The Spirit of America

I must say I’m not a fan of America these days – For me Donald Trump has contaminated the “brand” with his mean-spirited attitudes towards building a wall, threatening wars, rolling back progress on environmental stewardship and so on.  It is a perversion of the notion of MAGA (Making America Great Again) and the whole genre of fake news … but one must never generalise, and the magazine US of America supports and celebrates the values that make America a great nation. Contemporary yet nostalgic, presenting stories from across the cultural landscape of the USA. From Alabama to Wyoming, the magazine shine a light on every US state, showcasing the weird and wonderful of everyday American life.

The 2nd edition is just out. Here the editor in chief Nicole Nodland explains what’s in store:

Our cover star Dua Lipa discusses the importance of using your voice to affect change and break boundaries. Bruce Gilden captures the resilience of the people of Detroit, while Lucas Foglia presents an utopian-like image of the prisoners of Riker’s Island. From Larry Fink’s photos at the Women’s March to Alec Soth’s reflective series on the recent election, we capture the beauty of a collective spirit in times of uncertainty.

Minnesota is this issue’s special focus. Visit the land of 10,000 lakes with us as we look at the state’s lesser known stories and pay tribute to its most famous resident, Prince. It’s just over a year since Prince left Planet Earth and his loss to the world still leaves a huge vacuum. Featuring an exclusive interview with Mayte Garcia, a feature on Ida Neilsen, his bass anchor for 6 years and a piece on the musicology of a genius.

We go bicoastal to look at California cults and Brooklyn Biker gangs. And back in time with 70’s photos of Hollywood Boulevard and the NY subway system.

Catch up with Giancarlo Esposito, Mayte Garcia, Ida Nielsen, and Amber Mark to find out about their upcoming projects. And spend time in LA’s Inglewood neighbourhood with rising stars Ill Camille, Daniel Farris, Davion Farris, Tay Walker, Kenyon Dixon, and Jeff Bernat.

Grab your copy of Us of America now.  In the meantime, here is my tribute to Prince recorded just a year ago with Meatloaf’s singing partner from “I would do anything for love” Lorraine Crosby, recorded without practice or soundcheck, so there are a few ongoing adjustments to live guitar sound levels in the first few seconds.

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Peter Cook leads Human Dynamics and The Academy of Rock.  Author of 7.5 Books.

A Bowie Tribute

Very short notice for this Bowie Tribute on Monday 29 May … here’s the press release for the event

Brexit Oddity

Painting by Jane Raggett

Ground Control to Theresa May, your circuit’s dead, there’s something wrong?

David Bowie may have sung ‘Rebel Rebel’, but he could not have possibly have foreseen the impact that his music made on generations young and old. On Monday 29 May 6.00 pm – 8.30 pm, The No 10 Vigil, visit the Thin White Duke’s mural in Brixton for a tribute to The Man who Sold the World and a protest about The Woman who is Selling England by the Pound. Diane Datson, leader of the No 10 Vigil said:

“David Bowie came from my home town of Bromley. He was a great humanist and an earthling. The No 10 Vigil stands for a return of humanity to planet earth and a rejection of the self-harming strategy of Theresa May. Simply stated, we are here to Break Brexit Before Brexit Breaks Britain. In Bowie’s own words, we believe that Brexit is the work of ‘All the Madmen’ and we stand to educate people about Brexit Mayhem”.

The Bowie tribute is the brainchild of Peter Cook, leader of The Academy of Rock, an author, business speaker and musician who was crushed by the loss of Bowie, Prince and George Michael in 2016 amongst too many others.  He appeared on CNN the day that Bowie died, discussing the work of this great innovator and chameleon in music:

“David Bowie stood alongside Prince and George Michael as a great communicator and gamechanger, reaching people’s heads, hearts and souls. It was an impossible task to showcase Bowie’s huge canon of work across nearly 50 years. I was haunted by the last track on Bowie’s last album ‘I can’t give everything away’. Whilst the lyric seems to reflect on his passing, I cannot help but draw a comparison with everything we are about to throw away if we vote for hardcore Brexit on June 8th. In the words of Joni Mitchell You don’t know what you got till it’s gone”

Click to view CNN interview

Peter has performed with cult punk rocker John Otway, Ozzy Osbourne’s guitarist Bernie Tormé Meatloaf’s singing partner Patti Russo and had a rock band with Dr Andrew Sentance, former Monetary Policy Committee Member at the Bank of England. He leads the musical direction of the No 10 Downing Street Vigil, which highlights concerns over Brexit at any cost to Leavers and Remoaners alike. Our work is featured on BBC Sunday Politics, The One Show, Breitbart, The Daily Express, The Daily Mail, Independent and The Guardian.

Smeared by Breitbart … The No 10 Vigil

Photographing Princes

I met Nicole Nodland recently in the Virgin Lounge to discuss her part in the Worldwide Prince Photography Exhibition I am co-ordinating. Our close encounter provided an opportunity to discuss the art of a master photographer. Nicole has photographed a veritable treasure trove of artists including Pussy Riot, Mark Ronson, George Clinton, Anna Friel, Downton Abbey, Ed Sheeran etc. etc.

Nicole captured the heart and soul of Prince - click to view her galleries of music artist photographs

Nicole captured the heart and soul of Prince – click to view her galleries of music artist photographs

The manner of her meeting Prince was a great story of serendipity and a degree of drive on her part … Nicole had travelled to Europe and returned to LA to very little.  She moved back to Minneapolis with her mum for a bit.  Having done some photography for Warner Bros, someone suggested she get in touch with Prince.  Was this feasible?  Anyway, she did.  Some time later, one evening at 11 pm the phone rang and she was asked to go to Paisley Park.  What day? she thought.  The answer came “tonight”.  So she got ready and went.  Finding Prince in the complex was a problem but eventually a purple voice asked “Do you have polaroid?”  This was the start of her photography work with Prince lasting several years.

Do take a look at Nicole’s portfolio which spans video as well as still photography.  Here’s a few teaser pictures from her website.  Click the pictures to view the real thing. We are planning an event to cover Nicole’s work across the full range of her portfolio at Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Money Lounge in due course – watch this space.

La Roux, Mark Ronson and Sinead O'Connor

La Roux, Mark Ronson and Sinead O’Connor

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Peter Cook leads Human Dynamics and The Academy of Rock. Author of 7 1/2 books on Leadership, Innovation and Creativity. Read more on Amazon.

New Year’s Reflections – Princes, Princesses and Starmen

Part I – 2016 Reflections

I hate the passage of time, as I believe that every moment should count, but I’m willing to make an exception in the case of 2016, which took so many beautiful and creative talents from us. As if it could not get any worse, we lost George Michael on Christmas day (My wife and I were reflecting that I gave my son George Michael as middle names today). This followed the tragic losses of Prince, Bowie, Carrie Fisher and so many more people during the year. 2016 has been such a crap year in so many ways. I recorded my thoughts about 2016 overall in an Advent Blog for Kate Griffiths-Lambeth, so there is no need to repeat them here. Suffice to say, I have been blessed to interview Prince family members such as Ida Nielsen, Marcus Anderson, Sheila E and George Clinton in 2016 and before. In 2017 I am planning a Worldwide Prince Photographic Exhibition with Maverick Productions, currently touring The Rolling Stones “Exhibitionism” as another tribute to the genius of Prince.

Ida

Prince with Ida Nielsen – Musical Genius x 2

But all things must pass and I’m marking the end of 2016 by giving a LIVE performance of Purple Rain at Battersea Arts Centre from 12 midnight – 2 am, after a two hour Vinyl Prince DJ set – the story of how this came about is a great example of the power of networking. I met DJ Nick, driving a van on a busy street in the City of London. Nick called out to me from then van, recognising my Prince Symbol T-Shirt. After a brief exchange, I left a card and ran, since I was in danger of being run over by angry drivers as I stood in the middle of the road!! To my surprise, Nick e-mailed me to explain his evening job as a DJ and now we are collaborating on this venture. I’m hopeful it may lead to other things in my day job at The Academy of Rock delivering events around the world.

Prince on improvisation

Our Tribute Song 4 Prince may be found at http://www.academy-of-rock.bandcamp.com/

Battersea Arts Centre - Orpheus

Battersea Arts Centre – Orpheus

Battersea Arts Centre is also a fascinating venue. Partly destroyed by fire in 2015, the centre showcases some of the most amazing creative talents. It’s very much in the mould of my work on improvisation, by operating a “scratch” methodology as part of its “ladder of development” for new work. Performances are shown at various stages of development to an outside audience, whose input and criticism guides the further evolution of the work. Scratch has been adopted as far afield as Sydney and New York and Battersea Arts Centre has successfully sparked new approaches to creativity across the globe.

Paper Cinema's Odyssey at Battersea Arts Centre

Paper Cinema’s Odyssey at Battersea Arts Centre

What then does 2017 hold in store for us? I’m going to leave that part of this blog until Part II. For now, here’s the end piece of a performance I did in Italy to honour Prince, at an impromptu aftershow for 300 people after a keynote on improvisation in business. Admittedly, nothing compares with the real thing but I did my best …

Part II – Towards 2017

I have two global hopes for 2017 – Firstly, that our obsession with war will diminish. Aleppo stands as yet another monument to humanity’s inhumanity. Secondly that we will turn back from “mob rule” as characterised by the election of Donald Trump and our own Government’s Brexit. A sub-goal for me in terms of contribution to society is the SIX B’s :

“Break Brexit Before Brexit Breaks Britain”

In business terms, my plans for 2017 include:

  1. A new book for Routledge, focusing on how we will respond to a society where intelligence are the main ingredients of personal and business success.  Read more about it at Brain Based Enterprises.
  2. I’m hoping to deliver consultancy assignments in Greece, Italy, the USA and make a return to Mauritius.
  3. And the Prince Photography Exhibition will be a major legacy project, to honour his memory. One of the images from the current Exhibitionism project is shown below:
Get off of my cloud - not a reference to computing storage ...

Get off of my cloud – not a reference to computing storage …

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Peter Cook leads Human Dynamics and The Academy of Rock. Author of 7 1/2 books on Leadership, Innovation and Creativity. Find his current books on Amazon which include cameo articles and insights from Prince and other music giants.

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Beauty and the Bass

Ida Nielsen spent 5 years as the bass anchor for Prince. She is now stepping out in her own right as a singer – songwriter, following Prince’s tragic and premature death. In our exclusive interview and subsequent private conversations with Ida I discussed a number of topics with parallel lessons for anyone seeking to make their mark with their personal passion. Film production by Rory Gill roryjrgill@hotmail.co.uk:

Balancing discipline and freedom

Ida is a perfect example of a professional musician who combines discipline with freedom in her musical life. She took up music at the age of 16, having learned to play piano and bass mostly by ear. She then attended the Royal Danish Academy of Music to hone her natural born musical skills. When amateur musicians tell me that improvisation is all about creativity and freedom and nothing to do with discipline, I believe they have missed the point about the importance of structure / discipline / order. I’ve observed on many occasions musicians who have oodles of disciplined musical training, but who are unable to improvise and sometimes vice versa. Ida is a living example of someone who combines both sets of skills. Prince puts it simply:

“Too much freedom can lead to the soul’s decay”

In the business world this is what Tom Peters refers to as “simultaneous tight and loose properties”. I’ve just been discussing direct parallels from music for people interested in bringing more creativity and innovation to their enterprise at Innovation Mauritius

Beauty and the Bass - Interviewing Ida Nielsen in Camden, London

Beauty and the Bass – Interviewing Ida Nielsen in Camden, London

Deliberate practice

Ida is also testimony to the concept of “deliberate practice” proposed by K. Anders Ericsson. This requires the systematic desire to extend one’s repertoire beyond one’s comfort zone. In my experience, some musicians reach a plateau of competence, due to rerehearsing that which they already know. To master an instrument requires practice outside of the known regions of your competence. I know from my own experience that I had to switch from playing rock music to gypsy jazz in order to move my playing skill up a level through seeing and hearing things anew. This concept applies in many fields of human endeavour. Ida has respected great innovators in her field and built upon their innovations, for example Larry Graham, who is credited with the invention of “slap bass playing”, in his case due to not having a drummer in his band so he had to develop a more rhythmic way of playing the instrument. 

Here’s a section of Mr Graham with Sly and The Family Stone and a bass solo from my good friend Mr Paul Moss at a corporate aftershow event we did at Henley Business School from 2 minutes 08 onwards:

Get into the Groove – Working with Flow 

Mastery, unconscious competence, effortless genius, being “in your element” …  These are all ways to describe what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi called the state of ‘flow’.  Prince’s sax player Marcus Anderson offers some practical insights into the state of flow:

“Although I can read music and therefore understand the “mathematics” of jazz, the real skill of improvisation comes from using your ear / intuition, paying attention to the other band members, feeding off them and finding a flow that moves the group performance up to the max.”

Marcus Anderson, interview taken from “Leading Innovation, Creativity and Enterprise“, Bloomsbury

Ida is clearly in the state of effortless mastery or flow with this performance, recorded at Pizza Express Jazz Club in Soho, London at an aftershow at 3 am in the morning:

We spoke outside of the main interview about Ida’s 5 years spent working with Prince and she had these things to say about what she gained from working alongside a master of innovation in music:

Serendipity :

Ida explained how she got to play bass with Prince: 

“I simply got a call on my cell phone. The person said they were Prince’s manager and they wanted me to go to Minneapolis and jam with Prince and the band. They said they would call me back – they did not and I began to think it was a hoax, but eventually they called back and I went to Paisley Park to play with them for three days”. 

I completely got the mixed emotions of Ida’s story, having once had an e-mail from Sir Richard Branson telling me I had won a prize, then nothing for two weeks – a social media “expert” mailed me to say it was bound to be a hoax, completely bursting my bubble!  It turned out it was not a hoax mail and I ended up writing and delivering events for the Virgin group.

richard-branson-invite-linkedin

Mastery : When performing with Prince, Ida had to learn more than 300 songs in order to have the flexibility to vary a given performance, sometimes on the fly. This is quite different than performing with most professional musicians, who prefer to hone a set and perform this as a set piece on all dates of a tour. This level of agility gave Prince and 3rd Eye Girl the ability to personalise their music to a given audience. To do this requires mastery at the individual and team level, with everyone paying close attention to each other’s performances.

“Doing a residency in any particular city requires a large repertoire to ensure repeat business”.

Prince

Teaching as the best way to learn : Ida mused that she had been lucky to have the greatest guitar teacher on the planet in Prince. Moreover, rather than the usual situation in terms of paying your teacher for lessons, Prince had actually paid her !! The greatest gift of innovation is to transfer your skills to others to improve your game.

Check out Ida Nielsen’s music at her website for more insights into the skills of a master craftswoman.

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Peter Cook leads The Academy of Rock and Human Dynamics. Check book “The Music of Business” out, which has a chapter on Prince and 3rd Eye Girl.

Charlie Mingus AOR

On the One, Bass Ida

We’re very lucky to be interviewing Ida Nielsen, aka Bassida at Camden’s Underworld on Wednesday September 07, organised by Nigel Hart of Nitro Management. Ida has a new album out called Turn It Up.  For the last 5 years was the anchor in Prince’s New Power Generation and 3rd Eye Girl until his sad passing at just 57 years of age.

Ida

Bass in ur face – Ida Nielsen and Prince

Ida Nielsen hails from Denmark. She started playing bass at age 16, studying music at The Royal Danish Academy of Music. Ida is a multi-instrumentalist and in 2010 received an out of the blue invite to play with Prince which she assumed was a joke! She is something of a bass tech expert and an advocate of TC Electronics equipment, which a number of my friends also use in their rigs.

TC

Beauty and the Bass – Ida’s style combines resonance in the low register with superb slap bass for punch and sparkle in the high end

There will be a full report on my film interview with film maker Rory Gill and the concert after Ida’s performance. Her music is cool and funky. Ida’s bass playing combines beautiful low registers to reach your soul and a healthy dose of popping to excite your synapses. For now, read this interview about this all round musicologist at Bassida. Here’s two extracts from that piece on what she learned from working with Prince:

“I learned to play tight. He was so tight about making space in the music. There’s always a lot going on in my music, and I’m trying to clean it up because I know that’s what he would do. Not that I wasn’t playing tight before, but he taught me to not play all the notes in between that we bass players normally do. It’s a little bit like a drummer who is always rolling on the snare instead of keeping a tight, simple beat. Prince taught me to keep it simple. With my own stuff, I make everyone else play simple so I get all the space! 🙂

The first time I was in the studio recording with him, I was in shock because I found out he doesn’t use a click track. I was like…what? When you hear every record it sounds like there is a click because it’s so tight. It’s all about locking within the band and getting it that tight and I feel like that’s what it’s all about. I love the whole idea of, “we don’t actually need a click. It doesn’t matter if the tempo goes a little up or down as long as the energy and the life is there.”

Check Ida’s new album Turn It Up on iTunes.

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Peter Cook leads Human Dynamics – offering long term development programmes on Leadership, Innovation and Creativity and shorter masterclasses and keynotes via The Academy of Rock, which uniquely fuses Business School insights with parallel lessons from the field of music. Author of 7 books on creativity and business – check them out at Amazon:

Click to view books on Amazon

Click to view books on Amazon

A tribute to Prince

Friday and Saturday 24/25 June mark a major event in memory of Prince in London and in support of Autism Rocks. Here, Marcus Anderson, Prince’s Saxophone Player talks about the event:

Here’s some of the songs and personalities you might be hearing from and meeting at this once in a lifetime event to mark the passing of a legend:

I hope to see some of you there on the Saturday gig. We are hoping to catch some interviews with the performers along the way. Here are some of the tributes left for him at Camden recently:

Prince Memorial

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Peter Cook leads The Academy of Rock – Keynote events with a difference and Human Dynamics – Business Development around Strategy, Innovation, Creativity and Change.

Check Peter’s new book out on innovation and creativity with Bloomsbury. Check out our full development programme for sustainable and profitable innovations.