A few weeks ago I walked across my freshly mowed lawn towards my mailbox. Happy with yet another week’s reprieve from yard work I noticed that I (again) had neglected to trim the area around the retaining wall. With this small nuisance in mind, I reached in the mailbox to grab a handful of my next nuisance, a stack of bills. What I found in my hand instead, was the new book “The Boy is Gonna Rock” (Zen Man publishing). Bobby and his liaison, Tim Young had graciously sent me a copy in advance of our interview. I figured I would read it in sections, and spread it out amongst all the other items on my “To-do” list.
I was wrong. Wrong about spreading it out, that is. As I started reading I was instantly transferred to that sense of first person witness, as only good writing can do. From his youth in Houston, to the grand designs of lofty artistic goals, to the setbacks, it all seems real. I was in the room with those teenagers, drinking beer, wailing away on Black Sabbath tunes. I felt the optimism going into the audition. I could picture the crummy apartment, and I could see the lighters in the darkened stadium just beyond the backstage stairs. This is Rock’s ninth book, and it shows. The writing is as effortless as the story is engaging. If you are a fan of Bobby’s music, if you are a fan of hard rock, heck if your just a fan of good books, you should give this one your attention. I finished the book in two days, not because it’s short (it’s not), not because it lacks minute detail (it has tons), but because it’s a page turner.
You learn a lot about the man behind the drums. This is a driven, creative man with passion and discipline. Bobby sat down for his turn on 10 Questions with the Musical Mind, where I tried to hone in on some specifics of how he approaches his craft.
1. When practicing alone, do you listen to a track and play along, or do you free drum?
It’s generally a “free drumming” approach if I’m working on some new stuff, but I will often practice to a click track. And if I do play along with music, I will typically work on stuff that doesn’t necessarily fit with the song but, instead, captures the vibe or feel of whatever I’m listening to. In other words, if I’m working on something really complex, I might cue up something simple like AC/DC or Earth, Wind, and Fire, just to help the complex pattern groove a little harder.
2. In your drum clinics, do you gain more from displaying rudiments and concepts, or from the audience questions?
I like to strike a balance between the two: I’ll go in with some concrete shit to show everyone that I know will be helpful, but then zero in on some Q&A to address whatever specifics that particular crowd is interested in. This way, no two clinics are ever really the same. Plus, I can learn as much from how an audience reacts to certain things I demonstrate, as I can from hearing the kind of questions they ask.
3. How has your technique evolved over the years? For example, do you watch early Metalmorphosis videos and see habits you have since improved on?
Always. It’s just the nature of the beast, I think. The more years you continue to rack up, combined with the more life experience you get, you can’t help but to keep on improving. At least that’s been my experience.
4. Conversely, do you look back (at your instructional videos) and realize some techniques you had then have become rusty or seldom used by you?
Not necessarily. Although, I’ve always featured the crazier stuff I’ve been working on in instructional videos and drum clinics, since it doesn’t really work in a lot of the hard rock gigs I do.
5. How often have songs from various bands first started off as a result of a groove or pattern you played for the other members?
Rarely, honestly. It seems like most of the writing goes on outside of the practice room, and then we get together for preproduction once the tunes have already been written. At that point, I can usually throw in some different groove ideas and potentially influence some of the arrangements. But for my own records, of course, it’s a different story: the songs are often written around drum parts, to some degree or another.
6. If you were to record a sequel to “The Meltdown”, how would you do it differently today? (I’m assuming this time you’d at least want a stool).
Wow… I see you’ve read my latest book! Funny you should ask, though: I’ve been considering doing that very thing for my next solo record adventure. What I would do differently is play everything live over something like three separate overdubs, instead of using loops and samples… sort of a three-man percussion ensemble vibe. I actually have a few pretty cool compositional ideas I’ve been developing for it.
7. On stage, how aware are you of what all the other members are doing? Do you mostly listen to the bass player, or is everyone in your monitors?
I basically try to listen to everyone at once, with special emphasis on the bass player, of course.
8. How did the songs on Out of Body come together? Would you all be in a room together, or would you show the others your ideas and have them come up with parts independently?
Man, that record pretty much wrote itself! But that’s how it’s always been working with bassist Carl Carter, and guitarist Brett Garsed. We get in a room and write from the ground up pretty effortlessly. It’s kind of freaky.
9. When you joined Lita Ford on short notice, how familiar were you with her catalog?
In total, not very. And the few songs I did know of, I only knew in passing. It was definitely a crash course to learn everything so quickly, but… that’s the way shit usually rolls out here.
10. How do you feel your positive mind and body healthy approach to life informs, or affects your craft?
It affects it on every conceivable level. In fact, I don’t even recognize that there’s a separation between mind and body in the creative process. The truth is, whether we are aware of it or not, we are actually creating on the level of mind, body, and spirit whenever we engage in a creative activity like making music. So to me, it’s always made sense to keep all three of those parts of my being finely tuned and in top condition.
To learn more about Bobby, his philosophy, his exercise and diet approach, music and live dates, go to: http://www.bobbyrock.com/