Trauma – Kris Gustofson

By: Lori Smerilson Carson

In today’s world with wars, illnesses, murders and other traumatic events, heavy metal band Trauma is providing a positive escape with their latest album awakening. This latest heavy metal masterpiece is filled with fast, melodic riffs and tempo changes, solid strong vocals, steady rockin’ drum beats that in total, create a record that hard rock fans will want to add to their collection. In addition, they are taking their incredible music out on tour for thirty-one shows in support of Queensrÿche and their Digital Noise Alliance Tour, and South Florida fans can catch this amazing show on March 3rd in Orlando, FL at The Plaza Live, March 4th in Fort Lauderdale, FL at the Culture Room, and March 5th in Jacksonville, FL at the Florida Theatre.

Since their debut album Scratch and Scream released in 1984, this extraordinarily talented band has been through member changes including Bassist Cliff Burton, and most recently in 2020, the passing of founding member, Vocalist Donny Hillier. The band currently consists of Lead Vocalist Brian Allen, Guitarist Steve Robello, Guitarist Casey Trask, Drummer Kris Gustofson and Bassist Michael Spencer.

Catching up with Gustofson just prior to this tour, he revealed some details about the new record, some insight of the new tour, a bit about his past, and what fans can look forward to.

SFL Music: I was listening to Awakening and it’s awesome! How did the title come about? Was that part of the inspiration for the album?
Kris Gustofson: Yeah, it was kind of all tied into the album artwork and kind of the concept of what we were kind of doing at that particular moment in time, especially because we ended up having to get a new lead singer and all that.

SFL Music: What would you say inspired the songs on the album? Was there a theme?
Gustofson: Well, you know the record was pretty much written during the pandemic when everybody was on lockdown and everything, and it was kind of a depressing time and that’s where a lot of those songs took shape from is during that whole period when everybody around the world was dealing with the whole COVID thing. So, that’s kind of the story behind that.

SFL Music: What would you say inspired the song “Walk Away”?
Gustofson: You know, that was an idea that came through Steve Robello. He came up with the concept of that. It’s kind of related to fighting and stuff in the Middle East, and just all the chaos that happens over there and what not.

SFL Music: What about “Death Of The Angel”? The other single that’s out with a video.
Gustofson: That was inspired by Steve Robello as well. Yeah, I’m not sure what this guy does at night (he laughed). That was pretty much based off Ted Bundy, the notorious serial killer. At first, I was kind of like, you sure you really want to write a song about that guy? You know, cause he’s a pretty creepy guy, but that’s kind of what that one’s about.

SFL Music: I get the impression that a lot of the music is based on real life stuff, but sort of with a Trauma take on it?
Gustofson: Yeah.

SFL Music: Are there any new videos coming out?
Gustofson: There’s gonna be a new one coming out, I think we’re shooting for in the next couple weeks right before we go on our tour. It’s actually the track called “Meat” that we have a video that will be coming out shortly here. So, it’s pretty cool.

SFL Music: What inspired that one?
Gustofson: It’s pretty much primarily about how governments around the world just treat people as meat basically. Like how we pay our taxes and do you know, everything to survive on the planet and we’re just treated as meat. That’s kind of what the meaning of that is. We’re just pieces of meat basically.

SFL Music: What can fans look forward to with the new show?
Gustofson: Well, it’s been quite a while if ever, that we’ve really done a tour in the United States to this level with this many dates and hitting this many cities, and what fans can pretty much expect is, it’s gonna be a high energy show. Most of the songs that we’re gonna be playing are going to be off the new album. I think it’s gonna be pretty entertaining for people to come see us. We are really looking forward to it and we’re more than stoked to be a part of this whole thing. I think fans are gonna like what we do.

SFL Music: How did this come about that you’re touring with Queensrÿche?
Gustofson: Well, the lead singer of Trauma, Brian Allen is really good friends with Todd La Torre, the lead singer of Queensrÿche. Todd got wind that Brian had a new album out that he sang on with Trauma, and he got a copy of it and really, really liked what he heard and played it for I guess, the other members in Queensrÿche and they asked us to be on this, pretty much. That’s how it happened.

SFL Music: You guys started in the ‘80’s in Northern California and at that time I remember a lot of newer bands were coming onto the scene in Southern California. What would you say was the difference with Northern California that inspired you guys? What was it like back then?
Gustofson: In those days, there was a crazy scene going on. I mean, there was music going on seven nights a week in all the clubs, not just in the Bay area, but just pretty much in every major city throughout the United States, if not the world. People were totally into going to clubs, meeting each other, listening to bands. That’s what was pretty much the entertainment then which made the scene really happening, and probably the difference between Northern California and L.A. was the fact that pretty much L.A. was the breeding ground for the hair metal bands. There was a few that were in the Bay area, but there was more down there during those days. I mean, Bay area was primarily either hard rock or pretty heavy metal. Obviously, there were some down in L.A. too, but it was a breeding ground just for everybody trying to get their band together, and come up with really good songs and try to get signed. It was a really healthy time for that scene then.

SFL Music: What would you say made you decide to become a professional drummer?
Gustofson: It was primarily my dad. My dad was a big band drummer that played with a lot of pretty famous big bands like Woody Herman, and he worked with Dizzy Gillespie and a lot of different jazz guys, so music was constantly playing in the house all the time. So, that’s pretty much where I got my start from, and then going to his gigs with him and him making me sit in and play with his friends. That was like very nerve racking doing that, but it was a really good experience. That’s pretty much where it started from.

SFL Music: Did he teach you or did you take professional lessons?
Gustofson: No. When I was a kid, I just kind of was so interested in doing it, so I just practiced whenever I could. He didn’t really teach me how to play. I didn’t really take formal lessons or anything like that. I’m pretty much self-taught.

SFL Music: What would you recommend to an up-and-coming musician or band?
Gustofson: Probably I would just say, if you want to try to become a professional musician especially in this day and age, you got to be prepared to take the good with the bad. Try to have a positive attitude. Practice your craft and be as good as you can be and always have a positive attitude, and just get out and play as much as you possibly can, live. You know, do all the social media stuff you can and hopefully the light will shine on you at some point. You just have to stay persistent.

SFL Music: That’s wonderful advice.
Gustofson: It’s not easy, but you just have to stay persistent.

SFL Music: Would you say that’s the key to Trauma’s success, your success and longevity?
Gustofson: Well yeah, I mean, the whole thing that brought this back to life really was having the first debut album re-released in 2013 and once we did that, I’m not gonna lie and say it’s been easy because it has not been. It’s been very difficult to resurrect something that’s been dead for so long. There’s been a lot of people in and out of this band. We have a really good line up now, but it’s just the market is really, really saturated. There’s a lot of competition. I think that you just have to try to stay focused and like I just said, take the good with the bad and don’t assume or over expect things because it’s just a completely different time.

SFL Music: You have the clear album and the blue album. How did that come about?
Gustofson: The record label actually did that. I was actually kind of surprised that they did a clear and a blue album. I think there’s some black ones too. To have those colors I thought was kind of cool, but that was pretty much up to the record label that did that.

SFL Music: How did the cover come about? You mentioned it was part of the inspiration.
Gustofson: That was done by a guy, his name is Ioannis and he’s got a company called Dangerous Age and he’s been doing artwork and albums covers for many, many, many years. I believe he was like the staff designer, album cover person at like Atlantic and Columbia Records many years ago and he worked with, believe it or not, one of the guys that was on the staff too was H.R. Giger, the guy that did all the Aliens movies. So, they had worked together and he came up with the concept of that album cover, and when I first saw the initial drawings of it, I was like oh my God, this is gonna be pretty cool! He does really good work.

SFL Music: Was there anything else fans can look forward to that you guys have coming out? You have the CD set, albums and videos.
Gustofson: Pretty much all the new information that comes out, people can look at and we usually post stuff up on there for people to get merchandise and news and all that type of stuff.

SFL Music: Was there anything else you want to add for fans to look forward to with the show?
Gustofson: We will pretty much guarantee that people will have a good time. We plan on kicking royal ass (he laughed) at the shows. We’re kind of like a caged animal that’s been in lockdown for a long time, and we’re really looking forward to getting out there and putting on a really good show for people. So, I hope a lot of people want to come out and check us out.

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