If a major-label deal is the musical equivalent of being presented with a worldwide soapbox, it doesn't take Trik Turner long to address the big issues on the group's self-titled new RCA debut album.
Consider the title of the album's first track: "Existence." It doesn't get any bigger than that, right? And the very first line uttered by singers/MCs David Bowers and Doug Rid Moore on this hard-rock anthem is: "All my life I've searched for answers."
This early declaration of intent is worth noting, because Trik Turner's blustery fusion of hard rock and hip-hop is undeniably trendy. The group has already gotten comparisons to Limp Bizkit, and more are certainly coming. But beneath the surface similarities, there really is a difference. Despite Fred Durst's post-September 11 attempt to transform himself into Gandhi with a backward cap, Limp Bizkit is -- and will always be -- lug-headed frat-boy fodder, lowest common denominator dung for people who consider "I did it all for the nookie" and "keep rollin', rollin', rollin'" to be cathartic pearls of wisdom.
With Trik Turner, though, you actually get the sense that the songs were written as a means of working out some internal angst or confusion, not merely as a way to meet porn stars.
Veterans of the Valley's hip-hop scene, with roots in local bands like Brothers Grim and Cousins of the Wize, Trik Turner is also an anomaly because it comes off as a hip-hop group that added rock to the mix, rather than the other way around. In the context of the historic 1991 Public Enemy/Anthrax collaboration "Bring the Noise," it would be closer to Public Enemy (albeit with a live band to augment the DJ), whereas most of the groups in this idiom reek of Anthrax.
In truth, Bowers -- who founded the group with Moore as a home-recording project in Gilbert -- has always had his feet in both musical camps. He played drums along with his AC/DC records in grade school, and went on to do DJ work in high school. He produced hip-hop records before he ever joined a band, but he always wanted to bring an alt-rock flavor to rap.
"We know we're going to be lumped in the huge big mess of rap and rock. That's fine," he says. "We do what we do; we didn't set out to contrive certain songs to sound certain ways. That's kinda just happened when we wrote those songs. Lyrically, Doug and I are pretty proud, 'cause I'm not about brag-rhyming."
The group's 2000 self-released CD, Black Seas and Brown Trees, caught the attention of major labels after its track "Friends & Family" went into regular rotation on The EDGE and got a massive listener response. Bowers says RCA "swooped in" at the last second and snatched the group away from MCA Records, because RCA's commitment to its music seemed stronger.
"They said, 'We don't just want to throw out a single to see if it sticks on the wall. We want to get behind you guys, with videos and all,'" Bowers says.
Now, in the middle of an East Coast radio tour, Trik Turner has seen its signature track added to more than 60 radio stations around the country, and with its CD hitting stores on February 26, the group is set to debut on MTV this week with two separate video interpretations of the song, both by director Marcos Siega.
If "Friends & Family" (with its insinuating "nothing else matters" refrain) was an undeniable hit from jump street, once the group members began sessions in L.A. with Godsmack producer Mudrock, they were informed -- in the bluntest terms imaginable -- that some of their hooks weren't so magical.
"From our original demo, before we had all the members, we had a song called 'Temptation,'" Bowers recalls. "Mudrock listened to our demo and basically said, 'Guys, this is a turd. We need to polish this. We need to come up with something.'"
It was the kind of tough love that can create animosity in the studio, but Trik Turner actually welcomed Mudrock's determination to push it creatively.
"The whole band loved working with the guy, 'cause it kinda opened our eyes and woke us up that we're on a major and we're recording for real," Bowers says. "There was a point where we were all sitting in the control room, and he said, 'You guys need to get your shit together. I'm fucking out of here. You guys have two hours to rewrite a hook musically and I'll come back and see what you've got.' And I think that was somewhat of a test, but it helped us. It let us know we had to step everything up."
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Granz Slam: In the 1940s, the late Norman Granz shook up the music world with his Jazz at the Philharmonic concerts in Los Angeles, a series of showcases that adapted the jam session to a concert hall environment. In tribute to Granz, who passed away last November, local jazz aficionado Al Singer has organized an all-star jam session of Valley jazz heavyweights at the Rhythm Room. The ringleaders will be drummers Dave Cook and Dom Moio, with a rotating cast that includes pianists Charles Lewis, Beth Lederman and Frank Smith, bassists Ted Sistrunk and Bob Lashier, sax players Bryon Ruth, Paul Anderson and Richie Oropeza, trumpeter Fred Forney, and multi-instrumentalist Sherman Mitchell.
A Tribute to Jazz at the Philharmonic and Norman Granz is scheduled for Monday, February 25, at the Rhythm Room. Showtime is 7:30 p.m.
Byrd Watching: As the musical mastermind of the Byrds, Roger McGuinn not only established an enduring vocabulary for the electric 12-string guitar, he found a way to make blue-tinted granny glasses fashionable for a spell. A dedicated folkie who was literally electrified by seeing the Beatles in A Hard Day's Night, McGuinn has come full circle. He performs acoustically these days, and his latest release, Treasures From the Folk Den, is a Grammy Award nominee in the "Best Traditional Folk Album" category. He'll be making a rare Valley appearance on February 24 at Anderson's Fifth Estate, and if you're nice, he just might play "Chestnut Mare" for you.
Roger McGuinn is scheduled to perform on Sunday, February 24, at Andersons Fifth Estate in Scottsdale. Call for showtime.