He’s lived away from Malta for over four decades; the best part of them spent fronting rock bands of repute onstage and off it, but Marc Storace has lost none of his Maltese character.

This, and the sense of reconnecting with his past are among the main reasons he comes back to Malta regularly, but his latest visit has an even bigger connection linked to it. This time, Storace will be coming over with his band TEA, who will be performing live at Sky Club on Friday.

The band re-formed last year, and it was perhaps inevitable that Malta would be on their schedule; after all, the band has fond memories of its last visit here back in the mid-1970s. TEA’s recorded repertoire isn’t so easy to get hold of nowadays, which is probably why the recently released Reloaded compilation was snapped up so quickly.

“We were glad to finally put out the ‘old’ songs on CD. It’s quite a colourful collection, covering all the albums and two non-album singles, Judy and Good Times”, Storace explains. Apart from TEA’s Reloaded compilation, another album that has been pushing units is Hoodoo, the latest album from Swiss rockers Krokus, Storace’s other band.

Hoodoo shot to no.1 in Switzerland and has also been doing well in various other countries, the latest being the US, where the album was released a few weeks ago. Juggling the demands of two prominent bands and the odd collaboration must be quite a handful, but Storace has never been one to shy way from a challenge. “It boils down to keeping an updated agenda. Krokus gets first priority when dates clash though,” he insists.

This week is TEA week in Storace’s diary, and later today he will be having his palm-print laid down in Bay Street’s Walk of Fame, followed by a live unplugged session at the Hard Rock Café.

The Hoodoo album has been doing quite well since its release and has brought some interesting developments too… We’re pleased the album went straight to no.1 in the Swiss charts, turning gold on its first day of release, then on to platinum within four weeks, and it’s still selling. It’s reached some healthy chart positions in other European countries too but it was especially impressive to see it hit a good mark in the German Top 50, while over in Greece it peaked at number six.

Musically, Hoodoo picks up where Metal Rendez-Vous, Hardware, One Vice At a Time and Headhunter trailed off, which is the result of several factors, among them that the current line-up is the same one from 1982’s One Vice At A Time, namely Fernando Von Arb on lead guitar, Mark Kohler on rhythm guitar, Chris Von Rohr on bass, Freddy Steady on drums and me on vocals. Also, Chris, Fern and I adopted the same songwriting approach we applied in the early 1980s, going as far as reproducing that old-school ‘dusty’ sound and using the same classic instruments – Fenders, Les Pauls, Gretschs, the lot.

We also made sure the CD artwork complemented the music and the concept and even re-designed the entire website to bring it in line with the Hoodoo vibe… all this apart, however, the songwriting remains the most important factor of all.

You also landed a prestigious opening gig with AC/DC… Yes, as you can imagine it was great to open for AC/DC. We were billed as their ‘special guests’, and the concert was all the more special because it was at the Stade de Suisse in Bern, Switzerland, which is the same venue where Krokus gave its reunion concert in 2008. You can’t begin to imagine what a joy it was to play together with this legendary band again.

It really seems like many things are coming full circle for us. The last time we performed with AC/DC was in 1981 during their Back in Black tour in the US. That was a magnificent experience… While no Krokus album has stopped short of declaring its hard rock credentials, Hoodoo seems to come at you with all guns blazing more than ever. How was it working with the ‘old guard’ again, and how did you work your way to recording the album?

The ‘originals’ have now been together since early 2008, so as time passed, we grew closer, at the same time resolving our differences for good. The creative period couldn’t have worked out better; we were motivated by the love from our fans and inspired by the simple fact that the core songwriting team of the early 1980s was back together. We completed the new album in three different stages. First, Chris, Fern and I feverishly wrote and recorded rough ‘garage’ demos. When we had completed four demos, the whole band entered the studios to record the ‘real thing’ and we went forward from there.

For practical reasons, all the guitars were recorded in Solo­thurn, Switzerland, while the drums, bass and all vocals were recorded in Stuttgart, Germany. Following your two concerts with Krokus in Malta in recent years, are there any plans to complete a hat-trick now that the classic line-up is back together? That’s simply a matter of ‘supply and demand’, but of course I’d love to return to perform in front of our loyal Maltese fans with the original Krokus formation… and so would they, I have no doubt about it.

Speaking of concerts, you’ll be performing in Malta with TEA again after more than 30 years since your first visit. How are you feeling about this particular concert, and about the TEA reunion so far? The TEA reunion was something I’d long been wishing for and we were blown away by the outcome. In Switzerland it felt like our old TEA fans were coming out of the woodwork and bringing their teenage offspring along too; it was sensational. The band is also very keen on revisiting the Malta – it’s been too long, and we can’t wait to perform to our loyal TEA fans here. With great memories of our five sold-out concerts in Malta and Gozo back in 1976-77, we’re working on a special repertoire for Maltese emotions.

Naturally, we will include our precious ballad Alexandra, as this song seems to have been tailor-made for Maltese hearts and also because we can’t wait to hear fans all sing it with us again. The rest I’d better leave as a surprise, but most of all we promise a hot night of tasty rock music and much fun. After all, that still is TEA’s motto today...‘Hot, strong and tasty’.

What was it that prompted the TEA reunion in the first place? The first seed was sown at the Krokus concert in Malta in 2006.

I had performed Alexandra with Boys Next Door at the end of their opening set, and the reaction of the Maltese audience was pretty amazing. It made me realise that TEA’s music was still alive here in my own dear country. I still had connections with original TEA drummer Roli Eggli, who had been my personal manager for years; and Peter Waelti, TEA’s ex-manager and current Krokus manager for the US, who was also presenting the Krokus show that night.

That performance of Alexandra was filmed that night, and its incredible energy motivated Roli to put TEA back together. Armand (Volker, guitarist) was back in Switzerland after a long successful stint working as a producer in Munich, Germany, and he came on board too. Unfortunately, Philippe (Kienholz, keyboards) couldn’t join us due to work commitments, and we couldn’t find (bassist) Turo Paschayan anywhere, so we opted to bring in Chris Egger on keyboards and Danny Allenspach on bass – they have both been very close to the band over the years.

It proved to be a good decision, as you will see. TEA’s back catalogue reflects a move from early prog roots towards a more defined classic hard rock vein, both reflected in the recent Reloaded compilation. What’s planned in terms of new music for TEA?

Our influences were always diverse – from Yes and Genesis to The Sweet, Deep Purple, The Who and even Led Zeppelin; but we’ve always retained our own identity. We recently created a new repertoire of TEA classics because we were so eager to perform live again. When the time is ripe we’ll focus on writing new songs. Before the actual concert, you’ll be playing an acoustic set at Hard Rock Café.

You’re very keen on unplugged sets… Yes, I really enjoy the spontaneity and freedom of an unplugged performance, especially in this case, because the talented Maltese guitarist Marc Galea and I will only have one very quick rehearsal. It’s the lighthearted and uncomplicated atmosphere of unplugged sessions that I love the most.

Last but not least, a final word ahead of the concert... We’ve tailored our present repertoire especially for Maltese fans, with Alexandra definitely at the heart of it. We’ll also be playing some TEA gems like Cool In The Morning, Lady, Summer In The City and The Ship. I don’t want to give too much away but I have to mention that we’ve also prepared a special rendition of Glorimont for our hard rock and heavy metal fans.

Rock on, and see you all soon…

TEA will be performing at Sky Club on Friday. Local band Frenzy Mono will be supporting.

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