I haven’t spoken to the guys from Trixter since the release of their fourth studio album, Human Era, on Frontiers Records last June. I mean, messages here and there with guitarist Steve Brown and bassist P.J. Farley, but we never got to discuss the new record, which, personally, I really enjoyed because it really brought back the spirit of their 1990 debut self-titled release. The last time that I interviewed Steve, three-quarters of the band was still here in Jersey, but now, half the band is in Jersey and the other half is in Arizona, which I find fascinating when it came to the recording of Human Era.
After a year of performing all of the big rock festivals and returning to the legendary Whisky A Go Go in Los Angeles for the first time in 25 years, Trixter returns home this weekend for the Lane Six Entertainment (Diane Lane) Anniversary party on Friday, Jan. 29, at Mexicali Live in Teaneck, NJ with Eric Martin of Mr. Big, Reality Suite and Long Gone Day. Then on Saturday, Jan. 30, they hit The Chance up in Poughkeepsie, NY, once again with Eric Martin.
I finally called Steve to talk about this weekend’s shows, Human Era, Def Leppard and a few other things. Here’s how our conversation went down:
Steve Brown! What the hell, man? First of all, how are you still doing this for 30 years with the same group of guys? I mean technically, P.J. [Farley] is still the newest member of Trixter…
(Laughs) How do we do it? Well, first and foremost, we’re family! We’re brothers. Yes, like all brothers and families and especially brothers in a rock ‘n’ roll band, you fight once in a while, but for the most part, we get along great and we have an awesome time when we’re together. We’re so appreciative of the fact that we’re still able to do this. It’s a blessing and the gift of hit song that we’re able to, after 25 years of being a national act, our first record came out in 1990, we still get paid to fly all over the world and play our songs. We play the old hits and more importantly, we’re a forward moving, still active band that has made, in my opinion and I think the guys would agree and most of our fans would agree, I think we’ve made two great records in New Audio Machine and our brand new one, Human Era.
We’re not one of these nostalgia bands—I’m not gonna mention any names—who go out and can care less about new music and forward progress, but we’re a band, who 25 years later, we’re still getting better. I think we’re at the top of our game and I think that speaks volumes. And that really goes to show you, getting back to the question of “how are we still doing this all together?” Because this is what we love to do and honestly, this is what we were meant to do.
I have to tell you, I loved Human Era. It reminded me so much of the self-titled debut and then you did that video for the title-track, Human Era, and it all made sense. I remember some of those times and they really brought back memories…
For the guys in the band, P.J. did that and the first time I watched it, I had tears rolling down my face because it just brings back so many memories and just how incredible our career has been. We are, as our song says, “We are one in a million,” and we are purely fortunate that we were able to achieve that success. We didn’t make it as big as some of the other bands, but being a band from Paramus, NJ and doing the amazing things that we got to do, we’re very lucky!
So, when you look back and see those moments…and that’s what the song was about. P.J. came up with the concept and the title for the album and he had this song idea and he came up and I finished the song. In the song, he was kind of talking about us, and the video very much goes with the Trixter story, which is incredible, but it definitely has a universal feel to the song for people and couples or whatever relationship that you’re in together…All the good times and the bad times that you share together. The key to it all is communication.
In this day of digital cell phones and texts and emails, you know what, man, one thing and we’re doing it right now…We’re fuckin’ talking on the phone like human beings. There’s something to be said for that and I think this world greatly needs to re-look at certain things and get back to those days. When we formed the band, there was no e-mail or social media. It was all about getting on your bike, meeting up at your bud’s house and doing it old school. If we had a problem, we’d deal with them old school, face-to-face and not through a text. I think that’s the problem with the world today.
As you were just saying about technology the way it is today, does it make it easier to write and record new material with you, P.J. and Gus [Scott] here on the East Coast and Pete [Loran] all the way out in Arizona? I mean, when do you get to rehearse?
Well, the beauty of it is, and don’t get me wrong, I love technology as much as the next guy, I have studio in my house for 25 years now, I’ve been an active producer and engineer, so believe me, but how do we do it? It’s very simple. With ProTools and technology, I mean, in this day and age, I don’t demo anymore. Anything that I record, there are moments on our latest records, once I sit down to record, the mentality is there’s always going to be something there that is usable. And the key is playing to a click-track and you build the song up and most of the songs we do are done already to some degree since I’m the primary writer. I do everything and the guys come in and just put their parts on top of it and Pete throws his vocals on it from Arizona and then delivers it to me through Dropbox. It’s the way most bands, nowadays, who don’t live together, do records, but me, Gus, well Gus is living in Arizona now, but when he’s here, me, P.J. and Gus were able to record like the old days. Sitting in my living room or my studio, so there’s that human interaction, so that we’re able to have that band unity, so to speak, but it’s not what it was like in the old days.
I thank God that we were able to make those first two Trixter records back when you had the big major label recording budgets. Our first record, we recorded a lot of it at the world famous Sound City. That documentary Dave Grohl did. There’s a beautiful thing when you’re in a band and you’re all living together 24/7, living and breathing making records, there’s something to be said for that. Unfortunately, in this day and age, that just doesn’t mean much anymore.
Trixter seemed pretty busy last year performing many of the festivals, but you also got to play the Whisky in L.A. for the first time in years, what was that like?
That was incredible! We played there 25 years ago to the day. First off, last year was our first time playing California in over 20 years. We did the Irvine Amphitheatre then in 2015, we did the Cat House Live Festival and then in October, the world-famous Whisky A Go Go and a lot of friends came out, like Eddie Trunk was there, Jeff Scott Soto, Kevin Baldes from Lit, Brent Woods from Sebastian Bach’s Band. So it was a party, man. It was a party. We had a blast. Coming back to this historic place, we played the Whisky back in 1990. That was when “Give It To Me Good” was number one and we’d just finished touring with Stryper and we were just about to go on tour with Don Dokken. The radio station and MCA Records threw this radio show party thing there. So, to be back there after all that time and playing to a great sold-out crowd, it was a blast! We had so much fun!
You have a home gig in Teaneck, NJ on Jan. 29 for Diane Lane’s Anniversary party…You can’t get any closer to home than Teaneck! Also on the bill is Eric Martin from Mr. Big, will there be any jamming with Mr. Martin that night?
I would think so! I’m not going to give away any surprises, but if I were a betting man, I would definitely say that there’s gonna be some sort of jam and some sort of rock ’n’ roll hysterics going on as usual because Eric is a very dear friend of ours and we’ve done a lot of shows with him all around the country from festivals and stuff. And you might have some other special guests come out as well. I mean, coming home is always kind of like a fucked up high school reunion when we play. Everyone and their mother comes out. I mean literally, everyone and their mother. It’s great and we love it! I’m always glad to see some of my old friends come out of the woodwork. As long as nobody asks me for tickets, I’m happy! (laughs)
I actually haven’t spoken to you since your stint with Def Leppard…That must’ve been amazing, not only filling in for a guitar player you probably looked up to, but also a band you probably looked up to.
Oh, yeah! The Def Leppard thing was monumental on all fronts. Of course, it’s a bittersweet situation filling in for Vivian [Campbell] because of his battle with cancer, but when Vivian was in Dio, he was a hero of mine when I was a little kid. I would follow him many times. Of course, I told him that. We spent some time out on the road together when I was rehearsing with them in 2014 on the Kiss/Def Leppard tour. So, we had a lot of laughs about that. He told me some pretty cool stories.
But, yeah, this year, I might get another four shows with them. I’ve done nine shows so far over the last couple years. To say it’s a dream come true would be an understatement. Those guys have been friends of mine for almost 30 years. The Hysteria album was the first time I met them. Phil Collen and I remained dear friends for the better part of that. More than anything it was an honor for them to call me when Vivian was diagnosed—I was the only phone call that they made. So, immediately, when it was understood there would be a fill-in needed, he told the band, “I got the guy.” And that stems back from when Phil and I were on the Mike Huckabee Show on FOX together. We’ve always jammed together for years at his house or my house having fun, but we’ve never gigged together. He was always a big supporter of all of my originals bands. Joe [Elliott] loved 40 Ft. Ringo. They actually tried to get us out on tour back in the 2000s.
So, after the Huckabee show, Phil was like “Man, it was great how our voices meld together!” because we have that Def Leppard rasp-thing going on. But most people don’t realize, yeah, the guitar playing is one thing, but more than anything, the reason that I got the Def Leppard gig was because of the singing. Because again, most people don’t know that none of their vocals are sampled. Everything is sung live and Vivian has a great voice, so that was it. To be playing the gigs we did with the in-ear monitors, when I got in there, I would lose myself listening to the vocals and forget that I was playing.
It was just incredible to be in the big leagues. Even with all the great success with Trixter and everything, we were never a major headliner. So, to be with Def Leppard, a headlining band, leer jets, limousines, Four Seasons, Ritz Carlton, it was awesome! Those guys…I got to become as good of a friend as I am with Phil, I now feel like I have that friendship with Joe, Sav and Rick Allen. We had a blast out on the road. Those guys are so humble and such hard workers that I’ve never met a band who cares as much for as long as they’ve been doing it. Not to mention they have an incredible organization and a lot of cool people who work for the band and have been there for 30 years. It’s like a family. I think that’s also part of the reason why I got in that. I’m not some young hot shot bringing in strippers and stuff. I guess I’m their adopted little U.S. brother.
Trixter hits the Lane Six Entertainment Anniversary party this Friday, Jan. 29, at Mexicali Live in Teaneck, NJ with Eric Martin of Mr. Big, Reality Suite and Long Gone Day. Then on Saturday, Jan. 30, they head to The Chance up in Poughkeepsie, NY, once again with Eric Martin. Steve also told me that the band will be hitting Milan, Italy, in April for the first time ever, so they’re pretty stoked about that! For more on Trixter, visit TrixterRocks.com.