Together with Krokus, the band he co-founded, he plays to sold-out venues across Europe and the US, even as pop queen Rihanna rocks his band t-shirt on stage. I interviewed Marc Storace ahead of his participation in this year’s edition of Rockestra. This interview first appeared on the August 2015 issue of Sunday Circle.
He is undoubtedly Malta’s biggest rock export and – some four decades after he packed his bags for London and, eventually, Switzerland – his music still mobilises thousands, playing to sell-out venues in Europe and beyond.
He is Marc Storace, co-founder of platinum-selling rock outfit Krokus and one of the few men who are living proof that rock, indeed, is not dead. And now, a full nine years after Krokus performed to a packed Old Power Station in Floriana, Storace is back in his home country to set the stage of Rockestra on fire.
Rockestra, in case you’ve been hibernating for these past seven-odd years, is one of the major fixtures in Malta’s music calendar. Organised by the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra in aid of the Malta Community Chest Fund, it combines classical, pop and rock music, giving a different twist to well-loved favourites and featuring a number of top names from the local music scene.
Storace himself was meant to take part in last year’s edition, but scheduling problems meant that his involvement had to be postponed to this year – and it’s an involvement, he assures me, that he is very much looking forward to.
“I jumped at the opportunity to perform with our national orchestra and with some of my country’s talented musicians, all for a good cause,” he says.
But will it be his signature energy-driven, Krokus-style performance – or should we expect something mellower? The answer, fans will be happy to know, is the former.
“I always perform physically-demanding rock songs that ask for vocal energy. For Rockestra, orchestral arrangements are in Wayne Grima’s capable hands; his arrangements have already echoed inside London`s mighty Royal Albert Hall. Sigmund Mifsud will, as usual, direct and inspire the whole shebang with his endless passion. But the rest is up to the audience. Because nothing will stop an enthusiastic Maltese crowd from turning Ta`Qali into a bubbling cauldron of free-spirited fun. That’s what it is all about.”
And his multitude of fans certainly agree. It is evident that – despite being absent from the island for years – Storace’s local following has continued gaining ground. Despite regular private visits to Malta, which included jams with local musicians at the former BJ`s in Paceville, the 2006 concert was the first time Krokus actually performed in Malta. This was followed immediately by a gig at the Nadur carnival in Gozo the following year. Fans lapped both up. And, by the look of things, Storace’s Rockestra performance will be no less rocking.
Of course, Storace is no stranger to the fusion of rock and classical. The singer was born in a family of classical musicians. His parents are opera aficionados (his mother played piano music for him even while still in her womb, while his father sang as tenor), while his older sister Edith is a classical musician and teacher.
“I still listen to classical when I need switching off, to relax and let my fantasies flow. Preferably accompanied by a good glass of red and candlelight. Classical orchestras add much colour and emotion to a basic rock song,” Storace says.
And when it comes to colour and emotion, Storace’s band Krokus has aplenty. Since the band reunited with the original line-up in 2007 (Swiss founder-member and bassist Chris Von Rohr, lead guitar player Fernando Von Arb, Mark Kohler on rhythm guitar and Freddie Steady on drums) it’s been a whirlwind of record releases and tours.
And, fresh from last year’s live-album release Longstick Goes Boom, the group has been touring ever since. A look at the guys’ 2014/2015 schedule reads like a geography textbook, with The Caribbean, the Bahamas, various locations in the US, North America, the Czech Republic, Barcelona and Madrid on the list of pitstops.
“We performed 19 Concerts within circa 25 days in Germany, Switzerland and Austria. This year we have played more new territories; it`s amazing how heartily new fans react to our music. Seems like hard rock is really the best stress-buster.”
In the meantime, there are also murmurings about possible new recordings and projects, as Storace reveals that the band will soon be meeting up with Sony Music in Zürich “to make concrete plans out of ideas we have floating in the air”.
Added to this, Storace himself is taking part in Test, a rock-opera that will premier in Basel, Switzerland, in February.
“I have a main part in which I play a down and out 130-year-old man called Luke. Yes, that’s right, 130 years old.”
To say that Storace’s schedule looks busy is an understatement. At this point, I can’t help but wonder: how does it feel to have pop icons like Rihanna showing off a Krokus tee? If that isn’t a real case of the opposites, then I don’t know what is.
“Yes it is, but she`s a great singer and gives us free publicity. If she feels cool wearing a vintage Krokus t-shirt on stage, that – by the way – was sketched by yours truly in the 1980s, I say… go ahead Rihanna! Just do it!”
And yet, Krokus’s steady stream of successes far from made Storace forget his roots. Krokus’s latest album cover finds the star wearing a tee-shirt with the Maltese cross. He still speaks, reads and writes the language fluently and makes it a point to return almost every year.
“I hate staying away too long, because I love seeing my family and old friends. They help to charge my batteries.”
As far the oft-repeated question, will we see Krokus playing in Malta any time soon, Storace’s reply is simple.
“I can only say we are waiting for someone to come forward. One of my dreams is for someone from Malta or Gozo to come forward and book us for a mega-historic show before it`s too late. Maltese fans long to see and hear and meet us all. They deserve to witness the original members of this historic band before the sands of time make it impossible.”
Rockestra takes place on September 12 at the MFCC in Ta’ Qali. Tickets are available online.
Read more about Marc Storace here.