Glen Sobel: Before The Show
Glen Sobel is always ready. After years of providing support for a lengthy list of international artists, including Steven Tyler, Paul Gilbert, Weird Al Yankovic, Michael McDonald, and Tony MacAlpine, Sobel locked down the throne behind heavy metal archetype Alice Cooper back in 2011. Since then, Sobel has been slamming the skins for all of Cooper’s live appearances, and he’s learned a lot about what it takes to get ready for such a demanding gig.
In the weeks before the start of Cooper’s tour opening for fellow rock icons Mötley Crüe, we caught up with Sobel to discuss the particulars of preparing for such a massive summer stint.
Playing for an artist with such a substantial back catalog might seem daunting, but for Sobel it’s just a matter of knowing what he needs. “When I first joined the band, it was all about making cheat sheets,” he says. “We probably played 23 songs on the first tour, but we had to be familiar with everything.”
Even today, after three years on the gig, Sobel still keeps a few crib notes handy during rehearsals. “I always keep something back there, whether it’s an inconspicuous music stand or a left-side floor tom that I can use as a table during rehearsal. It really helps to have the arrangements right in front of me.”
Because Cooper’s band has been working together for so long, tour prep is actually a little shorter than one might imagine. “We usually find out about the tours several months ahead of time, but the rehearsal process is sometimes only one or two weeks.” And with the material in place, much of that rehearsal time is dedicated to coordinating the set along with stage props and gags.
So how does that abbreviated preproduction affect Sobel’s ability to prepare? “The problem with short rehearsal periods is that you’re not given enough time to get back in shape before going out there and playing,” he says. “I try to condition myself during rehearsals as much as I can. We run through the set without stopping to help get ourselves in shape.” That means it’s essential to take care of his body before shows in order to deliver an effective performance. “I always make sure to go through my stretches before a show to help prevent neck and back problems,” he points out. “I also take ibuprofen before playing too. That’s a tip I got from [Kiss drummer] Eric Singer. It slows any potential inflammation in the body.”
The drummer even consults a professional to help with conditioning. In addition to learning new stretches from a physical therapist, he also relies heavily on massage. “I think it’s best to get a quick, deep massage right before the show. Ideally, I try to get one a week, but that’s not always possible.”
However, Sobel is quick to add that his physical prep isn’t limited to muscle management alone. “One thing I’ve learned is that you’re burning a ton of fuel on stage, so you have to give your body something to burn.” That doesn’t mean he crams calories before it’s time to count in. ”I don’t eat a full meal, but I try to eat something light like Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, or a protein bar.”
Beyond the body, Sobel also has to make sure his gear is in good standing. Unfortunately, Cooper’s band isn’t always afforded a soundcheck, so the drummer has to rely on his sound crew to keep things together. “On the first night of a tour, we’ll have to go through everything to make sure the levels line up, but the crew does more of that than I do. They work their butts off to make sure the sound is perfect every night.”
Thankfully, the crew’s job doesn’t end when the show begins – something Sobel counts as one of the most important aspects of touring at this level. “My drum tech, Michael Miller, has a wireless in-ear monitor, so he hears everything I hear. If something goes wrong, he knows at the same time I do, and he can fix it right away. That’s crucial.”