Praying Mantis For Powerplay Magazine

Praying Mantis have had a long and turbulent career but now
they have a steady line-up and two strong albums to bring them to everyone’s
attention again 

Praying Mantis first grabbed the headlines in the music scene around 1978 when
Neal Kay at " The Bandwagon" HM Soundhouse club in London took an
interest in them. After a few ups and downs the band are now an established
name in Japan and are breaking new ground in the rest of the world with new
singer Tony O’Hora.

The ideas for the band were actually formed as far back as 1973 but it wasn’t
until 1976 that Tino Troy got his brother Chris to join the band on Bass and
they started their long writing partnership.

In 1978 the band were trying to get a record deal and a friend suggested Tino
take a demo to DJ Neal Kay at the Soundhouse.  Neal gave it a play and asked
the audience what they thought of it. The overwhelming responsive soon told
him. The band then got the tape released as Soundhouse Tapes Part 2 (Iron Maiden
being Part 1).

Things were slow moving but by 1980 they had recorded a BBC session and appeared
on the Metal For Muthas compilation featuring new bands such as Iron Maiden,
Samson and Angel Witch in what was now called the New Wave Of British Heavy
Metal (NWOBHM).

In 1981 they finally released their first album on the Arista label; The classic
"Time Tells No Lies". This was an album with great vocal harmonies
and strong twin guitar work. 

The October 81 issue of Kerrang! had a readers poll of the top 100 albums of
all time and Mantis came in at 91. The band at this time consisted of the Troy
brothers; Chris (Bass), Tino (Lead Guitar), Steve Carroll (Lead Guitar) and
Dave Potts (Drums). Tino, Chris and Steve all shared lead vocals. The lack of
an out and out front man was something the press sometimes criticised the band
for and indeed in live situations, the band also felt the need for a change.
That way, they could concentrate on their individual instruments. 

They tried out Tom Jackson for a tour but things didn’t workout. Then it was
time to record a second album provisionally to be called "A Question Of
Time". Recording for this took place with the same line-up as the "Time
Tells No Lies" album in Germany. Once they got back home, the band started
to search for a Lead Vocalist to finish the songs, which were only recorded
with guide vocals. It wasn’t long before they recruited Bernie Shaw (Ex-Grand
Prix and now a long standing member of Uriah Heep). They also decided to change
the 2nd lead guitar for keyboards in order to give the band a more aural texture.
The band had a successful Reading appearance, in ‘82, which was broadcast by
Radio 1. They released the single, "Turn The Tables" but then ran
into management problems, which took months to sort out. The album never got
finished and all the momentum they had previously generated had been lost.

Dave Potts who was older than the others decided to try and turn the bands
fortunes round by becoming their manager and Clive Burr (fresh from leaving
Iron Maiden) joined the nucleus of the Troy’s and Bernie. It was decided a new
name was the order of the day and they first chose Clive Burr’s Escape in a
bid to use the Iron Maiden connection to elevate the status of the band. After
a month or so the name was changed to Stratus and they released an album entitled
"Throwing Shapes" but success was still proving elusive. Demos from
the Bernie Shaw era of Mantis were recently released in Japan on a double CD
called "Demorabilia"

By 1987 the band had decided to call it a day and they played a farewell gig
at the Marquee as Praying Mantis with Dave Potts back on drums. There the story
would have ended had it not been for Japan…

In 1989 Masa Ito the Japanese equivalent of Tommy Vance decided it would be
a good idea to have a concert celebrating the 10th Anniversary of the NWOBHM.
Talks then took place and the final result was that Paul Di’Anno (The original
Iron Maiden Vocalist) and Dennis Stratton (Guitarist on Maiden’s first and then
Lionheart) would combine with the Troy brothers and play a set consisting of
 Praying Mantis, Iron Maiden and Lionheart, songs. On drums they brought in
Bruce Bisland (ex-Wildfire and Statetrooper). The tour went down a storm in
Japan and the album Praying Mantis with Dennis Stratton and Paul Di’Anno – "Live
At Last" was released.

Sales for this were better than expected so the Japanese approached Praying
Mantis about doing a studio album. Paul Di’Anno had decided to continue his
solo career but Dennis Stratton, Bruce Bisland and the Troy brothers joined
forces and the nucleus 90’s version of Praying Mantis was formed. The band had
very little time in which to get songs together so Dennis brought in songs he
had co-written with Lea Hart (Fastway and True Brit’s) and the Troy’s bought
in some of their unreleased works. Both halves of the band worked in their own
way and the end result "Predator In Disguise" was a slightly schizophrenic
affair. But the essence of Praying Mantis was still very much there. Chris Troy
and Dennis Stratton had shared the lead vocal duties but while they rehearsed
for another tour of Japan they met Dougie White (latter of Rainbow). He agreed
to do Lead Vocals for the tour but when it was finished he had no real interest
in becoming a permanent member.

The Japanese wanted another album and the band decided they needed a secure
vocalist so the search was on. This time they came up with Colin Peel (now married
to Gaby Roslin) and the resulting album was the great "A Cry For The New
World". This captured the essential Mantis sound of "Time Tells No
Lies " but updated it with 90’s production values. Unfortunately Colin
Peel was torn between being with the band and an acting career. In the end he
decided to go for the lead role in the musical, "Hair" in London and
another vocalist bit the dust.

Because of the success of a "Cry For The New World" the Japanese
suddenly got cold feet about Mantis without Colin and they cancelled the planned
tour. Masa Ito stepped in again and suggested the band record a quick EP to
introduce the next vocalist. Mantis were short of time and they quickly chose
Mark Thompson-Smith for the "Only The Children Cry" 4 -track CD. He
did the Japanese tour but again things didn’t work out. Luckily the Japanese
didn’t seem to worry this time though. Mantis had proved they could still produce
great music.

So next up to the vocal mic was Gary Barden (Ex-MSG and Statetrooper). Mantis
decided that if they made the next album a bit more rocky and commercial, they
would do well in Europe as well as Japan. Sadly when "To The Power Of Ten"
came out this move proved a mistake and the album wasn’t received as well as
"A Cry For The New World".

The Tour for the album produced a live album "Captured – Alive In Tokyo
City". Unfortunately Bruce Bisland had broken his arm so Clive Burr stepped
back in on drums. The set list was pretty much a greatest hits one so this album
makes an ideal introduction to the band.

You won’t be surprised to hear that by the next album "Forever In Time"
Mantis had a new vocalist. This time it was Tony O’Hora and thankfully the band
have now stabilised with this line up. Not only was it the first time the band
had toured an album with the line-up that recorded it but also it is the first
time two consecutive albums have had the same line-up.

Things did get slightly confused in 1999 though as Masa Ito put on a 20th Anniversary
gig and wanted the original line up of the bands involved. So for the warm up
dates and Japanese date Mantis reformed the "Time Tells No Lies" band.
The recording of the set came out as "Metal Crusade ’99" and also
features sets from Trespass, Samson and Tank. This reunion was never meant as
anything more than a bit of fun though.

"Forever In Time" was another classic Mantis album. The band had
gone back to doing what they did best and produced and album that the fans and
critics alike loved. One review commenting on how well Tony O’Hora sang, suggested
that Maiden should take note of what a good singer sounded like (they still
had Blaze Bailey at the time.)

The current album is "Nowhere To Hide". The band think it is probably
their best all round effort.

Tino Troy: "Yeah, I think it is the best album we have ever done and it
is because we were totally in control of it. We know what the fans want from
us and we know what we want from us. Having a stable line-up at last has finally
allowed us to release our potential."

The band in the past have suffered in Europe a bit because they were tied solely
to Pony Canyon in Japan. With "Nowhere To Hide" they are free to make
their own negotiations for the Rest Of The World so it looks like the album
will be coming out in most territories on Frontiers/Now And Then.

Bruce Bisland "With the new deal we can now take our music out to different
territories. It is great! Nowhere is safe from us now. Watch out there’s Nowhere
To Hide!"

Dennis Stratton "With Forever In Time we learnt a lot of lessons. We realised
the strength of the band was to carry on writing in the style that comes natural
to us and not to try and fit a market like we did with "To The Power Of
Ten". We would have liked "Forever In Time" to have been mixed
and produced better and now we have done that on "Nowhere To Hide".
We wanted to repeat the strength of the songs from "Forever In Time"
on "Nowhere To Hide" and we feel we have managed to do that. Not only
that we have improved the production too."

Bruce Bisland "I think this is the first time we have all come away from
an album and thought the album sounded like we wanted it to". Chris Troy
"Sometimes people complain we take a long time between albums but we work
on each song until it is right. We don’t put albums out with one or two good
songs and a load of fillers. Every track is worthy of its place"

Dennis Stratton "We could have put ten tracks on Nowhere To Hide but we
didn’t feel the tenth track was good enough"

Tony O’Hora "One thing we decided after "Forever In Time" was
that we would only make songs we wanted to make. If we love a song then hopefully
everyone else will and the reaction to "Nowhere To Hide" seems to
prove we were right".

Praying Mantis recently played the Wacken Metal Festival in Germany and they
went down a storm. There is a strong possibility of them playing the Gods Festival
this year there is also talk of gigs in Europe and America. With magazines like
Powerplay, there is a surging interest in melodic rock at the moment and Praying
Mantis are the strongest they have ever been to capitalise on it.

Praying Mantis Interview

Praying Mantis have had a long and turbulent career. They first came to
national press attention in 1979 when they were one of the leading lights of
the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM). Things went a bit awry after the
first album but in 1990 they were invited to play in Japan. They still had vocalist
problems but despite them they have since been going strong. In 1998 they released
‘Forever In Time’ with Tony O’Hora on vocals and they recently followed it up
with Nowhere To Hide. The rest of the band are Tino Troy (Guitar, Backing Vocals),
Chris Troy (Bass, Backing Vocals), Dennis Stratton (Guitar, Backing Vocals),
Bruce Bisland (Drums)

How do you feel about the current album?

BRUCE BISLAND: We are really pleased with it.

DENNIS STRATTON: ‘Forever In Time’ was what we considered to be our best album
to date. For ‘Nowhere To Hide’ we set ourselves the task of trying to match
it and I think we have actually bettered it.

TINO TROY: The songs have all matured nicely and we have found our feet again.
We had a slight blip when we wrote To The Power Of Ten trying a more commercial
approach. It turned out to be a bad move so now we are back to doing what we
do best and indeed, naturally.

CHRIS TROY: Having the same line-up for two albums has helped us a lot too.
We have suffered a lot of line up changes over the years and the economics of
running bands like our means we probably aren’t alone in this situation.

BRUCE BISLAND: Having Tony come in on vocals has been great for us. The way
we work is that the writer of the song tends to do guide vocals on the early
versions of the tracks. When Tony comes in and does his bit the songs take on
a magical quality. I think he has a real good ability to phrase things and make
them really interesting.

TONY O’HORA: The production on this album is also a lot better.

DENNIS STRATTON: Yes, when we made Forever In Time I thought it was great but
now we have made Nowhere To Hide we can see that we were let down on Production.
We spent quite a lot of time making that album and then Chris Tsangarides came
in and because of a few technical gremlins only seemed to spend about five minutes
mixing it. I personally got the impression he didn’t care about the production
or what it sounded like. He just went "That’s it" and that’s how you
go. Whereas on this album we had Steve Mann come in. I have known him since
my days in Lionheart and he took the time to sit down with us and find out what
we needed. We ended up slightly late but the whole band is so much happier with
the finished product.

What response have you had to the album?

DENNIS STRATTON: It’s been a bit harder to tell this time. We have had great
responses from the Japanese press and record company but we haven’t been out
to tour in Japan this time so we haven’t heard too much from the fans. We charted
with one of our best positions but it is always nice to see and hear from the
fans direct.

TINO TROY: We have had a fair bit of fan comment on the Internet and that has
all been really praiseworthy. We recently played the Wacken festival in Germany
and I think we surprised a lot of people by showing them that we are back on
the map and indeed better than we’ve ever been.

CHRIS TROY: Frontiers/Now and Then were also really keen to get their hands
on the album for the market outside of Japan. I don’t think we have ever had
such a keen label. They are really confident they can sell it.

Do you have any plans to tour?

CHRIS TROY: We are negotiating a lot of possibilities at present. We have just
been given support slot for Glenn Hughes at the Astoria 2, London on November
22. We have also got the possibility of dates in Rome, LA, and Greece. It is
just a case of getting them into a realistic package.

TINO TROY: In the past we have usually done a four day mini-tour of Japan but
we have never been able to do anything in the rest of the world because we haven’t
had a Record company with any interest in promoting us outside of Japan. Pony
Canyon our Japanese label has been really great for us but they have no real
business interests outside of Japan. We used to be reasonably happy with that
but with ‘Nowhere To Hide’ the rights outside of Japan were free for us to do
with what ever we pleased. ‘Frontiers/Now and then’ have all sorts of plans
to tour the band and give us the exposure we desperately need.

How would you feel about doing a tour around the UK with
a band such as your label mates Ten?

TINO TROY: I’m not really that aware of ‘Ten’s’ pulling power but if it puts
us back in the frame and it is financially feasible, I am all for it.

TONY O’HORA: I think even if we went out as support to another band we would
soon hold our own and graduate to getting gigs in our own name again. It is
just a case of getting the exposure and that is already beginning to happen.

DENNIS STRATTON: My only concern with touring with another band is that the
other band doesn’t feel threatened and that we can all get on as friends. The
thing I used to hate most about touring with other bands was that they all feel
they have to out do one another. My preferred idea of touring is to put across
the best show possible by all the bands, not just the headliner.

Are you looking forward to playing The Gods?

BRUCE BISLAND: Yeah, we are really looking forward to it. I would like to get
a few tracks from the current album into the set. We didn’t have time to learn
them for Wacken and I really fancy trying to get on top of three or four of
the new numbers. Of course it all depends on the amount of time we have to play.

TINO TROY: This will be our first event gig in the UK since probably 1983 or
1984. So yeah, we are really looking forward to it.

What is your inspiration for the songs?

CHRIS TROY: Well I tend to sit down with a sequencer and just build up layers
of sound until I get something I am happy with. Then I will try and add a melody.
If I don’t get one I feel is strong enough after one hundred and fifty attempts
or so I will then just start afresh with a new set of chords. 90% of the time
I start with the music and then add the lyrics. When we were doing ‘Time Tells
No Lies’ back in the early 80’S it was probably the other way around.

It’s hard to know what inspires me really. I guess it is the same for any musician.
I think strong emotions are a main factor. In fact I often think negative emotion
works better for me. I find writing helps me unwind. The song doesn’t necessarily
end up negative and I think part of the skill of being a writer is to hide what
you are really thinking and let the listener relate to it in their own way.
I think the bond between the listener and the song is then a lot stronger.

DENNIS STRATTON: Having been with Mantis ten years now, I have kind of learned
that the band tend to write more about Green issues and the Earth’s pending
doom if we don’t sort ourselves out. Sometimes we write about personal issues
and sometimes these songs get transformed when the band gets hold of them. For
instance when I wrote ‘Only The Children Cry’, which appeared, on an EP in Japan
and then on To The Power Of Ten. It was originally about a divorcing couple
and the effect on the children. Once Tino and Chris got hold of it though, it
slowly changed to the effects of two countries at war and the nuclear holocaust.

TINO TROY: When the ‘Nowhere to hide album’ was completed I tragically lost
my daughter Briony Ruby. The requirement of an additional track for the European
edition gave me the opportunity to pour my heart out. As Chris says it shouldn’t
necessarily be too obvious to the listener. I think that subtlety and mystery
is definitely the key to a great song.

I don’t have any particular order for which comes first sometimes it is the
music sometimes the lyrics. I can be walking down the street and the rhythm
of my walk will sometimes trigger some musical ideas and I can get a lyric there
and then. I don’t actually read music so when I go out for a walk I try to remember
to carry a Dictaphone with me so that I can capture an idea. If you don’t, something
is bound to distract you and then it’s a case of "the one that got away"

DENNIS STRATTON: Like Tino, I too have found the beat of walking to be a good
inspiration. When I was in Lionheart I wrote a track called Towers Of Silver
and that just came to me, as I was walking bump, bump, bump to a restaurant.
I think when I write the song I tend to start with the chorus. Once I am happy
with that the rest tends to just follow naturally.

You write a lot of meaningful lyrics. Do you consider that
to be Praying Mantis’s strong point? Are your lyrics personally important to

TINO TROY: Yes definitely, they are a very strong point. Whenever I get a new
album I sit down, read the lyrics and try to understand them. If it can’t find
out what the song’s about straight away’ that is a good lyric to me. I don’t
like "Baby, baby, baby oh ah, ah .ooh,ohh.". Fine for a pop song but
not for Mantis.

TONY O’HORA: If you listen to ‘Naked’, the new bonus track, you can’t help
being touched by the lyrics because they’re so powerful. You have got the music
and the melody but the lyrics are very important, especially with me being the
singer. You can put that much more emotion into it. As an example of how much
work went into the lyrics for the last song, Tino came into the studio with
half an A4 binder of possible lyrics and we then refined them. Even in the studio
they get worked on because sometimes they just won’t sing right with the music.
You certainly won’t get away with writing bad lyrics in this band.

Do you set out to write in a certain style or do the albums grow in their
own direction?

TINO TROY: They naturally grow in their own direction. We have tried to go
out and write in a certain vain before now but like I explained earlier "To
the Power Of Ten", was a prime example of mistaken identity.

BRUCE BISLAND: As the Japanese put it "If we wanted an album sounding
like Bon Jovi, we would buy a Bon Jovi album. We want you to write a Praying
Mantis album".

CHRIS TROY: Obviously there has to be a little bit of structure to an album
in that we can’t put out an album with six slow songs. There has to be the right
mix of fast, medium and slow paced tracks. Apart from that, we all write tracks
and then bring them to the band to work on them together.

TONY O’HORA: I think it is obvious from listening to the last two albums where
the band’s sound has developed. Even though a song might be 50% or 90% of someone’s
solo writing, by the time it is released it has got a bit of everyone in there.
So to a certain extent the album’s direction is also driven by the members involvement.

How do you set about writing your albums?

TONY O’HORA: Usually the song is written and demoed by one or two members of
the band. We then all take a listen and say "Yes that has got the makings
of a good song" and we build it up from there. The advantage of demoing
first is that we all come to the studio knowing the tune and we can take it
from there. The songs always grow in the studio though. A guitar solo might
trigger off another section and so on.

CHRIS TROY: I do find if you have just one writer, the songs will all start
sounding the same so I think it is very important that the other members all
contribute to songs no matter whose original idea it was. I often find the end
result is different to how I originally conceived it and I think that is good.

How did the deal with Frontiers/Now and Then come about?

TINO TROY: We just stumbled upon it really. Pony Canyon had the exclusive rights
to all our previous albums and this had a detrimental effect on our being able
to sell the product outside of Japan. This time we were able to retain the rights
for the rest of the world. Frontiers were so persistent, bubbling with excitement,
keen and full of enthusiasm that we chose them in preference to other interested

Why has the European edition of "Nowhere To Hide" got a bonus

CHRIS TROY: That is mainly because by the time the album comes out in Europe
and America the fans will have had several months to buy the Japanese album
on import. Frontiers basically needed something special to make sure they could
sell the album.

How did you record the album?

TINO TROY: For all you Technophobes out there..The album was recorded in my
home studio on a hard-disk based system controlled by an Apple Mac. All the
vocals and acoustic guitars were recorded using a Rode NT2 microphone which
was fed into a TL audio VP5051 at the input stage. This was merely used for
it’s ‘phantom power supply’ and EQ capabilities, the compression coming from
a ‘Purple Audio MC 76’ compresser/limiter. The treated signal was then recorded
direct to disk via the Digidesign Pro-tools 888 I/O interface, which converts
analogue signals and houses them in the digital domain. Guitars and bass were
recorded in the same manner, the difference being , instead of the NT2, the
emulated output of a Marshall Valvestate 100 watt head was mainly used. All
the basic backing tracks and guides were laid down against a drum machine. Live
drums were then recorded at Andy Scott’s (The Sweet) home studio via a ‘Soundscape’
set-up. To put the ‘icing on the cake’ Steve Mann then mixed the album in his
home studio on a ‘Yamaha 02/R’. You could well say that ‘Nowhere to hide’ is
a very ‘homey’ album. In the past we recorded all our albums in commercial studios
with engineers and producers who didn’t have any idea of how the band should
sound. It was on the ‘Forever in time’ album that we decided enough was enough
and decided to invest in equipment of our own. The great thing about having
your own studio is that if you get an idea while you’re tossing ‘n’ turning
in your sleep you can fire-up and away you go. Also by having a professional
set-up, everything that’s recorded now is instantly of master quality and can
be utilised in the construction of a song . In the past we’d throw some roughs
down onto four or eight track format, only to find that when we came to put
it down properly, we could never achieve the same feel as was captured on that
first demo. Essentially, I suppose the construction of any song can be regarded
as a demo until it comes to fruition, the great thing now is being able to retain
the original performances.

BRUCE BISLAND: The main difference between this album and the last was that
on this occasion I used a real drum kit. On ‘Forever In Time’ I used a Midi
kit for the very first time in my career.

TONY O’HORA: The difference in drum sound between the two albums is like night
and day. We didn’t get very good sounds last time.

DENNIS STRATTON: We are completely digital now using Pro-Tools on computers.
It took a lot of work getting used to this set up on the last album but this
time it was much easier. Tino did a lot of work on the engineering and all Steve
Mann had to do to make sure it all sounded spot on. Not an easy thing in Digital
as you can hear every little glitch and drop out. Steve did a great job of adding
that final bit of gloss to make things sparkle.

Why do you think someone should give your album a spin?

BRUCE BISLAND: It’s refreshingly old, if that doesn’t sound a little bizarre.
It’s like going back to the good old days of melodic rock but in a very modern
way. The songs are good. The playing is good and it’s not contrived at all –
like these boy bands. Basically I think it will have staying power. I also think
once someone has heard it, they will like it and inevitably start sifting through
our back catalogue.

CHRIS TROY: I think it is more production than music that gets dated. I think
music has it’s own niche and is timeless really.

TONY O’HORA: For me, and I may be a bit biased here but I think overall it
is in the melody of the vocals and the harmonies. If you see the band live you
can hear the other guys sing so well, we have great melody in the vocal and
guitar parts yet we still have enough raw power to classify in a rock vain.
It’s just great melodic rock.

CHRIS TROY: I also think the album is very contagious. If you play the songs
they will come across. I don’t think it will necessarily happen on first play
as they are very complex but then again I don’t think it is a good thing to
like a track straight off. If you do, I think you are likely to start getting
fed up with it after six or seven plays. Whereas if an album takes more time
to get a hold, I think you are likely to be able to play it to death. I have
certainly found that to be the case personally and although I have never really
questioned anyone else, I suspect it is true for others.

How relevant do you think you are in the current Rock scene?

CHRIS TROY: I think it is beginning to grow. Our name is on people’s lips again.
I don’t know that I like the idea of being ‘rejuvenated old rockers’ but I suppose
it is true. I certainly think we turned a few heads at the Wacken Festival in
Germany. They probably thought we were dead and buried or just stuck with the
Japanese audience but we really got the crowd going. With the situation with
Frontiers and a bit more exposure I think it will be really good. I know for
sure Tino is really buzzing with excitement again.

The last album in the UK was A Cry For The New World. Why
have you been absent in Europe for so long?

TONY O’HORA: Basically because of the deal we had in Japan we were just tied
up legally. This is the first album we have had the rights to outside of Japan
and we have grabbed the opportunity it presents to tie-up with a record label
that seems very keen to promote us.

How would you like to see the band progress in the future?

DENNIS STRATTON: I’d like to see us take what we have done with Forever In
Time and Nowhere To Hide and improve it even further. And it would be really
nice if we could tour more and more now that we have the support of our record
label behind us. It is just not feasible to do it without.

TONY O’HORA: Because I know how hard Mantis has worked over the years I would
just like to see the band get more recognition. I think it was an extremely
hard task to match our performance of ‘Forever In Time’ but I think we managed
it, if not bettered it with Nowhere To Hide. If we can continue on that road
I will be happy.

BRUCE BISLAND: I think that if we can just get ourselves heard, people will
start buying us and things will take care of themselves.

TINO TROY: I would just love to see my days through as a musician and for it
to be with Praying Mantis. I formed the band at college twenty-seven years ago
so there is no reason why it shouldn’t last another twenty-seven. Mantis has
always been a big part of my life and will hopefully remain that way. It would
certainly be nice to get a little more recognition along the way, I think that
we definitely deserve it! I mean, how many bands have a discography as extensive
as ours yet they are household names.. I keep telling myself that things are
going to get better!

CHRIS TROY: With the Frontiers deal, we can start securing more territories
and it will give us the opportunity to write more and hopefully produce albums
on a more frequent basis. The best thing will be if we can do a third album
with the same line-up. The benefits will then really start to come through.
I am really excited about this at the moment and I don’t think people have seen
the best of Mantis yet. I think that is still to come.

The Praying Mantis Website is here

Dr Dowsett on ME and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

When I saw Dr Dowsett In September 1994 she gave me a
document call
"ME In a Nutshell" which is on the official part of my site. This
page is just here for those in the know. I had reason to consult Dr Dowsett
by phone and she was kind enough to send me these new notes. I think they are
fairly self-explanatory so I have OCR’ed them. I there were a few pictures
but I have not included them since I am not sure Dr Dowsett would want it on
the Internet. I forgot to ask. I will therefore leave it as is for now
and see what happens. If you have any questions please ask me.




It is a disorder initiated by a common virus infection of
which (rather like influenza) several strains circulate annually in the general
population giving rise to sporadic cases or to local epidemics and world-wide
pandemics at 10-20 year intervals. Although clusters of infection have always
been recognised in families, schools and Health Care institutions, the
vast majority of cases (especially in the very young) are symptom free.(1, 2)

B IS IT A NEW DISEASE?: (1, 2, 3, 4)

No, it is probably as old as the human race but, in communities
living in temperate climates who enjoy high standards of housing and public
sanitation, awareness has been raised by a striking new phenomenon of the 20th
century – major epidemics of poliomyelitis (formerly a rare disease of
early childhood) followed sequentially, seasonally and geographically by a parallel
increase in ME/CFS (formerly considered to be an “atypical” or non paralytic
form of poliomyelitis).


Undoubtedly! – between 1934 and the decline of polio following
immunisation in the early 1960’s, 38 epidemics of ME/CFS were clearly recorded
(in Northern parts of America, Canada, Europe and in southern areas of Africa,
Australia and other well developed countries with cool/temperate climates).
Since that time, outbreaks of ME/CFS have continued unabated in these areas
and have also been documented from New Zealand Japan and China. No government
has yet adequately funded a major demographic survey of the affected population
but individual studies estimate some 5 million cases between North America,
Europe and Australasia while approximately’/2 million have been reliably diagnosed
in tile UK (where a study of 360,351 members of the school population indicates
a prevalence of 70/100,000 in pupils and 500/100,000 in staff). (6.7)


Why is it that ME/CFS (like poliomyelitis) becomes more
rather than less common in communities with access to good housing, clean running
water and the high standards of sanitation which first became universally available
in the 20th century? Both disabilities are triggered by related viruses which
are finely adjusted to harmless multiplication in the juvenile respiratory and
intestinal tracts of humans.(7) This mutually beneficial adaptation between
virus and host immune system operates to ensure life-long natural immunisation
during the period between weaning from maternal antibodies in breast milk and
the onset of puberty. A major hormonal disturbance (with gradual onset from
7 years of age) begins to change the host’s immune T1/T2 orientation causing
a breakdown in host-virus adaptation. The resulting inflammatory immune response
is more severe and more chronic in pubertal females, leading to an increase
in the female to male prevalence of ME/CFS from approximate unity to 3F:1M during
the childbearing years. (8) Thus, it is the reflection of a high standard
of hygiene
(blocking the natural circulation of these viruses via the respiratory
or faecal-oral routes of infection during early childhood) rather than any
genetic mutation in the viruses concerned, that leads to the paradox of “diseases
of affluence” which are artificially postponed until adult life.(1)


      1. CLASSIFICATION: ME/CFS is a multisystem syndrome (group of related symptoms)
      with variable involvement of cardiac and skeletal muscle, liver, lymphoid
      and endocrine organs but neurological dysfunction is essential
      for diagnosis.
      The condition is therefore classified as a neurological
      disease under the World Health Organisation international classification of
      diseases (ICD 10).
      60% of cases the illness is triggered by a short respiratory/gastrointestinal
      infection characterised by malaise, headache, dizziness, nausea and muscle
      pain with or without glandular enlargement, but otherwise indistinguishable
      from other ‘flu like or gastric upsets. A more dramatic onset (following viral
      meningitis, myocarditis or middle ear infection, for example) is also recognised,
      but a trivial illness is often forgotten. In the majority of cases the infection
      terminates here. In others, after a variable interval, a systemic disease
      involving many organ systems but with major brain dysfunction, develops.
      This post-encephalitic process miry also resolve, but other patients go on
      to acquire the classical symptoms of ME/CFS in which chronic low grade brain
      dysfunction combined with viral persistence leads to loss of bodily homoeostatis
      (the inability of the brain to function adequately in reception, storage and
      retrieval of information, thus preventing the major organs of the body from
      making a smooth programmed response).

      3. DIAGNOSIS: ME/CFS has, therefore, a very distinctive and clearly recognisable
      symptom pattern which is present to a varying degree in all patients and which
      clearly differentiates it from other so-called ”fatigue states”, Virtually
      all the cardinal symptoms of this illness can be demonstrated in a GP surgery,
      if supplemented by a detailed history and a well kept daily record since the
      onset of the illness, of the hours in which the patient is able to maintain
      activity, (as opposed to those spent sleeping/resting), A thorough physical
      examination is best carried out by a doctor familiar with the patient’s previous
      health, work or school record and family circumstances and who is well informed
      about ME/CFS, particularly if similar patients have been seen in the practice.
      Supplementary evidence of, organic disease, whether available from simple
      laboratory tests carried out locally (eg. to exclude other illness)
      or from more sophisticated and expensive research procedures,(10) is not,
      as yet, considered diagnostic or confirmative as it is not invariably
      present in such a fluctuating illness.


    4. SYMPTOMS: The most characteristic and disabling symptom, of ME/CFS include:

i) Episodic Post Exertional Weakness and Malaise: These episodes
are commonly provoked by physical or mental over exertion during
periods of apparent well being. After a variable interval, a sense of weakness
and impending collapse develops, when the patient needs to lie down. This
can last for 1-7 days after the triggering event – a fact constantly overlooked
in “assessment tests” or questions to ascertain the patient’s exercise capacity
without reference to subsequent debility. (4)

ii) Sleep and Temperature Disturbance: This represents a reversal
of the normal daily sleep/wake and temperature rhythm, causing difficulty
in keeping awake and attentive in conventional daytime hours, but with a
“window” of energy somewhere within the 24 hours cycle when the subject
can take advantage of recreation or study. A 24 hour temperature chart can
demonstrate inversion of normal night and daytime readings which, if taken
in conjunction with a daily activity/rest record, provides a valuable guide
to patients and doctors of energy fluctuations and the need to plan activities
within the capacity available at any particular time.

iii) Pain and Tactile Hypersensitivity: Complaints of incapacitating
pain in almost any part of the body are common. However, local abnormalities
may not be found, since the majority of these abnormal sensations reflect
central nervous system dysfunction. They may include headaches, muscle and
joint pain (without inflammation) recurrent sore or “dry” throat, tender
lymph glands, and extreme sensitivity to touch, vibration, light, noise,
taste, smell, heat and cold.

v) Cardiovascular Symptoms (11) Disturbances of the autonomic nervous
system include rapid or irregular pulse rate and a tendency for the blood
pressure to fall in the upright position, leading to inefficient
distribution of blood among vital organs. Such irregularities of the circulation
are associated with sudden faintness on standing or sitting upright and
with characteristic attacks of facial pallor or flushing as well as with
coldness of the limbs.

v) Digestive Disturbances: These include irritable bowel symptoms,
constipation/diarrhoea, persistent nausea and difficulty in swallowing which,
if added to distortions of taste and smell, may lead to serious appetite
and nutritional disturbance.

i) Endocrine Dysfunction: Owing to metabolic disturbance of the
hypothalamus (the mid-brain control centre for endocrine function) patients
with ME/CFS have a greater than normal risk of thyroid, pancreatic, adrenal,
ovarian and other endocrine gland dysfunctions. The most common endocrine
problems are associated with failure of the hypothalamic/pituitary/adrenal
response to stress (12) and a tendency to insulin resistance (causing episodes
of low blood sugar levels in previously healthy individuals and “brittle
diabetes” in diabetic patients, already stabilised on insulin) This underlines
the importance of regular meals (including breakfast!) and adequate carbohydrate
intake for all sufferers.

vii) Emotional Control(13). While this is notoriously variable in
adolescents, patients of all ages experience sudden mood swings and additional
problems often ascribed to “panic attacks” or agoraphobia when exposed to
brightly lit noisy and confusing open spaces such as supermarkets and canteens.
These sensations arise from incoordination of mid brain nerve networks (eg
the limbic system). Disbelieving family members or colleagues must be firmly
assured of the organic cause of these attacks

viii) Cognitive and Associated Neurological Disturbance: (14) This
can be profound and may include reduced attention span, verbal and mathematical
difficulties and failure of short term memory; problems with balance, fine
motor control, tactile performance, impaired perception of space and shape;
disturbance of vision, hearing and voice production. Many of these problems
also reflect subtle changes in mid brain nerve connections rather than failure
of individual sense organs.

ix) A Prolonged Relapsing Course (4 ) This is one of the main distinguishing
features of the illness in comparison with other “fatigue states” and is
characterised by a series of relapses and remissions over months or years
with variations in symptom patterns and recurrence of early features such
as inflamed throat and glandular enlargement, in some patients.


Some 20 years ago, studies of the electrical activity of the brain in ME/CFS
indicated abnormal slow wave patterns and unequal activity between the 2 sides
of the brain in areas associated with memory. interpretation of speech and sound,
motor control, visuospatial discrimination and other cognitive features characteristic
of the illness. However, within the past 15 years more sophisticated methods
of measuring brain activity using radioactive tracers to determine metabolism
and glucose utilisation (SPECT and PET scans)(10) have also disclosed fluctuating
metabolic activity in the mid brain and brain stem.

This is an area which encompasses the major homoeostatic nerve
centres of the body, controlling daily cycles of activity, sleep, hormone output,
fluid balance, cardiovascular regulation, motor, sensory and pain control –
all the vital nerve networks which maintain life! The fluctuating metabolic
activity in this area readily explains the many symptoms of ME/CFS from episodic
weakness to “panic attacks” – but serial SPECT scans which may indicate metabolic
improvement over time, provide an impetus for correct management to encourage
stabilisation of the illness in all grades of severity. Patients should therefore
retain their ambitions, even if in a modified form, and never give up hope of
stabilisation at some useful level of activity. To this end, they should record
all symptoms (however bizarre they may seem to those who lack understanding),
for this vital information could assist further research into the organic basis,
of brain dysfunction in ME/CFS!


There being, as yet, no specific medical treatment for ME/CFS,
the general principles of management remain as follows:

      from all stress and additional exposure to infection
      together with a sufficient
      period of rest and convalescence for the illness to stabilise, is recommended.
      Early signs of stabilisation may be recognised by a slight improvement in
      memory or an increase in the active versus non active energy ratio
      over 24 hours.


    (2) CONSERVATION OF ENERGY: This is the first and most important principle
    of management
    without which further symptomatic or experimental drug
    treatment cannot be expected to succeed:

      a) Because most sufferers from ME/CFS are already operating at or near their
      maximum energy capacity while the decrease in brain metabolism following physical
      or mental over exertion leads to delayed recovery and relapse.
      b) Because resting energy expenditure is high in ME/CFS patients(15)
      which means that the energy available for physical activity is being
      diverted to fulfil this increased requirement.


    c) Because in some patients, there are additional metabolic defects in
    skeletal muscle leading to early lactic acidosis and increased pain and
    weakness, following exercise. (16)

      (3) REDUCTION OF STRESS: This is best managed from the start by accepting
      that the illness may be long lasting and require a change in life style commensurate
      with the known reduction in hypothalamic/pituitary, adrenal response to stress
      and the resulting risk of relapse. Support from friends, families, social
      and financial services should be sought from an early stage but provision
      for recreation, holidays, and interesting hobbies is an essential strategy
      for stress reduction.


    4) SIMPLIFICATION OF WORK. (a) For the housebound the aim must be
    to retain independence as far as possible by considering financial aid for
    domestic care and house conversion, and for home tuition or training to
    facilitate paid work at home in the future. (b) For those whose illness
    stabilised – it is essential to organise a gradual return
    to education, training or work after checking provision for mobility, modified
    time table, exam concessions, and part or flexitime working. (c ) For
    those fit enough to work
    or study full time – a choice needs
    to be made of a suitable career, without undue exposure to stress, compulsary
    immunisations, infection, unsocial hours, difficult travel or environmental
    requirements. A graded career progression, without exam pressure and with
    facilities for, refreshment breaks and adequate holidays is desirable! NB.
    An initial period of voluntary work, when exercise and stress capacity can
    be tested, ‘should be considered (see Dr David Bell’s “All-Work-Test”, below!)(17)


Exposure to infection is the main factor. Occupational
risks in Teaching, Health Care and paramedical professions are at least 5 times
higher than in similarly stressful jobs, where employees are not exposed to
infection. (7) The incidence of ME/CFS is also high in parents or carers of
young children, those obliged to receive multiple immunisations for travel,
as well as those engaged in sewage, refuse disposal and water industries and
participants in recreational water sports. The peak age of onset in both sexes
is between 30 and 40 years with a secondary peak at puberty (most marked in
females). As in the case of polio, schools appear to be central to amplification
and dissemination of infection to the local community. (6)

(a) The activity of the patient’s immune system (prior contact
and adaptation to the infection in childhood may ensure a trouble free host/virus
relationship, while youth often appears to be an advantage). (b) The tendency
of any
particular strain of virus to induce serious complications (eg
cardiac). (c) The age, gender and domestic/occupational circumstances of
the patient
. (d) Genetic factors, (as yet undetermined) are probably
less important than environmental factors such as common exposure
to infection. (e) Early diagnosis and appropriate advice on management
will ensure medical, domestic, educational and occupational support from
the start.


(a) Immuno suppressive events such as concurrent infection
with other microbes, immunisation, steroid or cytoxic therapy. NB smoking reduces
local mucosal immunity (b) Hormone disturbance, including puberty, menstruation,
pregnancy but following the menopause, new onset of illness in females
falls sharply. (c) Mental or physical stress arising from head injury, whiplash,
surgery, malnutrition, climatic change, domestic problems, litigation, social
security assessments etc.. (d) Exposure to drugs which are psychoactive or vasoactive
including alcohol, anti-depressants or recreational substances and to neurotoxins,
pesticides and drugs which interfere with specific neuro transmitters (eg acetylcholine).


Suffer more severely than adults from sleep and learning difficulties,
weight, appetite and mood control It is essential that doctors and parents should
liaise from the onset with school and other professional staff to minimise stress
and contact with school infections by ensuring adequate sick leave. Home tuition,
modification of class work and examination concessions must also be considered
as educational deficits can be long lasting, especially in the case of young
children, where they may lead to permanent language disability.


This depends not only on the factors mentioned above but also
on the knowledge and determination of the individual patient to use the energy
available wisely. Experience gained in the rehabilitation of patients suffering
from the post polio syndrome in the USA (a condition clinically similar to ME/CFS)
indicate that once the principle of energy conservation, within individual limits,
has been accepted by the patients themselves, only 10% fail to stabilise.(18.)


Dr David Bell’s “ALL WORK TEST” – “No young person with ME/CFS should
be considered fit to resume school, college or work, unless they can first survive
3 hours in a Shopping Mall!”

E.G. Dowsett MB ChB. Dip. Bact.
Honorary Consultant Microbiologist
47 Drewsteignton, Shoeburyness, Essex SS3 8BA
(© Revised December 1998)


(1) DOWSETT. EG, Human Enteroviral Infections, Journal of Hospital Infection.
1988; 11 : 103-115

(2) ACHESON ED, The Clinical Syndrome Variously Called Benign Myalgic Encephalomyelitis,
Iceland Disease and Epidemic Neuro- American Journal of Medicine. 1959; 26 : 569-595

(3) HYDE BM, GOLDSTEIN J, LEVINE P. eds. The Clinical and Scientific
Basis of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Ottawa, Ontario,
Canada: the Nightingale Research Foundation. 1992 (Held in Library of the Royal
Society of Medicine, 1 Wimpole Street, London W1 M 8AE)

(4) RAMSAY AM. Myalgic Encephalomyelitis and Post Viral Fatigue states – The Saga
of The Royal Free Disease. 1988 *2nd Edition). 1988 London: GOWER Press (Obtainable
from the ME Association, 4 Corringham Road, Stanford-le-Hope, Essex SS17 OAH and
from The Royal Society of Medicine Library)

(5) BEHAN PO, BEHAN WMH, Epidemic Myalgic Encephalomyelitis in Clinical Neuroepidemiology
(ROSE FC, ed) PITMAN MEDICAL 1980: 374-389.

(6) DOWSETT EG, COLBY J. Long Term Sickness Absence due to ME/CFS in UK Schools:
An epidemiological study with medical and educational Implications. Journal of
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. 1997; 3(2) 29-42.

(7) ARZOMAND ML. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Among School Children and Their Special
Educational Needs. Journal of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. 1998; 4(3): 59-69

(8) HYDE BM, CAMERON B, DUNCKER A. et al. Epidemiological Aspects of Myalgic
Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Post Viral Fatigue Syndrome. Ottawa,
Ontario, Canada: The Nightingale Research Foundation. 1994 : 16-20

(9) DOWSETT EG RAMSAY AM, McCARTNEY RA, BELL EJ. Myalgic Encephalomyelitis
– a persistent enteroviral infection? Post graduate Medical Journal 1990; 66
: 526-530

(10) RICHARDSON J, COSTA DC. Relationship between SPECT Scans and Buspirone
tests in patients with ME/CFS Journal Of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, 1998; 4(3)
– 23-37

(11) STREETEN DHP, BELL DS, Circulating Blood Volume in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
Journal of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. 1998; 4(1) : 3-11

(12) DEMITRACK MA, et al. Evidence for impaired activation of the Hypothalamic
Pituitary Adrenal axis in patients with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Journal of Clinical
Endocrinology and Metabolism. 1991; 73 : 1224-1234.

(13) LEON-SOTOMAYER I, Epidemic diencephalomyelitis – a possible cause of neuropsychiatric,
cardiovascular and endocrine disorders. 1969. New York 1003 : Pagent Press International

(14) BASTIEN S. Patterns of neuropsychological abnormalities, and cognitive
impairment in adults and children. In Hyde, BM. Goldstein J, Levine Peds. The
clinical and scientific basis of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
Ottawa. Ontario, Canada. (See reference 3 above) 1992: 453-460.

(15) CHAUDHURI A, BEHAN WMH, BEHAN PO et al. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Proceedings
of the Royal College of Physicians, Edinburgh, 1998; 28 : 150-163

(16) LANE RJM, BARRETT MC, WOODROW D. et al Muscle fibre characteristics and
lactate responses to exercise in CFS. J Neurology and Psychiatry 1998; 64 :

(17) BELL DS. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in Young People with ME. Lecture given
in London on 25.8.98.

(18) BRUNO RL, Interview in “ME – The New Plague”, COLBY J, Peterborough. First
& Best in Education Ltd. 1996; 39-54

Band Reviews From 2004

I have been keeping this list of gigs I have attended and often written reviews
for friends. It might interest someone so I have decided to put it online. I
have tried to go to a lot of gigs in recent times as that is the only enjoyment
worth aggravating my ME
for but I am afraid it still affects the reviews.

Mostly Autumn – Norwich Art Centre – 30 April 2004

The amount of gigs I have made it to has significantly dropped
lately. One of the main factors is probably lack of energy on my part but also
the problem of what to do with the children. Over the last two years or so my
two children have asked for couple of Mostly Autumn Cd’s. Maria has two children
too and Liam (10) tends to like bands but the break through this time was Becky
(8) was interested in going to the show as she had seen Mostly Autumn on DVD
a couple of times. This meant we had a full set of children at the gig which
was really nice for us.

The Norwich Art Centre was probably not the best place to
take Becky for her first concert as it was a standing gig. It was actually the
first standing gig for all of them and this was not a popular feature.

It was the first time I had been to the Art Centre and it
was a converted Church just like the Art Centre in Colchester. The stage was suitably raised
at one end then there was a flat floor section and at the back a small raised
walkway. When we arrived we dashed to the front for the children and ended up
in front of Ian near a speaker. This was probably a bad move as at the start
of the 2nd half Zoe (13) and Becky grabbed a space on the walkway and Liam and
Maria eventually moved too. Apparently the stage was easier to see and the sound
a lot less distorted. If we ever go back I must remember this. I will be surprised
if Mostly Autumn plays there again though. To be honest I was surprised they
were playing there anyway. Last time in Norwich they played the Waterfront. The Art’s Centre was a lot smaller but
the good news was it was sold out.

There was not a lot of room on stage. Ian Jennings brother
on drums had a really tiny drum kit. Andy on Bass was next to him and then there
was Liam on guitar. The front of the stage was Bryan on his usual left. Then Heather, Angie
and Ian. Angie’s keyboard was set up pointing to the audience and she stored
her flute on it.

This tour when first announced was to be for the album after
Passengers. The "V" shows next week were supposed to be the premier
for this album. I thought it was a highly risky move by the record company to
announce shows for a record that had not even been started and so it proved
to be. I had heard this before I booked for this show so I had a rough idea
of what to expect and I was actually pleasantly surprised. The set list has
been revamped and we had a couple of new old ones in it. There was a good sprinkling
of Passengers in the set but more songs from the first three albums again. This
worked well for me as Passengers has never grabbed me that much. It is an OK
album but for me it lacks a Mother Nature, Heroes Never Die, and Spirit of Autumn
passed type attention grabber.

Having dropped "Pass The Clock" and "Mother
Nature" return for the encore therefore pleased me somewhat although Abbie
(11) who stayed with me at the front was struggling to keep going even though
throughout the show she had bopped and interacted with me on my headbanging
and enjoying of things.

To my surprise the set opened with "The Last Climb".
I am not sure I have ever thought of that as an opener and Maria and I were
focused on the new drummer (sorry I don’t know his first name). During the first
number he seemed a little basic but I soon lost focus on him and the rest of
the set seemed fine. Normally at some points in the set Jonathan the previous
drummer used a cowbell type sound and this used to get to Maria and me a bit.
In "Spirit" I noticed he was crashing a cymbal rather hard but it
didn’t have the piercing distracting quality of the cowbell. I will be interested
to see what he is like at the V shows if they get released on DVD. (I hope they
do but how will the set be different enough to justify a new release to the
press and casual fans?)

"Caught in the fold" was next then "Something
In Between". This seemed to have a slower start than I remember and the
whole arrangement seemed a bit revamped which I always appreciate.

"The Spirit Of Autumn Past" was followed by "First
Thought" and then "Evergreen".. much to my relief as the children
particularly like that one and I knew it was unlikely there would be any jigs
which they were also hoping for.

Next up was "Half A Mountain" and then the first
new old one "Boundless Ocean". It was
good to see Bryan leave the
stage and Liam step forward for an E-bow guitar solo in this.

To my surprise the set ended with "Shrinking Violet".
I always associate this with "Evergreen" so I didn’t expect it to
be until the 2nd half if it appeared. I was glad it did.

The 2nd set started with "Darkness Before Dawn".
We then had "Answer The Question" and "Passengers".

"The Last Bright Light" was the other new old song.
Again Liam stepped to the front this time on acoustic guitar. I think I must
need to listen to this track on cd again. I didn’t recall much about it as I
heard it live.

We then had "Simple Ways"
and "Pure White Light" and the 2nd set then closed with "Heroes
Never Die".

As mentioned previously the encore was "Mother Nature".

In the past I had registered Heather using Acoustic guitar
twice during a gig. Last night she seemed to use it about 6 times. I was not
as aware of her using recorders as much as previous times.

I also felt Angie was using her flute less and the keyboard
more. I think she only used a recorder once and that was probably in "The
Last Bright Light"

I very much enjoyed the set and almost wish I was making it
to a "V" show. It would be nice but it is far too complicated and
tiring to make.

Karnataka – The Oakwood Centre Rotherham – 15 May 2004

See separate page

Mask – Bar-Ginglik, Shepherd’s Bush Green, London – 14 Oct 2004

See separate page