Kenny Aronoff, author of Sex, Drums, Rock ‘n’ Roll!, recently sat down for an interview on the Guitar Center blog, Music Aficionado. Sex, Drums, Rock ‘n’ Roll!, Take a look at the excerpt of the interview below.
It wasn’t my idea to write my autobiography. A writer, Jake Brown, who was interviewing me for a book he was writing about Joe Satriani made the suggestion. He was very enthusiastic and passionate about my writing an autobiography, he and his dad had seen me play at a John Mellencamp show in St. Louis when he was 14 years old. He had to convince me to write my book. The reason I didn’t want to write a book initially, was because I thought it would be a lot of work. And I was right – it took four years!
How did you get started playing music?
I have always been passionate about music. My parents had music blasting on their turntables or the radio all day long when I was a kid, playing mostly jazz, classical, and musicals. My mom taught my sister, brother and myself the piano when we were young, and we eventually took piano lessons, but at age 10 I decided I wanted drum lessons and no more piano – just drums, drums, drums! One year later, when I was 11, I saw The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show, aka “The Night That Changed America.” They performed for 72 million people that night. I immediately wanted to be in The Beatles, and when I realized that wasn’t going to happen, I started my first band, the Alley Cats.
What was your first musical “big win” that you let you know “I can do this, I can be a musician.”?
As soon as I played my first concert with the Alley Cats at age 11, I decided I had to do this for the rest of my life, and still feel that way. But I wasn’t sure how to achieve this. There were no mentors, no manuals, or people that I knew that had made it in rock ‘n’ roll. I grew up in a small town of 3,000 people in western Massachusetts. My big commitment was when I decided to go to college as a music major. I studied one year at the University of Massachusetts and four more years at Indiana University School of Music, now called the Jacob School of Music.
I spent one summer studying at the Aspen Music Festival, run by the Julliard School, and one year at Tanglewood, which is led by the Boston Symphony Orchestra. We were considered the best student orchestra in America. Our teachers and mentors were the musicians in the BSO, so my percussion teacher was Vic Firth. After graduating from school, I had opportunities to join two orchestras, one in Jerusalem, Israel, and the other in Quito, Ecuador. I declined both offers because my heart still wanted to be in a rock band like The Beatles. So I started studying drum sets with two teachers, Alan Dawson in Boston and Gary Chester in NY, practicing relentlessly, eight hours a day unless I was performing. I lived at home for one year before moving to Indiana, where I started a band with a bunch of very talented musicians in Bloomington. Three years later, I auditioned for Johnny Cougar (John Mellencamp). That was my first big break.
You talk in your book about learning to practice “correctly.” What techniques/topics do you focus on while practicing? What recommendations would you make to someone starting out for practice/development?
Know what your purpose is when you are practicing. Know your goals. Know what you are trying to accomplish. If you are taking lessons, pick a teacher who you trust and believe in, and do what he or she suggests to make you a better drummer, musician, and person.
You’ve played with everyone! What universal qualities do those people share? What makes a good collaborator?
Successful people – no matter what business they are in or what they do in life – are self-disciplined, work their asses off, put in lots of time and know how to stay in the game even when they fail. They are driven to be great even when things get difficult.
Read the full interview here.
Kenny Aronoff, author of Sex, Drums, Rock ‘n’ Roll!, sat down with SALON.com sharing his journey from his love for the Beatles to working with John Mellencamp, plus his mantra to “work hard and rock harder.”
Kenny Aronoff is one of the most famous and hardest working rock ‘n’ roll drummers performing today. After four decades behind the kit playing with John Fogerty, John Mellencamp, Joe Cocker, Bob Dylan, Jon Bon Jovi, and many others, as house drummer for the Kennedy Center Honors, and alongside Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr on the Beatles CBS special The Night That Changed America, Aronoff is listed among Rolling Stone magazine’s “100 Greatest Drummers of All Time” and remains one of the most in-demand live and session drummers in the music business working today.
You got to work your butt off in anything. That’s what the book is about.
In Sex, Drums, Rock ’n’ Roll! The Hardest Hitting Man in Show Business, Aronoff answers these questions and more, painting the portrait of an artist, instructor, and businessman who never followed the norm, always followed his heart, and never settled for anything short of excellence.
You have to go through a lot of experience to understand how to solve problems to see the problems before they come because they’re going to come.
Sex, Drums, Rock ’n’ Roll! takes readers on Aronoff’s amazing journey from the small New England town where he watched the Beatles perform on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964 to performing alongside Paul and Ringo on a television special 50 years later. Along the way it chronicles an uncommon career in which the excesses of the rock ’n’ roll life are always tempered by his core personal and professional values.
I’ll never be as great as I want to be, but I’m willing to spend the rest of my life trying to be as great as I can be.
Check out the video here.
Kenny Aronoff, author of Sex, Drums, Rock ‘n’ Roll!, sat down with the Indy Star to discuss his book including his time during the John Mellencamp era. Check out an excerpt of the interview below.
In his new autobiography, Sex, Drums, Rock ‘n’ Roll!, Kenny Aronoff pulls back the curtain on the dangers of being a Hoosier rock star in the 1980s.
Aronoff writes about the time John Mellencamp survived a motorcycle crash one week before the recording of breakthrough album “American Fool.” Toby Myers, who played bass in Mellencamp’s band from 1982 to 1998, lost a toe in a boating accident during an East Coast tour. In an episode that parallels music movie “Almost Famous,” the entire Mellencamp entourage could have died when a charter plane lost power between Miami and Biloxi, Miss.
And everyone in the band was required to participate in a fall pastime known as the Mellencamp Football League. No pads, full contact, highly competitive.
But there’s more than misadventure detailed in “Sex, Drums, Rock ‘n’ Roll,” which arrived in bookstores Nov. 15. Aronoff, the drummer in Mellencamp’s band from 1980 to 1996, mostly writes about an unyielding mission to succeed.
“We weren’t the best rock ’n’ roll band in the world,” Aronoff said in a phone interview. “We made ourselves great by hard work.”
Mellencamp, who sold 16 million albums from 1982 to 1987, maintained regular rehearsal hours for the musicians: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., interrupted by a 5-7 p.m. break, five days a week when the band wasn’t on tour.
Before the Seymour native renovated a Brown County house into Belmont Mall studio, Mellencamp worked at “The Bunker,” a cramped, concrete room in rural Bloomington that once was a dog kennel.
Those were days, Aronoff said, when the musicians grasped for the secret of making hit records. They took a field trip to catch a date of Bruce Springsteen’s “The River” tour. They studied Tom Petty’s “Damn the Torpedoes” album for tips on arranging songs.
Mellencamp, known then as John Cougar, had written a song called “Jack & Diane.” It wasn’t working, however, as anything other than a stripped-down solo acoustic tune.
“We knew it was a cool song, but we didn’t know what to do with it,” Aronoff said.
John Mellencamp, center, points his American Music Award at guitarist Larry Crane after collecting an American Music Award in 1983. Drummer Kenny Aronoff, author of 2016 book “Sex, Drums, Rock ‘n’ Roll,” is seen at right. Bass player Toby Myers is second from left, and guitarist Mike Wanchic is to the left of Aronoff.
Working at Miami’s Criteria Studios with producer Don Gehman, the Mellencamp crew heard the Bee Gees experimenting with an early drum machine, the Linn LM-1 Drum Computer, in a nearby room.
Aronoff said Gehman borrowed the Linn “out of desperation” for a potential fix for “Jack & Diane.”
“I was insulted,” Aronoff said. “I grabbed the thing out of anger and said, ‘At least I want to have control over this thing.’ ”
Aronoff programmed the hand-clap beat heard during the first half of the song, and he added the distinctive midsong solo on conventional drums. “Jack & Diane” reached No. 1 on Billboard magazine’s Hot 100 chart in October 1982.
Click HERE to read the entire interview.
Kenny Aronoff, one of Rolling Stones’, ‘Top 100 Drummers of All Time,’ can now add author to his repertoire with the release of Sex, Drums, Rock ‘n’ Roll! In the whirlwind of press surrounding this release, he sat down with Tim Barnicle and Harry Hill of the ‘How I Got Here’ podcast. The trio discussed Aronoff’s early years, career, and new venture as an author and speaker. Take a listen below.
Playing felt good spiritually, emotionally, physically; every which way….It was just an organic thing. I was just naturally drawn to the energy of the drums.
Sex, Drums, Rock ’n’ Roll!, with a foreword by Rush drummer Neil Peart, and researched and developed with Jake Brown, takes readers on Aronoff’s amazing journey from the small New England town where he watched the Beatles perform on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964 to performing alongside Paul and Ringo on a television special 50 years later. Along the way it chronicles an uncommon career in which the excesses of the rock ’n’ roll life are always tempered by his core personal and professional values.
The interview took listeners on a journey of what to expect in the book from his love for the Beatles to his early career of playing in a bar at the age of 13 with his twin brother. He’s one of the hardest workers for a reason having explained how he worked endlessly to reach his goals. It wasn’t about money. It wasn’t about fame. It was about accomplishing not only what he set out to do, but ultimately staking his claim in rock & roll and beyond.
I spread myself al over the map my entire career and I got teased for it. Classical people teased me about playing rock. The rock people teased me about played classical….That means I am different and I will pledge to follow my own beat, my own muse, my own thing.
“Staying the course” has never been enough for Aronoff, who has consistently embraced his own uniqueness while charting his life’s path. This has included taking his music career into every genre imaginable and branching beyond the stage and studio to build a second career as a business speaker.
Writing the book took four years and then what came of it was a speaking career that I’m really pushing….It’s really an inspirational evening with Kenny Aronoff where you’re entertained, but I’m talking about how to be successful and stay successful.
In Sex, Drums, Rock ’n’ Roll!, Aronoff paints the portrait of an artist, instructor, and businessman who never followed the norm, always followed his heart, and never settled for anything short of excellence.
There’s definitely a little bit of fear in me. I told my mom when I was 11 I was going to do this for the rest of my life. Now that I’m 63, I’m still saying I’m going to do this for the rest of my life. I want that choice.