Fireworks

Fireworks Magazine Online 74 - Interview with Shakra

SHAKRA

Interview by Wolf Gant

The career of Swiss band Shakra has not been one without incident. In twenty years they have been tested by the 'side-effects' of controversial videos, the loss of two singers at their peak; the second almost causing total collapse, and then a huge U-turn, which ultimately and thankfully came off thanks largely to the work of a close confidante. However new album, 'High Noon', is a scorcher and has given the band a No. 2 record at home and their highest chart position in Germany since their affiliation with AFM Records began. So, are they really back on track?


Shakra Interview Alt


The phrase that sums up 'High Noon' is; "The Fox Is Back", ex-singer Mark Fox dramatically returning to the fold. Talking to guitarist Thomas Muster and the aforementioned Fox, Fireworks explores the background to that statement. Just what was the situation after previous singer John Prakesh's departure? Was the talk of Muster actually hanging up his guitars for good and therefore that the band would fold, ever close to reality?

"Well, when John announced he wanted to leave, my first thought was: 'Okay, I'm done with it,' so yes, it was certainly a thought that crossed my mind," says the guitarist. "Thom (Blunier – Guitarist and Producer) immediately started the search for a new singer, but for me that was not an option. Shakra with a new singer every few years? Not for me. After a few months it seemed clear though, the only way to carry on was with Mark back in the band!"

Ah, yes. That of course is a 'clouded' reference to a now famous phone call from Krokus's Chris Von Rohr (who, let's be honest knows a thing or two about getting bands back together!). What was Chris' relationship to the band at that time?

"Chris is a close friend of Mark's and he finally brought us together to talk about everything. Chris just said: 'Bring together what belongs together!' I mean, we recorded four albums together. Mark definitely has a very distinctive voice. So Chris was saying, basically, he was the only real deal for us!
"Figuratively, for the five years before this Mark was on the north side of the Grand Canyon and I was on the south. Chris basically wanted to re-build the bridge. Not only did he succeed with that but he also then helped us a lot to choose the perfect twelve songs for the new album."

Without the hindsight that came later, just how difficult was it for you to let bygones be bygones with Mark?

"As I said before, a new singer was never a real option for me. Why should I look for a totally new singer when there is a guy – only about 20 km from us – with a voice that fits perfectly? Sure, we had some huge problems in the past but I believed in the words Chris said on the phone: 'We [Krokus] were able to solve the problems we'd had in the past. If we can, you also will!' I just thought: give it a try, you've nothing to lose. When I heard from Chris that Mark wanted to talk about a new beginning as well and hoped we could, I knew that this would turn out well. When we met, after like five years, it really was not difficult at all. As long as you really want something, it is possible!"

So talk comes round to a new record. Who had the first ideas?

"Well, we talked and talked, but Mark said: 'Let's try to record a song. Talking is okay but making music is what it's all about!' I had the idea of opener 'Hello' in mind already. I recorded it in my home studio then drove to Mark's to work on the vocal line. It sounded great! We both knew that there was something going on that we both had missed! That real Shakra spirit if you like! 'Hello' was then the initial ignition. It took us about one year to write the songs for 'High Noon' and we wrote over thirty, which is where Chris' advice was so useful, but it's never felt so good to work on new material as it was this time!"

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When we saw you here some years ago (2012), the guitar was really strong. It was almost like I was seeing the band around the time of 2007's 'Infected' album. This album has an element of 'Infected' to it for me. An earthiness in the sound; a real depth. How would you sum it up Thomas?

"Yeah, you're right! Before we decided to work on 'Hello', which was like the ultimate test, we talked a bit about our favourite albums. We both went (shouts); 'Infected'! 'Everest'! So that's why 'Hello' sounds a lot like maybe 'Ashes To Ashes' or 'Make Your Day' from 'Infected'. It was pretty clear that that musical direction was going to suit 'High Noon'. Thom had tried to make the guitars on the last two albums a bit more modern sounding, but this time he only used one amp: the good old Marshall!"

Sum up the best moments and why they mean so much. Mark, you were always known for your 'sharp, sometimes delicate' lyrical subjects? Is this still the case?

"This is always a difficult question because all of the songs are our babies and it's not easy to prefer one over another. The only thing I can say is, I really wanna play these songs live soon; we are all really hungry to get back on stage after all these years. All the lyrics I write are basically ambiguous. I never explain the real meaning to them; everybody can use their own imagination. Often they are socio-critical or describe things that happened to me, and I certainly did not change that on 'High Noon', but I think I wrapped some of the meanings up better this time."

I am interested to know how the band views the future and playing live now. John Prakesh was part of Shakra when two very strong albums were recorded. Mark, do you have strong views about reproducing that material live?

"Well, we are going to be doing like a "best of" set list, so I hope that answers that. We will play songs from every album, even if I was not singing on them originally. I'm really pleased about that. It's great fun to reinterpret things my way. That's the advantage of my voice; if I start singing, everybody knows it has to be me.
"The first rehearsal for the 'High Noon Tour' was a special moment for everyone. It had been six years of course; we really felt that specific chemistry coming back and the drive to go out there and rock was immediate."

And finally; any regrets Mark?

"I never regret anything. I think that everything that happened, happened for a reason. There's definitely 'the bigger plan'. It made us wiser, taught us to have respect and showed us a way that is so much different to what came before. Now I can really enjoy everything and I feel like I'm finally back home."

'High Noon' is out now through AFM Records.

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