Aronoff is an epically talented and in-demand drummer who has put in time with John Fogerty, Bob Seger, Styx, Goo Goo Dolls and more on the road, and spent studio time with a list of artists too long to reasonably list. And, of course, he played with John Mellencamp for years and years. He'll perform and speak this evening at Butler's Schrott Center (for free!), but I got a little preview of topics on the phone with him yesterday — and then I immediately went to Natural Born Juicers and got the biggest juice they would sell me. Just read on. You'll want a juice, too.
NUVO: Break down tonight's program for me.
Kenny Aronoff: It'll start with music first, as an opener. Then, I'll step forward and start by telling my story, of when I was a kid and what got me started in this whole thing. Then, the main topic after that is what I call the Key to Success, based on three basic things. Hard work, fueled by passion, and then ongoing education. Those three things really have made me successful.
But anymore it's not just becoming successful, it's staying successful. The world is changing, and things changed fast. The music business … never in my life would I have thought that I would have seen some of the things in the music business that [I've seen]. Vinyl got replaced by CDs, CDs are basically nonexistent. I think it's only 10 percent of people pay for music downloads? The rest are just grabbing it for free, or you go to YouTube to watch it. The economics of the music business have changed so much, which is not great for the young bands and artists trying to break into the music business. They don't have the financial support to develop as artist.
So here's an example of once you become successful, you have to stay successful. And that means you have to be physically, mentally and emotionally fit through your life to deal with the transitions and changes that occur. So I talk about being healthy, mentally, physically and emotionally. I have eight bullet points that I talk about with regard to health. One is lifting weights, which keeps your hormone levels up. And when your hormone levels are up and you're strong like that, you can fight off the big three: cancer, diabetes and heart disease. Cardio also helps in that area. Keeping you fit, keeping all your organs working properly, keeping your basic machine, keeping your body healthy and operating properly, without getting into details. Keeping you strong and fit. Some form of stretching; yoga keeps the body limber. … You need to have flexibility. Diet. Without getting too much into detail about that, [that's] staying off all processed foods, eating lots and lots of vegetables. Nobody dies from eating too many vegetables. You know what I mean? I eat very, very healthy. Chicken, fish, red meat. I balance it out, but I get it from the best sources you can possibly get it from. Stay away from processed foods. No soda, no artificially flavored things. I could go on and on.
[Another bullet point] would be supplements which I take, because I travel so much, to keep my immune system up. I take extra zinc, multi-vitamins. I take a lot of fish oil. Things like this that [will help] the crazy, stressful, busy life I live traveling all over the world. The fifth thing is water. … You should drink, in ounces, half your body weight in water [every day]. The next thing is sleep, which I'm not great at. I talk about that stuff.
In between these big topics … what I'm talking about leads me into the next musical performance. It all makes sense. It's all interwoven. So it's music, some key motivational topics, intertwined with stories about the music business and my life.
NUVO: I was chatting with a drummer friend yesterday about your talk this evening and he said, “You'd be surprised – a lot of drummers are into juicing.” I've seen the photos you post on Facebook with your vegetables.
Aronoff: Yeah! Juicing is great, man.
NUVO: Do you think drummers, in particular, take more note of health topics since it's such a physically demanding position?
Aronoff: Yeah, definitely. Drumming makes you become aware of being fit and healthy because most drummers eventually have an accident, or have some physical injury and its wakes them up. It makes them think, “Whoa.” It's too bad John Bonham didn't figure that out. He drank himself to death, you know.
NUVO: You've been on the road with John Fogerty this summer, yes?
Aronoff: Yup, I've been out with Fogerty, also a little bit with Styx because their drummer had a baby. I went out with Goo Goo Dolls because their drummer couldn't do three or four shows. I've been out with The BoDeans, too. A little mixture of everybody. And I'm going to be playing the White House on Nov. 5, one of these shows where I'm the house drummer and I play with everybody. It's for the Armed Forces. The way things are going, there might not be any of them around. They're very busy.
NUVO: My mom was an instrumental band teacher for many, many years. Every summer, she would start all these new 5th grade drummers on their bell kits and snares. What sort of advice would you give to these youngsters?
Aronoff: The advice I give to any young kid is just do it to enjoy it. But what you can get out of it is that there is an introduction to discipline with passion. To be great at anything, you have to work hard at it. When you're young, you want it to be fun. But to somehow convince them the practicing they're doing it going to make it more fun, because they will have so much more facility on the instrument and be able to do more things with that instrument. Which will make it more fun and entertaining for them and the people around them. First and foremost, you don't want it to be an un-fun experience. By the same token, you need to practice on that instrument to be better at it, and therefore you'll enjoy it more.
NUVO: Do you still maintain a residence in Bloomington, or are you full time in LA now?
Aronoff: I'm full time in LA now. I was doing that for a while, but the music budgets have changed radically. So much that people aren't flying me to LA or wherever for just one song anymore. Or even an album. I had to make a decision. It was a slow process of getting an apartment in LA, going back and forth, and eventually I just had to make a commitment.
NUVO: When you were living in Bloomington, how much occasion did you find to get up to Indianapolis?
Aronoff: Anything from when I was in bands in the '70s, playing at the Patio, the Vogue, all that. Hanging out in Broad Ripple was a big thing. With Mellencamp, we'd sell out four nights at Market Square Arena. To experience that …. And being really good friends with Jim Irsay, and the Colts complex … those are incredible memories for me. I used to live up on Allisonville and 71st when I first got out of college and was playing in a band, I lived in Indianapolis for a whole summer. It was really cool. Those are some great memories.