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Bob Marlette - Interviewed

- Mitch West

Bob Marlette Photo Credit: All Star Bio

It all started right here in Lincoln, NE. From Ozzy Osbourne to Sheryl Crow and everything in between, legendary Lincolnite and fellow Lincoln Southeast High School alum Bob Marlette has learned to become quite the chameleon throughout his career working with some of music's biggest and most recognizable names throughout the years. Bob Marlette is an LA-based music producer from Lincoln, NE. He wears many hats both literally and figuratively having been a session player, hit songwriter, multi-platinum producer, sound engineer, composer, mentor, teacher, and mixer. His Pro Mix Academy features tips and tricks in programs like Logic Pro, Pro Tools, Reaper, Ableton Live, Cakewalk, Cubase, and Sadie6 Mastering Sweet. Through the years Bob has worked with a vast array of musicians some of whom include Alice Cooper, Black Stone Cheery, Rob Zombie, Tracy Chapman, Sebastian Bach, Anvil, Shinedown, Black Sabbath, James Valentine, David Lee Roth, and more. Chances are you've heard music this man has worked on and boy is his track record long, just read his credits HERE. Earlier this year we had the chance to connect with Bob to learn more about his journey, hear some stories from his career, and more.

Take us on a journey, how'd it all begin?

Bob: I worked at Dietz, like God well. Technically that was the only job I've ever actually had in my life. I was working at Dietz, but I wouldn't say I actually "worked" there primarily. Doug Fenton, the guy who owned Dietz for years we were really good friends and what he did was he hired me essentially to sit there and play all the instruments, and then kids would come in and the parents would come. And and. You know I'd play and they all sort of stand. around and watch me and then I could go. Yeah, if you buy this guitar, you can play just like that. So I was his ringer

You were like their in-store demo!

Bob: Yes I was ha. That was very funny. Mainly what I used to do is just you know, whatever time I was supposed to show up, I was always late and when I got there, I'd usually you know, there was a row of amps, like the Marshall Stack amps and I take all the covers from the amps and lay them behind the row and I go there and sleep because I was usually playing gigs like all night, right? So. Always tired. And I was. He would always say it's like because we've been friends now for like 50 years plus and he would always say I was, without a doubt, his worst employee ever. Let me think. It's funny because there were a couple of other Southeast former Southeast people. One was James Valentine, a Guitar player from Maroon 5 and then Shawn and Dave Bestie were both also, I believe Southeast too. But I brought Sean and James Valentine out to LA and we did a record called "Square" that is still to this day. One of my favorite records I've done. I loved doing that record. It was so inventive. Sadly there was inner band turmoil and it fell apart before we had I I had literally. I had 10 record labels ready to buy and ready to go. Yeah. Was so into it. And then shenanigans happened, which, you know, normal band shenanigans happened.

When did things click and you knew you needed to move?

Bob: At that time. I mean, you gotta remember, this would have been. Cause I left Lincoln. And what 1974? or 75? somewhere around in there. That's when I left, and at that time there were, you know the real clubs were a place called 'The Royal Grow'. That was like that was pretty much the epicenter. There was a place called 'Little Bowes', which was another club. But really, you know actually what? What was the other one? There was another one kind of on the outskirts of town. And it was out out. It was out by 'Pla Mor', you know, but Pla Mor was one of the other places too. We did shows out there, but it was very, you know, very rare. So basically my band at the time was a band called 'Oedipus', right? Oedipus was a band that had Mike and John Paul, they went on to be the 'Sandy Creek Band' and they stayed in Lincoln like forever. My first real gig was a battle of the bands at 'Pershing Auditorium'. And I think I was 14 at the time so the band I was in I think was called 'Roach'. That was the name of the band. This is you know, there's irony here, OK? It was called 'Roach' but everybody was so young, they didn't really understand what 'Roach' was, or what if it's the terminology and it would just seem like, oh yeah, we're just bugs, you know? So we called it 'Roach' and came in second place. 'Oedipus' with the Paul brothers and 'Burned Mites' came in first place. They saw me playing. So after they won, they came up to me and we were like "Hey, you want to join our band?", right? So I joined them and we literally took off. One of probably the biggest bands in Lincoln at the time. We played all over Nebraska and Iowa. Sort of the whole kind of area around there, I started when I was in 9th Grade, I think you know 14 somewhere around there. And we just played. Like, you know, endlessly in that circuit, and as you know, as we kept going, the older we got, I started figuring out within myself that I wanted more whereas they were very happy and very content sort of just staying in there with the big fish in the little pond. They were totally cool with that. For me, I was always like I need to go. I need to get out there into the world and see if I can make this actual dream come true. So I think at this point I was almost 18 or I might have just turned 18 when there were a couple of people that I sort of knew. This singer from Omaha had gone to LA and when he had gone to LA he met up with Rudy Sarzo and Frankie Bonelli from 'Quiet Riot'. Then they came back and asked me if I would join their band because they knew a booking agent in Chicago who could get him some gigs and make stuff happen. I'm like yeah, I gotta. I gotta go. So we put that band together in my parent's basement. Rudy and I always laughed about how the early version of Quiet Riot was actually put together in Lincoln, NE in my parent's basement.

Was there ever a time when you got out to LA and you're meeting all of these musicians and you're starting to work together, you're talking with one another? Did you feel like maybe at that time the water was a little bit too cloudy with musicians and you might not get through? Did it seem like that's what everybody was trying to do?

Bob: We put this band together in my parent's basement and then one of the guys came out from New York and had a van and we just packed everything into the van and started to do shows playing little clubs and then we ended up in Chicago. All of this was in about 1974 I think. We started playing clubs around the Chicago area and this went on for a couple of years all the while, you know there were the three of us, Rudy Sarzo, myself, and Frankie we're like, you know what? We gotta get to LA cause we don't know how could we get a record deal as a band and how can we go to the next level if we're not at the epicenter of all the things that we want. That was back in the day when there literally were essentially 2 hubs of music in the US and that was LA and New York. I mean, obviously, there was Nashville, but it wasn't. That wasn't our genre, and it wasn't our universe. In 1977 we went back to Lincoln just the three of us and I talked my dad into giving me the old Gold Plymouth station wagon and we packed it up. We packed it up with everything we own with a U-Haul trailer. The three of us went to LA in 1977, and that sort of began the journey. Pretty crazy I had like probably 120 bucks in my pocket and that was it. I was like, what, 19 or 20 years old? Back in the day, there was just a sort of reckless abandon so I figured why not? Let's do it. Let's go make it happen so there was LA.

What was it like when you got out there? That scene had to be crazy. What a time.

Bob: When we first got to LA we were so broke. Obviously, we had no money, so we slept in the car. There was a very famous club in LA called The Rainbow Room that was sort of an iconic place where you would see, you know, Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath and all these famous bands, right? That's where they would go and party and hang out at this club, right? It was just the epicenter of that. Back in 77, the Sunset Strip was just literally where the universe was, and it was so amazing. It was such a time. We were so broke we used to go to the rainbow and we would pick up women so they could feed us and give us a place to sleep. That was the difference between starving to death and living. You know, it's like, OK, I'll buy him dinner and then as you saw in the picture, the clothes, right, and then in the morning, you know I I'd say hey, you know, can I look at your closet, right? And I go through and see something that I OK, I could pull that off.

Bob: It's a learning curve, I think for a lot of this concept here is the importance to understand how getting from point A to point Z is just, you know, it's just essentially it's linear, you know because you just start there and then you're at the rainbow and someone says "Ohh, you know this guitar player, he wants to put a band together" and you're like "OK, cool. Let's go check him out. Is he any good?" I met a woman at the Rainbow and it turned out that we ended up dating and living together. She was a singer named Tony Childs. This is a long time ago but she had a couple of big hits in the 80s. She and I started going out together. We put a band together there but again the the sort of concept here is understanding a thing very seldom is "I just went there and I became a huge star" It's about the steps up the ladder. Everything's rung in the ladder. You meet somebody, and this person introduces you to this other person, so after having that band for a while and just doing different stuff what really started happening was I started getting phone calls from other bands and other people saying, hey, can you come and play keyboards on my demo? I'm like, sure, absolutely. I just did everything, you know, whenever the phone rang I didn't care what it was. I'll just do it, you know, and about 90% of it there was no money. It was just like let's do the demo. We would do the demo but the thing was, every one of those things would lead to something else, because every time you walked in the studio if you were any good, everybody was like, "Ohh dude, this guy's great. Let's use him the next time we do something." And that was literally how I ended up getting my foot in the door of the studio world. I just endlessly did everybody's sessions and then basically the sort of the transition to money was when I would get so busy I'm like "Dude, I'm sorry. I can't do it for you because I'm already booked doing this" and then pretty soon it's like "well dude, I think we can scrape up some money for you." So the money gig then, that's the one that took the precedence, was whoever was, you know, paying you money to do it.

Bob: The light bulb for me was as much as I love being on stage, to me the most exciting thing ever was the mystery of the studio. It was in that room where that magic was being made. See, when you're on stage, you're just getting up there and you're just doing what you do, you know, and it's like, the intrigue and the mystery of the studio was like, Oh my God, how are they making this magic happen? How do you know what is going on here? You know? And I started to see that. These little tiny glimpses of that it was just sort of being around the scene and watching this happen. How do you plot your career trajectory? It's very simple. The phone would ring. I would answer it and I would say yes! It didn't matter what the hell it was. I'll do it. You know, it's like, hey man, tomorrow night we're doing a session, but we can't start until 1:00 in the morning when the other band leaves. Right. I'm in. I'll do it. And that was literally from all of these years. That's what I owe to a lot of the sort of eclectic nature of my career when it goes from Wilson Phillips, Rick Springfield, Al Stewart, Sheryl Crow to Marilyn Manson, Black Sabbath, you know Rob Zombie, all this, you know, heavy shit right back and forth, it's because I never delineated the difference between the two. So this music and that music, it was all the same, you know, cause somebody would ask me like, well, how can you go from doing Tracy Chapman to Ozzy Osbourne, you know? It's like 'cause it's all the same, it's music.

What advice would you give to the up-and-coming next generation of music?

Bob: Always dream big, that part of the fun! Say yes to as much as possible early on. Just get the work and fill up your own credit list. The more you do and the more versatile you are the better you'll become. Experience doesn't just happen. Be a chameleon. Network, network, network. Get your name out there and meet people. That's arguably one of the most important things we should all be doing regardless of industry. Who you know is everything.

So what's next for Bob? Now in his 60's Bob's not stopping anytime soon. He plans to dial it back a bit working more on his own personal projects and being pickier with the other gigs and commitments he takes on. Bob's career spans decades and is the kind of career music nerds like myself can only dream of having. His recipe for success isn't actually any secret at all. Its ingredients can be applied to just about anything. Never stop trying things. Learn what you like and what you don't like. When you do start to find things you genuinely like, lean into that shit Bet on yourself and always be networking and connecting. Look at the opportunity first before the money and learn to be adaptable but most importantly be a good person. Do the work you're proud of, share it with the world and the money will come. We look forward to staying in contact with Bob and reconnecting with him soon.


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