Not long after it released its debut disc, "Bender," in 2007, Milwaukee hard rock outfit Trance Halo hit a bump in the road as two of the band's members departed.
But it wasn't long before remaining members Belle Dorn and London J. recruited lead guitarist Chris Radomski and drummer Russ Fink -- who had been part of local metal band Evel. And, Dorn and J. never stopped working during the "down time."
In fact, they finished work on another five-song EP to follow the five-track "Bender."
"We Keep Our Secrets Safe" was recorded with with the collaboration of Daniel Holter and Kyle White at Wauwatosa's Burst HQ. The initial tracks were laid with former drummer and guitarist Brad Schwechel and Johnny Winston, but were completed and mixed at Burst after their departure.
A thundering, dramatic record with heavy dynamics, "We Keep Our Secrets Safe" is certainly a testament to Trance Halo's skills.
We recently asked the band about the changes it's been through and about the new record.
OnMilwaukee.com: Trance Halo lost half its members last year, didn't it? Can you tell us what happened?
London J.: The new material was starting to demand more complexity in the guitars. We asked Chris to join up to add some more creativity in the guitar department so I can concentrate more on the vocal.
Belle Dorn: What happened after that could be made into a bad "B" movie. I would want to be played by Drew Barrymore.
LJ: For my part, I think I would choose Benicio Del Toro.
Russ Fink: I know nothing about that. I came in at the end when the dust had settled.
BD: The important thing is that the new guys are great and they bring a lot of musical ideas to the table. The band is gelling now in a good way.
OMC: Did that loss set the band back in terms of writing and recording the new CD?
LJ: No, the basic tracking was already in the can. What took so long for "We Keep Our Secrets Safe," was that we had all this time and freedom to explore the studio, both at home and at Burst, to just add a lot of interest and depth. We wanted a record that would stand up to repeated listening.
BD: Yes, I know, and I was the one who recorded each and every little experiment. Let's move it along a little faster next time, OK guys? (laughs.)
OMC: Have the new members changed the band's sound?
Chris Radomski: Russ and I have been playing in bands together for years, so we bring a certain chemistry to the table. Our influences include a lot of heavier bands, more obscure bands. We are starting to change up the song structures, and we are going for a more organic approach to songwriting.
RF: We bring a new edge to this band. Heavily influenced by Enya and Kenny G. (laughs) Definitely a heavier element.
LJ: Yeah, like plutonium. We have been using more of the baritone guitar and lower tunings. Let's just say that we all own custom-fit earplugs now. And we want to apologize to our neighbors.
OMC: You worked with Kyle White and Dan Holter at Burst in Tosa. What did they bring to the table?
BD: Well, I work with these guys all the time at Burst, so I knew what they were capable of adding to the project, and that it could only turn out somewhere between fantastic and amazing.
LJ: We did the production on our own, so, naturally, there were some mistakes to be fixed. Daniel did a mix for us and nailed it, and Kyle can mix circles around anything you throw at him. It was a win-win situation for us.
OMC: What's next for Trance Halo -- local gigs, out of town gigs, another CD?
LJ: All of the above. We are getting tons of positive response from the record, so I would not be surprised to hear a track or two on local radio. WJJO in Madison has been gracious enough to give Trance Halo some spins.
BD: Working on shows in Milwaukee, Madison and Chicago. There are some new bands in town that we would be excited to play with, (like) The Heroes Lie, Fault Line Empires.
CR: Evolving the sound of Trance Halo, with the band writing as a more collaborative effort and bringing some different dimensions and shapes to what was already a great band. The new record is going to be more stripped-down and raw, the heaviest Trance Halo record to date.
RF: Dynamic but with a heavier edge. Like sharks feeding underwater.
LJ: Yes -- frighteningly beautiful.
RF: Finally, I would like to see Trance Halo fridge magnets of varying styles. And we would like to be sponsored by Marty's Pizza -- if we could get a giant pizza named "the T.H.," that would be great. I hope they read this article.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.