Mike Tramp Interview
Mike Tramp used to front the band “White Lion”. Signed to Atlantic
Records in 1983. “White Lion” sold 6 million records and had 4
Top 40 singles, including the classic “When The Children Cry”.
After “White Lion” broke up in 1991, Mike formed a new band, Freak
Of Nature, who recorded two albums released only in Europe and Asia. For the
next couple of years, Mike and Freak Of Nature focused on playing “live” in
Europe and Asia to promote the albums, but, after 400 shows, Mike decided he
had had enough.
Mike has just released his first solo CD titled “Capricorn” on
CMC International Records.
We talked with Mike about that CD and his time with “White Lion”.
Q – Mike, since there is no song on the CD called “Capricorn”,
could that be your astrological sign?
A – I am a Capricorn. This record is a musical photo album of my life.
Everything on that record is me, one hundred percent. I took the money out
of my own bank account to pay for this record. I didn’t have a record
deal when I did the album. So, every single lyric in this is so close to my
life that I felt naming it Capricorn, being a Capricorn myself would be the
ultimate. That’s how personal the album is.
Q – Listening to the lyrics in some of your songs,
they do seem rather dark. In “If I Live Tomorrow” you write, “Worlds
crumbling down, maybe I won’t make it through”. In “Have
You Ever” you write, “Have you ever held a loaded gun and pressed
it to your head”? In “Running Out Of Life” you sing, “Yeah
I gotta do something ‘cause I’ve been down the drain for way
too long”. Mike, did you ever really feel that way? Did the break-up
of “White Lion” cause you some pain?
A – You pulled out some very important lyrics. Let’s start with “If
I Live Tomorrow” which I basically kind of felt like hey I’m sitting
here watching it. At times I use different analogies to describe the music
world which I was part of is crumbling. I’m saying, here I am, if I live
tomorrow, if I live into the 90’s, maybe I won’t waste it. I’m
trying to say if I live tomorrow, I’ll try to do the best. When we jump
to “Have You Ever”, I think about my life in that song, about birth,
about having my father leave me early. Understanding that when I look back,
in my life, how important my mom has really been in saying go with what you
believe in, and I will believe in you. As we get to the third verse, yes there
was that time between 1991 and 1998 that I was so down the consideration of
taking the final step was in my head.
Q – That’s unbelievable considering who you
are, and what you’ve done.
A – I understand, because you only see the picture and the record. The
biggest disappointment for me has always been, realizing that on a down side,
how few friends, I’m talking about true friends; I’ve had in all
the time I’ve had going around. The major record co. that used to be
your record co. won’t take your phone call. I went out of my way to be
a nice guy. Your reality is you’ve spent so many years in the music business
you really don’t feel like you belong anywhere else. I’m not turning
my back on the past. The years with White Lion were great. Thank God for all
the world I got to see and all the big shows. But, the Mike Tramp that really
is and always has been is the one on “Capricorn”. The only difference
is, I had to go through this experience first before I could sit down and commit
to writing the truth.
Q – Is it a plus or minus for you, having that
past association with “White Lion” as you go around to the radio
stations with your new CD?
A – Well, you know, it’s been fifty, fifty. Fifty percent of the
stations have chosen just to introduce it, as Mike Tramp. Then there’s
also the stations with the keeping the 80’s program alive that I end
up on. Obviously they’re thrilled that I’m there. So, in reality
I’m not running away from my past, but it’s unfortunate that anybody
would turn the radio off because this guy used to be from White Lion and remember
it. So far now, I’ve worked my way up from the South and they have been
nothing but positive. But, I am very aware that we are battling certain bigger
stations that are prejudice against it because I’m supposed to be from
the 80’s, even though the record has nothing to do with the past. It
is me by myself, and it’s different. That’s not fair. They’re
judging me before you let the people hear the music. They, in the end, should
be the ones to decide. It has been proven so far, that when the people get
to hear the songs without too much introduction, they judge on the music.
Q – Is it too early at this point to be thinking
about tour dates?
A – No. Hopefully we’ll be announcing some tour dates with a major
band in the U.S. Obviously my final step in making a record is the stag. That
is why I make music. That is where I exist, being onstage, playing my music “live”.
That’s what I live for.
Q – How long did it take you to put “Capricorn” together?
I’m talking writing and recording.
A – After White Lion, I was in a band called “Freak Of Nature”.
We were only out in Europe and Japan. We are trying to get those two CD’s
released for people who really want to know what that sounded like. Once the
band was over, I sat down and said o.k. now I’m going solo. I’ve
been writing all my life. I’ve always left the songs on tapes, because
I always wrote with the guys in the band. But, this time I just sat down and
started writing and it really came easy. But, I really wanted to make sure
I had a style, and I knew for the first time I was gonna stick to something,
all the way through. So I basically ended up over ’95 and ’96 writing
a hundred songs and doing demos of them in my own little studio at home. The
best thing about that was when I listened to songs 50 and 100 together, they
both were from the same artist and there was no doubt that the same artist
had written those songs. That’s what I wanted to achieve. When I sat
down to record the material and go into the studio, I knew exactly what I wanted
to do. There was very little experimentation going on. I just wanted to capture
a sound that I heard somewhere along the way from rock “n” roll.
Just an artist playing the songs from his heart, true to the music. In reality,
I wasn’t in the studio any longer than a month and really being a week
longer than I needed. Then after that, I spent about 2 weeks mixing the record.
Nobody was involved in the record besides myself, meaning in decision making.
I didn’t have a record co. at that time. I produced the record myself.
Once we made the basic tracks and the band left, there was really just me and
the engineer. I lived in the studio during the recording, so I kept that environment
all through the recording so nothing from the outside would side track me which
has happened in the past.
Q – Why couldn’t you have done in “White
Lion” what you’re now doing as a solo artist? And, why did “White
Lion” have to break-up?
A – It’s almost like I’m going to have to answer the last
question first. Even though there’s two people in there writing the songs,
the 80’s were a phenomenal decade. Unfortunately, most people wanted
to be rock stars, instead of trying to build a longevity. That includes the
manager and the record co. Nobody, after the first record succeeded, really
was concerned about what the band was doing and where the band was heading.
The concern was really how quickly can we get the next record out and how can
we get on the next tour. As things like that happen, you start to get the negative
things. The second record does not have the same numbers, as the first. We
don’t have the same hit on the second one. By the time you get to the
third album, the band is not the same band that started out in the basement
of Brooklyn, New York. We’ve been influenced by money. We live in four
different places. I live in California. Vito lives in Staten Island. And the
other guys are scattered somewhere else. When we try to catch up on the third
and final record, it becomes a rescue mission, instead of a true and honest
record from a band. So much money is put into it, it’s bound to fail.
The record co. I think has basically let go of the band, because they have
signed the next two follow-up bands, to White Lion. And, at that time, there’s
no hope. Mike Tramp would not be able to make the decision and write the lyrics
in 1988 when everything was 200 girls backstage between every show, big tour
buses and big arenas. You write those lyrics when you sit in your little house,
and the phone doesn’t ring and no friends are coming around. You get
into what I call my own little war room, where you create, and bring out your
Q – I couldn’t let you go without asking
what are the other guys in “White Lion” doing these days?
A – The bass player James Lomenzo ended up playing in a band called Pride
And Glory with Zak Wylde. He ended up doing all the artwork and black and white
pictures for my album cover. Vito, the guitar player that I wrote all the songs
with has not left the house since September 2 of the last White Lion Show.
That’s just too bad. I talk to him all the time. He’s a phenomenal
talent, but, he has not been able to get out of bed. He has chosen that he
cannot do anything without me. I’m not sitting here praising myself,
but I know I was the motivation in that songwriting team. The drummer, well
he has become one of those bitter people that has done nothing but try to sue
the organization of White Lion for the last couple of years. I’ve been
out there working. I’ve never sat still. I’ve been out there battling
my own ghosts. I move on. ‘Til the day I die, I probably will be a musician.
© Gary James All Rights Reserved