Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Rock Fantasy news: Rock n roll get real

Rock 'n' roll dreams get real

By Carla Meyer
Published: Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2011 -
Rock 'n' roll dreams never die. They just get more expensive.

At Sacramento's myRecordFantasy camp, which started Monday, rock fans can jam with, audition for and potentially make a record with Todd Rundgren, the "Hello It's Me" singer and record producer. The price of the three-day event is $5,000.

"It is not a trivial amount of money," said Joan Carlson, 50, a camper and singer from Sausalito. "It is (equivalent to) a good trip to Italy."

Rather than lounge in a Tuscan villa, the 30 myRecordFantasy campers – from Northern California, Chicago, Dallas, Brazil and elsewhere – pound on drums, noodle on guitar and shoot the breeze with Rundgren at the deluxe Track Shack Studios off Arden Way.

The building itself fulfills rock 'n' roll fantasies, with its open bar and walls lined with memorabilia including the red neon "Tower" sign from the former Watt Avenue store.

"I tried to resist, but finally, my inner child screeched, 'I want to do this!' " Carlson, owner of a design firm, said of signing up for the camp.

Now in its third session – previous events focused on the Monkees' Micky Dolenz and Starship's Mickey Thomas – myRecordFantasy is the brainchild of Mitch Koulouris, 50, a longtime Tower Records employee turned digital-music entrepreneur.

Koulouris' current venture, Gigatone Entertainment, puts on myRecordFantasy camp, produces records and a Web series related to the camp – and taps the significant market of baby boomers who were teenagers when first captivated by Rundgren's or Dolenz's music.

The same kids who learned to play guitar by listening to Rundgren's records in their bedrooms now play alongside him in a state-of-the-art studio.

The camp "brings back a moment in time in people's lives, regardless of their age – from a prom, a wedding or a (particular) summer – associated with a particular artist," Koulouris said. "If you fast-forward, we are all a bit older and working in our daily lives, and to be on a record with someone associated with fond memories of the past – it is an awesome thing."

Most campers are boomers

Wannabe rock stars at the Rundgren event include 31-year-old camper Daniel Iasbeck, a guitar whiz on his first trip abroad from his native Sao Paulo, Brazil. But the majority of campers are boomers in their late 40s and their 50s who bring disposable income along with an unwavering interest in rock 'n' roll.

"Boomers have held onto things that once were considered youth-oriented for longer," said Mark Beach, a spokesman for the AARP. "This is the first generation in which the parents and kids like the same music – the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix."

"You are talking about rock 'n' roll, and by definition, a lot of us made a conscious decision never to grow up," said Bruce Whetstone, 58, of San Francisco, who has a very grown-up job as vice president of IT operations for the Sephora cosmetics chain. "And that other piece of it is 'Hey, look at Mick Jagger.' As long as you can do it, and do it well … "

Whetstone, who played bass in rock bands in his teens and 20s, long ago decided to focus on his straight job. But he always tried to keep up on his instrument, which he brought along for his audition with Rundgren.

The rock camp encourages participants to audition but also welcomes fans who mostly want to observe.

David Mobley, 57, came to Sacramento from his home in the Dallas-Fort Worth area "just to take it all in," he said, after pouring himself a glass of red wine in the Track Shack's kitchen.

It was 10 a.m. in Sacramento, but noon in Texas and 5 o'clock somewhere. Moreover it was rock 'n' roll.

Mobley wanted a few days away from the responsibility of running the company he started with his wife, Cheryl – Wonder Wafers International, maker of those auto air fresheners that are placed under seats at carwashes.

Mobley said music always has been his "getaway."

Camper skill level high

A gigging musician in his youth, he turned producer after hearing the innovative "ear candy" of Rundgren's "Hello It's Me," and "I Saw the Light," he said. He hoped to join Rundgren behind the mixing board during the camp.

Rock fans' maturation from '70s teenagers to corporate bigwigs, along with veteran artists' reliance on older fans to stay relevant, has narrowed the gap between star and audience, with bands frequently playing corporate gigs or inviting fans to special meet-and-greet events. The modern record industry, weakened by the Internet and therefore less likely to offer contracts to older artists, leveled things further.

"It is hard enough to get a record deal, let alone a good budget" for a project, said Rundgren, 62, after downing a quick sandwich in between Monday's auditions. Rundgren said he viewed the camp as another chance to interact with fans, and also a legitimate recording opportunity.

He was surprised and pleased by the campers' skill level, he said.

"I just wish more people sucked, so it could make the selection process easier," he said with a laugh.

Rundgren threw the campers a curve Monday by announcing that the songs they'd record on the Gigatone album – remakes of hits he produced for other artists such as the Psychedelic Furs' "Love My Way" and Meat Loaf's "Two Out of Three Ain't Bad" – would be set to a dance beat to reflect contemporary radio.

"I probably put in a solid 40 hard hours practicing (the original versions), and that isn't going to help me at all," said Whetstone, visibly tense before entering the studio to perform the Tubes' "Prime Time" with Rundgren and his band, which includes the actual former Tubes drummer Prairie Prince.

Once in the studio, Whetstone handled the bass line to "Prime Time" as deftly as he would a network slowdown at Sephora's stores.

"I admire someone who can play with calm confidence," Rundgren said.

Whetstone made the cut to play on the album, and on Monday night jammed with Rundgren and company at Pearl on the River in one of the three evening shows put on during the camp. (Tonight's Rundgren show at Rocklin's Strikes Entertainment Center is open to the public).

Joining Rundgren and Whetstone at Pearl on the River, on tambourine, was Mobley, the Texan. It was only the camp's first day, but Mobley already had met his goal of hanging with Rundgren – and then some.

He had dinner at Pearl on the River with Rundgren and Brent Bourgeois, the Sacramento musician from the group Bourgeois Tagg, once produced by Rundgren. Bourgeois also jammed with the band Monday night.

"We talked the whole time like we had known each other forever," Mobley said.

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