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The spandex pants may be stashed away in mothballs, the Aquanet cans rusting on the back of a bathroom shelf, but Trixter’s 80s musical roots sprout with a 21st century twist on their strong, swaggering comeback album, New Audio Machine (Frontiers Records).  As guitarist Steve Brown describes their newest release in two decades, “It has the trademarks of our sound — melodic hooks, very big guitars, big vocals, powerful drums.  If you took Van Halen I, Slippery When Wet and Hysteria, and kind of mushed it together, that’s what the New Audio Machine sound is like.”

Don’t let the title fool you, though.  Trixter is a high octane machine that has been running fast and furious since Brown, at the tender age of 12, formed the band in Paramus, New Jersey with singer Peter Loran, bassist P.J. Farley, and drummer Mark “Gus” Scott in 1983.  “We started out playing backyard barbecues and roller rinks.  After a couple years we graduated to playing some all-age clubs,” Brown says.  “It’s a common story — you build yourself up into being the biggest band in your area and the record companies start to take notice.  And that happened to us.  In about 1987, 1988, through the whole Bon Jovi/Skid Row craze that was happening around New Jersey, we were lucky enough to be one of the bands that was offered a record deal.”

Trixter soon found themselves catapulted to major tours with KISS, Poison, the Scorpions and Warrant, skyrocketing album sales, and acclaim for singles including the mammoth hit, Give it to Me Good.  When asked if the band feels pigeonholed by its perpetual association with that tune, Brown answers, “No, that’s the song that made us famous.  I’m grateful for that.  That would be like Zeppelin not liking being known for Whole Lotta Love [laughs].”

Briefly brushed off the musical map when its landscape became populated by Seattle bands, Trixter reunited in 2007.  “It was the right time,” Brown says.  “In life, I think everybody has this feeling — you have an epiphany and that voice in your head that says, ‘This is what you need to do right now.’  For me and the guys in the band, we all just said, ‘We’re getting to the point where it’s now or never.’  I’d been getting emails from different agents about some of these festivals around the country that were focusing on a lot of the 80s and 90s bands, and they wanted us to play.  So I started putting feelers out there with the guys and it all worked out.  It was meant to be.  The time was right, and our first set of shows were in the summer of 2008.  I’ve known these guys almost 30-plus years.  We grew up together, so our roots are so much deeper.  And we’re part of an elite group of bands, including Motley Crue and Poison, that still have all their original members, so that’s something we hold very near and dear to our hearts.”

I think our genre of music — hair metal, pop metal, I call it big rock — was the soundtrack for people’s lives.

Brown attributes the band’s longevity to its ability to tap into emotions that are near and dear to Trixter’s loyal fans, as well.  “I think our genre of music — hair metal, pop metal, I call it big rock — was the soundtrack for people’s lives.  And I think they’re looking back on that era with such fondness because it was so much fun,” he explains.  “I think that’s why bands like Def Leppard, Poison, Motley Crue and KISS can still tour and draw 15,000 people a night.  And I’m just honored to be a part of that circle of bands and be a part of that genre, and that’s why we’ve been able to keep such great followings around the world.  The music really registers with people.”

Maybe Brown relates to his fans so well because he’s a fan himself — specifically of Eddie Van Halen, who he says, “is the reason that I do this, the reason I started.”  With unabashed enthusiasm, he describes the day he actually got to hang out with his hero.  “When we were doing the second record in the summer of 1992 and I was living in California, Ed invited me to his beach house to play volleyball.  And it was just incredible, because here I am, with my idol.  Here we are, in bathing suits and baseball caps turned backwards, sitting there smoking cigarettes, drinking beers, and just talking shop back and forth.  And Wolfgang Van Halen was a year-and-a-half at that point, running around in his diaper, and Valerie’s hanging out with her mom.  It was one of those surreal, once-in-a-lifetime moments.  And it was unbelievable.”

New Audio Machine demonstrates how Van Halen’s influence, as well as others, have been forged into Trixter’s unique sound, which resonates throughout the melodic, hard-rocking Tattoos & Misery, the CD’s first single and video.  “Pete filmed his segments with the model, Kandy K., in Chandler,Arizona at Inkbomb Tattoo.  He had the tough job of being with the hot model,” Brown describes, laughing.  “The rest of us filmed the performance clips in Jersey at Lightroom Studios.  We had our buddy, Shawn Card, from California, direct and edit the video.  He’s done a bunch of stuff for Lit and Eve 6.  The video’s getting a lot of views all around the world, and people are really loving the song.”

The tune, Drag Me Down, co-written by former Styx member Glen Burtnik, is perfect as the album’s first track, delivering musical power and punch that are Trixter in top form.  “We wrote that song back in 1993, and it was supposed to be on what was going to be the third Trixter record at that time.  We didn’t know it would take us another 20 years to make the third Trixter album,” Brown laughs.  His enthusiasm, though, implies it was worth the wait.  “It starts out with the acoustic guitar, and then kicks in with the whole band rocking.  It’s a great sing-along song, it’s got that classic Trixter sound, and it’s a perfect way to kick off the album.”

Brown goes on to describe two of the album’s other prime cuts, one of them the sentimental power ballad, Live for the Day, with lines only seasoned rockers looking back on life could write:  “Call your mother just to say hello/Hug your kids so much, just so they’ll know.”  “Live for the Day is the first ballad.  And it’s pretty much a song about how I live my life — live your life to the fullest, because you never know what’s going to happen tomorrow,” Brown says.  “And Walk with a Stranger goes back to 1988.  It was written by Snake [Sabo] and Rachel [Bolan] from Skid Row, who are old friends of ours — we grew up with those guys.  It was actually a leftover Skid Row song they used to do before they even got signed.  And when we started doing the record it was the logical choice to be on the record.  I kind of changed the key around, changed the arrangement a little bit, and turned it into what I think is a great Trixter song.  We love the way it came out, and I think Snake and Rachel love it as well.”

Trixter’s many years in the music industry have not only taught Brown how to make such engaging music, but some lessons about the business, itself.  “The biggest lesson that I’ve learned is just to control your own destiny in the sense of making your own records and controlling as much of it as you can,” he explains.  “I’m also a producer and engineer, and I’ll control a lot of things.  There can be a lot of wasted money.  And there’s a way to really cut things back to where no quality is lost.”

He goes on to describe how being on Frontiers Records gives the band control, but at the same time the infrastructure of a major label with the intimacy of an indy.  “We’re very fortunate — Frontiers, they’re a small label but you get that major label distribution and yet you get the attention.  When I want to call Serafino [Perugino], the President of Frontiers on the phone or email, he replies right away.”

But before you envision Trixter as dull businessmen with pinstripes, wingtips and briefcases, they are first and foremost rockers who thrive on a diet of tasty tunes and crunchy power chords.  “I love music,” Brown states simply.  “I never bargained to be a rock star.  I never bargained to sell a million records, or tour with KISS or Poison or the Scorpions.  I got into music because I love to play guitar, I love to write songs, I love to sing, I love to make records.  Music is my life.”

And that music translates into a show that Brown enthuses is, “a high-energy, kick-ass rock show.  We’re jumping around very much like an early Van Halen show.  There’s lots of energy, lots of fun — we bring the party onstage.”

And will the Golden State be invited to Trixter’s party?  You can bet your Marshallstacks on it.  “We’re going to be coming to California the third week of August, and we can’t wait to see you,” Brown confirms.  “And to all our fans out there, we miss you.  It’s been a long time since we’ve played there, and we’re looking forward to it.  I can’t wait for everybody out there to hear New Audio Machine.  I think it’s the best Trixter record we’ve ever made.”


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