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From Here to Zentauria; Bobby Rock's Utopia of Holistic Living.

Growing up on the music of the 80's I spent a fair amount of time watching Headbanger's Ball on MTV (a show dedicated to hard rock and metal videos) and at the time every band of that era seemed to be all about sex, partying and being image concious, which often meant more hairspray, tighter spandex, and wilder makeup. But one day while watching a video by Vinnie Vincent Invasion, I was taken back when I saw how fit and strong the drummer was and could clearly intuite that this guy was striving to give more to his music and to get the most out of life. by putting his physicalty first and pouring that into his powerful drumming.

Fast forward a decade (or two) to a day that some friends of mine and I watched some various music instructional DVD's we were given at work and low and behold, there he was, Bobby Rock. That chiseled, powerhouse drummer I saw in the 80's, was now in my living room pulling groceries out of a Whole Foods bag on his Zen of Drumming DVD. Since that day I have had a deep admiration for Bobby Rock and his dedication to expanding the self through meditation and cultivation of the mind, body, and spirit and for his passion to share his wisdom with others. I recently reached out to Bobby and asked him to share with us some insights on how he got started on his journey to wellness and ulimately becoming a Zenaissance Man!


* I've been a fan of your drumming for many years going back to your days with Neil Zaza and Vinnie Vincent etc. Even then it was obvious that you were a pinnacle of fitness and health. With the partying and debauchery of that era it was rare to see someone as fit as you. When did you start really getting into physical fitness and was it initially with the intent to improve your artistic abilities or was that a deeper connection that came later on because of your fitness lifestyle?

Thanks for the kind words.

Initially, I got into weightlifting and physical fitness back in '84 as a way to enhance my drumming. I had just started touring more extensively, and wanted more power, speed and stamina. Then I realized that this style of drumming is not too different from what many athletes have to do, in terms of total energy output…particularly fighters. So weight training was really the start of it all, and then everything else expanded from there.

* About 8-9 years ago I sat down with some friends to watch your Zen of Drumming DVD and thought the segment on diet and nutrition was out of this world. It showed me that you're the REAL DEAL, a mind, body, and spirit musician through and through". Having at the same time just penned my first book Mind Over Metal: The Musician's Guide to Mental Mastery it was so refreshing to see you sharing this wisdom with others. Can you explain a bit about your own path of music and well-being and tell us a bit about what being a Zenaissance Man is all about?

Well, I got into weed and alcohol at a very young age, wound up in a rehab program at 13, then never touched the stuff again - ever. So I've gone through all of my adult life 100% drug and alcohol free. This set the tone for me throughout my career, because without the constant distraction of partying, I got interested in other things like diet, exercise, and the mind-body connection. And, of course, it's been an ongoing evolution on all fronts. Meditation practice and cleaner eating in the 80's, led to vegetarianism in '91, then to becoming fully vegan in '93. This is just one example, but it's all connected, and everything affects everything else.

As for the "Zenaissance" thing, well, that's been part of an ongoing evolution, as well. The word is obviously a combination of Zen and Renaissance... an east meets west ideology. I've had an intense fascination with both for years, so it's been pretty organic for me to integrate elements from both philosophies. And I guess the best way to describe this integration as succinctly as possible is to think of the Renaissance aspect as being primarily about "whole brain" living, and then to think about the Zen aspect as being primarily about mindfulness.

So you have the whole Renaissance-driven "study the science of art and the art of science" thing da Vinci talked about; this idea that we need to use both the left and right sides of our brain extensively for anything we want to master. And then we have the presence of mind aspects of Zen; this idea that if we want to excel at anything, we need to be present... we need to be mindful... we need to be able to concentrate. Put all of that together, and as we mindfully engage our whole brain potential in any moment, we have a good shot at running on all eight cylinders in terms of our creativity, evolution, and performance. And that's what the Zenaissance movement is all about.

* You have traveled all over the world with so many artists and I know from touring myself that promoters usually do not offer any kind of "healthy" food alternatives outside their usual pizzas and beer etc. I see you do juices and shakes and things but aside from that, in what ways do you seek out healthy food options while on the road and what exactly do you look for?

I've had pretty decent luck through the years with promotors supplying at least some items on our rider, which includes fresh fruits and veggies, and things like hummus, trail mix, Clif bars, and soy milk. And, to the extent that a gig includes a catered meal, there is almost always a vegan option available, especially if the chef is notified in advance. Most enjoy the challenge.

But, I never rely solely on that. Instead, I always travel with a blender, The Ultimate Meal smoothie mix, and a couple bananas and oranges. Always - even for short weekend excursions. This way, I know I will be able to do my morning smoothie and, if necessary, another one after soundcheck. Also, when possible, I try to hit a grocery store and stock up on a few things, as well. Most of the hotels these days have refrigerators, so it's easier than ever to eat healthy. Even the grocery stores have gotten better through the years. I can go into any market in virtually any city and find stuff to eat.

And when I do go to a restaurant, I try to lean towards something ethnic - like Mexican, Italian or Chinese - as opposed to the typical truck stop or Denny's vibe. Chances are, they'll have a few things to choose from. Plus, more and more restaurants are adding vegan items to their menus these days, which is really cool to see.

* I know your choice of Veganism is also very tied in with animal rights and your love for all beings. What would you like to share with the readers in regards to your point of view on the planetary impact of our food, resource, and lifestyle choices?


The environmental aspect of veganism is an extremely dense and complex issue. In the US alone, there are over 10 billion animals killed in our factory farm system per year. These animals have to be bred, housed and fed, and the logistics behind this is where the numbers really get scary. For example, we are feeding about 80% of our crops to farm animals, not humans. And this becomes even more of a disproportionate exchange when you consider that if takes 16 pounds of grain consumed by a cow to ultimately yield just one pound of beef in return.

And this is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. More than half of our water supply and over 80% of our agricultural land goes toward raising animals for food. And then there are other issues concerning energy, pollution, deforestation and even global warming, all tied into animal agriculture. It's unbelievable when you look at the numbers, and these numbers are no secret.

I would encourage anyone to go to my website and look at the "For the Planet" section. People freak when they see just how insanely inefficient animal agriculture is in the 21st century. It is absolutely unsustainable in the long term.


* I love the concept of your latest project, doing both a book and book soundtrack! Can you tell us a bit about Zentauria, it's meaning, and your inspiration for releasing it in this way?

Zentauria is all about discovering and embracing the highest potential of your being, by living vicariously among the world's most enlightened society. I wrote it first-person, through a series of journal entries that document the daily experiences of an 11-week immersion into this secret society. And as stated in the book's Intro: What might you see? What would you learn? How might you be changed from this opportunity, and what would you want the world to know about your observations and experiences there? This is the tone of the book, and in the process of the adventure unfolding, there are lots of heavy experiences and profound insights about most any subject you can think of. It's a pretty exhilarating read.

There is also a whole metaphorical aspect to the story, in that the island was founded back in the 15th century off the east coast of Africa, and was initially populated by an eclectic group of warriors, artists and monks. You quickly figure out that these three archetypes represent the three dimensions of all of us: warrior/body, artist/spirit, monk/mind. And as you see the unique contributions of each archetype to the utopian aspect of this community, you get new insights into how the three elements of your being - mind, body and spirit - can work harmoniously together within your own experience to create the highest version of yourself. In this case, the utopian society represents the enlightened being, in a sense.

As for the book and soundtrack combination thing, it was a natural. The book is very visual, like a movie, and there are key aspects of my experience of the island that are expressed through my being there as a drummer, trying to contribute where and how I can. Along the way, I discover "Alphabet Drumming," which is this crazy-unique concept of playing where I take 26 of the 40 drums of my kit, assign a different letter of the alphabet to each one, then learn how to hammer out various words, sentences and phrases, in rhythm... almost like a human typewriter, but very musical... like a new percussion instrument. So, you put together the musical aspects of the journey, with this alphabet drumming thing, and combine it with all of the depth and density of the place and its people and... well, it was begging for a soundtrack!

* Can you go into a bit about your own spiritual path and or maybe some of the meditative and Zen practices that you integrate into your artistry as a musician?

As for my own spiritual path... I wouldn't say I have a certain one in particular. I have come to realize that everything we do can be perceived as a "spiritual practice" and, therefore, just living on this earth means you are on a spiritual path... whether you consciously know it or not. That's how I see it.

Once you realize that this mind, body, and spirit thing exists in virtually everything you do, you'll recognize that everything you do is a form of practice for everything else. And this, to me, is what the whole Zen thing is all about: The idea that everything we do is part of our practice, our spiritual path. There is no separation. Our spirituality is not in its own compartment; it is the only compartment.

It's like that old Zen proverb: "Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water." So it's not necessarily about what we do everyday, so much as how we do it... the level of consciousness, of mindfulness, that we bring to our activities and experiences. And therein lies the practice part of the equation. To try and remain fully present in each moment, at peace, without judgment... that's a daily practice.

And so by extension of that, we have the issue of artistry as a musician you bring up. To me, it's all the same. It's all about bringing mindfulness to the music... to playing every note with complete presence. One of the key practices I've done through the years to help facilitate this before a performance is to simply take a few moments of silence, breathe deep, and try to release the concerns of the day so I can be fully present for the performance. In fact, I will almost always pull my bandmates into the ritual for a little pre-show, backstage gathering we call "Zenning." Been doing it for years.


* I started Holistic Musician on the principle of living a WHOLE life of mind body and spirit and learning how to cultivate and express that through our music to give it greater power and presence. What advice or sentiment would you like to offer your fans in regards to this idea of being a holistic musician?

Well, playing music is naturally a holistic activity, in that we use all three aspects of our being to pull it off. Our spirit is the creative force, our body does the actual technical work, and our mind ties it all together. So just by tuning into this fact helps us see things more holistically and enables us to see more possibilities of how we can take things to the next level with our playing.

In other words, if the mind, body and spirit play this kind of role in your artistic life, then you have to ask yourself: what am I consistently doing to nurture, strengthen and evolve my mind, body and spirit? And as you consciously find constructive answers to that question, you will not only find yourself engaged in the holistic lifestyle, but you will see your musicianship evolve in significant ways

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