by Christophe Pauly
– Photojournalist —
From Adelaide, Australia the hard-rocking young three-piece band known as Tracer have released their second full-length album titled El Pistolero. Produced by Kevin Shirley who has worked with Led Zeppelin, Iron Maiden, Slayer, Silverchair and Cold Chisel just to name a few notable bands.
Guitarist and vocalist Mike Brown sat down with Hardrock Haven’s Christophe Pauly and discussed the band, the addition of bassist Jett and whole lot more…
Hardrock Haven: Thank you for this interview.
Mike Brown: You’re welcome.
Hardrock Haven: First, could you tell me how this adventure begun? Did you know everyone before or did you meet them when you needed musicians to create a band?
Mike Brown: Basically, I began playing guitar when I was 6. And my brother started to play keyboard. We played some blues stuffs. And eventually, when we were 11, we started a band and we got 2 other musicians on drums and bass and that was called the Brown Brothers. It was popular in Australia because it was young kids playing together some blues music. And when we started high school, we decided that blues wasn’t our thing anymore and we wanted to play more rock n’ roll stuffs. And that’s when we met Andre at school. He was the drummer. And we started to write our own stuff and let my brother trying some other things like the piano. And basically, that’s how Tracer started. And we decided in three years that we should tour in Europe and the States and try to make the band bigger. And we saved some money from our tour in Europe and we gradually took off and get interested by label in Holland. And so we tried to took off in the UK too and do better albums and play in bigger venues. My brother left the band last year. And then Jett went into the band because he’s a longtime friend and he was the one we thought about when my brother left. And so now, we have this solid line up and we play great, great shows…
Hardrock Haven: Yeah, your band doesn’t sound like a new one, you seem more prepared and professional.
Mike Brown: Yeah, I think Jett comes from the same background. And as we’re a three pieces band, we worked hard to get the guitar, the bass and the drums to sound as massive as possible. And Jett came from a three piece band too and when he came to us, he already had all this knowledge and so he sounded perfect. And he’s a great player and his stage presence is fantastic too, so it’s great!
Hardrock Haven: I was very surprised when I saw you live, because I was expecting a band like ZZ Top when I saw the cover of your new album El Pistolero. Where did this idea and theme come from?
Mike Brown: It was in my head for a while, because we’re big movie fans. (Jett actually came from a movie family) and we still go to each other’s place to watch movies and get drunk. It’s mostly movies documentary or action movies) We both like the Robert Rodrigez‘s film Deperado with Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek. And we thought the music in this film was very cool. And we were at a state where we were going to write some new music for a new album. And I had always in the back of my head that it could be cool to try some music from the desert with a Mexican vibe. And to incorporate some of the movie lines from Desperado into what we were doing. And that’s where it came from.
For example, “El Pistolero,” the opening track, it’s the first single from movie Desperado. And that’s what it’s all about. About this guy entering in a bar with his gun etc… And there are other songs on the album that follow the story of the movie.
Hardrock Haven: It’s a great idea and it’s very visual as your artwork.
Mike Brown: Yeah, but it’s the thing. I mean, I come from graphic design background. That’s what I used to do. So when we worked together, I thought that it could be cool to put this great package.
Hardrock Haven: The photos inside the booklet are also interesting. It looks like a mirror effect.
Mike Brown: Yeah, it’s also about life and death, like the film Desperado. And there’s a link with it musically too. Because some songs are very dry, without reverb and kinda hit in your face. And some others are very wet with a lot of reverb with some distance in it. It’s like opposite sides too.
Hardrock Haven: How did you composed the album and record it? Was it easy to do for you?
Mike Brown: Yeah, it was an interesting experience because Jett wasn’t in the band at that time. So it was Andre and myself who wrote the whole album. So, we had some of the ideas previously. For instance, “Little Dirty Secret” and “Scream in Silence” came from some jams that we did several time ago. So it came like that. We get in the studio with Kevin Shirley to get something together.
Hardrock Haven: Yeah, I was surprised to see his name on the record.
Mike Brown: Yes, and that’s the e-mail we’ve got at the end of 2012. It was “get into the studio, get some stuffs together, because that’s happening!” And we were like “…shit! We’ve got to get there.” And so that’s how it happened. There are a couple of songs that just came naturally because we were very creative. For instance, “Until The War Is Won” is purely from the writing experience. “Hangman” and “Wolf In Cheap Clothes” were also created from the writing experience. “Dirty Little Secret,” “Manic For Ya” and “Now I Ride” were songs that were worked before but we never been around to finishing. So that was the opportunity to knock it down and get it done.
Hardrock Haven: Were there many songs that you work in a long period?
Mike Brown: Yeah, for instance, “Scream In Silence” began before the last album. We’re always writing because it’s sort of a natural thing to do. Before this tour, Jett had a place in the middle of nowhere where he could play at 3.00 AM if he wants and there’s no one there to complain. So we went there for two days and tried to write some stuffs. And so we had some really cool jams there and we taped it to get the material for songs. I think that by doing that, we’ve got enough material to record again next year.
Hardrock Haven: Will you try some new songs live?
Mike Brown: We will, but as Jett is new in the band, we had to test him and rehearse a lot. There was a lot of material to learn, from this whole album, plus the last album and some songs from another album that we play sometimes. So it’s been a tough journey for Jett and we have to get some time to write together.
Hardrock Haven: How is the present tour is going?
Mike Brown: It’s great, The Answer guys are awesome. They have a lot more popularity in the UK than anywhere else. So the crowd was crazy. In London, we got nearly a thousand people which was spectacular. The guys from The Answer were really great wich is really important as we’re on the same line-up every night. We played with some new people. It’s our second show in Belgium (the first one was in Graspop). We’ll play in Italy (where we’ve never played). So it’s great to explore some new territory and see what happens. And we like to drink beer, so this place was great too for us! (Laugh)
Hardrock Haven: Do you plan to come back next year?
Mike Brown: Yes, we’re preparing that for april I think… And we’ll come back for the festivals season. So I think you’ll see us in Graspop (in Belgium) or Bospop in Holland, Pinkpop.. You know, all the Pops! (Laugh)