The band Rockets To Ruin is synonymous with the Atlanta rock scene. They have worked with some of my favorite’s such as Paul Stanley, Powerman 5000, Nashville Pussy, Valiant Thorr and Josh Todd, just to name a few. Rockets To Ruin’s licky guitar and bass are provided by Keith Horne and Chris Taylor, the popping drum beats from Brent Addison and Cleve Willis sings with a voice that implies fun with a little bit of danger. I saw the band last week when they opened for Vains of Jenna at The 10 High. I found it nearly impossible to not nod my head along with the set. I was there to not only photograph and review the show but to see front man, Cleve in action. I’m not sure how I discovered the juxtaposed life of Cleve Willis but I was definitely interested in finding out more. From outside appearance one might guess that he lives the life of a stereo typical indulgent rocker. In all actuality, Cleve drinks only water and practices a very intense, hot form of Yoga called Bikram. I am a sucker for healthy contradictions in life, so previous to the RTR show, I met with Cleve over tea and discussed his two greatest passions, music and Bikram yoga. Cleve also filled me on his many and varied other projects.
Brook Hewitt: How did you get into Bikram?
Cleve Willis: I was introduced to Bikram about 10 years ago by a woman in the industry named Nicole Jurovics. She is amazing. I basically cleaned up my act through Bikram. I had done it here and there. Something traumatic happened. My roommate died in my house and I found him. I gave him CPR but he died. That freaked me out. I was hanging out with Nicole and her husband a lot. Nicole said , “Come to yoga with me, I’m paying.” For a week straight she forced me to go to class. I was a real mess. Finally, I realized, yoga was what I needed. It was a life changing thing. I had developed an emotional attachment to it. It was 6 years ago that my friend passed away and that is when yoga really changed my life.
BH: Is Bikram the only form of yoga that you do?
CW: I am spoiled with Bikram. I don’t know if I’m just not as open-minded as I think I am or maybe I’m a Bikram snob and if I am , I’m proud of that. Haha. I just don’t get as much out of other yoga classes as I do Bikram.
BH: Bikram seems very intense. It’s done in a 105 degree room for an 90 minutes. Do you like it because it’s so intense?
CW: Other yoga classes are not nearly as intense as Bikram. When people say they went to the gym to take a yoga class, what they really took was a stretch class.
BH: Ha ha, I think I’ve taken that stretch class before.
CW: Ha ha, then you need to do Bikram.
BH: I am very interested. I’ll do almost anything, once. Ha ha.
CW: Well, you would need to go to at least 5 classes to see if it’s for you. The 1st class, you’re just getting used to the heat, the 2nd you are getting used to the positions, the 3rd you start getting into the groove. I guarantee after the 1st class you will sleep like you’ve never slept before.
BH: How many classes did you take before you felt like you got into the groove?
CW: It was really quick for me. Within a week when I started getting serious about it. Next to being on stage, Bikram is “it” for me. It helps keep me grounded and balanced. All musicians have an ego and depending upon what you are doing at that moment you’re ego might be bigger or smaller or humbled. I have been all of the above, haha.
BH: Humble is good.
CW: Yes, humble is good. To be creative you naturally have this big ego, you have to have confidence but there is also a whole lot of insecurity.
BH: I agree. I think all creative people are “look at me/don’t look at me” kind of people.
CW: I am definitely like that. Bikram helps balance all of this out. You helps with confidence.
BH: What is a Bikram person like?
CW: The owner of my studio Decatur Bikram, Eric Jennings, says, we are ALL yogis. Like in Shamanism, there is no one true shaman, we are all equal. In Bikram, we are all equal. Yoga people in general tend to take care of themselves. You sweat so much in Bikram, it’s really good for your skin. It’s also very good for you internally. It’s great for your thyroid, arthritis, back problems, colon, etc… check out Bikram Yoga Decatur
BH: Is it spiritual?
CW: For me personally, I don’t want to say it spiritual. As a whole it probably is spiritual for most people.
BH: When I say spiritual, I mean a guideline for how to live. I don’t mean meditation and prayer. I mean a guideline and discipline.
CW: Yeah, yeah, yeah, it gives you so much discipline. You hold a posture for a minute, there are 26 postures. Then you do the posture for a second time for 30 seconds. I swear by it. I preach it!
BH: See, it is spiritual, haha.
CW: I preach it, I guess you are right, I guess it is spiritual. Anyone I’ve turned on to it always keeps going. They all say it changes their lives.
BH: So don’t you have to be pretty flexible to do it?
CW: No, that’s a misconception. There are always going to be people in class that aren’t very flexible. There was a woman in class that was 60 something, she was there for the first time. She handled the whole hour and a half of that heat and did most of the postures. You will see people all shapes and sizes in a Bikram class. I don’t ever want to hear someone say they cant do it.
BH: Are there beginners classes?
CW: NO. Same class whether you take it in Thailand or LA. Bikram is Bikram is Bikram.
BH: Have you ever taken it from the founder of Bikram, Bikram Choudhury?
CW: No, but I’ve been to his studio and took a class from one of his “wing women”. Her name is Emmy, she’s in her 80s and maybe looks like she’s in her 50s and she will tear you up! Ha ha.
BH: Ha ha, now I’m definitely going to take a class! Where else have you taken it?
CW: I’ve done it in San Fransisco, LA, New York, Austin and here. I have to say, Decatur Bikram is my favorite studio in the whole country. I love the vibe at Decatur Bikram, I love all the instructors.
BH: How does it affect your stage performance?
CW: It gives me confidence. It helps with my breathing, my vocals, singing from the gut and endurance.
BH: How often do you practice it?
CW: If I can, I try to go 3 to 4 times a week. I have some weeks where I only go once and that sucks.
BH: What’s the longest you have gone without taking a class?
CW: I have gone a couple of months because I was busy with shows.
BH: Ha ha, did you get antsy and moody?
CW: I get real moody!
BH: What else do you do to stay healthy?
CW: I eat healthy. Bikram teaches you to listen to your body. I listen to my body.
BH: Well, tell me about all these other projects your working on.
CW: I did some stuff with Urgent Sound Music. I worked with Carmine D’amico and Anthony Valli. Anthony was the guitar player in the band Crazy Town. One of the songs I did with them wound up on Rob Dyrdecks Fantasy Factory. We also did this cool garage rock thing called “We Are Aliens”, it’s very Bowie-esque. I love it!
BH: You have a new band too?
CW: I’m super stoked about my new band, Brand New Hate. It’s me and Keith from RTR, Nick Rozz, Kevin Anders and a badass, talented girl drummer named Tuesdai Murgia. Brand New Hate tracked two songs with Anthony Focx in L.A. Focx has worked with some great bands like Buckcherry, Sick Puppies and Steven Tyler. Brand New Hate is being mixed in Atlanta at Open Sky Studios by Bruce Butkoviche. You can find us on Facebook.
BH: What are you doing with Rockets To Ruin?
CW: RTR has some big shows coming up. We are playing with Adlers Appetite June 15th and 18th and also with Skid Row on June 25th. RTR is playing some dates in New York, New Jersey and Philly. We can’t wait to get back in front of the fans. RTR has a couple of new acoustics on itunes right now that you can check out.
BH: I heard that you were going to be in a movie.
CW: Yes. I’ve done a few acting things here and there but never anything really serious. This movie thing sort of fell in my lap. It’s based on a book called “Cobalt Sky” by MA Mattier-Burdette. The writer liked my look and she asked if I had any acting experience. She really wanted me to do it, so I said I would give it a go. We just worked on the trailer. It could be a year before we start filming though.
BH: What is your role in this film?
CW: I am the main character, Cobalt. He owns a circus. He is a womanizer and heavy drinker.He always wears heavy make up because he’s very insecure. Cobalt meets a very strong sincere woman. It is a very negative yet positive romance. It is funny but it has a very dark element.
BH: Sounds amazing! I can’t wait to see it.
On that note we ended the interview and finished our tea. I thanked Cleve, eager to see and hear the many projects he is working on but mostly eager to see if I can make it through a Bikram yoga class with him. Wondering if it would change my life…I’ll keep you posted.