Thirty years after first forming in Paramus, N.J., rock band Trixter is still touring and making fresh, new music with all four of its original members. In fact, the band — guitarist Steve Brown, bassist P.J. Farley, lead singer Pete Loran and drummer Mark Gus Scott — recently released the brand new album “Human Era.”
To refresh music fans’ minds, Trixter was part of the ’80s hair metal scene. However, the band came a little late to the party, releasing its self-titled debut album in May 1990. The record was a success, peaking at No. 28 on Billboard’s Top 200 album chart and spawning three huge MTV hits: “Give It to Me Good,” “One in a Million” and “Surrender.” Trixter’s second effort, 1992’s “Hear,” contained gems like “Road of a Thousand Dreams” and “Rockin’ Horse.” After a record label split, the band independently released a covers album in 1994, “Undercovers,” which featured eight tunes, including Paul Simon’s “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” and Supertramp’s “Take the Long Way Home.” Then the foursome parted ways… until reuniting in 2008. After four years of touring together once again, Trixter was ready to head back into the studio to create new music. Frontiers Records released “New Audio Machine” in 2012 and, this past June, “Human Era.”
Full of quality melodic rock songs, “Human Era” is an upbeat record with scorching guitars and a positive vibe. “Rockin’ to the Edge of the Night” is a great opener that immediately draws listeners into the album, “Crash That Party” is fun and energetic and “Beats Me Up” is a great power ballad.
HNGN chatted with band founder Brown — who, in addition to playing guitars and singing backup, also wrote all of the songs on the album and produced it — before the quartet headed off to California to play the big Cathouse Live at Irvine Meadows music festival.
“We are nothing but 100 percent Trixter — we’re not trying to be anything else here,” he said. “We’re just doing what we love to do best!”
Read on to find out what else Brown had to say…
Trixter sounds so young and fresh on “Human Era.”
Thank you so much! The response to it has been unbelievable — the fans, the critics and even the haters like it. I think it’s because we’re just really enjoying ourselves at this point. Thirty years being together, being brothers, and all that we’ve been through good and bad, has gotten us to a place now where we’re just so comfortable. Since the band got back together in 2008, things have just been getting better and better for us. We signed with Frontiers Records a couple of years ago and put out “New Audio Machine.” We made a fantastic record, and it gave us confidence. After we did that, we’re like, “Wow! We can really do this!” It’s not that easy to come back after 20 years to make a record that’s as good as, if not better than, the stuff you did in the past. We’re just so happy, and we knew we could do this. Honestly, the record still surprises me — the fact that it came out as good as it did.
What is your favorite track on “Human Era”?
Definitely “For You,” which is very much a Van Halen-inspired song. That was actually the first song I wrote for the record that kind of sparked me and got the juices going. Once I had that one, the whole record fell into place and it was easy from there.
Did you write all new songs for this album or were any left over from previous records?
There were some songs that were left over. “Rockin’ to the Edge of the Night” is one of our oldest songs — one of the leftovers from the first album, back in 1987, 1988. That was one of our show openers back then. For some reason, I don’t know why, it didn’t make the first record. I always thought it was a cool song, and I reworked it for this new record. Pete’s voice sounds tremendous on it! It’s a quintessential Trixter song like “Give It to Me Good” — it’s three minutes and 52 seconds of great, melodic hard rock. It has a fun party message; definitely a great summertime song. Everybody’s been loving it, saying how cool it is. “Not Like All the Rest” was written during the 40 Ft. Ringo period — that was a great band that P.J. and I had. That was one that was easily adaptable. Once you put Pete’s voice on one of my songs, it sounds like Trixter.
You write all of Trixter’s songs yourself, correct?
I’ve always been the primary songwriter in the band, and that’s kind of always been the Trixter thing. Sometimes, P.J. and Pete bring in some ideas and that helps out. We pretty much have a very easy creative process. Everybody contributes in their own ways.
Since the band is kind of spread out across the U.S., how does the recording process work?
Mark and P.J. live in the [New Jersey] area, and they come over [to my home studio] and we do all the base tracks. Pete’s living out in Arizona now. When we did “New Audio Machine,” that was the first time we did the whole file-sharing type of record. Pete would do his vocals and send me a Dropbox file, and I would pull it in. That’s the beauty of technology! There are tons of records that come out nowadays where [the band members are] not even in the same country. I thank God that, back in the day, we were able to make those big budget, major label records where we were all living in California and would go to the studio every day. There’s definitely something to be said for that magic of being in the same room together and being a band. That was our learning process, making the first two records. Nowadays, financially, those budgets do not exist anymore. You have to make records economically and we’ve certainly learned how to do that.
In the ’90s, when everyone was trying to obtain that grunge sound, Trixter never strayed from its original sound. How did you manage that?
We have our thing and we know what to do. For the last 20 years, I’ve been a producer and an engineer. I have my own studio in my house and that’s helped tremendously in the sense that I’m finally able to get the band to sound the way I always envisioned it. Not to knock our debut and second records here, but those never came out sonically the way I wanted them to. The first record, for all the success it brought us, there were things that were kind of a let down on it. We didn’t know any better. We had to answer to other people and our record company back then. They didn’t want us to sound so polished. That goes with our first video, “Give It to Me Good” — here we are in a garage and they wanted us to kind of be like a garage band. Now we’re finally getting that sound I always heard in my head, kind of a combination of Van Halen, Def Leppard and Bon Jovi — still raw and rocking, yet polished.
This weekend, you’re playing the Cathouse Live metal festival and you have other tour dates planned for the remainder of the year. How’s the touring scene these days?
Touring is very expensive. Most of the bands of our genre, we all do fly dates. We do weekends. At best, you’re getting three or four shows. That’s just the way it is nowadays. It kind of works though since most of us have families and children and stuff. To be out on the road for a long time, unless it financially makes sense, is a losing proposition. Even for big bands, it’s not what it used to be. Some of the biggest bands are not really selling that many tickets. It’s kind of sad when you see it, but it’s the way the business is and it’s a bummer. Some tours are doing very well — like the Def Leppard, Styx and Tesla tour — and others aren’t. I’m just happy to be doing what we’re doing — to go out and play for fans all over the country and the world.
Speaking of Def Leppard, you played guitar in the band for several gigs this year and last, filling in for the ailing Vivian Campbell. What was that like?
It’s been a life-changing, dream come true to play with one of my favorite bands of all time! I first met them on the  “Hysteria” tour. Phil Collen has been one of my best friends, and they’ve all become my older, English brothers. It’s a bittersweet thing though because my friend Vivian’s dealing with cancer right now. It’s not an easy situation. Being in a band is not so much about just how you can play, it’s the personalities. We have a lot in common. Getting along when you’re in a dressing room is huge and that translates onstage. We all get along so well, so it’s easy for me to be the guy to come in. I’ve done nine shows with them, five shows last year and just got done doing the first four shows of the American tour this year. It’s been incredible, but it’s a tough thing. Viv is such a fighter and is doing great right now. I think he’s going to be fine. If I never play with them again, it’s an experience that has changed my life forever. There were moments playing when I would look over my left shoulder and I’d be like, “Holy s---! I’m playing ‘Photograph’ with Def Leppard right now!”
Did you know the songs already or did you have to learn them?
I pretty much knew everything. The most important thing, which most people don’t know, is the reason I got the gig was not so much the guitar playing, but more for my vocals. None of their vocals are on tape — every vocal they do is live. It’s serious business. Joe [Elliott] told me, “Don’t even worry about the guitar parts, the vocals are the most important.” Viv’s a great singer, so I was brought in to cover his parts — the high, powerful parts. You have to have a certain kind of voice to do that. Luckily, my years of doing all the high harmonies in Trixter, 40 Ft. Ringo and Stereo Fallout paid off. It was awesome and a huge honor for me!
And when you’re not playing in Trixter — or Def Leppard — you are performing with one of the top ’80s tribute bands in the world, Rubix Kube.
It’s a phenomenon! A tremendous ’80s band! My role is kind of part-time; whenever I’m around, I always jump at the opportunity to jam with the might Kube. The cool thing is, in all my years of doing this, I was never in a band like that. I never wore Spandex pants in my life — that was a first. It’s so much fun. Everywhere the band plays around the world, people just go nuts. It’s an all-encompassing ’80s [tribute band] — Michael Jackson, Madonna, Hall & Oates, Poison, Bon Jovi, Def Leppard and so much other stuff. Whatever it is ’80s, Rubix Kube can do.
Rubix Kube often gets special guests to perform their biggest hits live with them — who have been your favorites?
They’ve all been great! Dee Snider [of Twisted Sister] did a couple of shows with us a couple of years ago, and that was so much fun. He came out and did “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and “I Wanna Rock.” Night Ranger came out a couple of years ago to do a private party with us — they’re one of my favorite bands. A couple of months ago, we got to play with Rick Springfield. That was incredible, and Rick was tremendous. Rick’s become a real friend to the band.
So many projects, when do you sleep?
I sleep on airplanes! I’m very good at that. I’m a good napper, good at getting 20 minutes here and 20 minutes there. I try to eat good and not party too much. Everything’s all good!