A Conversation With Tokyo Motor Fist/Def Leppard Guitarist Steve Brown

Not many bands have the pedigree found in Tokyo Motor Fist.  Its members, Steve Brown, Ted Poley, Greg Smith, and Chuck Burgi have been in Trixter, Def Leppard, Danger Danger, Blue Oyster Cult, Rainbow, Billy Joel, and countless other bands.  They are about to release their second record, Lions, and Steve Brown took some time to talk about it and his incredible career.
Please press the PLAY icon below for the MisplacedStraws Conversation with Steve Brown:

On the band coming together –  Getting back to the debut album we when we put the band together from Frontiers Records, and I got to give a shout out to Sarafino (Perugino) and everybody at Frontiers because it was their idea, they’re known for putting together these so-called “Super Groups”. So it was a logical step because Bruno Revel who also coincidentally mixed Lions, the brand new Tokyo Motor Fist record with me,  Bruno is my bandmate in Danger Danger, he has a great side band called The Defiants. So I think it was a natural knee-jerk reaction for Frontiers to go “Hey, well we got to get Steve and Ted to finally do a record”, and so it was very natural.  Ted and I grew up in the same area of Bergen County, New Jersey, Chuck Burgi is a Montclair, New Jersey guy, Greg Smith’s a Long Island guy, so we’re all very much in tune. We have the same sort of crazy sense of humor and a love for each other. All of us have been known each other and (been) friends for over 30 years so it made absolute sense for this to be the line up for Tokyo Motor Fist And I couldn’t be happier. 1:00
On the Tokyo Motor Fist sound – We’re not reinventing the wheel here. Frontiers has a very strict protocol of what they want and that protocol is what I am, It’s in my DNA…There’s one common element and everything that I do, it’s pop-rock. So everything I’ve ever done, it’s all about melodic, pop-rock songwriting and that’s what I love. My favorite songwriters, Lennon & McCartney, Gene and Paul from KISS, Eddie and David Lee Roth, the Van Halen stuff, Mutt Lange, and the Def Leppard sound, Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora, Desmond Child, all that great stuff that’s my heart and soul. So no matter what when I right that’s what I write and that’s what I do best…and Frontiers, that’s what they wanted from us. We’re here to celebrate our past and bring it up to date and it doesn’t sound dated, but it’s everything that you ever loved about the eighties all rolled up into one and it has influences of all the bands that we’ve ever been in.  So with Tokyo Motor Fist, of course, you’re going to hear the Trixster influence, ff course you’re going to hear the Danger Danger influence, then throw in Greg Smith, played with Alice Cooper, plays with Ted Nugent, he was in Rainbow. You hear those influences. Chuck Burgi, of course, he played on half the first Bon Jovi record and then he played on so many other records, Billy Joel’s drummer, he was in Rainbow, “Street of Dreams” he’s on that, that’s the drummer…that’s the great thing about it, we wear our influences on the sleeve and we celebrate that. Tokyo Motor Fist is definitely a celebration band. 2:44
On the title track “Lions” – The title track “Lions”, that was the song that I wrote last year and it was influenced by my time playing with Def Leppard for the last eight years, filling in for them, and filling in for the great Dennis DeYoung, formerly of Styx.  Dennis is a dear friend of mine…It wasn’t until 2015 when I got the call to go play with Dennis that I really discovered the brilliance of Dennis DeYoung’s songwriting and the brilliance of Styx, how great of a band they are…”Lions” is the direct result for me wanting to have a “The Best of Times” a “Suite Madam Blue”, a “Gods of War” by Def Leppard, “Bringing on the Heartbreak”,  a different style sound…What I tell people is  Tokyo Motor Fist “Lions” track, that song is my “Bohemian Rhapsody” if you will. Very, very over the top, real strings, tons of vocals, the most chords I’ve ever used in any song that I’ve ever written in my life. So it’s very, very over the top but the meaning of the song has never been more poignant and never more important than it is right now. This is the song that the world needs to hear. along with the whole record, but “Lions” is a message that we all need to be as people, mankind, we need to step up and be lions. I’m a lion the way I live my life.  My joke to everybody is  I’m a part-time Def Leppard but I’m always a full-time lion and that’s because of the way I live my life. And anybody that knows me knows that’s the way I live my life. This song is about taking charge, being a leader, and making change happen because we can do it.  I believe when this when we get through this Covid the next couple of years the world is going to be a bigger, better, stronger, healthier place because of what we went through. 6:40
On touring with Tokyo Motor Fist – We all have day jobs if you know what I mean. Chuck Burgi’s Billy Joel’s drummer, Greg plays with Ted Nugent, whether I’m filling in for Def Leppard or Dennis Deyoung or whatever other bands that I’m playing with.  Rubiks Kube, of course, is my real day job.  There’s only so much we can do, but we have new booking agencies for North America and for Europe and for Japan. We were gonna go over to Japan in November. We had dates book so unfortunately, everything is just on hold.  But we certainly, all of us I believe collectively, believe that Tokyo Motor Fist is our first love musically, so we would love more than anything to be able to play lots of shows, and that certainly is the plan because the band is a real rock and roll band. We’re not one of these Frontiers Records fake supergroup, fake bands. We’re a real tried and true band that actually gets in the same room and rehearses together, gets up on stage, and actually plays live gigs. That’s where we really shine. As great as the records are, our live show’s something to be seen because when Tokyo Motor Fist plays live we play Tokyo Motor Fist stuff but we also nod to our history and our illustrious careers. We do some Rainbow, we do some Ted Nugent, we do some Trixter and we do some Danger Danger. It’s a tremendous show So we want to keep bringing that all around the world 11:15
“Around Midnight”
On the status of Trixter – We’re celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the debut album so I’m in the process of negotiating with Universal Records to hopefully get the license and the master tapes to be able to do a proper 30th-anniversary deluxe reissue where I would like to be able to remix it and put out all of the other tracks,  the demos,  we have a ton of stuff. PJ (Farley) and I’ve been compiling all the video footage that we have. So we have a company here in New Jersey that’s really involved and trying to work, my lawyers, we have all the people doing that. So that’s where the Trixter camp is right now, that’s where my head is at because I own the name Trixter. PJ & I run all the business and I’m handling all of the restoration of all the stuff. That’s what I’ve been doing a lot over this whole pandemic being locked in my studio. I’ve been transferring old analog tapes from our first recording sessions back in 1986, all the cassettes, everything. So for all the Trixter fans out there, know within the next couple of years you’re gonna see a tremendous amount of material being released by myself and Trixter because we have the 30th anniversary of the debut album this year, which hopefully we’re gonna be able to put out some stuff.  In 2022 is the 30th anniversary of Hear, we Live in Japan, so we have a lot of reissues,  we’re gonna be doing vinyl, so there’s a ton of activity in the Trixter camp.
Regarding the other two guys,  Pete (Loran) and the drummer (Mark “Gus” Scott), probably not going to see them playing live with us any time soon. I’d be lying if I said there isn’t a fracture there in the family. It’s definitely a broken relationship at this point.  PJ and I are cool with Pete, he’s busy with his day job and taking care of the kids, so I don’t think he really wants to go out and play live anymore. Gus, the drummer, he’s on the shit list beyond belief with us right now so I just don’t think that’s gonna happen. We are probably going to be going out with some new version with new members with some version of Trixter within the next couple of years. 12:55
“Mean It”
On hooking up with Def Leppard – Well, I gotta tell you, when I was a little kid I discovered Def Leppard in 1980 when “On Through the Night” came out. I was 10 years old and somebody showed me these guys and they were like, “Man the drummer’s 15 years old”,  and instead of going “Holy, I can’t believe it”,  immediately a lightbulb went off in my head and I was like “If he’s 15, I can start a band and then get signed and go out on tour”. Def Leppard was the biggest influence as a kid for me, especially Rick Allen, We can be teenagers and get a record deal and be rock stars and do this because Def Leppard was doing it.  Those guys have been a lifelong influence.  I met them in 1987 on the Hysteria tour and Phil Collen and I have had a friendship, he’s one of my best friends in the world. He’s like a brother to me, like my godfather let’s say. He’s always been there to support me and Joe (Elliott) and Sav (Rick Savage), again I’ve known these guys for well over 30 years and when Vivian got diagnosed with cancer in 2013, Phil brought it up to the powers that be and everybody’s like, “Call Steve”…The reason I got the Def Leppard gig was the friendship. Those guys know me, they know my family, we hang out we all get along great which is the most important part.  I got the gig not because of my lickety-split shred guitar playing, it was the vocals because I can sing all that stuff.  Singing all those Mutt Lange parts and covering all of Vivian’s parts. Then in 2018, of course, covering for my friend, helping him out when he had a family emergency, covering for Phil So it’s been an unbelievable situation, I’m honored that  I’m kind of like the unofficial sixth member of Def Leppard because I’m always there. I’m always on call for those guys and it’s a great thing to be able to fill in for one of your favorite bands as a kid.  16:20
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