Drummer Bobby Rock – The full in bloom Interview 2005 – Vinnie Vincent Invasion, Nelson, Nitro
The full in bloom Interview w/
Vinnie Vincent Invasion/Nelson/Nitro/Lita Ford Drummer
full in bloom: You grew up in Houston, TX. Who were some of the musicians/bands you played with during your early years.
Bobby: I played all styles of music, with all kinds of people and in every kind of venue. As for the rock stuff, I always seemed to hook up with some of the more popular bands on the circuit…only after they peaked. I played in a band called “Worlds” first, then “Black Star” for a minute, then a later version of a band called “Diamond Romeo.” Working with all of these bands gave me a lot of invaluable, on-the-road playing experience…and a lot of great memories.
full in bloom: Do you remember anything about Sweet Savage or the early version of Pantera?
Bobby: Of course. The mid-eighties were the absolute glory days of hard rock in a national club scene that was bursting at the seams with decent bands, capacity crowds and incredible women. It was a special time. And yes, I saw Pantera a time or two back then and Sweet Savage a number of times. Sweet Savage was a great live act and, what they didn’t have in the virtuosity department, they more than made up for with attitude and authenticity. And, of course, the most unbelievable women in town would be out there to see them. These were very decadent times.
full in bloom: After Vinnie Vincent left KISS, he formed the Vinnie Vincent Invasion. Describe to us the days leading up to the audition and the days that followed after being picked as their drummer.
Bobby: Well, let’s see…actually, speaking of Sweet Savage, I’ll tell you something that very few people know. It was Joey C. Jones who gave me Dana Strum’s number. I had met Joey a few times and, after hearing that Vinnie had left KISS and was putting a band together, and that Dana Strum – who had just produced the Sweet Savage EP – was involved with Vinnie, I tracked Joey down and asked for Strum’s number. He was super-cool…he also gave me a few other LA people’s numbers, as well, just in case. I remember my conversation with Joey to this day. Anyway, I called Strum and we set up an audition. A few weeks later, I was behind my tubs in a rehearsal hall in sunny California, throwing everything I had at these guys, including the kitchen sink. It was supposed to be a quick, screening audition where each guy came in and played solo for Vinnie, Dana, and the original vocalist, Robert Fleischman. But I guess they were into what I was doing, so I just kept going for it. After about an hour of this, they pretty much hired me on the spot. A day or two later, I was shaking hands with the suits at Chrysalis Records.
full in bloom: Any memories stand out from the Vinnie Vincent Invasion self-titled album recording sessions?
Bobby: My God…where do I begin? Those sessions were absolutely brutal, to be honest. So much work went into them, on so many levels. First of all, we took over this gutted theater underneath Baby-O studios and set the drums up on a huge wooden stage. (And yes, as was widely reported back then, it was indeed the same stage where Van Halen shot their “Jump” video.) It sounded beyond monstrous in there, so we had tons of mics strategically placed on the kit and around the theater. We even had a separate feed of all of the close mics going upstairs to another tracking room and pumping through a huge PA, which was also miked up. When you put all of those tracks together, it was a fucking earth-shattering drum sound, let me tell you.
However, the problems set in when we started tracking. Rhythm guitar and bass were cut first, to a drum machine, and then I was supposed to play on top of it all, with the machine as a reference. But Vinnie became obsessed with how accurate – or maybe I should say, machine-like – I could play, relative to the drum machine, so all of the ensuing hyper-analysis of each take really got crazy after awhile. We ended up doing shit over and over again and totally losing the vibe. Ultimately, we wound up going back to square one and redoing everything the way we had originally intended, with me just playing down the tracks. And, of course, the biggest irony was that, after all we went through to get those epic drums sounds to tape, they somehow got buried in the mix! When I finally heard the masters, I was like, “Where in the fuck did our drum sound go?” What an ordeal that whole thing was.
full in bloom: Five nice things about Vinnie Vincent.
Bobby: 1. He could play his ass off.
2. He was a great songwriter.
3. His heart was generally in the right place.
4. He was a good father.
5. He could play his ass off.
full in bloom: What are a few of your most memorable moments from your days in the Vinnie Vincent Invasion?
Bobby: 1. Recording both of those records in a dark, vacated theater below Baby-O Studios in Hollywood.
2. Opening for Alice Cooper to a full house at the Joe Louis arena in Alice’s hometown of Detroit on Halloween night.
3. Smashing my drums during the “Boyz Are Gonna Rock” video as explosions – which had been orchestrated by our Vietnam vet pyro guy – were going off around me.
full in bloom: Any memories stand out from the Vinnie Vincent Invasion All Systems Go recording sessions?
Bobby: Compared to the first record, this one was much smoother. We went back to the underground theater vibe but, as I recall, we took more of a traditional approach and Dana and I played live to a scratch guitar. Overall, it was a lot more fun and relaxed. Plus, Mark Slaughter and I were rooming together back then and we had a blast that summer. Great times, lots of laughs, cool, beautiful women all over the place…it was an unforgettable slice of life.
full in bloom: Who were some of the bands you toured with on the All Systems Go tour? Does anything stand out?
Bobby: The Alice Cooper comeback tour was my sentimental favorite, just because I was such a huge Alice fan growing up. So to be able to hang out on the side of the stage and watch him do what he does from that vantage point was super cool for me. But, I would say the Iron Maiden tour was probably the better overall experience, just because it was a bigger tour, with a bigger stage, and a bonecrushing drum monitor mix!
full in bloom: Did Dana Strum really introduce Randy Rhoads to Ozzy?
Bobby: From what I understand.
full in bloom: How much about the industry did you learn from Dana Strum? If any, what were some of the gems that he shared with you?
Bobby: Let’s see…where do I begin? He’s one of the few rock and roll guys in the business who has truly been smart with his money. This means that you always live slightly below your means and don’t blow your dough on stupid shit that is either going to depreciate or contribute to a ridiculous monthly nut. Very, very few guys in the biz have subscribed to this, besides Gene Simmons. Strum was one of them and he always encouraged us to do the same.
Beyond that, Dana always had an encyclopedic knowledge of the biz and unrivaled skills as a negotiator. And even since those days, I think Strum has really matured a lot through the years and come into his own as a prolific business man and a seasoned artist and producer.
full in bloom: 3 nice things about Dana Strum?
Bobby: Based especially on my recent experience with him on the Slaughter tour I did, I would say…
1. He is one of the most meticulous, hard-working, and on-the-level business people I’ve ever encountered.
2. He is an absolute professional as a performer and gives it 100% night after night, under any circumstances.
3. He is a riot to hang out with. We laughed our asses off all summer when I was out with those guys.
full in bloom: Long ago, I was great friends with a guy named Charles England, who was one of the premier sound engineers is Dallas during the early ’90s. He always claimed he got his real start with you. What are your memories of him?
Bobby: Charles England is one of the true characters of road crew infamy. We’ve had a long history through the years and, frankly, it hasn’t all been roses. But we’ve always been cool with each other and God knows that the shit we’ve seen on the road together could fill a few books. As a tech, he was always the guy you went to when the clock had run out and the impossible had to be done. Whether that meant hot-wiring a payphone in the middle of nowhere so we could check all of our “urgent” emails, or risking high-voltage electrocution by tapping directly into a venue’s main power with our distro box, the motherfucker would make it happen.
full in bloom: How did you become involved with Nitro?
Bobby: Michael Angelo and Jim Gillette called me up to do it. They said that they wanted to record the most over-the-top, in-your-face metal record ever, and that their A&R guy was in complete support of this. It sounded like fun, which it was.
full in bloom: What was it like playing with Michael Angelo?
Bobby: Super cool guy, very easy to work with. Playing-wise, he’s the real deal. His chops are otherworldly. In fact, I just played drums on his new solo record, which is supposed to be out this year some time. The guy can really play. And he’s a great rhythm player, as well.
full in bloom: While you were recording your drum tracks for the Nitro OFR release, were you forced to listen to Jim Gillette’s vocals, too?
Bobby: There were no vocals on drum day. I played along with scratch guitar and a click track.
full in bloom: Tell us a little bit about the recording process for the Nitro release?
Bobby: It was pretty lean and mean. Michael, Jim and I spent about two days in pre-production, going over parts and arrangements, just guitar and drums. There wasn’t even a bass player around at that point. Then, I believe all of the drum tracks were done in a day-and-a-half.
full in bloom: Jim Gillette sounds like King Diamond on acid. How did his voice sound when he was just singing acapella? Was it real powerful, or was he singing in falsetto?
Bobby: Truthfully, I never really heard him much out of the studio context.
full in bloom: How many takes, on average, did you do per song on OFR? Did they ever punch you in, or did you play those tracks from start to finish?
Bobby: My best recollection was that I would do up to two or three takes per song. Then once we had a take we liked, we would punch a little something here or there, if necessary. Or, if I fucked up on an outro, they might punch me in at the end and let me ride it out. But it was all pretty live…pretty raw. And I believe we did get a few complete, unpunched takes, as well.
full in bloom: Did you ever tour, or play any shows with them?
full in bloom: How did you end up joining Nelson? Did you receive a full share in that band?
Bobby: I had met the brothers at the MTV awards when I was with VVI and we always kind of kept in touch. Then later, once their deal with Geffen was locked in, they asked me to join the band. I wouldn’t say that I was a full share member, since it was their deal and they wrote all the tunes. But we all had some kind of an equity stake in most facets of the organization.
full in bloom: Any memories stand out from the Nelson recording sessions?
Bobby: Super smooth and lots of fun. David Thoener engineered and Mark Tanner produced. We did it at Cherokee studios. Nelson was actually a great live band and we wanted to catch that vibe on tape. So even though we were just looking to knock out keeper rhythm tracks on those first few days of recording, the band played live together at those sessions. Matthew and I were actually next to each other in the drum room, and everyone else was in the control room. It was all pretty effortless. We took our time and knocked out drums and bass in a few days, then everyone else did their overdubs. The mixes took a while, but what else is new.
full in bloom: What prevented you from joining Slaughter? Did they offer it to you? Did you ever consider it?
Bobby: Yes, they offered and I considered it…strongly. But for me, it came down to some personal things. Nothing against Mark or Dana, it was just important that I broke away from the VVI universe and everything that had to do with it. It was a draining break-up. Plus, I had started writing my first book and I wanted to do my first drum video and so forth, so I thought I needed to jump into my own headspace to do all of that.
At the same time – if I’m being brutally honest – I never thought that first Slaughter record would do what it did! During the VVI days, Chrysalis was half-assed at best, when it came to marketing a hard rock act. But later on, Mark and Dana would always tell me, “Bobby, you wouldn’t believe it. Chrysalis treats us all so much different now. They’ve really come to the table for us.” And I was like, “Two million records and your videos are on MTV every five minutes…yeah, I would say they’ve come to the table all right!”
full in bloom: Blas Elias, the drummer for Slaughter, was one of your drum students in the early days? How was he as a student?
Bobby: He was one of the best I ever had. Even at a young age, he had real chops…really fast hands and great four-way independence. The Slaughter guys used to tell me that he never liked doing drum solos, which I never understood. He’s a bad-ass drummer.
full in bloom: Did you recommend him for Slaughter?
Bobby: I never really had a chance to. Once he got word that I split, he submitted his promo pack along with another Houston-area guitarist that we all knew, before Mark and Dana were even looking at drummers. This put him on a short-list of guys who tried out.
full in bloom: What’s a typical work day? Take us through, A Day in the Life of Bobby Rock?
Bobby: That would be tough to do with any kind of reliable accuracy. Whenever I’m off the road and in the LA groove, everyday is a work day! So I live a very creative, active and elastic lifestyle where no two days are the same. Also, because I don’t adhere to any set sleeping schedule, the lines are often blurred as to when one day ends and another begins. But, within any 24-hour chunk of time, you can pretty much count on any of the following happening at some point: I will hit the drums, work on one of several new books I’m writing, go to the gym, practice martial arts or go cycling, meditate, take two showers, have two Ultimate Meal smoothies and eat at least 4 or 5 other times, try to stay on top of business stuff, phone calls and e-mails, and try to sleep about 4 or 5 hours, but not necessarily in a row. That’s the overview…
full in bloom: In retrospect, is there anything you would have done differently?
THE FAST 5
full in bloom: What is your most disgusting habit?
Bobby: I think I’m doing okay in the disgusting habit department!
full in bloom: What is the most feminine thing you do?
Bobby: My nails.
full in bloom: If there is a God, what is the first question you would ask God when you arrive?
Bobby: Now what?
full in bloom: Greatest Rock band of all time?
Bobby: Deep Purple or Black Sabbath are probably my all time faves but, all things considered, I think you would have to consider Zeppelin the greatest.
full in bloom: What were you doing 40 minutes before you sat down to do this interview?
Bobby: Practicing the drums, thinking…”Shit! I’ve got to go do this interview!” Seriously, it’s been fun. About the only time I really think about the past is when people ask me about it