For the latest in The Baker's Dozen series, RGM caught up with Tino Troy of Praying Mantis. Tino and his brother Chris formed Praying Mantis back in 1974 and would become a prominent band in the NWOBHM movement (The new wave of British Heavy Metal) that sprang up in the late 70's alongside Iron Maiden, Saxon and Def Leppard. Praying Mantis differed from many of their contemporaries thanks to an obvious love of a good melody which added an almost AOR sheen to much of their material. In 2018 Mantis are about to release their latest album 'Gravity' via the Frontiers label. So join us as Tino Troy discusses his Greek heritage, an early love of reggae and the perils of playing music very loudly.
1. What is your earliest musical memory?
The old Greek 78 RPM’s my father used to play and in particular one song – ‘I Mana Mou Me Dernei’ (Oh Dear Mother) which I remember as far back as around the age of 4. I loved the sound of the Bouzouki then and still do. I think it has been republished so there doesn’t seem to be an original date of release in a quick search… will definitely delve deeper into that one when I have a few moments.
It was 1963. I remember moving home from a bedsit we shared as a family in Lord Hills Road in London’s W2 and being rehoused in a newly built High Rise on a Council Estate development. I remember being too sick with mumps to go to school one day so mum kept me in bed, called the doctor and gave me an early transistor radio to keep me company… “Oh dear Mother”… “With love from me to you” by The Beatles came on and that was the song that took over my musically developing cranium.
2. Do you remember the name of your first band?
It was ‘The Cousins’. It was me, my brother Chris and 2 Greek lads of the same ages. Laggi & Aggi weren’t actually cousins but such close family friends that we still regard them as such. It wasn’t technically a band either, we just jammed on a pair of beat up old acoustics and performed to our parents in the confines of their home in Kingsbury literally just around the corner from the old ‘Bandwagon’ in fact
3. Which current artist do you hear and just go Wow?
Actually, it’s some mates of mine, a band called ‘Cats In Space’…and I go Meeow! Not Wow! Hahaha! Great bunch of mates with amazing songs born out of the same 60’s and 70’s influences as yours truly.
4. Do you sit down to write songs or do you wait until your mojo comes to get you?
I never sit down to write a song. I tried it but if it’s forced it doesn’t work, instead, I go for a walk, I’ll get into my stride, whether it be pacey or merely a stroll (wherever the mood takes me really) then I start singing or whistling humming or riffing into my phone. I found last year that I had over 5 hours worth of voice memos (song ideas recorded) Some were also little guitar ditties or a bit of noodling I’d quickly recorded when “the mojo got me”. It is by far the quickest and easiest way to sling an idea down and decided to import them into Logic Pro. That’s how I realised the five hours worth of stuff on a timeline. I gave the parts (regions) colours in order of mood and created a few tracks so I could place them in order of amazing to s**t. In early 2017 I embellished these ideas and recorded them properly giving us 4 songs on the latest album GRAVITY. There are still around 2 or 3 albums worth of stuff to be had there and some not really in the Mantis vain so may think about doing a little number on the side.
5. Big venue or small venue - what's your favourite to play?
Both have an equal billing here. The smaller it is, the more intimate it is. There is something to be said about being up close and personal with the fans. Dunno what it is though… perhaps the smell… Hahaha. Small or large, it’s gotta be rammed. There’s no better feeling than playing to a packed house. Love playing outdoors too, the sound is always fab with no reflections to speak of. It’s great when the Sun’s beating down, the drink is flowing and everyone is high on the band. One of our highlights was the Reading Festival of 1980.
6. Who is the one artist you wish you could share a stage with (past or present)?
Wow… that’s a toughie because the thought had never crossed my mind but Phil Lynott was the first one to enter my head as soon as I’d read the question.
7. Bowie, Prince, Sinatra, Elvis which departed great means the most to you?
From the limited options here I’d have to say Elvis because I remember him from old. Mum also played his albums a lot and was a big fan. You know how it is when you can remember every word of every song you heard from a tender age to this day. If there were another I could choose it would have been Rick Parfitt of Status Quo because as a band Quo were the first band to spin a musical web around me and my mate from college, Pete Moore (guitarist). In fact Pete was Rick and me, Francis Rossi.
8. Is a saxophone solo ever ok?
The Sax is Sex man and if I wasn’t a guitarist, it would more than likely be my next best instrument. It is just as expressive (played by the right person of course) as the guitar can ever be, both in musical terms as well as throwing it about. We almost had a Sax solo on ‘Better Man’ a slowy on our previous album LEGACY but decided on guitar in the end.
9. Should music be free?
For me yeah! Hahaha! Free ‘n’Easy. I don’t think one should have to pay for it when listening to songs on a juke box but being a musician is a hard job when you do it right (even when you do it wrong in fact) so why shouldn’t it be a paid job. We cannot solely rely on donations like for instance a busker would do. I can’t believe people can pay £2.75 for a cup of Barista style coffee and not pay 00.79p for a bands song on iTunes when they can listen to it for free on another digital platform with the band never really realising any serious income for their hard work and dedication. Real musos live and breathe their job 24/7
10. Can you remember the first record you bought and what have you bought recently?
‘Double Barrel’ by Dave & Ansell Collins, a reggae duo. Having been brought up around the Notting Hill District, it was a prominent musical flavour of the area. Having said that the first album I bought a couple of weeks later was Electric Warrior by T.Rex and then came Status Quo, Thin Lizzy, Wishbone Ash, Bowie, Sabbath, Zep. Then Monkey Spanner by Dave & Ansell Collins, their follow up and last single I believe. My musical tastes were very varied as you can see and became more so as time went on.
11. What was the last song that made you cry actual tears?
“Goodbye My Love Goodbye” by Demis Roussos. Mum wanted it to be Dads send off in 1996.
12. Do you binge watch Netflix / Amazon / DVD box sets (any recommendations)? Do you have a guilty pleasure in Film or TV you’ll admit to watching and loving?
I have recently started watching some box sets because my partner does but there’s always a song in my head that needs to see the light so I can’t concentrate on anything longer than 3 or 4 episodes. Sometimes I’ll have my guitar on and watch something while I noodle away and will inevitably come up with an idea for a song. Sometimes I jam along to the background music or make my own. It was always something I wanted to do as another musical sideline. – Music to film but as yet haven’t crossed that bridge… “Take me to the bridge!”
13. What is the most important thing to you that you can see from where you are right now?
Not the TV, not this computer screen. It’s where I’m going…Just looked for my axe but it’s in the studio at the bottom of the garden and it’s pissin’ down out there. Only a cheapo acoustic down here that I picked up at a local charity shop for a score. Hopefully, I can and will keep playing till the very end. I worry because of chronic Tinnitus and hearing loss and how it will affect my future as a musician. That’s a bitter pill to swallow sometimes. So why shouldn’t we get paid?
Q: ‘Injury Lawyers for You’ – Can I actually sue ‘The Music Business’ for loss of hearing?