Trixter and Tokyo Motor Fist's Steve Brown
By Jay Oakley
Start right off and tell us how you, Ted (Poley,) Greg (Smith) and Chuck (Burgi) got together and formed Tokyo Motor Fist.
Well, we've been friends for, probably, over thirty years. We, kind of, all grew up on the scene together. Trixter and Danger Danger started their careers, pretty much, neck and neck so we grew up in the rock and roll business and Ted's been a friend for a long, long time. When Frontiers (Records) approached me about doing this project, Serafino (Perugino,) the president, came to me and said, "Steve, would you like to do a record with Ted?" and I was like, "Of course!" and Serafino asked who I'd like to play drums and bass and I immediately knew, the ex-rhythm section of Rainbow. What better rhythm section to have then Greg Smith and Chuck Burgi, so Tokyo Motor Fist, here we are.
None of you guys have been sitting at home doing nothing. You all have been very busy so was it hard getting together?
It presented it's challenges but the way we made the record worked well. The good news is that Chuck lives in the next town over from me up here in northern New Jersey so for him it was a ten minute drive. He would come once every couple of weeks and we'd bang out like two or three songs per session and the same thing with Ted. Ted would drive up from Pennsylvania and do two or three and sometimes four songs in one session and I would get enough material from both of the guys that I could edit and do what I needed and it was really an easy process making the record. It was a lot of fun, low pressure and the good news is I had the material written already when I presented it to the guys. So, I knew from the beginning and the guys as well that we had a great record on our hands but I didn't know that it would come out and exceed all of our expectations.
You have three songs out that you've released as singles in "Put Me To Shame," "Love Me Insane" and "Shameless." Since you put the material together yourself did those songs jump out as the songs you wanted to put out there first?
I, kind of, let Frontiers handle that. I'm a little to close to it but I knew that they were all great songs so I wasn't worried in any way, shape or form to how they were going to be received by the fans and critics and whatnot. It's been resounding that everybody loves this Tokyo Motor Fist CD.
Is the record out yet?
It comes out this Friday, the official release. [February 24] The singles, you can get on iTunes but the official physical copy of the record and the full digital download on iTunes is this Friday.
That's terrific. You sound so super stoked about this project, man.
I am. It's really great to be able to make a record with your friends and for all of us, speaking for the rest of the guys in the band, it came out better then we all imagined. I knew it was going to be great but, to me, it's great times ten. It's fantastic.
Touching back on what I said earlier about all of your respective schedules, are you planning to put this project out on the road?
Well, we're definitely waiting for some offers to possibly do some festivals and stuff like that. It has to make sense for us and festivals are really the best opportunity for us to do something like this because we all have such busy schedules. But, we have talked about what we're going to do. The shows going to consist of half Tokyo Motor Fist and the other half of the show is going to have hits from all the bands we've been in. So, you're going to hear some Trixter, you'll hear some Danger Danger, You'll hear some Rainbow, some Ted Nugent, maybe some Alice Cooper, maybe even some Def Leppard, maybe even Billy Joel, you never now but we're anxiously waiting some offers to come our way from promoters.
Absolutely. None of you are strangers to M3 (Baltimore) and, of course, it's booked up for this year but that could be a great one for you and I know I'd be there.
Yeah, yeah totally. I don't know if you know but I've been doing shows with Danger Danger and I'm, kind of, bummed that I'm actually not going to be able to do M3 with them this year because I'll be in Japan with Eric Martin, playing in the Eric Martin Band. PJ (Farley) and I, from Trixter, are going over to Japan with him and going to be his backing band so, unfortunately, I'm not going to be at M3 this year.
Yeah, I was going to ask about that. I was looking at some Danger Danger pictures that got posted recently and I saw you in there.
Yeah, it's, kind of, unofficial. We're just keeping it relaxed and not making a big deal out of it because there are definitely going to be some conflicts. But, the good news, Danger Danger doesn't really play that much so I'm hoping that I'm going to be able to do the rest of the shows that they get to do this year.
I have to jump over to your other band, Trixter. How has it been since the release of the latest record, Human Era? It's not super new, it's been out for a while now, but how have you felt about the reception from your fans and everybody?
Well, the last two records we've done, 2012's New Audio Machine and 2015 with Human Era, the response has been incredible. The fans love it, I've been getting feedback from everybody that it's our best work to date and I agree with that. I think that those two records hold up as good, if not better, then the debut album (Trixter) and the Hear! album back in the early 90s. So, I couldn't be happier. The band, when we play live, we're firing on all cylinders and still have the high-energy show. The band can sing great, looks great so, we're just really stoked and the success of the records has given us a re-energized enthusiasm and confidence.
I've got to tell you, Steve. Human Era hit me really hard and that record is amazing. Most might think that it's easy to say that because I'm sitting here talking to you but I really mean it. It's stellar and you guys really should be proud.
Totally, we are. Believe me, I love the record and I actually have to go back and listen to it all the way through again. We still play some of the songs live. We play "Rockin' To The Edge Of The Night" and the songs fit in seamlessly with our old classics like "Give It to Me Good" and "One In A Million." So, it's really cool that after so many years of being together that when we're making new music in this day and age that it's as good as our old stuff. Not many bands do that.
For some people who don't know about this band, Cherie (Martorana,) Scott (Lovelady,) David Z, G-Man (Steixner,) John (LaSpina,) they are all amazing, amazing human beings and I love them to death so I have to ask you about the Rubix Kube guys and how fun it must be for you to get to play with them?
Oh, Rubix Kube is a world-wide phenomenon, the greatest 80s show. I've been in the band for a little over four years now and I've traveled the world with these guys and played some amazing shows. It's a very unique band and for people who haven't seen it yet, it's a rock concert meets a Broadway show. There's costume changes, we have Cherie who does Cher and she does Paula Abdul, Madonna and we have Scott Lovelady, our other lead singer, who does Michael Jackson and then does the hard rock stuff, Bon Jovi and Dee Snider, it's just incredible and the response to the band and the band just keeps getting bigger and bigger. We just had a huge, successful, almost sold out show the other night at Irving Plaza in New York City where Constantine Maroulis and Joel Hoekstra from Rock Of Ages came and played with us and we had an amazing show. The train just keeps rolling so Rubix Kube, if you haven't seen it, come out and see it some time.
How did you get involved with them? Was it from just knowing the players through music over the years?
Yeah, kind of, the story is that in the summer 2012, the Cherry Pie Revisited tour with Warrant, Trixter, Firehouse reunited was going on and we were doing a lot of these festivals together. We ended up playing out in the Poconos at the Mohegan Sun Casino and it was the three bands and Rubix Kube was the opener for us and I got to meet everybody. I had already known David Z, I had known David a long time from when he was in TSO, Trans-Siberian Orchestra and ZO2 and I got to meet the other guys in the band and then a couple months later I got a phone call asking if I'd be interested in joining and I thought about it for a little while and I was like, "Ya know, I've never been in a band that does this kind of show." And, at that point in my career I was ready definitely ready for a change and I put on spandex pants for the first time the rest is history.
From seeing the Rubix Kube as many times as I have and forming the relationships with the members, Cheri had hinted to me that this was happening so, how was it spending time in Def Leppard?
Oh, I'm going on five years with those guys, as far as, being in the batter's box, waiting and always being there for them for when Viv (Campbell) needs to get treatment. The Leppard thing, it's being in the big leagues and all of the things I've done with Trixter and various other bands, I was never really at the headline status, headlining arenas and stadiums for that matter so, to play with them was an honor and a dream come true. They're dear friends of mine and I hope it's not the last time I get to play with them. Anything you can ever imagine, Learjet's, limousines, great hotels, Ritz Carlton, Four Seasons, you're in the big leagues when your with a band like that and that was a great learning experience and just great to be around guys that have so much success. Joe, Sav, Phil, Rick and Viv, they are just such humble, nice people and that's a great, great, great testament to them and why they have endured all of the trials and tribulation's that they've been through and how they're able to go out there and kick ass every night.
Not one of your personal albums but is there an album out there that you would say explains your personality?
I would probably say Van Halen 1 (Van Halen.) There's a lot on there and that record certainly shaped my musical career. Eddie Van Halen is my biggest musical influence, pretty much, everything I do I, sort of, owe to him because those records, the early Van Halen stuff definitely, all of it shaped everything that I am today and then later on, a couple years later, Def Leppard was a huge influence. I was in to Def Leppard when no one even knew who they were. I had On Through The Night when it came out on cassette, I love those guys and they were always an inspiration because, as you remember, when they got signed they were all young like Trixter was. So, I saw them and I went, "Wow, Rick Allen, their drummer is only sixteen years old and he got a record deal and he's got a record out." and I said, "I can do this! If he can do it, I can do it." So, those guys are very much an inspiration on that respect. Bon Jovi, Mötley Crüe, all the great 80s bands, I'm a huge fan of all of it. Whether it be Metallica or Ratt, Dokken and even some of the lesser known bands, I loved Autograph, I loved that first King Kobra record (Ready To Strike) so I was able to take all of those little pieces of things that I loved and form it into my own personality and my own musical style.
That's awesome, Steve and it doesn't get much more honest then that. To bring things back full circle to Tokyo Motor Fist because that's why we're here talking today, not necessarily in the ideas of album sale because times are different and its just not the same now as it used to be but what would you like to see the album do? What are some goals that you have for the Tokyo album?
Whether it sells ten copies or ten thousand or a million it doesn't matter to me, I know that we made a great melodic, hard rock CD. That was our goal from the beginning, we exceeded all of our expectations on what it was going to be. Frontiers Records, they love it, which matters because they're paying for it so that's success right there and I think this Friday, when it's released and all the fans hear it in it's entirety that's very important because I'm a big believer in the whole "album experience." This is very much like the Trixter records, I do the same thing, I don't look at it as just a group of songs. I look at it as a whole listening experience so the way the songs are laid out thought it kind of tells a story, it's not a concept album, but it has that Hysteria, like a Slippery When Wet, like a Back In Black, like Shout At The Devil, they're all great records from the past that you listen to from start to finish. There's a beginning, middle and an end to it and it all makes sense. I think the way the Tokyo Motor Fist CD is laid out, track for track. I think fans are really going to have a great listening experience with it.
That's awesome, brother. Honest to God, I've been saying it for years and I'm 100% with you, albums are stories and they're made to be listened to start to finish.
Yeah, yeah! I 100% agree and thank God we have record labels like Frontiers who still believe that and they are able to fund that and be able to give us the opportunity to make a CD like this for the fans and, like I said, I think any fan of the genre, the melodic hard rock, with Tokyo Motor Fist you're going to get everything you'd expect from us. It's got the Trixter, Danger Danger, Def Leppard, Bon Jovi, Van Halen thing but it's also go a lot more and it goes into territories that you wouldn't expect from us which, to me, is one of the most gratifying parts of making it because you and the fans are all gonna get exactly what you expected but then there's some really cool things that you wouldn't expect in there. Like I said, that's very important for me.
Steve, this has been great. I hope you enjoyed your interview, felt respected and were asked questions that covered what you wanted to put out.
Of course, Jay. I appreciate it and thank you for all the support and all the kind words.