(real name Michael Trempenau, b. Jan.1961) has come a long way from the
fledgling days of his early career with Pop Rock band Mabel (later renamed
Studs). In the 1980s, fronting White Lion, he earned himself fame, chart success
and enduring admiration. Following the lamented end of White Lion, Mike went on
to front Freak Of Nature, with whom he released 2 studio albums (plus a rarities
last 5 years Mike Tramp has devoted all his energies to his solo career and a
few weeks ago he released his 9th solo album: “Museum”. A tour
throughout Europe promoting the album followed. With memories of the London date
still fresh in my mind, I approached Mike with a few questions.
Last week I
saw you perform your solo acoustic set. Are you really doing everything yourself
during the tour? No crew, no merchandise seller, no stage tech, no tour
manager……just Mike Tramp?
This all started in 2012 when I went into the studio in need of hearing some new
music come out of speakers and also seeing where I was musically. A week later I
walked out with Cobblestone Street (finished album) under my arms and a new way
of looking at things. At the same time it was me coming back to my roots, me
coming home. A few weeks later, I asked myself, What would happened if I just
went out there with my guitar and voice and played the songs I love and my fans
love. Three years later I have played almost 400 shows and yes done it all
alone. I don't know, but it feels like the most natural thing to me.
extent was “Museum” written with these acoustic shows in mind?
When recording Museum all I was thinking about was just writing and recording a
great album, the kind of album that takes you through a lot of changes, but
still guided by the same singer and songwriter. I didn't consider my live shows
or even let them dictate what I could or couldn't do. Once again with this album
- like Cobblestone Street - I experienced total freedom in creating my music.
you’ve got a song called ‘Mother’. This is not the first time you’ve made
reference to this person in your songs. How important have family values been in
your musical career?
I have a very little family, with my dad taking no part in it at all. So my mom
was always the rock that held it together, and word for word the song describes
her life. I left my home at age 15&1/2 and moved in with a band 10 years older
than me. My mom gave me the freedom but also the trust and faith in that I would
do right, and make the right choices. In reality she didn't have a choice cause
it was a hard life raising three boys on her own, working as a waitress all
night. This song will always stand as a reminder of who raised me, how I was
raised and the freedom I was given. Today I only have my two brothers and my
younger brother and I are like one.
You seem to
have developed a solid working relationship with producer/guitarist Søren
Andersen – what is it like working with him?
I would have had that with many, if they weren't fuck ups and their priority
wasn't girls, party and booze.
Søren is a multi-talented guy, no doubt, but most importantly he
see and knows who Mike Tramp is. So he just takes what I give him and adds the
right amount of salt and pepper and never doing the wrong thing. So why would I
not keep working with him!
I’d like to
ask a few questions related to the early period of your career….before White
Lion you had taken a number of life-changing decisions, relocating first to
Spain and then to U.S.A.. Are you still prepared to take whatever risks
necessary to forward your music career?
Today I spoke with a friend about my journey, which has taken me from Denmark to
Spain to USA to Australia to Indonesia and back to Denmark, and in every place I
have left a bit of my heart and soul, so it is heavy on your health. I don't
need to make anymore moves because of my career. My music is at home and no
matter where I go, I am me and myself and nothing is going to change that. Now
could I just have my children with me, then I'd consider myself being happy.
Studs to White Lion must have involved a significant change of mentality with
regards to doing music. When putting together the first White Lion songs, how
much did your singing and songwriting change in comparison to what you had done
I think it is all one answer and it's called growing into what you want to be. I
wasn't mature or fully developed in either Studs or White Lion, but my love for
a certain sound and my own way of writing melodic memorable songs, has never
changed. I know I have a style that is me; it has just taken a long time to be
totally comfortable, convincing and truthful in what I am doing. Now I am here
and you can't move me, I am solid rock.
circumstances gave rise Freak Of Nature’s demise?
There is only one way to be a real band and that is that the band is
equal in all parts. Still the weakness lies in everyone and when i saw
it show up in individual members, I closed down the factory and left a
great legacy of a killer band.
first solo album (“Capricorn” of 1997) featured members of Freak Of
Nature. Was there any thought of doing another Freak Of Nature album
immediately after the release of “Capricorn”?
Capricorn happened because I had ended Freak of Nature due to the
reasons above. Still outside the old band we were still all great
friends and still are.
Jerry [Best – bass player] and Kenny [Korade –
guitarist] played on the album because they understood what I was
going for and their own roots were in that kind of sound and songwriting.
Speaking of which…..I noticed “Capricorn” has some lyrics which appear
to be quite dark (‘Better Off’…‘Running Out Of Life’…). What were you
going through at the time that spurned you to write such songs?
I am actually a very dark person, without confusing me with King
Diamond. I prefer to write from the dark corners of my soul, and since
the day I went solo. The word "I" represents me in all songs. I am
always dealing with pain, anger and much sadness and it doesn't go away.
more challenging to write and record songs by yourself or to channel
your creative energies with other musicians?
It all depends on what you are going for. I did two solo albums under
the name Mike Tramp & The Rock'n'Roll Circuz. The band had so much
influence on the arrangement and the performance, and it was like a
band, it felt like a band. So even though they were all my songs, I
wanted to point out that this was the sound of a band playing, and not
studio musicians behind me. Both albums were also done with Søren
Do you miss
performing in large arenas?
No not at all, there are many who confuses the dream about being a rockstar with
getting the reward from writing great songs and seeing them come alive. I come
from a background of very little, and actually found many parts of succeeding
difficult. I have never enjoyed the image of being a rockstar, but I know I had
to go through a lot to get to who i am today, and today I am happy as an artist,
even if I play in clubs for a 100 people, still my music is pure and I don't do
one single thing that i don't want to.
toured with several bands over the years but I’m particularly interested in the
time Freak Of Nature toured with Dio. What are your memories of that tour and
how much did you try to emulate Dio?
It was possible the smallest support tour I have done, but it was always great
to hear Ronnie sing the old Rainbow and Sabbath songs and he was a
true gentleman. I or we never tried to emulate Ronnie one tiny bit. We were
Freak of Nature and we believed in ourselves and in what we were doing.
distance I think I recognised tattoos of Jimi Hendrix and Phil Lynott on your
arms…could you talk to me about the characters tattooed on you?
They are Lynott, Springsteen and Dylan. They're my heroes because I identify
with their way of song writing and their songs have always spoken to me.
questions about White Lion…..why had White Lion re-recorded the band’s debut
album “Fight To Survive” before it was actually released? Were the songs in
version 2 significantly different from version 1?
You are talking about Pride, not Fight to Survive. We didn't have a record deal
when we recorded FTS in Frankfurt, Germany 1984. So in 1986 when we also did not
have a deal, we went back to the same studio to do the same with Pride, but when
we returned to New York and sat down and listened to the final mix, together
with our manager. We knew it wasn't good enough and we knew we needed to do it
in a better environment. Vito and I re-wrote a lot of the songs and the band
changed a lot of the original arrangements, and then in early 1987 we went to
Los Angeles and recorded Pride with Michael Wagener.
aware of the issues concerning Vito’s health and family when you first attempted
to get White Lion back together?
I have never been aware of any health issues and I think it's just a wild fire
started by someone, because people find it hard to understand why one of the
most talented guitar players and songwriters, would no record and play or even
talk his fans for over 20 years and more. At the same time my attempt at
creating a second run with White Lion never included any original members. Today
I regret that I even tried to do it, ‘cause I didn't enjoy it one bit and it was
the turn of the millennium, Mike Tramp tried to resurrect White Lion without the
classic line-up of Vito Bratta (guitar), James Lo Menzo (bass) and Greg D’Angelo
(drums). This led to a series of wranglings with Vito’s legal representatives.
Eventually Tramp released a handful of live and studio albums under various
permutations of the name White Lion.]
Do you feel
bitter about the legal disputes with Vito following your resurrection of White
Lion without him?
Not bitter but irritated...
“Mane Attraction”, was there a feeling that it might be the band’s last album?
No not at all, Vito and I felt like we were on a rescue mission after we had
mixed feeling about how we were rushed into doing Big Game, when we needed a
long break to evaluate what had just happened with the huge success of Pride and
2 years on a world tour. At the same time we both felt we knew what we wanted to
do and that we had great songs. Mane attraction is a very strong album.
and Greg D’Angelo went on to play with bands and musicians such as Zakk Wylde,
Megadeth and Ace Frehley. How would you describe their contribution to White
Lion? Are you still in contact with them?
I have had almost zero contact with Greg D'Angelo since the split in 1991. James
and I are great friends and are in contact all the time.
White Lion with Greg and James was White Lion, without them it
was not White Lion. Even though I can't put a name on their contribution, I will
say that they did their part as we did ours and they are each a 1/4 of the sound
and what White Lion is and was. There is only one White Lion and James and Greg
are part of that.
When I saw
you performing in London last week, you mentioned an interesting analogy where
you compared your music to a hidden pub. Could you please share that with our
It seems that some reviewers or even fans have a hard time understanding when an
artist moves onward. At the same time I am also describing that the road and
choice I have taken, might not be every rock-fan's cup of tea or pint of ale.
But there comes a time when I am that flavour, taste or craving and then I am
the one who delivers just that. I am happy living in the dark corners, and not
the limelight. I trust in myself and I trust in music...
What 5 albums
should no-one be without (excluding White Lion/Freak Of Nature/your solo
High Voltage :
A Night at the Opera : Queen
Born to Run : Springsteen
Led Zeppelin 2 : Led Zeppelin
Jailbreak : Thin Lizzy
Do you plan
to keep releasing solo albums for the foreseeable future or are you open to
opportunities to work in band scenarios?
Yes I do plan to write, record and release more solo albums, and at the same
time I am also open to interesting ideas that come my way. Now building a band
the old fashion way, that just isn't an option these days, so it would be more
like a recording project where each musician goes back to his own after.
See the video of ‘Trust In Yourself’ taken from “Museum”:
© 2014 - Chris Galea