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Tokyo Motor Fist

When the world first learned of Steve Brown, he was the amazing, entertaining guitarist of his band Trixter that fans across the globe immediately loved. After their debut album reached Gold status, they continued their success making four additional records. Brown then went on to contribute his extraordinary talents to other fan favorite bands and artists. Now his band TOKYO MOTOR FIST has just released their latest album Lions.

Catching up with Brown just prior to this LP release, he re-vealed details of the album, how he and his bandmates Lead Vocalist Ted Poley, Bassist/Vocalist Greg Smith and Drum-mer Chuck Burgi came together, a few personal secrets, what fans can look forward to and a few Florida memories.

Steve Brown: I was in Florida with The Wizards of Winter.

SFL Music: How did that go?

Brown: It was great. It’s a nice little theater (Bilheimer Capi-tal Theatre).

SFL Music: Yeah, it’s been there forever. Do you think TO-KYO MOTOR FIST will play there or is it too early to tell?

Brown: What can I even tell you about live music? Right now, all I can tell you is as soon as we are given the approval and all the promotors and all the venues are confident that we can do everything to the rule book and according to the safety standards, we’re all about it. Of course, with the new album we want to make sure that we get a chance to play. Technically we haven’t played Florida even though we were on the Monsters of Rock Cruise. That doesn’t really count. We flew into Florida, and we hung out in Florida, but we never played there yet.

SFL Music: How did the cruise go?

Brown: Monsters of Rock was amazing. Yeah, we had two great shows on there. I mean, I’ve done it a couple of times be-fore with Danger Danger, so it’s a great thing. We played some of the new stuff and everybody just loved it. We knew they were gonna love it, but you never know what’s going to happen on those cruises, but we played in a great venue. We played in that Studio B place which Is like a small theater, so we had a really good set up and you know, a great way to showcase the band for the first time.

SFL MUSIC: I’ve heard some of the new songs on the al-bum. You definitely have another very successful one.

Brown: Thank you.

SFL MUSIC: You’re welcome. A lot of the songs are very inspirational and uplifting and so appropriate for this time. What would you say inspired the album? Does it have a theme?

Brown: Yeah, well I think you hit it right on the head. I mean the title Lions is kind of the message of the whole thing that you know, when I wrote this record, it started a year ago, a year and a half ago rather. I always try to write with a positive message.

As you know me, known me for a long time, I’m a very positive guy. Back in the Trixter days, I wrote songs like “Only Young Once,” “Road of a Thousand Dreams” you know, making things happen, on and on.

Making your dreams come true, and it’s always been that way. I live my life where I want to make things happen for myself and for other people. The way I take care of my family. So, Lions to me was a great visual in the sense of the way I kind of look as myself as being a lion. The way I take care of my family, I’m a leader. The way I take care of my bands, my friends. So, that’s kind of the thing, and I think the song “Lions” the title track, is the key song because wow.

When I wrote that a year ago lets say, I had no idea we were going to be in this situation. I wish I could say I was a profit and could’ve foresaw this, but no one in the world would ever think we’d be in this position that our country is in right now, let alone the world. So, I think the words of “Lion” say it all. The world is in chaos. The rats are running the race. The streets are on fire. Evil has a new face. If those four lines don’t say it all about what we’re experiencing right now, I don’t know what does, and so with that being said, the message of the record Lions for me and what I want to try to send out to people is, no matter what circumstances you’re under and we’re under, you have and we have the power in humanity to make change and to make the world, and make your life a better place.

There’s no political agenda with any of this because I’m not that type of guy. I’m a fun-loving party guy. Want to have fun. It’s all old school Van Halen for me, but with that being said, I also want to be able to show people there’s a brighter side to life and that if you have something in your life that’s bringing you down, you can fix it. Get help for whatever’s bothering you because it’s out there, and make your dreams happen. The first song that I wrote for the record appropriately, the first song on the record “Youngblood.” That was the song I wrote for my daughters, my nephew, for the youth of America, the youth of the world. That you know, you’re a young blood. You have the world in the palm of your hands. Don’t blow your chance. Make things happen. Do great things. Have dreams. My daughter’s twenty years old. She’s taking her first cross country road trip. Are we a little con-cerned because of what’s going on? Yeah, but you know what? She’s a responsible kid. She’s a mini lioness. You know, she comes from my DNA, so she’s gonna be fine, but we want to be able to encourage kids to be able to get out. Don’t be afraid. Make things happen. That’s really it.

SFL MUSIC: That’s perfect and what a great experience for her. I’m sure she’s going to have some wonderful times.

Brown: Yeah and again, this is for everybody. Try to be able to find the positive. I think that’s the ultimate message in the record and what I’ve said all along. Look, it’s rock and roll. It’s melodic hard rock. You put it on for forty-five minutes. If you’re a fan of Trixter, Danger Danger, Def Leppard, Bon Jovi, Van Halen, Kiss, Cheap Trick, Mötley Crüe, you’ve come to the right place and you’re going to be in heaven because this record is that, and no matter what you have going on in your life, this forty-five minutes or however long the record is, its gonna make your life, you’re going to feel better after listening to it.

SFL MUSIC: What I’ve heard so far, that is true. Would you say those bands you just mentioned have played a part or influenced your music? I know Kiss was an early influence for you.

Brown: Look, I write music. Thank God I get paid and this is what I’ve been doing for thirty plus years to make my favorite kind of music which is based in great pop songwriting and hard rock. You know, my favorite bands. Kiss, Van Halen, Def Lep-pard, Bon Jovi and that’s what it is man. I’m not afraid. I wear my influences on my sleeve because as much as I’m a profes-sional musician, I’m still a fan. I’m still that thirteen-year-old kid that when I get a new record. Even nowadays you know, I get most of my records for free, but when I do get in the mail and it’s somebody that I want to hear. I still go through that ritual like I did when I was a little kid. I open up the record. I put the record on. Look at the CD booklet, Read all the credits. That experi-ence of when we were kids, when we would get vinyl albums, to be able to open up a Kiss album and read all the details while listening. To me it’s like a religious experience. So, that’s the beauty of it. That’s one thing that never gets lost on me. Every little thing. Every dream I ever had came true a hundred times over, and who would’ve thought, here I am thirty years later as a national act and every year something else great happens to me. Whether its playing stadiums with Def Leppard, playing with Dennis DeYoung from Styx, talking to you about my new TOKYO MOTOR FIST record. It’s really just a magical life that I’ve been blessed with.

SFL MUSIC: You’ve earned it. You’ve always been a very hard worker. Years ago, when you were talking about Trix-ter, you said that you and the band were like brothers. That was a plus for the band. Do you feel the same way about TOKYO MOTOR FIST? You’ve known Ted Poley for years and you started this in 2017 correct?

Brown: Yeah. Well 2016 is when we started this. We were re-cording the first record (self-titled debut). It’s very much like that in the sense of TOKYO MOTOR FIST, you know, the people at Frontiers, Serafino (Perugino) and the gang came to me with the idea. Now, it’s kind of a knee jerk reaction for them because of The Defiants which is Bruno Ravel, Paul Laine and Rob Marcello. You know, half of Danger Danger. So, I think it was Frontiers way of putting together another one of their so called super groups, and it was done with the best intensions because they had known the history of Ted and I because the Danger Danger guys and Trixter, we all kind of grew up on the scene together. We certainly grew up on what I like to call sometimes the metal edge scene if you know what I mean. The real late eighties, 1989, 1990,91, but Ted and I go back to when I was probably thirteen or fourteen years old before Ted was even in Danger Danger.

He was the drummer in a great New Jersey band called Proph-et. I met him when he was doing that and I had known him when we started Trixter, and long story short, I remember when Ted got the Danger Danger gig. He played me the demos. So, he’s been kind of a thirty plus year friend as Chuck Burgi and Greg Smith sort of have in a sense. Chuck, I knew when I was a real little kid when he was the drummer in Rainbow because Joe Lynn Turner grew up in the next town over, in Hackensack New Jersey, and I was from Paramus. Joe was the guy that as we’re certainly not getting rich playing these gigs. We do it because we love the music that much, and we believe in the chemistry that we have as a band, and if you see us live, I think you’ll definitely agree with me.

SFL MUSIC: I’m looking forward to that. Do you guys have any plans on doing some live streams?

Brown: We’re waiting for the right opportunity on that. I was speaking to Larry Morand from the Monsters of Rock Cruise. They were doing some things out in California, but we’re in New Jersey. So, it’s like, unless somebody’s willing to put it on. I’m doing a stream Saturday night with my 80’s band. PJ and I play in this great band called RUBIX KUBE, so we’re doing a live stream Saturday night. I’ve been just extremely busy now for the last month. I’ve been doing press and getting everything ready for the TOKYO MOTOR FIST release on Friday. I’ve also been doing a ton of studio work ever since the pandemic broke out. I’m blessed that I have a beautiful house here in northern New Jersey that I’ve had a recording studio in for 27 years. So, as much as I’m a live performer and you know me as the guy jumping around, kicking the amps and doing my live Steve Brown thing, I’m very much a studio rat in the sense that I’m always, whether it’s working on my music or producing stuff for other artists. I do mu-sic for T.V and movies. I’m always working. So, the pandemic didn’t really affect me in any sort of nega-tive way where I couldn’t get work done, thank God.

SFL MUSIC: Didn’t you basically start that years ago? I remember you told me you used a tape re-corder or something?

Brown: Oh yeah! I mean, I learned that early on you know, way before iPhones and stuff like that. Back in the early Trixter days, back in 1989,1990, I bought one of those little micro-cassette recorders that like you guys, that writers used to use to record inter-views. I always had one with me to record my ideas. That was a songwriting trick that I learned back in the day probably from my producer Bill Wray. My good friend Jack Ponti who wrote some of the Bon Jovi songs and produced the Hey Stoopid record by Alice Cooper. I learned these great tricks, and there’s still things that I do to this day. I just don’t use a micro cassette recorder. I use my phone of course, but it’sstill, when you have an idea, you have to be able to get it and I’m diligent about that.

SFL MUSIC: What is your goal when you’re in the studio? Do you go in with an idea that you want to accomplish or does it just come to you?

Brown: I mean look. At the end of the day Lori, for me, it’s always about doing the best you possibly can and delivering. When it comes to making a record, I take it extremely, extreme-ly seriously. No matter what. You know, look, the stakes aren’t what they used to be. We’re not kidding anybody here. We know we’re not going to get a gold album. We know that we’re not going to go platinum. We know what this is about, but at the end of the day, I still want to give my fans and myself and my band and everybody else, I want to give the best that I could possibly give. So, with that, I’m still a huge believer like we were talking about before, in the full album experience and the qual-ity. It would be very easy for me like a lot of these bands do on various labels, where they have one or two good songs and the rest you can obviously tell was throw away.

With me and with TOKYO MOTOR FIST, every song counts and I believe on both of our records and even going back to the last two Trixter records that I did on Frontiers New Audio Machine (released in 2012) and Human Era (released in 2015). Every song was great and that’s very important to me, and it’s a lot of work and believe me, if I counted the hours and how much money I make making these records, I’d be broke if you know what I mean because I put in so much time to make this the best possible representation of our band, and I’m proud to say that Lions in my opinion, is my greatest work to date. That means something after making records for thirty years to be at the top of your game. I’m extremely, extremely proud of that. I’m sure you can tell, (he chuckled).

SFL MUSIC: Rightfully so. What inspires you when you write? Years ago, you said you wrote music that people can relate to. You write real stuff and I hear that in the new songs as well.

Brown: Again, I take every part of the songwriting process ex-tremely seriously. To me, every part of the song counts. The chords, the melodies, the riffs, the lyrics. Again, I could save myself so much time if I just did like hokey lyrics and stuff like a lot of other bands do, but I spend a lot of time because I want to tell a story, and whether it’s true or I can be like, I like to say I’m kind of with my songwriting. Some of the songs are fiction and some of them are non-fiction. You know what I mean? Some of them I get, I watch a lot of T.V. like the news and I get ideas and reading magazines. I’m an avid reader, I love reading maga-zines. I love reading books. Anytime I see a cool line, I kind of go to myself (he whispered) oh, that’s a great line! That’s either a great song title or that’s a cool line for a song. I got to write that down.

So, that’s kind of what I do, but I always like to write songs. At the end of the day, it’s about songs that people can connect with and feel something. There’s a song like “Youngblood” that has kind of a deep meaning and its giving a message for the youth and talking about you walk the walk, talk the talk. Make anything happen. There’s nothing in this world that you can’t do, right? That’s that. “Around Midnight” is much more of a fun es-capism song. To me, that song again, has a very powerful mes-sage in the sense of kind of lead for people leaving a situation that they’re not happy in. We all need to escape at times and I think that’s what that song captures. More of a light hearted thing. Then you go to a song like “Blow Your Mind” which is very much, you know, all of us know these people. The stories about a girl who’s in a terrible relationship and she needs to get out of it and she meets somebody else whose gonna take her to this new life and show her a new way of living. A safe way. You know, maybe she was in an abusive relationship, and that’s what “Blow Your Mind” is about. So, I think it all comes down, and I try to do this on all my records, that every song has a different sort of message and a different sort of inspiration that everybody can relate to.

SFL MUSIC: I hear in “Monster In Me” that’s almost like an internal struggle?

Brown: It certainly is yeah, and a little bit has to do with me because as we are speaking right now, I’m celebrating fifteen months of sobriety and that song was definitely written with my-self in mind. The kind of Jekyll and Hyde thing which would happen to me sometimes with too much partying you know, a little too much alcohol. Look, I’ve lived a great life, but I’m definitely somebody who got caught up in the rock and roll life in that you know, my need to have fun turned into troubles for me. Like it does for a lot of rock and roll musicians. I’m one of millions that this happens to, and luckily, I was able to reign it in, and of course “Monster In Me” kind of goes with that. “Monster In Me” is an important song first off, I think it’s one of the best songs on the record. It’s totally got the Def Leppard, Mutt Lange vibe to it, but the message, the lyrics of the song can go in any way. People suffering from mental health. You know, undiag-nosed mental health problems, and there’s a couple different ways you could look at it, but that song’s very important to me because there was definitely a monster in me for a while, and every day make sure that that monster doesn’t come out, if you know what I mean.

SFL MUSIC: Good for you. That’s great! Now in the song “Sedona,” I wondered if it had anything to do with Arizona? I heard something about a mountain?

Brown: Yeeaah. Yeah, well “Sedona” is a really cool one be-cause the first thing about “Sedona” is I’ve had that riff for thirty years. I wrote that riff right after we got done making the first Trixter record and it was supposed to be a new song that was going to be on here, but I never finished it and I’ve had that riff laying around. So, finally, last year I finished that one. That was one of my goals. I said, I am going to finally use this fuckin’ riff and make a great song. I had the “Sedona” thing, and so “Sedo-na” is very much influenced by the David Lee Roth lyric school of writing. The way Dave would write, you know “Panama,” “Yankee Rose.” You’re not sure if he’s talking about a girl. If he’s talking about a place or like “Sedona,” if he’s talking about mountains or he’s talking about a car. You never quite know.

So, that’s kind of my thing with “Sedona,” but definitely, I love the mountains. I live in the mountains in New Jersey, but the Sedona mountains out in Arizona. That is something that is just breath taking, and so it’s kind of that thing, but definitely in-spired Van Halen. The songs got a total Van Halen, Toto vibe, and we were blessed on this that I was able to get Chuck’s bandmate in the Billy Joel band. The great Mark Rivera played the Sax solo on it. Mark Rivera is also Ringo Starr’s saxophone player, so he came over to my house about six months ago and we recorded this phenomenal saxophone solo. and I’m proud to say, you know again, the other thing about Lions.

This isn’t your typical melodic rock record. This is a next lev-el thing for us and for the genre because it would have been easy for me like to just do on “Sedona” lets say, a typical Steve Brown ripping guitar solo, Eddie Van Halen thing, but I wanted something different. I thought that that song especially a whole horn section which we have on it, and having Mark Rivera do a sax solo. I think it takes it to a totally different place, and I think it fits the songs perfectly.

SFL MUSIC: You sing and play keyboards also in the re-cord. Many of the songs have really great guitar intros too. Are you still teaching (guitar)?

Brown: I do a little bit. I’m doing some skype stuff. Nothing too crazy. I’ve been just so busy. I mean, Lori, people ask me all the time, why don’t you advertise? Why don’t you put something on Instagram you’re giving skype lessons? I’m like, I’m busy enough. Luckily look, I’ve been blessed financially in this busi-ness for thirty years and I’ve never had to work a job. This is all I’ve ever done and I’m at the point in my life now, I’m going to be fifty on Monday, where I get to call the shots. So, I don’t have to do gigs if I don’t want to. I basically control my destiny and it’s a very powerful place to be in and I’m again, extremely blessed to be in this spot.

SFL MUSIC: That’s cool and happy early birthday! Wow!

Brown: Gonna be fifty kid, yeah! Crazy!

SFL MUSIC: Weren’t you just nineteen yesterday?

Brown: Well the good news is and again, getting back to me being sober now. The good news is that when I wake up every day, I feel like a little kid again. I feel like I’m thirteen years old. So, that’s a beautiful thing.

SFL MUSIC: That is. Yes. You said you love to read. What good books have you read lately? What type of books?

Brown: I’m a sucker for all these, rock and roll auto-biographies and stuff and you know, “Decadence On 10th Street,” that song is basically an homage to behind the music, the auto biography, the dirt if you will. Walk This Way by Aerosmith. You know, the seedier side. The inside dark dirty secrets of rock bands, but yeah, I just got done, I’m reading the Ted Templeman book. What else? I’m re-reading the Joe Perry book again and stuff like that. It’s really cool.

SFL MUSIC: Is there anything else that fans should look forward to? Any new videos coming out?

Brown: Well, right now we’re waiting on the label to give us approval. We definitely want to make some more videos. Right now, “Youngblood” and “Around Midnight” are out and we are looking forward to hopefully getting the green light to be able to play some shows. I mean we had dates tentatively booked for November in Japan. So, how cool would that have been? TOKYO MOTOR FIST, live in Tokyo, but right now everything’s going to be on hold and you know, I’m always on call with Def Leppard. So, once you see the big guys getting out there, hope-fully we’ll be out sooner than we think, and PJ and I and Eric Martin, we’re supposed to play in two weeks out on Pennsylva-nia. So, we’ll see what happens with that.

In the meantime, SFL Music readers, you definitely will enjoy the new album Lions while we wait for shows to come back.

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