A to Z of Making It, Influenced, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

Bob Rock on The Bob Lefsetz Podcast

I probably own all the hard rock albums Bob Rock has been involved in from a production stand point, mixer and engineer from Loverboy and onwards. And this podcast is brilliant. Bob Rock gives so much information and there are so many takeaways from it.

Currently
He’s sitting on two albums already done, one with Richie Sambora and Offspring. And it looks like the albums will not come out until next year.

To me, the reason why the albums are being held is because the focus is still on sales.

But the time is now.

It’s all about people listening. Not sales.

I read that “The Last Dance” was scheduled for a different release window, but Netflix saw the opportunity to release it during the no sports period of COVID-19 and it hit our screens exaclty then, giving the people their fix of sports and re-creating Jordan as a modern day superstar. It’s like he just finished playing and it’s being over 22 years.

Life
As soon as budgets for recording sessions went super low, labels and artists stopped using mega studios. Hence he has a dormant mega studio at home. And he uses Bryan Adams studio, in Vancouver to record with artists.

He got into music for the love of making records. And even though budgets are smaller he still wants to make records, so he chooses who he wants to work with and he’s okay with a smaller budget.

He’s 66 now and he’s been together with his wife for 35 years, which is huge when it comes to the music business.

But the best advice he gave is;

Mixing is a perspective. The way the Mixer mixes is their perspective on how music sounds.

That’s brilliant, because so many people chase sounds developed by others and Bob Rock is creating sounds on how he thinks it should sound.

He’s A Musician First
Even though he is known as a producer he was a musician first. So he still writes tracks with drums, keys, bass and a scratch guitar. He co-wrote 8 songs on the new Richie Sambora album.

He’s a collector of vintage gear. He collected all the amps and pedals that Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page and Dave Gilmour used. And he was trying to re-create the Led Zep 1 guitar sound and he found out on the internet he was missing one small effect, which he had, and once he plugged it in, he got the sound.

And he felt like a kid.

He has a warehouse full of amps, keyboards and guitars/bass.

He had a lot of singles because albums were expensive. So he was exposed to different artists, different productions, different styles.

Put Yourself Out There
With one of his first proper bands, they worked jobs, saved money and then they all went to England to make it. That lasted six months before they came home with nothing to show.

His parents were not even happy about their sons choice of careers. And after he came home, he got a normal job again. And it was at one of those jobs, he heard an ad on the radio, to learn basic engineering.

So he went to Vancouver with funds supplied from his parents and the guy who was teaching the course offered Rock a job at Little Mountain Recording Studios.

He got the job because he wasn’t scared to make a mistake. And this opportunity started his entire career.

So the lesson here is to persevere, PUT YOURSELF OUT THERE and don’t be sacred to fail.

Punk Music Opened Doors
Punk made it easy for bands to play clubs and make records, because before punk, the musicians had to be of a certain standard, (just think of Steely Dan, The Eagles, Little Feat, Styx and even Toto). Then punk comes around and three chord songs are getting studio time and club time.

Punk music opened up these doors.

And Bob Rock said, punk music allowed him to make records. The first song he wrote, he got an album deal. The Payola$ and REM got signed on the same week.

The Payola$ name was a poke at the payola scandal where the labels and the radio stations tried to fix the charts.

Find The Home Of The Song
He worked with guitarist Mick Ronson from David Bowie. Ronson produced two Payola$ albums.

Ronson taught Rock the lesson, that you don’t need to re-record everything. Sometimes the demo could have enough in it and a few overdubs could finish it off.

Another lesson Ronson taught Rock is about finding a home of the song and doing it right. In “Sad But True” Rock told Metallica, you have a song here and he was hearing “When The Levee Breaks” but the tempo was too fast on the demo. He told Metallica to slow it down and they found the songs home and the world got a groove metal behemoth. Lyrically I’m not a fan of “Sad But True”, but musically its bone crunching to play.

Bruce Fairbairn
Bruce Fairbairn liked to have demos or do pre-production before he got the artist into the studio. And he kept a tight schedule, pushing artists hard to get a lot of out em within the schedule.

Metallica
So coming into the “Black” album, Metallica never played in the studio together but he got em to do it for the “Black” album which Rock calls the “pocket” album.

Pre-Production for the “Black” album took 2 weeks and it took 15 months to record the album. But originally, he was hired to mix the album, because the guys liked the sound/sonics of the Motley Crue “Dr Feelgood” album.

And it took that long because they spent weeks getting the perfect guitar sound, and weeks for the perfect drum sound and weeks for the perfect bass sound. He sent Lars to get drum lessons and James to get vocal lessons. And they had no idea how big the album would become. All up he spent 15 years working with Metallica, and he realised he just had to move on eventually.

Bon Jovi and Bruce Allen
The manager of The Payola$, Bruce Allen, ended up managing Bob Rock and Allen told him, “you gotta stop doing these gigs because you are a producer and I will manage you as a producer and you will make some money”. And Allen said to him, “you are going to get a point on the next record” and that was “Slippery When Wet” but he didn’t get the point.

So on “Slippery When Wet”, Rock only made $10K Canadian and for “Permanent Vacation”, Bruce Fairbairn offered him $8K Canadian. And the production crew just wanted “Slippery When Wet” to go Gold so they could get another production gig. And in three months it sold 3 million in the U.S alone.

But Jon Bon Jovi wanted Bob Rock to do the next album “New Jersey” and Bruce Allen said that Bob isnt doing it. But Jon wanted Bob Rock and Rock got his point (1%) for mixing the album.

He Keeps On Learning
In every production gig he always learned something new, from either the artists because of what they wanted to do/achieve or the other people he was working with in the production team and he’s still learning right now.

That’s why he’s still in the business, he has continued to self develop, learn and grow as a producer. He never rested on his laurels. And he keeps an eye on what rises to the surface, so he could see what is happening sonically and from a song point of view.

Step Out Of Your Comfort Zone
And everything Rock has done is because of the sounds on the Motley Crue and Metallica albums he produced.

And Rock goes its because the guys in Motley Crue and Metallica pushed him to step out of his comfort zone and try different things.

Do Your Time
Rock came from jingles, a 1 minute record every day. You need to start somewhere. And be patient.

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A to Z of Making It, Copyright, Music, My Stories, Piracy, Unsung Heroes

CrueVice

“I don’t tell artists what they want to hear, I tell them what I know to be true.”
Allen Kovac – Manager 

By the end of the Eighties and the early Nineties, Motley Crue was an arena band. By the beginning of the two thousands, the arena crowds of the Eighties and early Nineties had withered down to the loyalist crowds of a club/theatre act. The change of musical climate didn’t help matters. The change of lead singers during this period also didn’t help matters. The polarizing “Generation Swine” album and the B grade “New Tattoo” didn’t help matters. Cancelled tours and shows also didn’t help matters. As a fan, you had a sense that the glory days of the past were over.

But little did the fans know that in 1994, Nikki Sixx cleaned out the old management team and in comes Allen Kovac.

“At the time, they were very dysfunctional. I said (to them) I wasn’t going to take them on unless they had an operating agreement that allowed us to make decisions in a more businesslike way, with shareholders meetings and board of directors meetings. There’s still plenty of chaos in this band, but because of the operating structure, they succeed.”
Allen Kovac

Nikki Sixx was given a tie-breaking vote. From then on, Motley Crue was reborn and the decisions made during those years came to fruition in 2003, when a newly reformed Motley Crue started to play sold out shows around the world. It’s important to note that two very important events also happened during this 9 year period.

  • In 1998, Motley Crue got control of their recorded masters and publishing. This was unprecedented in the recording business as all the income the record labels derive is from exploiting the recorded masters, however Motley Crue pulled it off and a few years ago so did Metallica.
  • In 2001, “The Dirt” brought a worded element to the visual and audio shenanigans that is Motley Crue.

“Without owning their own masters and publishing, I don’t know if there would have been a Mötley Crüe in the lean years. It’s part of having multiple sources of income for your business, not just one.”
Allen Kovac

“That book became a tent post. We marketed it like a record and we dropped a greatest hits album with it. Some people said, ‘This book could be career suicide for you,’ but it has connected with so many people.”
Allen Kovac

In 2005, after 25 years of Motley Crue, Nikki Sixx wanted to do other things.

“We had to face reality. I told Nikki the truth: out of all of Motley, you’re the least known. The guitar player [Mick Mars] was in all the guitar magazines, the drummer [Tommy Lee] had been a celebrity for decades and the singer [Vince Neil] is the front man. We had to think creatively to get over that barrier.”
Allen Kovac

To get over the barrier, Kovac encouraged the book and music release of a journal that Sixx kept from 1987. “The Heroin Diaries: A Year In The Life Of A Shattered Rock Star” was released in 2007. The rise of Nikki was beginning. Kovacs then pitched the idea of a radio station on iHeart Radio. Sixx Sense arrived in 2010.

“Nikki now makes more money from his radio show than he does in Motley Crue.”
Allen Kovac

The radio franchise gets half of the generated ad revenue.

And guess what Sixx AM are doing next?

Yep, that’s right, they are releasing a double album in 2016, months apart.

Allen Kovac tested the waters of a double release with Five Finger Death Punch a few years back to great success. In 2013, Kovac pushed to the band to record 2 albums worth of material and release them only months apart. Then he put them on the road supporting Avenged Sevenfold, which saw less money in appearance fees but more money in from merch sales. In 2015, “Got Your Six” was one of the biggest selling metal/rock albums for the year.

“I met with Jeff [Kwatinetz, FFDP’s label boss and former manager] and said, look, I can make Five Finger a global arena band, but there’s no way to do it if the label deal keeps taking merch and touring income so aggressively. Eventually, he agreed; it became a true partnership.”
Allen Kovac 

People can jump up and down about streaming payouts or piracy.

Others just move on to other revenue streams. They adapt.

In music it’s always been about the art (song writing/music) first and money and commerce is a by-product of the song writing.

When the music business was controlled by the record labels, it was booming because of the income derived from CD sales and block buster albums. So the advances/budgets were huge and people were conditioned to believe that it was all golden brick roads forever.

The truth is, music is still booming. There is more money in music right now than there has ever been. However the labels don’t control the distribution. There are other key players. Instead of the brick and mortar record shops, we have online music shops. Instead of ownership we have access.

Tell me how many anti-piracy laws have been passed over the last 50 years and then tell me how many of those laws have had an effect on piracy. Think back all the way back to when cassettes came out.

In my view, the legacy players have no desire to stop piracy. It is an excuse they use to take back control of the distribution of music. The record labels want it be like the old way, where the only way to create quality music required expensive studios and the only way to be heard was to sign a recording contract stacked in the record labels favour. So what is an artist to do where exploitation is the name of the game when it comes to music?

Arm yourselves with information. Don’t buy in to every headline that reads “Piracy decimated the music business”, “Spotify decimated the music business” and so on. Read more and read far and wide. Google is at your fingertips.

If you start to make money, surround yourself with people who challenge you and tell you the truth. And be prepared to adjust your vision time and time again and be prepared to fail as well because if failure is not an option, then neither is success. I think Seth Godin said that once. Because in the band that created “Dr Feelgood” also created “Generation Swine”.

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