Swiss rockers Krokus have always been one of those bands that, while they may not have achieved some of the same heights as many of their contemporaries here in America, they’ve still always held a special place for me (and even if I sometimes do overlook them for awhile, something will always draw me back to them eventually). So it was a sheer thrill to be able to correspond recently with founder and bassist Chris Von Rohr, who I was able to have some meaningful words with, despite the distance between us.
One of the first things I asked was what the status was for the band’s “farewell” tour, which was postponed in 2020 due to the pandemic. Chris explained; “Well at the moment we are looking at the world and what is happening, and wondering when – hopefully soon – it will be back to a “normal” situation. But of course we are in contact with each other, everybody is playing either with side projects, or spending time with their instruments. Musicians want to play music, you know? Day by day we hope that the clouds disappear soon, and rock and roll comes back into our lives, so we can continue our tour that was interrupted.”
I also asked if the band might have one more studio album in them before they retire, to which he stated; “At the moment we are not planning a new album. We have so many songs that we cannot even play live because there are so many albums, and we personally think there are enough Krokus songs out there. But you never know, sometimes maybe a new song might come out, but the necessity for a new album is not there. We’d much rather play gigs, that’s what we miss most.”
I was also curious if their might be any chance of a re-release for the band’s obscure 1976 self-titled debut album. Chris told me; “Yeah it definitely is obscure, and has nothing to do with the original lineup of Krokus. It was an album which I am the only survivor of it, and it went more in the direction of prog rock. It was really a…search. We don’t play songs from that period, and I don’t really see a necessity to revisit that on a wider scale. The Krokus fans we have now, I don’t think they would particularity love it.”
He continued; “And for us, the original is the band that played on Metal Rendez-vous, Hardware, One Vice at a Time, and the famous Headhunter albums. And then after the break coming back with Hoodoo, the Dirty Dynamite album, the greatest live album we had called Long Stick Goes Boom; that is the “real” lineup, the one that made it “big” and has the real sound which we want to transport with Krokus.”
Before eventually settling on the bass, Von Rohr had actually started as a drummer. I asked if these changes were due to preference or necessity, and he informed me; “Yeah, my way was a long way. As you know, I started as a drummer, and as we went on, for us to put on the “best” formation, I had to change instruments. I went from drummer, to singer, to bass player. It was about finding the right combination of the right people who blended perfectly together. For me it was interesting because as a producer a little later on, it’s good to know all instruments a little bit, you know? And I still play a little of each today.”
Shortly after the Headhunter album in 1983, Chris and the band parted ways for a bit, with him occasionally re-joining before he would come back permanently in 2008. I asked how he felt regarding some of the material the band released during his time away, and he stated; “Well the unfortunate split we had in the mid-80s was not very good for either of us. We lost direction during my absence. I didn’t consider it “bad” music, but I didn’t really consider it real Krokus, or what the fans really expect from Krokus, which is basically what was on the Headhunter or the Metal Rendez-vouz albums. That is the essence of Krokus, what made us successful. But fortunately we found each other again, and we are wiser today and we know what went wrong, and why it did.”
He continued; “It was definitely a big exhaustion, with bad management and some sad stories we don’t even want to talk or think about much. Since our reunion in 2008, we’ve played big festivals and have had number one albums, but unfortunately we couldn’t get things in America on that scale, because I think a lot of what was released after Headhunter did a lot of damage, and that’s why we concentrated on Europe. Over here they know us better, and after the reunion they instantly got it, that that’s real Krokus. Let’s see, I really hope that one day we will make it back to America for our fans.”
He continued further; “I do think this incarnation of Krokus is absolutely the strongest, because it unites all of the band members which were important, and it has three guitar players! If you listen to the last live album I mentioned, you feel that is a band on its peak; it’s an energy that has never been that strong before, as well as an experience which comes out of the playing. When you get a little bit older, you know how to play those songs best. I wish American fans can see this band live, because it is not an old band, it’s like young dogs on the loose. It’s absolutely exciting to play with Krokus.
Having gone through a rough breakup the same year I originally gotten the Headhunter album, I always associated the power ballad (and the band’s most well-known hit) “Screaming in the Night” with my own personal experience. So I always wondered if the band anything or anyone specifically in mind while writing the track. Chris explained; “What a ballad, definitely. A special mood, and a special, semi-dark ballad with a lot of feelings in it, a drama ballad in a way. It was not about any one special thing, but it is probably the most popular Krokus song. If you look at Spotifiy, it has millions and millions of views, and we always love to play it still, because it’s not like a commercialized ballad, it has this rough edge still, and we love that song.”
And as far as the song’s music video goes, which can no doubt be described as “out there,” Chris said; “A bit inspired by Conan the Barbarian, maybe, we were basically not too happy with it. We thought it was a bit too much with effects, and it looks almost like a L.S.D. trip (Laughs). But at the time it was played a lot on MTV, I don’t know why. Hopefully because of the song of course. But some people love it, and it’s a great song, and that’s what counts. But if you ask any band, videos are always a bit of a pain in the ass! We are not models, and we don’t like photo shoots. We like playing on stage and kicking ass, that’s what we like!”
I also asked if perhaps there were any songs in the bands catalog he really enjoyed that might not be as well known. He told me; “I could listen to hundreds of songs from our earliest stages which I still like, but what really makes it is what you play live. But if I could name three songs that maybe are not so well known in America, it’d definitely first be a song called “Winning Man.” That was the favorite song of Lemmy’s who, when we played with Motorhead, would almost every night come to the side of the stage to listen to that song. Then “Fire” from Metal Rendez-Vous, a great power ballad and dramatic song. And from newer times, it would definitely be “Hoodoo Woman,” which at the time is one of the most well known songs of the band here in Europe.”
Although I rarely touch base on politics or world events during interviews, it seemed impossible not to ask his thoughts on the current events unfolding in the Ukraine knowing how close in proximity Chris is. He stated; “Well, to talk about the world and what is going on would definitely take us all night probably, wouldn’t it? But as a book writer, I definitely reflect a lot, and I’m always astonished how it is still possible that human beings – which have developed so much, in so many ways over the past one-hundred years – can still be back in the medieval ages it seems? This is hard for me to understand that with all of these inventions and progress that the human being has made, that he is still just an animal. That is the unfortunate reality.”
Chris continued; “We as a band try not to go too much into politics, because, as a guy who studies history as well, it’s always a little bit strange to hear rock musicians talk about politics, because most of the time they don’t know what they say, or know history enough to really understand it. One very strong diplomat, I don’t know if it was maybe Henry Kissinger who said, ‘The more you look into a war, the more complicated it gets,’ and you don’t know any more really, who is the guilty, and who is the not guilty. And the whole black and white sides we see in the media, is not helping, you know? It divides the population in two parts, and this I don’t like. It might be a little naive, but with our music, we try to unite the people. Because there is not only god and bad, there is not only black and white, and we really should come together as The Beatles said, and stop all of this aggression, because this is not what we like. I grew up a Woodstock kid in the ’60s, and I don’t believe in all these wars and aggressiveness.”