“Go West, Young Man!” – Reflections on the Vinnie Vincent Invasion audition, 30 Years Later


Last week marked the 30th anniversary of my Vinnie Vincent Invasion audition. And since I’m on my annual “writer’s retreat” at the moment, firmly in the headspace of writing, I figured I would do a little stream-of-consciousness riffing about that whole crazy, magical, and dare I say, “destined,” audition experience.


Tuesday, October 1st, 1985, SIR Studios on Santa Monica Blvd. in Hollywood. There are so many things I remember – with great detail and clarity – about that day, and even about the months leading up to it. Frankly, it’s hard to believe three full decades have since trickled through the hourglass.

Motels, Vans and Cover Bands

As a matter of context, consider where I was at the time, what I was up to, and how unlikely it was for me to even get a shot at the gig. I had spent most of that year on the road with a band called “Diamond Romeo,” zig-zagging all over the South and Midwest, playing club shows almost every night for $150 a week. Band and crew toured around in an oversized van and a huge truck packed with gear. We played nearly four hours a night on hot, smoky stages, and I slept on the floor of a motel room I shared with three other band guys, living off of peanut butter sandwiches and soup that I heated up on a hot plate. It was a pretty strenuous gig. I was playing full-out through sets of all hard rock covers, and my nightly drum solo was always well over 10 minutes (as it provided our singer with a well-needed mid-set break). But, my chops were up, up, up, and I felt like I was playing better than ever.

Although the band was perpetually on the road, I would soon realize that there wasn’t much room for advancement beyond the cover circuit we were on. And I noticed that a few of our fellow club circuit bands had been routing themselves all the way west to LA, where the real shit was going down. I knew the west coast was my destiny, but I had no clue how to get there or what to do once I did, since I figured I would be going out there as a drummer for hire.

So… I decided to reach out to a few of my colleagues who had actually been there and see if I could get a clue. First call – Joey C. Jones, front man for a band called Sweet Savage; one of the top-drawing bands on the circuit. I had heard that Sweet Savage had just been in LA recording an EP with this bassist, producer guy named Dana Strum, who was also connected to guitarist Vinnie Vincent. I was also aware that Vinnie – who had left Kiss a year or two prior – was putting a new band together and had everyone dialed in but the drummer.  Man… that was it! That would be the perfect gig for me. But how in the fuck does this 22-year old kid from Houston get a shot at that? Certainly Vinnie would have a line of LA guys ready to pounce, wouldn’t he?

Catching up with Joey C. Jones in Dallas recently

Nonetheless, Joey was super cool. He told me the ins-and-outs of the LA scene and gave me a few phone numbers… including Dana Strum’s. So a bit later that afternoon, with my heart beating in my throat, I called Dana’s number and got his answering machine. I wound up leaving a bold and rambling message, which, in retrospect, must’ve sounded pretty ridiculous. But it was just ridiculous enough to get his attention,

I found out later that Vinnie and Dana were actually grabbing lunch together at the Hamburger Hamlet next to the Chrysalis Records building off of Sunset at the exact time Dana went to the restaurant payphone to check his messages.  Clearly amused by my rather confident pleadings, he went back to the table and had this now infamous exchange with Vinnie:

“Hey, I just found our new drummer,” Dana said jokingly. ” He just left me a message. Some kid named Bobby Rock from Texas. Says he’s ready to drive out here and audition.”

“Fuck ’em,” said Vinnie.

“No, no… I think we should give him a shot. I mean, how fucking funny would it be to have this kid drive all the way here just to bomb out at an audition, and then have to drive all the way back home?”

“True,” said Vinnie. And they both had a good chuckle.

A day or two later, Dana did return the call, and I further made my case for an audition. By the end of the conversation, he basically said, “Okay, we’ll give you a shot. I’ll be back in touch when we lock down an audition time.”  I thanked him profusely and told him to let me know when to drive out to LA. I had already decided that I wanted to use my own drums for the audition, so flying there wasn’t going to be an option.

Hurry Up and Wait

I wish I could say the audition was immediately forthcoming… but it wasn’t. It was at least six agonizing weeks later, after various delays, and it felt like six months. I was basically in limbo, off the road and living back with my parents at the house I grew up in, with no money, and no other choice but to wait around for the phone to ring.

When the call finally came – at around 1:00 AM central time, with my mom answering the call out of a deep sleep! – I was handed the phone and Dana told me that the first round of the process would involve 10-minute screening auditions, where each guy comes in and plays by himself, for the band guys, but minus any jamming with the band. If you passed that step, then you go to step two and actually get to play with the band.  So basically, I would be driving 1500 miles on fumes, with no guarantee of anything beyond those initial 10 minutes.  Plus, to even get to LA, I had to borrow money from my parents and sister for food and gas.

Going West

I hugged my parents and left early on a Sunday morning. It was just me and my chocolate brown ’79 Ford Econoline van, packed with a road-worn set of chrome Pearls. I would take the good ol’ I-10 all the way across the country.

I remember pulling into a rest area somewhere near the Texas/New Mexico border late that night, walking back from the pisser – fall chill in the air, and that desert black sky with its explosion of stars – then climbing into the back of the van, pulling a pillow out of one my bass drums, grabbing a blanket, then clearing just enough room to stretch out on the floor between the various road cases.

That whole scene is still vivid in my mind: I was trying to fall asleep, anxious about the audition, and a little paranoid about my current surroundings. I remember the constant surging of headlights though the rear window of the van, casting moving shapes of shadow and light all around me; cars, trucks, and earth-rumbling 18-wheelers coming and going all night; crunchy gravel footsteps outside the van’s sliding side door, fading into concrete shuffles; and the recurring chorus of muffled voices, near and far. It was hard to sleep, even though I was deep-fried and delirious from a long day of driving.

But then, there was this other feeling that would elbow out all that anxiety… a deep sense of knowing, in the pit of my gut.  Even though I may have been sleeping with my drums, in the back of a beat-up van in a glorified parking lot, and living on borrowed money, I just had a feeling. And at the risk of overdramatizing the moment here, I distinctly remember finally dozing off that night, wrapped in a weathered green blanket, feeling a sense of blissful isolation from my immediate surroundings… immersed in a sense of deep connectedness to some inevitable destiny on the west coast that I was on an absolute collision course to hit.  I can’t fully explain it, and I didn’t know it at the time, but as it would turn out, that audition would be one of the truly most destined moments I had ever experienced.

The original VVI promo shot

Approaching the Moment 

As I got back on the road in the AM and the miles were clicking by, this feeling of exhilaration grew.  I mean, I was still super nervous about the audition… let me be clear about that. But this other empowered feeling kept drifting in and taking over. In fact, I remember filling up my van with gas along the way and some guy – assuming I was a musician by my appearance – asked who I played for.

“Vinnie Vincent,” I said.

“The guy from Kiss?” he asked.

“Yeah,” I said.

“Cool!” he said.

I smiled to myself as I climbed back in the van a few moments later.  Damn!  Already telling motherfuckers you’ve got the gig? Man… you better deliver some serious shit tomorrow, fool!

One other fortuitous thing happened en route that’s worth mentioning: Somewhere in Arizona later that morning, I saw two Mexican guys in their twenties, stranded on the side of the road, in the middle of nowheresville. I pulled over to help. They spoke very broken English, but somehow conveyed that they were trying to get to the next exit, some 30 miles away. I said I would take them. They both jumped in the back of the van, even though the passenger seat would’ve been available for one of them, and I had a split second of thinking this might not have been a good idea. But then… that feeling was there.  Destiny.  I was supposed to bail these guys out. And in helping them reach their destined location that day, I somehow would karmically ensure that I would reach my (more metaphorical) destined location in LA the next day.  Granted, I’m sure I was caught up in all kinds of mental and spiritual grandiosity-of-the-moment kind of shit… but it all seemed to feed the fire.

I had arranged to crash at my boy Tim Young’s apartment in LA.  He was my old college roommate and a great friend, and he also offered to go to the audition as my drum tech and help me get the kit set up.  The evening of my arrival, we drove the short distance from his place – near the corner of La Brea and Melrose – to the audition site at SIR.  We just wanted to stake it out and know where we were going to be headed the next afternoon. It was quite a feat to get any sleep on his couch that night. I was amped up from fear and excitement.

Destiny: VVI – The Audition

We pulled up to SIR the next afternoon and saw all the makings of a typical cattle call audition. There was a herd of long-haired rock drummers, all standing in a line next to their stacked drum kits, waiting to go in, set up, and do their best for this token “screening” audition. When it was my turn, Tim Young walked in first holding a stack of toms, and they all looked a little perplexed. “This fucking waiter-looking guy is Bobby Rock from Texas?” But there was immediate relief when I walked in behind him, and they saw he was just my “lowly” tech!

So I met the guys and we had a little small talk. There he was: Vinnie Vincent. Rock star at large, long black hair, eyeliner kickin’, and tight pants tucked inside leather boots. I also met singer Robert Fleischman and, of course, Dana Strum, my “point person.”  Everyone was cordial, but reserved. I got the impression that they had been there awhile and had probably already had enough drumming madness for one day.

Once I get seated behind the kit and ready to go, the three of them took a seat on a couch that was set up about 15 or 20 feet in front of the drums, directly in my line of fire.  Vinnie said something like, “Just play a basic rock groove like you would if we were jamming in an arena some place.”

So I kicked into a simple AC/DC-type beat, making sure I was hitting hard and it was groovin’.  I remember the drums sounded full and ambient in the room, and although I had been fairly nervous just before go-time, I immediately felt at home there, so the shit was flowing pretty good.

They all seemed receptive to what I was playing… heads lightly bobbing, looks of interest and perhaps even pleasant surprise. So I started mixing it up a bit, throwing in a little funky syncopation, and letting a few more adventurous multi-tom and double-bass riffs fly. This definitely caught their attention as smiles broke across their faces, and I noticed a few head-nodding glances toward each other.

At this point, ten minutes had come and gone, and we were now stepping into a bizarre, almost drum clinic-like atmosphere, where I started throwing all kinds of crazy shit at them. Now they were really lit up… well, mainly Vinnie and Robert. I think Dana appreciated the musicianship but, ever the pragmatic one, was probably questioning the relevance of a lot of this kind of playing beyond a nightly drum solo.

But it was too late.  We were now 20-plus minutes into it, and I was breaking out the serious Latin-influenced 4-way independence stuff… which was even less common three decades ago.  They seemed to go nuts over this.

30 minutes and counting.

I was on a proverbial roll. I felt like I could play anything. They even started playing a little “stump the drummer,” requesting that I play certain tricky things… mainly for their amusement, it seemed.

“I noticed you can play those fast 32nd-note rolls going down the toms from high to low,” Robert said.  “But can you go in the opposite direction, from low to high?”

Ever the Billy Cobham fanatic, of course I could. So I did… fast and hard. (This type of up-and-down the toms riffing would actually wind up on the record at the end of a crazy tune called “Twisted.”)  They all just shook their heads and laughed.

Then Vinnie requested a variation of something that required a fair bit of ambidexterity.  Fortunately, it was the kind of thing I practiced for hours and hours in a Berklee College of Music practice room several years prior, so I could do it, and I did… exaggerating the shit, making it even more polyrhythmic. Again… smiles, raised eyebrows, head-shaking.  It was like I was a machine. (But really, I suppose I was just lucky that I could oblige every request!)

40 minutes and counting.

Finally, Vinnie asked me to finish up with a drum solo. I remember thinking (but obviously not saying), Holmes, what the fuck do you think I’ve been doing the past 40 minutes?  But I realized he was just curious to hear what my trip might look like in the context of a more traditional solo spot. So I launched into a final four or five-minute solo with the most bombastic ending I could manage, and they all stood up and applauded. It was quite a moment.

Afterward, the vibe was all positive, and we chatted for a few. I remember Vinnie being surprised about my age, and very complimentary about my playing. Dana was basically, “Great job. We’ll be calling you tomorrow.”  Robert was a bit more forthright about my status, as he saw it. I’ll never forget what he said:

“Unless someone walks in here with three arms, you’ve got the gig!”

Another thing I recall is when they opened the studio door to continue with the auditions, all but one of the other guys had split. (My friend Tim said that as the audition dragged on and the playing got crazier, guys started packing up their gear and bailing.)  And as I was talking to Robert and the final guy walked in – looking like he was on his way to a top 40 gig at the Holiday Inn – I couldn’t help but think he wasn’t going to be a good fit here.  Nor did Robert.

“Stick around,” Robert said in a slightly hushed tone. “This shouldn’t take long.”

Hanging with Robert Fleischman at a recent Lita Ford show

Ironically, for as much pinpoint detail as I remember about so much of this entire experience, I don’t actually recall the moment I was told I officially got the gig. I’m pretty sure it was either later that night or possibly the next day. But I do remember that there was no question about it. I was buzzing with elation and adrenaline all the way back to the apartment. It felt like I had just been hired on the spot, but they needed to go through the formality of discussing it among themselves, telling their manager, etc. But man…even all these years later, it’s hard to fully express the absolute exhilaration I felt from landing this gig. It was a sweet vindication from all the struggle, disillusionment, and uncertainty I had experienced in the biz up to that point.

Meet the Brass

Once I was locked in, it was decided that we would start recording the debut album in December, and that I would head back to Houston in the interim. But first, they wanted me to tag along to a meeting with the Chrysalis Records brass.  No big agenda, as I recall, just an “appearance” at the label with the official line-up intact, now that I had been brought into the fold.  Vinnie had been signed for awhile, but it was time to show the suits that the Vinnie Vincent Invasion was a real life entity, ready to shake up the scene.

A day or so later, I met Vinnie, Dana, and Robert over at Victoria Station in Universal City, then we all drove over to Chrysalis Records together.  Back then, you dressed up for virtually every occasion, so we were looking like a rock band as we all peacocked our way through the reception area and into the office of Ron Fair, an up-and-coming Chrysalis exec.  (Yes, that Ron Fair; the A&R man, producer, and songwriter who would go on to a huge career with Christina Aguilera, the Black Eyed Peas, and a host of others. Strange that he would be the first real industry player I would meet.)

Ten minutes into the meeting, Ron said, “Chris Wright is in today.  Maybe you guys should say hello.”  He then picked up the phone, talked to a secretary, then said, “Yes, he’ll see you now.”  And just like that, we were stepping into the office of the man who discovered Jethro Tull and co-founded Chrysalis Records nearly 20 years prior.

Holy shit!

He stood from behind his desk as we each stepped up for a handshake.  ‘…and this is our drummer, Bobby Rock.”

“Hello, Bobby… nice to meet you,” he said in his distinguished English accent as we shook hands.

Holy shit!

Then we all took our seats in front of his desk and had a casual powwow about the upcoming record and the year ahead, partnering up with Chrysalis for “global domination.”  Vinnie did most of the talking.  I just sat there quietly, trying to look as cool and unaffected as possible… like this was no big thing. But what I was really thinking was, What the fuck? Just a few days ago, I was sleeping with my drums in the back of my van, trying to stay warm at some ghetto fucking rest area, hoping my funds would hold out until I got to LA. Today, I’m hanging out with teased hair and eyeliner in a real record company meeting, at an office address off of Sunset Blvd. that I used to see on the back of my Jethro Tull and UFO albums, sitting across from one of the most powerful execs in the biz. This is fucking insane!

And these are the extremes we live with in this crazy biz.  It truly can go one way or the other, overnight.


After the meeting, we all went next door and had dinner at the very same Hamburger Hamlet where Dana had first picked up my voice message some six or eight weeks before.  We had gone full circle, you might say. But at this point, I still had not heard any music… not even the demo that got Vinnie signed.  So before heading out of town the next day, I connected with Dana and he gave me a cassette of some of the stuff I was to learn for the record.  Wow.  Those early demos were spectacular.  I heard “Boyz Are Gonna Rock,” Shoot You Full Of Love,” and “No Substitute,” back to back, just as Chrysalis first heard ’em, and just like they would eventually appear on the album. The shit was slammin’, and now I was even more fired up.  This thing is going to be huge, I thought, as I cranked up the tape in my van and cruised back onto the ol’ I-10, headed east to Houston.


Indeed, we did have a pretty good run. The record would come out roughly nine months after we started it, and the band would hit the road with Alice Cooper, and then Iron Maiden, on two separate tours.  The record would eventually be marketed as “the fastest-selling debut in the history of Chrysalis Records” and we would shoot a video, do a bunch of press, make a lot of noise, and enjoy a healthy buzz in the industry.  However, Robert Fleischman would not remain in the band.  Once the recording was done and we did the initial album cover photo shoot, things didn’t work out with Robert (business stuff between him, Vinnie, Vinnie’s manager, perhaps the label… I never knew exactly what). So Mark Slaughter was hired in late summer of ’86 to step in and take over front man duties.

Early promo shot with Mark Slaughter

As for the making of the first VVI record starting in December of ’85, that would turn out to be one of the most agonizing experiences of my entire career.  But that, my friends, is a whole other story…

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Prologue (book excerpt from Zentauria)

Here’s an excerpt from my book, Zentauria: My Season in the Warrior Utopia.  The book is essentially an 11-week documentation of life with a secretive utopian community, on a small island off the east coast of Africa.  I wrote it journal-style, with a conversational narrative, but I believe the themes, experiences and insights covered throughout might be useful – even inspiring – to others.

ZentauriaKindleHere’s the Prologue, which articulates both the deep history of the island, and my personal connection to it:


THE KING of all the land lived in the house of rock; a massive granite structure that took untold amounts of struggle and strife to build. Thousands of citizens basked in the radiance of the king and his empire, as resources were abundant and all was good for a seeming eternity. But then, there was a climate change, of sorts, and the once plentiful resources dried up or fell out of favor, depending on who you ask. This led to the inevitable exodus of the townsfolk, followed by the reluctant exile of the king. It was a spectacular free-fall into irrelevance.

Sounds like the music business, doesn’t it?

Actually, I’m talking about Africa’s Great Zimbabwe era of the 15th century. Must’ve been a brutal time for the king, I tell ya… fucking brutal! But the king was a pretty resilient guy, and he responded to this obliteration of fortune like any dignified ruler would; he disappeared. That’s right. He and his sizable inner-circle relocated to some primo real estate acquired by the royal family during better times—a pristine, undeveloped island just thirty kilometers east of the African coastline—to contemplate life and, eventually, start things anew.

zimbabwe-ruinsThe stone ruins of Great Zimbabwe, circa 15th century

From this inauspicious beginning, a much greater and grander empire would be born. But not without a few epic shifts and twists. It would be one thing to survive on the island, but yet another to truly thrive. And what the king rediscovered about himself was that he was here to thrive, and thrive large. But how? What could be cultivated with the resources at hand to create a compelling, inspiring, and sustainable empire?

This question became the lofty theme of a daily sunset ritual; an active group meditation that took place among the swaying acacias near the shoreline, as the sun melted fire-orange into the horizon. A perfect row of nearly fifty shirtless warriors would all stand quietly with heads bowed and eyes closed, waiting, while the king slowly strolled back and forth behind them, whispering expectantly to the God Force. Every day they did this.

GreatZwarriorsAnd then one day, he got his answer.

THE MONK washed ashore in a splintered caravel during the exact time of said ritual. He hailed from the Shaolin traditions of Ming dynasty China, but had traveled extensively throughout Europe as both a mercenary and confidante to the region’s most influential. Fascinated by the synchronicity of the monk’s arrival, the king urged him and his colorful European shipmates to stick around. Soon, the monk would develop an enormous vision for the island, and then infect the king with this vision. The king, in turn, would become obsessed with its manifestation.

This was the birth of Zentauria.

* * * * * * * *

ZENTAURIA was officially established back in 1463 as an experimental, multi-cultural community designed to foster the highest levels of human potential in the arts, sciences, and esoteric spiritual practices. Part university, part think-tank, part mind/body retreat, Zentauria was intended to be the ultimate live/work environment for some of the world’s most progressive thinkers, artists, and spiritual practitioners. To this end, it would also serve as an inspirational polestar for those wishing to study art, science, or religion, join an apprenticeship, or simply experience the ambience of a high-vibrational community. And, of course, it would become a coveted destination for the world’s richest and most powerful; a magical adventure worth many future moons of tall tales and bragging rights.

Zentauria’s “super-hub” coastal location would serve as a neutral ground between the creative epicenter of Renaissance-era Europe and the spiritual nucleus of Asia’s deeply rooted Zen culture. And within two short decades of serving its initial purpose and hosting many of the world’s most highly regarded artists, monks, and warriors, Zentauria evolved into its own self-sufficient community, with quite an eclectic range of permanent citizens known as Zentaurians.

Through the first two centuries, the fifty square miles of island real estate that comprise Zentauria would change ownership several times and survive a series of international political upheavals. But it would ultimately emerge as its own autonomously governed country in 1763, the year of its 300th anniversary. It would also go on to represent human potential and self-actualization in a way no other culture ever has.

* * * * * * * *

Zentauria’s extreme isolation from the rest of the world has stemmed primarily from the rigid passport/visitation policies the country has consistently upheld in an effort to preserve its utopian qualities. It has been nearly impossible to penetrate this community on any level, and this has given the island a hallowed mystique in certain circles. (By the way, “Zentauria” is the native name for the island and not how it would appear in certain world atlas listings.)

More recently, however, policies have loosened, as some of the new leaders have become more receptive to sharing their rich culture with the rest of the world, albeit on a limited basis. Accordingly, they have invited a few of the world’s brightest leaders, speakers, and thinkers over to Zentauria with the intention of establishing a more global dialogue and a mutually beneficial exchange of ideas. And here is where the shifts and twists of my own journey would create an epic opportunity in the form of an extended invite…

Enter: My Season in the Warrior Utopia.

IMAGINE a secretive community of self-actualized super-beings, whose citizens live without conflict, disease, or prejudice, and who are among the most highly-functioning on the planet, physically, mentally, and creatively. Imagine a people whose enlightened spiritual sense flows through every aspect of their daily lives; from their work, physical training, intellectual pursuits and relationships, to their meditation practices, sexuality, and extreme reverence for planet and animals.

Now imagine living among these joyous, evolved beings for eleven weeks as an active part of their community… free to observe, explore, and document all facets of their rich history and futuristic present. What might you see? What would you learn? How might you be changed from this extraordinary opportunity, and what would you want the world to know about your observations and experiences there?

These are the questions that turned me into a madman over there, as I feverishly attempted to soak it all in and write it all down. It’s the kind of place where you don’t want to go to sleep, for fear that you might miss out on something life-altering. And yet, sleep is your only reprieve from a higher-vibrational ambience that could grind your senses into fairy-dust if you aren’t careful. But I did my best to capture as much as I could, and now I have my own magical adventure to tell you about in the pages ahead.

So climb aboard my flying carpet and let’s soar into the land of the enlightened, the “warrior utopia.” Let’s live among the evolutionarily elite—in the most magnificent culture of metaphor and archetype on earth—and allow our vibration, our creativity, our skills, our intellect, our physicality, our sensuality, our passion, and our compassion to be elevated to heights unimagined. Let’s find out, once and for all, who we are, why we’re here, what really matters, and how we can make the best of things this time through. Let’s learn to walk the talk of the masters before us, so that we can more fully Project the Magnificence and, when the time is right, bring our story to a graceful conclusion, without hesitation or regret.

Here’s to the journey…

Bobby Rock
Los Angeles


Check out our official Zentauria page here for ordering info and more excerpts.

Paperback and Kindle versions available direct from Amazon. Just click the link below:


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Drumbell Training for Drummers

Here’s an article I recently did for Drum magazine.  These exercises really work!  And for all you non-drummers, this concept of training is excellent to adapt to whatever your athletic endeavor might be.  Just create custom movements with light dumbbells that emulate the various motions you perform.


Runners, fighters, and football players all have key weightlifting exercises designed to strengthen movements specific to their activities.  Drummers should have the same, so I’ve developed a few drumming-specific exercises through the years that will improve power, speed, endurance and mobility around the kit.

I call this “Drumbell” training because it involves using dumbbells to enhance drumming motions.  Try adding these to your regimen two or three times a week, and be prepared for some great results.

Here are a few parameters:

A) Start off with really light “housewife weight” dumbbells; one or two-pounders should be fine.  You can increase the weight later, once you get acclimated to the movements.

B) Exercises are always performed in a rhythmic, RLRL motion, similar to drumming.

C) Sets are based around duration of time, as opposed to traditional reps.

D) Perform these exercises at the end of your upper-body workout routine.

Here are two of my favorites:

Snare Crushers

This exercise will bring super power and endurance to your snare drum strokes.

1. From a seated position with your elbows relaxed by your sides, pretend like you’re balancing the bottom of each dumbbell on top of an imaginary snare in front of you.  (Your knuckles should be facing forward.)

2. Raise your right dumbbell up to the right side of your head, approximately four inches from your temple.

3. With a controlled motion, return the right dumbbell to your starting position, while simultaneously raising your left dumbbell up to the left side of your head the same way.

4. As you return your left dumbbell to the starting position, raise your right dumbbell back up again, and so forth.  Continue this RLRL motion for 30 seconds to two minutes.  Do three sets.

Tom Bashers

This exercise will increase mobility, speed and power between your toms and snare.

1. From a seated position, hold both dumbbells in front of your chest, with the sides of your fists facing down.

2. Extend your right dumbbell forward in a controlled, circular motion.

tombashers23. Once it’s all the way forward, complete the circle with your right dumbbell as your left dumbbell extends forward to begin its circular motion.  (You are basically emulating the front-wheel motion of a locomotive.)

4. Continue this motion smooth and steady for 30 seconds to two minutes.  Do three sets.

Both of these movements should produce a gradually intensifying burn in your arms and shoulders, so embrace the pain!


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Embracing the Paparazzi and the Art of Non-Judgment


As some of you may know, my latest book, Zentauria, is based on the interaction with a highly-evolved, utopian society and a lot of Zen-like philosophical tenets. One of the key tenets highlighted throughout the adventure is mindfulness, which is essentially the deeper-consciousness awareness of the present moment and everything you are able to perceive about it.

Mindfulness is an invaluable tenet, probably most associated with Buddhist monks, and its faithful practice will lead anyone to a more evolved, peaceful life. And it is something we have to diligently and deliberately practice, since there is very little in our daily lives that organically encourages it.

Accordingly, it turns out that one of the key barriers to this high-level of awareness is judgment. This is because when we judge negatively, we have – in almost every single case – arrived at a narrow, one-dimensional conclusion about someone or something that is not the whole Truth; only an embarrassingly small, biased fragment of it. This cripples our thinking, because once this conclusion is reached, it’s game over… we’ve made up our minds and, in our temporary ignorance and short-sightedness, we are unable to perceive the deeper Truth about someone or something. And if we are attempting to walk any kind of higher path, this is not such a great idea!

For me, this has meant that I constantly try to practice non-judgment – all the time, everyday. I attempt to observe first, without any kind of judgment, and look more deeply into things, with the understanding that there is always more to the “story” than what meets the eye. I tend to do pretty well with it, but then I notice that there are occasionally a few “hot topics” that pop up… things that I immediately jump to judgment about.

One such thing for me is the paparazzi. My basic, knee-jerk position has been: I don’t get it, I don’t understand how someone can make a living doing such a thing, and I don’t understand how there’s even a “market” in the world for this asinine shit. (Ya see…more judgment!) Furthermore, it’s challenging for me to physically stomach more than five seconds of shows like TMZ, which, believe me, I would only ever encounter on accident. That has more or less been my position, although, I have found it to be an interesting ritual to practice non-judgment in the rare case that I’m stuck in front of a TV playing one of these shows. Breathe in – breathe out… seek to understand the deeper layers here… seek to know the bigger story at play…. etc.

Most recently, a deeper perspective on the matter was delivered to me rather poignantly. While on the way to LAX (LA airport) for a run of shows, I had overheard by way of a phone call to our soundman that one of my bandmates – already waiting for us curbside – was annoyed that the paparazzi was trying to take her photo. Our soundman told her to excuse herself from them and to hang tight… we were almost there. And then when we arrived about 10 minutes later, I discovered that the camera-wielding paparazzi guy in question was someone I actually knew; an old gym buddy from way back in the day who I always liked. I was stunned. What the hell? I thought. “Maury” (we’ll call him) was now a motherfuckin’ paparazzi guy? No!!!!

This was my initial judgment.

But when he saw me, he busted out into that mile-wide smile of his and we hugged. And I smiled, too. It was great to see my friend. He told me he was doing this part-time, in addition to some other non-related ventures. I asked him a bit about the gig… like do people get mad at him, etc. He said that sometimes they do and, if that’s the case, he immediately puts his camera away and refuses to shoot someone against their will.

Sure enough, when I introduced him to my bandmate and we all had a laugh, she ended up really liking him. (And yes, she later confirmed that as soon as she asked him not to take her picture, he immediately withdrew his camera.) We visited a bit more and he laughed and joked with us about stuff for a few minutes before returning to his “post” to wait for Joan Rivers… who, apparently appreciates the platform and has no problem obliging pics and vids.

This whole experience became an interesting “hypothetical” for me: what if you found out that a dear old friend was participating in a profession that you disagreed with? Would you feel differently about it? Would you reconsider your opinion in any way? Would you have a bit more empathy towards the subject?

Obviously, there are still intrusive elements of the profession – and many unethical participants – so I’m not trying to make this a black-and-white issue where suddenly I’m a fan. And I’m clearly not suggesting that mindfulness is always about “loving” (or feigning affection) toward people or things that don’t line up with your moral compass. I’m only suggesting that there is always another side to the story; a part of the narrative or subtext that we might not agree with, but will at least gift us with deeper insight, and perhaps a little more empathy. And this is our way into a more mindful observation about something. But we will never be able to experience that in-point unless we set aside judgment for a moment and truly seek out that deeper peek.

The “practice” continues…

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The 10 Breath Technology Break

I recently heard a well-known marketing expert ask a room full of Fortune 500 types a compelling series of questions. With a show of hands, he asked how many in the audience watched TV with at least one additional screen – like an iPhone – nearby. Almost everyone raised their hands. Then he asked about having two screens nearby – like an iPhone and an iPad. Many raised their hands. And finally, he asked about having three screens nearby – iPhone, iPad and laptop. Still, there was a decent show of hands. Now that’s three open screens while the TV is on, engaging information from a total of four different sources more or less simultaneously.

His larger point had to do with modern marketing methods, the fragmented attention span of viewers these days, and the dwindling efficacy of traditional advertising.  But his point hit me in a different way, mainly because, at that moment, I was actually sitting at my desk, doing this four-screen shuffle exactly as he was talking about it!  I was watching a YouTube video of his lecture on my laptop, while waiting for a return text on my iPhone, while monitoring an eBay auction on my iPad, while glancing over at a Dodgers game playing on a nearby TV with the volume down.

I’m sure we can all relate to this crazy modern phenomenon of super-splintered attention spans. I believe it’s commonly categorized as yet another form of multitasking. But as someone who has taken great interest in the study of the mind/body connection, I’ve lamented over what this kind of hyper-multitask-ism actually does to our brain. And while I am definitely not about to jump on some kind of anti-technology bandwagon – hey, I love all my gadgets just as much as the next person – I did want to offer another take on this whole thing, along with at least one basic counter-measure that we all should consider integrating into our routines.

Concentration is King

I have often said that the most important single skill anyone could ever develop is the ability to effectively concentrate. When most folks consider what it means to really concentrate, they usually think about someone straining their brain, forcing an intense focus on something. But really, concentration has more to do with one’s ability to simply think about one thing, and one thing only. Easy in theory, I know…

Being able to concentrate is what entering “the zone” is all about in sports. Momentary lack of it is why a musician can make some nonsensical mistake in a song they’ve played perfectly 99 times prior. Concentration – and the engagement of the brain’s all-powerful frontal lobe – is where our creative genius resides, and it is essentially why Buddhist monks are the “Olympic champions” of the mental realm; meditation is the ultimate practice of concentration.

monkbrainDon’t fuck with the monks!
When it comes to total concentration abilities,
electroencephalography tests show they kick all of our asses!

So if concentration is a learned skill, and the brain can be trained to perform this skill through repeated conditioning, what the hell are we doing everyday? The exact opposite! That’s right. Multitasking is pretty much the opposite of concentration. Constantly navigating between various conversations and communications, via multiple platforms and devices throughout the day, actually conditions the brain to “focus” on multiple things at once. And because this technology shit is so imbedded in our lifestyles, our mere existence everyday ensures that we are getting further and further away from being able to do one of the most important things we could ever do: Concentrate!

Being in the Present

Another problem in this data-overkill era, is this: when do we have time to just be?  Where is the downtime, the decompression period, the little pockets of creative incubation throughout the day?  When do we allow ourselves a chance to relax into the nothingness of the moment – if only for a few minutes – and practice mindfulness, be grateful, be present for those around us. or connect with nature?  So often, it seems that folks are two places at once; where they are in person in their “physical” world, and where they are online or in text-land, in their “virtual” world. How present can we be with those in our physical world when we’re also maintaining (usually inconsequential) communication with others in our virtual world?

In terms of being fully in the present, if you have any sort of meditation practice, that’s great.  But to truly live mindfully, we have to practice more than just our designated 20 or 30 minutes of meditation a day.  It should be something that we tap into throughout the day, everyday.

zengardenBe it figuratively or literally, we must try to carve out
a little “Zen Garden” time each day…

The “Gap” is Gone

Still another real issue with all of this technology clutter is that we are not leaving enough space in our heads for those genius ideas to spring forth as often as they should. Here’s what I mean:

Think about when some of your greatest thoughts, ideas, creative surges or revelations hit you. I bet you were in the shower, or out walking the dog, or folding clothes, or at the gym, or maybe driving home from somewhere. In other words, the idea just seemed to “pop up” out of nowhere, while you were doing an activity that 1) demanded minimal brain power but, 2) likely precluded you from doing much else.

Sure, you could add technology – like being on the phone, for example – to most of the above-mentioned activities. But I’m guessing you were not doing much else when the big idea bubbled forth. Why? Because you inadvertently created a “gap” opportunity in your brain, and your subconscious mind found a little space to drop in an idea. I like to call this the Gap because it seems like ideas pop out when there’s a bit of a gap or space between thoughts.

For me, I typically have huge gap time at the gym, because I’ve always found lifting weights to be meditative and, in a bizarre way, relaxing.  I’ve recorded many hundreds of voice memos – no exaggeration – between sets through the years.  Initially, I used an Olympus digital recorder that I would always have handy, but over the past 4 or 5 years I’ve used my iPhone Voice Memos function.  (The real dilemma has been managing all of this material.  I still have hundreds of “voice notes” in various folders, waiting to be added to various manuscripts and projects.)

But the problem for most is, when is there ever a gap anymore? If we are constantly navigating, deciphering, communicating and fucking re-tweeting data all day long, how difficult must it be for one of these unexpected creative revelations to find its way in?

The 10 Deep Breaths Solution

Well… I don’t know if this is a total solution, but I can guarantee it could at least be the start of one. This is something that is deceivingly difficult to do and, at the very least, will show you – in less than three minutes – how little control you actually have over your own brain. I’m serious. This shit is hard! But at least you can do it anytime, anywhere. Here it is:

1. Whenever you find yourself with a few spare minutes between activities, pull yourself fully into the present moment; don’t think about the past or future.

2. Take 10 full, slow, deep breaths.  In through the nose, out through the mouth, silently counting each one on the exhale.  Try to stretch-out each full inhale/exhale to take between 15 to 20 seconds.

3. In public, you can do this so discreetly, no one will even know you’re doing it. But in private, I suggest exaggerating the actions, which includes inhaling more deliberately and exhaling like you’re blowing out a candle.

4. Try to think about little else but the air going in through your nostrils, filling up your lungs, expanding your chest, then exiting your mouth as you (silently) count your 10 breaths. Envision any distracting thought as being encased in a bubble that you blow away with your exhale.

5. Try this 10-breath practice on two or three separate occasions throughout the day to start.

deep-breath(image courtesy of “Kale and Kant”)

Crazy Observations

I don’t want to assume that any or all of the following will happen to you… but it probably will! So just be on the look-out for a few common things:

  • Notice how this might feel like the longest three minutes of your day, every time you do it.
  • Notice your fundamental resistance to this practice… how the mind starts freaking with nothing else to occupy it but counting these breaths.
  • Notice your potential impatience… how you can’t wait to get to 10… or how your mind will begin to stray even after only two or three breaths.
  • Notice how your “monkey-mind” might be so distracted by the inactivity you’re asking it to embrace, you might actually lose count!
  • Notice how you’ll start thinking about what you just did (past), or what you have to do next (future)… basically any other thoughts that are not about the present moment.

If any of these things happen, don’t get discouraged.  Just calmly bring yourself back to the present and keep counting those breaths.

And finally, think of this process as a sort of “introductory weightlifting practice” for the mind. This three-minute practice will help to strengthen your brain every time you do it, but you do have to do it consistently to fully experience the benefits.

So delay that mindless three-minute text exchange or tweet that you were about to do, and try this… right now!

Until next time,


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Building Strength and Muscle: How it Works

I get a lot of questions about protein, supplements, special training routines and the like when it comes to building strength and muscle.  And as a long-time vegan, the inquiries are often multiplied, given the fact that I’ve continued to get all of my protein exclusively from plant-based, non-animal sources for well over 20 years now.  I’ve also shied away from taking tons of “designer” supplements through the years, having studied about, and experimented with, enough to know what’s what.

But before we can talk about routines, supplements, how much protein you need, or anything else, let’s jump into a quick refresher here about how it all actually works.

1. Your muscles are comprised of two types of fiber; slow-twitch and fast-twitch.  Slow-twitch has more of an endurance function, like for running, while fast-twitch has more of an explosive function, like for pushing heavy weights around at the gym.  Slow-twitch development doesn’t usually mean bigger muscles, although endurance activities can burn fat, which can in turn create a more muscular or athletic appearance.  Fast-twitch development does generally mean bigger muscles, but not always big, “bulky” muscles like you might see on a bodybuilder.  (Think of an Olympic marathon runner’s legs vs. an Olympic sprinter’s legs.  That’s the general difference between slow and fast-twitch development.)

2. If we’re talking more strength – as in the ability to lift heavier weights – and building more muscle tissue, we’re talking about your fast-twitch fiber. And the way to develop this is through consistent resistance training built around strategic, progressive increases in workload.  Why is this so crucial?  Because when you overload a muscle group through resistance training, you create what’s known as microtrauma in the tissue; the literal breaking down of the muscle fiber. And this is key because…

3. Your body’s natural response mechanism to microtrauma is to launch into a state called hypertrophy.  And this is where the magic happens.  Hypertrophy involves the recruitment of more muscle cells to the “traumatized” area and/or the enlarging of existing muscle cells.  In either case, this creates a slightly bigger, stronger muscle in anticipation of the next thrashing it might receive.

muscle-hypertrophy(diagram courtesy muscleandstrength.com)

4. As we gain strength and (depending on the style of training) size, we consider this progress in the land of fast-twitch fiber development.  However, if we wish to continue to make these types of gains, we must continue to successfully engage hypertrophy.  This is not an easy or an especially natural process, because the body is one hell of a survival machine… which means that it will develop an “immunity” to a particular workload rather quickly.  This is what it’s wired to do and, in fact, what hypertrophy is really all about.

All this said, to successfully engage hypertrophy is not something that is usually spoken about in the broad, holistic manner that it actually takes.  Because, as you’ll see in a moment – and contrary to what the supplement manufacturers might have you believe – there’s a lot more science involved with optimizing hypertrophy than just the popular notion of “drink this special protein shake and get bigger muscles.”

Maximizing Development

So if hypertrophy is basically the process of making “broken-down” or traumatized muscles bigger and stronger, how do we optimize this process?  I’ve deconstructed this down to four major categories:

Training: This might be painfully obvious, but it’s clearly the single most critical step in the development of fast-twitch muscle fiber through hypertrophy.  Simply put, if you don’t actually break the muscle fiber down through some intelligent, intense, strategic and consistent training, none of these other steps will matter much.  I recommend that you cycle your training through various phases throughout the year so you can avoid injury and maximize your periods of intensity. Mainly, though, you will want to focus on free weights, vary your routine regularly, reach for the heavier weights, and always use impeccable technique in your lifts.

dumbbellsNothing beats good ol’ fashioned iron!

Rest and Recovery: There’s an old gym rat saying about how we actually do all of our growing away from the gym.  This is true.  Think of this phase in two parts.  Rest is the amount of time you wait before blasting a muscle group again.  It will be at least 48 hours, but sometimes an extra day or two might be required.  The idea is, you want to allow the body to repair the damage you did last time before hitting it again.  Recovery is about the quality of rest time between workouts.  It’s about the optimal quality and quantity of sleep (which is likely when your body is doing the bulk of the repair work), proper stretching, icing any problem areas, and basically managing inflammation as best you can so you’ll be ready to blast again when the next workout rolls around.

Nutrition: When we talk about nutrition and as it relates to gaining strength and muscle, one key nutrient always goes front and center in the discussion: protein.  And yes, it is a critical element to the hypertrophy process because this is the main nutrient the body utilizes in the actual reparation process. BUT – Protein isn’t the most important nutritional component to hypertrophy.  Total caloric intake is actually most important.

Think about it: hypertrophy is about increasing lean muscle mass, which is ultimately about weight gain. And when we are talking about weight gain, the single most important factor is taking in more calories than you’re burning off. So the first thing you want to cover in the nutrition department is to make sure that you are taking in a surplus of calories. Without this, all the protein in the world won’t much matter.  Additionally, you will want to stay properly hydrated, take in plenty of high-fiber carbohydrates to efficiently fuel all of your workouts, and get enough healthy fats and electrolytes in the diet.

pepperpowerIngredients for my Pepper Power Gazpacho:
Pure plant-based muscle-building fuel!

Gear and Accessories: This category covers everything from the equipment you have access to at your gym, to any accessories you might use to give you an edge in your training.  To be clear, a lot can be accomplished with a little.  A simple free-weight set-up in a garage and little else has gone a long way for many.  But, to the extent that you have access to an array of benches, heavy-ass dumbbells, various machines and other modern health club gear, it’s foreseeable that you will be able to optimize your efforts exponentially.

As for accessories, I’m talking about lifting belts (to stabilize the lower back for heavy lifts), wrist-straps (for heavy back work), wrist-wraps (for heavy chest presses), knee-wraps (for heavy leg day), etc.  Can you get by without these things?  Sure.  But anything that assists you in reaching for heavier weight can only help.


Now that we have this basic foundation established, next time let’s delve a little deeper into protein, supps, and more specifics on getting your hypertrophy rockin’..



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Drum Solo

mohegandrums2It’s no secret that I love to do drum solos. Grew up on ‘em. All my favorite players were monster soloists… and purveyors of the drumming art form in the process.

Sadly, it’s become somewhat of a dying art, partly because most players don’t work on this aspect of their craft, and partly because many of those who have, have not been especially musical, mindful or entertaining in their ultimate presentation of their solos in the context of a live show. This has created a bit of a stigma about drum solos in certain circles.

Nonetheless, I’ve always felt that a well-played, appropriately-styled solo could work in almost any situation, because drums and rhythm have such a primal, universal appeal. I learned this early on in my career, playing various bars around Houston. I noticed I could play drum solos in a rock environment, at a jazz club, in a honky tonk playing country (yes, I’ve done it), or even as the only white boy in the building of a funk gig in Houston’s fifth ward… no matter. Everyone would hoot and holler just the same.

Through the years, I’ve expanded my drum solo vocabulary and musicality considerably and have tried to become even more mindful about the audience at hand and how to best communicate with them. No more of this focusing on playing a bunch of super technical shit like I’m in a room full of drummers (unless I’m actually playing for a room full of drummers!). I try to think big picture: What type of solo might enhance the show and serve as an appropriate musical segue in the set, and what kind of vibe would this particular audience groove on?

It’s really no different than writing or speaking professionally. If you are going to write or speak for a particular audience, it helps to know who the audience actually is so you can tailor your communication to them in a way that will best resonate. Same thing with drum solos.

To Vary a Lot or Not?

The only thing I still struggle with sometimes is the idea of exactly how different to make the solo each night on a particular gig. I know the idea of radical variation is most prominent in genres where improvisation is a huge part of the style. In these cases, I find myself playing more off-the-cuff, which I like.  But if your solo becomes part of the set, and you travel around and play the same basic set each night over the course of a tour, it seems natural to fall into some basic kind of form that’s replicable from night to night. This is what I seem to do, even though there is a lot of room for variation, new sections, different riffs, varying durations, etc. It’s never the same twice, although certain aspects of the beginning, middle and ending might be similar.

Accordingly, I sometimes wonder if it’s okay to be repetitive about key elements of the solo that seem to go over: stopping and starting again to elicit crowd reaction, playing with one hand while toweling off or drinking water with the other hand, ending the solo with some kind of signature “going ape-shit” kind of grand finale, etc. (You’ll notice all three of these examples in the solo below.)  But at what point is it “Oh, I saw him do that last time,” vs. “Man, I hope he does that thing again like last time.” Of course, many of my faves had certain signature riffs they repeated – hell, even the great Buddy Rich had a similar ending to his solo for decades. So… I guess it’s cool.


Here’s the complete 4-minute solo I did at a recent Lita Ford show at the Mohegan Sun in CT. I initially shared it in two halves, as two separate excerpts, on Facebook, and folks seemed to enjoy them. Some also asked to hear the whole thing together as I had originally played it.  And so… here it is:

(Special thanks to my “east coast” tech, Mark Chiaramonte, for the cool camera coverage.)



PS. And finally, my friends, this is blog #20 in my 20-blogs-in-30-days series for June 2014.  Missed the goal by a few days, but that’s life. It’s been fun. See you guys next year. Kidding!

I plan on hitting it more regularly than I had been, but not as often as I did in June. Thanks for being here…

Posted in Beautiful Drum Music, The Artist Realm | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Rehabbing the “Hopeless” at Best Friend’s Animal Sanctuary

sanctuary3Earlier this month, I did a retrospective post about the whole Michael Vick dogfighting thing, which I know is kind of old news to most. But one of the main themes of the piece was the idea that every being – human or animal – deserves another shot. So instead of just euthanizing these fighting dogs, why not give them a second chance… even if an uniformed society deems them hopeless.

Indeed, why not?

This was the perspective Best Friend’s Animal Sanctuary had when they agreed to take in 22 of the worst cases from the Michael Vick fall-out. These 22 infamous dogs would become known as the Vicktory Dogs, and their story is inspiring and hopeful. Inspiring because they all would go on to flourish on one level or another, and hopeful because the world is watching, and seeing, that even the “worst case scenario” pit bulls can be rehabbed and given a second chance at a non-violent life.

I bring this up because I was just there at the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Utah this past weekend. But I didn’t get a chance to see any of the Vicktory dogs in person, because most have been adopted into forever homes where they are enjoying some blissful normalcy for a change. A few were court-ordered to stay at the sanctuary, but even they’ve continued to grow and heal from the unspeakable trauma they were subjected to as fighting dogs.

Lance-Vicktory-dogOur boy, Lance

Most recently, it was a Vicktory dog named Lance who was placed into his forever home. A few of the volunteers there at BFAS were just talking about him. Apparently, after all of their training, it turns out there’s a 10-part test that places the dogs in mildly stressful situations to gauge how appropriately they would react in real life scenarios. During a test run, Lance passed, and now he’s out the door and into his new life.

Here’s a BFAS blog post celebrating their progress at the five-year mark. You can meet them all here, too: http://bestfriends.org/News-And-Features/News/Good-Newz/

And, of course, there are hundreds of different stories like this playing out at the sanctuary at any given time. I got a chance to meet a number of “problem” cats, each of whom are receiving the best rehab and training possible so that they, too, can eventually be adopted.

sanctuary4One thing’s for sure: their digs are smokin’! I liked how they all had indoor and outdoor components to their living quarters.

sanctuary1Beyond that, there was a lot to see around there, and the scenery was really killer. It’s a great place to visit if you’re in the area…


PS. This is blog #19 in my 20-blogs-in-30-days series for June 2014. (Yes, I know it’s July now, but we’re almost home.)

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Let’s Get Heart Attack-Proof!

Big news in the world of plant-based eating today:

The Journal of Family Practice just published a hugely successful study that Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn and his team recently completed. It confirms what I’ve been preaching about for over 20 years now.

Many of you may be familiar with Dr. Esselystyn. He’s one of the world’s foremost experts on the subject of healing and reversing heart disease primarily through a plant-based diet. He conducted a famous study more than two decades ago that proved the efficacy of this phenomenon via a nutrient-rich, low-fat vegan diet. This study would be the basis for his book, Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease.

Prevent-and-Reverse-Heart-DiseaseThis new study was considerably larger, but still with equally compelling results. The study followed 198 consecutive patients counseled in plant-based nutrition. These patients with established cardiovascular disease were interested in transitioning to plant-based nutrition as an adjunct to usual cardiovascular care.

Here were the participant’s parameters for this study –

The Core Diet (followed by “compliant” patients):

Whole grains, legumes, lentils, other vegetables, and fruit comprised the major portion of the diet. A multivitamin and vitamin B12 supplement were encouraged. As was the use of flax seed meal, which served as an additional source of omega-6 and omega-3 essential fatty acids.

Foods Prohibited:

Initially the intervention avoided all added oils and processed foods that contain oils, fish, meat, fowl, dairy products, avocado, nuts, and excess salt. Patients were also asked to avoid sugary foods (sucrose, fructose, and drinks containing them, refined carbohydrates, fruit juices, syrups, and molasses). Subsequently, the study also excluded caffeine and fructose.



Here are the results and particulars of the study as reported by our friends at vegsource.com:

  • Out of the initial 198, 177 individuals were compliant with the diet (89%).
  • Of this compliant group, only one individual suffered a recurrent event of heart disease. That is an event rate of .6% – the lowest recurrence rate to date of any study of plant-based diets and heart disease.
  • 21 individuals of the original 198 in the research group did not adhere to Dr. Esselstyn’s diet program. They went back to the standard American diet. 13 of these nonadherent participants – or 62% – subsequently experienced adverse cardiac events. (It is worth nothing that the individuals who did not eat the plant-based diet were still under typical cardiology care and received standard medical interventions like pills and procedures. Yet 62% of them still succumbed to more adverse heart events.
  • 62% got worse with a standard diet and standard medical care, whereas only .6% of the people who followed Dr. Esselstyn’s diet had any further heart problems.


Here’s the link to the actual study:


I hope every serious cardiologist around the globe will take a look at this. And perhaps more importantly, I hope all my friends over 50 will take a close look, as well. As we age, we just don’t have the same kind of resilience we once did to all of the various foods that damage our arteries. Plus, if you’ve been eating these kinds of foods all along, you’re going to have a much greater build-up of fat and plague in the ol’ arteries just from the accumulative years.

arteriesActual before-and-after x-rays of an artery healed from plant-based eating!

This shit is real, people…

So, can this style of eating really make you heart attack-proof? Hard to say 100%. But so far, it appears to offer us the greatest odds.

Interested in More Info?

If you haven’t seen it already, check out the documentary Forks Over Knives. It features the work of both Caldwell Esselstyn and T. Colin Campbell (author of The China Study), and shows a lot of compelling science that supports this concept.  (Scope on Netflix instant download and other places…)


POST NOTE: You’ll notice in Dr. Esselstyn’s “prohibited foods” recommendations above that he also includes nuts and avocados.  This is the only debatable aspect of the study in my mind.  Of course, I have YET to see a study that reversed heart disease that included any animal products.  But I have seen evidence that a similar diet-style that included some plant-based fats (nuts, seeds, etc.) could also work.  And this was from Dr. Joel Fuhrman.  See Fuhrman’s Huffington Post article here:


I admire both of these guys, but they happen to differ in this one area.  Both promote plant-based diets, but Esselstyn is more hardcore about avoiding ALL forms of fat, even those naturally occurring in nuts and avocado.

My advice is this:

1. Enjoy moderate amounts of virtually ANY kind of whole food plant-based fat source, like nuts, seeds, avocado, etc.

2. Try to avoid adding ANY form of oil to anything.  (I know this is tough.)  This includes olive oil, which by the way, is NOT a heart-healthy food, even though it is often promoted as such.  Will you be able to do this?  Probably not until you have to.  Oil is everywhere. But at least be aware of it.

3. For omega 3s, I don’t think there’s much harm in having a small serving of flax oil a few times a week (added to your smoothie, for example).  But we simply don’t require very much omega 3 – especially when we have lower amounts of omega 6 in the diet (more on this later).  Still, if you can get it from flax seed or chia seed, all the better.

4. The more at-risk you are (total cholesterol over 150, etc.), the more strict you have to be with all of these recommendations!

Will be posting more specifics soon…


Stay tuned –


  1. This is blog #18 in my 20-blogs-in-30-days series for June 2014.  (Yeah, I know it’s July 1 today. What can I tell ya?)
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Get Back! – Building the Back Half of the Body

It’s easy for all the muscles in your back and rear legs to be “out of sight, out of mind,” since these areas are not so easily visible in the mirror as we evaluate our training progress. However, our backs are most important to us, because virtually everything we do – sporting activity or otherwise – is anchored to the balance and alignment we create with this intricate network of muscles.  So quality back training will strengthen these muscles for better physical performance, and also provide superior conditioning as a preventative measure against injury or strain.

getbackmainAn original version of this excerpt, tweaked for Drum magazine

From traps, rear delts and lats, all the way down to lower back, glutes, hams and calves, serious back training is a complex endeavor.  But just to get things rolling, here are three simple, foundational movements you can do two to three times a week to condition your back, backside, and hamstrings (rear leg).

Lat Pulldowns: Great for total back development, with emphasis on the large outer muscles, or “lats.”

1pulldowns1. Grab the cable bar a little wider than shoulder-width as you’re sitting down, and secure your legs under the thigh pad.

2. With your back slightly arched and your head tilted back, pull the bar down toward the top of your chest to chin level. Focus on pulling with your back muscles, as opposed to your arms.

3. Slowly return the bar to starting position for one rep.

Work up to three sets of eight to fifteen reps.


Machine Rows: Ideal for mid-back muscles and overall back strength and thickness.

2rows1. Take a seat with your torso against the chest pad, making sure that you can reach the handles.

2. While keeping your chest tight against the pad, pull the handles toward you as far as you comfortably can. Again, focus on pulling with your back muscles, as opposed to your arms.

3. Slowly return the bar to starting position for one rep.

Work up to three sets of eight to fifteen reps.


Stiff-legged Dumbbell Deadlifts: Excellent for strengthening the lower back, backside and hamstrings. Go super light with these at first!

3dumbbelldeads1. Stand with a light dumbbell in each hand, palms facing the front of your thighs.

2. While keeping your back and legs straight throughout the movement, slowly bend down at the waist so that the dumbbells are heading toward your feet.

3. Once you reach the mid-shin area, slowly return to the starting position, focusing on pulling with your hamstrings and lower back.

Work up to three sets of eight to fifteen reps.


Train hard,


PS. This is blog #17 in my 20-blogs-in-30-days series for June 2014.  So close… but yet so far!


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