Many musicians who achieve a modicum of success in a particular genre often find themselves so identified with that style of music that it’s often jarring when their fans or even casual music observers hear of them doing a project that is seemingly at odds with their popularly held image.
But it must be said that most musicians, whether they be known as country artists, pop, dance, metal, jazz or blues, often have many disparate influences and occasionally let those influences out for a little fresh air. Such is the case for Trixter drummer Mark Gus Scott.
Best known as the wild man behind the kit for the popular 1980s melodic or ‘hair’ metal band based out of Paramus, New Jersey, Scott has significant training in classical music and is as adept with the trumpet as he is bashing the skins for his resurgent band. At the time of the American Thanksgiving, which this year is on Nov. 23, he will be releasing a solo seasonal album called Christmas Miracle.
In anticipation of this release, and as a way also to commemorate the recent anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States, he recorded an instrumental version of the beloved and beautiful Franz Schubert song Ave Maria, and released it with an accompanying video, which was shot, directed and edited by his son Brandon.
“I always liked the song but there were two things that actually made me think of recording it. I am a huge fan of the TV show the West Wing with Martin Sheen. And there was an episode where Ave Maria was featured, and the way they presented it had me captivated and I truly fell in love with the song. And then there was the Hitman movie and video game franchise. In the first movie they took Ave Maria and they put some slow motion visuals of the guy killing some people. The idea of putting such a beautiful song alongside such violence stirred something up inside me. I remember wondering to myself how would it sound played in the trumpet. I had never really done that before, using the trumpet as the lead voice,” he said, adding that he recorded a version at the home studio of Trixter vocalist Pete Loran just to see how it would turn out.
“We’re both rock and roll oriented individuals, so the idea of doing some sort of classical song in a Kenny G style – we didn’t know what the heck we were going to come up with. But I had a vision that if that performance worked, we could put some backing tracks behind it to fill out the sound and it might turn out to be something special. And this was before the idea of doing an album. We just wanted to do it for kicks. I was playing my horn for fun. After about five minutes of mixing we both looked at each other and realized we had something here. We were like, ‘holy crap, this sounds really good.’ And it was incredible because it was something we never did before; something bordering on classical music. We felt kind of tickled that we could so it. But then we wondered what the hell are we going to do with it?”
He said the positive result from the experiment spurred Scott towards the idea of recording and releasing an instrumental Christmas album, that was still within that quasi-classical vein. But then Scott thought that there was a way to use Ave Maria for more than just entertainment.
First he and his son created a video that is meant to be a tribute and remembrance of all those who perished during the attacks on the World Trade Centre, the Pentagon and in the downed aircraft in Pennsylvania on Sept. 11, 2001. Secondly, all proceeds from the sale of the single will go to the Hope 4 Kids organization, an aid agency that helps improve the lives of children living in poverty, particularly in Africa.
“I now live in Phoenix, but I spent most of my time and my career living in New Jersey, just across the Hudson River from Manhattan. And I had become pretty jaded about the city over the years, and kind of took it for granted. I was always complaining about the tolls on the bridge, or the traffic or the noise. But then as my son got older he really re-awakened my excitement for all that New York had to offer. I really got to see how incredible the city is through his eyes. And he also started to be more curious about what happened on Sept. 11. So when it came time to doing this video years later he wanted to use images of New York and make it a remembrance of what happened on that day,” Scott said, adding that after the first plane struck the first of the twin towers, he watched the rest of the disaster live across the river.
“We were about seven miles away and we could always see the World Trade Centre very clearly. When the first plane hit I went outside and I could see what happened for myself. When the second plane hit I wasn’t looking at it on TV, I was looking at it from outside, just a few miles away. And then flipping around on different TV stations and the radio nobody knew at the time what was going on. We heard about the attack on the pentagon and that there may be other planes in the air or other attacks. There were rumours that the Georgetown Mall in Washington was on fire, that there was a bomb at the Empire State Building, and that kind of thing. I gotta tell you, there was some panic in New Jersey that day. And I remember the police were out in force making a visual presence just to calm people down. We didn’t know what was going on. I ran back home to be with my family and just remember it being very spooky and very scary.
“But one thing for sure was that it did unite the country. It was a big awakening for patriotism. But the idea that people are forgetting about it and that it’s kind of being swept under the rug and that there may be some other individuals who had something to do with the whole thing – that is what we find unacceptable and that is why we must always remember.”
Scott said he knew he wanted to use the song to help raise money for a good cause as well, and cast his net far and wide to find one where he knew the money was going to go to boots on the ground and not to those wearing suits and ties in big offices somewhere.
“I am donating 100 per cent of the proceeds for Ave Maria to Hope 4 Kids. I really wanted to find a special charity, an organization where the vast majority of the money went to the cause, not where I was going to learn somewhere down the line that only 30 per cent of the money goes to the kids and the rest goes to somebody’s Cadillac. When I came upon Hope 4 Kids International I went to their offices and everybody that works there sponsors a child. Everybody that works there has gone to Uganda and other Third World countries to dig wells, build schools. They’ve even helped kids who’ve lost their parents become teachers or go to law school. It’s wild stuff, and they’ve been doing it since the 1970s,” he said.
“And 90 per cent of the revenue goes to their programs. It’s amazing, everybody in this organization is invested in the cause, there’s no pencil pushers. So the idea that an organization has been doing it for so long and they have their true hearts invested in what’s going on every day, that spoke to me. And now I sponsor a child myself and it’s the coolest thing to make change in a child’s life. These guys are in action and the idea of not being a part of it was a crime. This is something I wanted to be a part of and the idea that I can be an agent of change and wake people up to possibly helping out – I can’t tell you how good that makes me feel. That’s why I am honoured to be associated with them, honoured to be a spokesperson for them.”
Besides the Christmas Miracle album and the Ave Maria fundraising single, Trixter is still a going concern and continues to be in the midst of resurgence after getting back to there in 2008. The band broke up in 1995 after more than a decade of success, including signing a major label deal with MCA not long after all the members graduated from high school. Their self-titled debut was release in 1990 and made the top 30 on the charts, selling more than a half million copies for Gold status on the strength of singles/videos Line of Fire and Give It To Me Good.
The sophomore release, Hear!, came out in 1992 just as Grunge was starting to push the 1980s metal bands off the musical landscape, but it still managed to sell a respectable 100,000 copies. After being dropped from MCA and releasing Undercovers in 1994 on a smaller label, the band splintered and stayed apart until nine years ago when it reformed for a date at Rocklahoma in 2008 and some Japanese shows. A live album from Japan was released that same year, followed up by a greatest hits package in 2009 and the band has been on the road ever since, releasing two albums on Italy-based Frontiers records, New Audio Machine in 2012 and Human Era in 2015.
During Trixter’s hiatus, Scott became a successful sales and marketing executive, eventually relocating to Phoenix. But since Trixter’s reformation, he’s back to being a full on rock musician … and classically-trained trumpet player!
For more information on Mark Gus Scott, the Christmas Miracle CD and Ave Maria song/video, visit https://markgusscottusa.wixsite.com/music.
For more information on Hope 4 Kids International, visit http://www.hope4kidsinternational.org.
And for details on shows and other upcoming Trixter happenings, visit http://www.trixterrocks.com or their Facebook page.
- Jim Barber is a veteran award-winning journalist and author based in Napanee, ON, who has been writing about music and musicians for a quarter of a century. Besides his journalistic endeavours, he now works as a communications and marketing specialist. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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