MARC STORACE: IN HIS OWN WORDS #2
Further to last Sunday's first part, here is the second part of MikeBugeja.com's exclusive Marc Storace feature ahead of the international rock star's upcoming performance at this year's Rockestra concert.
THE MUSIC SCENE BACK THEN...
Back then it was all about dances at The Palace Theatre in Paola, The Premier in Valletta, The Alhambra and other good venues. The Malta Bums, The Echoes, The Soul System, The Boys, Triffids and Trend, to mention but a few; they all got us youngsters rockin' and boppin'. The Bums even had a couple of radio hits in Maltese called L-Ewwel Tfajla Li Habbejt and Viva Malta. The Maltese music scene was more than alive and teenagers walked around wearing the latest trendy clothes from the Swinging Sixties London boutiques. Mary Quant and Twiggy dominated female fashion and Malta's own Square Deal kept most of the boys happy with Mod gear. The Union Jack together with the Motto 'Backing Britain' were plastered on almost everything from T-shirts to Mini-Coopers. In summer these same bands were booked to perform at open-air dances by various Maltese waterpolo clubs and British Forces clubs alike. The Gladiator or The Pit and Vernon Club near Castille in Valletta organised dances to encourage adolescent fun.
MY FIRST RECORD
The first record I ever bought was a Soul Hits album. I bought it from The Record Centre in Cathedral Street, Sliema. I think I still have it somewhere in my cellar.
MY MUSIC CAREER ABROAD
After getting to London, I got caught in a senseless daily rush commuting back and forth to work and doing everything for myself with hardly any time left for music. I joined a cover band to keep my voice in shape, but around the end of the year I met a nice Swiss girl with connections to rock bands in her beautiful country and packed my bags!
In Switzerland I was introduced to a band called Deaf. When I first walked into their rehearsal space, it reminded me of Aladdin's Cave, with the best equipment for six musicians and a singer. For almost a year that singer was me. Deaf's goal was to write a rock opera and perform a big premiere show in the local city theatre in St. Gallen. At some point Albert Buttigieg flew over to replace the bass player, than we needed a new drummer, so Philip Said flew in from London, bringing with him Manuel Cefai. It felt great having almost half of Cinnamon Hades on board again but the rock opera did not work out because of musical differences.
I had seen Tea perform as a trio with Turo Paschayan singing lead vocals on top of playing bass. René Tinner, Deaf's sound-engineer also mixed for Tea and told me they needed a singer so Turo could concentrate on bass. A week later I hitch-hiked to their commune near the lake of Hallwil and after a quick jam of rock classics I joined the band. We took Manuel on board as our lighting engineer. A few months later Phillippe Kienholz joined us on keyboards. Armand Volker, our lead guitar player recorded demos of some of our new songs and our drummer Roli Eggli, together with our manager Peter Waelti got in touch with a famous record producer called Dieter Dierks, who had produced some early Scorpions albums. We released three studio albums between 1971 and 1976, each one accompanied by an intense European tour with bands like Queen, Status Quo, The Ginger Baker Band, Gurvitz Army and Nazareth. Tea even sold out a five-concert tour in Malta and on our last Swiss tour we took Krokus on as our opening-act.
After Tea, I went back to London and formed Eazy Money with musicians from Richmond, Putney and Wales. It was quite a positive experience compared to my first taste of London. We wrote some extremely challenging numbers, one of which, Telephone Man, eventually found its way onto the famed Metal For Muthas Album Vol.2, but by that time I had already joined Krokus.
Krokus was not a new name to me when Chris called me up in my Chelsea flat. Just by chance I had bumped into Harry, the band's manager, outside Picasso's on the King's Road, then one thing led to another and I flew back to Switzerland for a weekend jam in the band's hometown of Solothurn and loved it. The chemistry was right, and soon we were on the road playing all over Germany, and then into a studio to record Metal Rendezvous, my debut album for Krokus, which has received quadruple Platinum awards in Switzerland so far. Its release in 1980 started things rolling in a big way for the band.
We recorded the next two albums, Hardware and One Vice at a Time in London. By that time we had established ourselves in the USA too. Our 1983 release Headhunter was produced by Tom Allom (of Judas Priest fame) and Rob Halford sang with me on the track Ready To Burn. Headhunter earned us a US Billboard Platinum Award. We started the Headhunter World Tour as special guests with headliners Def Leppard and Gary Moore as the opening act. That Pyromania package tour became the top-selling rock tour of 1983, second only to Michael Jackson's Thriller tour. Our next album The Blitz did almost as well. Lucrative videos were produced which got us big exposure on MTV, then America's new music video channel. We toured as far as Chile, where we headlined the Vina Del Mar Festival and received The People's Award. That same year we played to a record audience of 80,000 fans in the Cotton Bowl of Dallas, Texas, and released our first live album Alive and Screaming. By the time we released Change of Address, business for Hard Rock bands started waning and our last album of that era, Heart Attack did not stop the decline. Feeling burnt out after eight years of writing songs, recording albums and touring all over the place, I decided to leave the band.
After a well-earned long break in Malta I returned to Switzerland and embarked on a song-writing spree with my guitarist friend Vic Vergeat who hailed from Italy. The goal was to produce my first solo album. For once I was free to express emotions not solely restricted to a Hard Rock market. In fact You can't stop the rainfall and the cover of When a man loves a woman, which I sang for my new love Cornelia, enjoyed enormous airplay in Switzerland. For Blue I enjoyed the freedom to use the whole spectrum of my vocal and lyrical capacities at the time. Vic was great to work with because in spite of being a sensational guitarist he was very sensitive to what I wanted to express vocally and the music was tailor-made for my temperament, which is a rare thing to find. We recorded in Munich with Robert Papst, with whom we co-wrote You can't stop the rainfall. This album is still close to my heart because it contains great songs.
After Blue, I embarked on many new and varied projects seeking to enhance my experience in song-writing and performance without having to be tied down by long-term record contracts or bands whilst raising a family. The list includes Amen, China, Acoustical Mountain, a brief Krokus reunion that yielded the To Rock Or Not To Be album, Warrior in the US and BISS in Germany. I was also involved in various collaborations, among them with Swiss national TV SF1, opera singer Raphael Haslinger, DC World, GÖLÄ, a movie and various duets, exhibitions and all-star concerts.
Read the final part of this feature on Thursday, September 10!
Rockestra will be held on Saturday, September 12. Doors open at 7pm, with an opening performance from Strummin' Live followed by the main event. General standing area tickets cost €15 and are available online at www.ooii.com.mt. This year, in collaboration with Hard Rock Malta, official Rockestra t-shirts are also available. All proceeds go to the Malta Community Chest Fund.