Thursday, April 29, 2021

David Weiser Interview - The Boy Who Wanted to Rock

Photo Content from David Weiser 

David Weiser has worked as a keyboard programmer with numerous Broadway, West End, touring and televised musicals, including NBC's 2018 Jesus Christ Superstar, Phantom of the Opera, Cats, and Les Misérables. His credits also include work with artists like David Bowie, The Who, and Brian Wilson. David lives outside of Boston with his wife, son, and a few goblins hanging about in the basement.


Why is storytelling so important for all of us?
Stories allow us to make things up, in the name of telling big truths!

What is your happiest childhood memory?
I’m grateful to have so many memories of happy kid stuff, of family vacations, playing outside at dusk with neighborhood friends, trips to the beach, that sort of thing. But the one event that truly stands out might sound a bit odd: it was the time my parents took me to see legendary mime, Marcel Marceau, when I was in the sixth grade. That was the closest thing I’ve ever seen to someone using real magic, and it made me tremendously happy. Time froze; I was spellbound. A few hours passed like a few minutes. The memory of that evening is a blessing. To this day, it’s a reminder that art, when channeled through a sufficiently skilled practitioner, can become indistinguishable from sorcery.

When did you write your first book?
I started writing The Boy Who Wanted to Rock in September of 2019, while I was in the Netherlands working on a theater show.

What was your favorite subject when you were in school and why?
My favorite subject by far was history, because it involved stories, and getting to the bottom things.

What was the greatest thing you learned at school?
The greatest thing I learned in school was how to think critically. I remember being puzzled at first when I was asked as an 8th or 9th grade student to write a critical review, and not a book report. Up until then, I’d thought of iconic books, works like Lord of the Flies or Pride and Prejudice as existing behind an impenetrable wall of legitimacy, that they were beyond critique or questioning simply because they existed as well-established works. These assignments taught me that all books great and small are simply words written by people.

In your new book; THE BOY WHO WANTED TO ROCK, can you tell my Book Nerd Kids Community a little about it.
At the center of it all was our 5-year-old son Arlen, and his love of rock & roll. I wrote the book to help him connect with the music that he loves, and to let him know that it’s OK to feel some frustration while learning an instrument. The story is simple: guided by a cast of helpful and unlikely creatures, a little boy discovers that his inner monster is the key to learning music. The book introduces fundamental concepts like rhythm and pitch, and provides a basic overview of how keyboard and fretted instruments work. An easy-to-digest tale told in rhyme, it begins with a frustrated child in a bedroom full of instruments, and ends with proper rock n' roll mayhem, in a cave full of monsters.

Once the theater world shut down due to COVID-19, the project took on a life of its own, since I now had all the time in the world to devote to it. With my entire industry on pause, and with everyone out of work, I was able to hire some amazing friends and colleagues to help out with the music and narration, world-class artists who would otherwise have been unavailable in “normal” times. The book was a welcome silver lining during a bizarre year, an island of hope and positivity in the midst of the hurricane of disappointment and despair that was 2020.

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
I would introduce the boy from my story to Tolkien’s wizard, Gandalf, because what little kid wouldn’t want to meet a wizard with a cart full of fireworks?

You have the chance to give one piece of advice to your readers. What would it be?
For those who create: do the thing! Write the story, record the song, draw the diagram, paint the picture. Get something down on the page, get something started. You can always edit and improve later. Overcoming inertia is 90% of the battle when it comes to creating.

What decade during the last century would you have chosen to be a kid?
For Heaven’s sake it would be now, hands down! What I’d have given to have the one-touch access to so much information, to so much music, that we enjoy today. When I was a teenager, if I wanted to find out who played bass on an obscure album, I had to hop on a train and get to a city, find a used record store and hope they had the recording I was after. And then of course I had to pay money for the single album. Now, I can go on Wikipedia and in one minute read about everyone who played bass on any album, from any band. And I can go to YouTube and hear any song (or version of a song) recorded by just about any artist. The sheer volume of what kids can learn today is staggering – and what today’s brightest young artists are creating while armed with such vast resources, is simply mind-blowing.

Where did you go on your first airplane ride?
I was six years old. It was 1978, the tail end of an era when self-respecting middle-class parents still engaged in the cruel practice of requiring children to dress up to fly. We visited my great-uncle Herbert in San Antonio. He was a kind and fascinating little old man who’d served in World War I, taught at the first chiropractic college, played in a kazoo band, and drank goat’s milk. Compared to everyone and everything in my little world, he may as well have been Timothy Leary or Jimi Hendrix.

Any Camp stories you would like to share?
My camp counsellors exposed me to an up-and-coming band called U2 in 1979. Back then the group was considered a “college band”, since the designation “alternative” had yet to be coined.

What is your greatest adventure?
My greatest adventure was getting to work on David Bowie’s last big tour, the Reality Tour, in 2002-3. He was my hero, and my greatest musical influence.

What was your favorite book as a child and why?
I think my favorite was Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are. The badly behaved child and resulting punishment were relatable. An opening anchored in such familiar and mundane territory as being banished to one’s room, made the fantastic adventure that followed all the more thrilling!

  • 1. The story was handwritten in a small notebook.

  • 2. While I was messing around with kids’ books and keyboards, my wife Sarah’s work was on the opposite end of the urgency spectrum: she’s a principal scientist with Pfizer, working around the clock on their vaccine rollout. While I was upstairs figuring out which goblins would be wearing pots and pans on their heads, Sarah was downstairs talking to generals and foreign governments about dosage and delivery mechanisms.
  • 3. In the section of the book that covers keyboards, the octopus character uses a row of minnows to acts as piano keys. This is a little easter egg for Arlen; when he was a toddler, and unable to pronounce “pianos”, he would refer to the many keyboards in my studio as “minnows”.
  • 4. The guitar that’s given to the boy character in the book is a Gibson Explorer, one of Arlen’s favorites, made famous by Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick.
  • 5. In the big cave scene of the book, there’s a small fairy type creature helping to fix the boy’s mohawk. She’s based on my dear friend, Debbie Shair, who played keyboards for the band Heart for many years.
  • 6. Our amazing illustrator, my old friend Derek Lavoie, is obviously a brilliantly gifted artist, but he’s also an accomplished musician. He plays guitar and drums quite well, and is an absolute superstar on bass.
  • 7. The narrator for our audiobook, Ria Jones, is one of the UK’s biggest theater stars. In the ‘90s she played all the big West End roles, starring in productions like Cats and Les Misérables. These days, when I work on shows in the UK, Ria is usually the star, with her name on the Marquis, while I’m in the back, dragging around the cables and tinkering with gadgets. Most recently we worked together on Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Sunset Boulevard UK Tour, and Gypsy at the Royal Exchange Manchester.
  • 8. For the book’s companion songs, I enlisted the help of some friends from Broadway and the music industry. I’d met our guitar player Tim Quick (who also co-wrote and produced the songs) while working together on School of Rock Broadway. We worked together again on Jesus Christ Superstar live on NBC, which is where we met our drummer, Jamey Tate. Roland Guerin, our bass player, is considered one of the best in the world – he was music director for New Orleans legend, Dr. John, and has toured with jazz heavyweights Marcus Roberts and Brian Blade, as well as with rock shredders like Paul Gilbert. Our lead singer, Justin Matthew Sargent, played the lead role in the Broadway productions of Rock of Ages, and Spiderman.
  • 9. We’ve begun work on the sequel: The Girl Who Wanted to Groove! Our girl character was modeled after a very good friend who happens to be one of the best sound mixers on Broadway. The story will resemble The Boy Who Wanted to Rock, but will be centered around funk, R&B, and dance music. Instead of goblins in a cave, we’re thinking maybe aliens and a mothership in outer space!
  • 10. Our son Arlen, the real boy who wanted to rock, continues to enjoy playing music. He recently figured out the guitar riffs from Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water” and Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir”.
Writing Behind the Scenes
I wrote the story while sitting in rehearsals for a theater show in the Netherlands. During the weeks leading up to a show opening, once everything has moved into the auditorium, the orchestra is often asked to sit out while certain scenes are being worked on. Sometimes the bosses might need to refine and adjust lighting or set transitions, and they don’t want to tire out the musicians if it can be avoided. (Wind and brass parts are murder on the lips after a few hours.) The musicians still have to be there, which means I do as well. On some days, there’s simply not much to do, often for hours on end. So, it’s good to bring a book. Or a notebook, so you can write your own book! Every night when I got back to my hotel, I’d type everything into my laptop, making edits and improvements along the way. By the time I returned home, I had a completed story. It did undergo plenty of additional edits during the months that followed, but the bones of the story were constructed entirely during my trip.

Written by music industry veteran David Weiser for his five-year-old son, The Boy Who Wanted to Rock takes readers on a musical journey that encourages children to learn the ropes...and swing from the ceiling! Guided by a cast of helpful and unlikely creatures, a young boy discovers that his inner monster is the key to learning -- and enjoying -- music. Beautifully illustrated by longtime friend and fellow musician Derek Lavoie, the story is a tribute to the inner child that sustains every rock 'n roller.

You can purchase The Boy Who Wanted to Rock at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you DAVID WEISER for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of The Boy Who Wanted to Rock by David Weiser.