By: Robert Cavuoto
If you grew up in Bergen County, New Jersey, during the ’80s and ’90s you couldn’t help but know one of the members in the band Trixter. I met Steve Brown when he was about 12 or 13 years old when he used to hang out at the mall record store where I had a part time job.
We’d get talking for hours at a time about music, guitars and, of course, playing. He resembled a mini Eddie Van Halen and could play just as well, even at that age. I can remember going to see Steve and the group play at outdoor parks and teen clubs.
In May of 1989, Trixter landed a record deal with MCA Records. Their debut album, Trixter, was released in May of 1990, producing the hits “Give It to Me Good,” “One in a Million,” and “Surrender.”
The album produced three Top 50 singles on the Billboard charts and three #1 MTV videos. Then in 1992, the band released their sophomore album, Hear. Unfortunately, in the midst of the whole grunge takeover, Hear didn’t gather as much success on the charts as their initial album
I’ve run into him from time over the last 20 years at various shows, but most recently backstage at the Def Leppard/Poison show in Newark where we got talking about the reunion, the new CD, and reminiscing about growing up in New Jersey during one of the best times in music!
Robert: What sparked the Trixter reunion, as well as the new CD, New Audio Machine?
Steve Brown: It was never a question of if we were getting back together. It was always a question of when we were gonna get back together. In 2007, Pete and I were out at the NAMM show in Anaheim, California. During interviews, as well as when we were walking around ,people were asking us when we were going to get back together. That’s what got the ball rolling. I called the other guys when I got back home and said, “Hey, let’s put this back together and see what happens.”
Five years down the line we’ve got a new record out now. It’s a real Trixter record. Honestly, I think it’s the best stuff we’ve ever done.
Robert: When you were writing the CD, were you thinking about singles, or were you thinking about the full album?
Steve Brown: When I approached the President of Frontiers Records about making a record, it was to make a record. I know in this day and age it’s very much a singles-driven business, but I still believe in and a big fan of the “album”, where it’s a whole journey from start to finish. I’m still a fan of that and I still believe that bands should still make records.
Robert: Tell me a little bit about the writing process for the new CD?
Steve Brown: There was always a goal in my mind that we were gonna make a new record. Our last release was the Undercovers record, but I always thought that if we were gonna ever have a bookend to our career, I would like to have a new all original record.
When we put the band back together we released Live in Japan, and we had two new songs on it which were actually leftovers from the Hear record in 1992. We got such a great response from those two songs. The cool thing about New Audio Machine is a lot of the material is from the past, like “Physical Attraction” and “Walk With a Stranger”. “Drag Me Down” was written in 1993 by Glen Burtnik and myself, a fellow New Jersey rocker. Some of the stuff like “Machine”, “Ride” and “Tattoos & Misery” are brand new. The record kind of comes from all different periods.
Having a recording studio in my house, I’m always writing, whether it’s for Trixter or different artists. The record took about a year to record because we did it one song at a time. That was kind of a challenge because it really drags on when you do it like that. It wasn’t like the old days where you’d go out to California for two months and bang out a record working 12 hours a day. We didn’t have that luxury.
Robert: How did that work with singer, Pete Loran? He’s still in Arizona, right?
Steve Brown: Yeah, Pete lives in Arizona. The beauty of technology, he’s got a ProTools rig in his house and he’s able to do vocals there. Nowadays you can make a record with people all around the world and never be in the same studio. Three of the songs were also recorded out at my house.
Luckily for me, P.J. and Gus still live in the area. We were still able to keep that sort of band mentality, to where we were in the room together playing and we’d record the tracks.
Robert: One of my favorite songs on this CD was “Tattoos & Misery”. Great riff, how’d you come up with it?
Steve Brown: It’s just a real powerful riff, doing the octave thing in there. The intro is one of my favorite tricks that I stole from Eddie Van Halen It’s just a real power-pop, Motley Crue meets Cheap Trick influenced type song.
Robert: I think you really captured the essence and the spirit of Trixter on New Audio Machine, yet put it into a new time frame.
Steve Brown: Yeah, the delivery of the record, it’s a lot more aggressive, but still has that pop sensibility that I’ve always written with.
Robert: You added “Give it to Me Good” on New Audio Machine. What was the reason for bringing that one out of all your songs?
Steve Brown: That was the record company. It’s a bonus track for Japan. “Heart of Steel” acoustic is the bonus track all around the world.
Robert: Is it difficult being the producer for these albums when you’re such close friends in the band?
Steve Brown: Not really. I’ve been making records long enough to where I know how to get what I want and how to lead. Everybody kind of knows their part and knows what the deal is. In that sense it was really easy. The record kind of made itself.
Robert: When you guys disbanded in 1994, was it because of the state of affairs of the type of music you guys were playing, or you just wanted to explore other options?
Steve Brown: It was a little bit of both. We’d been doing very, very well for a couple of years prior when our records came out in ’90s. The writing was on the wall. We all knew that the scene went from hard rock to grunge. For me, as an artist, I felt like it was like beating a dead horse. I said, “You know what? Let’s try some different things here. Let’s press pause right now and we’ll start this movie back up when the time is better.” And that’s what we did.
Robert: I always thought Trixter was great band, unfortunately you came out at the wrong time. A couple of years earlier it could have been a whole different story.
Steve Brown: Yeah, that’s what we say. Fortunately, we got a good taste of it and we had enough success to where we still have a career 20 years later.
That’s the gift of a hit record, the gift that keeps on giving. Things would have definitely been different if we even came out a year earlier. I certainly won’t bitch and moan about what we achieved.
Robert: The one thing I remember about you guys growing up in Paramus, was the amazing bond you guys had as friends. Is that bond and closeness still there?
Steve Brown: Totally! We’re not just a rock band. We’re family. We’re brothers. We started this thing when I was just 12-years old. We did so many things for the first time together, whether it be girls or this and that, chances are it was the four of us or three of us. Just one of those things New Jersey up-bringing. We had a great childhood.
We came up during a great time in rock and roll. The middle ‘80s with Van Halen, Motley Crue, Bon Jovi, and Def Leppard. They were all bigger than life and we were a part of it.
Robert: Looking back over your career, was it more difficult trying to make it back in the late ’80s or now trying to make comeback?
Steve Brown: I think trying to make it in the ’80s. Looking back on it and looking at it as someone 20 years older – I’m 42 now. Back then I was a kid when I started the band. It was just a natural process. I never really thought about it. You don’t really think about it till it goes away, then you look back on it and go, “Wow, that was really an amazing time.” Also knowing how many musician friends of mine never made it, never got to do a percentage of the things that Trixter got to do.
You look back on it and go, “Man, that was really amazing.” Like the song says, “That was one in a million.” We were one out of a million bands that got successful and sold a million records and toured with KISS, Poison and the Scorpions. All these things, you don’t really think about it while it’s going on, because for us it’s just a natural progression, but looking back afterwards, you go, “Holy shit. That was really incredible.”
Robert: You guys were one of the first, original boy bands (Both Laughing).
Steve Brown: That’s right. We kind of got that in the press. They kind of called us like the New Kids on the Block of Rock.
Robert: What are you touring plans for the new CD?
Steve Brown: This year, the goal with the record. Nowadays you make a record to go out on tour versus years ago when you would go out to tour in support of your record. The promoters all around the country have been really digging the new record and it’s helped our live business out. By the end of the year we’ll probably wind up doing 30 shows.
Robert: You still have your Kramer Nightswan Holoflash that you used in some of your videos?
Steve Brown: I don’t. I actually gave that to the president of MTV back in 1991. After we became very successful with MTV, I gave that to him as a little Christmas present. It’s a great little guitar. I love those early Kramers. I had a couple of them.
Robert: Tell me a little bit about some of your favorite touring partners. You mentioned Scorpions and KISS. Any one in particular better than the others?
Steve Brown: They were all great. We toured with Stryper, Dokken, Poison, Warrant, Scorpions, KISS: every one of them was awesome. We had such a great time. In particular Poison was the first time in ’91; we did, I think, five shows with Poison. We did a week with them, and that was the first time we ever played an arena. That was amazing. I’ll never forget that. That was in Muskegon, Michigan, in February 1991, Poison and Slaughter, sold out. That was the first time of us being on the big stage and it was un…unbelievable.
We never really thought about selling a lot of records and being on MTV. All we ever wanted to do was play arenas.
After that, we went on tour with The Scorpions. We got to play the Meadowlands Arena for the first time. We got a gold record that night. Touring with KISS that was a dream come true. KISS was one of the reasons I started playing guitar, so being out on tour with them was amazing. It was all great.
Robert: Do you have any good Spinal Tap moments?
Steve Brown: There are millions of them. One of them I’ll tell you which was classic is out on tour with the Scorpion. We used to do this thing where we P.J. and I would go out and stand on the subs for like the beginning of “Play Rough”. We had a big intro and I remember at the end of that song, it repeats that intro. I stepped back and fell in between the stack from the stage and the speaker. It was total Spinal Tap.
Lights went out. I fell down and I couldn’t get up and my guitar tech had to run down and pick me up.