Krokus guitarist Fernando von Arb says that The Blitz producer Bruce Fairbairn is a very normal human being


By Steve Newton

Swiss heavy-metalists Krokus were scheduled to play the Commodore Ballroom late last year, but touring commitments with Sammy Hagar forced cancellation of the gig. And it’s too bad, because–since the band is touring behind their strongest LP yet–the show promised to be an exciting one for local headbangers.

But hold on kiddies–don’t go burning your Headhunter albums and “Eat the Rich” t-shirts. Guitarist Fernando von Arb called me from Louisville, Kentucky recently and promises that Krokus will be here in 1985. In fact, he calls Vancouver his “second hometown”, having spent several weeks here last summer recording The Blitz (at Little Mountain Sound) and hanging out with the likes of Bryan Adams, the Payola$’ Bob Rock (who engineered the album) and Bruce Fairbairn (who produced it.)

The last time Krokus played Vancouver was in 1982, when they backed up Motorhead at the Kerrisdale Arena. Since then the band have improved tremendously in their recorded work, and progressed from the too-AC/DC-ish sound (a great band, but who needs two of them?) that clouded their One Vice at a Time album.

In the following interview von Arb talks about the current album, its songs by Bryan Adams and the Sweet, and life on the road in a “healthy-metal” band.

Are you getting along well with Sammy Hagar?

Oh yeah, he’s good, you know. It’s an open battle, a musical fight onstage. It’s a real good competition. What can I say–we kick his ass so he has to work harder. Great package.

Congratulations on your new album, The Blitz. I understand it’s doing quite well for you.

Yeah, it’s doing absolutely great! We are already gold in Canada, and American now. I can not complain [laughs].

How did you come to record the song written by Bryan Adams, “Boys Nite Out”?

Well when we came to Vancouver Bryan Adams was still in the studio working on something. So we got to know him a little bit. He had a tape of a song that was a little bit too heavy for him, and we had a song that was called “Bang Bang” or “Let’s Go Bang Bang”, whatever it was called, kind of a …[chuckles mischievously] song with too heavy a lyric. So we listened to his song and decided to take his quote “It’s a boys nite out” and fit it into ours. So it’s a combination of those two songs.

What about “Ballroom Blitz”? It’s an old Sweet song.

Well that was a five-minute, live recording not even planned to be on the album. We liked it and put it on anyway. That’s rock and roll, you know [laughs].

I understand it was suggested by Clive Davis, the president of your record company, Arista.

Yeah, he wanted to have it as a demo last year, and we actually only wanted to make a demo of it this year, because we already had everything recorded for The Blitz. But we just learned the song quick and played it, then said, “Wow that sounds great, that sounds rough.” And we left it that way.

Were you a fan of the Sweet?

Well, we were not fans of the Sweet, but the funny thing is, they were great musicians. And always on the flip side of a single they had great tunes, you know. But their single hits were a little bit too sweet for us. “Ballroom Blitz” sounds completely different when we play it, it has nothing to do with the Sweet.

In your PolyGram Records bio Marc [Storace, lead vocalist] is quoted as saying: “In this screwed up world we decided that it’s not wise to go ahead preaching death and destruction anymore.”

Well yeah, that’s our personal belief. Why should we put on a 60 or 90-minute rock show that is only in that direction–blood and guts all over the place. I have been to other rock shows and heavy metal shows where people go out depressed after hearing nothing but the same dark shit. That’s no fun, you know. We believe in a party, in an “upper” feeling.

Do you call your music “healthy-metal”?

Well we didn’t call it that–some idiot at the press office called it that, so now people think we are health-food nuts and yogurt fans and whatever [laughs]. It has to do with a positive attitude. We just don’t sing constantly about “kill your neighbour” and whatever. “Rob your grandma”. It’s silly. It’s stupid, It’s even ridiculous!

I’ve heard that everyone in the band studies karate.

Well, we have a karate teacher on the road. And I took it in the beginning almost every day, but the show and everything is very exhausting, so now I do it on the days off. I cannot work out as hard as I would like to, but I learn a lot just theoretically. When I have some time I can go for it, but really right now the show is the most important thing.

When we were in the studio in Vancouver we went to karate lessons with [martial-arts master] Pat McCarthy in the morning. We didn’t waste any time. But on the road the nights are long. We go to bed three, four, sometimes five o’clock and sleep till 12. Normal people can’t even imagine how it is because they think, “Wow, that must be great fun!” The rocking and the playing is fun, but the traveling can kill you.

You played both rhythm and lead guitar on The Blitz.

I played all the guitars on Blitz because back then we had no bass player. The rhythm player, Mark Kohler, quickly learned the bass and played all of it on the album. But now we have a bass player again and Kohler has gone back to rhythm guitar.

Your new bassist, Andy Tanas, wrote most of the material for the last two Black Oak Arkansas albums. Did his southern rock background cause any problems fitting into Krokus?

Well he is from Memphis or somewhere around there, but he has lived in California for years now. And he fits in great with the band. I mean he’s not like [fakes a southern accent] “Wail let’s play some southern rock y’all.”

How was Bruce Fairbairn different from the other producers you’ve worked with over the years?

Well Bruce Fairbairn is an absolutely down-to-earth guy, you know. He is a very normal human being [laughs]. He’s not freaking out about things. And he had a great overview of everything. He kept the stuff together.

Where is the current tour going to take you?

Well first we do the West Coast, down to San Diego and New Mexico. And after we take a break we go for three weeks in the deep south with Kiss. And after that we headline again, but where we don’t know. We could go to Europe.

Too bad you couldn’t make it up to Vancouver.

We are gonna do that–no problem. It mean we’ve been talking about Vancouver and all the places we have been to there. We have seen bands in the other clubs, and we were in the good restaurants–we had good Indian food, good Italian. We were in Stanley Park, you know. We love this place. So we want to play there, definitely.

To hear the full audio of my 1984 interview with Fernando von Arb subscribe to my Patreon page, where you can also eavesdrop on my uncut, one-on-one conversations with:

Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, 1997
Gary Holt of Exodus, 1985
Dizzy Reed of Guns N’ Roses, 1992
Scott Ian of Anthrax, 2012
Gary Lee Conner of Screaming Trees, 1992
Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran, 1985
David “Honeyboy” Edwards, 2003
Rudolf Schenker of Scorpions, 1992
Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick, 2001
Jeff Keith of Tesla, 1988
Doyle Bramhall II and Charlie Sexton of Arc Angels, 1992
Marc Bonilla, 1992
Mike Smith of Sandbox (and Trailer Park Boys), 1996
Dewey Bunnell of America, 1983
Robert Randolph of the Family Band, 2003
Keith Strickland of the B-52s, 2008
David Johansen of the New York Dolls, 2005
Nathan Followill of Kings of Leon, 2003
Todd Kerns, 2016
Bill Payne of Little Feat, 2002
Tommy Shannon of SRV & Double Trouble, 1998
Alejandro Escovedo, 1997
Billy Duffy of the Cult, 1989
Dave Martone, 2020
Ian Gillan of Deep Purple, 2006
Joss Stone, 2012
Glenn Tipton of Judas Priest, 2005
Jack Blades of Night Ranger, 1984
Vivian Campbell of Def Leppard, 1992
Colin James, 1995
Kim Simmonds of Savoy Brown, 1998
Tom Cochrane of Red Rider, 1983
Ed Roland of Collective Soul, 1995
Taj Mahal, 2001
Tom Wilson of Junkhouse, 1995
Mike McCready of Pearl Jam, 2003
David Lindley, 2002
Marty Friedman of Megadeth, 1991
John Hiatt, 2010
Nancy Wilson of Heart, 2006
Jeff Golub, 1989
Moe Berg of the Pursuit of Happiness, 1990
Todd Rundgren, 2006
Chad Kroeger of Nickelback, 2001
Steve Earle, 1987
Gabby Gaborno of the Cadillac Tramps, 1991
Terry Bozzio, 2003
Roger Glover, 1985
Matthew Sweet, 1995
Jim McCarty of the Yardbirds, 2003
Luther Dickinson of North Mississippi Allstars, 2001
John Rzeznik of the Goo Goo Dolls, 1995
Steve Hackett from Genesis, 1993
Grace Potter, 2008
Buddy Guy, 1993
Steve Lynch of Autograph, 1985
Don Wilson of the Ventures, 1997
Gordie Johnson of Big Sugar, 1998
Trevor Rabin of Yes, 1984
Albert Lee, 1986
Yngwie Malmsteen, 1985
Robert Cray, 1996
Tony Carey, 1984
Ian Hunter, 1988
Kate Bush, 1985
David Gilmour from Pink Floyd, 1984
Jeff Healey, 1988
Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip, 1996
Richie Sambora of Bon Jovi, 1993
Colin Linden, 1993
Kenny Wayne Shepherd, 1995
Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues, 1986
Elliot Easton from the Cars, 1996
Wayne Kramer from the MC5, 2004
Bob Rock, 1992
Nick Gilder, 1985
Klaus Meine of Scorpions, 1988
Jason Bonham, 1989
Tom Johnston of the Doobie Brothers, 1991
Joey Spampinato of NRBQ, 1985
Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers, 2003
Andy Powell of Wishbone Ash, 2003
Steve Kilbey of the Church, 1990
Edgar Winter, 2005
Johnette Napolitano of Concrete Blonde, 1990
Randy Hansen, 2001
Dan McCafferty of Nazareth, 1984
Davy Knowles of Back Door Slam, 2007
Jimmy Barnes from Cold Chisel, 1986
Steve Stevens of Atomic Playboys, 1989
Billy Idol, 1984
Stuart Adamson of Big Country, 1993
Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull, 1992
Warren Haynes of Gov’t Mule, 1998
John Bell of Widespread Panic, 1992
Robben Ford, 1993
Barry Hay of Golden Earring, 1984
Jason Isbell, 2007
Joey Belladonna of Anthrax, 1991
Joe Satriani, 1990
Vernon Reid of Living Colour, 1988
Brad Delp of Boston, 1988
Zakk Wylde of Pride & Glory, 1994
John Sykes of Blue Murder, 1989
Alice Cooper, 1986
Lars Ulrich of Metallica, 1985
John Doe, 1990
Shannon Hoon of Blind Melon, 1992
Myles Goodwyn of April Wine, 2001
John Mellencamp, 1999
Mike Campbell of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, 1999
Kenny Aronoff, 1999
Doyle Bramhall II, 2001
Jon Bon Jovi, 1986
Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers, 1992
Randy Bachman, 2001
Little Steven, 1987
Stevie Salas, 1990
J.J. Cale, 2009
Joe Bonamassa, 2011
Tommy Emmanuel, 1994
John Petrucci of Dream Theater, 2010
Alex Van Halen, 1995
Eric Johnson, 2001
Stu Hamm, 1991
Gene Simmons of Kiss, 1992
Ace Frehley from Kiss, 2008
David Lee Roth, 1994
Allan Holdsworth, 1983
John Mayall of the Bluesbreakers, 1988
Tony Iommi of Heaven and Hell, 2007
Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, 1996
Geoff Tate of Queensryche, 1991
James Hetfield of Metallica, 1986
Stevie Ray Vaughan, 1990
Rick Richards of the Georgia Satellites, 1988
Andy McCoy and Sam Yaffa of Hanoi Rocks, 1984
Steve Morse, 1991
Slash of Guns N’ Roses, 1994
Brian May from Queen, 1993
Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers, 1991
Jake E. Lee of Badlands, 1992
Rickey Medlocke of Lynyrd Skynyrd, 1997
John Fogerty, 1997
Joe Perry of Aerosmith, 1987
Rick Derringer, 1999
Robin Trower, 1990
Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, 1994
Mick Ronson, 1988
Geddy Lee of Rush, 2002
Buck Dharma of Blue Oyster Cult, 1997
Michael Schenker, 1992
Vince Neil of Motley Crue, 1991
Vinnie Paul of Pantera, 1992
Joan Jett, 1992
Sebastian Bach of Skid Row, 1989
Rob Halford of Judas Priest, 1984
Bill Henderson of Chilliwack, 1999
Paul Rodgers, 1997
R.L. Burnside, 1999
Guthrie Govan of the Aristocrats, 2015
Mick Mars of Mötley Crüe, 1985
Carlos Santana, 2011
Walter Trout, 2003
Rudy Sarzo of Quiet Riot, 1983
Tommy Aldridge, 2001
Donald “Duck” Dunn, 1985
Mark Farner of Grand Funk, 1991
Chris Robinson of Black Crowes, 1990
Jennifer Batten, 2002
Mike Fraser, 2014
Leo Kottke, 2002
Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead, 2002
David Gogo, 1991
Booker T. Jones, 2016
Link Wray, 1997
James Reyne from Australian Crawl, 1988
Mike Rutherford of Genesis, 1983
Buddy Guy, 1991
Country Dick Montana of the Beat Farmers, 1990
Mike Cooley of the Drive-By Truckers, 2016
Gary Rossington of Lynyrd Skynyrd, 1986
Lindsay Mitchell of Prism, 1988
Buddy Miles, 2001
Eddie Money, 1988
Tom Hamilton of Aerosmith, 1983
Gaye Delorme, 1990
Graham Bonnet of Alcatrazz, 1984
Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac, 2016
Doc Neeson of Angel City, 1985
Rik Emmett of Triumph, 1985
Sonny Landreth, 2016
Tosin Abasi of Animals as Leaders, 2016
Jeff Beck, 2001
Albert King, 1990
Johnny Ramone of the Ramones, 1992
Peter Frampton, 1987
Otis Rush, 1997
Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip, 1989
Leslie West of Mountain, 2002
Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden, 1983
Uli Jon Roth, 2016
Poison Ivy of the Cramps, 1990
Greg Lake of ELP, 1992
Robert Plant, 1993
Malcolm Young and Brian Johnson of AC/DC, 1983
Warren Zevon, 1992
Tal Wilkenfeld, 2016
Steve Clark of Def Leppard, 1988
Roy Buchanan, 1986
Gary Moore, 1984
Ronnie Montrose, 1994
Danny Gatton, 1993
Alex Lifeson of Rush, 1992
Ann Wilson of Heart, 1985
J.J. Cale, 1990
Yngwie Malmsteen, 2014
Chris Cornell, 2008
Long John Baldry, 1985
Allan Holdsworth, 1983
Kim Mitchell, 1984
Warren Haynes of Allman Brothers, 1994
Derek Trucks, 1998
Susan Tedeschi, 1998
Joe Satriani, 2018
B.B. King, 1984
Albert Collins, 1985
Ronnie James Dio, 1985
Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath, 1984
Dick Dale, 2000
Greg Allman, 1998
Dickey Betts, 2001

…with hundreds more to come

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