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Mike Tramp : « It was a mistake to try to do a new version of White Lion »

Vocalist Mike Tramp fought long and hard between 1999 and 2008 to revive White Lion. It all started with a tribute album called Remembering White Lion; then, in 2003, came the announcement that the original line-up would reform, closely followed by a firm denial from the other musicians. The rest consisted in legal problems and various changes in the line-up of Mike Tramp’s White Lion, topped by the deafening silence of Vito Bratta, the band’s guitarist and Tramp’s historical partner in White Lion, who seemed to not want to hear anything about a reformation. This silence lasted until 2007, when the guitarist finally announced that his return had never been ruled out, and all that had kept him away during this time were family and health problems. Hope at the end of the tunnel for White Lion’s fans – met by silence again. In 2008, tired with waiting for the guitarist, Mike Tramp released Return Of The Pride under the name White Lion, which he’d been allowed to keep. The title is a direct reference to Pride, the band’s cornerstone second album.

Here’s a quick summary of past events, in order to fully appreciate what the singer confessed to us when we talked to him recently. « White Lion was over in ’91 and today it’s easy for me to say that it was a mistake to try to reform, or more precisely, do a new version of White Lion so late in my career when I already said goodbye to White Lion in ’91. » he told us abruptly. A « mistake », he says: the word is strong and shows how sorry Mike Tramp really is. He adds: « Unfortunately, I had to go record Return Of The Pride to look back and see that it had nothing to do with White Lion in the sound and that the only thing that was White Lion was the vocals. »

In the end, he had to put things straight: « White Lion was over in ’91 and there won’t be any reunion of any kind. »

And yet, he doesn’t disown the 2008 album: « If you change the name of the band, it would be a great album ! » he admits. To make his point of view clearer, he draws the following parallel: « The thing is that, when you have a glass and it looks like orange juice and then you drink it but it doesn’t taste like orange juice. And here it’s the same: you have an album, it’s white and it looks like, on purpose, the Pride album in many ways, then you put the music on but it doesn’t sound anything like White Lion. […] Now, if I had called the album just Tramp, it would have been different and then you would have listened to it differently. But the second you put the name White Lion on it, you expect to hear the guitar playing from Vito Bratta and the vocals of Mike Tramp. That equals the sound of White Lion and I’m not able to do that and I don’t want to try to attempt that. »

White Lion as it once was.

Truth be told, Mike Tramp is quite hard on his former bandmate – but there’s no animosity behind it, just a desire to give a friend a shake and make him react. Regarding Bratta’s 2007 declaration, saying he wasn’t ruling out a possible return, Tramp says: « That’s the kind of answer a politician would give: he promises to the poor that they’ll sleep in a better bed and have more food but it never happens. So when Vito Bratta says that he has not « ruled out », he’s just basically saying, by not saying it, that he’s not closing but there’s no chance in hell that Vito Bratta would ever get up on stage and play lights and thunders with Mike Tramp. »

Mike Tramp also mentioned a conversation he had two years ago with Vito Bratta, when the man told him: « Oh, you know, I’m still playing guitar! […] I meant my classical guitar! » Hoping to form a project as a duo, following the example of Jimmy Page and Robert Plant’s album, Tramp asked him: « Would you have any space in your life or would you be able to see maybe a collaboration of us doing an album surrounding the classical guitar? » A query that was met with refusal: « Oh, no, no, no, no! Don’t talk about that! » « That’s typical of Vitto Bratta. », says Tramp.

The singer is clearly exasperated by the guitarist’s lack of will, and, above all, by his failure to answer to the fans. « I wish he would have the guts to do some interviews and just tell the truth. […] I really think that he owes his fans a great website and some real answers to the questions that they put. […] It might sound bitter or like I make fun of Vito or whatever but I’m just sick and tired of him not being able to just explain it. It’s just all excuses after excuses! »

To conclude, when we ask him how he sees the guitarist’s personality, which seems difficult to work out, Mike Tamp asks jokingly: « Oh, shit! Did you ever see The Silence Of The Lambs? Have you ever met Hannibal Lecter? »

This fascinating interview, where the singer talks at length about these subjects, his solo album Cobblestone Street and many other issues, will be available in a few days on Radio Metal.

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