Mike Tramp: The Road to Yourself
Июнь 22, 2015
Олеся Петроченкова (14 статей)
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Mike Tramp: The Road to Yourself

In the 80s White Lion was among the leading glam metal bands, topping the charts, with blonde handsome Danish singer Mike Tramp being at the front and on the magazine’s covers. However, moment of fame has ended for Lions, as well as for most of counterparts, at 1991. The band has split up, and though Mike has tried to come back with very different lineup in 2000’s, even he understood that he became very distant from White Lion as it was before.

He’s still very distant now, in 2015, when his hair isn’t as lush and the music isn’t that loud. More to say, it’s acoustic — as the latest couple of solo releases — «Cobblestone Street» (2013) and «Museum» (2014). Nowadays Mike isn’t aimed for stadiums, he’s happy with clubs, and he comes with no band, no bus full of groupies, only with guitar in hand. This interview was done by email in anticipation of first Mike’s solo concert in Russia, that went very well at 26 February 2015. Mike Tramp spent his time answering thoroughly our questions and wrote some interesting insight about his feelings towards Kiss, Bob Dylan, and the most important — what is it like to be Mike Tramp.

Hi, Mike. We’re waiting for your visit impatiently. This is a great luck for all your Russian fans. So, tell us about your new album “Museum” and its record process.
Well to start with, it’s important that fans understand that for many many years, actually since my first solo album in 1997. I have gone in a different direction than what people remember me from in White Lion. The sound of Mike Tramp is the a sound that represent who I am and not just something I do. Museum is the latest album in that family.

Why did you chose the song “Trust in Yourself” to be a single?
These days singles are not as important than back in the days when MTV and Radio played our songs. But Trust in yourself, is one of the most true songs that represent Mike Tramp, it is Mike Tramp, so if this was the first time they heard Mike Tramp with this song, I’d very happy.

“Trust in Yourself” has really strong lyrics. Is it truly your life philosophy and the reflection of you and your thoughts?
Yes it is, and even though I don’t want to say anything wrong. There are very few artist from the ’80’s family that write songs like Mike Tramp and i think I represent something new, but at the same time always the old too and when I say old I mean classic songwriting like Dylan, Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen.

In an earlier interview, you’ve said that ‘you’re an acoustic artist way before you’re a hard rocker’. How do you think, could you make albums like “Cobblestone Street” and “Museum” 30 years ago?
Not as Mike Tramp, because back then I had just started out on my journey and had to go through a lot of stuff to come back to myself. But what I do, many great songwriters have been doing since the dawn of music, and I am just doing my part in keeping it alive and I don’t want to change.

What do you think about contemporary rock stage? How did the rock music change over the past 30 years?
Well it sure has changed, but the business have changed more than the music. These days the music have adapted to the business side and i would almost say that you really can’t create anything new, all has been done. I know it is difficult for many, and I have decided that what is most important, is that I stick to my guns and only do what I want to no matter if it is successful or not.

Is there something like a spirit of 80’s, musically? What are the main features? Do you feel yourself linked to it still?
There is a space where that exists, because some people/fans wants to re-live that feeling even though they are 30 years older. Nothing new has been able to replace that in their hearts. Of course I am part of it in some ways because of White Lion was a big band from the ’80’s. But I try to combine what I do today with some of the old. As I just play by myself, it is easier to make the songs that are 30 years apart feel and sound similar, cause they come from the same songwriter and voice.

How do you feel now, what is 80’s melodic metal (or so-called hair-metal)? Was it all natural born, reflecting «zeitgest» and atmosphere of that day and age, or somehow a distorted view, affected by fashion and MTV?
Yes it many ways. It was a natural progression from the ’60’s and ’70’s and music also has a way of evolving including the image side of it. No doubt MTV was the biggest factor in that, it would be impossible to do today. Nothing is special anymore now that you have the internet and you can see people filming concerts on their shitty iPhones etc.

What inspired you to write the whole “Museum” album?
I am sorry to come up with such a simple answer, but all Mike Tramp albums are just a reflection and a expression of my life. I don’t need to be inspired, I just do who I am and I am very comfortable with that, I don’t want to be anything else.
It is possibly the greatest gift I have, just being happy with what i got.

What is a perfect creative atmosphere for you?
A room filled with vintage stuff from the old days, paintings, photos, books and artifacts and I have a room like that.
I sit down with all my acoustic guitars around me, a cup of tea and just soak up the fee;ling and inspiration of all the knowledge and art around me.

What is your favorite song on the “Museum” and why?
Trust in yourself because it has the DNA of Mike Tramp from start to finish. I love all my songs, but this is one of those that says it all. All of my solo albums have that kind of songs, and the next album will too.

Where you find more pleasure: in the recording process or being on the road and in touch with your audience?
I love it all, it’s kind of like a full day. The morning is different than the night and what’s in between. I don’t ever try to make one thing more important. And I say this again, I am always just being Mike Tramp, but there was a time I was many people at the same time and I didn’t like that it was very confusing.

How do you feel when you’re on stage?
There was a time when it was a show for sure, and the big White Lion shows were just that. Today I am the same in the studio as I am on stage and at home. i want to represent the true Mike Tramp and that I do by being me 24 hours a day.

This is your first visit to Russia. What do you expect from your Russian fans? And what do you think they look like?
HA, ha “What they look like”? I am sure we look the same, and I am sure that there isn’t much difference as rock’n’roll fans are the same around the world, they love music and I am looking forward to it, it is very special to me. I have had many Russian fan come to Germany or Czech Rep to see me, but now I come to them.

Are you preparing anything special for your Russian fans?
I would hope that coming there for the first time and playing songs that they love would be special enough and I think it will be. Don’t forget I am just a man with a guitar, this is not Kiss, it’s not a circus, it is real and I know the fans will leave feeling it was special.

Your first encounter to Russia will be with acoustic solo gig rather than rock concert. Do you see it as an advantage or just the way it is?
I don’t see it that way, I am Mike Tramp and the fans will hear that and no one will miss the explosions or make up and long guitar solos. There are many guys from the ’80’s that does unplugged once in a while. It is not what I do, I am what I do and there is a big difference, and you will see that.

Is it a big difference, when you need to switch between your rocker mode and singer/songwriter mode, both writing and playing?
NO, but I did that 20 years ago, and it’s really more about being yourself than anything else. I hate to say this, but don’t compare me to some 80’s rockers from LA who still think it’s 1988 and the limo is waiting to take them to supermarket.
I know I keep repeating my self over and over, but I am not Gene Simmons, I come from another planet, it’s called earth.

You recorded «Hymn to Ronnie» — very different approach to mere cover versions that other musicians did. You linked familiar song titles into lyrics! Please tell how it was written; was there a burst of inspiration, or long hard thoughts? Will you play it in Moscow?
Not long after Ronnie passed away I was writing for the album “Stand your ground” and the song suddenly came to me. I knew Ronnie and had toured with him in ’93 and he was a great inspiration to me since the Rainbow years. I wanted to make sure that my song was something specially and not an attempt to make a Dio song or sound like DIO, which everybody else did and have done ever since. There is only one Ronnie James Dio and my song is for him and about him, and yes I will play the song in Russia, it is a special song and about a special man.

What are the most important vocalists for you; musicians that shaped you as a singer? Any other artists that may inspire you to write a song about them?
The singers that I love, like Freddie Mercury, Ronnie James Dio, Steve Perry and Robert Plant. Have nothing to do with how I sing. There came a time long time ago when I realized I was just Mike Tramp and that was all I should try to be.

Your solo career, Freak of Nature and White Lion are different, but for sure important elements of your musical career as a whole. What can you say about every of these parts separately?
I have always followed the natural path of what felt right to me. Freak nature happened because I felt I was changing and White Lion didn’t fit me anymore, specially vocally. Therefore by following what feels natural and what you’re capable of, it becomes a much easier way to deal with changes. I only do what I can, including singing songs that I can sing. Id on’t want to be fat Elvis vocally wise. If I can’t sing I won’t sing.

Have you heard Russian heavy metal band Aria’s cover version of White Lion song «Cry for Freedom» (with translated lyrics, simply titled Freedom)? If yes, what do you think about it?
No I have not, but I am happy that I have written songs like that and those are the kind of songs that is Mike Tramp. The fans that follow me today, and the ones who can see their own life in my songs and that is a great feeling knowing you represent something that others also stand for.

Put it slightly different way, how different (better or not) White Lion might have been if same guys would come to age in 70’s or 2010’s?
Well we were too young for the ’70’s and if it had been 2010 it would have been impossible. It is really hard to say, cause the ’80’s was such a creative and productive time everything was positive and possible. But of course now looking back it is a different picture and of course I would change a lot if I could do it again. But I am grateful to what I have learned it has made me the person that I am and it has made me strong and unchangeable.

I bet you like various music; what’s the main common thing, something in music that makes you like it? (Or, to put it other way around, what makes a good song?)
I am quite old fashion or vintage and really stick to a lot of my roots and my inspirations. I didn’t grow up on Bon Jovi, he was competition, but I grew up on a lot of folk singers like Dylan and Neil Young etc. And those are the ones who have shaped me in to a song writer who sings about real life and the struggle, and it represent how i have been growing up. Of course I love classical music, world music and jazz, but it is for special times when i want to get away from the world I live and work in.

Do you listen to Indonesian music?
Yes I do, and it is always interesting if you can hear new bands (Indonesian) include roots and traditional music in their own songs. Most bands have an international influence and that is just the way it is, but if you can include your heritage then it becomes special.

What are the musical roots that fill you today?
Well I grew up in the late ’60’s and it is just a fact that it is where my roots come from. In Denmark there was a big folk artist movement around Vietnam and of course Dylan was a front runner of that and therefore came into my life early on. I didn’t know that it was what I would become and it’s hard to see when I did White Lion, but all my songs come from that basic way of writing and it has never changed. These days it is very obvious that my roots are not Dokken.

Any new music that gave you shivers recently?
It’s really really hard to answer that correctly and the answer is almost NO, I think the only new or current bad that have caught my ears are and that I love, isRival Sons. I am classic rock fan of ’60’s and ’70’s and that is where I remain. Same goes with books on history and other classic stories.

Please name your «dream band», and (if possible) explain your choices…
It would be band of great song writers. Dylan, Springsteen, Neil Young, Tom Petty, Ryan Adams and Tom Waits.

“Mother” is the most touching track on the album. Is the connection between children and parents important for you? Do family values matter in today’s world?
My mother gave me the freedom to follow my dreams, it is a song for her in all ways. I had that songs with most of my life, but didn’t get to write it before a few years after she died. It is incredible that it touches so many people and I love that. It is a real song.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I feel that “Commitment” is about love. Do you believe that love is important for every person? And do you believe that love can save the world?
This is a song about standing by what you believe is right in your life. I use a lot of metaphors in my songs and also give my fans the chance to make certain songs their own personal journey, you are free to interpret the songs your own way.

Olesya PETROCHENKOVA
Thanks to Eugene Silin (Alive Concerts) for organizing the interview.

Russian version: http://inrock.ru/interviews/mike_tramp_2015

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