Interviewed by Brian Rademacher
Date: July 16th, 2006
When you first started in music even before Mabel and Studs, you must have had a garage band. What was the name of that band and did you sing or play any instruments?
I was 15 when I joined Mabel, so all there was before was just a bit of messing around with my friends at our local youth club.
Do you remember as a child the first time you sang on tape?
I was 13 when I recorded an album with our Theatre/Vocal group at the youth club.
It was great and of course I took it very serious, as I do with everything.
What kind of kid was Mike Tramp in high school? Did you play sports, how were your grades, were you in any clubs?
A kid who enjoyed his youth, and loved his friends… soccer came before anything and my friends and I played from morning to night 7 days a week. Girls were not a part of my life; I wanted to be with the boys. My grades were good, but I never aimed at anything special, just enjoyed life.
What was the first album or record you ever got as a kid?
Never got any album, bought it myself. It was “Slade in Flame” and it is still one of my favorite albums. The day the movie came out. My friends and I saw it 5 times in one day.
How about the first concert you went to?
Alvin Lee, Ten years after I was too young to understand that kind of rock ’n’ roll, but it was cool. 13 years later, I opened up for him in Hartford Ct, with White Lion.
Tell us about the first job you had up until you started in music?
I’ve only had one job, and it lasted 3 months delivering groceries. I was 13.
Tell us a little about the two bands we mentioned Mabel and Studs?
They are one and the same. Mabel was an established band with members who were 10 years older than I was. Years later I had taken over and written all the songs going the hard rock way, aiming at going to the USA. I then changed it to Studs (the chrome studs on leather jackets and belts) little did I know that some look at it as the Village People. The name was changed on the flight to New York. We arrived as “Lion”
When you moved from Denmark to the US in 1982, did you play in any bands before White Lion?
As I mentioned above, Mabel had turned into Studs and played hard rock, I had become the leader and we went to the States and became Lion. In November ’82, we played L’amour's with Dreamer, which was Vito’s band. People started talking that he and I should play together. When Lion ended its reign in December and went back to Denmark. I returned to NYC in March and looked up Vito. The rest is history.
When you recorded “Fight To Survive” in 1983, and was released by Elektra Records and in 1984 were picked up by RCA records. Were there any changes to the record from when it was originally going to be released?
No it is the same album.
Was the cover going to be the same as originally planned?
Cover has always been the same… although we did a big band photo session in front of the big White Lions at the NYC Library. At the end, I asked the Photographer if she could do one shot of me, lying in the lions claws. When we went to Elektra to look at the artwork, they had chosen that shot. The band and I was pissed. But I knew that was the way it would turn out. The band photo was boring and posed. My shot was what David Lee Roth would have done. It was not ego, just a better cover.
I remember I saw you in 1987, when the “Pride” CD was about to be released you played Poughkeepsie, New York a club called the Chance. You played “Lady of the Valley” and said it was going to be on the upcoming CD. Did you think that song was going to be the breakout song on that release?
No, we never thought that way. Just knew that “Lady Of The Valley” was a great live song… I remember The Chance very well.
How was it working with Michael Wagener?
Michael is one of my closest friends today. Back then, it was just fun to work with him and he fitted well with us. He is just a person who blends well with the band he works with. Never wanting to move away from what the band is. Just bringing out the best in the band, supporting the bands vision by enhancing it with his engineering talent. I love Michael.
Can you tell us what it was like touring with Ace Frehley and any special moments?
It was a lot of fun, and the next step in what we going for. Ace was a real person.
What did White Lion have on their rider at the height of success?
We were never a band that went for decadence or overdoing it.
Beer, soda, fruit, sandwich stuff.
You played with some great acts like Aerosmith, Ozzy Osbourne, Stryper, KISS and AC/DC. Can you tell us what your feelings were about playing with these five acts and any special moments?
Aerosmith were fantastic and great to us. Tyler and I became good friends. AC/DC what can I say, one of the best bands in the world, I love them. But we never met them. Still their crew and production just treated us so well. Ozzy and I got real close and I shared many special moments with him. Zakk Wylde is a great player and cool guy. Stryper became our friends. Kiss is not real. Gene and Paul live in another world, they should keep the makeup on all day, and then it would be easier to understand why they behave that way. We spent a lot of time with the late Eric Carr he was very real.
Still we’re grateful for getting to tour a month with Kiss.
MTV helped a lot in the success with many bands and White Lion's show at the Ritz was filmed and later aired on MTV. With being so successful with White Lion, did it affect your outlook for your future?
I don’t think it change our outlook on anything. But MTV changed the lives and careers of every band in the 80’s, so much that it became impossible to move on in the 90’s and many bands broke up because of that.
Vito Bratta won Best New Guitarist awards in Guitar World magazine did you find it difficult to work with Vito in the later years of White Lion?
Vito won because he was a great guitarist, very different from the others that were around at the same time. Vito was the same from day one to the day we stopped working together and the day we stopped talking to each other.
White Lion focused on many issues. What was the most important issue you wrote about and why?
I focused on issues no one else cared about… anything social. My outlook was more from my European upbringing. Vito told me that saving whales doesn’t sell albums.
After “Mane Attraction” and “The Best Of…” came out, did the band completely fold or did you have songs waiting for the next release and were any recorded?
“Best Of…” was all Atlantic’s doing, we had nothing to do with it. No other White Lion songs beside the ones on the albums have ever been recorded.
You went on to form Freak of Nature who released three CD’s. With you being successful, were there any high profile musicians that wanted to be a part of Freak of Nature that never ended up part of the band?
No there weren’t any, but at the same time I wanted to build a band of fresh blood, not a band that constantly refers to all the bands the members have been in. It was enough that I had been in White Lion.
After Freak of Nature, you started your solo work with the first release “Capricorn” in 1998. When you first started writing the material for “Capricorn,” did you have in mind what direction you wanted it to sound like or did it just evolve?
I have always said loud and clear. That what I do on my solo albums is 100% who I am. Put me with Vito and you get White Lion and so on.
You never really stopped touring or making music. Did you ever get depressed or think about leaving music?
From 1988, and till the day I die, I will feel that way every second day. It can get so bad that I just want to run away. I can’t explain it. Sometimes I look at it all and think it’s a joke and I don’t want to be part of it. It might be hard to understand or for that matter believe. But I was always in this for the music and creating the music. You can have all the glam, glory and what have you. I throw up when I catch a glimpse of Rockstar and see what it has all turned into. What happened to a cold basement going through one singer after another. Fuck this!
Is Mike Tramp a family man at this time in your life?
Yes I am, I am also a friend’s man… loyal all the way.
Your last release coming in 2004, on Frontiers called “Songs I Left Behind.” It seems many of the song are sentimental and much mellower? Some of those songs would be great done all acoustically. Would you ever consider that? Doing an acoustic album?
All my songs are written on acoustic guitar; therefore, I can sit and play them all that way. It’s the origin of the song. Yes I will do an album like that. I just got so burned out with the unplugged thing.
It has been almost two years since that CD, what is Mike Tramp up to these days and what brought you to Australia?
I could release an album every 3 months. It’s not up to me; it’s finding the way to have it released a decent way. I followed my ex and my son here. Had to be where my son is, he is my life.
When can fans expect a new CD and do you have a title or song names for a new record?
My new album is done, but its being put a bit aside for an old but recent project coming back to life… will announce soon on my site and everywhere else.
Have you been approached to sing on other artists releases?
A few… none have been right.
Will you play any dates in The US this year?
Early next year.
How about I ask you a few word questions and you tell me your feeling?
I follow no religion, but was born a Christian. I hate people who speak and force religion on others. It should be kept inside your own walls, just like your sexual preferences. Don’t ever engage in an argument about religion with me, I am ruthless. At the same time, I will never bring it up.
I believe there is one creator of everything, and he has left it to us to sort out.
You should always give and do what ever you can for whatever you are involved with.
There once was such a thing, but now I don’t what it is.
Yes! Although since I was 15, I have lived by myself traveled the world and for most of it, only seen my mom for two weeks a year. My mom gave me the freedom to choose my destiny. I hope I can be there for her the last years of her life.
Without them, the big stars wouldn’t be driving around in a new car everyday.
For the rest of us, knowing that there is still someone out there who will pick up your new album the day it comes out and making you feel you still got it.
It is how rock ’n’ roll became big; it’s what separates the men from the boys.
Today with so many TV shows. IT’s harder and harder to tour for a small band.
But it is the only way to feel the energy, when it comes off the stage and into your face.
It’s evolution at work. There had just been an overload of 80’s music and image and even ourselves, felt the need to come down from the trees and start walking elsewhere.
Queen, Thin Lizzy, Bruce Springsteen
Is what an insecure person projects…I don’t have one.
Millions of innocent people die, millions of soldiers don’t come back to raise their kids and love their wives. Still we have to understand that it is the need for man to do this and there will always be a war somewhere. Don’t for once believe it will end. The day people turn off their TV and join force, maybe there’s hope, but I don’t believe so, not for a single moment.
The State of the World
Everybody wants everything for himself or herself.
The world is in a bad state, it won’t get better… just faster, bigger till it can’t handle any more. I don’t fear for myself, but wonder what it will be like for my kids.
I don’t like children, never wanted children. I have a son and a daughter, which of course, are the loves of my life and for whom I would lay down my life.
We wrote some great songs together and made it big.
I can’t figure him out, don’t speak to him, but that is more his doing. Vito was never a person who lifted a finger when it came to maintaining a friendship.
Tomorrow is a new day and I will push forward, never retreating, never surrendering.
As long as there is someone, out there wanting to hear my rock ’n’ roll-- I will be there.
Mike, I know this is a long interview and I hope that some of the questions we asked are ones you have not answered before. You made many fans and people happy with your music over the years and we hope you continue to bring joy to the world. Would you like to say anything in conclusion?
It’s all cool, I enjoyed it. Nice not to have those usual dumb ass hair questions and so on. Stay tune to news coming up on www.miketramp.com.
Long live Mark Messier #11