Steve Brown of Trixter
The reunited band will be hitting the road in support of the new disc too. The first show kicks off on May 9 at The Rock Junction in West Greenwich, RI.
TWRY caught up with guitarist Steve Brown to talk about the new disc and all things Trixter.
Interviewed by: Roger Scales
New Audio Machine ushers in the next stage in Trixter’s history with an album full of catchy hooks, impressive harmonies, and some of your best guitar work to do date, did you think the band surprised even themselves after such a long layoff?
I think we all were. I knew going into it that we had a solid record. The first few tracks we recorded ‘Drag Me Down’, ‘Dirty Love’, ‘Tattoos and Misery’ – we knew that we had a couple of good songs but as the record progressed we started to record one song at a time and did it over a one year period. It just kept better and better and as we started to get to the tail end of the record. I knew that we were missing the final couple of tracks that were really going to pull the record together and that was in December 2011 and I remember telling PJ, Pete and Mark to give me a few days to write some new stuff and I came up with ‘Machine’, ‘Get on It’ and ‘Ride’. Within a matter of two weeks we wrote and recorded those tracks and those are the three songs that I think really pulled the record together and made it special. We all believe that is the best work we have ever done, and we are just so proud of the end result.
Were any of the tracks from New Audio Machine reworked leftover demos from the debut album or the Hear sessions?
Actually that’s what really cool about the our new CD is that it’s similar to the new Van Halen record where they used a lot of their old demos and leftover tracks. Probably half of our new record is songs that were leftovers, demos and some that were going to be used for the record after Hear that are now seeing the light of day 20 years later! ‘Drag Me Down’ was written in 1993 for instance. Actually ‘Drag Me Down’ was the first song we worked on when we started this project and kicked off the entire recording process. ‘Save Your Soul’, ‘Tattoos & Misery’ and ‘The Coolest Thing’ were written during the 40 Ft. Ringo period. This album is everything Trixter was because it has all the great elements of the debut album and Hear and it’s everything that we are now as more mature musicians.
I think what makes New Audio Machine so great is the production. Very modern sounding without any what I call “Ut-oh” moments or a band basically trying to be something or sound like something they are not. No experimentation, no changes in philosophy, just Trixter branded fun rock-n-roll. Do you agree?
Without a doubt that pretty much sums up our general philosophy as a band just getting back together in 2008 and as we move forward with the new record and tour. When I started to get the itch to make some new music and presented the idea to the guys I said all I want to do is make a great Trixter record. I think that’s what we’ve done. We are not trying to do anything else or be someone we’re not. After 20 years there some doubt whether or not we could pull it off and I believe that we have.
You did have some outside contributions from some old friends on New Audio Machine. Who specifically helped out on this project?
Glen Burtnik (Styx) and I wrote ‘Drag Me Down’ back when we started to gather material for the record after Hear that never got recorded. Also ‘Walk With A Stranger” was written by Dave Snake Sabo and Rachael Bolan from Skid Row. That was a leftover track from the first Skid Row album that was never used. ‘Walk With A Stranger’ and ‘Physical Attraction’ were both going to be on the first Trixter record but didn’t make the cut. Just because a track doesn’t make a particular album doesn’t mean it’s not a great song. There could be a hundred different reasons why a track doesn’t make a record but these tracks just seemed to fit into what we wanted to for New Audio Machine.
Did Frontiers records seek out Trixter to get the band back in the studio to record what became New Audio Machine or had you already decided to write and record and they became your label of choice?
My relationship with Serafino (Perugino) goes back about 10 years now and we have become very good friends. I have always kept him up to date with what I was doing or working on so it was a logical choice for Trixter to join the Frontiers family. Let’s face it they are the premiere label for melodic hard rock and it was the perfect fit for us. I sent Serafino a few rough recordings that we had done for ‘Drag Me Down’ and ‘Dirty Love’ and he signed us right away.
What are the touring plans for 2012 in support of New Audio Machine?
The tour starts in Rhode Island on March 9 at the Rock Junction and we have between 20-25 dates right now including some dates with Dokken and Warrant the night after in NJ. We will be doing some dates this summer with Warrant and Firehouse billing it as the 21st anniversary of the Blood, Sweet and Beers tour of 1991. That’s going to be blast! We are in talks to play some shows in Europe and also go back to Japan as well. Game on right now! Trixter is back and we are all so reinvigorated with New Audio Machine and that energy will be brought out in our live shows.
Will there be a heavy dose of New Audio Machine in the new set list or will it depend on the length of each show headlining vs. a support act on a larger bill?
It will definitely depend on the length of the set. It’s a tough thing for a band because you obviously want to play as much new music as possible but at the same time for the folks who bought the tickets they have a certain expectation of songs they know they want to hear. For instance at the recent Van Halen shows I attended a few weeks back I noticed that when they started to play anything off the new record folks were heading to go get more beers. You have to be able to recognize that and find a happy medium. Because the new album so closely resembles the songs from our past I don’t think our fans will have an issue with how much we play off it.
Steve, going back to the early days of the band whom do you think you initially appealed to and was that intentional?
I think we appealed to fans of melodic hard rock and the metal of the day. We had something unique in a sense that we were all aged a good five to ten years younger than our contemporaries like Motley Crue, Def Leppard, Bon Jovi. We did have a huge female fan base because we were younger and that appealed to them. We also had our share of guys at the gigs like guitar geeks that liked the way I played the guitar and who I molded my playing after. We still have a very rabid fan base who have followed us in whatever solo or side projects that we have been involved with since the demise of the band in the mid 90’s.
For the many bands that dominated the scene during the bands heyday in the late 80’s and early 90’s few bands interacted with their fans better than Trixter. Cookouts, cd release parties, attending KISS conventions in NJ, or just hanging around pre-gig in the parking lots with the fans. Was that just a natural extension of how down to earth you guys really were?
We never saw ourselves as rock stars, and still don’t. I remember hanging out in the parking lot on the Scorpions tour just hanging out with the fans and talking. I think a lot of how we interacted with our fans then has affected how we are perceived now. We are those same guys maybe a bit older but still willing to have a beer or two and just have fun.
Playing clubs after the first album started to have huge success must have been somewhat of a challenge for the band since you tended to alienate (although not purposely) a significant chunk of your fan base that was underage. Did you make a conscious decision to attempt to play more all ages shows prior to or in between arena appearances?
Yeah we always did. Sometimes when we were playing clubs we would play two shows in one day. One earlier in the day that was all ages and we then we would do the night gig for the older crowd. We did realize this and because in some markets the average age of some of our biggest fans was between 13-16 we had to make sure we went to great lengths to be able to perform for them. We always made great attempts to play bars that were 18+ so as to not shut anyone out.
Trixter supported some of the biggest bands on the planet such as the Scorpions, Great White, Warrant, Poison, Don Dokken, Stryper , KISS what ranks highest on your personal list of touring accomplishments?
Well the Scorpions tour was the most exciting. We both had hit records, both were kicking ass all over the country and we were playing sometimes multiple nights sold out arenas. Irvine Meadows sold out, the Oakland Coliseum 2 nights sold out. “One in A Million” was a #1 hit video on MTV for 5 straight weeks. That’s very special. Another special night was our very first arena show in Feb 1991 opening for Poison in Michigan. We were like Rocky at that point where he went to the arena the night before his first fight it was the same for us. PJ and I went to the arena the night before and just stood there looking out into the audience saying.. MAN we are going to be playing here tomorrow night. It still gives me chills. A lot can go wrong on that first night but we just kicked ass and could not have gone better!
Why do you think Hear did not attain the same level of success as your debut album? Was it the changing music climate or poor label support?
Without question it was the change in the music climate. When Hear was released it was October 1992 and it was the height of grunge. The label could not be found at fault at all. They gave us a ton of money, we were able to obtain James Barton who had just worked with Queensryche on Empire to produce and thought we had made a great record. The label did as much as they could. We were just out of the flavor of the month club and the record suffered because of it.
MTV played a crucial role in the band’s early success. The channel basically does nothing to promote new music any longer. Bands still create music videos today but seem to use the internet and social media to help promote themselves and their music. Do you think bands work just as hard today as when you started out or do they have to work even harder because label support for the expense involved just doesn’t exist any longer?
As much as people like to think the music business has changed (and it has) it still takes the same determination and talent and some luck to make it. I will say this bands today have a worldwide audience available to them just by one click of the fuckin mouse! I believe that great music will always find a way to get to people. Bands do have to be more creative and work harder than they did years ago because you’re exposed so much quicker and you can die just as quick. I do think that bands do tend to get caught up more with the social networking aspect of it than they are in making great music. Bands are looking at how many facebook and twitter fans they have than in writing good songs. If the music sucks it sucks. Who cares if a few years ago you had 50,000 fans on your MySpace page if the music still sucks.
Speaking of MTV as a native of New Jersey do you think a show like Jersey Shore is an accurate assessment of that area of the state or is it a scripted, clichéd riddled attempt at some cheap jokes and story lines and are you offended by it?
It doesn’t bother me. Jersey Shore is very reminiscent of the Jersey Guidos mentality and is a pretty accurate assessment of that sort of lifestyle. I have played at clubs when those guys have been hanging around. I was there the night Snooki got punched in the face. It’s all good and they have become cultural icons.
Will we ever see a Trixter live DVD maybe combined with some old and new footage since the band got back together in 2008?
If you go to www.trixterrocks.com we do have some live DVD’s for sale. A few 2008 shows and the Pay Per View special from 1991 live at the Cajun Dome and all have some extra’s on them.
Any final messages to your fans today Steve?
As always to the fans thank you for all of your love and support we could not have continued on this journey without you. The new record is truly a labor of love and if you don’t have it yet it is now available via Frontiers records and you will be able to pick one up at a show near you this summer!! See you on the road.
Check out all of Trixter’s tour dates and get all the latest news on the band here.