The MAN – Reflections on a Life with the World’s Greatest Dad

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What can a son say about the passing of his father, especially when they happened to be best of friends?  He was there when I took my first breath in this world, and I was holding his hand when he took his last.  How can you possibly encapsulate a lifetime of love, respect and joy into a blog or Facebook post?  I’m sure you really can’t, but nonetheless, here are a few reflections…

My dad was one of the wisest and coolest people I have ever known.  And I say this, not just in the reflective aftermath of his passing, but rather, as a reoccurring thought I’ve had throughout my life.  I know I hit the lotto having Jerry Brock as my father.

dad1Me with the old man (he was only 23 here!)
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I learned a lot of stuff from my dad through the years, most of it from observing how he actually was in the world.  One of his most compelling attributes was how he personified non-judgment toward others in every facet of his life.  My dad did not care about someone’s religious beliefs, political leanings, ethnicity, personal lifestyle choices, physical appearance, sordid history, or anything else.  He was truly “colorblind” in both social and business situations.

As such, he was never one to gossip, indulge in water cooler chatter, or carry on about someone behind their back, even among those closest to him.  He respected everyone equally, and people clearly picked up on this, which was one reason why he was such a beloved character to friends, family and co-workers.  In fact, it would not be an exaggeration to say that my dad lived his entire life without enemies.

And on occasions when he did have to deal with difficult folks, he had a special way about him… a “spiritual diplomacy,” you might say.  This enabled him to effectively manage diverse groups of people in a work environment, but also make everyone feel comfortable in a social setting.

To that end, he was extremely easy to be around.  He smiled and joked a lot, and kept things light and joyful.  And at any moment, he might break out into his little jig… that signature dance of his.  To see him do this and NOT smile would be impossible. At the same time, he was the greatest listener.  Very present.  You knew he was soaking in every word.  This was likely why everyone wanted to bend the poor guy’s ear all the time.

Ultimately, though, he was a quiet and reflective man at his core, especially around immediate family, out of the glare of social graces.  He gravitated toward simple, low-key situations. Sure, he loved people and enjoyed larger gatherings to a point.  But I think he always preferred the quiet simplicity of being home with mom, family and laptop.

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My childhood memories with dad are a delightful blur of summer vacations to Panama City Beach; dozens of ball games at the Houston Astrodome, and many more hundreds of sporting events on TV; sit-down family dinners most every night and regular backyard barbeques; camping at the lake, baseball catches, football passes, and lots of other fun stuff with the family.  Fishing trips (way back in our pre-vegan days) were also a special bonding time for me and the old man.

On that note, my dad was quite the outdoorsman, which I know he picked up from his father.  We used to quietly stroll through the woods, and I would watch him listen out for various animals or try to identify paw prints in the dirt.  His “respect for others” credo certainly translated to the sanctuary of the forest, but my dad revered nature in all of its exquisite forms.

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I’m not saying that my father or even my childhood were perfect.  But in fairness, any kind of “dysfunction” that went down was really on me.  I went through an unbearably rebellious phase as a kid where I know I put my folks though all kinds of hell.  And, let me be clear; my dad was no pushover.  In fact, he was a classic “hickory switch” type of disciplinarian.

Even so, I’m sure there was a lot about my “social presentation” back then that was difficult for him to deal with. When I went to a drug rehab program at a really young age, it was suggested by my counselors that he and mom make a few concessions as I adjusted to sober living.  This involved allowing me to smoke cigarettes openly and let my hair grow out.  Likewise, I understood these were privileges I could enjoy so long as I kept my nose clean. Deferring to their expertise – and wanting desperately for his son to stop indulging – my dad agreed to more of these terms than he otherwise would’ve.  But, as it turned out, I never had a drop of alcohol or drugs of any kind since, and it’s been well over three decades now.

Still, it must’ve been tough for my dad to be seen with my sorry ass in public back then.  You have to remember: this was Texas in the 70′s, where the rednecks roamed free in the pre-Urban Cowboy days, and the word “hippy” was still part of common vernacular.  Even at 15, my hair wasn’t just long… it was extra wide!  Add to this the tattoo, earring, smoking and ever-present Black Sabbath t-shirt, and, well… people just stared.  Constantly.  But, my dad always accepted my choices and never imposed any fashion advice on me.  Even when I got my tattoo – which I know really bothered him – he never, ever said a word about it.

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As a teen, we had quite a motley assortment of kids coming in and out of our house, mostly from the rehab program I remained active in throughout high school.  Since I was fortunate enough to have the “cool parents,” we would often wind up back at my house, all hours of the night.  Many of these kids came from rough family lives and didn’t have much of a reference for “normalcy.” Again, my dad always treated my friends warmly and welcomed everyone into our home, just like mom did.  In fact, since his passing, I’ve received a number of heartfelt messages from old friends, reminding me of his impact on their lives.

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My dad was unconditionally supportive of whatever I wanted to pursue.  And when drumming took center stage at 10 years old, his old Ludwig drum kit was pulled down from the attic for me.  [He was a drumming hobbyist for a short time.]

On that front, he had a lot of patience.  Being the drummer, rehearsal was usually at my house.  Mom and dad let me “soundproof” a bedroom with grey egg cartons and, somehow, he tolerated all that racket several evenings per week with the band.  The rest of the time, it was drumming, drumming, and more drumming.  He must’ve gotten sick of hearing all that practice and, of course, he was not bashful about letting me know when 10:00 PM (cut-off time) rolled around.  But when it wasn’t about the full-on audio assault of the drum set, he endured the constant machine-gun pitter-patter of my practice pad, which often took place within earshot while he tried to watch TV or read the paper.

Still, he was always supportive.  He and mom made sure I could study with the best drum teachers around.  And when I decided I wanted to go to the Berklee College of Music in Boston six weeks before the fall semester started, dad wrangled the funds from the ethers to make it happen for me.

He also caught most of my local performances through the years: talent shows, various club dates, chainsaw guitars at Vinnie Vincent concerts, the shrieking young-girl shrill of a couple Nelson shows, many a drum clinic and solo band performance… even Slaughter with Whitesnake, where he and mom pulled their motorhome right up next to the line of tour buses in the back of the amphitheater.

dad16 On the Iron Maiden tour with Vinnie Vincent Invasion, playing the hometown arena
in Houston on mom’s birthday: 1-30-87
(sis and ex-bro-in-law pictured with dad)
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And backstage after every show – every time – whenever I made eye contact with my dad amidst the crowded room, he would shoot me a single wink.  That was it.  No gushing about how great I played, no high-fives or back-slaps, no overt bragging to anyone about his son’s performance that night.  Just the wink.  That’s all it took to fully convey to me the depths of how he felt.  And I got it, loud and clear.

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My dad was never big on doling out unsolicited advice, and even when I would seek his counsel on something, his response was always concise, reflective, and poignant, like a southern sage.  And he always made time to take my call or sit down for a chat, even when I knew he was really busy.

Of course, if my dad ever saw me heading toward the edge of a cliff, he would step in and say something.  But he would only say it once, and he would say it in a way that was very clear and unambiguous… minus any nagging, rehashing, or “I told you so’s,” had I not heeded his advice and things had gone south.

As for those epic father-son talks, there were more than a few through the years.  Man, I can still remember the exact time and place of many of them and, needless to say, the content of  these talks has stayed with me to this day.

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My dad was an old school rock-solid citizen of the earth.  He handled his business honorably and impeccably.  Always paid his bills on time and was relentlessly punctual with his work obligations.  His employers – and there were just a few in his lifetime – loved him.

He was also very social conscious. He was active with the Masons for a time, served on the board at Unity church in Houston for years, and donated a lot of money to various charities in his lifetime.

And… he seldom swore.  In fact, he never did get used to his son’s “ugly language,” as he usually shot me a sour face when I would drop an f-bomb around him.  I found this old-fashioned sensibility endearing.  “C’mon, Holmes!” I would say.  “This isn’t the Lawrence Welk era anymore.”  But he would just smile and shake his head.

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My dad was a big computer guy, jumping on the home PC wave back in the early 80s.  He loved his laptop and was always working on stuff like genealogy, his high school class website, and an onslaught of various programs and HTML coding projects.  He enjoyed connecting with friends and family online, generally through Facebook and email.

dadcompThe early days of home computing: floppy disks only – no hard drives yet!
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He also loved playing golf, and watching old westerns, action films, John Wayne flicks, and all kinds of sports.   Plus, he was a huge fan of straight-ahead jazz like Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, John Coltrane, and all the greats.  This was a passion we both shared, and whenever we drove anywhere together, the radio dial was always set on some old jazz station.

My dad was an accountant by trade for most of his life; a numbers man, through and through.  Then he and mom retired to full-time RV living in 2000, where they cruised around the continent for a few years. Eventually, he would become general manager of the Emerald Coast RV Beach Resort, one of the country’s top-rated motorhome destinations.  And this is where he worked for over eight years… until his stroke.

My dad adored his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.   (Thank God for my sister’s prolific output!)  But most of all, he adored my mom.  They were happily married for over 54 years and very rarely ever spent a night apart. He married his soulmate at 19 and never looked back.  And in his final days – even after we all told him it was okay to move on and that mom would be taken care of – he seemed to resist his transition: not because he was worried about mom… but because HE didn’t want to leave HER.  Very sweet.

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My dad enjoyed excellent health his entire life, seldom missing a day of work. This is why we were all stunned when, out of nowhere, he suffered a severe stroke two years ago.  He was on zero meds, in perfect health, and working full-time. Then, boom – everything changed. He was suddenly paralyzed on his right side and had lost the ability to speak. But he was always lucid, always “there.” He still had all of the same mannerisms, looks, even sense of humor.  And although his speech was the kind of nonsensical mishmash of syllables common of those with language center-based brain injury, we could often tell what he was trying to say by the way he was saying it!

Through it all, his outlook and demeanor remained unshakably positive. Even towards the end, when he was completely bedridden for those last few months, he always had a smile for anyone who visited him.  And he was a big hit to the various medical and hospice workers who came by to help in his care.  Dad was consistently pleasant, respectful and compliant with each of them.  I found this remarkable.  He was often very uncomfortable, and I know he despised having to be so dependent on others, especially my mom, who was his primary 24/7 caretaker.  But still; the grace.  The patience.  The acceptance.  For those of us closest to him, it was both a brutal and beautiful thing to watch.

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And it was yet another lesson that he showed, not told. He wasn’t able to tell me about accepting what you’re dealt and not taking it out on others. Instead, he lived it.

His moment of transition occurred on Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday observed, with seven of the closest people to him at his bedside, including me, mom and my sister.  It was an unspeakably excruciating, yet profound, experience to witness that I won’t even attempt to describe here.

That said, I believe 100% in the survival of the spirit beyond the demise of the body.  My dad has shed his physical body and is now free from the numerous constraints he had to deal with these past two years.  Meanwhile… his spirit remains what it always was:

Enormous beyond words.

I’ll miss him terribly in these years ahead, but will look forward to reconnecting with him on the other side.

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Dad, we love you.  You are respected and admired by so many and have touched our lives more than you will ever know…

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Here are a few more pics of dad through the years:

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dad15Mom and Dad about to hit the road in the big rig, circa 2000…

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dad13Dad at 18, goofing off with a pair of bongos. Dig that TV!

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dad3Proud papa, for sure… but mainly in shock that his son actually graduated!

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dad11Dad jamming with friends, circa 1960.  I STILL have this bass drum!

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dad18Dad on the far right, with some of his golf buddies…

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dad12Day one in the Berklee dorm, circa 1981. Just getting settled in…

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dad14My folks; married at 19!

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dadplaqueA beautiful dedication to dad from our great friends at Emerald Coast RV Beach Resort.

 
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dad19Kickin’ it with the old man someplace cold!

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RIP, JB
11-27-39 – 1-20-14

Brazil: Road Report 2013

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My recent South American adventure was the fifth continent I hit in 2013, and it was a blast.  So in keeping with my tradition this year of blogging about my international travels, I wanted to write a little something about the trip.  (This blog was actually written just after I returned, but – for reasons unknown – was never posted!  So here it is.)

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For this trip, I was back out with the Alcatrazz boys (Graham Bonnet, Howie Simon and Tim Luce), doing an extended set of Bonnet notables; Alcatrazz, Rainbow and Michael Schenker Group faves.  The interesting thing was – due to some prior scheduling issues – I traveled to and from Sao Paulo on my own, separate from the fellas, and even on a different airline.  Wound up connecting through Panama. No biggie.

brazil2Arriving in Sao Paulo, with Graham, Howie and Tim

We arrived in São Paulo with an extra day off, but our promoter Milton made good use of our time and had us do a bunch of media; interviews with various mags, vid shows, podcasts, etc.  The main thing I noticed about the South American press folks was just how knowledgeable (and hard-core!) they seemed to be about music, the rock world, and each of our careers.  They all asked cool, intelligent questions, and most had a variety of memorabilia for us to sign.  It was a pleasure.

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brazil3Cool Hotel Lobby…

Paradise Found!

Healthy vegan fare is always a valuable commodity for me in my travels, and fortunately, there was a nice market a stone’s throw from the hotel.  I was able to load up on all my fresh produce there.

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Special Note: they had the absolute greatest peaches I have ever eaten.  I tried to ask a few of the employees about where they got them, if they were in season, etc.  But of course, no one could understand me.  (What did I expect?  Should a Brazilian expect for me to understand Portuguese at my local market?)

This produce came in handy for my two smoothies per day.  Beyond that, it was all about an assortment of snack foods that I brought with me, and usually just one other sit-down meal I would have each day.

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Honorable mention would include the special pasta dish that the hotel chef made for me each evening I was there. I would order it with a large salad – supplement it with more raw veggies from the market – and it made for a nice meal.

After the show, Milton and co. brought in pizzas, and arranged for a special veganized arugula and sun-dried tomato number for me.  Always appreciated.

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Beyond that, I was knocking down my usual Ultimate Meal smoothies, although it took three different adapters – yes, THREE – to get my blender to work at this hotel.  Living large, people!

Also, the hotel had a very basic gym set-up, so I trained there each day, getting in a little cardio and weightlifting.  It’s challenging to get a great workout in on these “minimalist” set-ups, but very doable.  Just have to be creative with how you put together your routine.

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Rare Beauty Abounds….

The infamous beauty of Brazilian women was more than evident as soon as I stepped off the plane over there.  But here’s what’s interesting; to say you love South American women is kind of like saying you love American women. What is an American woman, really?  Like all of us Americans, she is usually a mutt of multiple ethnicities, with bloodlines extending through Europe and/or Africa and/or Mexico, and/or the Middle East, and/or Asia and/or pick any place in the world.  She could be Jewish or Mormon or Muslim.  The only true “Americans” – that is, natives – are the American Indians.  Likewise, I was reminded that the only true South Americans were of Indian descent, as well.  So really, all of these fine-ass Brazilian women I was seeing were typically of some kind of Spanish, Portugal, Italian mish-mash; darker features, gorgeous skin, black hair, etc..  Any way you slice it, let’s just say that it was a very pleasant ambiance over there.

brazil12On the way to soundcheck…

The Hit

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The actual show was cool.  We met some really nice folks before and after and we all really enjoyed the smaller, more intimate club environment.  The crowd was appreciative and responsive.  The band played well and, in the days that followed, it was nice to see so many positive reviews and so much genuine appreciation of what we’re tying to represent out there.

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Hope to head back down to Brazil in 2014.  Stay tuned…

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brazil16Hotel Room Shot. The big city!

Keeping Your Companion Animals Safe For Halloween

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momma“Momma” – one of my parking lot ferals at home – knows how
to stay safe on Halloween.  Do your babies?

Hey Everybody -

As part of an annual tradition here on the BR blog, we have a few quick tips to ensure that your companion animals remain as safe and stress-free as possible for Halloween:

1. If you expect trick-or-treaters, consider keeping your companion animals in a different room during the busy hours.  All of the commotion (to say nothing of the bizarre costumes) can be stressful for many dogs and cats.

2. If they seem okay with the parade of visitors, keep a special eye out for the “darters.”  Some animals can get extra amped up with all the activity and might try to do some trick-or-treating of their own as they make a break for the open door!

3. I would not leave a dog or cat outdoors (even in the backyard) on Halloween night.  All kinds of stupid, even tragic, shit has happened to companion animals through the years, as certain emotionally and socially retarded individuals have elected to involve animals in their various “tricks.”

4. Keep an eye out for all forms of candy and wrappers, especially chocolate.  All is off-limits for cats and dogs.

5. Watch out for lit pumpkins and other decorative candles.  Make sure your dog or cat can’t knock any of these things over or burn themselves on them.

6. Finally, I would resist the urge to dress your companion animal in one of these ridiculous costumes.  If you insist on doing this – and you are 100% positive that they don’t mind – make sure the ridiculous costume is in no way inhibitive to their movement, irritating to their skin or fur, or restrictive to their vision in any way.  If a doggie (especially) can’t see what’s going on, they might be more inclined to bite or nip.

That should about cover it.  Have a safe one, everybody….

BR

Scandinavia – Road Report: July 2013

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For me, going to Europe has always been akin to jumping in a time machine.  Just walking around over there, you get a sense of how old so many of the structures are… to say nothing of the actual streets you’re strolling on.   In most cities, you get a sense that you are breathing the same air as the 15th century townsfolk were – the cobblers, poets and fieldworkers – walking past imaginary candlelit windowsills, way before electricity.

This trip, it was summertime in Sweden and Norway for a quick tour with Lita Ford and company.  It was all about cool gigs, gracious people and timeless eye candy.

scandi2Gothenburg, Sweden – Summer 2013

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The Art of the 24-hour Travel Day

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This particular trip was bookended with travel days that were the better part of 24 hours.  Traveling with a shitload of gear, dealing with monstrous layovers and the inevitable delays… it’s all part of it.  Just gotta roll with it… and have great music on your iPad and plenty of cool books on your Kindle app!

First stop was Gothenburg, Sweden…

scandi4This kind of thing is everywhere over there…

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I played a black DW kit for the first two shows.  People will sometimes ask about my “main kit” and why I don’t play it everywhere, all the time.  These days, when you’re doing a bunch of fly dates (as opposed to traveling by bus and truck), it becomes logistically impossible to drag a full kit around.  Instead, our tour manager arranges for the promoter to provide a kit, based on certain parameters.  And since I already work with DW in a pedals and hardware capacity, I’ll often play their drums for a lot of these shows.

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Had a full house of rowdy-ass Swedes in a mid-sized club.  Great energy at these smaller places.

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The nearby gym was actually closed on our show day due to a soccer game that night (what the fuck?), so I had to get my ass out of bed early the next morning to catch a workout before lobby call.  This is the one constant in my life on the road – at all times – in any part of the world.  Love hittin’ those weights!!!

scandi8One of the more beautiful sights I see on the road…

…and I continue to be impressed with the European’s superior cleanliness in the public toilet department.  It baffles me, actually, since I’ve grown up with the disgusting public toilets in America.  Lift the fucking lid, guys!  Good Lord!  (And I know you American gals aren’t much better.  Yes, I’ve seen your nasty-ass restrooms, too…)

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scandi10Cool rooftop shot from my hotel in Malmo, Sweden….

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scandi11Notice Marty’s feet – mid somersault! Raaaad!

Another packed house in Malmo.  Love this pic.  Our bassist, Marty O’Brien, tripped during the gig, did a half-way rolling somersault, then wound up back on his feet – all without missing a note!  Impressive.  (Should also point out that, along with Lita – obviously – we had our usual line-up for this tour, which includes Mitch Perry on guitar.)

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The Skogsröjet festival was a big, loud and sweaty affair, just as you might imagine.  Lots of hellraisers, with a good time had by all…

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Vegan Vittles

As usual, my quest for vegan food on the road is an ongoing affair.  Fortunately these days, folks are becoming more familiar with the concept, and I continue to see the actual word – in English – more and more.  It’s a beautiful thing, and I enjoyed several exceptional meals over there.

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This was from a veggie restaurant, with a mainly vegan lunch buffet.  Loaded up my plate with all of their vegan offerings.  Damn good, people!

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Even in the sticks of Skogsröjet, there was a lone vegan meal reserved for me in catering, thanks to our detailed rider (a band’s requested particulars for a gig), and the diligent follow-up from our tour manager, Pilgrim.

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In Malmo, the chef went all out with this teriyaki tofu, veggies and rice dish.  This shit was off-the-hook!  And believe me, I told him about it.

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Still, my on-the-road staple remains The Ultimate Meal smoothies I have everyday.  Two scoops of the magic powder in a banana/mixed fruit smoothie, at least once, but often twice, per day.  The best. (Notice my Australian blender with the Euro power adapter?  Thank you, Brett Garsed!)

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Off to Norway

After the festival, we all enjoyed a total of four hours (!!!) at a hotel in Norrköping, before a brutal 7:00 AM lobby call, and an 8-hour van ride to Jevnaker.  Here’s one of many impromptu vids I did along the way, just capturing a particular moment.  Thought I might share one with you.  Just 37 seconds…

It struck me so odd, how light the sky was, so late at night.

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Then, here I am the next morning at 7:00 in front of the building from the vid.  Do the math, and you’ll see that it was another less-than-three-hours sleep night.  So be it!  That’s life on the road, my bitches!

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scandi21Tons of gorgeous Sweden countryside… or was this in Norway?

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Once we hit the hotel in Norway, this kick-ass lake was just a football field’s length away.  Sweet…

scandi22From the collection of Marty O’Brien

For the Jevnaker show, I played this old school Yamaha Recording Series drum kit.  Kind of cool, and very nostalgic.

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Here’s a brief solo excerpt from our last gig.  Very responsive crowd in a jam-packed club.  Always a rush…

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And that was it.  A great last hit, followed by NO sleep that night, followed by another 20-plus hour travel day back home, followed by several days of a whacked-out sleeping schedule, followed by more playing in the US!

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It’s all good…

Until next time,

BR

The “One-Wheel,” Grip-of-Steel Workout

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As some of you know by now, I do a regular exercise column for Drum magazine entitled “Pump It Up.”  While these articles are obviously geared toward drummers, anyone who trains can benefit from the ideas.  Here’s another recently published article.  (Most of these columns are variations of material from my book, Muscles, Mangos and Meditation.)

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The “One-Wheel,” Grip-of-Steel Workout

Traditional upper-body weightlifting exercises best suited for drummers generally target the arms, shoulders, back and chest.  As we perform these various movements, we also condition the smaller muscles and tendons of our wrists, forearms and fingers.  This directly benefits the gripping power of our hands and increases our overall drumming speed and endurance… especially when we forego any kind of gloves or wrist-straps.

A “wheel” in gym rat lingo is slang for a barbell plate, and in this workout, you will be using just one wheel per exercise, minus the barbell.  By grabbing the plate directly, you involve even more of your gripping muscles than usual, while also working the arms and shoulders.  You can use this routine as a stand-alone “drumming specific” workout, or as part of a complete regimen when you add separate movements for your chest, back and legs.

Perform two or three sets apiece of the following exercises.  Stay in the 12 to 20-rep range, and adjust the size of the plate for each exercise accordingly:

#1 – Biceps and Forearms

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1. Grab the plate like a steering wheel, around “10:00 o’clock” and “2:00 o’clock.”

2. Lower your elbows by your side, and hold the top of the plate around midsection height for your starting position.

3. While keeping your elbows by your side, slowly raise the plate up toward your chin.

3. Return the plate to the starting position for one complete rep.

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#2 – Triceps

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1. Grab the plate on either side, around “9:00 o’clock” and “3:00 o’clock.”

2. Raise the plate behind your head, with your elbows on either side of your temples, for your starting position.

3. While keeping your elbows stationary, straighten your arms and extend the plate directly overhead by contracting your triceps.

4. Return the plate to your starting position for one complete rep.

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#3 – Shoulders

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1.  Grab the top of the plate with your right hand while placing your left hand on your hip.

2. Bend your knees a couple inches, lean forward a bit and, with your elbow slightly bent, hold the plate around waist height in front of you (and slightly to the right, like a cane) for your starting position.

3. While maintaining this elbow-bent position, simply raise the plate out to your side and up to eye level with your shoulder.

4. Return the plate to your starting position for one complete rep.  (Don’t forget to repeat the entire process on your left side.)

Enjoy the burn!

BR

Australia – Road Report: May 2013

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Bringin’ the Thunder Down Under with Lita Ford

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Australia is as cool and beautiful a place as you might imagine.  The people are friendly, the country is clean, and the time zone is completely whacked out.  In fact, when you take the 15-hour-plus flight there from LA, you basically skip an entire day.  (We left around midnight on a Monday and got there Wednesday morning their time.)  But such is life, and fortunately, I really don’t get jet-lagged when I fly.  Plus, I can sleep on planes if I’m tired, so… it’s all good.

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Melbourne

cityshotSt. Kilda district, near the hotel

Wednesday was a day off, so I connected with my long-time bro, guitarist Brett Garsed.  We took a drive out to his place (about 90 mins outside of Melbourne) and had a fantastic day catching up on all things past, present and future.  We have so much history together as friends and colleagues.  Always great to see family.

castletripNice countryside, en route to Brett’s crib…
BRandbrettWith Brett Garsed, lifelong friend, band-mate,
and one of the world’s greatest guitarists

Thursday was a show day in Melbourne at the infamous Prince Bandroom.   But first, of course, I had to catch the local gym for an afternoon pump.  I would’ve grabbed a token pic or two of this health club, but I think I was still in shock from paying $25 for a day-pass to this motherfucker!  And yes, the Australian dollar is pretty much neck-to-neck with the US at the moment, so that was basically $25 US for a quick one-hour workout.   And therein lies the only real downside to the land of Aus:  You will drop some bank there.

parkOcean front park, on the way to the gym

The show was cool, the crowd was loud, and the band played well (which, once again, was Lita, me, Marty O’Brien on bass and Mitch Perry on guitar). The Australia set ran the gamut of Lita’s career, all the way back from the beginning, though the latest record.

melliveshot3Pic courtesy of Heavy Magazine

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Cherry Bomb!

Particularly of note was the fact that we played a couple Runaways tunes.  Lita Ford – for those living under a proverbial rock in the history of rock department – was lead guitarist for the iconic all-female 70’s band.  But this is the first time Lita has ever performed any of The Runaway’s tunes live as a solo artist, and she sang the shit out of them.

melliveshot2Pic courtesy of Heavy Magazine

It was trippy to play “Cherry Bomb” and “Black Leather” (the latter written for The Runaways by Steve Jones, and also covered by the Sex Pistols).  If you would’ve told me as a young drummer back in the 70’s, at the height of The Runaway’s fame, that I would be playing “Cherry Bomb” with Lita Ford in Australia 37 years in the future, I doubt I would’ve believed you.  But hey – there we were, throwin’ that shit down hard!

melliveshot1Pic courtesy of Heavy Magazine

The interesting thing drumming-wise about these tunes is the two different sides of a punk feel you have going on.  “Cherry Bomb” needs to feel more classic punk, with a bit of urgency, and a looser, garage band kind of feel.  “Black Leather” needs to be sleazier, with a deeper pocket, and a little more snap to it, but still with that punk edginess.  Seems like it all worked out.

Here’s a vid of “Cherry Bomb” and “Black Leather,” back-to-back, floating around YouTube right now… just to give you a vibe.

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Sydney

sydneyhotelRight through the glass of my hotel window, early evening…

We traveled on our day off, so we got into Sydney late afternoon.  It’s always a struggle for me to decide whether to engage a new city for a little adventure, or stay in my room and hit the practice pad or pull out the laptop and work on a writing project… or even go find a gym.  In other words, all the shit I would be doing back home, anyway.  On this night, I chose the latter.

Meanwhile, my comrades jumped out to the renowned Sydney Opera House to catch the season opening of “Vivid Sydney.” This is an annual event built around a stunning visual arts display where the Opera House and other downtown buildings become 3-D “canvases” to this breathtaking, high-powered projection imagery.  Apparently, the gang pulled up exactly five minutes before it began.

Here are a couple images that our bassist Marty O’Brien grabbed on his iPhone from the evening.  Ok… so I probably fucked up!  I should’ve gone.

martysyd1From the collection of Marty O’Brien
martysyd2From the collection of Marty O’Brien – The Opera House!

The next day I trained at the University of Sydney, right near the hotel.  Facilities were decent.

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Also, I had no problem finding vegan food on this trip.  In addition to the usual Ultimate Meal smoothies, backstage fruit and veggie treys, and the ton of snack foods I brought with me, there were always some great vegan options to be found.

One stand-out dish came from a “natural” grocer near the hotel.  This was a beluga legume salad, with some pumpkin, dried pears and caramelized onion, among other things.  Killer!

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The Sydney show was at a nice venue called The Factory Theater.  Again, it was another warm crowd and a great time.

BRsydney1Photo credit; Inside Edge Photography
bandsydney2Photo credit; Inside Edge Photography

Afterward, I dropped by CLUB FVCK, which hosted the official aftershow get-together.  Lotsa cool folks hangin’…

bobbymandyWith Mandy Saints, proprietor of CLUB FVCK

And finally, here are the first couple minutes of the drum solo from Sydney.

Can’t wait to head back again soon.  The Australian peeps are super cool…

BR

Monsters of Rock Cruise 2013 – Road Report

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Monsters of Rock!!!

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Imagine: Over 30 different bands, thousands of music lovers, a big-ass ship with four different venues, and the Atlantic Ocean. That summarizes what the Monsters of Rock Cruise is all about.

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Now, combine that with a little jet lag, an ambitious schedule, and a high school reunion vibe, and that would tell you a little more about my personal experience.

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The Infinite Throw-Down

The day before the ship sailed, me and the Alcatrazz boys had just completed a short tour of Japan and endured a “leisurely” 24-hour travel day from Osaka to Ft. Lauderdale.  And as I was scheduled to play with three different bands – Alcatrazz, Lita Ford, and Nelson – I basically jumped aboard and went right to work.

The high school reunion part of the equation was about seeing so many of my compadres from the old days.  Damn!  Time warp central.  And so good to catch up with old friends.  I have a ton of history with so many of these folks; crossing paths back in the day on various tours, festivals, record dates, promo events, etc. and now, I see them in a hallway, or popping out of an elevator, or down at the cafeteria.  Super cool.  (And of course, I’m so bad about taking pictures… I’m sure there are a bunch out there of me with various other band members.) Here’s one I happened to catch floating around, taken after the second Alcatrazz show:

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Lita Ford

Once we all got settled in, it was time for a quick, makeshift “rehearsal” with Lita and the gang.  It wasn’t a real rehearsal… just a quick get-together in someone’s cabin, going over the set at a low volume.  Michael Lardie (Great White, Night Ranger) was going to join us on keyboards for a couple tunes, so we needed to walk through the arrangements.

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A couple hours later, we were hittin’ onstage at the main theater.  Played a nice set to a warm crowd.  Lita on guitars and vocs, Mitch Perry on guitar and Marty O’Brien on bass.

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Here’s a behind-the-drums shot of the theater at soundcheck:

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Alcatrazz

Next up was a theater show with Alcatrazz at noon the next day (Sunday).  Always nice to “thrash it” with Graham and the boys.  (With Howie Simon on guitar and Tim Luce on bass.)

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Nelson…

Monday was double-duty, starting with Nelson.  This was the first time that this exact configuration had played together, so we did a quick run-through in Matthew’s room, again, just kind of talking through the tunes.  So the first time we all played together was at the actual show at 5:30. The brothers always sound great, and the twin guitar attack of Howie Simon and Joel Hoekstra was bad-ass.   I thought the band played well.

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At midnight on Monday, it was time for Alcatrazz again, this time in one of the ship’s clubs called the Zebra Room.  Had a great time in the smaller venue.  It was also somewhat of a merging of past, present and future when the Nelson Bros joined us onstage for “Since You’ve Been Gone,” as Lita watched the set from the side of the stage.  My various worlds had collided… Trippy!

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grahamandlitaGraham and Lita hanging after the show

Tuesday night, we wrapped up the festivities with Lita on the stage on the outside deck.  Another nice hit…

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Vacation Time?

Unfortunately, this shot – taken from the deck of my cabin – was about as close as I could get to the actual Bahamas this time.

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I had a pretty full plate, mentally, so there just didn’t seem to be much spare time on this run.  I currently have four complete shows in my head: Lita Ford, Nelson, Alcatrazz and Stu Hamm, with both Stu and Alcatrazz being deceptively intricate, for different reasons.  And with the Japan run I had just done with Alcatrazz, we had added a handful of new tunes, so the “hard-drive” was getting kinda full.

In fact, I made a couple bonehead mistakes during the first two shows, and while I doubt many noticed, it really troubled me.  (Yes, I’m one of these guys who goes back to the hotel room after a show and fixates on any errors I might have made, agonizing over that shit!)  So between shows, I was spending extra time focusing on the next show at hand, immersing myself in the music and going over any arrangement notes.

Things went well, but I know I can make improvements on my capacity to memorize large batches of music.  After all, I have been doing this a long-ass time now, and I don’t drink or smoke weed, so I really have no excuse NOT to go in there and slay this shit.

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Staying Strong

Additionally, of course, there’s the training.  It’s an ongoing pursuit to keep the mind and body strong.  And while the gym on this boat was pretty scaled down, I tried to jump in there each day between shows or rehearsal and hit the weights or do some cardio.

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Food-wise, the cafeteria salad bar was my salvation (along with the one to two Ultimate Meal Smoothies I had each day).  If you add enough beans and maybe some nuts and seeds to a large salad, it really becomes a complete meal.

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Each salad is like a piece of artwork to me.  (Yes, I’m serious.)  And yes, I often take a pic of my salads!

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And if you’re really curious about the options, here’s a video tour of the salad bar on the boat:

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Fans, Friends and Finite Space

Artists and audience were more or less intermingled, with your personal cabin or backstage areas being the only artist-exclusive spaces.

MORcabinThis is really the best you can hope for on a ship like this…

But this was no big deal.  People were really gracious.  I signed a ton of shit and took a bunch of pics with folks.  Also did some reminiscing about past shows they would talk about.  Great times…

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Look forward to the next one!

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For a Road Report on the Japan 2013 Tour, click here.