Steve Brown in a busy dude – whether riding high as guitarist in his longtime band Trixter, riding shotgun as fill-in guitarist with Def Leppard when needed due to Vivian Campbell’s medical treatments, riding solo as a one-man band gigging around New Jersey and New York, or riding the melodic wave that Frontiers Records seems to be generating in his new project Tokyo Motor Fist. While the anticipation builds for a February 24th release of the debut release from Tokyo Motor Fist, Steve fielded a phone call from us to discuss this project and so much more…
Toddstar: Still with me Steve?
Steve: Yeah, I’m here brother.
Toddstar: Awesome, thanks man. Well Listen Steve, I really appreciate you taking time out. You seem to be going in a hundred directions all at the same time and keeping it all under the radar, so again we appreciate your time.
Steve: Oh, of course man, yeah. It’s kind of what I do man. I got a lot of different projects, bands that I’m playing with, a lot of hats I’m wearing, so its all good.
Toddstar: Well let’s start with a new one, the reason we’re talking today. You’ve got a new project – Tokyo Motor Fist and its debut release hitting this Friday. How did this thing come together? This project has a killer roster.
Steve: It is, yeah. It’s kind of like, rock and roll family. Chuck, Ted, and Greg have been friends of mine for probably over 30 years and you know, Frontiers Records came to me about a year and a half ago with the idea of doing this. Serafino the president wanted me to do a record with Ted, and I said, “Yeah of course. It’ll be great.” You know, I mean what’s better? Combine Trixter and Danger Danger, which would give us a great melodic rock record, and then they asked who I’d get to play drums and bass and I didn’t really have to think about it at all, because Greg and Chuck have always been around. Chuck Burgi lives the next town over from me so I know that that would be easy, and the lineage. The fact that both of those guys played in Rainbow together. Perfect rhythm section for Tokyo Motor Fist, and the combination of the four of us has made an awesome awesome record that I can’t wait for the world to hear.
Toddstar: I can’t wait for them to hear it either, because I can’t stop spinning it. Unfortunately for me, it’s only a stream so I can’t even throw it in my car CD player yet. This thing from the opening note of “Picking up the Pieces” all the way through “Falling Apart” like you said, it’s a solid melodic rock record, but what I like about this album – and I hope you chime in – is a lot of melodic records, especially when you throw Ted Poley’s voice on top a lot of listeners think ‘This is a Ted record,’ but with the guitar work, I’m pulled back to 1990 and the opening strands of some of those Trixter tracks thanks to your riffs. Is that something that when you were pulling this together you said, “Okay, you know everybody’s going to hear a voice, but I want to make sure they know who’s playing guitar?”
Steve: Well I think that was the key, I mean one of the key elements for me making this album was that we give the fans everything they expect from us, you know, you’re going to get a Trixter, Danger Danger sound, some Def Leppard, Bon Jovi, Van Halen a little bit of that, but a lot more you know. I think the record itself has everybody’s identity on it. You certainly hear Ted’s amazing vocals and I think he’s done some of his best vocal work to date on this project. My distinguished guitar parts of course. I’m so proud of the solos and all the different layers of guitars that I put on this CD, and the wild card is that Chuck Burgi, in his return to 80s style rock drumming, that classic double bass, you know, just pounding rock drumming, you know. For Chuck you know he’s been playing in Billy Joel’s band for the last 10 years or whatnot, so he doesn’t really get to play this style of, that kind of he was famous for when he was in Rainbow in the 80’s and stuff like that, but it’s really, really amazing and Greg Smith, one of the greatest rock bassists on the scene, and he really stepped up and put some bass lines and some feels in these songs that totally took them to another level. So, I think the Tokyo Motor Fist album has all of our personalities in it, and that was one of the most important things that I told the guys. Because the songs were already written. I wrote all the songs and when I gave the guys the songs to start learning. My order to them was, “You need to take these songs and make them your own. Put your own personal stamp on it. Ted take my vocal lines that I already did and make it your own,” and that’s what exactly everybody did.
Toddstar: That’s good, because to have everybody put their own little piece into it really does make it a project, and not a Steve Brown album with these other guys on it.
Steve: Yeah, I mean that was very important to me and that is what I think makes the Tokyo Motor Fist CD very unique, because you hear everybody’s individuality on it yet it is a band it has its own identity. Another thing that I’m very proud of with the CD is the fact that I think what I said before. It has all the elements you’d expect from us, but it’s got things that you wouldn’t expect from us, which I think are some of the coolest parts of the CD. There’s some darker elements to it. A ballad like “Don’t Let Me Go,” which Ted just brings in just an incredible vocal performance. It’s not the type ballad you might expect. It’s not that happy-go-lucky type thing. It’s a dark, eerie kind of sounding thing and so I’m really proud of those facts. A song like “Put Me to Shame”, which is one of the heavier tracks from the record, has just a really cool old school, high and dry, Def Leppard vibe to it but yet then again it has some, the middle section to the song, has this progressive rock breakdown section. Almost metal, which is really cool. I’m really psyched with the fact that a lot of people are picking up on that. That this isn’t just a kind of thrown together project. This is done with a lot of care and with a lot of love, especially for our fans. That we’re giving them something that, like I said before, something you’d expect from us but yet it has elements that you wouldn’t expect, thus taking this record to a whole other level.
Toddstar: That’s what’s fun about it for the fans. What are the odds that Tokyo Motor Fist will be taking this to the fans and hitting a stage somewhere? Is it even a thought or a possibility?
Steve: Oh yeah, I mean, totally dude. It’s definitely… we’ve talked about it. We are hoping to get some offers for some festivals this year. Anything can happen it’s so early in the year. One thing I can tell you is what we have talked about as a band, how the show is going to be, and what it’s going to be. It’s probably going to be about five or six Tokyo Motor Fist songs, and then the rest of the show is going to be hits of all the bands we’ve been associated with. So, you’re going to hear some Trixter, you’re going to hear some Danger Danger, you’re going to hear some Rainbow, you’ll year some Ted Nugent, maybe Alice Cooper. Who knows? Maybe even a Billy Joel song, maybe a Def Leppard song. So it’s going to be like a cool celebration and I know the fans will love it, and the great thing about the band is that Ted, myself, and Greg Smith we’re all lead singers. So vocally we could pretty much cover anything which really is going to enable us to really put some really cool songs in the set list and have some fun.
Toddstar: You mentioned you’re a lead singer as well, and something people may or may not know is Steve Brown has a one man band.
Steve: Hahaha, oh yeah. I’m a jack of all trades. So you know, I do acoustic gigs all around New York, New Jersey, wherever. It’s just another part of being a self-employed musician, man. You got to always have money coming in, so whether it’s guitar lessons, whether it’s producing bands in my studio, or playing acoustic gigs in my one man band, in my cover band. I play in an 80’s band called Rubik’s Cube as well so I’m always working, man. That’s the key. I’ve got a family to support.
Toddstar: That’s it, and building on that. With everything that you do, and you’ve thrown the band name out there a couple times you know Def Leppard, you were a kid in 1990 when you were coming out, and these guys were already huge. What was it like for you to be able to step in and do some dates with them?
Steve: Well, you know look man, to play with Def Leppard – when I was 12 years old listening to Pyromania, back then I never would have imagined that I’d be on stage playing in the band, and this year going on five years being part of the machinery and helping them out. Yeah, you know like I tell people man, I’ve worked all my life to get to that point, and luckily my friendships with those guys, Phil Collen especially. He’s one of my best friends and like a brother to me. When Vivian was diagnosed with cancer he told the guys, “I got the guy. I got the fill in. He’s the perfect dude.” They knew who I was. Joe was actually a big fan of my 40 Ft Ringo band that I had a couple of years ago. So it made absolute sense, but to finally get to do it… it’s like what I tell people, dude. I’m finally in the big leagues. Playing with Def Leppard man, you know, all the great things I’ve done with Trixter and various other bands. I was never at that headline status if you know what I mean and being Def Leppard, you really don’t get much bigger than that in the hard rock scene. So to play with them and be able to go to London and play Wembley Stadium, be able to get to fly in Lear jets, all the perks – limousines, Ritz Carlton, Four Seasons, great hotels and you know, like I said, being in the big leagues man. It’s just the greatest feeling in the world and those guys they’re great friends, they’re my rock and roll, my British rock and roll brothers and they treated me like I was an equal part of the band. I didn’t have a separate dressing room. I got changed with them and unchanged with them every night. So it was just an incredible, incredible experience. The tour starts back up in April, and I think my role will still be there to be on call for them like I have been for the last five years. The work speaks for itself. I kicked ass with them and did all that I was expected and more and you know I just love it. Being that a fact that they’re also one of my favorite bands in the world and the band that I basically… every piece of music that I write and produce, engineer, and mix I use Def Leppard as the bench point you know as the bench mark. So to finally get to play “Photograph,” “Foolin'” and all those hits with them was just… it doesn’t get much better than that.
Toddstar: I can only imagine. You know, you mentioned you never hit that plateau, and granted, back when you broke with Trixter, rock and roll metal, whatever you want to call it, that I grew up with was such a changing landscape. But for a band to come out in 1990 and drop a really good rock record and hit gold, that’s an achievement. You guys might not have been headlining, but for you guys to do what you did really made everybody stand up and say, “Maybe this isn’t dead yet.”
Steve: Yeah, I’ve said this numerous times. I’m the luckiest guy in the world man. Every dream I’ve ever had in the music business came true 100 times over. I’m not discounting the success. Trixter, we rode a small wave and had incredible success for a short period of time, got to tour, you know playing every arena opening up for Poison, Scorpions, Kiss, Warrant. The greatest things in the world. Though I wish, you know one thing I wish, our record came out like a year earlier, but so be it. The success we had, maybe not as big as I would have liked or the band that we would have hoped for bigger success, but at least we got a piece of it, and I’m so proud of all we’ve accomplished and to this day we still have a career because of it.
Toddstar: And the cool part for me again as a fan, as one of those guys who ran and picked up, back in the day a cassette…
Steve: Oh yeah!
Toddstar: I got to see you guys come to life once again at Rocklahoma. It was just phenomenal because you guys didn’t miss a lick, even though you’d gone out and done other projects like 40 Ft Ringo and things like that. You didn’t miss a lick and then you guys started releasing new material through Frontiers back in 2012 and 2015 with two great albums that showed growth. Is there still a feather in the cap that says, “Trixter is still around. We’ve still got the licks and we’re still going to bring them to you”?
Steve: Of course man, you know, I’m a very proud man. I believe… and getting back to Trixter reforming. When we got back together playing Rocklahoma for a show, yeah it was very much like we’ve never stopped, and that’s because, first off, because of how much we missed it and how much we loved it. But there is something to be said when you have the all original guys in the band. With Pete, Gus, and PJ and to just get out there and just do what you do. It’s natural for us. There were minimal rehearsals and we just got out on stage and did what we did and kicked ass, and getting onto making the records in 2012, New Audio Machine, when I presented the guys with the idea some of the guys in the band were kind of like, “I don’t know if that’s a good idea,” and I told the guys, “Listen, I want to make this record and I guarantee you it’s going to be awesome.” I said “As a producer, writer, making the record here in my studio I guarantee you this records going to be awesome.” And sure enough, when we made New Audio Machine and released it the critics all around the world, fans, everybody loved it and it gave us, it re-energized us, and gave us a new level of confidence, and that took that to 2015 when we released Human Era which both of those albums I think are as good if not better than our first two records from back in the 90s, the debut Trixter record, and the Hear record. I couldn’t be prouder of that fact because it’s very rare that a band can, after not making an all original album for the better part of 20 plus years, to come out with their best works in the latter part of their career. It says something, and we definitely take pride in our live show and that we still look good and that we put on still a high energy show and I think the band is, like I said, as good if not better than we ever were.
Toddstar: And I have to agree. Again that Rocklahoma show was phenomenal and I was one of the guys lucky enough to see you guys when you did the opening swing for KISS back in the early 90s so.
Steve: There you go man.
Toddstar: You know, you do so much, you talk about producing and you’ve done so much, but if you could call in any one collaborator to do a song with, who’s out there that you’d really like to get in the studio, either as a writer, a performer, or you’d just want to sit behind the mixing board and produce them.
Steve: Well, first and foremost, I would love to write and produce a song with Mutt Lang. Whether it’s me solo, or with one of my projects, but to get to work with Mutt. You know I met up once back in 1988 with the Def Leppard guys on the Hysteria tour but you know he’s one of my heroes as a producer and a writer and, kind of like I said before, the benchmark of everything I do is based on Def Leppard or Mutt Lang. What would Mutt Do? What would Def Leppard do, and that’s always in my mind. So that would be one and I think on another level I would love to produce a Van Halen record. Eddie Van Halen certainly is a dear friend of mine, or old friend but he’s the reason why I’m here today. If it wasn’t for Van Halen and Eddie Van Halen I wouldn’t be who I am. That’s for damn sure.
Toddstar: Steve, you opened the door, so I’m going to see if I can kick it open a little bit further – which version of Van Halen?
Steve: Of course, I’m partial to the Dave version. At this point though it really wouldn’t make a difference to me, because I love both versions of the band. You know of course the early Van Halen records were the songs that shaped my musical career, but I love certain aspects of the Sammy stuff just like I love the Dave era stuff. That would be tough. Sammy is a much better singer than Dave, especially nowadays, so I think if I probably had the opportunity I would probably want to work with Sammy. You know what I’d really like to see? Steve Brown and Mutt Lang produce a Sammy Hagar fronted Van Halen record. I think that would be incredible.
Toddstar: There you go. That would be incredible. I know you’re busy Steve, so I got one more for you before we let you move on. If you could go back in time, and if there’s one thing that you think in your career that was a misstep and you could fix it, is there anything that you would redo?
Steve: I wouldn’t say misstep, but I’d say missed opportunity for Trixter was at the tail end of the Hear album cycle, 1992 or 1993 we had an opportunity to open for Bon Jovi on the Keep the Faith tour in Europe playing these soccer stadiums. Bon Jovi, of course, we all know the huge worldwide phenomenon that that band has, is, and still is to this day, but unfortunately for us it was a type of thing where there was something called a “buy on.” To where they needed, where Bon Jovi wanted like $150,000 for us to do it, and unfortunately our record company at the time didn’t have enough belief in us because of course that was the height of grunge and they kind of saw the writing on the wall and we didn’t have the access to those kinds of funds, so I wish, we could have gotten to do that tour, because I believe had we been able to do Europe, opening up for Bon Jovi. I think we still would have had a career through the 90s. As opposed to having to shut it down for a while. So that was one, that definitely was something that still bothers me to this day that we weren’t able to make that happen, because I do believe that if we would have done that tour with Bon Jovi in Europe we would have gotten a huge European fan base and still been able to work over there.
Toddstar: Fair enough, man. Other than the killer debut from Tokyo Motor Fist, a new project featuring Steve Brown on guitars, vocals, and production, what else have you got coming at us that we can keep our eyes open for Steve?
Steve: Well you know, Trixter of course, has got a bunch of dates coming up in the new year and 2017 as always, I’m doing shows playing guitar for Danger Danger, which is really great cause those guys, Steve, Bruno, and Ted my rock and roll brothers here, and you know I just got done doing the Monsters of Rock cruise with them. We’re going to be doing more shows. I’m headed to California in a week in a half, with my good friend Joel Hoekstra from Whitesnake, and we are going to be camp counselors for the Deep Purple Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp. So if you haven’t signed up for that, that’s going to be incredible. Glen Hughes, Ian Pace, Steve Morse, and Mark Farner from Grand Funk Railroad, are going to be the stars of that, so that’s my first rock and roll fantasy camp, so really looking forward to that. Then at the end of April, PJ and I, from Trixter, we are going to Japan playing with our very dear friend Eric Martin in the Eric Martin Band. We’re doing a thing. They’re calling it like a U.S.A. Pop Brigade and we’re going to be going over doing a lot of Eric Martin band songs, and Mr. Big songs, some Trixter, maybe some PJ Farley solos, some of my solo stuff, you never know, but we’re really looking forward to that. It’s been a long time, 25 years since I’ve been to Japan, so I can’t wait to get back there, and who knows Def Leppard tour starts up in April, and this is going to be my fifth year with those guys so. Usually I’m on call with them, should Vivian have to get some treatments and miss some of the shows, we’ll see, man, but as always, just busy, busy. Playing in my 80s band, Rubik’s Cube, all around the country, all around the world, and you know just always making music and keeping my name out there.
Toddstar: That’s awesome because we need some Steve Brown, some Trixter, whatever project you want to throw us here in Detroit. Luckily at the end of March I’m going to be able to head down to Toledo and see you when you play the festival down there at Savage Arena.
Steve: Dude were you there last year? It’s awesome. It’s one of the best shows, so we go on very early and it’s sold out, five thousand people. It’s awesome. We had such a blast and this year the lineup is even better. Cheap Trick headlining so we’ll find them. It was an old joke from back in the day. Our managers tried to put together Cheap Trick and Trixter touring together, and they were billing it the Cheap Trixter tour. But we never got to do it, so that show, March 25th down in Toledo is going to be the beginning maybe the first and last show of the Cheap Trixter tour.
Toddstar: Awesome, well I can’t wait to be a part of it.
Steve: Yes – us and Warrant will be there. Warrant’s got a great new record coming out in a couple months so yep, you’ll be great.
Toddstar: Awesome. Well, man, I can’t wait to see you then, and until then good luck with this record debut on Friday.
Steve: Cool man. Thanks so much, and thanks everybody for all the support, and we’ll see you soon.
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