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June 14, 2024 26 mins

Join @TheBuzzKnight for this Classic Replay Takin A Walk episode with the great drummer Kenny Aronoff. Kenny is one of the most talented and passionate musicians you'll meet, talking about his influences, his work ethic, his work with John Mellencamp, working with Bob Dylan and loads more. 

If you have questions, comments or suggestions share them at buzz@buzzknightmedia.com

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Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:00):
Taking a walk when it's made me successful, and there's
you know, some of the genetics and some of it
is because I'm living my life from my choos, my
passion and my deepest desires. The skill. I tell people this,
whatever had made has made you successful, you keep doing
that so you can stay successful. I wake up every
morning and I feel grateful. I love it, but I

(00:24):
know it didn't come from luck. You know, if you
if you get a lucky break, you better be prepared,
you better be ready.

Speaker 2 (00:33):
Welcome to the Taking a Walk Podcast, the show where
Buzz Night talks with musicians about the inside stories behind
their music. Today, Buzz is joined by one of the
most respected drummers in music history. Kenny Aronoff, is responsible
for keeping the beat for many years behind John Mellencamp.
Kenny has a resume that extends across genres and eras,

(00:54):
working with the likes of everybody from Lady Gaga to
the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney and anymore. Let's
welcome Buzz and Kenny Aronoff on Taking a Walk.

Speaker 3 (01:05):
Well, Kenny Aaronoff, Welcome to this virtual edition of Taking
a Walk. I'm so grateful that you're on let's talk
about the new projects that you're up to.

Speaker 1 (01:16):
Well, I mean, the newest thing I'm doing is my
own project. It's a podcast called The Kenny Aronoff Sessions,
and I have guests like Sammy Hagar, Bill Burr, I
had and Wilson recently had John Five, the guitar player
of phil X is up right now, the guitar player
with bon Jovi. I had Kevin cronan lead singer from Ario.
I've had, you know. I just that's that level of people.

(01:41):
Steve Lucaser, my buddy, the guitar player of you know,
Ringos Toto and his own band, and uh yeah, I
mean the main thing is these are all people I've
either worked with, or toured with or recorded with. And
you know, it's not like on some interview that doesn't
know these people. We know each other, which opens the door,

(02:04):
uh for all possibilities. But my main premise on the
thing is to share with people how these incredible people
like Joe Bonamasa, it was that one thing that happened
in his life that made him successful. And all these
people in many cases were like, you know, they're trying
to make it and it was it wasn't it's not

(02:25):
all it's not just luck. I mean they you work
your butt off and and and the real the real
focus that I for me, this is what happened with
me and with everyone else, Say Dee Snyder, you know
Jack Blades from you know the bands he's played with,
Night Ranger and Damn Yankis. Everybody started doing this and

(02:47):
because they love it, they absolutely love it. And I
talked about it when I do pub speaking. I'm a
professional speaker too, do these speeches for corporations. But the
thing is when you find out, when that lightning goes
off in your heart, the excitement and you realize what
your purpose in love is, that is the fuel. That
is the fuel that will help you work hard, be

(03:10):
self discipline and persevere because it's easy to work hard
when you're everything's going great and everything's rocking. But if
you're truly doing you what you love and Mark Twain said,
the two most important days in a person's life is
the day they were born and the day they figure
out why they're here. If you figure that out, you're unstoppable, undeniable,
and you're one hundred percent athetic. And that's how I

(03:33):
became successful and have stayed successful and one of the
most difficult businesses in the world, the music business. While
all these people I interview have pretty much the same story.
They don't give up because that's what they're They've chosen
to do in this life from a place in their heart, love, joy, passion,
to bliss, whatever you want to call it. That's that's

(03:53):
one of my main things, and I'm learning a lot
by doing it because it's as great to share with
the people. And we starts off. I mean, I have
thirty five questions ready, but I'll go wherever it wants
to go.

Speaker 3 (04:05):
Uh.

Speaker 1 (04:06):
And so anyway that's happening. I'm on the G three
tour right now with Joe Satriani, but also we're playing
with Steve I and Eric Johnson. Everybody gets a forty
five minute set. Then I'm gonna do March first to
the seventh and Monsters of Rock with Joe Satriani on
one of those boats and UH and then then Steve
VI and Joe Satriani We're gonna go on tour UH

(04:28):
for eight weeks and that'll take me to May twelfth. UH.
Podcast sessions in my studio, I have a studio called
Uncommon studios LA. People send me files so they come
to my studio. It's the new business model I saw
when record sales went to hell and the budgets went
to hell, I decide. I got my drums out of

(04:48):
New York City Nashville, Indiana, moved to LA, got my
studio there. I had drums in Japan, Germany, people flying
all over the world to make records. I'm on three
hundred million records sold, which will never happen again because
there's no more budgets. So I have my own studio,
so I'm still recording. I did an Actress TV episode
there with Steve lucater No with Sammy Hagar and the

(05:10):
guest with Steve lucater I mean, it's fantastic. I love
it and I love recording, and I'm a speaker. I'm
speaking gigs booked all over the country. You know, going
talk about you know, innovation, creativity, connecting, communicating, collaborating. Everything
I do in music, which relates to any business and
anybody doing anything in their life. And it's it's really cool.

(05:34):
But those are the you know, the main nuts and
bolt too. Who Kenny Aaron Office another book I wrote.
I just keep re editing it and so eventually that'll
come out.

Speaker 3 (05:45):
Oh man, you are the best. Well, I know you
were in the Massachusetts area where you grew up, the
Stockbridge area, and then in the Boston area as well.
And Alan Dawson, I know, was a major influence on you,
and I know he had diverse interests as well. Talk
about the impact Alan Dawson had on you.

Speaker 1 (06:08):
Well, it's interesting enough. It wasn't just Alan Dawson. Aaron
Dawson was in Lexington. But before that, I was studying
with Arthur Press and the Boston Sympony Orchestra in Newton,
which is in Massachusetts, which is ironically real close to
each other, and both of them taught me about discipline.
I wanted to work for those guys. You know, I

(06:30):
was already committed to being Once I announced to the world,
you know, I'm going to be a professional drummer or percussious,
then it's a major commitment. I am wired that I
do everything at one hundred and fifty percent. I'm just
wired that way. I'm I work seven days a week,
seven nights a week. I love it. And if it's

(06:52):
not the podcast or the recording session or I'm preparing
for Kennedy Center Honors, or for this show or that
show or this store. I love it. I love all
of it. I'm going to back up with Arthur Press.
I went to his house. I was a sophomore in
high school and I show up because a friend of
mine in my little town of stock But you exit too.

(07:13):
Arthur Press was exit fourteen year of Boston. I show
up and he goes to me. When I show up
more outside, he comes out and meets us, and he says,
what's your name? I said, Kenny Kenny? What Kenny Aronoff?
What have you prepared for me today? I wait? What
nobody told me? I had to prepare an even? Do
you have a mallet piece you can play for me?

(07:35):
I went, mallet's I don't play mallets, as I remember xylophone.
You know vibes, you know well? I said, I don't
playing movie. He says, well, did you prepare a timpany
piece from me? I says, I've never played timpany in
my life. He goes, what are you doing here? He said,
what do you play? I said, I played drum set? Oh,

(07:55):
drum set. Come down into the house. He puts me
on a drum set puts blood, sweat and tears, spin
wheels on. I start jamming. I already played to it,
you know, with my red stereo, and in thirty seconds
he ripped me off of that set and pointing to
a practice bed. Now it was at that moment and
I was very popular in high school. I was a
three letterman jock by the time I was a junior

(08:16):
sophomore in high school. Atteen, I was a three varsity
sports so everything, and I had to killer rock band.
I was very popular, Like I said, So I didn't
need this guy, but I did. I recognized. I went,
wait a minute, whoa, whoa, whoa? Who is this guy?
This guy's intense. I felt, I can learn from this guy.

(08:38):
This guy's not a coddler a handholder. If you're lazy,
you get an F. And if you get an F,
you deserve it. It's that simple. You don't. You have
to earn an a, you have to earn praise. I
identified with that, and I knew this guy who's going
to set me on a new trajectory. And he did.

(08:59):
And I did five years of classical training one that
you masked for at the number one school of music
in the country. Indiana University School Music. I worked my
way from last to the top. Then I started studying
with Alan Dawson's. When I got to Alan Dawson, it
was all about drum set. The other schools were all
about classical music, orchestra, percussion, ensemble theory, conducting everything butt

(09:23):
rock and roll. I did that on my own. I
got with Alan Dawson, I was putting in you know
these guys. I practiced five to six hours a day easy,
and Alan didn't have to teach me how to practice.
Alan didn't have to make me work hard. I was
already there, man, And because of that, he gave me

(09:43):
so much material, so much material. I studied for a
year with him, So Arthur Press and Alan Dawson, and
in the middle was first the principal Timperness the Boston
Symphony Orchestra. There was no messing around with him. If
you make a mistake on the piece you were playing
for him, you get one more shot if you don't
get it next and your lesson could be over in

(10:06):
ten minutes. But it never was with me. I practiced
five hours a day for him.

Speaker 3 (10:10):
That's outstanding. Well did Alan Dawson play with Lionel Hampton.

Speaker 1 (10:15):
Oh played with a lot of He was one of
the great jazz drummers. Uh you know, he played with everybody.
I mean, I can't remember his discography right now, but
he played with some of the greatest, greatest jazz He
his skill was he teach you rudiments and you work
out of books. But he knew how to apply rudiments

(10:36):
and exercises to being a musical drummer on the drum set.
So if you're practicing between the right hand and the basement,
that you do so he gets you to use that
stuff get doo doom boom. But that that that that
that that he would take these technical things and make

(10:57):
them musical ideas. It's incredible.

Speaker 3 (11:00):
Well full disclosure. There's a friend of mine who lives
near me. I live outside of Boston, near Conquered mass
His name is Maurice Shore, and he studied with Alan Dawson. Actually,
that's why I'm poking at this.

Speaker 1 (11:15):
Allen was one of those world class famous jazz drummers
that was a great teacher, great teacher, and I tell
you some of his exercise today. I took his exercise
and turned them into a functional practice routine that I
have and functional practicing is you practice exactly every note

(11:37):
has a purpose to make you sound great today. Then
you can go off and do whatever else you want,
but always practice the things that make you sound great
today forever before I do it. Joe Satriani tour the
one I'm doing right now with G three, I run
the whole show by myself. Before the show, absolutely, I
practice the count ops. I practiced the sequence of the show.

(12:00):
I used to going from that temple to that temple
to that temple. I'm not a robot. I'm a human.
Humans make mistakes, and mistakes are just gifts on how
we get better. So that's why I practice.

Speaker 3 (12:12):
That's tremendous. Well, take me back to nineteen sixty four,
to that moment when you first saw the Beatles that
made such an impact on you.

Speaker 1 (12:23):
Well, I'm living in Stockbrid's a town of three thousand people.
There's nothing to watch on TV. There was no cable,
so me and my twin brother were out playing like
we always are. My mom gets on the porch and
screams to get into the house. I thought I was
in trouble, which was usually the case. I would get
into the family room ready to get yelled at But
Mom's pointing to this old black and white RCA, a

(12:45):
TV set with the antenna, you know, to get reception,
maybe even ten for clumped on the top. And there's
four guys on the TV set dressed in suits. But
they were not your dad suits. They were cool suits.
And they had long hair, which was the new thing.
And two guys had electric guitars, one I had an
electric bass, and the drummer who was up on this

(13:05):
big ridser way up there, looking cool, smiling, and they
broke into some rock and roll. I didn't know they
were the Beatles set. They'd break in it and I'd
hurt song on the radio went wow. Well, first of all,
that's split second, I went, oh, well that's what I'm doing.
I want to do that. I want to be in
a band like those guys. I want to be on
a team of guys musicians doing that. I don't know

(13:28):
who they are, where they're from. I go, Mom, who
are these guys? She goes, oh, there's the Beatles. I said, well,
I want to play in the Beatles. Call them up,
get them on the phone. I'm playing with the Beatles,
and forget about the piano lessons. Man, it's drums now, drums, drums, drums,
buy me a drum set. Well, she didn't call up
the Beatles, obviously, and she didn't give me a drum set.

(13:49):
I mean, it's all, well, a guy like he wants
to play drums, but we can't afford a drum set.
So they saw I was going crazy, you know. For
finally they buying a snaretum and some and I started
my first pin called the Alley Cats, and we played
Beatles music and I would shut my eyes and dream
about being in the Beatles and the long hair girls

(14:09):
going crazy, you know. But here's the beautiful thing about
that story. Fifty years later, I get called to do
a CBS special called The Beatles The Night that Change America,
and I get to play with the two remaining Beatles
Paul McCartney ringo star. I mean, there's a dream come true,

(14:31):
Cinderella at the Ball Fantasy right there, and what happened
in between is amazing. But that was one of the
most pinnacled, most rewarding moments in my life.

Speaker 3 (14:42):
Oh my god, I love that story. I'm guessing the
first album that you ever bought was a Beatles album,
as well.

Speaker 1 (14:51):
Nope, I wish it was. That was the second. Meet
the Beatles was number two. I get on my one
speed fat tire bike and go to whatever store eating
Lee masks or stocks. First record I bought, which was
another popular band at the exact same time, the Beach
Boys Surfing Safari. Because in my band, the alex As,

(15:13):
we did Beach Boys music and Beatles. So I got
Surfing Safari and then Meet the Beatles. And it could
have been one week apart. I was gardening it twenty
five cents an hour, and I save up my money
for comic books and records.

Speaker 3 (15:26):
That's outstanding. What a joy when you wake up every
morning and you sort of realize where you are in
your career. Do you pinch yourself when you consider all that?

Speaker 1 (15:39):
I feel grateful, but I'm very fully aware that what
has made me successful and there's you know, some of
its genetics and some of it is because I'm living
my life from my choos, my passion, my deepest desires,
the skill. I tell people this, whatever had made has
made you successful, You keep doing that so you can

(16:00):
stay successful. You can't set it and forget it. That's
the biggest joke. You work I'm a type of guy
who's gonna work hard until I don't want to work
hard anymore. But you know, I wake up every morning
and I feel grateful. I love it, but I know
it didn't come from luck. You know, if you if
you get a lucky break, well you better be prepared,

(16:24):
you better be ready, because it's that moment. It's a
defining moment for you. And if you've done your homework,
and if you really continue and do your own work
and work hard and be self discipline, you'll turn that
lucky break into something great. Now, I mean I got
I was on the number one hit single, you know,

(16:45):
John Mellencamp or Johnny Guurote, Jack and Diane. The moment
that turned number one, I celebrated for two seconds, and
from that immediately went into no, no, no, no no.
You are not number one songs number one, you're an
number one single. I need to prove to every buddy
I can do this again. Holy shit, I gotta wait
John to write a song so I can come up
with a great drum beat to make that song number one.

(17:07):
That's like a guy getting a touchdown. If you get
a touchdown doesn't mean you're set for life. You got
to get another touchdown, in another, in another, and another
and another until you're done. And that's the way I
look at it. I'm grateful, love it, but I know
what it takes to become successful and stay successful.

Speaker 3 (17:23):
You're more energized than ever, aren't you.

Speaker 1 (17:27):
Well, I'm energized if I've ever been well. I'm twenty five.

Speaker 3 (17:32):
Come on, my man. And by the way, seeing many
John Mellencamp performances where you played, you just always knock
me out. Oh I saw you in Columbus, Ohio when
I worked at QFM ninety six, the radio station there.
The show was just pure joy, pure joy energy. Right

(17:54):
what year was it, I'm talking in nineteen eighty eight?

Speaker 1 (17:58):
Oh my god? Did you believe we were? We were
selling out arenas, flying in private jets, stay at rip Carlton's,
we were living. We were living and doing four Saturday
night live shows. I mean we were. We were kicking butt,
especially in the Midwest, but anywhere in the USA. And
you saw one of the grace and I was loving
every minute. I had massive energy. And for people watching this,

(18:20):
it was a three hour show with no opening act.
We were the act an evening with Kenny or Kenny
Evening with John Cougar Mellen campaign and it was in Arenas,
so in three sixty maybe twenty thousand people. It was.
It was full on energy, right, NonStop energy. Oh.

Speaker 3 (18:38):
I loved every second of it.

Speaker 1 (18:39):
Yeah.

Speaker 3 (18:40):
I think about that show all the time. It really
takes me back.

Speaker 1 (18:43):
Yeah.

Speaker 3 (18:44):
Can you take me back to working with Bob Dylan.

Speaker 1 (18:49):
Oh yeah, Well, I'd become successful as a drummer in
the John Cougar Mellen camp and after eight years of
just doing to two years. So you John would write
the songs, then we'd help arrange them. Then we record
him and then you throw some songs out. We do
some more writing, record him, then you do overdubs and

(19:10):
you mix and master. That's about a year. Then you
spend about a month in press videos. Then you rehearse
and go on tour. That's about another year. So it's
a two year cycle. We take a month off start
right again. We did that for four recruits, you know,
American let's see, was it American Fool, uh huh, Scarecrow

(19:31):
and Jubilee, And we went from you know, two hundred
and three four and five hundred seats a night to
twenty thousand to thirty thousand when we played the world
later on, you know, outdoor venue in Chicago. So it's
just just hard work, hard work, hard work, and playing
with John's just lost my career. But then all of

(19:52):
a sudden he quit out in the Jubilee tour, the
last show he quit, I'm done. I went, what I went,
Oh my god, if he quits, I don't have a
job now. It started doing sessions, but I mean I
didn't have a lot of time to do it because
I was with John, and I went on. I was
freaked out and I just got I just got gotten divorced.

(20:14):
So I'm like, I got child support, I got bills,
I got Morgan, I got this, I got that, Like whoa.
I was backed into a corner, which was the greatest
gift I could have gotten from John, because I went.
The next morning, I woke up, I didn't freak out.
I went, all right, I've been working with one superstar
artist for eight years. Now I'm going to work with

(20:35):
all the other ones. So I went out to California
and started to hit the pavement, trying to make it
as the session drummer. Eventually, Nashville and New York and
eventually I had drums in Nashville, New York, LA. Of
course Indiana or lived and one day I get a
call from this producer, up and coming producer, Don Was.

(20:55):
He goes Jenny's Don was from what Not? Was, Hey,
I'm making this iggy pop record. You want to play
on that one? Eggy pop? Are you kidding me? So
he wants to meet you. So that's the whole story.
That's hilarious. But so we'll can them do iggy pop?
And then next thing, you know, two weeks later, because hey,

(21:20):
actually it might be the other way around. It might
have been he called me up. No, it was iggy pop.
He calls me him and says, hey, you want to
do a Bob Dylan record? I went, are you kidding me? Yes?
So I think we did iggy pop first, and then
we started doing iggy pop or something happened where maybe
it was Bob Dylan first. Bob was on tour, so

(21:42):
then iggy pop came. It was all happening once. I'm
going like, oh my god, iggy pop, Bob Don't and
Bob Dylan and you can see that my podcast. Don
was was my guest. He tells the story Bob Dylan
wouldn't give Don the producer the songs, and he's because
the producer needs to look at the songs and make
some decisions, have a conversation he was, so Don decided,

(22:05):
all right, you're not giving me the songs. I'm not
going to tell you who the musicians are on the sessions,
but I got to play drums on the four sessions,
one every month. Oh. It's incredible configurations of Tiller musicians.
First one was with Stevie Ray Vaughn, Jimmy Vaughan, his
brother David Linley, and me. Don was on bass and

(22:26):
Jamim Hock Hobock on keyboards. The only guy I ever
talked to Bob Dylan was I'm sitting in control with
my back to the door. He's two hours late, and
all of a sudden, somebody taps me on the shoulder.
I turned around. It's Bob Dylan. He goes, Hey, Kenny,
it's Bob Dylan. That was it. That was it, Hey
Kenny has Bob Dylan. The next thing you know, I'm like, wow,

(22:50):
you know, I was like a little nervous. He goes
to the pianos trying to figure out, starts playing something
to me on the drums and play with him, and
I did, and all the other musicians weren't a lounge.
They'd come running out and down their instruments. Engineer hits
record probably went through it a little bit and then
did it again. That was it. The song was done,
Wiggle Wiggle, And that was the last time I spoke

(23:14):
to Bob. There was one session. He's right in front
of me in a booth baseball, had a hoodie, gloves,
glasses all covered up. He's looking We're looking right at
each other. Never talked, and I was still. It was
kind of I knew in the session world, and I
mean this guy, I knew him when I was eleven twelve,

(23:36):
I had records. I bought Highway sixty six, and so
I'm like, in, oh, I didn't want to talk to him.
He didn't look like it looked like I would bother him,
so I didn't. I remember telling Don he said, oh man,
he should have come in and talked to him. But
at that point I was like, no, it's Bob Dyling.
Now I don't care who it is. But back then
I was like, you know, So never spoke to him again,

(23:58):
and I did music cares where we are Bob and
and Bob. You know, for those who don't know music,
here is. It's kind of like when the Grammys are.
I was supposed to do it this year honoring don Jovi.
But if you're in the band, you know, you play
with like nine artists. It's incredible. And on that one,
I think I played with I think I played with
Mellencamp and you know, uh, Tom Jones and jack Jack

(24:22):
White from you know, White Stripes. I mean all these
incredible oh, Jackson Brown, Cheryl Crow together, that type of thing.
And afterwards, Bob came up to me and goes, good job, Kenny,
that's huge. You get Bob Dylan come up here. It
was funny story with that because we had a satellite stage.

(24:42):
We're the main stage to share. But we go out
there and we do this song with about thirty verses
something a lot of verses with Jackson Brown and Cheryl
Crowe and I go and all of sudden we're told, well,
we're gonna drop this vers this first and level went
up to Jackson, dude, why are we dropping? That's my
favorite first man? Those lyrics are amazing, and he laughed

(25:04):
at me and says, because that guy told me to
and I'm like, who I look over in the dark
in his shadows was Bob Dylan, and Bob Dylan told
them don't do that. First to that Verson, Bob picked
the artist, pick the songs. He was very in control
of how he wanted to be presented. I thought that

(25:25):
was really cool.

Speaker 3 (25:27):
That's freaking awesome.

Speaker 1 (25:29):
Great.

Speaker 3 (25:29):
So, Kenny and closing, who haven't you worked with that?
You'd like to work with?

Speaker 1 (25:34):
Led Zeppelin, Jimmy Hendricks and my favorite band for a
while was going to be Stinging on vocals and bass
and Jeff Beck on guitar and me but or the
Who That would have been cool U. So yeah, that's
kind of where I'm at. Oh, I'd love to be
in the Food Fighters. That'd be fine. I love Dave Go,
I love all those guys, and they're a real rock band,

(25:58):
like you know, the real thing and who this is
going around. I would love to be with them. Anything
that's authentic like that, where with every musician has a
voice and has a face like old school the way
you used to be, you knew everybody in the band.
I love that kind of thing. The band vibe a
team thing.

Speaker 3 (26:19):
I love that You are a treasure, my friend. I'm
so grateful that you got to be on the Taking
a Walk Podcast.

Speaker 1 (26:26):
Kenny, Welcome, man. I ain't going nowhere because I'm Kenny Aronoff.

Speaker 2 (26:32):
Thanks for listening to this episode of the Taking a
Walk Podcast. Share this and other episodes with your friends
and follow us so you never miss an episode. Taking
a Walk is available on the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts,
and wherever you get your podcasts.
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