bill bodkin interviews the 80s hairband as they celebrate the release of their first record in nearly 20 years…
Trixter is a new audio machine.
The North Jersey-born hair metal band, known for their hits ‘Give It to me Good’ and ‘One in a Million,’ have, after 20 years, released their first album of new, original music today. Since 2008 they’ve down the reunion tour thing — blasting their greatest hits across the country at huge festivals in the Midwest and at famed Jersey clubs like The Stone Pony. All that seems like just a warm-up for today. They’ve taken the time to shake off the touring dust, get back into the groove of performing together and through their various musical journeys have brought in a new arsenal of musical knowledge, a sense of growth and a thirst to rock ‘n’ roll as Trixter one more time.
The result of all this was their new album — New Audio Machine. The name perfectly describes what this band, once popular during the days of white denim and Aquanet, has become. Their vocals are tigther, every high hat crash is like a sonic boom, guitar solos are more epic and burning with passion, every riff more muscular and bad ass and every bass line just that much groovier. At a time in most band’s careers when their sound starts to wane, Trixter’s has gotten even better.
So don’t call it a comeback — call it the beginning of something awesome.
Pop-Break’s Bill Bodkin spoke with Trixter guitarist Steve Brown about the new record, the band’s new passion and so much more…
Pop-Break: Hey Steve, I gotta tell you I loved the first track on the new record.
Steve Brown: “Drag Me Down,” yeah man. That track was co-written by fellow New Jersey rock star himself, Mr. Glen Burtnick.
PB: I saw that in the liner notes — actually it seems you have a lot of collaborators on the new record, how and why did you bring all these people on to create this new album?
SB: Being a songwriter myself for the better part of 30 years now I’ve always collaborated with people dating back to the first Trixter record. Some of the songs I wrote by myself like ‘Give it to Me Good;’ other songs like ‘One in a Million’ I had co-writers with. I’m always up for collaborating with people, it’s a natural thing.
I got together and wrote ‘Drag Me Down’ back in 1993. It’s a long time to go and it just goes to show you that a great song is a great song no matter how long ago it was written. Glenn’s been a friend of mine since I was a young punk in the old Trixter days. We decided to get together and we wrote it within the matter of an hour. It was one of those magical moments where the song kinda wrote itself. We recorded it, naturally some of the original recording we did back in ’93, is on the Trixter version on New Audio Machine. Glenn is actually on the song playing some of the swamp boogie guitar and doing some of the background vocals. So, it’s very cool. Thank God for digital technology, you know?
PB: Correct me if I’m wrong, but this is the first record of original music Trixter has released in almost 20 years, right?
SB: Yeah, it’s all our first original Trixter record since our 1992 Hear! record which was released on MCA.
PB: So why decide to do this new record at this point in your career? You guys could easily go out on the road, play your catalog which people dig and take it easy. Why make a new, original record?
SB: I think as a creative person myself, as a writer, producer, engineer, guitar player and artist in general, I’m not happy with riding on the stuff I did 20 years ago. Yeah, we have a catalog of material and we’ve done that for the last five years but here’s the reality of it — we put out the Alive in Japan [album out] in 2004, which was recorded on our 1993 tour of Japan, and we got a big response to that. We launched that when he re-launched the band in 2008. So, we put on two new songs that were actually leftovers from the old days [on the live album and] we got such a great response from the fans.
They started asking ‘When are you going to make a new record?’
It was always in the back of my mind because honestly I think the band has never been better. We are as singers, as writers, as musicians, as performers, we’re better than we ever have been. So why not? Part of it was the fact that we never … our last record that we made together was the Undercovers record which was all cover tunes. I said to the guys ‘If this is the last thing we ever record, which it definitely is not going to be, all I want to be able to make a great Trixter big rock record.’ So it’s kind of a book end so to speak of our career instead of ending up on a compilation, a live record and a covers record.
PB: You kinda answered this already, but within the 20 years since you last recorded how did you feel that you’ve grown personally as a musician and to apply this question to the bigger picture — how was Trixter evolved in the past 20 years?
SB: (laughs). Well honestly not a lot has changed [for me] because I’ve never stopped playing music. I just think like a fine wine I’ve aged gracefully and have gotten better at my art and my craft. As players, as people we’ve gotten better. We get a long a lot better now than we ever did. You realize, doing this for the second time, after reuniting in 2008, it’s really an amazing thing. It’s all the original line-up and we made a great record. It’s a celebratory time, we’re so proud of where we are now.
And why did we make this record? It was always in the back of my mind and the last couple of years thought [that the band] playing live [has] been so fun and we’ve been firing on all cylinders. So I dragged out all the old tunes I had hanging around like ‘Drag Me Down’ that we never used. I made a new recording of it because originally the version was all acoustic, it was like a Fleetwood Mac all-acoustic thing. So if it was going to be a Trixter song it had to have the big guitars and big vocals kick in. And that’s what we did with it. I made a rough demo of it with me singing along with another song ‘Dirty Love.’ It was something I wrote and recorded it and sent it to PJ, Pete and Gus and said ‘Listen to this and tell me we’re not ready to make a new record?’ It kicked everything off for us and that was in January or February of 2010. I gradually pieced together the material and then we got together wrote some stuff and and low behold we’ve got this great new rock ‘n’ roll record called New Audio Machine.
PB: You brought out Chuck Alkazan, who’s worked with musical titans like Elton John, to work on the record. What did he bring to the table?
SB: Chuck mixed four or five of the songs and he’s been a friend of mine and the band for years. He’s actually a fan of the band which is a cool thing. We had a couple of friends work on this record — Pete Evick who’s Brett Michaels’ musical director, guitar player, engineer — he did some engineering and editing and mixed one of the songs. It goes back to what I was saying about collaborating with songwriters, they all bring a different angle and element that I might not have thought of, the band might not have thought. And all the collaborations have worked out great.
Listen to ‘Machine,’ listen to ‘Save Your Soul’ those are two songs Chuck worked on — they have an amazing sonic quality to them. That’s the way I’ve always tried to envision the Trixter sound — which is if you took Van Halen I, Slippery When Wet by Bon Jovi, Hysteria by Def Leppard and Shout at the Devil by Motley Crue, it’s the kind of the blueprint, throw in Cheap Trick’s Dream Police; it’s the blueprint of the sound we’ve been using for the better part of 30 years now. So to bring other people it’s a different ear, so when you get tracks back from Chuck or Pete and you’ll think ‘Wow I never would of thought of that.’ It just makes it better. Sometimes it doesn’t, I’ve had that experience before, but not on this record. It’s like the sun, moon and stars aligned and everyone stepped up their game and did their best for us.
PB: So if you had to pick one song off this record that really captures what you were going for on New Audio Machine, what would it be?
SB: I hate this question…
PB: That’s why I love asking it…
SB: Man, you’re asking the wrong guy. Umm…I would probably would have to say ‘Drag Me Down.’ It’s that song because it spearheaded the record, it has the classic Trixter sound to it. It has a hint of ‘Give it to Me Good’ but a little more aggressive. What I can say about ‘Drag Me Down’ and the record in general is that it’s everything Trixter was and everything Trixter is now. It’s got that classic sound yet it still has a modern delivery to it.
PB: On May 10th, you’re going home to Bergen County to headline the Bergen Performing Arts Center, any nerves or butterflies going into that big homecoming show?
SB: That’s the first night of the tour we have booked out of the 20 dates we have on the table. We’ve never played there before, it’s a great venue and we’re playing with our friends Warrant and Dokken. It’s going to be a party, it’s our CD release party and like I said before, it’s a very celebratory time. We’re going to bring a very high energy show, probably play 2-3 songs off the new record and just have a great time. Our family and friends and our Bergen county fans will be there. It’s going to be funny who’s coming out of the woodwork for this one. (laughs).
PB: Any plans of an extended tour — maybe a full blown North American tour or maybe head into Europe or return to Japan … or is this going to be a bit of picking and choosing your spots?
SB: Well, it’s a little bit of that. The reality of the business is it comes down to the financial angle. We’ve been in running for the big summer tours but it didn’t work out. But you know what if the record hits and the single hits, it’s out right now ‘Tattoos and Misery’ if things take off, we’re ready for it and we’re up for anything. By year’s end we’ll probably end up doing 20-30 dates in the States alone.
For us, one of the dreams that we’ve yet to fulfill is a European tour — we’ve never been to Europe. We’d love to able to take this to all the European countries; they’ve never seen us before and we’ve got a great fanbase all around the world. And of course, hopefully get back to Japan as well. The band is game for everything, we’re a machine right now. We’re so fired up and ready to rock — tell me where the plane is flying us and we’ll be there.