It’s every musician’s dream to jam with their favorite rock star, and legendary entrepreneur David Fishof is the man who has made that happen for thousands of music lovers and musicians from all over the world. Originally a sports agent turned music producer, Fishof found success working with top musicians such as Ringo Starr, Roger Daltrey, Levon Helm, and Peter Frampton to name just a few. Fishof claims he had so much fun hanging out and traveling with the bands that he wished fans could enjoy that intimate and personal experience of their music heroes…what it felt like to be a Rock Star!
And with that idea, Rock ‘N’ Roll Fantasy Camp was born. Celebrating its 25th anniversary, Rock Camp has grown far beyond those original days of camp and has most recently been the subject of a documentary and new book. We had the opportunity to chat with David about the new book, Rock Camp – An Oral History: 25 Years Of The Rock ‘N’ Roll Fantasy Camp (out now via Backbeat Books) and hanging with rock stars.
Digital Beat Magazine: How are you doing this evening?
David Fishof: I am doing great. I’m here in California and we still have sunlight.
DBM: First let me ask, are you safe and dry with these terrible storms CA. has been having?
DF: Yeah. I’ve been getting more calls from the family asking if we are okay?
DBM: It’s unbelievable. I can’t imagine.
DF: We needed the rain, but, uh, were not prepared for the amount we are getting.
DBM: Are you guys out of the woods yet or do you still have another round coming?
DF: No, I think we have one coming this weekend but luckily where I live in LA (I’m in the middle of town); we are good. The problem here is everyone lives on a cliff or side of a mountain. It’s constant danger of a mudslide or the cliff collapsing due to the rain…unless you live in the city.
DBM: We are definitely happy to hear that you’re safe and willing to chat with us tonight concerning 25 years of Rock ‘N’ Roll Fantasy Camp! So let’s get started…
DF: Yeah. Yeah. So nice to talk to you.
DBM: So, 25 years of Rock ‘N’ Roll Fantasy Camp! How much has Camp changed since those beginning years and has it reached the “vision” of what you originally imagined?
DF: Well, the first camps were more clinics and more masterclasses; it was totally different than what it’s become now. It’s definitely changed over the years. The second round of camps, we had an audition process. You would come to camp and audition a song and play with a rocker. Then, the campers would stand in front of a table of 12 rockers and they would pick and choose their band after seeing your audition. That created two things. Number one, it created the excitement that the campers could say, “I just jammed with Simon Kirke (drummer for Free / Bad Company) or I just jammed with Bruce Kulick from Kiss!” and that created excitement…But on the other hand, it made people very, very nervous during the audition process. So we eliminated that set-up. Now we are on the third inclination of Rock Camp where we put you in a band in advance and basically oversee it all through Zoom calls and figure out which band you should be put in. By doing it that way, we’re able to put bands together and keep like-minded people together. Our musical director Britney, Britt Lightning from Vixen, is able to pair campers up in advance and put together the bands. Then, we give you songs to learn the minute you sign up so when camp comes around, you hit the ground running. We are definitely always improving it! We’re always doing new things, adding new fantasies for people, new artists, to make it an exciting experience.
DBM: Fast forward to 2023, What is camp going to look like this year?
DF: So, we’ve been basically “theming” the camps these days. One of the last camps was a Beatles versus Stones – And while we didn’t have The Beatles there, we did have Chuck Leavell, the keyboard player for the Rolling Stones and we had Ace Frehley of Kiss and Nels Cline of Wilco who are both Beatles nuts! They love The Beatles! So, we take these musicians (who love the bands that we are saluting for that specific camp) and combine them with campers to play the music of the bands they love!
Coming up this March, we have a salute to Led Zeppelin camp with Kim Thayil of Soundgarden plus Robert & Dean Deleo of Stone Temple Pilots and drummer Carmine Appice of Vanilla Fudge as special guests and campers will get to perform at the legendary Viper Room and Whiskey A Go Go in LA! We are also getting ready to announce a Jamming the Eighties Anthems camp with John 5 (who just joined Mötley Crüe) along with Richard Fortus from Guns n’ Roses and Rikki Rockett from Poison. I mean, if you’re gonna jam the eighties, you are going to want to jam those hot anthems! Plus, many of the counselors for this camp are also associated with some of those top 80’s bands like Jeff Scott Soto formerly of Journey and Spike Edney, current keyboardist for Queen. People are really going to have a chance to play the original songs with these artists and learn everything about them. We’re also planning to add a festival to our fantasy camp this year where campers will be performing LIVE for fans at a festival. So, yeah, we have a lot of exciting things in store for 2023.
DBM: That sounds like so much fun!! What a great experience for campers! Since we are talking about different camp themes, one of my questions was do you ever offer any camps specific to the support system of shows? For example, a camp specific to the crew, lighting, sound, production – all the “behind the scene” jobs that help make a show happen.
DF: That’s a great question because we just had that discussion this morning with the folks we’re going to do the festival with…
DBM: (laughs) timing is everything!
DF: …we’ll have a crew package where you can be part of the crew and learn to set up a show and everything like that. We wanted to teach more of the music business and more of the behind the scenes; letting people get involved in more of the setup and what it really takes to be on a tour. A full fantasy experience: being part of the crew, learning the business, being a tour manager. So absolutely!! That’s one of the goals to happen this year!
DBM: Love it! So, you’ve got Rock Camp: The Movie that’s been out since 2021. What made you decide to write the book, Rock Camp: An Oral History – 25 Years of the Rock ‘N’ Roll Fantasy Camp?
DF: So the documentary was produced by Jeff Rowe and Doug Blush and they basically told me to stay outta the kitchen and let them bake the cake…
DF: …and there were 90 terabytes of footage and we could only feature four campers. First of all, I could have done a documentary on a thousand campers because their stories are so great! So, I wanted to expand the brand and let people know more about Rock ‘N’ Roll Camp. And when we hit the 25 years mark, I just had so many stories inside of me; I just wanted to get them out and have the stories heard.
DBM: Will you be doing any appearances or promos for the book this year?
DF: So, yes, I have a couple of store appearances coming up but for me, Rock Camp has had such a life changing experience on so many campers that they decided (on their own) to start a music foundation: Rock ‘N’ Roll Fantasy Camp Foundation. Its mission is to raise money to send young people to camp and share in the experience of becoming members of the Rock Camp family. You know, my favorite line in the movie was when Gene Simmons (Kiss) said, “I wish they would’ve had this (camp) 40, 50 years ago so I would’ve learned not to make as many mistakes.” (laughs) So, yeah. People really wanted young people who can’t afford to go to camp to be able to share in the experience. The foundation’s been sending two or three campers to each camp. When I saw that they were doing that, I decided to donate the book to the foundation. So all the money that comes in from the book sales goes to the foundation. That’s another reason why I decided to pursue the book; To give back to the foundation.
DBM: That is so terrific! What a great program and opportunity!! So, Rock Camp has had the “Cream of the Crop”, the “Best of the Best” – names that some would consider Rock Icons including Roger Daltrey, Ginger Baker, Jack Bruce, Jeff Beck (who we sadly lost recently) and so many more! Is there anyone that you haven’t been able to get to Camp yet, whether it be due to scheduling or logistics, that you really wish you could get to Camp?
DF: Well, what was most exciting is that we got Keith Richards and Mick Jagger to do The Simpsons episode. That was really a fabulous experience. And don’t forget the late (great) Tom Petty was also in that episode. They all loved it and it’s still one of the most popular Simpsons episodes. But, my dream guest would be Jimmy Page. That would be incredible. Paul McCartney would be amazing. Oh, and Elton John would be great.
DBM: A songwriting camp with Paul McCartney & Elton John, could you imagine?
DF: Right? But you know, people said I’d never get Jeff Beck. And, as you know, I got Jeff Beck to come to a Camp.
DBM: Let’s talk about Jeff Beck a little. Considered one of the greatest guitar players of all times, what was it like working with Jeff? How did the campers respond? I recall a neat little story in the book about one of the campers taking the lead over Jeff during one of the performances, can you tell our readers a little more about that?
DF: Yeah, that was one of the counselors that took the lead (laughs) over Jeff Beck. The thing I learned with Jeff Beck is that we signed up so many guitar players and then the week before camp so many called and canceled because they were just too intimidated to play with him. I would call campers and try to talk them out of canceling. You know, talk them off the cliff. (laughs) Telling them not to worry about it. Jeff’s doing this because it was his opportunity to give back and he thought it would be a great thing for him. I was able to convince this famous movie producer and director (it’s in the film) cuz he was scared. They were ALL scared. They (campers) were intimidated as they are most of the time when in the room with their favorite musician. But, the ones who did come had an amazing experience with Jeff Beck and he was just so, so nice and really amazing because he gave so much of himself. He then came to watch the campers perform on Saturday night and he said, “You know, I wish I could jam with them but I’m afraid that if I do, you know, it’ll just cause too much…” And then what was most exciting for me was the next day Jeff called and asked, “What’s going on today at your camp?” And I told him I had Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys coming by and Jeff said, “Brian Wilson! I want to come over and watch Brian Wilson!” And he came to watch Brian Wilson. (laughs) He was just an amazing gentleman. And have you been seeing all the great stories on Facebook?
DBM: Oh yeah. Everyone is talking about how genuine and generous he was.
DF: Oh Yes. Quite generous. He really was. He did great for my camp in the sense of once Jeff Beck came to Camp, all of a sudden other people like Joe Perry joined, you know. He really helped my brand the most.
DBM: That’s so lovely. We love hearing great stories like that. So, who have you personally enjoyed having at Camp? I mean, you’ve had some pretty amazing talent…
DF: So anyone who comes to camp, I have to say, they really are amazing because if they’re coming to Rock ‘N’ Roll Fantasy Camp, they’re coming because they want to give back to fellow musicians. That’s number one. Having someone like Roger Daltrey (The Who) is just incredible because he’s so into it. He loved it!! He says, “Where are these people performing?” I told him they are playing the Bottom Line. Roger says, “I’m gonna join them”. And he did! Another example, Steven Tyler (Aerosmith) came to watch the last night and Todd Rundgren was also there as I’d hired him to play that evening. And you know, there’s a little conflict between those two. But, Steven got up there and sang with every band! I think it gets emotional to these rock stars because, you know, it reminds them what it was like when they first started. They want to get up there and they want to help them! Sammy Hager says in the movie, “You know, it’s hard work! It’s hard work because they’re going out of their comfort zone. They’re used to doing their two hour set, three hour set, whatever…”
DBM: And anyone who’s ever been on the road knows the road is not easy. To a fan it may seem glamorous but any road dog who’s been out there; been in a different town every night, missing your family, a hot shower – it’s not always a cakewalk or glamorous as it may seem.
DF: So it was the traveling, you know, that’s why I got off the road. I couldn’t take it because I really hated being away from the family.
DBM: So, when you are talking about a rock show, there’s all kinds of gear involved: drums, amps, guitars, picks, cords, etc. – there’s a lot of overhead and expense involved. Are you able to get corporate sponsorships to help offset some of those costs?
DF: It’s been hard because we only do 80 campers. But on the other hand, you know, that’s part of the expense that we have at Rock ‘N’ Roll Fantasy Camp. That’s part of the experience. And that’s what people sign-up for…that experience.
DBM: So do you provide the equipment (guitars, keyboards, drums) or are the campers required to bring their own?
DF: They bring their guitars but we provide everything else. Sound system, everything. My goal is to make everyone feel like they are a Ringo (Starr).
DBM: (laughs) You can’t go wrong there. So do you play?
DF: No, I don’t. My brother was the musician. He’s the one that inspired me to love rock and roll. I got it all from him. I have to give my brother the credit.
DBM: So winding down here, what have you learned most from 25 years of Camp? What has Camp taught you?
DF: Well, number one, giving is better than receiving! I think that, to me, is my favorite thing. I love to give to these Camps as much as I can. The other thing that I really enjoy the most is I’ve learned so many lessons from these amazing rock stars. Like, I think that the key to success of being in a band is listening. That’s what they teach these people. I’ve learned a lot of lessons about team building and what it is to be in a band. And I think that’s the fun part. At least for me, you know? And then to see how incredible these people are! You know, they really are! You get to see these musicians in a different light during the documentary. You can see them as the people they really are; not just the rock stars you know them to be.
DBM: Love it. Final question. I always ask this of everyone I interview, what music are you currently listening to? What’s on your playlist?
DF: I currently have a lot of Led Zeppelin, along with Wynonna Judd and Lzzy Hale. I always listen to the artists that are coming to my next camps. That way I’m familiar with their music when they come to Camp and can really enjoy it. The ladies will be joining a camp mid January in Nashville, TN, and then we have a “From Led Zeppelin to Soundgarden to STP” Camp coming up in March in Los Angeles.
DBM: Well David, I very much appreciate you taking the time to speak with us this evening and to talk to our readers about Rock ‘N’ Roll Fantasy Camp. You’ve really created something special here – Congratulations on the book, documentary, and 25 years of Camp!!
DF: Thank you so much.
ROCK ‘N’ ROLL FANTASY CAMP SOCIALS
WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | TWITTER | YOUTUBE
Interview Date: January 12, 2023