FULL THROTTLE ROCK

 

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Full Throttle Rock

Interview: Steve Brown - Trixter

Posted on June 25, 2015 at 9:55 PM



It is an all too familiar tale told far too often within the hard rock/metal world: A young up-and-coming band with enormous talent and seemingly the world at their feet, cut down before they really had begun by a dramatically changing musical landscape. This was the reality for bands trying to make a name for themselves in the early nineties, and New Jersey natives Trixter were just one of many. Fortunately the Trixter story has a happier ending than for some of their counterparts; phase two of their career kicked in during an eighties hard rock resurgence in 2007-08. This rebirth delivered New Audio Machine in 2012, their first studio offering in 23 years which celebrated the best of those golden days with an added modern twist. In 2015 Trixter took a step further with their latest release, Human Era, and guitarist/songwriter Steve Brown was as proud as punch to chat to me about the new record, the band’s past and his love for the first Van Halen record.

 

 

Rock Man: Congratulations on all that you have accomplished with this band over the years. When you formed Trixter with Pete Loran back in 1983 did the two of you dare to dream that you would have the success you have had?

 

Steve Brown: Hey thank you so much for the kind words. Yeah when Pete and I started this band I think we were crazy enough because we were so young, I was 12 years old at the time and I think Pete was 15. We had no idea what we were up against, so sure we wanted to be Van Halen, we wanted to be Def Leppard, Bon Jovi, Motley Crue and we did not think it could, you know, how could it be that hard? You write some songs, you put a cool looking band together, first and foremost you get a cool name, you know, Trixter, we put the X in there to make it more heavy metal. But 30 years later to be talking to you about it is incredible, what an experience, what a life we have had.

 

RM: A lot of the older bands going around talk about the day they first saw The Beatles or The Rolling Stones and that this is what made them want to become musicians. What was it for you, what was the first band or artist that made you think “I want to do that!”?

 

SB: Well for me it kind of started out almost like that because of my parents, my Mom was really into Elvis. I remember the first music I saw in the house, I remember Elvis, I think I was 3 years old when he did that Aloha From Hawaii special. So that was the first initial thing that I thought was cool and I used to watch all the Elvis stuff when I was a kid, but it was not until ‘77/78 when I saw Kiss for the first time and I heard Van Halen for the first time. 1978 that was the time when I went “This is what I want to do”. My brother’s girlfriend, I was over at her house, this was when I was a kid, and her brother had Kiss Rock And Roll Over on vinyl and I asked them “Can I borrow this?” and not knowing, not hearing it yet but I remember putting it on my turntable and listening to the vinyl record of it and it completely changed my life. And then a couple of weeks later I was at a buddy of mine’s house and he put on this 8 track tape of Van Halen and I remember hearing Eruption for the first time and just going “Oh my God! What is this? What is that?” I did not even think it was a guitar and he is like “No man, you have got to hear this, this is the most amazing thing” and it was. And a week later my Mom took me to guitar lessons and the rest is history.

 

RM: Can you identify an album that has had the most impact or influence on you over the years?

 

SB: I would definitely have to say that first Van Halen record because that one just, still to this day it is always in my CD player or on my iPod. I do not know what it is, to me it is a timeless record that never gets old, it still sonically sounds great, it to me has the best guitar sound ever recorded and it is just the basest I think of what I have built my whole career on. Because I think Van Halen 1, you know, as much as people go crazy for the guitar playing, I look at it as a collection of incredible songs, incredible production, the vocals, the melodies, it is just the perfect, especially since we are coming up to Summer time right now, I think it is one of the most perfect Summer time records ever created. To me it just speaks volumes and to me it is just my ‘go to’ always.

 

RM: The new album is Human Era. I imagine that the band is very pleased and proud at how well this record has turned out?

 

SB: We are beyond pleased, to say that we are excited about it would be an understatement. I think I have said this before, in the past when we made our last record New Audio Machine which came out on Frontiers Records in 2012, I never thought that we would make a record as good as we made that. So I hoped when I started writing New Audio Machine and I told the guys, I said, because everybody in the band, and I’ll be honest with you, was not 100% completely sold on the idea of even doing a new record. They were like “What’s the point?” and I’m like “Nah guys, we are really going to make a good record and it will be worth it, trust me on this”. And they trusted my vision, being the primary song writer and producer of the band, you know, they did that and as time went on the record just kept getting better and better as we got closer to finishing it. And it gave us this excitement and enthusiasm and we were like “Wow!”, we are actually making a record that I think we all feel the fans and even the critics was as good if not better than our past records. And that is very hard to do for a band, fast forward to where we are now, the fact that Human Era is on the shelves and people are just loving it, our fans love it, we are so proud of it and it is incredible to me, you know, and I am just so proud. I will say it again, and I have said it before, that you are talking to a guy in a band that is, we are firing on all cylinders right now, we are better than we have ever been, the band sings better, plays better, I think looks better, for lack of a better term and we are performing better than ever. So it is really a special time to be in Trixter right now and be in the ‘Trixter’ world.

 

RM: So further to that, do you feel that Human Era is the best representation so far of what the band is about or is that record still to come?

 

SB: You know, I hope the best is yet to come. Because getting back to what I was talking about with New Audio Machine, as soon as we got done with that and went on tour with it and played a couple of the songs it gave the band a new found confidence and energy and vitality. And an enthusiasm that knowing again ‘we are doing this and we are making great music and we need it’ and it is not about money because we all know there is no money there, but we care enough for our fans and for ourselves. And also showing for a band being 25 years old that there is forward motion, a lot of the older bands, I am not going to mention any names, you know who they are, but a lot of these guys in much bigger bands than us they say “There’s no point in making a new record”, “It’s this, it’s that”, “It’s a waste of time, there’s no money”, you know, I do not believe that man. I believe that the fans, they use that old line ‘all the fans want to hear are the hits’, I do not agree with that. I like hearing new stuff from a band, especially bands that tour every year. Yes we want to hear all the famed songs, but they wind up playing the same cuts every year anyway. So for us, what we did was last year when we were out we were playing Machine and Tattoos And Misery off New Audio Machine and it went over great. It fitted in perfectly with our old material because all Trixter is trying to do is be the best Trixter it can be, we are not trying to be anything else but who we are and giving 200%.

 

RM: For the most part your lyrics revolve around relationship issues, enjoying the good times and so on. But on the odd occasion you venture into territory where you have something more to say. On this record you have Every Second Counts; can you tell me about that song?

 

SB: Yeah, I mean, that has always been a pattern with Trixter. As a song writer I write every different kind of music, stuff that you would not even expect, whether it be smooth jazz, you know, really old pop-dance stuff that other people use. So I am always a fan of different kind of themes and I think all great hard rock records have those great party songs that we all love, but yet they have deeper meaning songs and then you have some of the heavier stuff and I think that is what makes a great melodic hard rock record and that is what we always try to do. Every Second Counts is one of those deeper meaning songs, kind of like Road Of A Thousand Dreams or Only Young Once from our first record. It is a song about if you are in that situation where you are going to live or die, if you have that choice, every second counts and you have to do it and you have to fight and do whatever it takes to survive. It is an incredibly powerful song and Pete Loran delivers an incredible vocal on it and it is a little bit different for us, it kind of has a more modern feel yet it is like a perfect Trixter song.

 

RM: The first single is Rockin’ To The Edge Of The Night, what has been the response from fans and music media about that track?

 

SB: Hey, like I said before here we are coming into Summer time. A perfect Summer time, light hearted party song, I think it is an instant Trixter classic, I would put it right up there with Give It To Me Good, Rockin’ Horse, One In A Million. If someone said to me “Steve, give me one song that defines Trixter, what would it be?” it would probably be a hard toss-up between Give It To Me Good and Rockin’ To The Edge Of The Night. Right now I would tell you Rockin’ To The Edge Of The Night, to me, it is the perfect Trixter song, you know, it has all the elements that represent what we are in 3 minutes and 52 seconds. And the response to it has been tremendous and the cool thing is it is one of our oldest songs, we went back to the archives, so to speak, and pulled this out. It was one that never made the first album, for reasons I really do not know, it just did not measure up I guess at the time or the producer did not want to put the time in to work on it. But I took it, I always knew it was a great song, I dropped a key down to make it more in a comfortable vocal register of Pete and as soon as I heard him sing it I went ‘Boom! This is magic right here”. Because I think Pete’s vocal is in the perfect spot, you know, to me he sounds like a cross between Mark Farner (Grand Funk Railway), Steve Marriott (The Small Faces/Humble Pie), those great ‘70s singers, Paul Rogers (Free/Bad Company), it just has that awesome classic rock sound and I am just stoked about it.

 

RM: If I can take you back to 1990, you released your debut self titled album which was a runaway success reaching Number 28 on the Billboard 200 Album Chart. What do you recall about that time and making that record?

 

SB: Well that was the golden age when bands like us, when new bands were afforded the opportunity to make, let’s say, the big budget major label record. It was an incredible experience for us, we signed our deal with Mechanic/MCA Records and the first thing we did was find a producer. We met this guy from California, Bill Wray, and the next thing we knew September of 1989 we found ourselves moving out to Hollywood and it was like something from a movie, you know, here we are a rock band from New Jersey moving out to Hollywood, California at the height of the Sunset Strip. It was an incredible time and we were part of it, we lived it and we were able to work in these great studios like the world famous Sound City, which is no more, Dave Grohl made that awesome documentary about it and we worked in every studio in that place making the record. And we worked in another famous studio, The Village Recorder in Santa Monica, which was famous I think Ratt did all their stuff there and Fleetwood Mac and it was just really mind-blowing and it is even more heartfelt and meaningful now because I look back on those times and it was kind of like going to Summer camp, like Rock and Roll Summer camp. We got a crash course in making records because we did not know how to make records and we came out of that process making our debut album which went on to turn us into rock stars, so what an incredible experience it was.

 

RM: The follow up album was Hear! in 1992; but by that stage the musical landscape had shifted dramatically with the grunge movement taking hold and, like a lot of young bands at the time, you found yourself on the sidelines. How difficult was that time and how did you navigate through that period?

 

SB: Well again, that was before we knew, when we were making it here we were on top of the world as a band. We had just come off 13 months of touring and when you are in a successful band you have management and road crew and friends, fans, you live in your own little bubble and we were certainly living in the Trixter bubble of being local rock stars/celebrities and enjoying every moment of it. We came home and all bought brand new cars, we made a little bit of money and we renegotiated our deal with MCA Records, so we were able to make an even bigger record than the first record. We hired James Barton from Rush and Queensryche fame to produce the record and again we went to all the best studios on the East Coast, New York, Pennsylvania and then back to Hollywood and we lived a complete rock star life. We had our own suites in hotels, we had our own Mustang rent-a-cars cruising around Sunset Strip, it was awesome, but we did not know what was going on around us to tell you the truth, and we did not care because we had just gotten off the Kiss tour and we just thought everything was going to repeat itself [laughs]. Little did we know that when that record was released that it was going to fall on deaf ears and I will say that at that moment we put so much effort into that record, making it, working so hard to really make a polished awesome sounding hard rock record, which we did. So no matter what happened with it we are still so proud of that record and it is kind of like a cult classic from that time.

 

RM: During the whole grunge period hard rock and metal really lost its way for a long time, but I think around 2007/2008 it really started to find its feet again. A lot of those bands that were starting out in the early nineties that had their careers cut short started getting back together again and kind of got a second chance. Is that how you guys looked at it with your situation?

 

SB: Yeah I think you are pretty right on that. Some of those bands stayed around pretty much through the whole 1990s and kept going. For us, we took a bit of a vacation and worked on other projects: P.J. Farley and I had a couple of great bands, 40 Foot Ringo and Stereo Fallout, all these great projects, we came close on many deals, we did end up signing a deal with a Scandinavian company in the early 2000s. But I think 2007 was the first year of Rocklahoma, which I think was the first time in a long time that was a huge multi day festival that featured all the great ‘80s hard rock bands and it kind of rejuvenated the scene and it was definitely one of the reasons we got back together. Because I saw that and kind of said “Hey, look at all these guys, why don’t we do this?” and I always said, back in the day, we all did, that we are not really breaking up we are kind of taking a vacation and when the time is right we will be back. And I think we hit the perfect time in 2008. Our first gig was Rocklahoma and it was an overwhelming success.

 

RM: In September to November 2014 you had the opportunity to play a number of dates with Def Leppard as the fill in guitarist while Vivian Campbell was recovering from cancer. During those shows did you think to yourself  “I know this is temporary, but oh my God, I’m on stage with Def Leppard rocking out these iconic songs!”?

 

SB: I would be lying to you if I didn’t say that, of course, yes [laughs]. Those guys are like my brothers, you know, my older brothers, they are great friends of mine that I have known for 27 years. Phil Collen is definitely one of my best friends in the music business and has been a big supporter. So it was a natural thing when Vivian was diagnosed, I was the only person they called so I was honoured for that and the reason I got the gig was, which most people do not know, was not because of my spectacular guitar playing [laughs], it was because of the vocals. Because Def Leppard do not sample any of their vocals, everything is live, they sing everything and take it very seriously and so that was the reason. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life, there were definitely moments were I would look over my left shoulder and, you know, you are playing Photograph, all the years I have played in cover bands around New York, New Jersey playing Def Leppard songs, did I ever really think I would be playing with them, you know, playing Wembley Stadium? It was definitely one of those “Oh My God!” moments. But I have known those guys for so long it was natural, I did not get nervous before the shows, I was more excited kind of like “Let’s do this!” and it went over great and I cannot thank them enough for the opportunity.

 

RM: Recently we saw Apple announce their new music streaming service, Apple Music. Now, music streaming services aren’t new; there is Spoitfy, Pandora and others, so how do you think this new service from Apple will change the music industry?

 

SB: Well, the only thing I hope they do is that they are generous enough to pay the artists a little more money than all the other streaming services. I am sure you have seen the reports on Spotify, what they pay, it is horrible. I am just hoping that all of these billion dollar earning companies like Apple, they just kind of give back where they should and kind of level the playing field with all these other companies pay the artists and songwriters what they deserve. I do not really know, I cannot keep up with it anymore to be honest with you, personally I still like CDs and vinyl and that whole experience and that is why I always say, when we talk about making a record we make a record, I do not think about at all “Oh, let’s just put out one song”. I want a whole record experience, that is what I grew up on and I still think to this day that is important. And I think you being a fan as well and all of our fans and the fans of the genre they still enjoy getting a physical CD, opening it up, listening to the record, you know, start to finish while reading the lyrics and the credits, who engineered it, who mixed it, who played on it, I still love that and I think our fans do as well.

 

RM: Once again, congratulations on the release of the album Human Era. On behalf of everyone here at Full Throttle Rock I would like to wish you the best of luck for the record and many years of continued success.

 

SB: Hey Rock Man thank you so much. Thank you for all your support, we love all our fans and we are going to keep on making the best records we possibly can.


 

For more information about Trixter visit the official website at www.trixterrocks.com


Trixter – Human Era is available on Frontiers Records.


 


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