Hard Rock Heaven

Wednesday 29th October is a red letter day in my calendar as I have the great honour of playing a song at London’s Borderline with Bernie Tormé, former guitarist for Ozzy Osbourne, Atomic Rooster, Dee Snider and Ian Gillan. I’d be delighted to see some of you along at the gig and tickets are still available via Hard Rock at The Borderline.

Bernie funded the project through a crowdfunding approach and the project also donates money to a Teenage Cancer Trust. It just now needs to reach Bernie’s own personal target of 666% – the number of the beast! There are still just 6 days, 6 hours and 6 minutes to support the project. Bernie is offering a host of exclusive items in return for your support:

  • Guitar masterclasses in person or via SKYPE
  • An acoustic gig in your own house
  • VIP meet and greet at any one of his UK tour dates
  • Signed copies of the new album plus boxed set of catch up albums
  • The Fender Stratocaster that Ozzy Osbourne gave him

… and a number of other stunning offers.  Please check out the project via Monster of Rock – Bernie Tormé.

666 - the number of the beast ... still available to buy

666 – the number of the beast … still available to buy

 

Performing with someone of this magnitude throws up a number of issues regarding how you learn to work with a team when there is no opportunity for practice. This presents a huge potential risk for Bernie as it is his reputation on the line. But he need not worry ….  here is my list of transferable tips for high performance, be it hard rock heaven or hard work hell:

Tips for Spontaneous Combustion

Do the hard graft – Learn your piece inside out, forwards, backwards and then forget that you learned it – I’ve been allowed to suggest the tune we’ll play – Probably Manic Depression by Jimi Hendrix or something similar.  I chose this as I know Bernie loves Hendrix and it is sufficiently fluid to allow us to stretch out a little on the song. Check it out:

Understand the rules of engagement – In this case that means understanding how musical leadership passes around the band if we are to jam a little and keep things together.  I’ll have just a little time to study this at the sound check or maybe at Bernie’s garden party, to find out if it is the drummer who signals the end or Bernie himself and other matters of a practical nature.

Bernie - Peter Fire

Hire Bernie to come to your company and give a talk / play some music – we promise not to spontaneously combust anything unless you have asked in advance for it ….

Read the signs and signals – I’ve seen Bernie play before and worked with him at Corporate Functions, so we already have some understanding of our body language when communicating with the rest of the  band, re turn taking, stops, starts, finishes and so on. It’s very important to be emotionally intelligent when working with people in this way, not just living inside your own head but reading people around you. Music is such a good training ground for this – much better than management courses etc. as there is no rehearsal on stage.

Push the stop button – If you lose your way, just stop playing or turn the volume off. There are 3 other people playing who actually know what they are doing and the safety strap is to let them do just that if needed.

So, I’d love to see you at the gig on October 29th.  I have one spare ticket available in exchange for some assistance with getting to the gig from Kent and possibly a bit of filming on the night – contact me for details.

Tickets selling out fast - click the picture to buy yours now

Tickets selling out fast – click the picture to buy yours now whilst you can

To finish, here’s an example of jamming we did with cult punk rocker and two hit wonder John Otway at a Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) event at Brands Hatch – in this case, the band learned all his songs and then John joined us on the day itself.  We played half of one song and half or another and then John decided that we knew what we were doing …

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About the Author:  Peter Cook leads The Academy of Rock – Keynote events with a difference and Human Dynamics – Business and organisation development, training and coaching.  Contact via peter@humdyn.co.uk or +44 (0) 7725 927585.

Practice Makes Perfect

La Bohème

La Boheme

I attended a performance of La Bohème at London’s Albert Hall earlier this year.  Aside from the usual operatic story of romance, sex, drugs, rock’n’roll disease and death, I was struck by the preparation as the orchestra painstakingly practised their art before the performance began, although they had doubtless invested more than 10 000 hours of practice before this concert in mastering their instruments. Here’s a very short snippet of the warm up and what appears to be a cacophony:

Transferable Lessons:

  1. Professionals practice, amateurs try to wing it.  Even on pieces that they are familiar with, professionals warm themselves up. This is exactly the same when giving a keynote address or presentation in my experience.  Preparation is everything!
  2. Before a concert performance, individuals practice their own pieces in the main. This requires them to effectively shutdown their hearing and concentrate on their own performance. Once the performance starts, they need to hear their own performance and the rest of the orchestra. Listening to your own performance solo and to your performance in the context of those around you are distinctly different skill sets in my experience and are the hallmark of masters of their craft.
  3. The performers must also be untroubled by the audience talking etc.  So this is a selective type of hearing and deafness, what I call “listening through” rather than “listening to“.

These are the abilities of an emotionally intelligent person.  Someone who is a master of their own skill and who has the ability to tune in (or out) of what is going on around them.  Here’s our interpretation of a model that sums up the work of Daniel Goleman et al. on the topic.  Great leaders and great musicians share the skill of emotional intelligence.  What I call being a master of both inner and outer space.  For more on this take a peek at the book “Sex, Leadership and Rock’n’Roll“.

We’ll be practising these skills at a corporate improvisation session in London this week with “Masterclass“.  get in touch if you would like to witness one of these in action.

Screen Shot 2014-07-05 at 17.51.52

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About the Author:  Peter Cook leads The Academy of Rock – Keynote events with a difference and Human Dynamics – Business and Organisation Development, Training and Coaching. Contact via peter@humdyn.co.uk or +44 (0) 7725 927585

Paul Mc Cartney

FT Beatles salmon SMALL

Sargent Pepper’s Lonely Asset Management Company …

What can one say about the innovation and creativity skills of a man who composed songs ranging from Eleanor Rigby, The Long and Winding Road, Blackbird to The Frog Song? Let’s start at the beginning:

Beginnings

Paul Mc Cartney was born on 18th June 1942 to parents who were around 40 years old when he arrived. Much of his early life was spent playing on bomb sites on the outskirts of Speke in Liverpool. His father was a jazz musician, playing the trumpet and a self taught pianist. He used to tell Paul “Learn to play the piano – you will get invited to parties”

LIverpool around the time of Paul Mc Cartney's birth

Liverpool around the time of Paul Mc Cartney’s birth

One of the most important elements of the bond between Lennon and Mc Cartney was the fact that both of them had lost their mothers early on in their lives. A partnership needs a bond and early childhood experiences are frequently very powerful in this respect. Other examples include Simon and Garfunkel and Mick Jagger and Keith Richard, who were childhood classmates. All proof positive that you really just need “A little help from your friends” …

Help - The Beatles as represented by Corporate Artist Simon Heath - Twitter @simonheath1

Help!! – The Beatles as represented by Consulting Artist and friend Simon Heath – Twitter @simonheath1

Creative Tension

It is reckoned that Lennon and Mc Cartney were quite different personalities. See an assessment of the Fab Four’s Myers Briggs types. There is of course some disagreement as to where each of them sit as (a) your type varies over time and (b) it’s rather difficult to assess John and George these days … :-( Some argue that John Lennon was an ENTP, which is my own type – a rare breed. In any case, it’s interesting to note that all of The Beatles occupied essentially minority types, especially George Harrison who conceived of the idea to produce large scale concerts to highlight world poverty issues long before Bob Geldof got on the case with Live Aid etc.

The case for diversity

The case for diversity

Mc Cartney and Innovation

Paul Mc Cartney is perhaps a lower risk taker than John Lennon, what psychologist Professor Michael Kirton would call an adaptor, as compared with those people he classed as innovators. Adaptors tend to work within the system, producing ideas that are more within accepted wisdom and so on whereas innovators tend to challenge existing norms, producing more radical ideas, some of which are impractical. Contrast “Yesterday”, written by Mc Cartney with “I am the Walrus”, written predominantly by Lennon. In business, adaptors often have greater success than innovators, as they tend to produce ideas that are less challenging and which are recognised by consumers in the marketplace as being a logical build on existing ideas. Often we need both innovators and adaptors to produce sustainable innovations: The innovators to produce the hard-to-copy ideas and; the adaptors to help bring the ideas into a practical market focus. Here’s a graphic comparison of the two types, with Mc Cartney perhaps being the more adaptive individual and Lennon the more innovative one. This probably explains the intense different loyalties between fans of Lennon or Mc Cartney.

Innovators and Adaptors compared through the metaphor of building a pyramid

Innovators and Adaptors compared through the metaphor of building a pyramid

Whereas Paul Mc Cartney has traversed musical genres, these have tended to be within existing musical paradigms, for example in his writing of Standing Stones, an album of original classics. He has also tended to be a great arranger of other people’s music. For example Mc Cartney wrote the distinctive mellotron introduction “Strawberry Fields Forever” for John Lennon. His latest album, entitled “New”, provides us with a set of Beatles’ inspired songs. After all, he has nothing to prove. This does not mean that he did not produce anything outside the paradigm. For example it was Mc Cartney that instigated the use of tape loops on “Revolver”. Here is the title track from the album – some shades of Sargent Pepper in this I feel …

Mc Cartney and Creativity

Paul Mc Cartney says that he still seeks advice from John Lennon when songwriting, imagining what John would advise him to do. This skill is what psychologists call projection and fantasy and is embodied in creativity techniques such as ‘Superheroes’, ‘The Disney Creativity Strategy’, ‘Six Thinking Hats’, ‘Wishing’ and so on. Here’s a graphical view of some creativity tools which one of our clients devised at the end of a masterclass event we designed for them, with a representation of the Superheroes approach in the centre. Can you guess what the others are?

Some creativity strategies summarised by one of our clients - in graphical form

Some creativity strategies summarised by one of our clients – in graphical form

He also exhibits playfulness in his approach to creativity. For example, Mc Cartney woke up with “Yesterday” in his head.  For several weeks the lyrics to “Yesterday” were “Scrambled eggs, oh my baby how I love your legs”. I certainly identify with the idea of putting down a prototype in order to develop an idea into an innovation, both in my life as a musician and as a Research and Development Scientist. Sometimes, putting down any idea produces the creative tension needed to develop a better idea.

There’s more on The Beatles and Creativity in the books “Sex, Leadership and Rock’n’Roll” and “The Music of Business“. We are currently considering some corporate events with the cast of “Let It Be”, as it turns out that I’ve performed with “Paul Mc Cartney” at open mic jam sessions in my home town a few times over the years. Contact us for more details or to arrange a unique business masterclass or conference.

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About the Author:  Peter Cook leads The Academy of Rock – Keynote events with a difference and Human Dynamics – Business and organisation development, training and coaching.  Contact via peter@humdyn.co.uk or +44 (0) 7725 927585

Beatles 2

Still Life with Apple, Mac ca and The Beatles

14714 – A tribute 2 Prince

14 July 2014 sees the launch of a song I wrote in honour of Prince a little while ago, featuring the beautiful singing voice of Sharon Mari, a young music student who has just finished her music degree and who is looking to make a career in music. Proceeds from the song are going to Demelza House Children’s Hospice, a charity which I’ve done a number of things for over the years and who receive no support from Government.  Pre-order the song on Amazon via the link below:

Click to buy on Amazon

Click to pre-order on Amazon

What U C is What U Get

Here’s the “recipe” we followed, although this is a product of 20 : 20 hindsight rather than a pre-meditated plan:
STEP 1 Take a synthesis of Funk, Rock ‘n’ Roll in the same way that Prince has been a ground breaking innovator and synthesiser of musical genres
STEP 2 Added a slightly tongue in cheek storyline about a strange and scandalous relationship involving Prince – but just who is in charge? Tip a wink to Prince by using some of his song titles as part of the storyline
STEP 3 Add the beautiful singing voice of Miss Sharon Mari, a music graduate with a great future
STEP 4 Add some great players and drop in a few referential nods to some classic Prince musical ornaments
STEP 5 Record it all in your basement as if your life depended on it … and there you have it …
Demelza Hospice - a worthy cause that rocks

Demelza Hospice – a worthy cause that rocks

We are making a charitable donation from all downloads from the song towards Demelza Children’s Hospice, an organisation which helps terminally ill children live their remaining months in comfort and dignity. Please download the single, share the cause and N JOY the music. A child’s life really does depend on it.  You can buy the song on 14 July 2014 at iTunes, Google Play, CD Baby, Amazon etc.  Just type in the title and / or Academy of Funk ‘n’ Roll.  In fact I’d be most grateful if you all bought the song on 14 July as we stand a fair chance of creating a hit record from this phenomenon. Warning, the song has an explicit chorus line!  Here’s the first verse:

The First Verse of What U C

The First Verse of What U C Is What U Get

Please share this blog or re-blog it as the piece is for a great cause. Last year we released a song about the economy called “Fiscal Cliff” which did pretty well, so I’m wondering if we can take things on from there?  I hope Prince will N JOY it.  I did manage to get a note about the piece to Hannah Ford, drummer with 3rdEyeGirl the other week in Camden, so we shall see …

Hannah Ford - One of the best drummers I've seen in recent times

Hannah Ford – One of the best drummers I’ve seen in recent times

To finish, here’s a piece from the master himself on the equally ambiguous subject of breakfast:

Artwork by Simon Heath - Corporate artist extraordinaire - Twitter @SimonHeath1

Artwork by Simon Heath – Corporate artist extraordinaire – Twitter @SimonHeath1

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About the Author:  Peter Cook leads The Academy of Rock – Keynote events with a difference and Human Dynamics – Business and Organisation Development, Training and Coaching. Contact via peter@humdyn.co.uk or +44 (0) 7725 927585

Directing HR

Sex, HR and Rock'n'Roll, a heady cocktail

Sex, HR and Rock’n’Roll, a heady cocktail

I was invited to give the afternoon keynote at the HR Directors Forum, held at Mayer Brown Solicitors in the City the other week.  Here’s a few highlights from the event:

Myths and Riffs of High Performance

The morning kicked off with a big bang from Professor Adrian Furnham, who elegantly blew away some myths surrounding the development of High Performance organisations and people.  Here’s just a few of the key insights:

Adrian released some interesting research on Coaching.  Whilst in general research demonstrates that the vast majority of Coaching is fairly ineffective, he highlighted some conditions under which it works.  Like most things, it all comes down to solid preparation:

  • Ensuring the client is ready to receive the coaching – 40% contribution
  • Getting the relationship right between client and coach – 30% contribution
  • Client expectation that coaching will lead to improvement – 15% contribution
  • The coaches’ repertoire of models / strategies and tools to help the client – 15% contribution

This provided me with great levels of satisfaction and a certain level of smugness!! :-) since I always spend a lot of time making sure my clients are fully prepared to benefit from coaching.  We then have an initial session to find out if the ‘chemistry’ will work and I work from a wide palette of approaches to coaching and not just the limited ‘question based approach’ that bedevils the ‘friendly co-pilot’ style of coaching, otherwise known as the ‘dumb leading the blind’.  There is of course a place for purely “Socratic” question based coaching but it is just one approach from a much wider repertoire.

Adrian also dealt a critical blow to the beloved “Nine Box Performance Management model” based on UCL’s detailed research into the model.  Read his new book “High Potential” with Ian MacRae for more insights if you want to do this stuff properly. Adrian also wrote an article on music and leadership for Psychology Today – read it here.

Nine Lives no more ...

Nine Lives no more … read High Potential by clicking on the picture

It also featured superb sessions from Liz Codd, who gave great insights into the realities of assessing leadership potential in an international Asset Management Firm and from John Renz at Novae Group, who also gave a practical example of how to do Coaching well in a business context, giving pragmatic triangulation to Professor Furnham’s ideas

Never Mind the Neuro-Boll … ks …

The most difficult session was an input on neuroscience and HR.  Admittedly, it was far too short to give any real opportunity to dig into the topic so I have some sympathy for the speaker.  My main difficulty with the session is that there was very little that did anything more than to reinforce some well known truths from over 100 years of social research on the topic by Herzberg, Victor Vroom et al. We already know that money doesn’t satisfy and that recognition is more important than reward.  We also know that the alignment of goals with personal motivations matters for high performance.  The speaker admitted that the addition of the word “neuro” to just about everything is simply an example of “old wine in new bottles”.  Don’t get me wrong, I am a scientist by original profession and neuroscience is an important scientific development, but I agreed with her that we must be careful to avoid strapping it on to just about everything.

Be skeptical when being sold neuro - bollocks

Be skeptical when being sold neuro – bollocks

I fought the Law, and the Law won …

Plus a superb session from a Lawyer – YES, a superb session from a Lawyer.  I have suffered the slings and arrows of numerous talks by lawyers when I was Branch Chair and Council Board Member for CIPD, but this was exceptional.  Clear, simple advice and insights from Chris Fisher at Mayer Brown into how companies can protect their intellectual property when people leave plus a range of other topics.

Sex, HR and Rock’n’Roll

The odd ball of the day was the panel session on “Sexism and the City”.  I am a vigorous advocate of diversity in every shape and form, having worked in a meritocracy at the Wellcome Foundation, a company who won four Nobel Prizes for it’s groundbreaking work in medicines for life threatening conditions.  In such a company, the work is much more important than politically correct quotas of black / white, straight / gay, able-bodied / disabled, male / female as a driving force for the selection and development of people.   As a result we had a genuine global village at the company and I found myself wondering whether the square mile was somehow still stuck in the 14th Century?  The session included a rant from a self-confessed “alpha female” who asked for a revolution to introduce female quotas in the City.  There is nothing less persuasive than a single issue protester with a ‘sandwich board’ so it was difficult to hear the sensible arguments that lay beneath it. However there were three other panel members who put forward wider arguments, beyond the outdated idea of bringing back quotas for women in senior positions which has failed over several generations.  After all, do we really think that just transplanting women without the necessary knowledge, skills and attitudes into positions is likely to make them shine?  The thinking needs to go much further than this, more along the lines of Professor Charles Handy and Tom Peters’ thought leadership in this area.  Overall, the panel session was provocative and set me thinking about the issues, so it did succeed in its aim of livening up the session before lunch after a long morning.

Adaptation, Improvisation and Organisation

I was asked to deliver the after lunch keynote … where I was rather strangely introduced as “I met some bloke who mixes rock music and business the other week” to a series of slightly confused people who were expecting a thought leader and former CIPD Council Board member rather than a busker.  Oh well, that happens from time to time! :-)  The session went very well despite losing nearly 1/3 of the time available and with this strange beginning.  Here’s my slide deck on the substantial issues of adaptation, improvisation and organisation in HR.  Contact me to discuss the issues I raised or for a personal walkthrough of the talk, where we looked at personal creativity and is relationship to adaptive or learning companies.

We finish with the main title of my talk:

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About the Author:  Peter Cook leads The Academy of Rock – Keynote events with a difference and Human Dynamics – Business and Organisation Development, Training and Coaching. Contact via peter@humdyn.co.uk or +44 (0) 7725 927585.

 

The future of data

Big Data

I recently presented and facilitated a summit event for 100 people to explore the future of clinical data management using a suite of creativity and innovation techniques with my colleague, friend and associate Steve Gorton.  The issue of data management is complex and contentious.  As an illustration of this, the NHS recently withdrew a strategy to sell patient data to interested parties, after it asked the public to opt OUT of an imposed strategy rather than to opt IN. This serious misjudgement of public opinion has caused outrage and has required the NHS to reconsider its strategy. It is self evident that the collection of large volumes of health data has potentially huge health benefits if treatments for diseases can be found from this. However the strategy also has some potential downsides if moral hazard creeps in, with insurance companies using the data to hike insurance fees for certain classes of people, the potential for it to be used in recruitment and so on.  It seems that the reaction is made up of a number of concerns for ‘data leakage’ coupled with concerns about who owns the data and therefore who can benefit from its sale to third parties. Treatment of this topic as if it is a benign issue has cost the NHS a lot of money and an equivalent amount of credibility. The topic is complex with many unknown and unknowable parts.  It’s what Steve and I call a ‘wicked problem':

Wicked problems - uncertain ends and means or both

Wicked problems – uncertain ends and means or both

So, what did the clinical data management managers make of the session? Rather than providing a suite of creativity tools, we offered them the chance to immerse themselves in three ‘creativity states’.  All good proprietary creativity techniques are based on some underlying ‘states of mind’, which occur naturally when people are in the mode of ideation. The three we offered are shown below.  These were found to be easier and quicker to access than the recipes for creativity offered by the product based creativity consultancies.

Three creativity principles from Human Dynamics

Three creativity principles from Human Dynamics

To bring these alive delegates explored “The future of clinical data management”.  They were asked to produce the most interesting and most unusual ideas to unpick the topic and “drain the Clinical Data Management swamp”. One theme was “Defining the role of clinical data management so everyone understands where the future lies”.  Why?  Because it is felt the rest of the system does not have much awareness or understands the key role that Clinical Data Management plays within the developmental process. Our first step was to break the wicked problem down into some more manageable chunks given the short time allocation.  This is how we ended up:

Digesting a wicked problem into more manageable entities using expert facilitation

Digesting a wicked problem into more manageable entities using expert facilitation

The headline outputs that are shareable from the session broke down into the “Most Interesting” ideas for further development and the “Most Unusual” ideas to act as provocations for more detailed thinking:

Wonderful and Wierd ideas for future development

Wonderful and Wierd ideas for future development

Most interesting: “What would be the outcome if Clinical Data Management  were to go on strike?” – developed from the reversal principle – this produced a rich seam of ideas, some of which have real value to the participant’s own companies if developed

Most unusual:  “Redefine and develop the brand so it remains current and up to date (like the annual Formula 1 team rebranding)” – developed from the projection principle.  This pointed participants to consider ideas in the arena of PR and marketing, not natural areas of strength for the profession

Whilst these require further development (and the groups went on to develop a broad range of more specific ideas within the event) the aim was/is to get people thinking wider from at least two perspectives and come up with some really practical and pragmatic ideas that generate traction.

This type of approach enables people, teams and organisations to stand back from the “wickedness” and begin to separate “the wood from the trees” and disperse the fog of confusion.  Importantly it is about creating value to help things happen quicker, for less investment and more satisfaction within the role.

Steve teaches Peter some new chords

Steve teaches Peter some new chords from the fog of confusion ….

Would you like to find out more about how these and similar approaches allow you think further and faster outside current wisdom and experience?  We’ll offer a pack of materials to help you.  Just mail us at peter@humdyn.co.uk

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About the Author:  Peter Cook leads The Academy of Rock – Keynote events with a difference and Human Dynamics – Business and organisation development, training and coaching. Contact via peter@humdyn.co.uk or +44 (0) 7725 927585.  Check out our online Leadership programme for FREE via The Music of Business Online.

Sitting on the Docklands of the Bay

Last week, I hosted a very special event for a diverse select group of guests with my friend and colleague Matthew Green aboard his ship the MV Dana, moored at West India Quay, in the heart of London’s Docklands.  Our evening turned into a brainstorm of ideas for the boat potentially – a unique location / venue (just minutes away from the heart of London’s financial hub) – the obvious options being Executive Education, Meetings, Corporate Events, Media Interviews, Broadcasting etc. to individuals, groups and companies. Commenting on the event my friend Dr Andrew Sentance, former Monetary Policy Member at The Bank of England quipped:

“The evening was proof positive of the well known formula A x B = C

where A = Ageing rockers; B = Bottles of wine; and C = Creative ideas!”

Apologies to our attendees from HSBC and Credit Suisse who certainly don’t fall into the aging rockers bracket!!  Of course I like to believe that the creative ideas came out of our expert joint facilitation of the event and not just the wine!! :-)

Peter Credit Suisse

In the Navy – on the MV Dana, opposite Credit Suisse

The more provocative and inventive “C” answers were to use Dana as:

  1. The city’s equivalent of College Green, the media’s favoured location for interviews with the iconic backdrop of Canary wharf… given that there is no default location in Docklands for this currently
  2. To start a Pirate Radio / TV Station on the boat to broadcast to the financial community in the Canary Wharf area – calling it DLR – “Docklands Life Radio” or…???
  3. Exclusive Leadership events and Creativity and Innovation summits using our joint skills combined with the location
  4. To offer the venue as a unique environment for special meetings that require an offsite location with all the convenience of being connected to the corporate centre whilst being utterly private, secure and discrete (ideal for M&A negotiations, C level assessments / discussions)
  5. To develop an exclusive business networking club on the ship
  6. Use for photoshoots and other red letter days using the massive deck which could be used as a screen, a projection hub, perhaps even a giant whiteboard!
  7. An informal hub for writers, poets, toastmasters and painters to practice their arts & hone their skills, individually, or as group mentored sessions

Just imagine, sitting on the dock of the bay, just yards away from the office, but millions of miles away in terms of thought space …  One of the attendees wrote a delightful poem about the evening – check The Poet L’Oreal out at Launch Party.

Or, for something more lively:

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About the Author:  Peter Cook leads The Academy of Rock – Keynote events with a difference and Human Dynamics – Business and Organisation Development, Training and Coaching. Contact via peter@humdyn.co.uk or +44 (0) 7725 927585.

Excellence in Thought Leadership, Coaching, Mentoring and Events in an exclusive location

Excellence in Thought Leadership, Coaching, Mentoring and Events in an exclusive location

 

Let there be drums – An interview with Chris Slade

Slade Alive - Chris and Peter just before Thunder struck

Slade Alive – Chris and Peter just before Thunder struck

I interviewed Chris Slade recently, drummer for AC / DC, Tom Jones, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, Asia, Paul Rodgers, Gary Numan and many more.  Here’s what Craig Sclare, a fellow drummer and management consultant, had to say about Chris:

Chris is a solid drummer, I love his style, his power and drive.  His ability to ‘feel’ when the right time is to increase/decrease the energy is brilliant (great leaders in any field just know how to do this) – Craig Sclare – Management Consultant

Here’s some of what he Chris had to me:

Chris started playing drums on one biscuit tin with knives in Pontypridd – they were not rich enough to have more than one biscuit tin!  His first break in the music business came when he played for Tom Jones.  Although he lived near Jones, he did not know him.  One day whilst working in a shoe shop in Pontypridd, Tom’s guitar player came in.  Knowing that Jones had just lost a drummer, Chris begged the guitarist for him to let him play.  At that time Chris was a teenager and the guitarist in his twenties.  This was a huge gap, nonetheless, the guitarist agreed to introduce Chris.  He puts this down to luck, yet this kind of thing does not occur by staying in your bedroom as a musician.

Drum Lesson 1:  Ask and you may receive

Drum Lesson 2:  Make a bit of luck happen

Watch the whole interview from the lovely people at ME1 TV here:

Chris’ early drumming experience was playing jazz.  Without this experience, it is unlikely that he would have been able to replace Carl Palmer in Asia.  His life has included playing with solid rock bands such as AC / DC and with Progressive Rock bands such as Manfred Mann’s Earthband and Asia.

Drum Lesson 3:  To be successful, work from a wide palette of styles

The drummer is pretty much the most important member of the band.  You can get away with a bad lead guitarist but if your drummer is rubbish, you are in big trouble as everything else revolves around that. Asked about AC / DC Chris had this to say:

Drum Lesson 4:  AC / DC’s success is all down to having the best rhythm section in the world – Malcolm Young and the drum and bass combination

Drum Lesson 5: To improve your sense of time and timing in business, don’t hire a management consultant, hire a drummer!

Read the article on AC / DC and high performance in "The Music of Business"

Read the article on AC / DC and high performance in “The Music of Business”

Drum Lesson 6:  AC / DC’s success is all down to extensive preparation – there are no unplanned events in an AC / DC concert.  It’s the “Seven P’s” : Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance

Drum Lesson 7:  Excellence comes out of “Planned Spontaneity”.  Do the work if you want to profit from accidents

Heres a slice of Chris playing with AC / DC at Donnington:

I asked Chris about his time with Gary Numan – I’m aware from my friendship with Bill Nelson that Gary Numan was something of a perfectionist and that he has a ‘digital heart’.  That made him a difficult man to work with for Bill Nelson and I was curious about what seemed an odd combination for a rock drummer.  Not at all Chris replied.  Chris worked with Numan and Pino Palladino, the virtuoso bass player that is most famous for playing on Paul Young’s rendition of “Wherever I Lay My Hat”.  Chris said that the combination of Paladino and himself humanised Gary Numan’s sound.  That said, he found it initially hard to work with click tracks on Numan’s insistence.  This sounds a little familiar with Bill Nelson’s experience although this ended somewhat less profitably!  Here’s Numan with Slade and Palladino performing “Music For Chameleons”, later popularised as a symbol of 80’s music by Alan Partridge:

Drum Lesson 8:  Experiment with styles to get better.  Be an eclectic learner and don’t let notions of what is acceptable put boundaries around your work

Chris Slade’s music can be found at Chris Slade.  Here’s some of Chris’ Lessons for Life summarised:

Be nice to drummers - they might just save your life

Be nice to drummers – they might just save your life

Finally, here’s Chris’ tour schedule for 2014 and a bit of hard rock featuring one of my favourite drummers, Vicky Nolan, erstwhile drummer for my fictional Spinal Tapesque Rock group “Genital Sparrow”, who performed at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) many years ago, long before the institute banned enjoyment as part of the diet for HR professionals:

He's a live wire - Chris Slade on tour

He’s a live wire – Chris Slade on tour

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About the Author:  Peter Cook leads The Academy of Rock – Keynote events with a difference and Human Dynamics – Business and organisation development, training and coaching. Contact via peter@humdyn.co.uk or +44 (0) 7725 927585.

More on AC / DC and business in "Sex, Leadership and Rock'n'Roll" and "The Music of Business"

More on AC / DC and business in “Sex, Leadership and Rock’n’Roll” and “The Music of Business”

HR Directors Rock in the City

I’m delighted to have been asked to provide the ‘after lunch’ slot at the HR In The City event on May 22 in London, organised by Leadenhall Consulting. Featuring a cast of star speakers and facilitators, led by Professor Adrian Furnham of UCL and author of 78 books on psychology at work:

The bill for the HR Director's forum

The bill for the HR Director’s forum

I have a special offer available as a speaker at the event.  Two free tickets for senior HR people working in the City.  Drop me a line at peter@humdyn.co.uk to claim one of these free places.  I’m also able to offer a discount to readers of this blog on the early bird booking fee for individuals and groups of people wishing to attend.

I’ll be delivering a thought provoking session about becoming a true learning company from the parallel universes of HR and Rock Music. Come along and find out more about what we can learn from Madonna, Prince, Nokia, First Direct, Radiohead and many more about adaptability and improvisation.

The HR Hall of Fame - From Bowie, The Beatles, Madge to Skoda, Nokia et al

The HR Hall of Fame – From Bowie, The Beatles, Madge to Skoda, Nokia et al

Finally some HR related pieces from Madonna on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, Prince on Ethics and Systemic Thinking and an interview with Tim Smit, CEO of the Eden Project on Leadership:

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About the Author:  Peter Cook leads The Academy of Rock – Keynote events with a difference and Human Dynamics – Business and Organisation Development, Training and Coaching. Contact via peter@humdyn.co.uk or +44 (0) 7725 927585.

An audience with Marc Almond

It was an immense pleasure to attend an audience with Marc Almond hosted by Richard Strange, The Godfather of Punk, in the great company of Rowena Sian Morgan, Musical Geisha and cover girl from The Music of Business.  Marc Almond has been referred to as The Judy Garland of the Garbage Heap, The Acid House Aznavour and Marc Bolan and Juliette Greco’s love child.  Richard Strange helped launch Marc Almond’s career with Soft Cell, featuring him and his work at the wonderfully decadent Cabaret Futura in the 1980’s.  Since then Almond’s career has gone from Electro Pop through French Chansons to Russian Romantic Gypsy ballads and beyond …

Marc Almond with Richard Strange at the original Cabaret Futura

Marc Almond with Richard Strange at the original Cabaret Futura

Here’s some of the highlights of the evening with some transferable lessons for all:

Almond On Critics

The Yorkshire Evening Post reported on one of Soft Cell’s early pieces “This is one of the most nihilistic, depressing pieces I have ever heard”  Whereas most artists would have been destroyed by such feedback, Marc Almond was delighted.  It does not always pay to listen to critics … 

Almond On Developing a Unique Offering

At some point in the early development of Soft Cell, Marc decided that they wanted to be as outrageous as possible.  “This included smearing my naked body with cat food on stage” he said. Soft Cell’s songs were also unusual.  Almond mused

“Dave Ball mainly wrote about household products and the boredom of daily life”

Soft Cell’s name hinted at the core of their identity – both a bitter and sweet quality to the songs.  Soap powder crises and sofa dramas are unlikely topics to get record companies excited.  As a result, their first single “Mutant Moments” was financed by Dave Ball’s mum!   The lesson here is dare to be different!

Marc with Andy Warhol - the embodiment of 'different'

Marc with Andy Warhol – the embodiment of ‘different’

Here’s Almond singing “Tainted Love” to a video of some disk drives playing the piece electronically.  Marc spotted the video a while back and agreed to add a vocal line to the piece.  Quite different:

Almond On Diversity

Marc has continued to pursue an eclectic collection of influences, starting with “Torment and Torreros”, which brought in influences from South America, Turkey, through Jaques Brel to his infatuation with Russian Gypsy ballads:

“They like Russian songs in Russia, they just don’t want Russians singing them!”

Marc’s Russian obsession developed after The British Council adopted him to do a tour of Russia, Siberia and The Baltics.  It sounds such a strange idea that The British Council would do this and it gave me great hope for our “men in grey suits” that they would sponsor such a mission.  Indeed it’s entirely possible that Marc’s appearance in Siberia did more to reform the communist system than Ronnie Reagan and Margaret Thatcher combined!  Value requisite diversity.

The Stars We Are - Marc and Richard Strange at the House of St Barnabas

The Stars We Are – Marc and Richard Strange at the House of St Barnabas

Almond On The Soul Inside

Almond has always sought to get inside the heart of the singer when presenting other people’s material, such as his work with Charles Aznavour, Jacques Brel, Gene Pitney et al. Dig deep to find your soul.

I asked Marc whether his beautiful singing voice had received any training at all and he said that the major contributions to his vocal development were stopping chainsmoking and spending six weeks in Canterbury getting off ‘prescription drugs’.  He did also take some lessons in breathing and projection from two voice coaches later on, but without looking after the basics, this would have been fruitless.

Here’s some pieces that give witness to Almond’s ability to reach inside the artists heart and transmit that to his audiences.  Firstly a piece from his album “Jacques”, dedicated to Jacques Brel, then the Charles Aznavour number “Yesterday When I Was Young”, one of his Russian ballads from “Heart On Snow”, a new piece of electronica entitled “Worship Me Now”, featuring a low budget video inspired by David Bowie and finally a tribute to Don Black via the theme from Thunderball:

Huge thanks to Richard Strange for putting together such an amazing evening and to Rowena for her kindness and good company as always.  Catch us at Cabaret Futura soon.

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Mad about the girl – Rowena Sian Morgan – Music Networking Host extraordinaire and my co-conspirator for the evening – she helped Marc prepare to receive his Ivor Novello Award

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About the Author:  Peter Cook leads The Academy of Rock – Keynote events with a difference and Human Dynamics – Business and organisation development, training and coaching. Contact via peter@humdyn.co.uk or +44 (0) 7725 927585.

Our bookshelf - On Amazon and available direct from the author by clicking on the picture

Our bookshelf – On Amazon and available direct from the author by clicking on the picture