Interview with ex-Vinnie Vincent Invasion and current Lita Ford drummer Bobby Rock (Part 2 of 2)

INTERVIEW WITH EX-VINNIE VINCENT INVASION AND CURRENT LITA FORD DRUMMER BOBBY ROCK (PART 2 OF 2)
Date: July 17, 2018
Interviewer: Tyson Briden

SO HERE IT IS — PART 2 OF MY CONVERSATION WITH DRUMMER BOBBY ROCK. IN THIS SEGMENT, WE CONTINUE WITH OUR CONVERSATION TOUCHING ON VINNIE VINCENT, OZZY OSBOURNE AND LITA FORD. OF COURSE THAT’S JUST THE COLES’ NOTE VERSION OF WHAT YOU WILL READ BENEATH. AGAIN, PLEASE ENJOY MY FRIENDS AD YOU CAN ALSO CHECK OUT PART 1 OF 2 OF THE INTERVIEW.

Sleaze Roxx: I have a KISS question and I was surprised the Three Sides [Of The Coin] guys didn’t ask you this. Did Vinnie [Vincent] ever allude to the fact that on the ‘Lick It Up’ cover that that was only Vinnie’s head on a mannequin’s body?

Bobby Rock: Nope… Never!

Sleaze Roxx: It was brought up on an episode of Three Sides [Of The Coin]. If you look at it, it’s bizarre because it’s a mannequin and they just put Vinnie’s head on it.

Bobby Rock: Oh! Is that right? I actually never knew that.

Sleaze Roxx: Then if you look at Gene’s [Simmons] hand as well, it’s super, super long. 

Bobby Rock: Interesting! So they did some photo shop type shit back then?

Sleaze Roxx: Yeah, I guess. It’s wild. I showed my wife this the other night. I said, “Look at this cover. Do you see any anything weird on it?” Even Paul [Stanley] looks like he’s hidden behind Gene. It’s like they did four different photos and they photoshopped them all together.

Bobby Rock: Oh wow. That, I didn’t know. I wonder what the mannequin thing was with Vinnie? They just didn’t like the way he looked?

Sleaze Roxx: I don’t really know. Three Sides [Of The Coin] had a whole episode where this person went on speaking about the ‘Lick It Up’ cover and things that were changed on it. I just wondered if he ever mentioned that to you.

Bobby Rock: No, I don’t remember any conversation with Vinnie on that.

Sleaze Roxx: If you look closely at it, where Vinnie’s head is, it looks like it’s cut.

Bobby Rock: The technology back then was still archaic.

Sleaze Roxx: For years, you looked at it and thought, “Oh, that looks normal!” Now, did Dana ever talk of the Randy Rhoads / Jake E. Lee stuff?

Bobby Rock: Ahh… Yep! He would from time to time. He would talk to us. Get some behind the scenes stuff. Jake E. Lee working on the ‘Bark At The Moon’ record. Some of the inside scoop about some of those things.

Sleaze Roxx: That’s cool. I’ve heard stories that somehow Dana may have been in the band and it didn’t happen. I don’t recall the whole story to be honest. Is there is a little bit of truth to that statement?

Bobby Rock: Yes. He was actually in the band for a second.

Sleaze Roxx: That’s what I thought. Even when you listen to the baseline on “I Don’t Know”, it almost sounds as if that’s Dana’s style. It’s Bob Daisley, but you listen to that and you listen to “Reach For The Sky” from Slaughter’s ‘Wild Life’ album for instance. The bass playing is very similar. I mean it is all speculation on my part. Possibly Dana picked up something from that. Dana’s just an amazing bass player.

Bobby Rock: Right, he’s very good man. He knows the exact right thing to play. Where to set it down there. Even back then, he was super experienced in the studio.

Sleaze Roxx: It’s unfortunate that you didn’t get to hear as much of that on the Vinnie Vincent Invasion albums to really hear him shine.

Bobby Rock: By the way, when you listen to those records stylistically, they’re mid-range heavy. To your point. Less bass. The kick drum wasn’t like the subs. The low end kind of thing. Even these days, if I cruise around Spotify, listen to a bunch of different shit. I have my rig at home here. I have a pretty decent system. Sub and all that. You can hear the discrepancy, “Oh, that can’t be!” I think they called them cocaine mixes back then [laughs]. You’re trying to compensate with all this extra high end. The bass and sub rigs weren’t as prominent as they are these days.

Sleaze Roxx: If you take for instance, Def Leppard’s ‘Hysteria’, the drum sound on “Pour Some Sugar On Me”, where it kind of changed things. Then Bob Rock came in with that Tommy Lee, big heavy kick.

Bobby Rock: Right… Exactly right!

Sleaze Roxx: It changed. From 87 to 90. Sonically, the production got better.

Bobby Rock: That’s exactly it. What you were saying a minute ago. ‘All Systems Go’ to the first Slaughter album. That illustrates the point perfectly. It was only two years.

Sleaze Roxx: In those two years… In music today, you don’t see things change like that. It was such an awesome time to be buying albums. I’m glad I got to live it.

Bobby Rock: I always say that, “When we grew up. I would not have it any other way! I would not have wanted to have been born any earlier.” To be a young kid, all there was was vinyl. If you get a chance to experience that progression that happened with technology and all that.

Sleaze Roxx: The nice thing is that the vinyl is coming back. It’s amazing that the bands are putting material out on colored vinyls and picture discs. I’m the guy that buys them all.

Bobby Rock: [Laughs]… That’s cool.

Sleaze Roxx: I just bought that copy of ‘Lick It Up’ last week. It’s a reissue. My two copies of the Vinnie Vincent Invasion’s [albums] are the original vinyls I bought back in the ’80s. I was listening to the first Vinnie Vincent Invasion album just before our talk. I was concentrating on your drums trying to comprehend what you had said in the book. There is some electronic stuff. It’s kind of mismatched in some spots. It’s really bizarre.

Bobby Rock: It was trying to salvage a record basically. Back then, you’re working from a single master tape. A 2′ tape. Nowadays, you can have multiple takes on a hard drive somewhere. This take, that take. In this case, they were saying, “Oh, you need to do the record again.” Mowing over existing shit on the master. That was what you had to do because everything was recorded on this 2′ tape.

Sleaze Roxx: Everything with the click and Vinnie going through it with a fine tooth comb. Saying, “That’s not matching up.” At first, he thought it did, then all of a sudden, it doesn’t. You also alluded to the fact that it took away the live feeling.

Bobby Rock: Man, and that’s why when I talked about coming into the control room for the first time to hear the playback of “I Wanna Be Your Victim” which was the first song we tracked. Listening to it, which essentially was a start to finish passage. It had some punches in it, where they punched me in and out. It sounded like a live drummer playing top to bottom with Vinnie and Dana in the studio. That was the magic right there man. That was the path. That was the direction. That’s what the whole session had been set up to do. Live drums, with a guy in there playing his ass off, up against killer guitar and bass tracks, which had been recorded first as I mentioned in the book. Before I started, it kind of had that mechanical type sound. It’s just chugga, chugga against a drum machine, but when we dropped the drums as Dana had hoped, the live drums kind of tied it all together. That shit was killer man. If I have a single regret, that would be it. We couldn’t kind of continue down that road. It would have been a whole different thing sonically.

Sleaze Roxx: Did they erase those original drum tracks?

Bobby Rock: Yes because we had to redo. Immediately, we started getting into the obsession of matching with the click. It wasn’t, “Let’s take this 2′ tape and set it aside!” That was the thing — guitars and bass were burned onto multiple 2” reels. That’s what we had to put drums on. So if you’re going to go in a different direction, you have to mow over the original takes.

Sleaze Roxx: That’s really sad. Imagine if you could go back and put those tracks back in there?

Bobby Rock: Bro… Man I know!

Sleaze Roxx: It is what it is [laughs]. I know the Three Sides [Of The Coin] guys asked you about the reunion thing. I guess it’s pretty much all up to Vinnie? If Mark, Dana and yourself are on board. For the fans, even to see it once. That’s one of those “what if” questions.

Bobby Rock: I find I keep on having to add more and more disclaimer to my general response. My general response has been, “Sure, I’m up for it!” On a personal level I have zero ill will towards Vinnie. Whatever happened, happened over thirty years ago. I understand what was going on with that. All that’s in the rear view mirror. Now what we have is a guy who I admire as a musician. I admire as a songwriter. I have history with. I’m down for it. As time goes on, I find myself having to say, “I’m cool with it, so long as long as…” That kind of thing. If you’re talking about just the logistics of getting together and doing a reunion, it still sounds good on paper, but there are still a lot of things we don’t know. Like I mentioned before, what kind of direction would it be musically? Would it be an out and out modern day sort of, pick up what we did back then? Replicating sort of those songs. That vibe. That energy thirty years later. Would it have a different spin? Then you have all those other questions. The logistical questions, which are pretty complex.

Sleaze Roxx: My hope is that he comes back and makes some music.

Bobby Rock: That still remains to be seen. To what extent he’s been still playing. To what extent he’s still interested. We haven’t seen any evidence either, besides just tinkering around on an acoustic guitar. That remains the hundred thousand dollar question. Where is Vinnie at in 2018 with making music?

Sleaze Roxx: It was mentioned in the book that Goran Edman and Mark Slaughter were the two singers that it was down to to replace Robert Fleishman. In terms of the logistics, why Goran Edman did not get the gig? Was it because he was in Sweden?

Bobby Rock: That was a factor. It was a big factor.

Sleaze Roxx: It’s actually kind of cool and I didn’t think about this until I recently heard John Norum’s version of “Back On The Streets” with Goran Edman singing. It kind of gives you a glimpse of what Vinnie Vincent Invasion would have sounded like with Goran Edman. Was he actually contacted to be the singer or just in consideration?

Bobby Rock: I am not sure what prompted his involvement, but the guy went in the studio and sang on some shit. Remember, I’m in Houston at the time. I’m staying at my parents house in Houston. All of this is going on in L.A., so I wasn’t really clear on things until after they had happened. Eventually, I was able to hear the two recordings. The Goran recordings and Mark. How this guy recorded it? Where? If he got tapes? I don’t know anything about the logistics of how he did it, but we got a pretty good idea of what he sounded like. He sounded great. There were a lot of different factors. I think the logistics were probably a factor. I think that both Dana and George [Sewitt — Vinnie Vincent Invasion manager], both had influence on Vinnie. I think with Mark, he was right there in Vegas. He’s a young guy. He’s ready to jump on board. He’ll do whatever we want. That was a big factor. Explaining that to Vinnie. The logistics of Goran being over in Europe. Going back and forth. With visas. It kind of what helped inked the deal with Mark.

Sleaze Roxx: I was talking to a good friend recently, Kevin Gale formerly of the band Slik Toxik. We were just chatting about your book. He mentioned to me that he always loved the drum fill at the end of Nelson’s,“Love And Affection.” Kevin stated that “It was what drove the ending of the song.” I love the fact that although it was more of a pop orientated release, somehow you were still able to incorporate your drum style into it. What do you recall from those sessions? Were the Nelson brothers very accommodating to your drum style?

Bobby Rock: I think it was a healthy combination. They had some great demos. All the demos had drum machine on them, but there was a drummer sensibility in the parts. Gunner [Nelson] is a drummer. He started out playing drums. Eventually, he went to the frontman thing. Mark Tanner was involved as a co-writer. He wound up producing and all that. On the demos, the drum parts sounded good. A lot of the bass parts and the rhythm guitar parts were based around the kick drum patterns to the extent that those kick and snare patterns were in relevance to the song. I went in a tried to be true to the song. I said, “Let me come up with something and if this drum part really matches the song perfectly, I’ll either replicate it or I’ll do a variation of it.” That was the thing. It unfolded into a very organic way. I didn’t say, “I’m Bobby Rock and I need to go in and put my prints all over this thing.” I just wanted to play what was right for the music. As a result, when I listen to the record one of the things I like about it is in a subtle way, it definitely sounds like me playing. A lot of key things. A lot of fills. Certain drum parts that are sort of stylistically where I am coming from. They were likewise open to all those things as well. They never said, “Oh no, you have to play this exactly like this.” As long as it fit and it worked musically, they were cool with it. It was a good combination of bass and building the parts around what they had envisioned from a compositional perspective. Allowing me to come in and put my spin on it.

Sleaze Roxx: You made mention of what a great live band Nelson was and how great the other players in the band were. I kind of wish I had gotten to see Nelson live, which I didn’t unfortunately. The live setting compared to an album sometimes is totally different.

Bobby Rock: Basically with that band, it was night and day. Even to this day. We did the Arsenio Hall Show a couple times. The first time was good, but the second time we did that show, we were out on the road. We’d been out for months. We had a day off on the road. We played a show, got up the next morning flew into LA. You record the show at 4 p.m. or something like that. Did the show that day, the next morning we’re back out on the road. The point being pretty much, we were tight, we’re on fire, we’re playing all the time. To this day, if I see it. There’s some stuff on YouTube. I have some stuff on VHS tape. I mean this band was really a phenomenal band. Of the six guys in the band, I was the only one that didn’t sing. The other guys were all frontman caliber vocalists. Multiple harmonies. Plus the way we played. Brett Garsed on guitar, Paul Mirkovich on keyboards, who of course has gone on to do a bunch of crazy shit like “The Voice.” The fact that we were touring on one record. We had to take a drum solo, guitar solo, bass solo to help fill out the time. So we had our little virtuoso moments in there. Anybody who saw it live said, “What the fuck?” They kind of had it in their mind of what the record was like and what the videos were like. Then when you go see the thing live you think, “Wow, this is really a great live band!”

Sleaze Roxx: It’s kind of funny in terms of marketing of the album. Remember the tape spine being that really light blueish / green color with the pink.

Bobby Rock: Right, right!

Sleaze Roxx: At the time it made sense, but looking back on it now. The album’s amazing but the perception with the colors and the two brothers on the cover with the long blond hair. People wouldn’t take them as seriously, but as you speak of the live setting that was a different story.

Bobby Rock: Sure. Their market, the way it turned out and I don’t think anybody saw the young girls. The whole teen idol thing. None of that was ever discussed beforehand — believe it or not, after the fact. It was a natural thing. That “Tiger Beat Magazine” and all that shit came along afterwards. I don’t think it was anyone’s intention going in. It certainly wasn’t the brothers. It just kind of blew up in that market. You can’t not be in those magazines. That was where it went. Sales were brisk. We were selling shit out everywhere. Nobody’s complaining too much. And also it was the Milli Vanilli thing. It just happened around then, which prompted the guys by the way to take their acoustic guitars with them everywhere doing all their initial promo stuff. They’d go to these radio station things and walk in with their guitars. “Hey, we’ll play a couple songs from the record for ya!” What they were saying was, “Listen, we really do play! We really do sing!” They’re singing live, right there on the radio. This was just before the “unplugged” thing really caught on. Remember the “MTV Unplugged”? These guys were out there in the trenches. That was their way of saying, “Listen, fuck Milli Vanilli. We’ve been playing our whole lives basically!”

Sleaze Roxx: Did Nelson do one of those ABC Friday Night concerts?

Bobby Rock: Yeah, those were the things we did. We did the Dick Clark New Year’s Eve thing. We did a lot of television.

Sleaze Roxx: ‘Imaginator’ was the next album?

Bobby Rock: It was the next one recorded, but not the next one released. The version you just showed me there. I mean the version that people know came out on import.

Sleaze Roxx: Yes, this is a Japanese import.

Bobby Rock: Technically, it’s the third Nelson album. It was supposed to be the second. The long story short, the brothers had a vision for what they wanted to do on the second record. It was this concept album. The record was actually very different to what the ‘Imaginator’ record wound up being when it was released as the third record. It was a concept album with Henry Rollins doing a narrative on it. It’s all of that stuff… That narrative is not on that record is it?

Sleaze Roxx: Umm… I don’t think so. I haven’t listened to it in awhile. I opened it up yesterday and it has a passage written by Henry Rollins on it.

Bobby Rock: A liner note thing or something?

Sleaze Roxx: Yes, some of it’s in Japanese. Then some in English.

Bobby Rock: At any rate, what happened was John Kalodner who was our A&R guy. A well known A&R guy who worked with Aerosmith and a bunch of other artists. He wasn’t a fan of the direction they were going in with this concept album, but the brothers went over his head. They basically shut him out of the process. At the end of the day, when they presented it in it’s finished form to the label, crickets were chirping in the room. Then they had to kind of atone John Kalodner. The ball went back in John Kalodner’s court. He basically said, “Unless you guys become the Eagles of the ’90s, you’re not going to have a career. So I want this next record to be more of that kind of vibe.” More of what they’re Dad was doing. That sort of California sound, Eagles southern vibe. That was what became the second Nelson record, but there were a couple songs off the original “Imaginator’ that wound up on there as well. Anyways, kind of a long winded explanation.

Sleaze Roxx: No, that’s a good explanation. I was always curious about that album. I’ve actually never heard that ‘technical’ second album. I’ll have to try and get a hold of it. What was the title of that album?

Bobby Rock: ‘Because They Can.’

Sleaze Roxx: That’s not the one with the dogs on it?

Bobby Rock: Yes.

Sleaze Roxx: Okay. I’ll check that out. I have a more recent one. ‘Lightning Strikes Again.’ It’s phenomenal.

Bobby Rock: They’ve continued to put out records for years. I wind up hearing the records one way or the other. They’ve continued to do their thing. I admire them for that.

Sleaze Roxx: So before we close out… In terms of Lita Ford who you are playing drums with, to which I saw you last summer at the Lima festival.

Bobby Rock: Where it rained like a Motherfucker? The night before? We pulled up, got our gear together, finished the set, got to the van and split. It was in Ohio right?

Sleaze Roxx: Yes, it was in Ohio. The band was great. So are there plans to do an album with Lita?

Bobby Rock: Yes. The concept is there. She probably has about half the tunes. The shit is banging. Now it’s just a matter of logistics. In this modern age, what do you do? Who do you sign with? How does it work? The business is so different now. That’s what she’s waiting to solidify now. Who she may sign with? A long term arrangement. There may or may not be all the logistics.

Sleaze Roxx: So thank you for the great interview. I appreciate it.

Bobby Rock: Oh, sure man!

Vinnie Vincent Invasion‘s “That Time Of Year” video:

Vinnie Vincent Invasion – That time of year

That time of year video clip 1988 All systems go Remastered by Walter’s Records Capitol Records

Slaughter‘s “Up All Night” video:

Slaughter – Up All Night

Music video by Slaughter performing Up All Night.

Nelson‘s “(Can’t Live Without Your” Love And Affection” video:

Nelson – (Can’t Live Without Your) Love And Affection

Music video by Nelson performing (Can’t Live Without Your) Love And Affection. (C) 1990 Geffen Records

Lita Ford‘s “Mother” video:

Mother – Lita Ford

Mother – by Lita Ford – from the new album, “Living Like a Runaway” – Producer / Director: Victory Tischler-Blue | Sacred Dogs Entertainment Group | www.sacreddogs.com