A new book from a dirty old town

DIY

I’m delighted to have been asked to host the book launch event of “Do It Yourself – A History of Music in Medway” by Stephe Morris next Thursday April 23rd at The Barge in Gillingham, a well known music venue in the area.

Medway, Mersey and Mississippi share a river and mud but perhaps that’s where the comparisons must end, although the river Medway did produce Chicory Tip, Billy Childish, Judge Dread, Wreckless Eric, Tracy Emin, Zandra Rhodes, Charles Dickens and Kelly Brook. It also produced David Frost, who attended the same school as I did but who escaped the towns as quickly as possible to the more cultured Cambridge.

gq awards inside arrivals 090909

They could not get Kelly Brook to host the launch so they got me instead – sincere apologies

Romanticism? Perhaps. Yet, as one reviewer points out there are little record shops in Texas that have a Medway section, and big ones in Hollywood that have one too, yet none have sections from the “twin rock towns” of Little Milton (Oxon), Milton Keynes and Horsted Keynes.

On the evening we’ll be receiving several readings from Stephe, I will be explaining how I replaced one of our drummers with a spin drier and there will be performances from several of the acts that feature in the book, including the great Nick Hughes, who fronted punk band Gash and who I performed with in glam pop art combo Cenét Rox. I will be performing a post punk sonic performance painting called “Beyond These Towns The Sweetest Dreams” in support of the book launch and selling copies of Punk Rock People Management and the new edition of The Music of Business if it is available. Robert Peston, the BBC’s Economics Editor is the latest person to receive a copy of Punk Rock HR last night when we took him to see The Godfather of Funk, Mr George Clinton.

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From Spin Driers, to The Cowpokers, Music and Business – with Nick Hughes

So, come on down to The Barge, Layfield Street, Gillingham ME7 2QY next Thursday 23rd April at 8 pm for a cabaret of spoken word, music and mayhem. Bring your spin drier. We finish with some post punk prattling from the Pogues:

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Our new book on Leadership, Innovation and Creativity is scheduled for 2016 release.

In the meantime, do order your copy of the NEW edition of “The Music of Business” – Parallel lessons on Business from Music.

Come to our next showcase event June 9th with The Godfather of Punk, Mr Richard Strange.

A Love Bizarre – Interviewing Sheila E

Sheila E

A Love Bizarre – Some days at work just don’t get any better

Can the end of a week in business get any better than this?  We just interviewed Sheila E. Sheila Escovedo is a world-class drummer and percussionist whose credits read like chapters in a music history book: Ringo Starr. Marvin Gaye, Prince, Beyoncé, Herbie Hancock, Diana Ross, Lionel Richie, Gloria Estefan and George Duke.

It was quite clear to me that rhythm is genetically imprinted into Sheila’s DNA and her family who performed with Carlos Santana amongst others. It was a pure delight to talk with Sheila. Amongst the many things we discussed were:

  • The central part that the musicians at the back of the stage play in making sure the music reaches everyone and the people at the front of the stage look even better.
  • The role of a musical director in bringing balance to a musical ensemble. Sheila acted as Musical Director for Prince – that’s no mean feat!
  • How creativity works in music and how to get better at what you do through embracing the rich diversity of your chosen artform.
  • Sheila’s collaborations with her father, George Duke and many others.
  • Sheila’s book The Beat of my own Drum, her recent album Icon and her new club, The E Spot
  • Sheila’s work in schools, bringing the joy of music to underprivileged children and her community project Elevate Oakland.
  • The importance of incubation for creativity, sometimes over long timescales.

Take a look at the full report and the exclusive film interview over at our Linkedin Page.

Who said girls can't play the drums?

Who said girls can’t play the drums? Click on the picture for the book

The concert at The Brooklyn Bowl was superb and it was a great pleasure to get past the ‘facebook pages’ and actually meet the organiser of the Purple Army group Pippa Roberts and the woman that has given them so much assistance Debbie Poli.

Some of Sheila' supporters from The Purple Army

Some of Sheila’s supporters from The Purple Army – photo credit Marcus Docherty

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Sheila E and Eddie M burning down the house – Photo Credit Leena Khanna

Sex Cymbal - at the Brooklyn Bowl

Sex Cymbal – at the Brooklyn Bowl

For now, just take a look at some of Sheila’s video output:

And for some more on the importance of rhythm in music, business and life, see our interview with Chris Slade of AC DC.  I was delighted to present Sheila with a copy of my book “Sex, Leadership and Rock’n’Roll”, even more delighted when she said she had seen and heard of it before!  Next week, I’m taking the BBC’s Robert Peston for a meeting with Mr George Clinton, so I’m expecting another masterclass in creativity from the Godfather of Funk.

The Leader of the Band - It was pure pleasure and a private joy to talk with Ms Escovedo

The Leader of the Band – It was pure pleasure and a private joy to talk with Ms Escovedo

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Our new book on Leadership, Innovation and Creativity is scheduled for 2016 release.

In the meantime, do order your copy of the NEW edition of “The Music of Business” – Parallel lessons on Business from Music.

Come to our showcase event June 9th, featuring The Godfather of Punk, Richard Strange.

The School of Hard Rocks

There have been many high points in 2014.  In business terms, the partnership with Nadine Hack’s Global Network is a major landmark in our development as a global consultancy business.  I won a prize for my work from Sir Richard Branson and we’ve enjoyed consultancy projects in Estonia, Ireland, Romania and Germany in 2014.

I’ve had equivalent joy in my musical life at The Academy of Rock – interviews with George Clinton, Roberta Flack, Hawkwind, John Mayall and, recently, performances with Meatloaf’s female singing partner Patti Russo and Bernie Tormé, guitarist for Ozzy Osbourne and Deep Purple’s Ian Gillan at London’s prestigious Borderline venue.  It is to this experience that I turn in this blog to reflect on lessons from “The School of Hard Rocks”.  Here’s a video of our performance of Jimi Hendrix’s “Fire” to start us off:

There was no time to rehearse for this performance, save for a three minute soundcheck a few hours before we hit the stage. For me this mirrors the situation that many managers face when having to deliver a presentation or performance. What then can we learn from this in terms of transferable lessons from the Borderline to the boardroom?

Learning from The School of Hard Rocks

Over-prepare to be flexible – In my case there was no rehearsal and only about five minutes to find out how the band works as a team before the soundcheck – how it sends signals to each other, who is responsible for shortening / lengthening the song, how leadership passes from one member to another and how we end together etc. I had assumed this might be the case so I took the trouble to attend one of Bernie’s other gigs on the tour to study the musical performance. I’d also used Bernie at one of our corporate team building events so I had some idea of how he “passes the baton” from person to person during a jam, although he is not as demonstrative as Ritchie Blackmore or Prince, so careful attention is needed.

Learn to read others – Once on stage, I could not hear myself as Bernie has an old school approach to making sure “everything is up to 11″. A lot of the necessary adjustment has to be done through using your eyes and not your ears in such circumstances. The musical people amongst you will notice there are a couple of moments in the middle of “Fire” when I had misunderstood how many bars we would do in “E” and in “D”. Towards the end, politeness meant that Bernie and myself were unclear on who would take the lead and you can see some “guesswork” going on between me, Bernie and the band. Ah well, not so bad after the three minute soundcheck I guess! :-)

Be nimble, be quick – Bernie only did one number as a soundcheck – it was pretty much the same when I performed at Brands Hatch with “Punk Idol” John Otway a few years’ back and Patti Russo the other week at Henley Business School. In comparison, I recently stood in for an amateur band at a corporate event and they used 30 minutes to run through numbers – this is not what a soundcheck is for – the clue is in the title.

Expect the unexpected – The one thing I failed to prepare for was the need to climb on stage. All seemed well at the soundcheck, but once the venue filled, I was unable to get to the side of the stage where the stairs were. Once I was called to the stage, I proceeded to climb what seemed like a mountain without success, eventually needing to be hauled up by the band in a scene that looked like something from “Spinal Tap”. Ah well it caused some amusement!

BT Peter Borderline

A proud moment – Mr Tormé and me at The Borderline after I clambered to the stage in a shambolic Spinal Tapesque manner!!

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Peter Cook leads Human Dynamics, offering better Organisation Development, Training and Coaching. He offers keynotes that blend World Class Leadership Thinking with the wisdom of the street via The Academy of Rock – where Business Meets Music. Author of seven books on Business Leadership, acclaimed by Tom Peters, Professors Charles Handy, Adrian Furnham and Harvey Goldsmith CBE.

Bob Marley

I had the rare pleasure of interviewing Aston “Family Man” Barrett, legendary bass player with Bob Marley and The Wailers just recently. Aston was pretty chilled out when we met at The Brooklyn Bowl – a superb venue in London which models the original venue in the USA. Perhaps his relaxed state is not so surprising. I learned after our interview that Aston has 52 children!! As well as that he also found some time to be the “heartbeat” of The Wailers since 1969, with his distinctive melodic bass playing style. For a reminder of his work with Bob Marley, check out “One Love” here:

We spoke of a wide variety of things connected with Bob Marley, Reggae music and so on. Here are some of the backstage highlights from our meeting:

Inspirations

The music of Bob Marley and The Wailers was inspired by a deep connection with God via the Rastafarian faith. This connection occurs frequently in the lyrics to his songs. It also came through loud and clear in the interview with Aston who credits The Lord God as his main influence in his life as a musician.

“Me don’t dip on nobody’s side. Me don’t dip on the black man’s side, not the white man’s side. Me dip on God’s side, the one who create me and cause me to come from black and white”

Chilled - with Aston "Family Man" Barrett

Chilled – with Aston “Family Man” Barrett

Politics

Bob Marley’s creative contribution was the notion that rebellion could be combined with dancing rather than street protest. Marley was not that concerned with politics per se, more the politics of love and salvation rather than the normal bi-polar debating style of traditional politics. It’s a position that we need more and more in a divided world.

“Me only have one ambition, y’know. I only have one thing I really like to see happen. I like to see mankind live together – black, white, Chinese, everyone – that’s all”

“The greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires, but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him positively”

Family Guy

Family Guy

Music

“One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain”

Reggae came from a synthesis of Ska and Rocksteady – I talked about synthesis recently in my interview with The CFO (Chief Funk Officer) George Clinton. Reggae relies crucially on the rhythm section – drums and bass especially. Aston’s key contribution was to play melodic lines on the bass. This was pivotal to The Wailers’ unique sound. You just have to listen to “Wait in Vain” to hear this quality.

And finally here’s the interview we recorded just as The Wailers were warming up to play:

With thanks to Kirsty Pearce-Perkins for her help in arranging things at The Brooklyn Bowl and Lee Phillips and Lena Andrews of ME1 TV for everything else. I’m feeling pretty chilled after meeting the Family Guy! 52 children is mind boggling – Aston is 68 years old and my dad was 67 when I was born, but, as far as I know, he only managed two children!

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Peter Cook leads Human Dynamics, offering better Organisation Development, Training and Coaching. He offers keynotes that blend World Class Leadership Thinking with the wisdom of the street via The Academy of Rock – where Business Meets Music. Author of seven books on Business Leadership, acclaimed by Tom Peters, Professor Charles Handy and Harvey Goldsmith CBE.

Hollywood comes to … Wakefield

With the great Bill Nelson - continuously creative for more that 45 years

With the great Bill Nelson – continuously creative for more than 45 years

It was a rare privilege and a great pleasure to make a 12 hour round trip to Wakefield on Monday, to witness the artist, musician and friend Mr Bill Nelson receive a lifetime achievement award for his work in a ceremony that lasted less than 10 minutes.  The Wakefield Stars Scheme aims to acknowledge lifetime achievements of local people and the ambition is to pave the area all the way from the Bull Ring to The Hepworth Gallery with these Hollywood styled pavement plaques. Bill will be sitting amongst such stunning company as Henry Moore, the composer Noel Gay, John Godber the playwright, Barbara Hepworth, Sir Martin Frobisher, conservationist Charles Waterton and many others who made Wakefield’s mark on the world.

Bill has defied convention, setting his own path in a music world dominated by people who prefer to follow the latest fashion. Perhaps one of the first to start his own independent label Cocteau Records, Bill has always been at least two steps ahead of the world.  Admired by Sir Paul McCartney, Kate Bush, Brian May and many other greats.  An influence on people such as Prince, Big Country, Dave Grohl etc. and copied by post-modern acts such as My Chemical Romance and The Darkness.  You can read more on this aspect at Bill Nelson – integrity and creativity in a bottle.

Perhaps the most poignant moment of the ceremony was when Bill recalled that he had stood at the foot of the stage at around the age of four years old as his father Walter played the saxophone at a wedding. Bill had been given a toy saxophone to play along with his father! He has had some sadness in his life of late, as he is suffering from hearing loss. It was this news that compelled me to make the journey for what was less than an hour at the event, having connected deeply with Bill’s sense of frustration at the thought that he may not be able to make or hear music in quite the same way ever again. I also know that Bill will rise again as there are some wonderful things that can be done in this age to mitigate the symptoms that he is experiencing. It was also lovely to see Bill’s Mum who always looks fantastic, alongside Bill’s wife Emiko and the Nelson family – a proud moment for them.

I was reminded of scenes from “Dads Army” with the Town Clerk, as the Director of Culture and the Arts attempted to read his speech without any real knowledge of Bill’s work and his impact across the world! :-) Still, it was rather charming for all that and he made a really good effort despite his lack of knowledge of Wakefield’s finest. A little less time spent in strategic planning committees and more on the street is recommended :-) Bill pointed out that the last prize he won was a bar of chocolate for striking the triangle once in a performance when he was a boy! He has been hitting all the right notes ever since despite no formal musical education. Like myself, Bill claims he cannot read music, playing by ear and using intuition to guide him into new sonic territories. It’s a refreshing change to the ‘painting by numbers’ approach that turns out identikit musicians these days.

From Hollywood to Holyground ...

From Hollywood to Holyground …

In case you are unfamiliar with Bill’s work, here’s a sample of the huge diversity of his music. Check his website out at Bill Nelson and catch up with his output. This truly was an adventure in a Yorkshire landscape which was made in heaven … Sign your name with a star …

Here's hoping the Wakefield's Starman will rise again - Thank you for 40 years of continuous joy

Here’s hoping that Wakefield’s Starman will rise again – Thank you for 40 years of continuous joy. Stay Young

Funk’n’Soul – An exclusive interview with George Clinton

The Godfather of Psychedelic Funk jamming it out at Kentish Town

The Godfather of Psychedelic Funk jamming it out at Kentish Town

I had the extraordinary pleasure of conducting a film interview with George Clinton at The Forum in London recently. Check out the film further down this article. In case you are not familiar with the legend that is George Clinton, here is a brief bio below: George Clinton was the principal architect of the genre of music that has come to be known as P-Funk, via his ensembles Parliament and Funkadelic. He is cited as one of a triad of most influential innovators in funk music alongside James Brown and Sly Stone. His music fused diverse genres such as Motown, The Beatles, Soul, Psychedelia, Classical and many more. Clinton has influenced several generations of musicians since such as The Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Prince, Primal Scream, LL Cool J, Digital Underground and Primus. He is widely cited as a major influence on the development of hip hop music. He ranks 2nd on the list of most widely sampled artists. What then can innovators in other fields learn from the CFO (Chief Funk Officer)?

Clinton on synthesis

Clinton is a synthesiser of musical genres, bending, breaking and sometimes smashing musical conventions as to what fits in to a particular genre of music. He loved The Beatles Sargent Pepper and could not see why this could not be fitted into soul and funk music. He loved Jimi Hendrix’s wild guitar playing and could not see why this should not be included into his music and so on. Unlike so many musicians that sit inside a genre, Clinton has been a fearless boundary crosser. This quality is a hallmark of great innovators, as much innovation comes from combination and synthesis of things which others do not see as fitting together. To do this requires not just a tolerance of mistakes but a positive passion for them.

Prince exemplifies the attitude behind synthesis:

“One time, George sends me a tape and says: You pee on it and send it back to me, and I’ll pee on it and we’ll see what we got”

Find out more in the film:

Clinton on dyads

There is a long history of creativity coming from the basic unit of two, or a dyad. In the music world good examples of diverse dyads are Lennon / Mc Cartney, Goffin / King, Simon and Garfunkel etc. In other walks of life we see the same, with James Watson / Francis Crick, who uncovered the structure of DNA; and Socrates / Plato. Often the dyad is successful because individual personality styles are different enough to induce what author and thinker Peter Senge calls “creative tension”. Bootsy Collins provided the essential element of difference / creative tension in George Clinton’s case although his ensembles also contained “engines of difference” by design.

Creativity can become more problematical when we get into large groups due to the complexities of communication that exists in such groups … but not with Mr Clinton …

Clinton on creativity and structure

George also breaks conventional rules of the rock / soul ensemble, which rarely consists of more than seven members, with Clinton sometimes having up to 40 people on stage. Paradoxically, such levels of freedom require an equivalent amount of musical structure / discipline, with musical leadership passing round the band and everyone paying extremely good attention to everyone else in order to deliver a seamless performance. The parallel at work is that you can work effectively in large teams if everyone is ‘in the groove’ and if all have excellent communication skills. It’s what George nonchalantly calls “Tag Team”. If only it were so easy to organise this for everyone else!

Clinton on business

George recently started a project called Flashlight 2013, to highlight the need for musicians, artists and songwriters to own the copyright on their music. This springs from a long history of artists being ripped off by the music business. George Clinton has long thought that musicians need to be more astute in business and finance and the Flashlight project aims to shine the light on some of the things that need to be put right in this area. I must agree, having noticed that artists can be their own worst enemies in this respect. They either dismiss business skills as unimportant or are not able or willing to do the basics in business. They simultaneously whinge about being ripped off by unscrupulous music industry managers. These elements are related of course, although some of my artist friends don’t see the connections, preferring to take the “victim” position …  Check out the Flashlight Page.

Click on the fist to stop exploitation

Click on the fist to stop exploitation

I was delighted to present George with a copy of my book “The Music of Business“, which draws out relevant parallels in business and music. I also passed him a copy of my song for Prince, which is raising money for a Children’s Hospice at the moment. I hope he likes it’s funky tones and cheeky words! To read more on close encounters with George and the mothership, read One Night Alone … with George Clinton and Prince. The Academy Awards video is also well worth a look:

Clinton on the future

George has a book and a new album “First You Gotta Shake The Gate” out in October. Check the website for more details of these as they emerge. If you have never seen the Godfather of P-Funk, then check this performance out at Montreux:

Special thanks to Lois Action of Urban Unlimited for making all the arrangements. To Lee Philips and his team for making the film and Linda Vanterpool for valuable assistance on the night to ensure that our Director did not expire due to his chest condition ! :-)

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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 07725 927585

Scrapyard Improvisation Challenge

How do you take a bunch of business people who have already done a full days work, enthuse them and, in just two hours, get them to write and perform some original songs followed by engaging them in a live open mic jam session? Well, some of that is “our little secret” at The Academy of Rock. But this post let’s you take a peek inside our approach to team development with music, which was judged as outstanding by one of our clients just recently.

The other week, I took the superb band Masterclass to London for an evening of music composition and fun with a market analysis agency whose HR Director prefers to give their staff ‘memorable experiences’ rather than training to engage, retain and motivate them. Alongside a diet of giving them a chance to actually play with the band, we also provided a ‘Scrapyard Challenge’, whereby we provided participants with a range of naive instruments that I got from a car scrapyard. This helps people escape from notions of what a musical instrument is and who is qualified to play one ….

Some of the scrapyard items we used

From the scrapyard to the stage

In the event, the scrapyard was barely needed. Instead we found an enormously talented bunch of people at the company.  A superb female bass player, several female drummers and singers.  Oh yes, and a few guys that got into the groove! So, how did we do this in such a short time from a standing start is perhaps a good question. Here’s our operating principles for doing amazing things in a short time:

Principles for Spontaneous Combustion

Install positive hallucinations – I learned many years ago through teaching MBA’s for the Open University that the first lesson one needs to teach people is to install the idea that success is possible. Many of my OU students would arrive having failed at school and it was necessary to ‘overwrite’ those assumptions before we could get on with the work.

Lead people to the water, but don’t make them drink – A lot of people think I make people do this or force people to participate. In fact I’ve seen people try to emulate what we do and fail miserably. No-one is made to do anything they don’t want to at our events, which is one of the secrets. This sounds like a really simple idea but it works, suitably led and facilitated and with suitable safeguards installed at the outset.

Choice, Choice, Choice – We always bring much more equipment than is really needed. But this provides choice for people and allows them to engage at a level of their own choosing.

Work inside the client / customer’s wish list – During the ‘aftershow jam session’ we took requests from the floor and then worked the songs up with the people. This is only possible if you have an enormous repertoire and was the main reason I chose Masterclass for this event. Involvement and participation breeds engagement. In the event, we ended up playing a whole hour longer than our agreed time with the company, after which time they still wanted more.

Girls Are Loud - Musical Talent emerges

Girls Are Loud – Musical Talent emerges if you let it happen …

The Masterclass boys

The Masterclass boys

A master of improvisation - We can also bring celebrities to events if required

A master of improvisation – We can also bring celebrities to events if required

We’ve done similar things for a wide range of companies and organisations. To arrange your next staff engagement or conference event with a big difference, please get in touch. Watch out for an exclusive interview with a master of improvisation and creativity – Mr George Clinton, pictured above – coming soon.

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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 07725 927585