Party’s Over .. but I’m still Eight Miles High

I had the great pleasure of playing with a Rock Legend just recently, at London’s Borderline with Bernie Tormé and the band. Even more frightening to be in front of a crowd of fans who can be quite precious about their heroes, not always wanting any interference with their expectations from outsiders.  It seems I more than “got away” with the whole thing, having impressed blogger Darren Johnson with my ability to play with Class A rock stars:

Click on the picture to read Darren's Review

Click on the picture to read Darren’s Review

It seems that the world thinks that not only am I a good business consultant / author but also a rather fine guitar player who can hold their own with world class musicians. Getting an accolade like this is perhaps more important than scoring 11/10 on a happy sheet from an event or masterclass – of course, both things matter, but I think this review has set the week off rather well !! At the point of writing this I confess I am feeling rather smug – back to earth soon I hope ! Here’s some video of the rather drunken jam session:

Bernie Tormé’s tour continues through the month in Oxford, Newcastle, Liverpool and Brighton. Check the band out.

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We also did a superb event in The Virgin Lounge where Bernie did an interview, conducted a Q&A and gave a mini guitar masterclass.

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The Mile High Club at the Virgin Lounge – Picture by Christina Jansen http://www.cjansenphotography.com

The Band et moi and Peter Lawrence - Picture by Christina Jansen www.cjansenphotography.com

The Band et moi and Peter Lawrence – Picture by Christina Jansen http://www.cjansenphotography.com

A full interview with Bernie appears in my current book “The Music of Business” where we discuss the impact of climate on high performance, Jimi Hendrix, the gentle art of improvisation from a starting point of nothing and various other matters.

Click on the picture to check the book out

Click on the picture to check the book out on Amazon

Our next events in the Virgin Lounge are on Friday 27th November with the Godfather of Punk, Mr Richard Strange and Friday December 4th with Mark Christopher Lee, who has created an album of 100 x 30 second songs as a disruptive force in the music industry.

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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”

Crowdfunding your business – Lessons from Rawk’n’Roll

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I was delighted to see this approach to Crowdfunding working for my friend Bernie Tormé last week.  In under one day, the project to commission a double album had exceeded it’s funding target and is now providing badly needed income for The Teenage Cancer Trust. The idea behind crowdfunding is simple:

  • Find enough people in the world who love something you want to do
  • Ask them to support you by pledging money up front via a web platform
  • Deliver on your promises

It’s another thing altogether to get people to do the pledging and this requires an enticing set of offers, which Bernie has put together.  I personally love the offer to sell his prized guitar given to him by Ozzy Osbourne, although I don’t think he really wants to part with it at £66 600!!

The number of the beast - £66 600

The number of the beast – £66 600

Crowdfunding is increasingly being used by entrepreneurs to overcome the initial funding hurdles to starting an enterprise.  It also allows independent music artists to cut out the middle man of the music industry, which many musicians detest.  This project will succeed and Bernie was kind enough to suggest that he’d used a little bit of my marketing advice in designing the project.  Now it is past the breakeven stage, the fundraising continues but with the greater goal of providing funding to support The Teenage Cancer Trust. It’s what leading author Daniel Pink discusses when he talks about combining Profit and Purpose in “A Whole New Mind”.

Bernie is simultaneously supporting a social goal as well as a business one

Bernie is simultaneously supporting a social goal as well as a business one

I have agreed a unique special offer with Bernie for executives wishing to put a bit of soul back into their lives.  We’re offering a trip to Bernie’s studio, some insights into the life of a working rock star, a live jam with the man himself and optional guitar lessons.  The offer is strictly limited to groups of a maximum of 8 people.  Contact me for full details via e-mail peter@humdyn.co.uk   Bernie also has a series of guitar masterclasses on offer either face to face or via Skype.

Check out the man to hear just what’s on offer and make a bid in this unique project.  We were lucky enough to do a couple of business events with him a while back.  You can’t beat Rawk’n’Roll ….

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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.

Innovation Excellence – Calling all firestarters

This week, I have a great opportunity for writers, musicians and business leaders.  I have just been appointed “Rock’n’Roll Innovation Editor” for a US based Global Innovation Company called Innovation Excellence.  The company is run by Julie Anixter, who worked with Tom Peters and Seth Godin amongst other leading business thinkers around the world.  Innovation Excellence is the most popular innovation website in the world with over 10 000 readers per day and counting.  As part of my job there, I am planning interviews with people in the coming year such as Ahmet Ertegun’s biographer, CEO of Atlantic Records, Bill Nelson, Professor Adrian Furnham, Bernie Torme, Sir Richard Branson and Sir Paul McCartney.  We’re starting shortly with a piece about the enigma that is Richard Strange, leader of proto-punk pop-art group The Doctors of Madness and perhaps punk’s godfather,

So, what then does the Rock’n’Roll Innovation Editor do?  Good question!  You don’t see many RNR Innovation Editors on the staff at the Financial Times or the New York Herald Tribune!  My job is to interview, write or commission articles with any of the following types of people:

  • Innovative musicians – Names that spring to mind include Robert Fripp, Lady Gaga, Brian Eno, Madonna – people who have either innovated within music or are gamechangers in the music industry.
  • Innovation leaders – Especially those who get the idea that innovative leadership requires both discipline and improvisation – Virgin, Toyota, First Direct, Google, 3M, The Eden Project spring immediately to mind.
  • Innovation authors and academics – Again those who have a ‘Rock’n’Roll outlook’ on the subject – Brian Clegg, Tom Peters, Adrian Furnham et al are on my list of suspects here.

Innovation Excellence is also open to sponsors who wish to help build the best educational resource in the world for innovation.  Contact me via e-mail at peter@humdyn.co.uk to see what’s on offer.

So, in the warped words of the hymn “Come all ye faithful … and also a healthy dose of firestarters …”  Drop me a line and let’s see if we can create a guest article or interview.

Speaking of firestarters, time to finish with a bit of that…

Black Sabbath – The Power of Music

There are very few things in business and life that have such awesome power that they cause the Catholic Church to attempt to ban them. Music is one exception.

Black Sabbath came not from leafy suburbs of Surrey, nor did they study classical music at Oxford or Cambridge. They crawled out from the gutters of the industrial heartland of Birmingham, with three degrees in classic rock. Their music reflected a much harsher upbringing. Pioneers of the music genre called heavy metal, their music conjured up images of grime, paranoia and … devil worship, according to some. Let me explain.

Sabbath’s title song from their first album ‘Black Sabbath’ contains a musical riff that uses the musical tritone, or the so-called ‘devil’s interval’ – the sixth note of the musical scale. Unlike the major scale (do re me fa so la ti do for the non musical readers) the tritone was considered so powerful that the Catholic Church attempted to ban composers from using the note in the 16th Century. Remember that music was largely an act of patronage at this time, the monarch and the Church were much more connected, society was much more superstitious and the enlightenment had not happened. Put simply, physics had not happened. Had the Catholic Church followed the work of Maxwell, Hertz, Faraday et al they would have realised that you cannot ‘ban’ electromagnetic radiation!

So how did Sabbath get the “Riff” and was there a devilish intervention at work?  Guitarist Tony Iommi had an accident in which he lost the tips of two fingers on his right hand and he almost gave up playing the guitar. He capped the missing digits with thimbles made from plastic and covered in leather. He had to use lighter strings and detune them so he could grip them easily with the capped fingers. This combination gave a dark and foreboding sound and Iommi came up with the riff after a comment from Butler as he watched people queue to watch a Boris Karloff film.  He said it was “strange people would pay money to be scared” The rest as they say is history with Osborne and Butler adding powerful lyrics.

Black Sabbath’s ‘riff’, when written down in musical notation, sort of makes up the number 666, hence the notion that it would summon up the devil.  That’s why you won’t hear Kylie Minogue or Katy Perry using the tritone …  Whilst popular rumour suggested that Sabbath conducted live sacrifices and so on, they were more into drinking in pubs than drinking blood! Ah well, that’s music marketing for you. Here’s a little video I made that proves for the first time that the devil’s interval is harmless to animals:

Just to add more to this fascinating story The Rockefeller Foundation conducted research into psychosocial stress to produce “mass hysteria” and found the sound wave that caused this to be A=440/741hz.  Which is the same note as the Solfeggio (That’s the Devil’s Interval to you and me) banned by the Catholic Church and by coincidence the riff Iommi came up with for the song Black Sabbath. So was there devilish intervention at work or not?

Nonetheless, it’s interesting that music has such power. I will leave you with another Sabbath Classic, which also contains another ‘evil’ riff, using the flattened fourth, in the middle of the song:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qkYCAnDmb2g

Special thanks to Tom Hughes for co-writing this blog – Tom is a leadership trainer, enthusiasm generator and general music fanatic – Find him on Twitter @Thomas2BHughes

For more Heavy Metal Business articles – check SPINAL TAP on project management, DEEP PURPLE on improvisation, LED ZEPPELIN on strategy

The Rainbow Children – Prince, Diversity and Creativity

I just got sent this superb 28 minute film of Prince by Hollywood World Studio.  It is especially good at showcasing the diversity of Prince’s talent, exemplified by his album ‘The Rainbow Children”.  Oh damn, it got taken off my YouTube!

Some interesting observations about the original film:

  1. The film covers several quite distinct musical genres:  funk, soulful love songs, acoustic beatbox music plus Prince’s classic anthem Purple Rain.
  2. The band is a genuine meritocracy, irrespective of gender, race and so on e.g. women taking on less traditional roles of bass and sax.
  3. The show is meticulously rehearsed and this leaves room for a little bit of on the fly improvisation, mostly conducted by Prince himself, who gives signals to the rest of the band to extend passages, put solo segues in and so on.

How many artists could you say this about?

The potential downside of Prince’s desire to play so many different styles is that this may have lost him some of his audience along the way.  Some people prefer a repeat performance rather than something different?

Turning to business, feel free to make a contribution on the blog around these questions:

  • If you decide to change your product or service, how do you keep your customers whilst acquiring new ones?
  • How do you genuinely make diversity and meritocracy work to your advantage?
  • How do you combine structure / discipline / preparation with creativity / improvisation / spontaneity to keep the customer experience fresh?
  • What can we learn from Prince about resilience, excellence and becoming a learning company?

A book extract about Prince from my last book ‘Sex, Leadership and Rock’n’Roll’ is available for FREE.  Simply e-mail me with Prince in the title (peter@humdyn.co.uk) for your copy.  I explore more of Prince’s personal qualities and the relationship with becoming an agile, ingenious and innovative company within the new book “The Music of Business“, acclaimed by Harvey Goldsmith.

Sex, Leadership and Rock’n’Roll – contains a U-LOG-EYE to Prince

A Rock’n’Roll Christmas – Part 1

Rockin' all over the world

This year I have been blessed to meet some fantastic people around the blogging universe.  They have kindly offered to send me a Christmas message, so here for your delight are some Rock’n’Roll life and business coaching tips taken from a magical mystery tour round the world:

We start out journey close to my home in London: Meet Doug Shaw, author of Stop Doing Dumb Things to Customers, who indulges me with a bit of punk rock.  “Joe Strummer taught me to be ‘anti-ignorance’ and for sharing ‘Without People You’re Nothing’

Doug also offered us the example of Neil Ellwood Peart from the supergroup Rush – for his ability to recover from personal tragedy and his endless thirst for improvement.  A class act.  Lest we forget:

We must rush on … to platform 9 and ¾ at Kings Cross to join The Flying Scotsman.  We are met in Edinburgh by Colin Millar, aka The Ranting Scotsman.  Colin cranks it up with a leadership lesson from classic rock:  Queen’s ‘One Vision, One Mission’.

Colin rants “The title and lyrics say it all and I think it’s a great message for business people – ‘One Vision’ is first and foremost about the ‘vision’ and extrapolating what that vision is and the unity vision creates, bringing people and cause together.  I also like the concept of ‘consensus in eden’ that runs through the song”.

From a big country we then take a passage to India, to hear from Sonia Jaspal, who focuses on the power of music to create and maintain emotions.  She says “I think without music, the world would lose the most beautiful power of expressive emotions. It touches the depth of our soul. I am still a person that when I listen to some of the softer numbers I have tears in my eyes. Yeah, I need a box of tissues while watching some movies.   Also, without music, one would lose most of the inspirations in life. When one listens to beautiful music it somewhere resonates deep within. It has the capacity to change emotions and thinking.

Sonia’s favorite song is from an Hindi movie titled Safar (Journey). The song is ‘Zindagi Ka Safar’ (Life’s journey) sung in Kishore Kumar.  It is portrayed via an actor suffering cancer.   He is singing the song:

Moving on to Canada, home of Bryan Adams, Celine Dion and Francois Guay, who leads the Attack Defend Disrupt blog.  His choice of music that offers us a lesson in life or business is ‘More than a Feeling’ by Boston:

Francois takes up the story “This song contains my favourite guitar riff ever.“ Editor’s note – I can sign up to that!  “Although most people see it as a man disappointed in a having lost someone he loved, the song to me is all about reaching your goal, i.e. When you achieve one of your key goals that is “more than a feeling” it’s sublime and must be reproduced again and again.”  Seems like a lot of people agree that music inspires us to focus on and reach our goals.

Back to Blightly to meet Alison Chisnell, HR Director of Informa and author of The HR Juggler.  Alison’s song with a message is Billy Joel’s ‘All About Soul’.  She takes up the story:  “The context is that as an idealistic 18 year old, I had just begun a six month stint working in a children’s home in Zimbabwe as part of my gap year and in the early days I felt isolated, homesick and terrified that I had made the wrong decision. This song resonated as a reminder to commit fully to the adventure I was experiencing, to bring my values and passion to the task at hand, to ‘man-up’ and become more resilient and to accept that standing up and being counted was and is a good thing. Bland is rarely, if ever, good….so don’t be afraid to be you and get stuck in! Just because it isn’t easy doesn’t mean that it won’t be hugely rewarding.”

Staying on the theme of soul, we finish with Sharon Howard, who offers us lessons in life and business from Bill Withers about the importance of delegation, support and asking for help. We all need the help of others in order to succeed and they need us too, we all need somebody to lean on 🙂 A truly inspirational piece:

Coming up, we have more stories from bloggers and cool people all round the world.

Hope you have a Rock’n’Roll Christmas! – if you have not yet treated yourself to a free copy of my new micro book ‘Punk Rock People Management’, get an electronic copy by mailing me at peter@humdyn.co.uk.  I look forward to hearing your comments on this blog, suggesting other songs that have meaning for you.

Have a great Punk Rock Christmas - Click on the picture for the free book - Picture by Lindsay Wakelin Photography http://lindsaywakelinphotography.com/