KRIS GUSTOFSON (TRAUMA): “SHRAPNEL RECORDS Was Not Into Promoting Their Bands, So It Was Up To The Band To Get On The Road Which Was Next To Impossible”


Bay Area underground Thrash legends Trauma got their start in 1981. At the time, the late Cliff Burton was their bass player. Cliff left the band and joined Metallica prior to the release of Trauma’s 1984 debut album Scratch and Scream. It wasn’t long after the album’s release that the group disbanded. It wasn’t until 30 years later when Trauma re-grouped and released their comeback album Rapture and Wrath in 2015.

2018 saw the release of the follow-up As the World Dies. Currently, Trauma is in the process of putting together their 4th full-length album, scheduled for release sometime soon. Trauma have a tour of Europe planned for the fall with Ross The Boss and Burning Witches, which may or may not happen as of the publishing of this interview. Metal Express Radio interviewed longtime Trauma drummer Kris Gustofson about the early days of the group and what plans they have going forward.

Metal Express Radio: If I knew absolutely nothing about Trauma, how would you describe the band’s music to me?

Kris Gustofson: San Francisco Bay Area Thrash Metal

MER: Trauma is currently working on their 4th full length album. What stage in the recording process are you at?

KG: We are in pre-production mode, so far finalizing 12 tracks to be recorded. Possibly a few more tracks. Should be a strong record. We hope fans will like this next album.

MER: Does the album have a title yet?

KG: We have several ideas, but nothing yet.

MER: Do you have a song written that you are particularly proud of?

KG: I don’t have a particular track that I am ultra fond of since I’m digging on all of them at the moment.

MER: Is Trauma still going to be able to tour Europe this year with Ross the Boss and Burning Witches or has the Covid-19 lockdowns put an end or delay to that?

KG: We are closely watching the situation. The numbers here in the States are on the rise once again and we are banned from traveling. Not looking good at the moment.

MER: In 1982 Trauma’s “Such a Shame” appeared on Metal Blade Records’ infamous Metal Massacre compilation series. Did this appearance lead to your album deal with Shrapnel Records in 1984 or was there something else that led to that deal?

KG: It helped, but not really, Shrapnel had their eyes on the band because of playing many gigs in the Bay Area at the time. The band played out live a ton. In those days there was a huge scene that was seven nights a week of live music going on for years.

MER: Was the Metal Massacre/Metal Blade connection responsible for Cliff Burton leaving Trauma for Metallica?

KG: Perhaps a little, but not much. The band had an underground following and played a show at The Troubador in LA. Lars and James came to that show to check the band out and basically asked Cliff if he may be interested. The rest is ancient history.

MER: What do you remember about recording your 1984 debut album Scratch & Scream?

KG: That record was recorded at Prairie Sun in northern CA. I did all the drum tracks in one night. I think from 8 PM to 8 AM. That’s how we worked in those days. It was a blast to record there. Probably one of the funnest times in the studio. Everything was firing on all cylinders. It was a great moment.

MER: Shrapnel Records was known for their shred/virtuoso guitar players back then (Marty Friedman, Jason, Becker, Tony McAlpine, Vinnie Moore, Paul Gilbert, etc.). Did you ever run into or jam with any of them?

KG: I knew some of them, but everyone was doing their own thing. I did however jam with Frank Hannon, Jake E Lee, John Sykes and a few others at different times.

MER: I watched Trauma’s music video for “The Warlock” on YouTube recently. What do you remember about filming the video?

KG: That was before I was in the band. I do know that the two girls in the video were from Mustang Ranch, which is a brothel in Nevada. They were hired by the band’s manager.

MER: Were the stage theatrics a part of your regular live shows or was this done specifically for the video?

KG: We did have pyrotechnics for a while, but the problem was catching things on fire, which wasn’t good. In the video there were many things going on.

MER: Trauma broke up just a year after the release of Scratch and Scream. What happened?

KG: Lack of direction and no tour support to make it simple. Shrapnel Records was not into promoting their bands, so it was up to the band to get on the road which was next to impossible. We tried different things to make it work but it just wasn’t meant to be. Everyone went and did other things.

MER: It was 30 years until Trauma reunited, what were you doing during that time?

KG: I played on a bunch of other albums doing different kinds of music, toured nationally and internationally with some other artists. Moved from LA back to the Bay Area. Too many things to think of. [I’ve] been blessed all these years to have been busy doing things.

MER: What lead to the reunion of Trauma and the release of your 2014 album Rapture and Wrath?

KG: Basically the re-release of Scratch and Scream in 2013. We decided to try and put an album out to see what direction we should go in, since it was such a long time. Personally not my favorite disc. I wanted to go way heavier with that record, however it seemed positive.

MER: For you as a musician, has the music business changed for the better since your debut in the early 80’s?

KG: Actually, it is the other way around. In the 80’s, in order to get a record deal the band had to be really good, have a draw, and have killer songs. If you were lucky you could end up with a record contract consisting of an advance, tour support, prom, etc. valued at close to 500k. In this current day and age you get nothing compared to that because the labels are gone. I feel sorry for many newer artists that have no clue to how it once was. Very lucrative.


  • George Dionne

    George was a contributor here at Metal Express Radio, reviewing albums and conducting interviews, out of Massachusetts, USA. George has contributed to numerous music related websites and blogs, and even managed his own from 2004-2009. George's first assignment was covering a live show by the mighty GWAR. By contrast his later assignments featured Judas Priest, Van Halen, and Bon Jovi. George was also the front man for the South Eastern Massachusetts cover band Sound Tower from 2009-2015.  Sound Tower played 300+ shows across MA and had two original songs on the Cape Cod radio station PIXY 103. George enjoys a good whiskey, scotch, and/or bourbon and fights crime in his spare time.

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