The Awakening of the Almighty Trauma
The Awakening of the Almighty Trauma
Trauma is about to hit the highways of North America, going on tour with the likes of Queensrÿche and Marty Friedman – with a local stop at the House Of Blues in Anaheim on March 19th. Originally formed in 1981 in San Francisco, Trauma was one of the first heavy metal bands – along with Exodus, Metallica, and Testament – to trailblaze the style now known as “thrash.” And the thrash metal band’s original bassist was none other than the late/legendary Cliff Burton (who would later join Metallica). 1984 saw the release of the group’s debut album, Scratch and Scream, before the band parted in 1985. But in 2013, Trauma reunited, and have been back in business ever since.
Highwire Daze recently interviewed drummer Kris Gustofson to discuss the upcoming tour, their current Awakening album now available via Massacre Records, joining forces with new vocalist Brian Allen (formerly of Vicious Rumors) and a whole lot more! Read on…
What are you looking forward to the most about your upcoming dates with Queensrÿche and Marty Friedman?
We’re definitely looking forward to it. We’ve been excited about it for a long time, and we can’t wait for it to start.
What was it like being a thrash metal in San Francisco in the early 1980’s alongside bands such as Testament, Exodus, and Metallica – all of whom were starting out around that time as well?
It was a different time then than it is now. There was a lot going on. There was a thriving music scene happening seven nights a week. It went on for years like that. And you could just kind of like feel the energy in the air. It was a really good time to be doing what we did all those years ago. We had a really good time.
What was it like having Cliff Burton in the very early version of Trauma?
Cliff was quite a character – he was an awesome guy – an incredible bass player – a really cool dude to hang out with. He was liked by many, many, many people, so he is definitely missed.
Ten years later after your initial breakup, Trauma did reform. What made you decide to bring the band back after all that time?
It was because Mike Varney wanted to do a re-release of the original Scratch And Scream debut album, and that was kind of the catalyst of us trying to resurrect the band because of the possibility of being able to play some gigs.
During that 10 years when you were not in Trauma, what were you involved with? Was that around the time you did St. Elmo’s Fire?
Yes, it was.
Tell me about St. Elmo’s Fire, and how that band was like compared to Trauma?
St. Elmo’s Fire was more like a hard rock band. We had some songs that maybe hinged a little bit on metal, but not much. It was more of a melodic kind of band. In those days, it was like being in a band to try to score a really big recording contract with a major label. It’s kind of more like going after the money.
Do you still keep in touch with the guys in St Elmo’s Fire? It looks like they recorded as recently as 2017.
Yeah, I think that was Jeff – I wasn’t on the album – I think it was just him wanting to something. I heard a couple of tracks off of it and I thought it wasn’t too bad. I think the original lineup probably would have sounded better. If anybody would be interested in doing it is a whole other story.
And now we need to get back to the story of Trauma. Your new album Awakening – is there any story or concept behind that album title?
The album title kind of came from the artist that drew the album cover. When we started tossing some ideas around after we saw the initial drawings, we just came up with that title – and it just seemed to be kind of fitting.
How influenced was Awakening by the pandemic, if at all?
Pretty much that whole record was written during the pandemic. It started in 2019 – then we lost our singer during that time – he passed away. A lot of crazy bad juju was going on in those days.
When your singer Donny Hillier passed away, did you think about maybe putting Trauma to rest?
Oh yeah, it came pretty close. I know Donny wanted to band to continue on, but the question was like who are you going to find as the lead singer? That’s a component of a band that’s not easy to fix. We got lucky and we were able to get Brian Allen onboard – and then everything seemed to work out okay. It was pretty much a miracle to be honest, man.
And of course, Brian Allen spent some time as the lead vocalist in the band Vicious Rumors. How did you get in touch with Brian and what has it been like to work with him?
We got in touch with him through our producer Juan Ortega who knew him really well – that’s how that happened. And Brian’s an excellent vocalist – he’s a really cool guy – we’re very fortunate that it all worked out with him. And we’re looking forward to doing this tour and getting out there.
What could one expect from a live Trauma show on this upcoming tour?
Most of the tracks that we play live are going to be off the new album. We plan on really killing it every night. I think people will be entertained. I just hope for the best. (Much laughter) Until we start doing this, it’s really hard for me to say. We’re just going to get out there and kick ass basically.
Are you currently involved with any other bands or projects outside of Trauma?
Not at the moment, because I’m really gearing up for this tour. I do session work and stuff. I recorded some tracks with a guitar player friend of mine, but nothing else really at the moment.
You started with Trauma in 1982 – so you’ve basically celebrated your 40th Anniversary with this band. What goes through your mind knowing that you’ve been doing anything for 40 years?
I’ve played drums my whole life. You’ve got to keep in mind I’ve played with all types of different music and bands and everything over the years – it just has not always been Trauma. It’s been with quite a few different people – doing tours over in Europe with different people – the whole nine yards – just trying to be a working musician. Everyday I feel blessed that I’m able to do it for sure.
Do you have any messages for metal fans out here in the Los Angeles/Orange County area?
Oh yeah! Well, anybody in the LA/Orange County area – I hope you guys come out and check Queensrÿche, Marty Friedman and Trauma at the House Of Blues in Anaheim. I’m sure it will be a good time for everybody to come down and check these bands out. We’re going to have merch for sale and all that fun stuff. It’ll be a good time!
Brian Allen – vocals
Steve Robello – guitar
Casey Trask – guitar
Michael Spencer – bass
Kris Gustofson – drums
(Interview by Ken Morton)
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