Here's the second of a three-part series about Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp, a business celebrating its 21st anniversary. (The next camp starts on June 29th and features Nancy Wilson of Heart.)
The first article (check it out here) featured founder David Fishof sharing where the idea came from, how he struggled through the lean times, and how he built a rock and roll institution. The third article will focus on two campers who share their experiences as customers.
The goal is to provide an inside look an inside look at all aspects of a business -- and hopefully inspire you to turn your own business into a superstar.
(And far from by the way: Mike isn't just incredibly talented. He's also the nicest guy you could hope to meet.)
How did you get involved in Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp?
We get calls like that all the time, but this one seemed like it would be really fun. I'm a people person. I've done clinics and public appearances at trade shows. I just like talking to people. I even like the meet and greets. (Laughs.)
After all these years I still can't believe people still want to talk to us.
So Jerry and I said, "Yeah, let's do it."
Still. This is a lot different than spending a few minutes before a show with fans.
I did talk to other guys from bands that had participated before. We did a little homework. I called my friends and they said, "You're going to have a great time."
But still, we didn't know what to expect. And the first day of Camp was the worst rain storm in LA for six years, water was so backed up it was shooting out of the sewers, and I thought, "Oh no, this is the worst day for this..." But it didn't affect people one bit. They couldn't have been happier. One fellow from Chile brought us gifts. A couple from Pittsburgh were there, a guy in his 70s with his kid, there were young kids...
We got such a kick out of seeing them all and spending time with them. It was an amazing experience.
Does it take time to get people to relax?
Not really. Besides, I'm just like them. I take a lot of pride in my playing, and I don't want to screw up when I play. So in that respect, I'm just like them.
At one point Jerry and I looked at each other and said, "Hey, even though we've been playing Man in the Box for twenty-five years.. let's make sure you and I are tight." (Laughs.)
I think think the real secret is that the Camp isn't a competition. All those music shows on TV are competitive, but this one is just about having fun and enjoying the experience. That's why it works. Competing isn't fun. Playing is fun.
You can probably relate to the average camper because you went from playing in a bar band to... well, you tell the story.
(Laughs.) I started playing clarinet in the seventh grade, I played sax, played in the jazz band and the marching band. Then I was in a band in Los Angeles and I heard Ozzy was auditioning for a bass player.
I felt really lucky to just get to audition. I thought that was so cool. I knew they wouldn't pick me. I was just happy I had the experience.
So on a Wednesday night my band is playing the Coconut Teaszer on Sunset Strip for eight or ten people... and afterwards I find out I got the Ozzy gig. So that Sunday I jumped on a plane to Ireland, did a couple of club gigs in Dublin, rehearsed at a castle... and then there I was, playing with the band at Wembley Arena.
Mentally, how did you make that jump? That's a massive leap in terms of audience and pressure.
The guys in the band were fantastic. They're still like brothers to this day. They made those first days a lot easier.
Our guitar player, Zakk Wylde was really into football. The day of the first gig, Zakk's Giants were playing our drum tech's 49ers, so we were all backstage watching the game until the moment we had to walk up the ramp. That really helped me stay cool.
But then I got out there and realized it was a whole different monster: big stage, huge crowd, lights and pyro and lasers... Ten minutes before we went out, a stage tech had come by and said, "Here are all your pyro cues. Stand by the red Xs to make sure you don't get blown up."
Then during the show of them didn't explode, and I was afraid to move in case it finally did. (Laughs.)
If you're a musician, I highly recommend being in Ozzy's band. I like to call it the Ozzy Osbourne Finishing School, because I learned so much. Where music and performing is concerned, Ozzy is the master.
Still: Even today my father says I should have gone to college. (Laughs.)
I imagine growing up in the business the way you did helps you relate to the people who participate.
While this might sound odd, basically it touched my heart in a way that my heart hasn't been touched in a long time.
There was this husband and wife team, the husband plugs into this really nice $5,000 amp and his wife grabs the microphone... and we're like, "Cool. Let's do it!"
Another man came with his autistic child. Couples were there, older people, really young people... certain bands felt almost like families... it was wonderful.
Jerry and I, it was like we were standing on a rock in the middle of a storm and the stream just kept bringing more musicians. (Laughs.) And it was awesome.
It really did touch my heart. The people were there for the sheer love of music. It wasn't like doing session work. It wasn't like working on a project. It was just really great musical kind of church bonding, if that makes sense.
That reminds me of something Kirk Hammett told me. He didn't get into music to be a rock star, and he thinks that's why he still loves to play.
I've seen that happen so many times. There are people still touring who don't want to do it anymore, but they don't know how to do anything else... so they have to keep the train going.
Kirk and I have a similar mindset. I like to play. I'm blessed to have been successful, but if I wasn't, I would still still play.
Even at a very young age I knew I would do this in some capacity. I grew up with musicians in my family. My Uncle Matt was in a band in high school with some of the guys who went on to be in Earth, Wind and Fire. So I always knew I wanted to play live music.
I just never dreamed it would be at this level.
It sounds like you would do it again.
I would totally do it again. David is doing a really good job. He's in it for the right reasons.
And like I said, it really did touch my heart. It's fun to see people having so much fun, and to know you're playing a small part in that.
You're playing a part in a cool charity event this month, too.
March 25th at the Los Angeles Theater is the 5th Annual Rock Against MS Benefit. The theater was built in the 1930s and is such a cool place.
I get to jam with a bunch of friends: Nancy Wilson of Heart, Gilby Clarke, Steven Adler, Joel Hoekstra, Queen Nation... and Bill Burr, the comedian, is performing.
That's another way I feel really lucky. I get to play live with friends, and hopefully do a little good for some people in the process.
When I was a kid I never imagined things would turn out this way... but I'm so glad they did.