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Bobby Borg

BOBBY BORG, L.A Songwriter's Network guest for June 11, 2003.

Bobby Borg is our June 2003 guest speaker.

You've probably seen him @ seminars, heard only about 10 minutes of what he has to say 'cuz of the panel format, & you wanna hear more. Or you may have his incredible book, The Musician's Handbook, which is about the size of a Bible. Guess why?

Or you may be a fan of WARRANT & have seen him pummel his drumkit into submission.

Yeah, Bobby is the guy you REALLY WANNA MEET if you're SERIOUS about your music. He's a musician like us, that's taken the time to document what REALLY HAPPENS once you hit the majors, & how some of us can find the right ladder to move on up.

When he says "been there done that", you know it's true!

He's got some great giveaways including TAXI REVIEWS! If you've been wondering whether to spend the $5 on a pitch, hoping to at least get a review, here's the opportunity to get in for FREE. But you MUST attend Bobby's seminar! Well worth it, and we always have a great time at L.A. Songwriter's Network meetings!

He'll also be signing books & have 'em for sale.
Keep checking www.songnet.org for more information, & links to Bobby's official site.

Finally, a book written by a Musician for Musicians -- from an author who has been in the trenches himself --from rehearsal studios to recording sessions to tour busses to concert stages. Learn about the realities of the music business beyond the glamorous fantasy world portrayed in the media. Includes numerous quotes, anecdotes and interviews from the world’s top musicians and industry professionals.

Bobby Borg @ SongNet

June 11, 2003, 7:30 PM
The Coffee Gallery Backstage
2029 N. Lake Ave
Altadena, CA.

2 miles North of the 210 fwy off @ Lake

www.songnet.org for more info

(but buy a cuppa coffee please!)

TeCh TaLk with Bobby Borg

(the following article originally appears at: http://www.geocities.com/gatorrockcity2/BorgChat.html)

Bobby Borg is best known for his work with Beggars & Thieves (Atlantic Records) and also with Warrant. He's got a new book out on the market and plenty to talk about both in it and here!!! Let's get this party started!

GRC: For those who do not know who Bobby Borg is, tell us when you started drumming, if it was your first instrument, who you've played with, and what kinda goodies do you have in your site?

BB: I started drumming at the age of four. I use to bang on everything in site (including the little blonde girl next door--just kidding), so my parents got me a set of congos and bongos. It just picked up from there. Yes, drums were my first instrument, besides the one that I was born with!..........Okay, Okay, I’ll keep it clean. SORRY!

Moving on, I played with a number of people. Actually, this dovetails nicely into the last part of your question regarding my website because most of the people I worked with are listed there. See www.bobbyborg.com. But to give you a little hint for now, I played with Beggars & Thieves (Atlantic Records), Left For Dead (Alfa Music Japan), and Warrant (BMG/CMC Records). There’s tons more, so be sure to see my site. I played with Bo-didley, Little Joe Cook, and all types of genres of music.

By the way, you can also find information on my web site about my new book soon to be released by Billboard books in the spring of 2003. The book is called THE MUSICIAN’S HANDBOOK: A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO UNDERSTANDING THE MUSIC BUSINESS.” It speaks about everything I wish I knew when I first got in to the music biz. The book’s perspective is unique in that it's written FOR MUSICIANS--BY A MUSICIAN; from someone who has been in the trenches himself; from the rehearsal studios, to the major label signings, to the recording studios, to the tour busses, to the concert stages. It covers record royalties, music publishing, merchandising monies, and so much more. If you’re pursuing a career in rock stardom (lauhing), I highly recommend you read my book. And for those of you that have music business questions, e-mail me at bborg@earthlink.net.

That’s prety much it for now. The site is going to get a major overhaul in the next months, though. You’ll be able to listen to tracks of my playing, see streaming video, post messages, get links to a number of cool sites, and read interesting articles on the music business.

GRC: Most of us can think of a bunch of good quality and affordable guitars for the beginner, but what kind of gear would you advise a drum beginner to invest in? And also what kind of gear do you presently use and/or endorse? BB: Most drum companies, whether it be Pearl, Tama, or Yahamaha, etc., always have a lower- line drum kit affordable for beginners. Whatever you invest in, just make sure you buy a kit from a “name” company rather than some un-proven company that may be offering a few more pieces at a lower price. Otherwise, you may end up beating the hell out of your kit in no time.

GRC: What do you think of the following drummers from 1-7 [1 being horrible and 7 being BONHAM! (Awesome!)].

BB: Rather than rating each drummer on a scale, how about I make a personal comment about each one, and how they affected my life personally--the good, the bad, and the ugly. Okay, here goes:

Ginger Fish = Okay, the guy in Manson. Personally I think he sounds great! Really, really cool, but don’t know him though.

Eric Singer = Well, Eric certainly has managed to get some pretty cool gigs, so he’s doing something right. There’s no doubt he has what it takes to get the job done and then some. I thought that his drumming was amazing with Badlands, but other than that, I never really paid attention much to his playing. I’ve seen him around town here and there, and we say hello, but I don’t get a real genuine vibe from him. I guess it all stems back to a time when I was a young kid living in New York and I sent out my drum books for his review. I was new in the business and sort of looked up to him as a rock star. Well, he never responded and completely ignored me---- Poor me! [Laughing]. But as a result of this, I’ve always made sure to spend a lot of time with my fans and make them feel special. Surely, we get busy on the road, but there’s always time for the fans. Without the fans there would be nothing!

Tommy Lee =Tommy has a unique feel and has also been a great showman. His playing was great on Dr.Feel Good. Hey, he fucks hot looking girls too. Can you ask for more? I never met him personally, though, but I hear he’s cool. Actually, Will Smith, who once drum teched for me in Warrant, is playing drum’s in Tommy’s solo project now.

Alex Van Halen = Alex was a big influence of mine when I was younger. The parts he played on record were cool, his drum sets were cool, his drum sounds were unique, and he looked cool on the back cover of Van Halen 1. I think he’s amazing. He was actually the first drummer I saw in concert. I think I was 12? Anyway, he rocks. Never met him personally, but would like to.

Lars Ulrich =Well, I first started to listen to Lars back in the day when Metallica recorded the song "ONE." Everyone was raving about his fast double bass work. Later, when I was making a record with producers Steve Thomas and Michael Barbiero, they told me that they cut and spliced that whole part together--in other words, the clean playing you hear on that track was put together mechanically and essentially was really not Lars. I was disappointed. Nonetheless, that’s how some records simply have to be made these days.

Lars’s drum parts on record are great. The band is great as well. But, I’ve seen Lars play live and felt that his time fluctuates a lot. Also, I don’t care much for him as a person--well, at least, what I’ve personally seen of him so far. I met him once when he was back stage at one of my shows in Philladelphia. I was in a band called Beggars & Thieves (Atlantic records) and we were opening for Tesla. We were managed by the same managers as Metallica, and Tesla, so Lars came out to hang. While I was in the back of the building by our bus , a fan asked me for a drum stick, so I grabbed one from my stck bag backstage. While I was on my way back outside to give it to her, Phil Soussan (my bass player in Beggars) introduced me to Lars. When I held out my hand to greet Lars, he grabbed the stick out of my hand, and shoved my stick in my back pocket and said, "The gigs over dude, you can put your sticks away now." Actually, it’s a pretty funny story, but I thought he was a freakin’ prick. Fuck, I was just trying to be cool to our fans. What do you guys think? Laughing! Wow, I’m really sharing a lot of my rock-n-roll trauma with you guys. Trust me, I’m over it, though! Maybe not? Laughing even louder. Hey, I told you I was going to give the goods, the bad, and the ugly.

Steve West =The guy in Danger Danger, right? If so, WHAT UP STEVE! Steve and I use to hang together at the China Club in New York City. He was a great guy. I didn’t listened to much Danger Danger, but I remember that when he got up and jammed, he had a good rock feel. Yo bro, if you’re reading this, e-mail me at bborg@earthlink.net, or visit www.bobbyborg.com and say hello.

Steve Riley = The guy in LA Guns. Yeah, cool! He plays well. He’s influenced by a lot of big band drummers if I remember correctly. Steve and I toured together when I was in Warrant and LA Guns was opening. Actually, Steve did some demos with my previous group Beggars & Thieves after I parted ways with B & T, and he was on a hiatus with Guns. It’s funny how the music business can be such a small world.

Mike Fasano =He’s the new guy in Warrant, right? Any way, never heard him play live or on record. All I can say is that I hear that his greatest attribute is that he’s able to fit in well with the other guys in the band--he’s one of the tribe so to speak--a rare breed--trust me, that’ a major accomplishment! But on the contrary, sources tell me that Mike was spilling his beans in a recent Metal Sludge article (www.metalsludge.com) that he was unhappy with his business agreement with the band. Don’t know if that’s true, but it wouldn’t surprise me a single bit.

Vikki Foxx = I really didn’t pay much attention to Vikki’s playing till my ex-bass player Phil Soussan played me the Vince Neil demos for the first record. Vikki’s playing was solid and tasteful. I was impressed. Vikki has a good look for rock (if you like drummers that look like females--that’s a compliment by the way), and he’s a great showman. Actually, I believe Vikki took my place when I quit Warrant--God, everyone played in Warrant. By the way, I had the pleasure of meeting Vikki in LA and he was a really nice guy.

Nick Menza =Megadeth’s drummer, right? Well, I never spent a lot of time listening to his band, but what I remember hearing I liked. I hear he’s a monster. Never met him personally, but I’m sure he’s a cool guy.

Bobby Blotzer = Well, he seemed to fit in well and play all the right parts on the Ratt records. The bass drum part he plays at the end of the solo on "Round and Round" was cool. I heard that he’s a very solid drummer. Can’t say much about his personality because I’ve never met him. I dated his current girl friend for like ten seconds and my friend Robbie plays bass for Ratt now and he's super cool, so I guess that makes Blotzer cool to???????

GRC: How would you rate or what could you tell us about the following bassists?


Phil Soussan (B&T/VNB) -
Well, I learned some cool things from Phill. He was much older than me when I was in Beggars & Thieves and far more experienced. He had already played in Billy Idol and Ozzie's band. As for me, I was a pup. Phill was pretty helpful and getting the right feels for the record and I appreciate that. As for a person, well, we say hi when we see each other in LA. Phill can act a bit elitist.At least, that's the word on the street [grin].

Jerry Dixon (Warrant..)-
Jerry is just Jerry. If you know Jerry like I know Jerry, you'd know what I mean.

Duff McKagan (GNR)-
Duff sounds cool on the Guns' records. That's really all I can say. He's a raw with attitude.

Blackie Lawless (WASP) -
Sorry, I don't know much about his playing.

Twiggy Ramirez (Marilyn Manson) -
Sounds cool on all the records.

Mark "the Animal" Mendoza (Twisted Sister) -
Sorry guys, I don't listen to much of his stuff.

Geddy Lee (RUSH!) -
Okay, cool! Getty was amazing. Not only as a bass player but as a writer.

John Paul Jones (Led Zep!) -
John paul Jones was the king. I loved the way Bonham and him played together. I love the runs that he would do on bass. The parts he wrote are amazing.

Jason Newsted (ex-Metallica)-
Sounds good on records. That's really all I can say.

GRC: A lot of bands are using drum machines, mostly in the goth and industrial scene, what kind of quality do you think can be achieved with a machine over a real drummer? Should future drummers be worried?

BB: Well, the question pretty much answers itself: "What kind of quality can be acheived by a drum machine over a real drummer?" The number one answer is the "feel" of a drum machine in and of itself.

I think most of us can detect a drum machine in a musical track. The feel is very straight, consistant, and rigid. This type of programming is great in genres such as goth, dance, rave, and industrial music; these forms of music need forward momentum and drive. Stylistically, drum machine parts are often programed in a way that an actual drummer would not be capable of playing, or, that a drummer would be likely to play.

On the other hand, drum machines are not always so detectable in music; especially in pop and rock genres. Producers take great effort in making the programed parts feel like a real drummer; letting the time fluctuate and breathe. The parts are also written more closely to what a drummer would actually play.

A major advantage of a drum machine over a real drummer is that a producer can get relatively good sounds in the studio fast. One must consider the time it takes for a drummer to set up a kit and get the right sounds. Keep in mind that a studio can costs hundreds of dollars per hour, and so can the best session drummers. In many cases, the decision to use a drum machine is purely a matter of economics and of convenience.

Overall, I don’t think that drummers should feel worried about drum machines. However, I do think it’s a good idea to figure out what type of machines are being typically used on records today, and to learn how to program them effectively (that is, if you can afford to get your hands on one of these expensive machines).

GRC: Motley Crue seems to be without a drummer, would you ever consider trying out for the Crue? And if not, are there any bands that Bobby Borg would like to kickstart with percussion?

BB: Speaking of Motley Crue, Randy Castillio, one of the Crue’s later drummers, recently lost his life to cancer. Randy and I toured together when he was playing drums with Vince Neil’s solo project and I was playing drums with Warrant. Randy and I also lived around the corner from each other out here in Los Angeles, and would occasionally see each other. He also contributed his stories to my forthcoming book "The Musician’s Handbook"--see www.bobbyborg.com).
Randy would e-mail me little stories of his professional experiences. He was a good man and will be missed by many. Rest in peace Randy.

Now, to answer your question, YES, I WOULD CONSIDER PLAYING WITH THE CRUE—That is, IF THEY’D HAVE ME. Stylistically, though, I don’t play like Tommy Lee. Actually, my feel is more like Randy’s. I play extremely loud and more "on" the beat. Nonetheless, a feel that is more than accomodating to a band like the Crue. I’m a seasoned veteran, I learn songs extremely fast, I love to play drums, I live in Los Angeles, I am fully endorsed by a number of equipment manufacturers, I’m well-liked and easy to get along with, and I can be a lot of fun on the road.
Vince Neil, on several occasions, would stand by the side of the stage and watch me play with Warrant, so he knows how I play and how to get a hold of me. If you ever interview him, tell him I say hello.

But isn’t Motley Crue for the most part done at this point of the game? I mean, I don’t think tht they are really interested in continuing, and if they were, it would be more on a spot date basis. You know, Motley Crue doing a benefit show, or huge MTV festival of sorts.

Now, to get to the last part of your question, who would I really like to play with? I would love to play with a band like Rage--who has now become Audio Slave. I think Tom Merrello is the ultimate guitar riff writer, and of course Chris Cornell is an amazing singer. I feel my style is right up the band’s alley. So, if you’re out there guys, let’s jam--laughing!

Actually, it would really take a lot for me to want to play with a group at this time in my life. Certainly, if a band like Audio Slave came calling, I’d jump all over it. However, my focus has been in the music business side of things these days. I want back to UCLA to study the legalities of music, and my first book "THE MUSICIAN’S HANDBOOK: A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO UNDERSTANDING THE MUSIC BUSINESS" will soon be published by Billboard Books in Spring 2003. I’ve been speaking at conventions held at institutions such as UCLA in Southern California and Pepperdine School of Law in Malibu, California. I’m not sure where all this stuff will lead me in the future: Management? Working at a record label? Working in music publishing? We’ll see. But one thing for certain, in the words of Charles Darwin, "It’s not the strongest of spicies that tends to survive, but those most adaptable to change."

GRC: In 2000 you told Web mistress Kimmie in an official Downboys.com Interview that: "I only wish to perform with people that I truly like and respect as human beings and who truly like and respect me." Does this in any way suggest you either don't like Warrant, they didn't respect you, or that it's simply a general type of statement?

BB: Let's just say that it’s simply a general statement [grin]. I mean, some bands can be somewhat of a soap opera at times. Essentially, you have a bunch of grown up adults who are given the opportunity to act like kids, and on top of it all, get paid decent money to do it. Sometimes, this childlike behavior crosses into to moral, business, and ethical issues as well--especially when working with people who are truly not your brothers. It’s important to determine from the get-go whether the people you work with are going to have your back.

GRC: We did our first interview with Stevie Rachelle of Tuff. What do you think of that band and would you ever play in that band if the vacancy existed and/or you were asked?

BB: Being in a band requires so much more than just "being in a band." I mean, a band is also a business and everyone must to be on the same page in terms of what they want to get out of the situation. Is the group set up with one leader and a bunch of employees who serve at the will and needs of their employer, or is it set up as an equal partnership? Is the group built around one songwriter who rakes in most of the profits in publishing income, or does everyone participate in the songwriting process? There are other issues that one must consider as well. For instance, where will the band spend most of its time (East coast, West coast, Europe, Japan), and will this require everyone in the band to move there? How far in the future does everyone see themselves sticking with the project, or is it just some fly by night attempt to get rich and famous? These are important concerns that must be discussed before deciding whether or not you want to move forward with a project. It’s not just about, let’s jam. Or, hey, so and so is looking for a drummer, would you join? Unfortunately, though we all start playing music because of music, we quickly realize that it’s also a business.

GRC: To get a feel of your business savvy, does a band like Warrant capitalize more off of releasing material on their own label thus risking a low seller, or by signing to a tiny label that might shoot them 12% in royalties (if any, since small presses usually don't get royalties), and an advance? How much of an issue is distribution if you do a record on your own label?

BB: Well, this is really not a cheap shot at Warrant, but they probably choose to release recordings on their own label because they couldn’t get a record company to re-sign them--let alone, a record company that would give them the type of deal they really wanted. So, they choose to do it themselves. They have enough of a fanbase who will buy records at their shows and over the Internet, so maybe it wasn’t a bad idea any way you look at it.

Moving on, for a little music business education, why don’t I give you a rundown of the most typical recording deals that exist. These are the Independent record deal, the production deal, and the major label deal.

The Independent Label Recording Deal

Independent record companies (also called indies) are typically more prone to signing undeveloped talent and less mainstream forms of music than major record companies. For instance, indies were essentially the breeding ground and lifeline for the punk and grunge music revolutions. Independent record companies are usually not owned or controlled by the “majors,” and are generally distributed by smaller regional distributors. Sometimes an independent record company may arrange a distribution deal or a pressing and distribution deal (P & D deal) with a major record company.
This means that although you’re signed to an indie record label, a major label may still agree to get your record into the stores and may also manufacture your album. Independent record companies may also form "joint ventures" with major record companies, relying on funding for the recorded masters, artwork, manufacturing, and distribution of an album. In any case, the record royalties that new artists can expect to receive for sales are in the range of 9 to 13 percent of the suggested retail list price (SLRP) of their record, or 18 to 26 percent of the wholesale price. Recording advances can range from as little as $10,000 upwards into the $100,000 range. Got it? Good, let’s move on to the production deal.

The Production Deal

Production companies are typically made up of independent record producers that sign, develop, and record talent. Very much like independent record companies, production companies may initially be more willing to develop younger talent and less popular forms of music than major record labels. In a typical scenario, a production company signs an artist, and then enters into an agreement with a record company on behalf of that artist. The record company then pays the production company a royalty for sales of the album, and the production company in turn pays you around 50 percent of the money it receives. For example, if the record company pays the production company a record royalty at 19 percent of the suggested retail list price of your record, the production company would pay you half of this rate or 9.5 percent (19 x 50% =9.5). The production company receives a recording advance that can range from $125,000 to $350,000 and often much more depending on the stature of the record producer. If there are any monies left over after recording expenses, they may be split 50/50 between you and the production company. Now let’s move on to the granddaddy of all deals, the major label recording deal.

The Major Label Recording Deal

Lastly, is the major label recording deal. Major labels initially seek artists who are commercially viable, thus offering the label potentially guaranteeing them the quickest return on their investment. Major labels make up the majority of commercial recordings sold in the United States. As of the year 2002, the five largest record companies (or five majors) are Sony, Universal, BMG, EMI, and WEA. Each major includes a variety of functions such as A & R, promotion, advertising, sales, legal, finance, shipping, and merchandising. All of the major record companies are also part of larger corporations that run a system of distribution channels, regional offices, international divisions, and other music business companies, such as music publishing companies and record clubs. The record royalties that new artists can expect to receive for sales of their albums are in the range of 11 to 16 percent of the suggested retail list price, or 22 to 30 percent of the wholesale price. Record advances can range from $125,000 to $350,000 (and often much more).

GRC: Do you ever run into Bobby Chouinard and what's the mood like and was there ever ANY talk of you doing the studio drum tracks for the Grey Album?

BB: Bobby is dead. He passed away a few years ago. Not to sound like a dick, but next time you might want to do a little more research before conducting your next interview--you want to be sure not to offend someone. Any way, I think Bobby was an amazing drummer and a perfect candidate for recording the second Beggars & Thieves record. I was no longer in the band at the time of the recording so there was never any talk of my recording with them. And frankly, since it basically didn’t see the light of day in terms of it’s success, I’m more than glad I had nothing to do with it.

GRC : Most people think of a drummer, as one who handles the drums and the percussion. What exactly did Sam Figueroa do on the B&T debut? Did Louie Merlino ever try to limit your spotlight by having Sam there? What was that like.

BB: There are numerous percussion instruments that come from all over the world, and some musicians (call them percussionists) dedicate their entire lives to mastering them all. They commit themselves to buying and collecting a unique arsenal of special instruments so that they can show up on a recording session with a plethera of sounds. They also have a keen sense for how each instruments fits into a musical track. Sam was one of these people. I think he did a great job on the Beggar’s record. The funny thing is that I never met him. I went back to New Jersey for the holidays and Sam came in and recording the tracks in just one night.
Our producers, Steve Thompson, and Michael Barbiero, ran the tapes and just let him lose. Now, to answer your question, No, Louie didn’t limit my spotlight by having Sammy do the percussion tracks. Sammy was a pro who enhanced my playing. Just listen to the record for yourself.

GRC : Do you think it's wrong for beginning drummers to start off playing to jazz before getting into heavy or hard rock? Gene Simmons has always said Peter Criss was more of a jazz drummer than a rock drummer, do you think this is why Peter sounds a lot more rhythmic than his successors? In other words, is a good all around drummer better than one that just has speed working for him/her?

BB: The more influences you have as a drummer, the better and more creative you’ll sound. As for the second part of your question, I really have no comment about Gene Simmons nor Peter Criss. And moving on, you ask, “Is it better to be an all around drummer versus just one who relies on speed?” Well, lets just say this, by being a versatile musician, you’ll Certainly have more opportunities to work than one who is limited.