Kenny Aronoff is one of the hardest working rock ‘n’ roll drummers performing today. After more than 35 years playing with rock legends like John Mellencamp, John Fogerty, Jon Bon Jovi, Smashing Pumpkins, Joe Cocker, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, B.B. King, Avril Lavigne, Alanis Morissette, Elton John and Sting, to being the house drummer for the Kennedy Center Honors and to playing alongside Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr on the Beatles’ CBS special, The Night That Changed America, it is not surprising that Aronoff is listed among Rolling Stone Magazine’s “100 Greatest Drummers of All Time.” How did he do it? How did he survive? And what makes him the “drummer's drummer” that everyone calls when they need the best?

Stay Thirsty Magazine was pleased to sit down with rock ‘n rolls’ Kenny Aronoff at this Los Angeles studio to talk about his new book, Sex, Drums, Rock ‘n’ Roll! The Hardest Hitting Man in Show Business, and about what he did to survive and prosper in a business notorious for spectacular falls from grace.

STAY THIRSTY: In your book, Sex, Drums, Rock’ n’ Roll!, you offer a unique glimpse behind the curtain of how high energy rock n’ roll music gets made. What three things contributed to your success as a drummer and to your longevity in the music business?

KENNY ARONOFF: 1) Self-Discipline – doing things that you may not want to do,
but they get you the results you want; 2) Hard work, fueled by passion and education. Hard work is the vehicle that will get you through life. Hard Work gets you somewhere. If you do nothing, you get nothing. Basic Math: 0 = 0; 3) Perseverance  – never giving up. I am a running back that only sees the end zone – “Give me the ball, Give me the ball.” I may not score a touch down every time I touch the ball, but I will eventually score a touch down, and then another, and another one and I have no plans to stop. As long as I am alive, you can count on me to kick some ass; 4) Create a plan, execute it to reach your goal. I have done that over and over again.

I spent five years in college and two summers at the best orchestral music programs in America to become a great percussionist so I could get a job in the field I studied with the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra and the Quito Equator Orchestra. I reached my goal.

Goal number 2: I didn’t join those orchestras. I decided my new goal was to make it in a rock band like the Beatles. Four years of discipline, hard work, perseverance got me an audition with Johnny Cougar. The rest is history there.

Goal number 3: John Cougar Mellencamp quits the music business and I become a serious session drummer recording all kinds of styles of music. From Johnny Cash to B.B. King to Alice Cooper to Avril Lavigne to Elton John and Willie Nelson, etc.

Goal number 4: I am now an author and a professional speaker.

Goal number 5: Communication, teamwork skills (getting along with everyone). Why hire Kenny Aronoff? It’s not just how good I play, it’s my ability to get along with everyone and do what’s right for the song, the artist or band. It’s not about me. It’s about them.

Goal number 6: Staying relevant and focused in any business is the key to success. The world is changing fast. If you lose focus and do not stay relevant, you will get left behind.

STAY THIRSTY: Your resume as both a performer and a session drummer reads like a Who’s Who of rock n’ roll from John Mellencamp to Mick Jagger to John Fogerty to Joe Cocker to Elton John to Jon Bon Jovi. In fact, it would probably be easier to list the people you haven’t worked with during your 40-year career. What is your secret to working with the icons of contemporary music?

KENNY ARONOFF: First, I am professional, easy to get a long with, get the job done and I know what the purpose of a drummer is…to get the artist’s song(s) on the radio and be #1. And second, with my experiences, I am now a problem solver. Not just a drummer.

Kenny Aronoff

STAY THIRSTY: You write that your book is about being a rock star, whether in music or in any career. “It’s is about being the best you can be at whatever you do in life…” When did you figure that out?

KENNY ARONOFF: At age 16, I learned self-discipline. At age 18, I learned hard work, fueled my passion and education. During my five years of college and summer music programs, I learned how to create a plan, execute it and reach a goal. It took four auditions, four years to get into the Tanglewood Music program run by the Boston Symphony Orchestra. I made that happen. I always had great communication skills. Basically the more I lived and experienced, the more I put it all together and now I have a formula which is the book I am writing right now.

STAY THIRSTY: What advice do you have for all those teenage drummers aspiring to become part of the next rock band sensation? How did you convert your dreams into reality?

KENNY ARONOFF: I already listed them in my first answer, but I would like to add on more ingredient: a healthy life is a wealthy life – stay physically, mentally and emotionally healthy.

STAY THIRSTY: Of all the music you have made, of all the great musicians you have worked with, who are your most favorite? What drummers do you admire and what musicians/bands would you like to play with that you haven’t?

KENNY ARONOFF: There is no one best artist or band. I loved working with so many, from composer conductor Leonard Bernstein to Sting, Bruce Springsteen, Elton John, Dave Grohl from the Foo Fighters, to Tony Iommi from Sabbath, John Bon Jovi, Melissa Etheridge, Rod Stewart, to name just a few.

I admire a lot of dead drummers like John Bonham, Mitch Mitchell, Keith Moon, Buddy Rich, Elvin Jones, Louis Bellson, Gene Krupa. Today, I love drummers like Vinnie Caluitta, Dave Grohl, Dave Weckl, Chad Smith, Thomas Lang and Billy Cobham.

I would love to tour with Sting and have Jeff Beck be in the band and to tour with Paul McCartney.


All opinions expressed are solely those of its author and do not reflect the opinions of Stay Thirsty Media, Inc.