Mike Tramp on singing in Danish, the demise of White Lion, and how to spoil a dinner party

Mike Tramp headshot
(Image credit: Target Group)

Michael Trempenau’s 40-year career has served up a smorgasbord of hard rock riches. The Dane better known as Mike Tramp made his name fronting American hair-metallers White Lion in the late 80s. 

Since their break-up he’s built a successful solo career with a dozen records. On solo album number 13, For Første Gang (For The First Time), he’s changed things up a little, channelling his inner Elton John on the piano heavy record. 

It follows the reissue in July this year of his 2011 album Stand Your Ground (with 2009’s The Rock ’N’ Roll Circuz). A personal tribute to his homeland, on his new album Tramp sings exclusively in Danish, which, he tells us, was a “breath of fresh air”.

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This deep into your career, was it liberating to try something new? 

That’s exactly what it is. The entire album is written for piano, so I did everything thatI’ve never done before. It was a breath of fresh air, like a trip to the Taj Mahal. These things don’t usually fit into the big picture of the career, but it’s where I come from and it’s how I grew up. I’ve written a lot of songs about growing up in Denmark and leaving my home, but coming home in English is not the same assaying it in Danish. 

Danish is your mother tongue, but was it difficult singing in a language other than English? 

Of course, because I don’t speak Danish very well. I left school when I was fifteen and found sanctuary in English lyrics. My friend Lars would be in the studio when I was singing, and say: “It might say that, but it should be sung this way…” And I go: “Then why are the Danes writing it that way? No wonder I couldn’t fucking spell in school!”

The final White Lion shows took place in 2008, when you performed for thousands of fans in stadiums in India. How was that? 

You end up in places where you wouldn’t imagine you ever would. Three years before, I went to Indonesia, and found out that White Lion were very big. But we’d never gone there. It was one of those things where you just live the moment for a little while. I’ve had much more fun playing Edinburgh for fifty people who sang along with my songs. 

White Lion were one of many bands to suffer from the rise of grunge. Did it all end too soon for them? 

I think it ended too soon for a lot of people. It was just a changing of the guard. But in White Lion the chase was much better than the catch. All I ever wanted was to go to America and sing in a rock band. I built my band, wrote the songs, stood on the stage and was on magazine covers around the world. But then I suddenly didn’t want it any more. How the fuck does that work? 

You once said that you own two hundred and fifty books that debunk the widely accepted events of 9/11

Yeah. I lived in New York for many years. On the day, I sat there and watched [the TV]. The more I watched the buildings come down, there was something inside me saying: “Nah.” Within a couple of hours most Americans had made up their mind about what happened. But once the books started coming out, it caught on to me, and I just couldn’t go with that. I’ve spoiled many dinner parties!

For Første Gang is out now via Target Records.

Copywriter, music journalist and drummer. Once fist bumped James Hetfield. Words for The Guardian, Gear4Music, Metro, Exposed Mag.