The first gig that I know you from is Vinnie Vincent Invasion- how’d you get the spot in that? Audition?
Yeah, yeah. At the time I was touring with a band that was playing all over Texas and the Midwest and there was another band on our circuit who had been going out to LA and were trying to get a record deal- this guy named Dana Strum was producing them. When I finally was ready to make my move to LA, the guy’s name was Joey C. Jones, he was the singer for that band. The band was called Sweet Savage. I said ‘man what’s going on out there? Who should I try to hook up with?’ and he says that Vinnie Vincent has left Kiss and started his own band and that their producer is playing bass for him and they’re looking for a drummer. So he gave me Dana Strum’s number and I made the call- and to make a long story short I got an audition spot, drove out to LA and that’s how it came about.
I’m assuming you were familiar with Vinnie’s work with Kiss- we’re you a fan? Was it big for you to get to work with him?
I mean I was a bigger Kiss fan back in the makeup days, you know like back in the 70’s or whatever but I was certainly familiar with Vinnie and his work.
How were you feeling recording the first record? How’d that all go?
It’s a pretty infamous story that I would direct someone to my blog for. Recently it was the 30th anniversary of doing the first record and it was pretty arduous to say the least, infamously arduous. It was a little traumatic, actually, to be 22 or whatever I was and doing a record like that for the first time. Vinnie at the time, it’s a long story, but there was a lot of indecisiveness about things- one minute wanting me to play with all the killer chops that got me the gig but then another minute wanting me to play more machine like. It was tough.
Me and Mark Slaughter once had a great talk about what it was like working with Vinnie, and you especially know what it was like because you were around when the singers changed. How’d you feel about that?
At that point I mean I really liked Robert but I just didn’t know him that well; we got along well, he was cool, but we only hung out a handful of times. He did the record and I was probably back in Houston when he was doing the tracks. But they had some kind of a business thing that they had difficulty with and the next thing you know Mark Slaughter joined the band and we hit the road.
How was working with Vinnie?
I mean, for the most part, I always got along with him. My opinion is that I think he’s been characterized unfairly to some degree. It’s hard to explain. He wasn’t like a manic type of leader where he had to have crazy control and yell and scream and all that, but sometimes he would be indecisive and he was just trying to figure out what he wanted. But I hardly ever heard him raise his voice and I don’t think his intention was ever to be like a dictator or an asshole, like I don’t think he was ever like ‘I’m gonna make this kid do the record three times’. So that was kind of my perspective of it. Having said that, yeah, there was a lot of discord in that band. In retrospect I’m glad I kinda got that out of the way first because everything I’ve done since that has been easy.
Looking in hindsight how do you feel about those two albums? Do you feel that was good work on your and everyone’s part?
I like ‘em. I like the songs the best. I think the production, in my opinion, ultimately suffered for a lot of reasons- a lot of reasons that I detail in these very extensive blogs about how the production came about especially on the first record. I felt like either because of how he was trying to mold the drum tracks to sound more drum machine like, and/or because of the crazy hot guitar levels. The drum sounds that we had, like what we originally got, were so fucking good I wish they would have been preserved. And fortunately they were. When the record got remastered in 2003 it balanced things out a little bit, but it wasn’t like, in my opinion, what it could have been.
Within a couple years after releasing ‘All Systems Go’ the band has disbanded and you’re playing with Nelson. What a band to be in! How did you get the gig in that? Did they see you in Vinnie Vincent Invasion and were like ‘we want him!’?
Yes. When I was in Vinnie Vincent Invasion we all went to the MTV Music Awards one year and that’s where I first met the brothers, so we kind of knew of each other. And then just one day I’m hanging out at The Roxy or something watching another band play and there they were. It was just one of those things, perfect timing. They had just gotten their deal, they were getting ready to start putting the band together and it was like, ‘oh shit, Bobby Rock! Hey Bobby, you should come play in our band, we just got a deal with Geffen’ blah blah blah and it happened that quick. And I never even auditioned it was just kind of decided that I’d be the drummer. I just hooked up with them, grabbed a bite to eat and they played me some of their demos, I thought this could be interesting and off we went.
Tell me about how it was being in Nelson overall because that band seems kind of like the Brady Bunch of that time period.
Ironically when I first heard the demos I was a little bit concerned about the pop aspect of it, and what their manager at the time told me was that their vision was almost like what David Lee Roth did on his first record. You’ve got this monster, killer band and they go ‘we want great players, we want to get away from the boy band thing, we wanna be a rock band’. Because you know, they like bands like Boston, Journey, Queen and stuff like that. So that appealed to me and surely enough they put together a motherfucker band and because we were touring and headlining on the first record we all got like these extended solo spots and stuff like that. However, in contrast to that, the whole teen magazine thing went ape shit over them- and some of that’s not even in their control. That and the way that the videos were done and the record company’s influence and all those things- we just kinda went in that direction. We never really belonged anywhere, we weren’t heavy enough to be with the standard Metal Edge magazine bands but we were a little too heavy to be with the regular NSYNC boy bands.
You guys we’re smack in the middle of those two things.
And that’s why we headlined because we couldn’t really get on a tour and we did business on our own. It was like a weird, hybrid situation.
And how does this end for you? You release the three, or however many albums it was, and you just realize it’s not gonna work anymore?
The band never officially broke up. It just kind of fizzled out. I’m just trying to consolidate here…we had the first big record and then we took too long to do the second one and we had to end up redoing the second one and by that time the whole music scene had changed. A lot of our allies at the label had switched, in fact I think Nirvana was under the Geffen label. So by the time our second one came out, there was really no prayer for us in the marketplace.
And aside from Vinnie Vincent Invasion and Nelson you’ve done a lot of things since you started in the music industry- you did a Hardline record, you worked with my friend Bob Kulick and of course now you’re with Lita Ford. And through all the endeavors that you’ve done you’ve really focused in on your health and I find that very interesting, what made you want to focus so heavily on that?
You know, I got involved with weed and alcohol at a very very young age.
I know you just came up on your 40 years of sobriety, so congratulations.
Thank you, thank you. So you know, when you go into rehab at 13 and you sort of get into the scene of playing music- I started playing music professionally at 15, I think that without the distraction of weed and alcohol I was more open and susceptible to more constructive things. And for me that’s been the secret. The inner addict never goes away, that’s why I’ll never have another drop.
You’ve got that personality which I hear about a lot. Marco Mendoza from The Dead Daisies said the same thing, like basically if you started again you wouldn’t be able to stop.
You can’t do it. But you can’t get rid of that, so what I say is employ the inner addict. Let it work for you. So I always joke and I tell people, because I talk to a lot of people who deal with recovery, I say has this ever happened? Have you ever had x amount of alcohol or x amount of drugs and you go ‘okay, I’m gonna have one third of this tonight, one third of this tomorrow and one third Wednesday’ or whatever and try and spread it out over three days? And then you start to get all fucked up and say ‘maybe I’ll have half tonight’, and then all of a sudden you finish it all tonight. It’s like the inner negotiator.
And that’s the spiral, too.
That’s the spiral. But, you can get that same headspace by thinking like ‘I’ve practiced two hours already, I’m supposed to meet my friends tonight- I’m gonna get another hour in and call them later. You know, I’ll just get another hour and meet them at the Denny’s sometime later. Oh, I’ll just do one more hour, fuck it’. So, you put it to constructive use. To answer your question about the health and wellness thing it came about as a result of doing a lot, starting to tour I began to feel the stresses and strains. You know what we do is very physical, playing the drums- so I just felt like, what do athletes do? I was practicing a lot but it’s different when you’re touring, you know the weight training and the dietary change- I was vegetarian in ’91 and vegan by ’93. So these things kinda started sneaking in, I started to do more running with the weight training, got into some meditation and that whole mind and body thing. I cultivated a whole lifestyle around being able to do my thing at peak performance.
You know I talk to a lot of people from around that time, during the 80’s everything was at your disposal especially for you guys in bands. Like, you could snap your fingers and have a pile of cocaine in front of you if you wanted it. It’s important that people try to make themselves better and I admire people like you who do.
It’s unsustainable, in my experience. Unless you’re Keith Richards, anybody I’ve ever seen do it- it’s just unsustainable. At some point, some way, your body just can’t.
You can’t go forever.
That’s right, you can’t go forever.
Moving more towards now you’re playing with Lita Ford, how long has it been now? Three or four years?
Yeah, almost four years now.
Nice, how’d you get the gig with her?
Ironically, Gunnar Nelson, one of the Nelson brothers. The guy before me had something happen and he had to split the gig abruptly, like a week before the show. So she had been in touch with Gunnar recently for whatever reason, they’re friends. She texts him like ‘hey do you know any good drummers in the LA area?’ and he texts her back in all caps ‘BOBBY ROCK’. They were gonna do these auditions and stuff like that but he basically told her ‘just go play with him one time and save yourself the hassle’. She knew who I was but we had never played together before. So Gunnar Nelson had a lot to do with referring me to the gig.
And how’s Lita been treating you? I saw you guys perform with Warrant and Bret Michaels in like, August, and the onstage chemistry was great.
Cool, where was that at? Up this way?
It was at a fair…I think in Buffalo? The Erie County Fair.
Oh right right right, no shit!
Yeah! I saw you guys there and everything seemed really great.
Yeah, very cool. We have a great rapport, the chemistry of this lineup…you know we’ve been doing a bunch of shows and it’s clickin’. She’s really easy to work for.
Album wise, I know you weren’t on the live album because it was recorded right before you got into the band, right?
She just released ‘Time Capsule’, are you on that at all?
That’s a collection of old masters and old things she’s done, that’s back in the early days.
Oh, okay- I didn’t know if anything there was rerecorded with you.
Is that something you want to do? Do you think there’ll be a Lita record with you on it soon?
Yeah, absolutely. She’s working on tunes right now. I’m guessing we’ll solidify something in 2017 for this band to record. For what it’s worth these days.
That’s another thing I always talk about is putting out new music because you know I’m 18 years old and not many of my friends are running out to the stores to buy a new record except for me, haha, but I’m glad you guys are doing it because there are still people out there.
And we do it for ourselves, the base is out there and the base digs it. It’s also something that just because the heyday of a certain thing was at a particular time doesn’t mean you stop being creative. Even like her last record, we play a couple tracks from that, it’s part of our thing.
And what’s going on with you, do you have anything goin’ on? Anything solo wise, or are you just gonna be with Lita for a while?
The Lita Ford thing has been the priority gig and it has been so much work this last year there wasn’t really time for anything else. So it’s all good. I spent a majority of the 90’s recording and touring as a solo artist basically. I did a lot of drum clinics, I did three records as a solo artist, I used to do like instrumental rock stuff that was very drum heavy. So, yeah. The short answer is sure, I do have plans to revisit that at some point soon, I’m not sure when or how.
But that is something you’d like to pursue.
Yeah, definitely. When I go home and I lock the door of my practice room, it’s a whole different headspace.