The Bobby Rock Newsletter #49 (3-12-2022) - The Struggle Behind the Scenes
The Bobby Rock Newsletter #49 (3-12-2022) - The Struggle Behind the Scenes
Hey All -
“It ain’t supposed to be easy.”
I had yet another reminder of this Great Truth this week and, well, here we are. Behind the scenes of most anything in life that’s worthy of our praise, admiration, or inspiration, is a lot of unseen struggle. And yet, we humans design our lives to be as comfortable as possible—with minimal amount of time in the “Struggle Zone”—while simultaneously aspiring to create great things. It’s an interesting paradox that’s worth a bit of unpacking… so let’s unpack it!
In This Issue:
- The Unseen Struggle of a career high-point… or low-point…or is there a difference?
- Neon Cactus: A spontaneous encapsulation of a thought-provoking reality-check moment in the studio… over two decades ago.
- Breaking Down a Few Joseph Campbell Quotes: Who better to look to for times such as these!
Still enjoying these various weight-training environments that are at least partially outdoors. Another COVID-era blessing!
The Struggle Behind the Scenes
I recently ran across a short slice-of-life memoir that I had written in the middle of a particularly arduous creative project. It detailed the sort of existential questioning of one’s calling and life purpose that only those most challenging enterprises can lead you to. Seeing this piece—which was written 24 years ago nearly to the day—conjured up a baffling question:
Why do we EVER think our creative endeavors are going to be easy?
They are not. They never have been nor ever will be. They will be replete with struggle, strife, stakes, and suffering… just like our favorite stories from our favorite books and films. In fact, this “hero's journey” experience (thank you, Joseph Campbell, for defining this so eloquently) that we are all most compelled to consume in our leisure pursuits, is precisely what makes our own noteworthy endeavors so compelling, as well.
More on Campbell in a moment. But first, let me set the stage for the struggle real quick:
1998 brought the release of my third solo record, a 2-CD set entitled, Snap, Crackle, and Pop… Live! This record was the result of a 140-city tour I did with Neil Zaza and Bill “The Buddha” Dickens throughout most of ’97 and, more specifically, the last 20 shows, which we recorded via 24 channels of ADAT. The result was a spirited representation of what this trio was like live and, as always, a joy to be able to birth into the world.
But there was also a heavy toll to pay for an impossibly-ambitious and extensive creative undertaking that cost much, much more than it earned. (And I’m talking about both the tour and this record!)
My next book, Will Drum For Food, goes deep into the solo artist/drum clinician period of my career throughout the 90s, along with a couple chapters detailing the Nelson era of the early-90s. And believe me, I go deep into the excruciating details of what all went down back then, not only because I feel such transparency is refreshing, but mainly because, if I’m being candid, the 90s were packed with so much struggle, I think folks will find the book to be an enthralling read!
But for now, here’s a mild glimpse into this idea of “The Struggle Behind the Scenes”… specifically as it relates to this record. These were absolutely unforgettable times!
March 1998: The place is Neon Cactus studios in Akron, Ohio. My partner-in-crime, Neil Zaza, and I have been sequestered away here for the better part of two months doing final assembly and mix-down on a new live record we've been working on. Because of the ever-present budget constraints, we've been more or less at the studio's good graces, working around their schedule—and around the clock—trying to get this thing done. I cannot return to LA until it's finished so, basically, we've moved in.
Found this pic of the studio on a recent Google search.
I’ve gotta believe the place was a lot nicer back then!
A restroom sink can be a multi-faceted thing. In the past three weeks, I've learned that, in addition to its kitchen-like function of rinsing out my blender, it's also perfect for bathing and laundry. In either case, hotel-sized samples of Flex shampoo work beautifully—my skin and my clothes smell the same. I wouldn't put the shit in my hair but, hey, I wouldn't wash my socks with $18 shampoo, either.
Something important is going on at the studio this morning. It must be some kind of money meeting. Three or four men in crisp, new suits, neatly-coifed hair, and tangy aftershave are being led around the facility by the studio accountant, Kelly, who's looking rather regal himself in a fresh-pressed Brooks Brother's ensemble. They poke their collective heads in the door of the control room and take in our world. It's 11:00 AM and we're just getting up and running after a very late night/early morning of work. I'm doing some writing in my usual spot behind a cluttery table to the rear of the room. The lights are dim and the ever-present candles and incense are burning near my laptop. Zaza's still asleep, wrapped in a white bedspread on the floor of the adjacent iso-booth, with his head crooked against a bunched-up jacket, which he's using for a pillow. Manuals, magazines, cables, outboard gear, guitars, and ADAT tapes litter the remains of the place as the fellas take a quick glance around the room with stiff smiles. We briefly exchange pleasantries before Kelly explains what a control room is and they all shuffle out of the room.
I process a quick evaluation of our guests; late-thirties/early-forties, soft around the midsection, married with a couple kids, Taurus or Tercel out in the parking lot, cookie-cutter home in a new suburban subdivision, weeknight sitcoms, weekend dinners with couples from work comprised of buttery Better Homes and Gardens recipes, served by an aproned wife amidst track lighting—you get the picture. In other words, a life so far removed from mine, I wonder what happened to me. And I wonder why I would feel so nutted and gutted in their world as I contemplate the agony of trading places with one of them, declawed in front of a TV watching Ally McBeal.
But then again, what could be so bad with that life? These guys probably slept next to a sensible woman in a warm bed last night before stepping into a hot shower earlier this morning… right about the time I was calling it a night with a packing blanket on the thinly-carpeted floor of the studio. And by the time they get to return to that warm bed tonight after the news, we'll still be in full swing, hours away from bedtime.
However... after a brief tangent of self-reflection, I'm not sure what's more disturbing: the fact that I still lead such a life, or the fact that I still love the life I lead.
Three Joseph Campbell Quotes to Live by
Author/philosopher Joseph Campbell was one of the world's leading scholars in mythology, and essentially spent his life studying, speaking on, and writing about the complex and compelling nature of story throughout human history. He often spoke of “the hero's journey“—a term he first coined back in 1949—and all of the challenging stages and particulars involved with such a journey.
I first caught Campbell on a multi-series PBS special with Bill Moyers in the late-80s, then later bought the VHS set. Great shit! Scope it if you can find it: The Power of Myth.
A few of my fave quotes from Campbell (with a bit of why I dig them):
"It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life. Where you stumble, there lies your treasure.”
This is basically confirming that one must “stumble” (through the struggle of their journey) to find their proverbial treasure. (Although the treasure is often not monetary!)
"If the path before you is clear, you're probably on someone else’s."
I find this one super interesting. If you think your path is clear, you have to ask: Where did I get this particular “life template” that I’m attempting to follow? Probably from someone else’s journey. Campbell is implying here that your journey is exclusively your own, for you to discover along the way.
"Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors where there were only walls.”
“Follow Your Bliss” is, perhaps, the most heralded three words the great Joseph Campbell ever uttered. The reason I personally believe they are so important in any kind of arduous, “Hero’s Journey” kind of scenario is two-fold:
1. It is in our bliss—our irrefutable state of joy—that we find the motivation and inspiration to weather all of the inevitable difficulties ahead. If we did not find joy in the fundamental activity of our journey, why would we put up with all of the nonsense?
2. We connect with our “inner-genius“ and do our best work through those activities we love the most. This is science. When we can become so engrossed in our process that we lose track of time and even cease to be aware of our physical surroundings, this tells us that we are operating from the coveted frontal lobe of our brain: AKA the home of your inner-genius. This is difficult to access when we feel little affinity for our practice.
Thanks again, everybody. Connect next week!
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