Interview with Singer/Songwriter and former White Lion Vocalist Mike Tramp
COSMICK VIEW: Hello, Mike! Welcome to The Cosmick View. Thank you for taking some time out of your day to chat with me, it's greatly appreciated.
CV: Has your personal definition of being a "musical artist" changed over the years? Has it taken on new meaning now that you are older, wiser and more experienced?
Mike Tramp: Oh time is the key word to everything these days. Wiser and smarter, comes first to mind, also I say this and I know I will repeat myself many times. We were not prepared for what came at us. Many things were first timers, we had given all our young lives to learning the craft of knowing our instrument well, but that’s where it stops. The singing lessons or guitar lessons did not come with an attached business class…we were green and paid for it later on.
CV: Many veteran artists have talked about their time in the industry and expressed their overall feeling of being more in control of their careers than ever before. The business today is much different than in the past. Artists are calling more of the shots as it pertains to what they want. Are you experiencing a similar situation? With all the changes, are artists in control more now than ever before?
MT: Let me start with the end. Yes artists are more in control these days, ‘cause what’s left is equal to stopping by the supermarket to pick up groceries. There is so little left out there…the big music business has become a mom and pop shop working out of the garage business. But it does come down to each of us, how we want to run our garage shop.
CV: White Lion gave listeners melodic guitars with dynamic vocals, which in turn helped propel the band to soaring heights in the 80s and early 90s. To me, this combination provided a deep emotional value to the music; something that in my opinion, made it stand out from many other bands attempting to do the same. It was much more genuine. Was this something the band was aware of and looked to achieve or was it more organic in nature because of the band's collective efforts?
MT: Well this has of course been much more clarified these days, especially when you look at where each artist and every band have ended up. I know where I am, and I also see where others are and it’s not the same place.
Vito and I, might not have been aware of it from the beginning, and even though his battery was Eddie Van Halen and mine was Diamond Dave, it also stops there. Our backgrounds; Vito’s from first generation Italian immigrants…working class family and mine being liberal Danish
upbringing. It was very clear that we were not going to go the Poison and Mötley Crüe way. Yes I know many photos looked like we’re at the same place, but again that’s where it stops. Today you put a White Lion album on, and once you get away from the reverb, you will know this band had a different mission and used another recipe. Last but not least, for the last 10 years when Iv’e been traveling around the world with just my acoustic guitar, performing both solo and White Lion songs, I am proud that our songs have stood the test of time…and when you play them in this format, it doesn’t instantly bring you back to 1987. They’re timeless songs that don’t need the loud visual videos or screaming guitars to come across. They work just as well around a campfire with just an acoustic guitar.
CV: Mike, 1987's "Pride" went double platinum and scored several hit songs. Again, as mentioned before, the album was emotionally charged. Along with the album's impact on Rock and Metal fan's at the time, did MTV also play an instrumental role in the album's overall success in your opinion?
MT: Of course MTV played a major role, and it did that for every single artist including Michael Jackson. Suddenly the music was visual and people coast to coast and around the world could watch their favorite artist pose and pout. But looking back now, it also had a dark side…we just didn’t know that we’re being branded for life with those videos.
CV: Music videos in the 80s gave fans a regular glimpse at their favorite rock stars, something that wasn't possible before and something as well that fans today may take for granted given the internet. Was bigger better when it came to producing a music video back then?
MT: Like I just said, MTV was King and God, but when they turned their back on all the 80’s bands that had built MTV and done videos per three requests, MTV now became the executioner…and it was a big stab in the back…there we learned that we were all replaceable and disposable.
CV: Are music videos still relevant today? Do they have the same impact with fans…are they appreciated?
MT: No they are not relevant. It’s great if you can do one and can afford one. But they are an exclusive Youtube thing, and talk about competition. Now your video has to compete with stupidity.
CV: What made the 80s such a magical time for music…what made it so unique of a time in your opinion?
MT: I don’t really know other than it’s like when summer comes around after a long winter. Everything was new, not just the bands and the sound of music, but so much more. People always think that that…the 80’s just represent big hair and videos. But look at the state of the USA and most of the world. It’s all a reflection that people were doing good in most places.
CV: Could a time like the 80s, for music, every repeat itself?
MT: Not a chance. The internet has taken everything out of everything. We are robots bowing to social media.
CV: To you, is being an artist all about heart...and how much you give of it to the music...to the fans?
MT: It’s first of all a commitment to yourself. Not about money, not about fame, but what it is you are and what you deliver. It is easier these days not to compromise and stand your ground than it was in then 80’s. When the pressure was on you…you have so much to lose if you didn’t go the way everyone else did.
CV: Music is bigger than life itself in some regards; it seems to have no limits. In retrospect, has music…your music, been a vehicle of boundless freedom for you?
MT: It’s been the fuel in my car, so I was able to see the world and experience a different life through music. Everything that I have done and been able to do since I was 15 & 1/2 years old has been because of music, my music.
CV: If video killed the radio star many years ago and digital has done away with physical albums in recent times, can the rock star persona everyone aspires to be still exist today…or does it exist at all? Has the need for artists to be personal and connect with fans changed all that?
MT: Ha, Ha, LOL… Look at Kiss and look at me. I need the money they don’t. They can afford to drop the price of tickets and t-shirts, but instead they raise them. I meet my fans after the show free of charge. We all know what KISS charges. It is a bloody joke, but they rule, I don’t. Still I am happy that I am me, and not like them.
CV: Mike, is everyone now somewhat of an "indie artist" so to speak, putting those who seek to make a living with their music all on a more leveled playing field? By today’s perceptions, does “indie artist” equate to equal opportunity in the music business?
MT: I think none of that matters. It’s a dog eat dog business and that will never change. The strong survive, but also so does the true and real artist. These days we adapt, improvise and overcome. It’s not the Plaza anymore, but the Motel 6.
CV: Though it has been stated many times that a White Lion reunion of any kind is not going to happen, is there a chance that some previously unreleased tracks from the band could become available at some point? Was there any music left on the shelves from back in the day, still waiting to be heard?
MT: Yes no reunion, it’s a joint decision by Vito and I. White Lion never recorded anything else but the songs on the albums. Vito and I wrote the albums like a book, chapter by chapter, and when we got to the end, we didn’t go, let’s do an alternate ending.
CV: What is the greatest sacrifice an artist must make to live their dream?
CV: What's next for you?
MT: I am in this for life, the endless highway is my home.
CV: Thank you again Mike for spending some time talking and sharing with
our readers. I wish you all the best and continued success.
MT: It’s been my pleasure.
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My name is Mick Michaels...I'm an artist, music fan, songwriter, producer, dreamer and guitarist for the traditional Heavy Metal band Corners of Sanctuary. Writing has always been a creative outlet for me; what I couldn't say in speech, I was able to do with the written word. Writing has given me a voice and a way for me to create on a multitude of platforms including music and song, articles, independent screenplays, books and now, artist interviews. The Cosmick View is an opportunity to raise the bar and showcase artists in a positive and inspirational light. For me, it's another out-of-this-world adventure.