Mike Tramp is anything but typical. He has a refreshingly unique perspective on many things. I spoke to him from his hotel in Montana. A scholar of American History, he was preparing to visit the site of the Battle of Little Big Horn in the morning, a brief detour while he was on his one-man cross-country trek in support of latest album Cobblestone Street, a record that if you don’t have, you need to get. The songs are autobiographical, and they are from the heart. And when he spoke to me, it was the same thing, from the heart. So here it is, my conversation with Mike Tramp:
Amps: So, tomorrow you visit The Battle of Little Big Horn?
Mike: I’ve been brushing up on documentaries. I’ve been listening to an audiobook for the last two days to refresh my mind. I’m kind of a scholar on this issue. But it’s a completely different thing to be listening to something and you’re driving through the area and seeing the signs of what it’s talking about, than if you were sitting in Denmark reading it, you know? I also just finished a 25-CD of the untold history of America. It talks about a lot of stuff, and it’s great to be in the country they’re talking about, seeing things from different angles. I’m in a bit of a crisis myself, in my life, trying to find out about what life is, and how much I should take serious, and how I should live, and how I’m gonna leave this earth, or whatever. I like to research and get answers, and I have a big problem with when I feel that people are trying to fool me by just using headlines of newspapers. I own every single book, DVD, and anything that exists on 9/11, and I haven’t been able to live like a human being without thinking about how that changed the world every single day of my life since. I lived in New York for 10 years, and I saw those towers every day when I went to rehearsal.
Amps: You landed in Boston, picked up your car, did a couple dates in the Northeast with the boys in Stryper, and now you’ve driven and played all across the country to Montana?
Mike: Yeah. This is both a tour for my music, and a tour for my own heart. And this is kind of saying that you can do this as one person, and I can manage to do this, and I can drive this far, and go onstage every night and deliver a killer show, no matter what the venue is and no matter what situation I’m in. And that just assures me that the journey through 37 years has been well worth it because now I have become the man I am, and I’m proud of the man I am, and I’m proud of the knowledge and expertise I have, and I’m gonna go out there and sing songs from my heart. It’s like a double whammy, and I get rewarded in many different ways.
Amps: How’s the acoustic tour going?
Mike: I’m having a great time. My great time is doing the show and doing my performance which I’m almost doing more for myself, than I do for those who come see it. For the first time in my life I’m walking offstage being fulfilled and satisfied.
Amps: I know you mentioned you’d be back in the States after the Monsters of Rock Cruise next year, hitting some Southern states. I’m pretty excited for that.
Mike: Yeah, I’m gonna hit some of the states I didn’t get to this time, you know, probably from California to maybe Carolina, and hit Texas.
Mike: They are. And also, the more important thing is that it’s been unanimous around the world, the reviews of the album, people’s feedback on the songs, which means it’s so clear that they caught on. The message is so loud and clear, and that has never happened in my career before. It’s difficult to say this is the real Mike Tramp sometimes, because it is. Was the real Mike Tramp the guy who sang “Wait” in a video in 1987? Yes it was, at that time. But the foundation of the real Mike Tramp had not totally matured, and he had to travel through all these different decades to come home to where he is right now.
Amps: “This Ain’t the Life” has to be far and away my favorite song. It’s almost like a ringside seat to your life. “Angel or Devil” being my other. Do you have a favorite song on it?
Mike: Well now I’m distancing myself a little from the album because I’m playing it. “Cobblestone Street” was a song I had already written at the time when I wrote my first solo album in 1995, and this had to be one of those first steps of planning the trip back home, and it never felt that should be part of an album until it could remain in its true form and not be changed to fit into a rock record. Every song is sort of like a movie, whether you like the sad scene, battle scene, him coming to terms with himself, they all have a place and none replaces the other one.
Amps: Have there been any mishaps on this tour, or pretty smooth sailing since it’s all you?
Mike: Very smooth, because it’s just me. I am a man, I’m punctual. It doesn’t matter how far I have to drive, I am at sound check at the time I’m supposed to be. This is all me, so I can’t mess up. This is also much more than a rock band going on tour and getting drunk and partying. This is a quest; this is a journey, a man’s journey through life. It’s a mid-life crisis; it’s a lot of different things. I have two children and a wife waiting for me in Indonesia, I have a 20-year old son waiting for me in Australia, I have my childhood memories and my brother in Denmark, and I have my love for America, so I’m torn between so many different things. I see all the Harley Davidsons heading to Sturgis and I just wanna drive my car into the sunset and never return. So, there’s all these different battles you have to face.
Amps: When did you leave America, and where are you living now, Indonesia or Denmark?
Mike: I left America at the end of ’99, and moved to Australia with my first wife and my child, Dylan. We had a little farm down in Tasmania, and in 2003 after 16 years together with my first wife, I met my wife now, and my life just went into turmoil after that and I kind of took a step that maybe I didn’t think about and I ended up in the world I am today. I have two beautiful children, I love my wife very much, but, this ain’t the life I asked for. I spend time between Indonesia, where they are, and I go to Denmark sometimes, because I need to be in a different kind of culture sometimes. I get together with my brother on his farm and we enjoy that lifestyle there, and this is because I have an incredible need for the great outdoors. I love nature and I love animals more than anything. In Indonesia it’s different, we haven’t really decided the final plan on where we’re gonna raise our children. Both my boys are born in Los Angeles and my daughter’s born in Denmark, it’s not like I have two Indonesian children, that just happens to be the home of their mother.
Amps: You’ve lived all over, seen some great places. What is the coolest place you’ve traveled to?
Mike: You know, I’ve seen most of the world and I’ve lived in decadence, but I’m most at home in a little country home close to a big forest, away from the rest of the world. Being in nature is important to me. Right now I have my hotel window open and the trees are blowing in the wind, and I imagine it being 150 years ago. I’m driving through this historical site and it’s full of fuckin’ motels and signs, and I just want to remove myself and go back to the earth, like it was before. I’m caught in between trying to find the place where I belong. As much as I wanna write music, I don’t really wanna exist in the music business.
Amps: Do you still work on old cars? I know you enjoy that.
Mike: Yeah, that’s one of the things that I love to do when I’m back with my brother. The reason why I love to tool around with old things is, I mean- have you ever opened the hood of a car today? You’ve no idea what half that stuff is, right? But the thing about being able to just wrench something, and attach something, and replace some hoses, and you don’t need anything else, that’s why I love to build on my brother’s farm. It doesn’t need to be perfect, we’re just sort of patching up. I love old things like that.
Mike: I’m trying to be real, and if something doesn’t come for a while it’s because I don’t feel like saying something, and I don’t wanna fill space. When I say something I wanna speak the truth, and I don’t wanna kiss anybody’s ass. I want the fans to know that the person they follow, this is how he feels, what he stands for.
Amps: You’ve been pretty vocal about what some of these promoters are doing with the use of “White Lion” and I have to applaud you for that.
Mike: That business has never changed since it started, man. It’s like prostitution, it hasn’t changed, same fucking thing. Anything they can do to get the dollar, and it’s also why I’m not in a big need to continue this for the rest of my life. I want to make something special for those who follow me. I might just end up releasing music directly to the ones who follow me and NOT just to be placed in a store, so that in a few years it doesn’t exist anymore.
And there’s always some smartass who has to say something, too. I don’t know how to make it any more clear to these people. There WON’T be any reunion. Vito hasn’t done anything for 22 years, and you think that I’ve just waited 22 years for him? When you divorce a woman you don’t go back to her. When I play a White Lion song, it’s my way of saying thank you to the fans, but it’s also my own fucking song! I don’t have to play it, either. Once I’m done with this tour I won’t do any more interviews. The one I just did with (Publication X), it’s all about reading the same shit!
Amps: What are you listening to these days, other than audiobooks?
Mike: I’m not listening to any music on this tour because I wanna be real fresh when I’m up onstage playing my songs. I want that to be the first time I hear music in the day. And I love my audiobooks because I’m on the Great American Highway, it goes for so long, it’s an incredible feeling, and I love it to death.
The last CD I bought was the new Bruno Mars album. I listen to it sometimes in the morning while I’m taking a shower or working on the computer. It’s just brilliant songwriting, and it’s nice to listen to something a little different that sort of took me away from the world I’m living in.
Amps: I wanted to thank you for a show you did in 2008 in Farmingdale, NY. I was feeling pretty bummed, and my friend Jackie dragged me out to come see you, and we had THE best time! You talked to everybody afterward, and I practically skipped outta there. So, thank you for music that was there on a night I sorely needed it.
Mike: Very cool. You know how it goes, man. And there’s so many things. I think this is more about finding the connection between those who have followed you and those who are here today and want to keep on following you and what it is you represent, and that is where I have taken my life and my music, the lyrics that I write, and the people who deal with similar things that I sing about, stuff that gives them hope, maybe. And God knows what’s gonna happen; the day is over with what it used to be.
Amps: Mike, best of luck the rest of the way, and we look forward to seeing you in 2014.
Mike: Sure thing, Damian. Keep in touch, and contact me anytime.
Well…THIS was certainly the most unique interview I’ve ever done. Mike Tramp just might be one of the coolest cats I’ve come across. Like I said, he speaks from the heart, and there is no bullshit with him. The songs on Cobblestone Street are the same way. They are an extension of Mike Tramp, the man. I can’t wait to sit down, buy him a beer, and talk with him again when he comes to Dallas next year.