An Interview with John Jaycee Cuijpers of Praying Mantis

Image credit: Ad Akkermans

Recently, we caught up with veteran frontman, John Jaycee Cuijpers of Praying Mantis. Among other things, we touch on what he’s been up to during the lockdown, his origins, Praying Mantis’ upcoming album, joining Praying Mantis, his thoughts on the music industry today, and a whole lot more.

If you would like to learn more about Praying Mantis, the link to their webpage is here. Once you’ve checked those out, dig into this interview with John. Cheers.

Andrew:
John, I appreciate you taking the time today. How have you been holding up over the last year or so? What have you been up to?

John:
Hi Andrew, it’s been tough and I’ve had to struggle to survive. There was no money to be earned in the music business, and therefore I had to find a regular job, and thank god, I found one, so I survived but being a professional musician is a tough one nowadays.

Andrew:
Before we dive into your professional career, let’s go back a bit. What first got you hooked on music?

John:
My parents always listened to music when I was a kid, and watched every show with music on the tube. So, when I grew up, I bought albums of various artists and loved listening to music.

Andrew:
Who were some of your early influences?

John:
KISS was the first band I was really into, but over time, when we visited friends of my parents, they listened to Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, etc. and I became more interested in music from the 70s as well. In my honest opinion, it’s still the era where the best music was written…maybe due to drugs. [Laughs].

Andrew:
Let’s talk about recent events. Tell us about, the band’s upcoming record, Katharsis.

John:
It was a strange way how this album was created. Not being able to be together in a room and exchange ideas, etc. So, some ideas were sent over the internet, and some ideas were finished 80%, and some just 25 %, and needed some input from someone within the band. The album is very diverse, but I think one of the best, but that’s what all musicians say about their last album. [Laughs]. I like the cover very much too.

Andrew:
Praying Mantis is a band that has been around for a long time. How will the band’s newest music hold up against the classic records?

John:
Like the great John Farnham once sang, “We write what we wanna write. We write music we love, and which is in our system, and if the people love it that’s a bonus, but first, we got to like it to bring it across.” Sometimes an idea has influences of modern music, but it will always be OUR music.

Andrew:
Going back now, you’ve been with the band since around 2013. Take me through your entrance into Praying Mantis.

John:
We met at a festival in The Netherlands (Very Eavy Festival where we are going to perform again in 2022), where the guys were playing with Mike, and Gary (their former vocalist and drummer), and Hans and I were with an Iron Maiden tribute called Harris. We shared the same dressing room, and Dennis Stratton was doing a guest appearance with Praying Mantis and in Harris as well. The guys saw me and Hans perform with Harris at that time, and a few days later I got an email from Chris asking if I would be interested in joining Praying Mantis together with Hans. Of course, I was flattered and would like to join but first, they wanted to hear one of their songs with my voice. So, I recorded “Eyes Of A Child” in a studio back home, and sent it a few days later to Chris. He came back to me and said, “You’ve nailed it.” So, after that, they recruited Hans too.

Andrew:
You’ve been a member of Thin Lizzy, Iron Maiden, Van Halen, and Foreigner tribute bands. How did those experiences prepare you for fronting a band such as Praying Mantis?

John:
I also had two original bands, Devils Rope and Coper Inc., so I was familiar with singing original music, but it helped me to be professional on and off stage, and to know all the things which are needed to be a frontman.

Andrew:
Since 2015, with you at the helm, the band has been very active and put out some sensational music. What is it about this lineup that has been so fruitful?

John:
I think new blood, and because we are from the Netherlands, and both very eager to succeed. We brought in a whole lot of enthusiasm, and diversity to the band and its music, which gave them an extra boost.

Andrew:
I mentioned earlier that Praying Mantis is a band with a significant legacy, but at the same time, while the band has been influential, is also underrated. If you can, give us a few words on your thoughts in regards to the underrated nature, and legacy of Praying Mantis.

John:
A few words…not the right people at the right time, and no decent management or booking agency which took care of the band. They all had to do it themselves, and resources are limited sometimes. Let’s hope this will change in the next couple of years.

Andrew:
Mike Freeland left some big shoes to fill, but I feel you’ve done an incredible job. This said, what’s it been like taking the helm and picking up where Mike left off?

John:
I’ve loved every minute of it. I know myself and what I am capable of. I never refuse a challenge, so this is me, take it or leave it!

Andrew:
What other passions do you have? How do those passions inform your music, if at all?

John:
I like movies, and sometimes, movies get me inspired.

Andrew:
In your opinion, what is the state of the music business these days? Should artists be hopeful? Scared? Both?

John:
It’s not like in my early days when all you had were live gigs and vinyl, which was the era where bands could sell out big venues or stadiums. These days, because of the internet (Youtube and Spotify, etc,) people don’t have to go out and buy music, etc. It has its positive side though because you can reach more people worldwide. So, it benefits Praying Mantis, and other bands, but financially is another topic.

Andrew:
You’re heavily associated with both Hard Rock and Heavy Metal music, so, for fans just giving into those genres, what are a few deep cuts they should be digging into?

John:
Well, I grew up with bands like KISS, Van Halen, DIO, Whitesnake, Iron maiden, and so on, but also loved the heavier stuff like Metallica, Disturbed, Pantera, and Megadeth, but was always open to listening to other music, and got to appreciate them. I love all kinds of music that will trigger me in a certain way, and sometimes, it’s the melody, the lyrics, or a combination of both. I would say just listen to all different kinds of bands, and there are real gems out there every once in a while.

Andrew:
Last one. What’s next on your docket? What are you looking forward to most in the pos-COVID world?

John:
Well, I always try to stay positive and hope this will all be over soon (I heard it will take years though for things to go back to normal), but I just want to experience some nice gigs all over the world, and record more albums with Praying Mantis.

Also, I love doing guest appearances on albums and live shows as I did with Ayreon, Demons and Wizards, Blind Guardian, Powerwolf, and several other projects. At this time, I also have some nice projects in the Netherlands in 2022, where I sing ABBA songs in my own way called Abba Rocks, and I honor Ronnie James Dio with memorial concerts with members of Within Temptation, Focus, and Blind Guardian.

Just make music and enjoy life is my motto.

Interested in learning more about the work of Praying Mantis? Check out the link below:

Dig this interview? Check out the full catalog of VWMusic Interviews, by Andrew Daly, here: www.vinylwritermusic.com/interviews

About Post Author

Andrew Daly

With an immense passion for music, a disposition for writing, and an eagerness to teach and share both, Andrew decided to found VWMusic in 2019 as a freelance column under the column Idle Chatter. Over time, the column grew into a website that now features contributors who further the cause of sharing both a love of music and the art of journalism with the world through articles and interviews. While Andrew enjoys running the website, his real passion lies in teaching and facilitating others to do what they do best, and giving them the opportunity to explore their passions in the process. Some of Andrew’s favorite artists include KISS, Oasis, ACϟDC, Elvis Presley, Ace Frehley, The Rolling Stones, Rush, The Pretenders, Led Zeppelin, The Gaslight Anthem, Iron Maiden, John Lennon, The Melvins, Noel Gallagher, Regina Spektor, Rory Gallagher, The Stone Roses, The Strokes, Thin Lizzy, Elvis Costello, Van Halen, Neil Young, Blur, Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, and many more.
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