Trik Turner's Trick: Turning Anger Into Positive Energy

Rap-rock band looks to separate itself from its dour peers.

They've shared bills with Crazy Town and Linkin Park, and it's easy to see why — Trik Turner play easy-to-grasp music that blends rap vocals and melodic singing with the rhythmic styles of hip-hop, hard rock, pop and reggae.

But while the band's current single, "Friends and Family," is a radio-ready ballad that sounds like a cross between Crazy Town's "Butterfly" and Sugar Ray's "Every Morning," vocalist David Bowers insists Trik Turner aren't clones.

"You can't listen to anything that's on our album and compare it with anything that's out now," he said from his home in Phoenix. "There are dark sides in everybody's lives and there's positive things, and we deal with both. We're definitely more into that than just trying to be a brag-rhyme type of group or one of those bands that goes, 'Everybody's down on me, so F you.' "

On their self-titled debut album, Trik Turner address a variety of trenchant issues including drug abuse, alcoholism and the struggle for individuality in a homogeneous society. But instead of lashing out with cynicism, the group uses its anger as fuel to create something positive. Even "Father," the darkest song on the record, is cleansing and cathartic. The confessional tune by co-vocalist Doug Moore confronts child abuse and the psychological damage of neglect: "Can you remember how you used to jam your fingers into my chest/ Tell me how stupid you thought I was/ How I'd grow up to be worthless."

"That's his life story right there," said Bowers, who emphasized that the song has yielded positive results. "Doug hadn't seen his father for many years, and we had a big radio show out here a couple months ago where we opened for Staind, and his father showed up at the show. When we got offstage, he looked at his dad and his dad looked him in the eye and said, 'I wish I could change circumstances, but I can't. I appreciate you letting me hear this song. And if I've done anything to inspire you to get to this point, I'm glad for that because you definitely have the talent, and I love you for that.' It was the first time I saw my boy cry."

Not all of Trik Turner is so intense. From cut to cut the band likes to mix it up, dropping old-school hip-hop science one minute and anthemic guitar rock the next. And when Trik Turner choose to wear their influences on their sleeves, they opt for some pretty unorthodox color schemes. "New York Groove" rips a page from the Ace Frehley songbook and delivers it in a hip-hop package, "Black Sheep" is a stormin' update of Black Sheep's "Choice Is Yours," and "Friends and Family" molds a guitar line from Mazzy Star's 1993 song "Five String Serenade" into a sparkling slice of rap-pop.

"Our guitar player, Tre [Thorstad], came up with the idea of using that guitar riff," Bowers said. "He played us the Mazzy Star song and we loved it. It was one of the better records I've listened to, and it's not the typical kind of song you would try to remake, which I really liked. So we replayed it and we gave credit to Arthur Lee (frontman of '60s rock band Love), who wrote it."

Trik Turner formed in 1999 after Bowers and Moore decided to create something that merged their favorite styles of rock and rap. The following year the group recorded the demo Black Seas and Brown Trees, which landed them a deal with RCA. Viewing the band as an uncut gem, the label sent Trik Turner back into the studio with producer Mudrock (Godsmack, Powerman 5000) to rework many songs from their demo.

"It was a really great learning experience," Bowers said. "We'd worked with engineers here and there, but this was a real taste of reality. We brought him a bunch of songs that were probably average, and he whipped us into shape. I call it tough love. We're not used to things being real structured, but he would go, 'Look, you guys gotta do this better, and if not, F you. I'll leave the studio for two hours and when I get back you better have something.' That was necessary. We needed it, and we rose to the occasion."