Life is a continuous journey of learning. Whether in drumming, speaking or life, Mark Schulman is a chronic student, a sponge who never stops taking in information and learning from everything and everybody. In his stellar 28-year career, Mark had played drums for some of the greatest musical artists in history, including P!nk, Foreigner, Cher, Billy Idol, Stevie Nicks, Simple Minds, Beyoncé, Tina Turner, Velvet Revolver, Dave Koz and many more. As a speaker, he teaches his audiences how to hack the Rockstar Attitude and boost their Rockstar Quotient. Sitting down in a conversation with Rich Redmond Mark shares his insights on constant leaning, positivity, gratitude, pivoting during tough times and the power of listening. He also shares some of his most memorable experiences as a drummer, from failing in an audition for Bad English to his successes in playing with P!nk and filling in for Matt Sorum of the Velvet Revolver.
This is one of my favorite people. He’s a world-class drummer and thirteen years with P!nk. He’s also toured, recorded with Cher, Foreigner, Velvet Revolver, Sheryl Crow, Stevie Nicks, Richard Marx, Dave Koz, Tina Turner and the list goes on. He’s an author. He’s a speaker. He’s my friend since 2002, Mark Schulman .
It is my pleasure. It’s about time that we do this. I’ve waited for a long time.
How have you been?
I feel honored. Let’s rock and roll this thing.
We’re doing it. Everybody reading and consuming this show knows that we talk about all things, music, motivation and success. I’m talking to comedians, thought leaders, authors, speakers, but there are a lot of drummers because drummers are special people. I’m letting you know that my co-host, Jim McCarthy, is a drummer and has a lot of my gear. I permanently loaned to him. Mark, I was trying to think when we saw each other last and I had an a-ha moment. We saw each other hanging out on Vine Street for the Hollywood Pro Drum Christmas party. That’s the last time we saw each other. I skipped Nam this year.
I did go to Nam and I didn’t see you in Nam. Sometimes I skip Nam. It depends on what we’re doing. The year before I was at Nam for two hours and then my mom got sick, and I left. It was nice to be there. You weren’t there. We missed you.
Who knows maybe a lot of people ended up getting this COVID beast at Naam this year? Remember we always talk about Namthrax. No matter how many times you sanitize, it’s in the circulated air.
The key is staying outside. If you’re going to be social at all, do it outside. Everybody, wear a mask. Social distance. It is simple. Try to hang out outside.
Why is this hard for people? What is the deal?
Because people tend to be in denial. It also feels very oppressive and a lot of people are rebellious. We’re musicians. We understand what it’s like to be rebellious, but you’re the effect of the wrong cause don’t rebel against yourself or others. The way that I look at it as wearing a mask is also securing the health of other people. I like to be of service constantly. That’s part of our life’s journey. It makes sense, but I’m not going to preach anymore about that. Let’s talk about some other things.
At this point, I’m collecting all different colors, sizes and shape masks. You’re from Los Angeles. You’re a Valley boy.
I’m a Valley boy, born and raised in Woodland Hills. Ironically later in life, Woodland Hills was the home of the Woodland Hills Drum Club because a lot of great drummers like Doane Perry, Gregg Bissonette, and Corpus Kerr, all these people live there. They all moved out. Denny Seiwell still lives there. It became cool after I left. I grew up in the Valley. I moved to Portland, Oregon with a band in the ‘80s, which was one of the best things I’d ever done because when I came back to Los Angeles, it gave me the perspective that everybody else gets as an entertainment professional transplant. I wasn’t so myopic. I was like, “I get what everybody else sees,” as opposed to seeing it from being insular. It was a great experience to get away and come back. I loved living in Portland as well. It was a different world completely.
I’m sure it’s changed since you’ve been there. Have you been back a couple of times?
I’ve been back many times and it has not changed that much. What I love about Portland is it’s like a big small town and there are many mom-and-pop stores. It’s still more personalized than most cities. They have a lot of cultures and the music scene when I was there was, extraordinary. That was pre-grunge. I was there in the ‘80s. All the Portland bands were considered to be cool. We would go up to Seattle and play. The late ‘80s when grunge popped out, then all of a sudden everything was about Seattle, but Portland has always had an extraordinary and eclectic scene of incredibly gifted people. It still does. I spoke to a friend of mine, Dan Reed. Dan got a record deal. He was part of the whole clan of people that I was with. He started my first original band. I’m doing a benefit concert for a friend of mine, Matt Cole, who has fourth stage cancer. They’re going to be a lot of musicians performing and I’m collecting videos from people. Dan has already sent me a couple of videos that he recorded.
I know what you mean by getting away. You didn’t have this perspective on how special Tinseltown is in Southern California is until you left and came back and you’re like, “Everybody from all over the world comes here because it’s one of the entertainment capitals of the world.”
Most people are transplants. The reason why I also bring up Dan is he was the person that was responsible for getting me my first big audition in the ‘80s for this band called Bad English. Those were the guys from Journey and the singer John Waite. I horribly failed that audition. That was the impetus for my first book, Conquering Life’s Stage Fright. Through the failure of that audition, one, I sped up horribly. Two, I was overwhelmed with stage fright. I made two promises to myself after that audition. One is I would never be in the position where someone else was telling me to speed up or slow down unless I want to speed up or slow down. Two, I was going to transfer that fear into confidence. That’s what I did.
I spent two years working on the rhythm course, which is still taught by Tom Mendola. You can still find them available. Working on my internal meters solidly for two years, and then studying all bits of philosophy. I acquired the mentor of my life, who is the gentleman who’s writing my next book with me, Dr. Jim Samuels, who taught me so much philosophically. Like you, Rich, I study everybody I can. Everybody from Gary Vee to Ray Dalio, the Investor to Wayne Dyer to Grant Cardone, who we both interviewed. I interviewed him for my book. I know you’ve interviewed him for this show. I am a chronic student. I cannot learn enough. The interesting thing I find is the more I learn, the more I realize I need to know. It’s always humbling. I never get to the point where I feel like, “I’ve arrived. I’ve got it.”
I continually open up Pandora’s boxes of information that I go, “There’s much to learn,” but I love it. That’s what keeps us alive. We’re either growing or dying. I’m a guy in my 50s. I’m growing and I love it. It excites me to no end. That’s the reason why I speak. That’s the impetus to becoming a speaker was the same reason as you. We take our life experience and we take all the philosophies and everything we’ve known and we realize we have leverage and we have a platform to be able to share our experiences. I believe everybody can learn from everybody else. If you actualize or leverage in your platform, you have the opportunity to be of service to others to then share your experiences. That’s what we do. That’s what you do with your show, your book, and your speaking. I don’t even have a podcast, but I do it with my speaking, my book, my coaching and any way that I can.
There’s something that I learned way back in the car business, a phrase that says, “When you’re green, you grow. When you’re ripe, you rot.” Can’t you tell the people who are shut off? You feel it from them that they’re, “I’m done. I’ve learned everything I can.” You’re speaking my language.
Jim, we’ve been friends for so long and he’s like, “You’re coming up on 50. I feel like you almost feel philosophical. You have one foot in the grave.” There’s some terror like, “Have I saved enough money?” Surely, I’m going to start falling apart now. I crack up at people that say, “I’m so bored.” For guys like us, it’s like, “What about all the literature, fiction and nonfiction to read, all of the movies, the great content, drumming videos, practicing? There’s much to work on.”
I can’t remember the last time I’ve been bored. It’s like I’m struggling for more hours and more moments in the day. Every moment is precious. I love Tom Bilyeu and his Impact Theory. It’s this great YouTube channel where he interviews all of the greatest performers and thinkers. Somebody said they wake up in the morning and they go, “24 brand new hours.” The first thing I do is I wake up and I say, “24 brand new hours.” The next thing I do is smile because I know that when you smile, it changes your physiology. It activates hundreds of muscles in your face that tells your body to relax and sends endorphins to your brain.
I think of three people and three things for which I’m grateful. That’s part of my morning routine because gratitude is incredibly powerful. I read a bit of information about gratitude that someone did a test. They gave a group of people MRIs and they had them conjure up and immerse themselves in as much gratitude as they could. They found that these people were emitting the same amount of endorphins you would emit with a low-level antidepressant. The power of gratitude is huge. I know a lot of people are tapping into that more and more, especially in this day of COVID because it’s critical. The opposite of gratitude is the attitude of entitlement. It appears to be where you’re focusing on the challenges, anxiety, blocks and barriers. When you’re focusing on gratitude, you’re focusing on your appreciation for past, present and future.
You’re focusing on your wins and solutions. It orients everything that you are and everything that you do, which is the topic of my next book and my speaking topic, which is on the power attitude. We can’t control what happens to us. We know that as evidenced by this global pandemic, but you always have the power to change, control, and shift your attitude about what happens to you. This is enormously powerful because your attitude is your point of view. I call it your advantage point or your disadvantage point depending on the attitudes you choose. It’s not what we look at. It’s what we see and what we perceive. Attitude is powerful based on the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves, about the world, and the meaning that we attach to people, places, and circumstances.
What is incredibly powerful about attitude? It’s the foundation of this enormous formula that Dr. Jim came up with, A times B equals C, because our attitude is what drives our behaviors. By understanding that you can shift your attitude, you can change your behavior. That’s huge. Your behavior is what determines the consequences of your life. By understanding that you have the power at any moment to choose your attitude, you can drive different outcomes in your life. I’ve been employing this formula in my life every single day. That’s why I’m convinced I’m still healthy, alive, and have a career that still I’m doing quite well in what I do especially given the circumstances as speakers we need to manage change.
In all industries, it’s about managing change. There are two ways to manage change. You either embrace it or you are in resistance. If you embrace it, that means you look for new and unique ways of getting things done, of taking different, unique and profound action. I was resistant to take my speaking gig and put it online as a virtual speaking gig because like you, I played drums and it’s interactive, but I figured out the moment I stopped resisting it and embraced it, I’ve come up with all these creative ideas as to how to make this virtual presentation work. I’m learning virtual presentations for clients. I’m having as much of an impact as I did when I was doing it live. That is the way to handle all situations, personally and professionally as far as I’m concerned. You either embrace it or you resist it because we manifest whatever we focus on.
If you’re focusing on the challenges, you get more challenges. If you’re focusing on what can be done and what’s possible, you create possibility. I have a lot of philosophies as you do. I know a lot of our philosophies are similar. Your crash course is amazing. Mine is called Hacking the Rockstar Attitude, but it’s all based on similarity, movement, finding possibility, choosing attitudes, creating behavior, and consequences that we never imagined possible and then affecting each other and others because our attitudes are so contagious. Everything we do is contagious. My energy is going to be contagious. I don’t even listen to the news anymore. I listen to it minutely just so I have an idea as to what’s going on.
My dear friend, Tim Sanders, said the greatest thing years ago. He says, “Fill your mind with the good stuff. The better stuff you fill your mind with, the more oriented you are to create that attitude of good stuff.” It’s critical because it’s easy to get obsessed with all the negativity, particularly with what’s going on. Now is the time that we need to consciously focus on things that are going to inspire us at any moment that we can. It’s critical for us. It’s our lifeline. It’s my lifeline. It’s your lifeline. It’s everybody’s lifeline or else we are going to atrophy and spiral into an even worse situation than we’re in now.
I agree all the way. Jim is always saying, “Marinate your mind in the good stuff.” The gratitude thing is important. When I wake up and I take my shower in the morning, I do my gratitude list. That’s powerful to think about all the things in your life that other people would die to have. There are many unfortunate people out there. If you can walk and talk, you have the use of your senses, you are a sentient being, you have your wits about you and you could do something, we can make such a difference in people’s lives. You’re a few years older than me. I’ve been drawing on inspiration from you and I’m sure you draw inspiration from your two colleagues, mentors, and a guy like Dom Famularo in the first speaking drummer, then it was you. I started to run with things and we’ve got guys like Matt Starr and Kenny that are all doing things. We all have our own take on it. If you noticed that we’re the passionate guys in the band. I don’t see a lot of guitar players and bass players doing keynotes.
There’s a small group of people that are doing similar to us. Freddie Ravel, who’s a keyboard player, who was musical director for Santana and Earth, Wind and fire. Freddie does an amazing keynote. My friend, Mike Rayburn, who was a guitar player. I grew up doing a drum clinic. There are 1,000 drum clinics. This is an extension of the drum clinics. The difference is we needed to refine our craft to make it applicable to the corporate world. I studied with two speaking coaches, an acting coach, and a director. I know you’ve studied acting like a beast. You’re a professional actor now, which adds much leverage, credibility, and skillset to be able to present effectively.
As drummers, it’s not what we play. It’s how we play it. As musicians, we play 90% of the time. Every single note matters. I attach a sense of purpose to every single note. The purpose creates more passion. The passion fosters more purpose. I simply have more fun. I played So What by P!nk 800 times. How the hell else can I make the 800th time feel as passionate as the first time? I figure the first time I played with Foreigner on and off for many years. I remember we were in the middle of a big tour. I was about to go on stage and we had been out for a long time. I was thinking to myself, “I must have played this song hundreds of times.” It’s like, “Big joke.” The next night I went on stage, right before I was about to stand, I look at the eyes in the audience. I said, “All of these people, this is their first time.” How dare I deprive their first-time experience? When I can create a conscious attitude shift right there and share in their first time experiencing everybody wins.
It is all about realizing that first of all, everything in my life is about being of service. It finally hit me that every single time I get on stage, I’m there to be of service to P!nk, to the band members, and to the audience. When I’m in front of a corporate audience, I’m there to be of service to the meeting planner, the C-suite, the audience, to my manager, and the agent. I want everybody to look good. I want to be completely egoless. To me, I feel like I’m blessed to be the conduit for information for drumming. We do the work. It is our responsibility to clock the 10,000 to 30,000 hours as Malcolm Gladwell talks about. He got that from somebody else, I don’t even remember whom. We’re conduits. That’s the greatest thing to take your ego out of it.
If I start getting egotistical, I want my ass kicked because it isn’t about me. It’s about us. I’m blessed that it comes through me. The inspiration that I wake up, like you wake up with the inspiration, it comes through you. I don’t go, “I’m great because I am the inspiration to do this.” I’m like, “I’m blessed because somehow this came through me and I can figure out a way to channel it and I can figure out a way to be of service to everybody else.” That’s what it’s like. If people viewed it more that way, then we wouldn’t be ego-driven. We would be service driven and being serviced rather than ego-driven, it’s a whole different attitude. It’s a whole different point of view.
I know Jim feels the same way because he’s always providing voiceovers for people, producing their podcasts. He’s got an electrical company, a little side hustle he’s got. That’s probably going to pay off huge for him. Everything I do whether it be helping bring a script to life, playing drums for someone on a song, on the stage, or teaching someone a drum lesson, it’s all for someone else. We are providing a service. It is maybe a slightly higher version of fries with that. It’s like, “Whatever color they want, whatever speed they want, what attitude they want, we’re going to give it to them.” Mark, we can come back to the speaking thing but I know that your beginning in music education was a cello. Your first instrument was the cello.
I’ve told this story many times, but I was 2 or 3 years old. I still remember seeing the Beatles and Ed Sullivan on television. I was transfixed. I saw John, George and Paul and I was like, “I’ve never seen anything like this,” and then I saw Ringo and it was like something inside burst. I saw the big beautiful nose and the way that he was swishing on the hi-hat. I saw the screaming girls. I loved that so much that I’m like, “I’m in.” I kept repeating to my mom for a few years I’m like, “Mom, I want to play drums.” She’s like, “No, it’s too loud. Can’t you play a nice instrument like your brother, Randy? He plays the violin.” How it happened was my godfather, my Uncle Ben was teaching my brother violin and I’d go to his lessons.
I saw this instrument in the corner. It looked like a big violin. I said, “Mom, I’ll play that.” It was a cello. At 5 or 6 years old, whatever it was, I started playing cello. My uncle Ben started giving me a drum lesson at the end of each cello lesson. Also, at five years old, I sat at a drum set at a neighbor’s house. They had a band and I could play. I wasn’t a prodigy, but I knew what to do. I feel like drums chose me. I didn’t choose the drums. It was a matter of badgering my parents until I was nine years old and they couldn’t deny my passion. They got me my first drum kit, which was a Slingerland Radio King kit that I wish I still had.
Why do we always get rid of our first kits?
I started playing in a band from nine years old. At twelve years old, I played my first professional gig. From the age of fourteen, every weekend I was playing weddings and bar mitzvahs. My friends are delivering pizzas and working everywhere else and I was making $100 to $200 a gig because my friend, Steve Diamond, who’s still one of my best friends was booking the band. He was sixteen. Everybody else was 16 and I was 14. We grew up over the next years playing, putting around in tuxes playing bossa novas, blues, jazz standards and everything from Zeppelin to Top 40 songs to whatever happened to be around.
The story of the cello and music education makes me think of the School of Rock , which we appreciate and are grateful for Kelly and Angie McCreight. They run 1 of the top 2 School of Rocks. Aren’t they incredible? You’ve done many things for them as well. There are 250 locations in the world and they always have a winning combination. They’re cranking out amazing musicians and kids that want to be drummers. They want to sing songs. They want to play keyboards, bass, and guitar. You can sign up. It’s easy. Parents, if your kids are taking ballet, playing baseball, soccer, modern dance classes, taking acting, you want to get them some rock lessons. Mark, imagine if we had this when we were growing up.
What’s great about the School of Rock is they immediately put you in an ensemble. You’re immediately playing in a band. All I wanted to do was play in bands. It’s hard to find anybody that I could play with. The chief operating officer, Stacey Ryan, is one of my best friends. I’ve done so much stuff with the School of Rock over the years. I’ve done many presentations. I spoke in their franchisee convention. I’ve done dozens and dozens of presentations for their schools. It’s an amazing model.
We love them. Parents, if your kids want to get involved with the School of Rock, we’ve got two email addresses for you. Tell them we sent you. Jim, what are the email addresses?
Mark, some of your speaking clients, if everybody is curious and they want to know about Mark, the author, speaker, educator, and musician, they’d go to MarkSchulman.com . Some of your clients are Cisco, Yahoo!, Zappos, American Express, Veda and Walmart. Do you take a different approach for each client? Is it like they get to choose from the three speeches or you say, “This is what you’re getting?” How does it work?
What I do is I get the client as much choice within the realm of a certain script that I have because 95% of the presentations I do are the Hacking the Rockstar Attitude. I rarely do the Conquering Life’s Stage Fright. That’s my first book was called Conquering Life’s Stage Fright: Three Steps to Top Performance. It was more about the steps to top performance, but it was a great lead-in attractive title. I also do Boost Your RQ, your Rockstar Quotient. What I do is I take a framework that I work within and then I adapt it and customize it to their individual mandate depending on whether I’m speaking to a sales team, IT people, the entire company, the top performers, sales, technology or healthcare, Big Pharma.
I’ve spoken to every possible company, association and forensic accounting. I’m still friends with Hank. I spoke for his forensic accounting company. I’m still friends with a lot of the C-suite people I speak with. It’s all about providing a service to make sure that they’re happy. Sometimes we’ll have one pre-conference call, sometimes five. It depends on how much information they want, how much they want to go over the content, and how involved they are. Some people say, “Motivate everybody.” I call myself an activational speaker, not a motivational speaker because I want to inspire people to take action. Motivation is the beginning. You could be motivated to do anything. When you’re activated, that means you were inspired. You do something right away that’s going to improve your life and the life of others.
That’s what it’s about. That’s what sets you and me aside from a lot of the people, because there are many great, like people that do clinics. Like you, I’m sure, I’ve been contacted by many people to say, “I want to do what you’re doing,” I said, “That’s great.” It’s going to take quite a few years to refine and understand how the corporate world works, how the corporate messaging works, and how to align your content with these folks. It isn’t getting up and telling road stories and playing drums, which is what we did when we did clinics. I still do clinics. The irony is when I do clinics, I incorporate still most important information because it applies. I simplify it or I may play a lot fancier drumming stuff. I don’t drum that much because when I’m giving a corporate speech, I’m there to deliver content. The drumming is an augmentation. In the clinic, you could play a lot. Every clinician is different. If I go to see Vinnie or I go to see Virgil Donati, I don’t want him to talk. I want to drool. I want to watch him play. Terry and Thomas in particular have much to say. They’re brilliant in their communication skills that you do want them to talk as well as completely drool. Gregg Bissonette, I love drummers. I’m as big of a fan as I’ve ever been. I always try to find what I like.
If you get five drummers and they walk into a bar, plan on watching those guys, be there until the lights come on and are getting physically removed from the building because we will talk about things as big, powerful, and spiritual as God in the universe and our purpose in life. We’ll also talk about widgets, drum pedals, pedal tension, what sticks you’re using and all that stuff. I’m going to be hitting you up because since this COVID thing, here I am preparing for over a decade, wrote my book. I’m out there hustling trying to get the live jobs. Things change overnight. It’s like, “I have a beautiful state-of-the-art studio in Nashville.”
I’m a man on transition. I’m spending more time in Los Angeles. I’ve got to figure, “Am I going to get a lockout, make it look beautiful and fill it with all the right gear to do this thing? Am I going to try to chase this American dream?” like you which is impressive. You bought a house in Los Angeles from drumming and you have a place in your house to do your presentation. I’ve got to be able to have this offering when I’m out West. I’ve got to find a place to do this. That’s my next move and it’s exciting.
We converted our garage right before COVID. It was 85% done when we had it. It’s for my wife because my wife is a photographer and a writer. We made a space for her but as it turns out, I now use this space for my virtual presentations. I don’t play live drums when I do my virtual presentation.
Are you using rolling drums?
No, that’s the only part that’s pre-recorded. I pre-recorded my big green screen. All the performances are still there. There’s just not live because it’s not feasible to do that here. My recording video is crapped up with stuff. I’m filled up with stuff. It’s not a good space and you need multiple people. When COVID ends, I would love to be able to do virtual presentations and play live. I’m doing it all myself because we are very strict about social distancing and very strict about everything. I’ve learned, taken, and spent countless hours figuring out how to make the virtual presentation work better, where the green screen, finding the right camera, the right platform, lighting, timing, and the way to still make it interactive.
If they’re not expecting super live drums and they’re okay with that, I have HD pre-recorded stuff that I could use. I did a drum solo for Oracle and I customized the drum solo. The other thing I’m doing is virtual hosting. You could do some talking heads like this with some high-quality audio. They take that and they put that in their presentation and it makes it feel like they’ve got like a Mario Lopez or a Seacrest to help their presentation along. Jim, what do you want to ask a world-class drummer?
You mentioned Cardone and Gary Vee. They’re on opposite sides of the spectrum. Wouldn’t you agree?
I wouldn’t agree. Both those guys are completely uncensored, unabashed, full of grit, honest, and fearless. Their philosophies may be different, but they’re in different businesses as well. You want to have different philosophies. My philosophies may be vastly different than a lot of other people’s philosophies as well. I look for the similarities and I’d find both of these guys to have much energy, power, success, slicing right through all the bullshit and getting right to the core. That’s what I love about anybody. Be emphatic, authentic, and have high integrity with what you do. Both of those guys may have different approaches, which is fine, but they are both super powerful and talk about guys that cuss their asses off. That’s who they are. They’re not interested in censoring or changing who they are for anybody.
When I get on stage and I speak, I don’t even say, “Damn.” I’m a rock and roller. I still censor myself because that’s part of my brand. Also, that’s who I talk to. If you hire Gary Vee or Grant Cardone and they cuss, that’s what you get. You’re not going to tell them not to cuss because if you tell them to censor what they do, then you’re not getting them anyway. I can censor what I do because I practice censoring what I do. You still get all of the same content. In our interview, I’ve said, “Fuck,” once. I don’t need to cuss. I can and I enjoy it. Sometimes I’m emphatic and on a roll or sometimes I had a few tequilas and here we go. I want somebody who’s completely authentic and somebody that has a point of view that’s so strong that I can immediately walk away with feeling completely inspired and have some content that I could immediately use and work with. With both of those guys, you can. That’s what matters.
Rich, do you remember when we went to go to his show? We went down there and interviewed him in his own home turf. Do you remember what he did at the end of the interview? He got a little blue. He was telling some jokes that involved lady and male parts. My wife was there running sound and as soon as the interview was over, he beelined over to her and said, “I am sorry I said that in front of you. If that made you feel uncomfortable, I apologize.” Both of us were like, “You didn’t have to do that.”
That’s also awareness, empathy and understanding your audience. They’re smart. To have the amount of success that they’ve had, they need to be able to read and understand their audience. He might’ve gotten into the thick of it with you guys. When he realized, “Your wife’s there. I need to be empathetic. Be compassionate and read their energy.” It’s cool of him to do that.
Have you seen the interview between Cardone and Vaynerchuk?
I haven’t seen that, but I will. Tony Robbins has the foulest mouth on the planet when you go to his seminars. Tony’s brilliant.
I think that’s a new thing.
It’s not that new. This guy has been doing this stuff for many years.
I don’t remember him swearing like that though.
Part of the swearing is shock therapy. When you all of a sudden hit somebody with that kind of word. Tony is all about changing your state. When you hit somebody like that, it changes their state. It wakes them up. It shocks them. When you shock somebody, you tend to make it in a funny way, but he does it with purpose. He doesn’t do it because he’s careless. None of these guys are careless. These guys are all precisely on point. They’re way too smart and way too successful to let anything go by them. When I’m designing my speech or when we’re on stage playing with these artists, every single nuance, note and word matters.
We need to have the responsibility to maintain the success and pay attention to all of the nuances. I’ve got to believe that these guys are doing the same thing. They may be less inhibited. If I was worth $100 million and I felt cussing to a speaking client, I’d probably be more inclined to cuss and not care so much. I realized that I am also speaking to a diverse crowd of people. Some people are religious, conservative. Some people are offended. My thing is I am there to be of service. If you’re there to be of service, it’s easy to censor what you say, yet still get all of your information across the way that you want to get it. Why take the chance of offending somebody when you don’t have to? It’s unnecessary. It’s not about you anymore, then you’re not being of service. It’s about your ego. It’s like, “To hell with it. I’m going to ruffle feathers because I can. I feel like cussing so I’m going to cuss.”
That’s a great choice, Mark. It’s a safe choice. It is a responsible choice. For the drummers and the readers. I know we attract a lot of drummers and they want to know some drum stuff or steal some nuggets of wisdom. You’ve been at this a long time. I’ve been playing drums since 1976, dinosaurs roamed the Earth. We’re active right around there, if not a little earlier than that. When you look at the diverse list of artists that you’ve worked with, I remember the first time that you and I got chummy. I went to go see you at the Baked Potato and you were filling in for Matt with Velvet Revolver.
That was 2005.
We started talking to each other around 2002, 2003. I was playing in Los Angeles. We’re doing the Craig Ferguson Show or something. I got out that night. You were playing the Potato with this cool saxophone player, this fusion group. We hung out on the street with your girlfriend at the time, we were all kibitzing and you were doing the Velvet Revolver thing, but this is an amazing list of people. How do you approach each gig? How would you approach a Stevie Nicks gig versus Cher, P!nk or a Velvet Revolver?
I’m there to be of service. I take into consideration who they are, what they want, what they expect. I do a lot of listening. All of these bands have such different approaches, but it’s still fundamentally me playing. I’m still putting my personality, my playing, and my style. I’m molding it around who they are. With Velvet Revolver, I was there to be as Matt Sorum-like as possible because Matt’s their drummer. I wanted them and I wanted the audience to feel comfortable. I approached it to the best of my ability in the way that Matt would approach it, listening to the live stuff, listening to the studio stuff, and trying to make it as easy for everybody else as possible. It was seamless with no rehearsal. Brian Tichy did a few gigs and then I did all of Ozzfest with no rehearsal. This was a hard rock heavy metal festival. It was Black Sabbath and Velvet Revolver co-headlining. The rest of the bands were Shadows Fall and heavy bands.
I got to watch a lot of these younger drummers that were crazy like 220 rented kit drums. I’m still playing old school. I was trying to play like Matt. With Stevie Nicks, when I got the gig, I knew that Stevie’s favorite drummer was Mick Fleetwood. I studied Mick Fleetwood and I even made my drums try to sound like Mick’s. It’s the first time I ever used pinstripes. I had a low snare drum and I tried to play in the style of Mick and that sounded like Mick, yet still putting my own personality into it. Listening as much as I could and listening to musical director Wadi. The same thing when I got the Simple Minds gig because I got hired by Keith Forsey, who was a producer to play one song for them, which turned into nearly the entire record, and then I did a whole tour.
A lot of that for me was I studied Mel Gaynor because Mel is such a great drummer and I wanted to study what he was doing live except the record I played, which was my own style. I could play my stuff, but I’ve forgotten what Simple Minds was like. At the beginning though, I was misjudged. Don’t You Forget About Me, there’s that famous Mel Gaynor opening. It’s definitive and famous. We did a couple of gigs and I took it upon myself to play a different fill. That was a bad decision. Charlie, the co-leader of the band says, “Mark, I’d like you to play the fill like Mel.” The irony was he remembered the fill differently. It’s a different fill. What I did was I played it as Charlie remembered it. From that point on, he was happy. Even his perception of the original fill was different, but it was all a matter of, “I’m not going to challenge him. I want to make his life easy and simple.”
The interesting thing with P!nk it’s yet a whole different thing because almost everything’s programmed, a little bit of drums. Unlike you, who you play drums with your artists, P!nk’s stuff, she works with producers that program everything and there’ll be a drummer. They brought in Taylor Hawkins on one song on this last record, but we never played it, but everything else was drum loops and they’re repetitive drum loops. Part of what the band does is the band evolves the music. Here’s a great example of that, the song, What About Us. That was one of the biggest songs ever and a gorgeous song and incredible lyrics. The song was a pattern and the whole thing never evolved.
When we started rehearsing, the manager said, “On this record, she wants stuff to sound more like the record.” We learned the song verbatim. There was no crunchy guitar. Justin who always plays some great crunchy big choruses, we didn’t evolve the song. We played it like it was from the record. She came in and she listened to it. I was the one that stood up. I said, “We worked out a whole other version where I play big toms in the chorus and Justin plays big crunchy guitars.” We played that version. She’s like, “Yes, that’s it.”
One of the wonderful things about that gig is we get to evolve it. I put my signature on the original music and we evolve a lot of stuff. We even come up with sometimes Paul Mirkovich with his MD and a lot of the stuff, MD for The Voice. He’s MD’d most of P!nk’s tours. Sometimes I’ll put intros, outros or segues in between songs, and we get to play this interesting and cool stuff. It’s about reading the artist, reading the musical director, finding the right balance of what is appropriate and inappropriate, doing a lot of listening, and doing a lot of studying. I played primarily with simple pop artists. Cher’s an interesting artist to play with because you’re playing five decades of music. I didn’t realize it and I played with Cher for nearly twenty years.
I left the gig. I brought in Jason Sutter, our mutual dear friend. I didn’t realize how challenging what I’d been doing until I came in with Jason. He is a studier. This guy will study every nuance. He’s incredible. I had a complete Roland V-drum setup and a complete acoustic setup. I was playing all the dance stuff on the Roland V-drum and then the acoustic stuff. I even had extra toms to emulate Hal Blaine fills from the ‘70s like on Gypsy’s Tramps & Thieves. I was trying to emulate all these decades of music. I found that it’s a diverse set to play because I had this thing where I was swinging my left hand on some songs and strumming on others. This interesting and hybrid of electronics and acoustics. When I started showing Jason, I’m like, “This stuff’s damn complicated. I didn’t even realize that.” He was learning. I was working with him on some specific fills, but we had worked that out over years and years of evolution. I played with her for nearly twenty years.
That’s incredible. That’s five presidencies. That’s where my band is now.
How have you been with Jason Aldean?
I’ve been there since 1999.
You played on almost all the records, right?
Every record and television show.
That’s the difference in your career and my career. I came in except for Simple Minds and I played on some of the Foreigner’s stuff.
You did the redo.
We recorded a couple of the original material as well because they release some of the stuff. They wanted to rerelease it and own the masters. Other than that, like with Stevie Nicks, Cher, and with P!nk there’s nothing that’s been released. I played on a few P!nk songs, but they never got released. Everything else is drum machine or maybe drummers that played on it years ago.
You heard it here first. This is how you get a gig and keep a gig. You study, do your homework, over-prepare, flexible, providing a service, creating solutions for people, got a firm handshake, and know your stuff. I think I read a story one time when you were playing for Simple Minds and you were playing a big festival in Scotland or Ireland like 250,000 people. I have not done that yet. I played for 80,000 people in a football stadium, but that’s a lot of people.
We played at the Glastonbury Festival and it was like Woodstock, 225,000 people. Standing on the side of the stage watching us was Peter Gabriel, who was one of my absolute heroes. You couldn’t see the end of the audience. It was like rolling hills. They had timed PAs with time delays and videos going all the way across and what a rush that was. One of my bucket lists, the last big gig we played with P!nk on the last tour was Rock in Rio, 100,000 people. At the end of the audience, it was a big parking lot, but it was 100,000 people in Rio and I love Rio. I also went to a Lapa, which is the area where they invented samba. I sat in with one of the samba bands and played shaker and did my best to do the lumpy Brazilian feel with the shaker. I was trying hard. It’s not about egos like, “I’m not a rockstar sitting here.” He was like, “I’m trying to honor you guys and honor everything that you do and how great. The fact that you’re letting me play shaker with you.” It was like, “Oh my God.”
Some Brazilian housewife that’s beating on a pot and pan is giving you dirty laundry, the right field. Jim, this is your favorite part of the show.
It’s my favorite part of the show. Thank you for this. I don’t think you’ll have to answer. It’s not a tap out question.
We all have things that we were into when we were kids aside from drumming and everything. For me, it was radio-controlled cars. For Rich, it was speed skating. What were you into when you were a kid?
Girls. I know it sounds funny, but in elementary school all the other boys are making in front of the girls. I’m like bring them my way. Me and my friend, Kurt Diesel, who was the only boy that had long hair because he had hippie parents. We would run around his backyard pretending like we were the Beatles being chased by girls. It was always music and then my older brother, six years older than me, had gotten me in all kinds of music. It was music and music. I wasn’t that great at sports. Girls and music. That was it.
There was no hesitation in answering. A lot of the things that you had mentioned earlier goes along with the philosophy that I have. Rich, you’ve heard me talk about this, “Be them centric.”
Mark, you’re a great friend and you inspire a lot of people, including myself, and the people want to get in touch with you. I know that you get to get back to people right away. What’s your name on the socials, on Instagram?
Instagram and Twitter are @MarkyPlanet. Our website is MarkSchulman.com. I’m going to give you my personal email address. If anybody wants to email me to say hi, it’s Mark@MarkSchulman.com. Info@MarkSchulman.com goes to my management. We’re all drummers. Feel free to contact me. I do one-on-one lessons via Zoom. I call them like an aggregate lesson. I analyze your playing but it’s about career coaching/plan. I just one and then I will refer you to my dear friend, Bruce Becker, if you want permanent lessons because he is the greatest teacher. I still study with him sometimes. If you’re having a career coaching lesson where I will assess everything, feel free to contact me directly and we’ll work it out. I’ll give you a special discount if you saw me on Rich’s show.
People always say, “Rich, I love your website.” I said, “That is a very expensive overpriced website.” I got the idea from my friend, Mark Schulman, we have to blame him.
Your website is important. That’s how you brand. I just got a brand-new sizzle reel, which includes some of my virtual stuff in it. That wasn’t cheap either because I used my favorite editors in Australia, David Ross.
You’ve got to pay people for their time and talent. Jim, thank you for your time and talent as always.
You got it.
To our sponsors, Angie and Kelly, the School of Rock Franklin and Nashville, we love you supporting music education. We’re all products of music education. Mark is a sitting duck on the internet and he will get back to you, I promise. Mark, thanks for sharing your time with us.
Brothers, big love.
Mark Schulman has performed for more than a billion people in his 28-year career. He’s been the drummer for some of the greatest musical artists in history, including P!nk, Foreigner, Cher, Billy Idol, Stevie Nicks, Simple Minds, Beyoncé, Tina Turner, Velvet Revolver, Dave Koz and many more.
In Conquering Life’s Stage Fright, through entertaining stories and innovative exercises, Mark reveals three core concepts that you can immediately employ to transform your anxieties — no matter what type of presentation, communication or performance is causing them — into a confident, world-class performance.
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