Michael Jochum is a Husband, Father, Grandfather, Drummer, Author, Advocate for the Disabled Musician, Activist, and Dog Lover
BR: Today we are talking with Ryan Chrys & The Rough Cuts drummer, Michael Jochum.
Hello Michael, I hope in these strange times you and your family are staying healthy.
MJ: Thanks so much for having me Brian. I really enjoy the Bozeman Magazine, and I’ve felt honored to be featured in the magazine the past few months. Yes, trying times indeed. My wife Karen and I knew that between our five kids, their spouses, and our six grandkids that at least one or two of them would be contracting Covid, and sure enough my son-in-law Jay, as well as my daughter Kylah, got sick fairly early on. Jay spent 10 days in the hospital but is perfectly well now, and Kylah only had mild symptoms and recovered quickly. Otherwise, all is good around my little farmhouse Homestead here in Arvada, Colorado.
BR: What are your feelings for the upcoming summer as far as things happening or not happening for the local/national music scene?
MJ: Well, we’re beginning to see the light at the end of the musical grounding tunnel, but I have to qualify that by saying that clubs, venues, outdoor or not must adhere to whatever the States mandates are for distancing, curfew, and limited capacity or it could all go away as fast as it’s coming back. There’s a club here in Denver that decided it was a reasonable idea to go to full capacity, and it was immediately shut down. As much as we don’t want to follow the “rules,” it’s a necessary consequence in order to ramp things back up to what would be considered “normal.“ I do know that the Rough Cuts are doing the best we can to put together a late Spring/Summer and into Fall touring schedule, and the dates are coming in, but like I said, it could all go away in an instant. We can’t wait to get back to Bozeman!
BR: So, please tell us, where did you attend High School? If you recall, Musically what were you listening to (or being influenced by) the most at that time in your life?
MJ: I grew up in “beautiful downtown Burbank, California” and went to high school at Burbank high. I was the epitome of a “musical nerd“ in high school, and along with my best friend Tim Burton the film director, spent most of my time by myself, honing my craft. I say I was the “musical nerd,” but I will admit without any sense of ego that I became a bit of a star when I started playing drum solos at assemblies. All of a sudden I was pretty cool despite the fact that I was overweight and rather awkward in everything else except my music. My best friend Tim felt the same way, so we would spend hours at our respective homes talking about how we were going to make a mark, taking our innate creativity to another level. During my tenure in high school, I was influenced by the mid 70s fusion groups like “Weather Report,” the “Mahavishnu Orchestra” Miles Davis, John Coltrane, “Return to Forever,” as
well as progressive rock groups like “Chicago,“ “Blood Sweat Tears,” “Genesis,” and the like.
BR: How old were you when you started playing music? What led you to start performing live?
MJ: I sat at my first Drum Kit when I was 12 years old, and I have the fondest memory of my grandmother giving me my first “stick bag“ for my 13th birthday and saying, “Michael, I want to give you this bag to hold your “tools of the trade,” because I know that you’re going to spend the rest of your life playing the drums.” I’ve always loved that old school reference… “Tools of the trade,“ and over the past 50 years of my career I’ve sold drum kits, lost drum gear, or simply have given drum gear away, but I still have that stick bag that my grandmother gave me when I was 13.
I began playing live soon after I began playing the drums. By the time I was 13 my dad was carting me to the local Shakey‘s Pizza Parlor on the weekends to play, where I would make $50 on a Friday and Saturday night.
BR: What was your first band? What was it about?
MJ: Most of the bands that I initially played with were “casual“ bands performing at weddings, private parties, bar mitzvahs, etc. By the time I was 16 I had already moved out of my parents house, and was heading out on the road with Ray Anthony and the Bookends. There were also creative opportunities, But those creative opportunities didn’t generate any income, as I understood from the get-go that if I’m going to play the drums as a career I actually need to make some money!
BR: Over the years, how many bands would you say you have been a part of?
MJ: It’s literally impossible for me to calculate how many “bands” I’ve played with over my half a century career. I’ve always been the guy whose strong suit is versatility, so I’ve been in numerous musical situations that require my talents as a versatile drummer. Playing with Jackson Browne, the alt-metal band Korn, and Jonathan Davis, as well as every kind of musical situation in-between has been my stock in trade. But I’ve also been in the house band for the “Muppets Tonight” show, the Joan Rivers “Late Night“ show, The Mike Douglas show many years ago, and three different versions of the brilliant comic Tracy Ullman’s creations. I even did a short stint with New-Age type piano player John Tesh!
BR: When did you start recording music?
MJ: My recording career as a sideman started very early on. Being a side man has its advantages and disadvantages. I’ve been paid well over the years participating in multiple musical projects, recording, and the good pay makes up for the fact that I’m not a “member” of the band. Although I’m not participating in the writing, and other perks that come with being a band member, I also am not subject to the drama that comes with being a member. Groucho Marx famously said, “I wouldn’t wanna belong to any club that would have me as a member.” I’ve always stood by that simple adage over the years and it’s served me well. I’ve also had the opportunity to play on hundreds of movie, television, and music for advertising soundtracks, and for this I’m eternally grateful, as oftentimes I will make my way to the mailbox, open it, and pull out some residual money from a Nike ad, a late night television show, or a movie soundtrack that I’ve long ago forgotten I even played on!
BR: Why did you start recording music?
MJ: I’ve always contended that I feel the most at home recording music in the studio. There’s a certain lens of perfection that can be acquired in the studio that is virtually impossible, although sometimes achievable when you play live. I consider myself to be the type of musician who enjoys dissecting my own playing with the willingness to admit when I need to redo a part when a sum or piece of a movie soundtrack I’ve recorded does not reach the standards that I have set for myself. There’s no question that I am my absolute worst critic. But the willingness to do something about a piece of music that you’re unhappy with is the key. You really have to be able to let go of your ego for the greater good.
BR: If possible after such an illustrious recording career in LA can you name the top 5 things you are proud of accomplishing or being part of in ‘the business’ before leaving?
MJ: Oh man, that’s almost an impossible task. I would say that I’m extremely proud of my tenure with the great singer-songwriter Jackson Browne in the late 80s. Early on I played in a jazz fusion group called “KittyHawk.” We had two records on EMI America, as well as a follow up to those couple of records on a smaller label. The band was a great kickstart to my creative career, and I have fond memories of sharing the stage with artists as diverse as Jeff Beck, Joanne Armatrading, George Benson, the Dixie Dregs, Passport, the Jeff Lorber Fusion, and King Crimson. I am also proud of playing all of the drums and percussion for the movie “Drumline.” The Nick Cannon star vehicle was a pet project of mine, and I take pride in knowing that all of the marching band percussion was played by myself and the great drummer Vinnie Colaiuta. I’m also proud of my tenure as “Animal“ when the redo of the Muppets show called “Muppets Tonight“ premiered in 1993. I was Animals muse during that period of time duking it out drumming wise with guys like Dave Grohl. It was also a blast watching the puppeteers do their thing. Quite amazing. In 2005 I became a side man member of the band Korn. I must say that it was everything you would imagine it was and much more. Having the opportunity to play in front of 80,000 people plus was rather remarkable. In 2007 Jonathan Davis decided it was time for him to branch out on his own and do some solo tours, which I was involved in as well. The band was stellar, and that stands is one of my most enjoyable musical experiences.
My five years as the drummer for the Rough Cuts has been extra special because I don’t have the money concerns, or career aspirations that I had when I was a younger player. These days I do it for the fun and the camaraderie of the other three people in the band, who I consider my best friends.
BR: Did you have intentions of playing music again when you left LA, or were you planning on calling it quits?
MJ: I left LA in 2002, and intended on going back-and-forth from my new adopted state of Colorado to Los Angeles in order to fulfill recording obligations. I hadn’t called it quits yet, but some physical issues, as well as addiction to various substances, was beginning to slow me down exponentially. I auditioned and got the gig with Korn in 2005, which was more like the beginning of the end for me, as in 2009 I stopped playing, and didn’t pick up a drumstick for five whole years. I was burnt out, fried on the business, and I just needed a break. I thought it was going to be a “forever break,” but the music that I had grown up with, the music that was deeply embedded in my soul refused to go away completely.
BR: In your own words can you tell us about your current band Ryan Chrys and the Rough Cuts?
- Where did the concept come from for the band?
- What is it that makes the Rough Cuts unique in current music?
- What is the overall goal, recording, touring, world domination, or a combination of all the above?
MJ: Well, each and everyone of those questions deserves at least a multiple paragraph answer, but I’ll do the best I can to encapsulate:
In regards to the kind of music that the Rough Cuts perform I have to say that I disagree with the idea that we’re solely a “country“ band. Ryan Chrys, our fearless leader likes to describe the band as “Modern Outlaw Country.“ I would agree with that moniker, as we definitely look to Wayland, the Hanks’, Dolly, and the like for inspiration, but the band has evolved over my five year tenure to be much more rock. Let’s face it, all of those artist that I named rocked out as well!
Our bass player Susan Phelan is an absolute force of nature, and her playing, like mine, is a perfect storm of rock influenced jamming, and songwriting savvy part perfection.
Our lead singer Lauren, has the vocal prowess of Janis Joplin with remarkable technique, and a huge amount of soul, but at the same time has carved out her own niche. She’s our local superstar.
And of course homegrown Montana boy Ryan Chrys is an extraordinary guitar player drawing influence from Angus Young of AC/DC fame, Slash from GNR, as well as the guitar picker’s of old like Johnny Cash’s lead guitar player for thirty years Robert “Bob” Wootton, and the great Carl Perkins.
In order to understand the Rough Cut uniqueness, you must come to a show. In all honesty, we simply blow people away, as we’re not necessarily everything that they expect, but a lot of what they enjoy.
Like any band we want to be headlining upscale venues, and do everything we can to entertain our audience. We have three different records that are getting ready to come out as well, and are very excited about the prospect of heading out on tour this summer. I can’t wait to get back to the beautiful state of Montana, a state I had never visited until I toured there with the band.
World domination is a good thing as well!
BR: Where can people go online to watch, listen, and buy The Rough Cuts music?
MJ: RoughCutsBand.com is our “everything” portal to videos, music, store and more!
Michael Jochum is a Husband, Father, Grandfather, Drummer, Author, advocate for the disabled musician, Activist, and dog lover. The above story is an interview about his life in the music business. If you enjoy reading, please pick up his books “This Week Nothing” and “The Road Never Ends” via email and PayPal.