“When I was 15 years old I had a record deal, and by the time I graduated high school I had three records out and had already gone on tour.” - Blasko, bassist, Zakk Sabbath
ON EPISODE 4:
What the hell is a leap second? Apparently, 2016 will end with an extra second of time, and Dustin and Jeff talk about this strange phenomenon on Science. Then the idea of 'fitting in' in life, work, and everyday social situations is something everyone strives for and is the theme of What Fuels You. Finally, some new merchandise is coming from The World's Strongest Coffee, including a brand new hat from New Era and a tankard from the halls of Valhalla.
Blasko has been a journeyman bassist for a while in the music industry and has played for some amazing bands. He sits down with Fueled By Death Cast to talk about how he and Zakk Wylde got into business with Death Wish Coffee. Plus hear how he works very hard to be the right fit for any musical situation in any band he has been a part of, including Danzig, Rob Zombie and Ozzy Osbourne.
Jeff: Speaking of the Valhalla Java, you were really instrumental in bringing that to Death Wish Coffee, correct?
Blasko: Yeah. I think that there was a mutual connection that put me with [John Swedish 00:00:52]. I think that was the initial connection. I managed Zakk, and at the time he would always do these posts, like, Valhalla Java, good morning, to his fans and stuff on Instagram and Facebook or whatever. So, that was the name that I guess that he always had. So, it's kind of one of those things, like, whenever a client's like, “Oh, hey man, it would be really cool if we had a coffee,” and you go, “Yeah, for sure,” but what does that look like? Do I call some company and do a white label thing where they send me a bag and we put a sticker on it and we just sell to our fans? It's kind of cheesy, you know what I mean? It's almost one of those things like, anything could be done like that but it's just always better if you can get someone that's a proper partner. And this is how that organically came together. So, we put the pieces together and it just sort of aligned in the way that the brand of Death Wish was like, World's Strongest Coffee and then Zakk's world's strongest guitar player and then you put them together and he's got his own sort of sub-brand under your umbrella. And it all just makes sense, right? And then the two have sort of morphed into one another, in that the Superbowl commercial was all Viking themed and stuff. It's just cool how everything aligned and now, after the fact, all makes sense and ties into one another. So, it's way cool man. It's great. It's a great relationship.
Jeff: Totally. We love working with Zakk, 'cause like you said, it is totally ... both are this brand we use with The Vikings and all that. It's a match made in Heaven. It's really interesting to hear that side of the story of how that all came to be as well.
Jeff: You mentioned that you do manage Zakk Wylde now, but that's not everything that you've done. You are a very accomplished musician, as well. You play with Zakk, not only just managing him, correct?
Blasko: Yeah. Whenever I joined the Ozzy Osbourne band, Zakk was the guitar player at that time and granted, we knew each other a little bit before that, but that's kind of how the connection happened, is that we built a relationship over playing in Ozzy's band together. So, even though we were friendly, it was somewhat distant, but then this brought us closer together. Then, at that time is whenever I actually started managing bands. I started my own little side business doing that. Then fast forward whatever it was, eight years later or something, he's in the market for a manager. I'm around, we built a relationship, and it just kind of fell into place. So, it was cool that way, how it all worked out.
Jeff: That's really cool. So, can you speak a little bit about that? Being a musician and putting your blood, sweat, and tears behind doing that craft, where was the tipping point where you decided, I wanna get into the management side of things, as well?
Blasko: Yeah. Well, here's the thing, right? I play for other people. Every band that I've been in has been the name of the guy, right? Like Glenn Danzig. It's like Glenn Danzig robs Ozzy Osbourne. So, whenever you're one of those guys, you work when they work, and then whenever they're not working, you're not working. So, as you become older and you have more responsibilities, those gaps between gigs, they can become more uncomfortable financially. So, the tipping point was the exact moment when I got the Ozzy gig, because I was like, “Wow, I've reached the pinnacle. I've reached the height of where I wanted to go as a hired gun musician guy.” Then I was like, well, then that's kind of the end of the road, right? Because I don't wanna go down from here. Like, when Ozzy retires I don't wanna go beneath that level. There's only so many places to go from Ozzy Osbourne. There's Metallica and AC/DC and those gigs seem to be pretty well locked up at this point. So, I was like, I better think of something to do in the meantime that isn't bartending or cutting hair. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but I'm just saying I love being in music. I love being surrounded by music. It's what my whole life has been built upon. So, that was the tipping point. I was like, man, I've reached the height. It's lonely up here. I better figure out something to do. So, I started managing bands and built over the course of, I think, the last 12 years now, built up a roster of clients and got a staff of people. Just very fortunate that heavy metal and rock and roll has been paying the bills. Very fortunate. Very, very fortunate, I don't take that for granted.
Jeff: That's awesome. Very, very cool. So, can you speak a little bit about when you got into playing? I know you started playing music in the mid to late '80s in LA. What was it like when you started out?
Blasko: Man, I, once again, very fortunate set of circumstances led me to joining a band very early on. I was like 15 years old I think when we got a record deal.
Blasko: When I graduated high school I had already put out three records and gone on tours.
Jeff: That's awesome.
Blasko: Yeah, I got a very early start and that is something that, well, partially helped forge the way in that I was like, “Oh, I love this. This is what I have to do for my whole life.” That led me down this path. But, yeah, man, it was fun, and it was a really good way to kick things off. Yeah, just very, very fortunate that I was able to get that early start, and I still know all the band guys. We still talk. The label that we were on is still around and I still know all those guys and run into them all the time. It's been pretty cool, man. I gotta say, from the beginning until now it's been a very fun ride.
Jeff: How tough was it balancing being a high school student and also a rock star, side musician? Was that tough getting through that?
Blasko: Well, rock star is an extreme term at that point. We were little punk rock skater kids, you know what I mean? That played heavy metal music in a garage. It wasn't too difficult, because we were all in high school and we would go to school and then we'd meet up at the drummer's after school, and we would rehearse in his garage, and we would eat his parents' food. And then we would take the bus home and then we'd get up and do it again. Yeah, man, I think I spent more time at his house than my own house through the '80s. But, it was an easy balance really, in hindsight. I know that it might sound a little challenging but it really wasn't.
Jeff: Yeah, that's cool. When do you feel like you finally transitioned into being a bona fide rock star? When was that moment?
Blasko: Man, I still don't even really consider myself one. I feel like I can play that role. I feel like my job is completing the picture for the real rock stars. I get up there, I play that role. I do the things that makes the guy whose name is on the ticket look awesome every night and sound awesome every night, and that's my role. So, I'm kind of more like rock star for hire.
Jeff: Well, you're a rock star in my mind, man. I gotta say you've contributed to some of my favorite music of all time. You've mentioned that you got to play with Rob Zombie on Hillbilly Deluxe and your work with Ozzy, one of his later albums Black Rain, which I believe was the first album you did with him, is still one of the ones that are always in my rotation.
Jeff: Your body of work speaks volumes for what you do. And that's really rad. And that's cool that, you were saying that was has happened is that you are constantly in contact with the people that you've always been with. You still talk to these people. You've created this family atmosphere. A lot of musicians always talk about that. One thing I'm always curious about, though, is, what keeps you going? What fuels you to really continue playing music? What inspires you to keep going out there and being that gun for hire, like you said?
Blasko: It's still fun. I've been really fortunate to play music with people that I really dig. There's a lot of people that play music that are playing music that they don't dig but there's a paycheck attached to it, so it is what it is. I feel, for me, I'm just in a fortunate situation to where I've been able to play Danzig and Misfit songs and Rob Zombie and White Zombie songs, and Ozzy and Black Sabbath songs. Like, man, that's insane that I've had that opportunity. For nothing else, what keeps it going is that it just keeps happening. As long as I get to play cool music, I'm stoked. I suppose there would come a time where if there was a situation to where I had an opportunity to play uncool music that would probably be the end of the road for me, where I would just go like, “You know what? Maybe I've had a good run, and I can hang it up now.” Like I said, I'm fortunate in that I can say that. Like, I'm gonna play music if I think it's cool but I'm not in a position to where I have to play music that I don't like or that I don't enjoy. I have a fortunate situation like that.
Jeff: Very cool. Really quickly, I don't know if this is a fun story or not, but, you go by Blasko. I know that's not your Christian given name but, where did that come from, the nickname?
Blasko: That was from Rob Zombie's band. That was the origin of it, 'cause my name's Rob and his name is Rob and that would really work out so well.
Jeff: Rob one and Rob two?
Blasko: Yeah. So, we all went by pseudonyms at that time period and it's just one of those things that just stuck. Even people that know me since high school or before, know me as Rob and stuff like ... a lot of those people don't even call me that anymore. That's how much it stuck, which is kind of interesting. But, yeah, that's the origin of it.
Jeff: That's really neat. That's very cool. What musically or management-wise, what do you got in store? Are there any projects you're working on now that you can talk about? [crosstalk 00:13:47]?
Blasko: Shoot, man, it's just like with everybody I got, everyone's working, making a record, getting ready to go on tour. I've got irons in the fire with a bunch of different other projects and stuff. So, it's just a constant state of movement, but it's all very exciting. I feel like next year's got a lot of cool stuff that's gonna be happening, so I'm excited.
Jeff: That's awesome. And just for all the listeners out there, your management company is Mercenary Management, I believe, correct? Am I [crosstalk 00:14:22] right?
Jeff: Awesome, awesome. And I know you guys have a pretty extensive catalog of some really incredible acts on that, so congratulations on all your success with that.
Blasko: Thanks, man, appreciate it.
Dustin: Anything you wanna plug at all before we finish up?
Blasko: No, you can find me. Socially, the best place to find me is on my Instagram, which is Blasko1313, and that's really it. That's sort of my home base in the social sphere.
Jeff: I love that you have a deep love for your cats on your Instagram.
Dustin: That's really cool, man. You're a real dude. I like it. I like it, man. Really appreciate you coming on and talking with us, and giving us the time. We're really excited to work with you more in the future through Valhalla Java and hopefully more through the podcast. And if you ever have anything up and coming that's exciting that you wanna get out there, please feel free to get ahold of us and we can do this again anytime, man.
Blasko: Yeah, awesome. So, when does the podcast launch? Is it launched yet or is it still in the-
Jeff: Yeah. The first episode just hit the internet, and we're hitting the ground running. We're lucky enough to be able to talk to some really awesome people, with yourself included. Like we said, it was great to be able to talk to you in this facility, even though we're doing it through the internet. So, hopefully, someday we can have you come directly to Death Wish HQ and do another episode in person.