The San Francisco bay area is no stranger to great metal. The city and its surrounding areas spawned Death Angel, Exodus, Testament, Vio-lence, and, of course, Metallica. One of the bands, though, that only the true head bangers are typically aware of and pre-dated Metallica's heyday was Trauma, which was the late, great Cliff Burton's band prior to joining Lars, James, and Kirk to put out Kill'em All. Trauma flat out rocked and rode right down the centerline of the heavy metal highway, equal parts thrash and melodic heavy metal ala Dio and Iron Maiden. Singer Donny Hiller has one of the rare combinations of power and finesse you just don't find in a lot of metal singers these days, so Trauma is not your average new (again) band in 2015. Originally formed in 1981, Hiller is joined by guitarist Kurt Fry, bassist Marcel Eaton, and drummer Kris Gustofson, Trauma is back at after a long hiatus and ready to rock. Check out their new album, The Rapture and the Wrath on Pure Steel Records.
Tom Reardon for antiMusic: So what have the members of Trauma been up to during the hiatus?
Donny Hiller: We have all been in various bands. Recording projects, playing live dates. Some touring.
antiMusic: Why come back now?
Donny: We always intended to reunite. When Shrapnel Records remastered and re-released the Scratch and Scream album, the label mentioned it would be a good idea to reunite. It was a time when Kris and I were both available and we felt there would never be a better time.
antiMusic: What are the major differences you see in the world of metal these days as compared to your early years?
Donny: There are a lot of bands who play as fast as they can with singers who growl.
There are fewer venues to play in Northern CA, and possibly all over the US, although Europe still seems strong. With the Internet everyone can do a great deal of promoting their own music.
Many of the old record labels are gone. There is rampant downloading of the music, which it seems has sucked so much money out of the music industry.
antiMusic: How often do you get asked about working with Cliff Burton? Got any favorite Cliff stories you'd like to share?
Donny: I often am asked about Cliff. He was great fun to play in a band with. Although sometimes quiet, he had a very witty, sarcastic sense of humor. Very smart. Not surprisingly, music was one of the important things to him, along with family and friends. He was very devoted to his family and they were to him. We remained friends until he died. He could be a bit wild on the road, enough said.
antiMusic: Here in Phoenix, you guys were revered...what are some of your favorite places to play?
Donny: We played often at the premier clubs in the San Francisco Bay Area. We played at the Whiskey and the Troubador in LA years ago. Last year we did dates in California, Reno, Nevada, and Germany. We played last week in Northern CA. We would love to come play in Phoenix!
antiMusic: Tell me about your influences...what bands get your blood going in the right direction?
Donny: Many of the classics, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, Dio, etc., you know, great bands with great singers.
antiMusic: The Rapture and the Wrath just came out. How does it feel to have a new record out after so long?
Donny: It feels great! The whole process of writing and developing songs, playing them and then recording them with other musicians you admire and enjoy is one of the best experiences. This album was long overdue. We are enjoying doing interviews and seeing reviews of the album. We are already working on songs for the next album.
antiMusic: Tell me about the recording process. Where did you record, with who, etc?
Donny: Rapture and Wrath was recorded at Tanglewood Studios, near Sacramento, CA. The engineers were John Morris, studio owner, and Karen Lowry. The album was produced by the band members. The album was mastered in Germany by Michael Kusch at Qusound Studios, at the request of Pure Steel Records.
antiMusic: How has your creative process changed over the years?
Donny: I am not sure it has changed much. I am still working with a guitarist, at this time it is Kurt Fry. Kurt starts by playing ideas, I come up with lyrics and vocal melodies, and each band member adds his parts.
antiMusic: What is next for the band?
Donny: As I mentioned, we are writing the songs for the next album. We have a video out of When I Die, one of the tracks on Rapture and Wrath. We are playing shows. We have been doing interviews for radio stations and Metal magazines.