start all over again, as we unintentially alienated them. The entire music scene has changed over the years. Record companies fold or merge,Indie labels grow; big acts manage/market themselves. In our case, no longer do we get tour support from the labels and touring is expensive. Social media has changed the landscape as well. The yesteryears are gone and we have to adjust to today’s times. We have a great number of festival commitments in Europe, where we can make a living. Some of our fans feel that we do not want to come to the States. To the contrary! However, over the years and decades, the emphasis in “show business” has shifted solely to “business”. And that is a cruel reality for us and the fans. We do this for a living, not a hobby and no one works for free.
LRI: Do you still maintain contact with your fans and what kinds of gifts or letters from fans have really stood out or meant something to you over the years?
Chris: Because of my multi-tasking within the band, my direct contact to fans is limited to the ones we meet and greet at concerts or in a hotel lobby. Over the years I’ve gotten many, many letters from fans that felt that KROKUS and our music made a change for the better in their lives. And if we can do that, then we know we did our part.
LRI: There has always been a sense of humor and fun to many of Krokus lyrics over the years. Do you find that has helped the band in the long run?
Chris: I think it set us apart from others. We branded the band KROKUS with this amongst other things. Once in a while critics compare us to AC/DC. What they mainly hear is the exact same vocal range of Marc that the late Bon Scott had. And over that we have no control. Marc’s voice is what you hear. He wasn’t made to sing country but heart stomping rock! He’s not imitating Bon Scott, he is Marc Storace. In the early 80’s that could have bothered us, these days we embrace it. Recently, a US webzine wrote a superb review that ended with the comment that our “Dirty Dynamite” is the album AC/DC did not write or should have written instead of “Black Ice”. We love AC/DC and have played with them on the same bill. They sell millions of albums worldwide and we respect them. They tour or record an album every 5 to 6 years. If AC/DC fans cannot wait until their heroes release another album, I suggest they go and get our “Dirty Dynamite”.
LRI: Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us! Before we end I would like to ask…if you could somehow go back in time and give your 14 year old self one piece of advice about the music biz what would you say to him??
Chris: Always be a child. Look at things from a child’s perspective. We can learn from our children. I myself have a daughter that grounds me and reminds me to look at things from a child’s perspective. Be spontaneous, see the positive aspects of life. I, myself, would give my young self the advice to stay out of this business, if you are not willing to put the time in that it takes to learn all aspects of the trade. Unfortunately shows like “American Idol” give a young person the perception that they can gain fame in a short couple of months. We expect these days instant gratification. To sustain longevity, one has to put the time in and along the way pay your dues with the ever-changing up’s and down’s of today’s music biz.