Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5
- Day 1: April 29, 2009 -
Once again I have the pleasure to work at the 2009 Hollywood Rock n Roll Fantasy camp here in Southern California. I will be getting you all a day by day account of the goings on, with you hearing it from my unique perspective of course.
Day one started officially with the big opening night. But in the afternoon, while the campers were busy registering at a West Hollywood hotel on the strip, the counselors were meeting each other, and then rehearsing at the Gibson showroom in Beverly Hills. After we were tight enough for some of the music we will perform later on, it was time to meet our campers. Some of them have lots of experience and some don't but that is the magic of seeing the bands start as complete strangers and then become a unified group that will be proud to rock on the last night of the camp at the famous Whiskey A Go Go in West Hollywood.
First let me tell you about the amazing 12 counselors present for the camp. Our fearless leader is Kip Winger who I have had to pleasure of knowing for many years. VERY talented man and he did a great job at getting the gang to pick songs we can perform for the campers. Mark Hudson, always eclectic is here, Elliot Easton the other guitarist I trade off riffs with who is super tasty with his note choice.
We have some amazing drummers like Alan White, Sandy Gennaro and two newbies to the camp, Slim Jim Phantom from Stray Cats, and Danny Seraphine from the band Chicago. They will make a great addition to the camp. Another new counselor is Share Ross the bassist from Vixen who is awesome, and Rudy Sarzo who I have have been gigging with recently in Las Vegas and has quite the rock resume with Ozzy, Quiet Riot and Whitesnake just to name a few. Rounding things out on keyboards we have Teddy Andreadis from Alice Cooper and GnR, and Rami Jaffee who has played with a very impressive group of bands from the Foo Fighters to The Wallflowers.
So as you can see the talent we have for this camp is over the top and that is just the counselors! After all the counselors met their bands, in a very primitive fashion we all went over a song to play at the opening party. So with only an acoustic guitar my band rehearsed "Wild Thing". The idea is to get all 12 bands a chance to jam a song, not very rehearsed so that everyone will enjoy the progress they make on their journey to learning and becoming better before living the rock dream on stage at the Whiskey Sunday night.
The party opened up with the creator of the camp, David Fishof dressed as Billy Gibbons, greeting the crowd after Kip and the gang performed "Tush". (I will never forget his Gene Simmons impression with some crazy KISS jokes!) He explained some of what everyone could expect to happen this week at the camp, and it will surely be a huge success as David as stacked the deck with talent.
Now after a wonderful catered meal, it was time for the 12 bands to get on stage, to do their songs. My band was 11 in order so of course I got to see some really good bands and some rough around the edges. I knew mine would be decent but not great, as I really didn't know what they could do from the short time we had to go over our song.
We rocked it to my relief and after the last bands song, it was time for the counselor band. We did a few cool songs and then it was time to bring up the special guest to kick off the party, Mark Farner of Grand Funk Railroad. After three killer tunes from his past, the night came to a close as day two, would be a full 14 hour day for the campers.
I was tired of course but excited to see what progress my band called "WTF" (you can figure that out!) would make during out time together. Should be amazing when Steven Tyler walks in to see the expression on their faces. Special thanks for Gibson Guitars for looking after the counselors and loaning me a sweet ES 335.
More excitement coming soon!
- Day 2: April 30, 2009 -
Day two is the first day to really get into band mode with the campers assigned to the counselors. AMP rehearsal in North Hollywood is a well known place for musicians in the LA area to get ready for shows etc. The camp took over the entire facility as they have room for all 12 of the camper bands.
My room was not the biggest but actually has a great sound, so after plugging in thinking of what would be a good choice for the big day three visit of Steven Tyler, I made the executive decision for "Helter Skelter" to be learned. Now all of you should know that the Beatles featured that on the White Album but Aerosmith did a fine rockin version that I have covered in my ESP band with Eric Singer from KISS.
So this song was a natural choice for me to teach them as I knew the entire band would make me proud with that songs arrangement and chord changes. My band is a very diverse group of campers from all over the world. Tony is a Sgt. from the Army who was in Iraq defending our country for 5 years and is so excited to be here. He really has only a bit of experience on bass guitar but I promised to teach him how to rock on his axe. Jamie is from Toronto on guitar, and he comes from that metal school of guitar playing. I know that, cause he can never hear me! (Well, to be fair, I mumble!) He is good and I am whipping him into shape with my knowledge of power chords etc. My other guitarist Jordan, born in the Midwest, is a writer for Premier Guitar which is a great magazine for guitar collectors and lovers. I am leaning on him for some lead work on his 70's LP Custom. He is my camp captain for when I have to leave the room for other biz. On drums I have two to bang out the beats, with Greg and Ujesh, (which we call him HUGE for short). Greg helps out with vocals and he is a big Grand Funk fan, so he was so thrilled to meet and hang with Mark Farner. On vocals we have Ally from Russia. She is 24 and bright eyed and bushy tailed as we say, with enthusiasm for the camp. She writes and plays some guitar as well. On percussion and overall looking out for everyone is the lovely Francesca who is always smiling and helping me.
So we dived right into taking apart "Helter Skelter" and I proved the band that they were more than capable of performing this song. A new feature at this camp is rotating some of the counselors with other bands, and I share that duty with Rudy Sarzo's. So after about an hour of rehearsing with my band (called "WTF" !!!) I spent the next hour with Rudy's band named "COTTONMOUTH". They were learning another Beatle song for Steven Tyler to hear, that he also made famous, "Come Together". I should be clear that when we were asked to get an Aerosmith song together for his visit, Aerosmith's material can be quite challenging. I am sure Steven will understand and in all honestly, those Beatles covers are quite amazing versions from the Boston rockers.
It was odd to jump into Rudy's band after just getting to know my group, but it was boot camp style guitar lessons from me, as I gave the three guitar players in his band my best "what NOT to do and what you HAVE to do" to make the song work. I love those songs and the Aerosmith versions are a bit more sleazy than the Beatles versions, so having it a bit rough around the edges is fine.
After lunch it was time for Duff McKagan from Guns N' Roses and Velvet Revolver to visit the camper bands. He is looking great and I could feel the buzz at the rehearsal studio about him being there. After another look at my bands song for Tyler, it was time to learn and create an original song. It is going to be recorded at the famous Capital Studios in Hollywood on Saturday. I started to listen to the ideas my campers had, and when Ally played me a riff and this song idea about her love for music and excitement of being a camper, I knew I had the germ of our original to get to work on. I worked out the riff with Jordan and then started to form a suitable chorus. I wanted to keep it rockin and simple as the recording studio is not kind to sloppy playing or music not well played.
We worked on some lyrics with everyone jumping in with ideas. Even our Sgt Tony joined in with lyric ideas which made me really proud. What the campers don't know is I get so much from them, even though of course I am their fearless leader in this week's band experience. Sharing my talent and seeing them absorb and improve is the biggest reward for me. All my campers know I am kind but tough in getting the best from them.
While we were working on the original song Mark Farner came by to listen for a few minutes and I asked him to help Ally with the chorus for the song, as Mark is such an amazing singer. He jumped in on our chorus and really gave Ally the idea for the phrasing. We took pix and he signed the programs. I thanked Mark for the help.
At 5 o'clock it was time for Duff to do a Q and A with the campers at a theatre down the block from the studio. He told jokes and answered the campers questions about his career. Duff is a great guy with tons of rock experience. He finally got to visit my band afterwards, and we played the Beatles song proudly. He said we sounded amazing and he loved the way our room sounded. Small but mighty I guess!
After pix and autographed I was chatting vintage basses with him, as I am sure he has quite the collection. What was really interesting was the surprise walk through from Steven Adler the drummer from Guns. We spoke for a bit in the hall, and he was of course really impressed with what he saw from his visit.
Next (after a quick dinner) were the master classes and jamming. I popped into Mark Farner's and watched him share his thoughts about music and life. Sandy Gennaro and I were to lead a jam room for anything rock and roll, and we had some fun with camper singers and another camper drummer. Share from Vixen played bass. Love her playing. We did Aerosmith, and Bon Jovi, and AC/DC songs.
So quite a full day, and more soon from day three with Steven Tyler!
- Day 3: May 1, 2009 -
After an exciting day two, Friday was of course THE day that Steven Tyler of Aerosmith would be visiting the camp. The excitement was high, as even one of my counselor buddies said, we all feel like the President is coming to visit the camp. Tyler's talent and contribution to the rock world is obviously HUGE, and his band has been at the top of the rock heap since the 70's with millions in record sales and huge history of sold out tours.
The day actually started with our morning rehearsals with our camper bands. I was ready to start with our original song, as Saturday we will be headed over to Capital Records to record like the professionals. The song is coming together well, but I was strict with Jordan my lead player to get a solo that was melodic over the chord changes. He said the magic words, HELP ME, and I came up with a solo that had a clear melody and was not out his capabilities to handle. Tony our bassist from the Army was getting a good idea of the arrangement but I was going ballistic over my other guitarist Jaime, forgetting the solo section chords. We spent some time getting that clear and soon it was time to go over the song we will play for Steven Tyler.
I was impressed with how well they remembered the parts, except for some issues with the solo section in that song as well. I guess that is my bands weakness to remember! We were definitely in good shape for his visit later that afternoon. We discussed some other songs to play on the final night. I think that is one of the hardest things to figure out being a counselor. You don't want to choose a song they can't handle, and your goal is getting the right song to feature your bands ability. I always strive for making the song fit the band, and to make sure we all have fun learning and conquering the challenge. Later that day we realized that AC/DC's killer "Highway To Hell" could be in our set at the Whiskey on Sunday night.
It was lunch time and the buzz about Steven Tyler's arrival was intense. We headed down the block to the beautiful El Portal Theater where Steven would do his Q and A with Mark Hudson as his interviewer. When Steven came out we all stood up and he looked like the awesome rock star that he is with his snakeskin and leather threads. He was funny, incredibly informative, and into some very eclectic subjects like acoustics in the theatre and sound waves that vibrate the room. His knowledge of music is deep and intense sharing with the campers his start when he was a child. His father was a talented piano player so that got Steven's interest at an early age. Mark and Steven told the story of the hit "Living On The Edge" that Mark co-wrote with Steven and then he took questions. The campers were a bit shy, and I was desperate to ask Steven what he thought about the computer age of recording with Pro Tools compared to the analog that we both started out with in our careers. To my shock, Steven remembered me and I nearly fell out of my chair! I am just like the campers when it comes to meeting the special guests. And to think that Steven KNOWS my name, of course makes me feel so incredible. His answer by the way was as I thought… it is a tool but the old fashioned way makes you work harder.
Back to the rehearsal rooms, as Steven was visiting them one by one, entering each camper bands room and watching them perform with him jumping in on vocals. I was frantically tuning a guitar that was misbehaving when he entered my room, but I quickly put that down, said hello and he started taking pictures with the group. Now it was time for us to play "Helter Skelter" and I was proud to say we got through it. Steven and Mark Hudson started to do the backgrounds that my band never really got a chance to rehearse. The look on all my bands faces was great to see. The hairs on the back on my neck were standing up hearing Steven singing with my band. Tyler was a total class act, and I got him to sign a baseball for my friend and a vintage guitar strap. So once again dreams come true at the camp and my band was buzzing all day from his visit. I told them to take a break and relax a bit after all that excitement.
After some more rehearsing on a few of our songs, it was time for dinner followed by the master classes. David has really stacked the deck with talent this time, but I was only interested in Steve Lukather's class. Lukather jammed with me on my latest CD that I am almost finished recording called BK3. Steve and I did a dueling instrumental guitar track, so it was great to see him so soon after working with him. Luke (his nickname) is very humble and a total monster on the guitar.
His class was amazing, sharing everything about his career, and I was busy recording his magic with my camera set on video of course. His son Trevor came along as well, and I am aware he is super talented like his dad. After his master class was done it was time to jam. Kip Winger, Alan White, Sandy Gennaro, Luke and myself on guitars and Mark Hudson and some campers all jammed various songs for over an hour in one of the rehearsal rooms. We had a blast playing Beatles, Hendrix, ZZ TOP to the delight of the campers watching. It was getting late so we all said our goodbyes and I told Luke once again what a pleasure it is to jam with him. Definitely another day the campers and I will NOT forget.
- Day 4: May 2, 2009 -
So far the camp has been extremely exciting, and Steven Tyler's visit was something none of us would forget anytime soon. Today was the day for the campers to be recording stars at the world famous Capitol Records in Hollywood. In many ways Capitol's studio is the USA's equivalent to what London's Abbey Road is for the UK. Many famous records were performed and captured there, so we were all excited about being there. After the quick morning rehearsal for my band, it was time for my band to be taken from rehearsal place to the studio to record our original song called "Living My Dream".
Just when we got out of the van, we posed in front of the entrance. Once inside Capitol Studios, I noticed how many of the artists that have made hit records there, were in photos gracing the walls. My band was busy getting the vibe of the studio, and we could hear some of the morning sessions from other camper bands blasting away in the sound booths below our lounge. Share's band was in Studio B, which was below the lounge we were relaxing in. She has a band with many young campers and they sounded great. She was fortunate to have the famous Eddie Kramer to engineer her session and I was excited to know my band would be working with him as well. Eddie's resume is over the top, from Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and KISS just to name a few!!!
Things got a bit delayed with some technical issues in the studio, so my band were showing each other our videos of yesterday’s Steven Tyler visit jamming with us. It was finally time to jump into the studio, and one by one, Eddie had us get on our instruments to hear what microphones he needed to adjust.
I have two drummers, Ujush and Greg, and Eddie made a point that they do NOT play any fills at the same time. We went over that, and then it was time to check the guitar sounds from Jordan and Jamie. My bass player Tony got tuned up and we were ready to get going with trying the song. Eddie asked Tony to wait to overdub the bass, as that would make the most sense time wise. Tony watched from the booth as we nailed the second run through and would be our keeper take. The only real mistake came from me! I also played third guitar on the track. So a quick overdub of the chord I blew kicking off the verse one, and we were onto Tony's bass parts. Tony has not played bass very long, and with 5 years in Iraq without his instrument, I know he is finally achieving his dream of getting good with what he needs to do to play the bass.
We got our performance from him, sweaty hands and all, and moved on to a keeper vocal from Ally our singer from Russia. We found the right mic technique to get her sounding good, and she nailed her vocal part during her second performance. After some gang background attempts, we asked Ally to double her ending chorus. Her unique style of singing and phrasing made that really the only way to get it right.
So our recording day at Capitol was complete and successful. It was time to get back to AMP rehearsal studio for meeting Todd Rundgren! Todd is another huge talent with his songwriting, singing, guitar playing, and producing. (He produced and played on Meatloaf's "Bat Out Of Hell" and also produced Grand Funk's "We're An American Band"). Todd was a gentleman watching us play "Helter Skelter" and joining in on vocals on the end chorus. We took pix with him, and he signed our stuff. We spoke about the old Meatloaf days, when Todd would sit in with the band. The original "Bat Out Of Hell" tour was my first pro tour. And having Todd play with the Meatloaf band on a few songs was a real treat for me.
We had another hour to do some rehearsing on the AC/DC song, "Highway To Hell", so after jamming that for an hour it was time to say goodnight. Saturday nights are off at the camp, so that the campers can enjoy the LA nightlife on Sunset Strip or just relax.
Another big day tomorrow as we all get to jam up on stage at the Whiskey A Go Go.
- Day 5: May 2, 2009 -
For those of you reading my blog, I am sure you all realize how much fun we are having, but also you all are aware of all the work we are doing rehearsing our songs. That is if you can call playing music work of course! But all the camper bands are feeling competitive and hungry to be great at the big last night event, on stage at the famous Whiskey A Go Go in West Hollywood.
Sunday started with rehearsals once again. My band was eager to run through what was decided as the three songs we would perform. We were pleased with our progress, and even though Ally, one of our singers overslept from her night on the Sunset Strip, we forged on with the help of our tour manager Leslie. We were asked to head over to the El Portal Theatre around noon, for our Q and A with Todd Rundgren. It was an honor to be asked to interview him for the campers as David Fishof realized I had known much of his long and successful career.
Todd discussed the music biz, from his career as a solo artist, band member, and hit record producer as he fielded questions from the audience. Todd was very insightful and extremely articulate with his knowledge of how to balance being true to your music as an artist and making it work in the music business. I know the campers learned as Todd is an iconic talent in rock, as he has not only written some amazing songs, he has produced some huge albums in his career as well.
It was finally time for lunch and a real treat was in store for the campers. We were off to "Baby Blue's B.B.Q." a barbecue style restaurant in the heart of West Hollywood. Guy Fieri the celebrity rock n' roll chef was the master of ceremonies here and the food was more than amazing, it was sublime! The cake was huge and themed like a Gibson Explorer guitar! I could tell the campers were all having a great time, drinking and laughing and celebrating the time of their lives. We were hours from the start of the big show at the Whiskey. Everyone had some time to get ready for the big night.
By 6pm that evening were we all at the famous club on the Sunset Strip getting ready to rock with our bands. I was checking the gear on stage, and talking to my band members letting them know to remember what Todd said early that day. Have fun! Relax! Make sure you show the crowd how much fun you are having on stage.
My band "WTF" were up second and a very excited bunch of total strangers just 5 days ago, got on stage like we owned the place! I was so proud to watch them play and sing their hearts out. We were much tighter and focused than I ever expected. I played along on guitar and Todd Rundgren joined us on stage for "Helter Skelter". The next song was our original tune, and we ended our set with the crowd pleaser from AC/DC "Highway To Hell". I was shocked how good Jamie one of my guitarists handled the vocals, and in the last line of the famous tune, he said something like "Bruce Kulick took us through Hell"!!
That inside joke made me really laugh. My counselor style can be tough at times, but that approach regarding how I demand the best from each of them in the end always proves to be rewarding for all of us. Many of the other campers congratulated us, and I congratulated them for doing their best. We all enjoyed those amazing 10 minutes on stage in front of family, friends, and their fellow campers.
I watched many of the other camper bands, as I am always fascinated to see the growth, and see the thrill they all share of being on stage. Steven Tyler was even in the house and was quietly watching from a dark spot upstairs. I heard he loved when a camper band performed one of their Aerosmith tunes! Todd joined most of the bands on stage, even playing drums for Elliot Easton's group for one song. He had a blast singing and playing guitar with a few of the other bands.
The evening was hosted by our master chef Guy Fieri, and between the camper band set changes, charity items were auctioned very successfully, (thank you to all the bidders). When all 12 bands were finished it was time for the big counselor jam. We only had about 30 minutes and we rocked the house to the delight of the crowd. Todd joined us on stage and after a few songs on tamborine, he was begging to play guitar. I was honored to hand him my Gibson LP, and off he went jamming away as I was cranking the amp on stage for him!
We all said goodnight and I thanked everyone I met at the camp for making this years Hollywood Camp one of my favorites. I really know that this experience is something people never forget, and I look forward to more in the future. We had many new counselors and they all loved the concept and what they experienced.
I want to thank David Fishof and Courtney Clonch for all their hard work, and of course all the wonderful staff that helped make this past week super successful.
Now I can REST!