From boyband pop and screaming teenage girls to a heavy rock icon in the U.S. And now, back in Denmark as an experienced classic rock musician, who puts his heart and soul into everything he does. Mike Tramp is 100% himself, and now he is ready for a surprising Melodi Grand Prix comeback.
‘My name is very well known in Denmark, but very few people know my songs. People will read an article about me in the newspaper, and they’ll go like; oh that’s the guy from that time and have forgotten that since that time I’ve done 23 albums’.
Such are the words from Mike Tramp as we caught up with him on the phone. When Danish broadcaster DR presented the eight acts to compete in this year’s Danish final, his name stood out. Media described his participation as a ‘sensational comeback’.
Indeed, it’s 43 years since he last stood on the Dansk Melodi Grand Prix stage – and won. If he repeats his victory, it will set a new remarkable record for longest time in between Eurovision entries. But Mike isn’t thinking that far… not yet. For him, his Danish final appearance is not a direct hope to represent Denmark at the Eurovision Song Contest. For him, there’s another and more important agenda; to show the real Mike Tramp. To stand on the stage and be 100% himself.
‘There’s no other option. When you have given so much up in your life… And that’s including my children and my wife and my life, the price that I paid for all this kind of stuff. I go by the motto that I rather flop which something that I stand for than have success with what that I don’t stand for. And “Boom Boom” in 1978 was not what I wanted’.
From teenage pop to heavy rock
Boom Boom has haunted Mike Tramp over the years. He and his fellow band members in Mabel experienced an extreme success, which simply became too much. In 1978, Denmark returned to the Eurovision Song Contest after a 13-year-long break. Dansk Melodi Grand Prix was re-introduced as the national final, and the young pop band Mabel won with the song Boom Boom. Things quickly exploded, and within no time, the young guys found themselves chased by screaming teenage girls who would camp outside the house where the band lived. It became too much, and for the boys, and in particular for Mike Tramp, it got more and more difficult to see themselves in it. When talking about that period now, Mike starts out using words like ‘I’ and ‘We’, until he steps out, and almost looks back on it from above talking about himself in third person.
‘Had you asked me the day after I wouldn’t have been able to tell you what’s left or right – but today 43 years later looking back and understanding the whole thing, it was almost like there was a void, there was an empty space that we went in and filled and suddenly all this hysteria got built up. When maybe 50% follows the other 50%, and when one starts screaming they all start screaming. But I also think it’s important to mention that at the end of 1977, when we were doing our second album we had no knowledge about the Eurovision Song Contest or anything like that. We were a band building around our influences from England. You know bands like Status Quo, Deep Purple, Queen… stuff like that. We’re suddenly thrown into the Eurovision Contest on recommendation by our record company. We went on compromise from day 1 on, and all through the process it was one compromise after another. Which is why it basically took Mike Tramp 27 years to win back the love for the song, he had been part of in ’78’.
Mike Tramp has experienced it all. From boyband pop star in Denmark to heavy rock singer in the US, and back to the sensitive soft rock singer who has musically landed right there where he is supposed to be. For Mike, it took a long time to get to that point and the road wasn’t easy.
To get away from the hysteria in Denmark, Mabel moved to Spain and started a journey to try to get back to what they wanted musically. After three years in Spain, they moved to the US where the band split up. Mike stayed in the US. For him, that was the natural place to be – at that time.
‘You know, it’s almost like Mabel in ’78 became like the fuse that lit my rocket. And once the rocket took off it was a one way that would never return. Obviously on the long run, I sort of returned and started playing more shows in Denmark, recording my last 8 albums here in the country and spending more time and possibly, I am on the way to return here permanently. But, the thing was, once I started taking over the band, started writing all the songs I had one place to go, and it was America. It was just a matter of how long it would take. And in 1982, after I had been living three years in Spain with Mabel, we went to New York and started a new life. It only lasted half a year, but after that I continued and obviously I haven’t stopped since’.
After heavy rock bands White Lion and Freak of Nature, Mike went solo. It was time to find the real Mike Tramp, and slowly, but steadily, he managed. When asked if he, after 12 solo albums, finally is at the right place, he confirms. It wasn’t an easy journey, but Mike Tramp found peace, so much, that he is now ready to go up on that Melodi Grand Prix stage once more – this time with his self written song Everything Is Alright, and this time, it’s the real Mike Tramp we’ll see and hear.
‘After my third band, Freak of Nature, it left me with a sort of similar feeling like someone who had been married three times and the first break up takes the house, the second one the children and the third one the bank account. And now you stand there completely naked and empty. When I started my solo career in 1995, the one thing that was most important was that my songs would represent my life. And the word “I” in every song, or the word “me” in every song would always represent Mike Tramp. There would never be any form of fiction. It would be about my life, how I saw life, where I’d been and was going, and all the things in between. Which is also why, that, when I wrote “Everything Is Alright”.. That is not written with the Eurovision Song Contest in mind, that is written like my 500 other songs. As a Mike Tramp song, no compromise, 100% me’.
A heavy rocker returns home
When Mike Tramp goes on stage in Dansk Melodi Grand Prix, he is not thinking about the Eurovision Song Contest. He wants to get out with his music, and show that classic rock still has its place in a Danish music scene, which has otherwise, for a large part, been ignoring this type of music and its fans.
‘I was part of the big MTV days in America in the 80s. MTV today has nothing to do with music. No people at my age group or even fifteen years younger are watching that any more. Nobody goes to record stores. Nobody really listens to radio because the radios don’t play classic rock and roll any more. And I’m not talking Judas Priest or Iron Maiden or that, I’m just talking about classic rock and roll from The Eagles to David Bowie, to Elton John to Queen, the middle of the road rock and roll which I grew up with… Whenever people have discovered my solo albums, either in concerts or stuff like that they have embraced it in Denmark. Which is also why I feel that when I walk up on stage and play Everything Is Alright in front of the national audience in Denmark, I think a lot of people will identify with a time period in their life’.
When talking to Mike Tramp, there’s no doubt that he found peace within himself. He is proud of where he is today, proud of his 12 solo albums that followed after the teenage pop in Mabel and the heavy rock in White Lion and Freak of Nature. He has been through a lot, experienced massive success, but without having his heart in it all. Now that he landed the right place, there’s only one thing missing though… the recognition. Without hesitation, he acknowledges that the solo albums so far did not get the recognition they deserve.
‘I have achieved one thousand percent what I aim for musically. If you ask: “Have I, reached the commercial success?” then the answer is only once, in the 80s. And of course it would be nice to have the both things working together. These days I have a die-hard audience around the world. They’re not many, but they buy all my albums and I put a lot of time both into the quality of the album covers, the depth of everything that I produce; limited editions, special stuff, it’s not just for that. Because, you know, the die-hard fans have really been there and grown with me and succeeded’.
‘The second you combined Dansk Melodi Grand Prix together with Mike Tramp, it almost became a code word and some people woke up in the country and thought “wow, now I’m gonna watch it”.
Voting concerns for the elder generations
In Norway, double Eurovision participant from 1986 and 1990 Ketil Stokkan, delivered a just as surprising Melodi Grand Prix comeback this year. Musically, him and Mike aren’t exactly close to each other, but they have many other similarities. They are the same generation (Tramp is today 60 while Stokkan is 64 years old) and both comebacks were unexpected. They both come with the same message: Mike Tramp says that Everything Is Alright and for Ketil Stokkan the title of his song is similar; My Life Is OK. When accepting to take part in Melodi Grand Prix after that many decades, they also both knew what they wanted, and they told their broadcasters straight out how things were going to be. Mike wants to be in charge of everything 100% himself, and Norwegian Ketil insisted on using his 1986 choreographer instead of NRK’s one.
When we recently talked to Ketil Stokkan for a musical video portrait, he also raised concern that Melodi Grand Prix is becoming a show only young people can win. Many of the older viewers are left unable to vote as broadcasters step away from phone calls and SMS. Mike Tramp shares that concern. In Denmark, you can only vote via the broadcaster app, and he is plain aware of that it might cost him some votes… but just like Stokkan, he decided to focus on what else he can get out of this, if not enough votes.
‘Everybody would be concerned about that… I will of course be very happy with going away with the winning song. But there’s no money that can pay for going on TV at 8 o’clock on a Saturday night and play your own song, for the Danish audience. That will mean more to me than anything else’.
On the 6th of Match 2021, Mike Tramp is one of the participating acts in the 2021 edition of Dansk Melodi Grand Prix. With the song Everything Is Alright, he wants to show the real Mike Tramp… In case anyone is still in doubt about who that is, he defines himself like this:
‘I am rock and roll. Rock and roll is my lifestyle, and rock and roll is not necessarily a loud guitar or screaming vocal but a way of seeing life, a philosophy, my own religion, my way of dealing with things’.
In the embedded video below, you can listen to Mike Tramps’s Everything Is Alright. At EuroVisionary, we would like to wish him the very best of luck at this year’s Dansk Melodi Grand Prix, and in his future career.