Beach Viper Guitarist
Robert Evan Trop
by Stacey Zering
Beach Viper is all about Rock. There was once a time when rock was Rock, when axemen ruled arenas. The recent passing of Eddie Van Halen drifted through my mind as I cranked Beach Viper’s new EP, Alive & Free. The pounding drums and explosive riffs on “I Shall Return,” a two-fisted tribute to General Douglas MacArthur’s World War II heroics, recalls late ’80s Metallica with its lethal combo of intelligence and sonic power. I recently spoke with the guitarist, Robert Evan Trop, of this fiery Arizona band, which also includes vocalist Steve “Traik” Traikovich, bassist Karl Sproule, and drummer Geoffrey “Kill” McCormick.
Q: Being a professional musician is a difficult path in life to take. What made you decide to embark on that journey?
A: I don’t know that I decided so much as the decision, for me anyway, was an evolving one – it just happened. It was not an inflection point. After taking piano lessons for several years, commencing around 10 years of age, I was exposed by our (cool) babysitter to Led Zeppelin’s fourth album. Hearing “Black Dog” and “Rock And Roll”, and not too much later than that, the Kiss Alive! album, instilled in me the desire to switch to the guitar. And then from there I was always in bands from high school onward. Even when I would cease for a year or two being in a band, fate always seemed to draw my back into one, including now Beach Viper.
Q: What is it about metal, especially ’80s hard rock, that particularly interested you?
A: The guitar riffs, with the melody a strong second. If I song does not have a good guitar riff, hook, and melody, it does not do a lot for me. ’80s hard rock has so many great guitar riffs and melodies. We all know the songs – you just want to jump up and sing along. To me that is what music is about – making that sonic connection with people.
Q: What kind of training/instructing did you have for guitar?
A: I took lessons for a few years. I was able to learn a lot on my own, and playing came naturally to me, so I didn’t continue lessons. And I already had a good understanding of music theory from the previous piano lessons that lasted for about four to five years.
Q: What are the personal challenges you have gone through as a musician, and how did you overcome them?
A: Finding the right band mates. Bands are like marriages. Either the chemistry is there or it is not. You have to know when it is just not going to work.
Q: In terms of musical style, where do you see fitting? It can be more than one.
A: To me, Beach Viper is more a hard rock band as opposed to a pure metal band. While we have some songs that might be deemed metal, my songwriting is based more on memorable hooks, riffs, and melodies. We do, however, call our music “Beach Metal,” which we view as hard and heavy music, but with positivity and good times.
Q: What was the first slice of music that ignited your imagination?
A: The two live albums that Elvis, one at Madison Square Garden and the Aloha from Hawaii Via Satellite album. My mom was an Elvis fan, and hearing James Burton’s guitar playing definitely did something for me. And then my mom took me to see Elvis live in 1975, which I think was my first live concert.
Q: Tell me your artistic influences and how they affected you. What did you learn from them?
A: I have five core guitar influences: Edward Van Halen, Randy Rhoads, George Lynch, Jimmy Page, Ace Frehley. When I started on guitar, it was learning Page and Frehley solos and riffs, which provided a grounding in blues-based riffs. As all guitars of a certain age remember, there was the first time you heard that first Van Halen album. As young guitar players, we would contemplate the heady question of who is the ‘best’ rock guitar player was. Answers had tended to be, Hendrix, Page, Blackmore, Clapton, Beck, and the like. When EVH came on the scene, it was just earth-shattering. He changed everything. The thing is, he played the way he did in large measure because he was not formally trained on guitar. As opposed to, for example, Rhoads, who was formally trained and was a guitar teacher. Learning their styles (my two biggest influences I would say) provided a a great dichotomy for soloing, e.g., Randy with his use of the Aeolian Mode, for example, and EVH with his 3 notes per string box riffing with those great finger stretches.
Q: Can you describe how you have evolved creatively throughout the years?
A: I am more focused on the song writing and structure more than anything. Years ago, I think like a lot of guitarists, you tended to go down self-indulgent rabbit holes. I really try to think about what the end user will think. EVH said: “You make music for other people. If not, just play in your closet.”
Q: Do you feel being a musician is a job or a hobby? Or both. Please explain.
A: Well, for me it is both. I still have a professional career outside of music. I like having that duality as it allows me to and the guys to play and create as we see fit.
Q: When and how did Beach Viper form?
A: Sometime around 2014-15. I relocated to Arizona from New York. I left a band in New York when I moved. I really did not think I would find like-minded musicians in Arizona (not only did I, but there is a great rock music scene in the Valley of Sun, i.e., the Phoenix/Scottsdale area). I was contacted by Steve Traikovich through Bandmix. I forgot I had a profile on there from years prior. I went to an audition, and Steve and the band at the time (wisely, ha ha) chose me. The band was not Beach Viper at the time. Beach Viper was my idea and creation for the most part. The other band was a cover band. I was pushing for originals as I had become disillusioned with playing other bands’ music. To me, music is about creating art. I inquired of Steve about lyrics, though I had some lyrics too, and sure enough, he had a lot. From there we started writing together. Steve is a great writing partner, which is another key element for the band. All bands of our genre need that guitarist/singer initial creative force.