Robert Brewer

Artist Focus

Singer, DJ, Songwriter, Producer and Guitarist

Part Two

https://www.facebook.com/RobertBrewerSeattle/

Mackncheeze: When you were at the Art Institute, did you study vocals? How did you learn to sing the way you do?

Rob: A mixture of church, singing by myself, with my quarter inch reel to reel, some vocal training; at the Art Institute there was a lot of recording. At that period of my life I wasn’t really into doing music. I wanted to be a producer and make albums. I had no interest in being an artist. There was no intention.

The first time I ever started singing was at a karaoke bar when I was stationed in Japan. At that time, most karaoke bars in Japan would have Elvis songs, some Beatles songs, Johnny Mathis. This is like 1988. Back then, in Japan, karaoke was cool because everything was on a LaserDisc. They all had videos.

Some of the most amazing bands I have seen were in Japan. This one band was a Zeppelin cover band. This Japanese dude looked just like Robert Plant, his hair and the whole nine yards. He was blind and he sang just like Plant. His pronunciation was spot-on. There was a part of me that was asking, “Is he really blind?” I’m just like, wow. A high energy, amazing show. I’ll never forget them.

So the cool thing was my Aunt Dee Dee knew Jay King who was the head guy of Club Nouveau. He was in the Army and he was stationed up in Anchorage. I was working at Miramar ( Abraxas Pool, The Storm, Steve Lukather ). I was doing a few projects for him that we’re not related to Miramar. It was more R&B and rap stuff and we hooked up a few times. The initial connection was through Japan. I was off and on in Japan for two years.

I was given the opportunity to go back into broadcast journalism in Japan and be a writer for the Stars and Stripes. The catch was that I needed to re-up for 2 years. This was right before the Gulf War. I didn’t go that route.

Mackncheeze: Please give me a history of being a DJ.

Rob: I started when I was in the Marine Corps. When I wasn’t in Japan, I was in Pohon Korea. That was a cold weather training, and I was also a part of the operation Team Spirit. North Korea’s leader Kim il-sung was firing missiles in protest of the American and South Korean operations occurring at that time.

So the club DJ did not show up.

Everybody knew I was a broadcast journalist and so they said, “Hey Brewer, you have to DJ.” I crawled up in this really small square cube glass enclosure. I’m sitting cross legged, the club is packed, all the heat is rising to the ceiling. I was in this tiny little room in my own world, just getting down , throwing down all the cuts, and keeping everyone happy. I did not know it at the time, but being a DJ would be something I would end up doing.

It was all turntables back then. I was having a good old time. That was back in the day, my first real experience with turntables. I got paid a bunch of free beer. I was happy, everybody else was happy.

Mackncheeze: I find it very interesting that you sing in two different bands, doing a DJ Act as well.

Rob: Being a DJ, I am my own entity. I control my own destiny, I don’t have to pay anybody else at the end of the night, I make my own decisions. Being in a band, you can not instantly take a gig. When a gig is offered you have to call everyone up and ask who is available. Many times booking agents and club Owners need to know right away.

As a DJ I’ve never had that problem; it’s just me.

Mackncheeze: You carry a light show?

Rob: Yes. I think ambience is important. Not only do I carry lights, I carry video as well. I have a philosophy that most people are pretty much wallflowers. I think they need an icebreaker to engage them to want to dance. If I can nostalgically take you to a period, or mentally put you in a happy place, have you visually see something that makes you think of someone else, makes you think of another time, it might engage you to want to dance.

Macknceeze: Have you thought about writing books on psychology?

Rob: I think it’s important to be a good DJ but I think you have to do a little bit more in order to get people to buy into what you are doing. Being a DJ, you definitely control the mood and the tempo of the Dance Floor. Technically, I’m not the greatest DJ ever, but I know what I need to do to make it work.

I do a little scratching, but I’m more into blending and overdubbing, I’m not trying to be a turntablist.

If you’re a turntablist, people are only going to your show to see you perform. If you’re a club DJ, people are going to a club to dance. It would be selfish of me to practice turntable technique to a packed dance floor of people trying to get their groove on. It’s good to show a level of skill, whether it’s taking a song and mashing it into another song, or recreating some songs. To me what’s important is creating my own brand and originality of style.

Mackncheeze: A technical question: if you were a DJ with a live band, could you take your discs, sans CDs, using correct tempo and scratch tracks into the band’s performance?

Rob: Oh yeah.
Mackncheeze: There are not many DJ s that can do that.

Rob: That’s where some of my time at the Art Institute came into this. During that time I was producing and engineering. Knowing how to lay tracks properly, knowing how to piece together songs and how to orchestrate and collaborate, that was very important on my education. It’s one thing to know how to play an instrument but it’s another thing to know how to work as a team and work together.

Mackncheeze: Tell me about the two bands you are working with…

Midnight Radio revival

Rob: Midnight Radio Revival, that’s a band I’ve been with for 7 years. I took over the lead vocal position around for 11 years ago. We’ve mainly been doing psychedelic Rock from the mid-60s to the mid-70s. We call it Golden Age Heavy Rock. We cover about 80 or 90 songs.

Over the past year, Doug, our lead guitarist, has written some amazing stuff. We could continue playing covers, but our new focus now is to take some of this music that’s been written, and do it in a classic rock style. We want to record it and get it out. Certain clubs do not want a cover band; they want bands with original content. There are radio shows and TV shows that love to have a bands like that. They can’t do it with bands doing covers because of licensing agreements.

I think for a lot of the people who come to the shows, they’re like saying okay, what’s next? You can only do so many covers. Our next step is to record about seven or eight original songs. We will still do covers and blend in original material. That’s our next big step.

Bands are like sports teams. At the end of the day, after piecing all the music together, it becomes a collaborative effort. In order to have success it has to be a team effort. It’s funny because music is kind of oxymoronic; a lot of it is based on self oriented concepts where there is no team.

Cold As Ice

The other band is Cold As Ice. We’re a foreigner tribute band. We have only been doing Foreigner covers. Foreigner is a 7 piece band. We have been covering all the parts as a four-piece. We have some amazing folks. We did a show together last year on the 4th of July. That was the last gig we did. We got together before this whole corona virus thing happened. We pieced together a song list of what we were going to work on. All this came about and that’s where we’re at now.

I almost had the opportunity to play in an Earth Wind and Fire tribute band called Kalimba. The manager approached me and during the interview I was told they do about 70 shows a year. Most of the shows are out of state. As a cover band they’re probably doing better than most national Acts. It was good; I was practicing all of that Philip Bailey stuff. It helped increase my range. To me, any opportunity is always a fun challenge. To be acknowledged or even thought of as being a part of that is kind of cool.

I pretty much enjoy all aspects of music. I’m always keeping my ear to the ground.

Mackncheeze: So Rob, what do you personally want to say?

Rob: Rob Brewer, aka, DJ Forrest Gump, still has a lot of music in front of him. I have a lot of things yet to accomplish. I’m looking forward to doing those things.

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Toxic People

We all know them. We all run in to them. They are everywhere. I say, “Don’t let the bastards get you down.”

The socio-political landscape is full of them.

My neighborhood is full of them.

The grocery store is full of them.

The streets are full of them.

Then there is your job.

The best solution: distant yourself as much and as far away as possible. If the toxic person is a good friend then perhaps a later time to re-associate yourself with them will work out. Your survival and sanity is paramount.

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Rythmic Harmony

Guest Blog By Finn

Music Geek Stuff

Lets use the example of a bass drum and a kick drum part. Lets say I decide to match each note of the bass and the kick drum. This would be an example of Rhythmic Unison.

Now lets say I decide to add kick drum only to those bass notes that need extra weight (anchoring) or extra movement (momentum). This would be an example of Rhythmic Harmony.

The point is that unison can be useful at times, but in my work, Rhythmic Harmony usually gives me more bang for the buck.

If I overdo it, a bad harmony is created; the notes do not complement each other. If I use too few notes, it may lack energy.

Must The Kick Drum Notes Always Be Married To The Bass?

If my bass line covers only a measure and a half of a two bar phrase, does that mean the bass drum has to stop?

All of this is very simple , but it is best to start from a place of total clarirty if the concept is to work.

I recently finished a composition that uses a two measure kick drum pattern like this: 1; ‘and’ of 2; 4; ‘and’ of 1, and 3 (some of you may recognize this polyrythm). The ‘feel’ or through-line of the piece was a hi-hat of eighth notes accenting downbeats 1, 2, 3, and 4. So, how did I get these patterns, hi-hat and kick drum, to connect with each other?

After trying many ideas, I noticed that opening the hat on ‘and’ of 2 and closing on beat 3 gave me what I needed. The kick drum was already giving me all the beats in question; it was just a question of a balanced connection between the two.

I could have accented those beats on the hat, but the feel I wanted would have been compromised. Better in this case to use other instruments, including the bass, to create harmony. For me, the kick drum by itself did not do it. By putting the ‘and’ of 2 on the open hi-hat, the first measure was now connecting on 1; ‘and’ of 2, and 4, thus creating enough of a Rhythmic Harmony to connect the two patterns.

It comes down to avoiding two things: overstatement and understatement, and this varies from one harmony to the next.

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Depression

The grim truth; many of my artist type friends have depression running in their gene pool. It is in my family as well; seemingly prevalent in the families of creative types. One study shows entrepreneur start up founders, who are extremely creative people, revealing 50% with mental conditions and a 30 % depression rate.

The challenge with depression is that there are hundreds of markers that vary from individual to individual. With all the variables in persons affected there is incongruity in overall consensus regarding identification, diagnosis and treatment.

Many of my friends tell me that they needed to be more aware of their mental space and to keep pills and sharp objects out of reach. It’s not a joke. Those close to me have taken years to figure out triggers, medications and therapies. The path to ‘normalcy’ can be long and arduous.

Interestingly, everyone I know with Depression Symptoms are amazingly talented and brilliant people. I scratch my head in wonder. Why this curse?

The best course is to be there for them, listen with empathy, and give them a hand when they need the help. I would hope I would heed my own words.

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Don’t Quit Your Day Job

Another Night Buried in the Trenches at The Metropolitan Grill

I love to play music, I love to record, and, to the best of my abilities, I love to produce music. But what I also love is a super cool job, health insurance and stability. Call me double minded.

I have been a Sommelier with a restaurant group for the last 29 years, the last 16 spent at The Metropolitan Grill in Seattle. We are one of 91 restaurants in the world which have been recognized by the Wine Spectator as a Grand Award Winning Wine List.

Yes, my friend, I am blessed with a super cool and exciting life and feel so incredibly grateful for the opportunities given me.

One of four wine rooms at my Sommelier gig.

I have always juggled my love of music with my love of food and wine. They seem to be inextricably linked. Both are expressions of my inner most passions. Maybe I have hedonistic tendencies………ok, I have hedonistic tendencies; passion reigns in my interests.

The biggest challenge is juggling a job, requiring working evenings, week ends and holidays, with music, which usually requires gigging evenings, week ends and holidays. The days are pretty free, however, and I am not strapped with a teaching gig. Working around all this is super challenging and frustrating. My heart is in the music; my belly pays the bills.

Thanks for taking the time.

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Superpower

I have been reading a lot about tapping in to my super power. Most people who know me know that I am not super powerful, which is disappointing to myself since my own self expectations are so high.

I wish I wasn’t prone to error. I wish I would not forget arrangements. I wish that a fellow musician’s bad meter would not affect me.

Shouldn’t I be able to transcend bad meter? If I could have just one super power that would be it.

Another super power I wish I had – I wish that I would not suffer from Delayed Intelligence; also known as CRS syndrome. I have heard it’s terminal. I don’t know how many times I have thought back on a situation and said to myself, ” I wish I had said that!”

What are your super powers?

I can’t control elements, don’t have Telepathy, Telekinesis is out (for sure), nope on time travel, Super Speed is not my specialty ( yet I’m still working on those paradiddles ), Invulnerability ( just ask my last girlfriend about that ), Super Strength ( Hah ), Teleportation ( I’m still stuck here ).

The best super power I can actually think of is Association. Yeah, if I have one super power, that’s it. Association: My family, my friends, my mentors.

After all, maybe thats the best super power there is.

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Distractions

A Normal Morning In My House

Get out of bed, wander down to the coffee maker, get some Joe brewing, wander over to the lap top, fire it up, oops, my feet are cold, wander back up stairs, put on some socks. I got to pee, wander in to the bathroom, pick up the tooth brush, oh, coffee is ready, never mind, wander down stairs. Oh, that load of clothes needs to be dried, throw those in the dryer, wander back to the lap top, sit down, pull up my daily habit check list, itemized in degrees of importance, oh, some one’s texting me, return the text, back to the check list, coffee cup drained, wander over to the coffee maker, sit back down …How in the heck do I get anything done? Check my daily habit list.

My friend Pete wrote a poem ( thanks for the contribution, Pete )

Roses are Red ,

Violets are Blue,

Let’s ride bicycles!

Can I mow your lawn?

No, I’m not ADHD; some times I just can’t focus. Wait a minute, I got to check Facebook, maybe some one’s gonna mention me.

Its intersting, despite the slow warm up to the day, oh wait, just got a text, it says, Hey, what do you think about compressing the crap out of that guitar solo? Thats a good idea, maybe it will hang in the mix better.

Got to let the cat in, Master of the realm. Anyway…Yeah, I got the set list…What was I talking about? Oh yeah, focus, yeah, focus. Thats the ticket.

The surest way to focus is to turn off my I Phone and I Pad, oh, the blasted message app went off on the Mac Book, who is that?

Never mind, I’m turning off today’s Blog.

After a while, Crocodile!

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