There must be something about the wiring of a drummer’s brain.
No, that is not the opening line to a drummer joke. It is a statement of awe at how a drummer can do so much simultaneously. One foot playing a beat on the bass drum, the other operating a hi-hat pedal; one hand belting out another beat on the snare drum, the other ranging across the cymbals. And all that activity, all that bashing and crashing, comes together somehow, keeping time.
Craig Rosevear is a superb drummer. He can do all of that, and more, at the same time.
What’s more, the way he performs behind a drum kit is how he lives.
He is not just a drummer, but a music school operator, an auctioneer, a husband and father, and, on top of all that now, a television presenter.
In drumming terms, that’s a frenetic, polyrhythmic life. In everyone else’s terms, that’s a crazy, busy life.
“I’ve always had a few balls in the air at once,” he shrugs, as he orders two dishes - a cheese plate and a pork belly pizza - for us to share at Merewether Surfhouse.
“I love variety, I love challenges, I like doing lots of different things.”
“Are you hyperactive?”
“Oh, yeah! But I’m not annoyingly hyperactive. I do have ‘down time’.”
Not today he doesn’t. “Rosie”, as everyone knows him, has just dashed from filming a segment for the new TV program on NBN, Location...Lifestyle...Living, which highlights the beauty of Newcastle. Rosevear is dressed in a sharp blue jacket and black pullover. That ensemble will also look good for the meeting he has to attend straight after this lunch interview.
Yet, while he has so much to do, Rosevear seems to have all the time in the world, as he tells stories engagingly and laughs easily. He radiates energy and looks much younger than his 48 years.
If there’s any truth to the adage that busy people are happy people, then Craig Rosevear is the embodiment of it.
CRAIG Rosevear was born in November 1969 on the fringe of Newcastle. He grew up in Woodberry.
“That was a great place to grow up,” he recalls. “There was a lot of open spaces, motorbikes, football. Woodberry Warriors, that was the team.”
Rosevear played rugby league until his early teens, but he had other interests.
Surfing was one of them. Rosie and his mates would catch the early morning train from Beresfield into Newcastle to surf at Nobbys. Among the surf pilgrims was a future TV weatherman, Gavin Morris.
“Gav got kind of sick of having to wake up early, catch the train in and the surf was crap, so he bought the Des Hart weather book and learned to read the synoptic chart,” he says. “That’s how he got into weather.”
In recent years, the two mates have caught up weekly for a surf – but not on this day. Outside the windows, the surf is tossing restlessly onto the Merewether shore.
“It’s a little bit crazy out there,” says Rosie, scanning the surf break just a few hundred metres from his home.
Rosevear’s other great passion as a school kid was music. He lived in a house that reverberated with 1970s rock, as his furniture salesman father, Gary, turned up the stereo.
“My Dad got me into music definitely, with the Machine Head album by Deep Purple,” says Rosevear. “That would be played Sunday morning at our house, complete album, and after that, it was normally The Doors or The Eagles. So that Machine Head album was a big influence on me. When I got into drumming, I knew every lick on that album.”
But the band that had Craig Rosevear fall in love with drumming was KISS.
As a boy, he experienced a “flash” to his future life, when he saw KISS’s video clip for the 1975 hit, Rock and Roll All Nite: “That was like, ‘Wow, I want to do that’.”
However, Rosie’s drumming beginnings were not in rock’n’roll. He joined the local police boys’ club band, learning to play marches on a snare drum. He figures the first time he played in public was at his school, tapping out a beat for the students to march along to at the sports carnival.
Rosevear’s training continued as a member of the NSW Youth Orchestra, and he played in the Hunter’s renowned band, the Marching Koalas, mastering the rudiments and learning to read music.
“Rock and roll was definitely parked to the side,” he recounts. “It was just traditional.”
However, Rosie took the train to Sydney each Saturday to attend drum lessons. The teenager also began playing in local rock bands, with his father driving him to gigs. Yet he still didn’t see his future in rock’n’roll.
Once he finished high school, Rosevear studied psychology – “behavioural stuff was interesting to me”.
“It was kind of good,” he says of the university course, “but music was pulling me in the other direction, to the point it was like, ‘Really, I’ve just got so many opportunities, I should do that more seriously’.”
He didn’t finish uni, instead moving to Sydney in his early 20s and joining BB Steal, a band that was in the charts and touring with Def Leppard. He played with BB Steal for about two years.
“And then I got a call from The Screaming Jets.”
By then, the Newcastle band had gouged a place for itself on the radio and the international stage with its hard rock. Rosevear had been asked to join the band once before but declined. This time, when The Screaming Jets’ founding guitarist and his good friend, Grant Walmsley, phoned, Rosie flew to Los Angeles to meet with the band.
“I tell this story to my students now actually, because it’s a pretty good message for a youngster about staying true to yourself,” he recounts.
“I walked into the hotel and they’re all there to meet me. And I knew there was no way I could keep up with the stuff they did, party-wise. I said, ‘Guys, I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I don’t do drugs. I just want to put that on the table first, because if you’re not comfortable with that, I’m happy to go’. And Dave [Gleeson, the lead singer] walks around the table, picks up the car keys, he goes, ‘Fantastic, you’re in charge!’. He hands me the keys!”
Rosevear had many opportunities to be the band’s driver, as The Screaming Jets played around the globe, including in iconic venues – the Whisky A Go Go in LA, the Cat Club in New York, and the Palais Royale in Newcastle: “That was one of the best gigs around. And to be in your hometown.”
After a decade, Rosevear decided to leave the Jets. He wanted to spend more time with his wife, Belinda, who he’d met while in the band, and their son, Corey, who is now 22. Rosie wanted to finish his uni studies. He wanted to come off the road.
“There wasn’t any defining moment, it was just a gradual feeling,” Rosie muses.
“We’d done a lot of gigs and had been on the road for a long time, and I just felt my passion was waning a little bit. And out of respect for the other guys, for the band and the iconic nature of the band, I was like, ‘Most guys would kill to be in this situation, but I’m not feeling that passion and drive’.
“I felt like something new should happen.”
Yet just when Rosevear was planning on settling down in Newcastle, an instructional video on drumming that he had made somehow ended up before a US TV production company.
On the strength of that video, Rosie was offered a music segment on a new children’s show. However, by the time the Rosevear family arrived in the US, the show had fallen over.
“But I had the visa, so we thought, ‘Well, we’re here now!’.”
They stayed a couple of years in LA, with Rosie playing in bands, including Cinderglass, and working in a studio co-owned by the actor and musician Keanu Reeves.
With a desire to have more children (the family has grown, with Gypsy, 13, and Coco, aged 7), the Rosevears headed home: “I think I was more content to be in Newcastle. I realised the special nature of the place.”
Rosevear brought a little of the US with him; in 2005, he opened a music school, with elements of models he’d seen in America. As its founder explains, Rosie’s School of Rock aims to give students the skills and confidence to be performers and recording artists. It has about 200 students.
However, given the local music scene is not like it was when Rosie was starting out, are there venues for the next generation of performers?
“I know there’s a trend for people thinking the scene is shrinking, but there’s still plenty of opportunities,” he counters. “I think we’re still really lucky in Newcastle.
“If you go to Sydney, it’s a bit harder. And LA. You’d think it would be easier to get a gig in LA. But the opposite applies, because there are so many bands that go to LA, from all over the world, and there are only so many venues.”
During his days in The Screaming Jets, Rosevear laid the foundation for his future in property. With his first royalty cheque, he bought a house. When he and Belinda returned home from the US, they bought more houses. They now have about 10 commercial and residential properties.
A couple of years ago, he began studying for his real estate agent’s licence. Then, after a friend urged him to attend an auction being held in Newcastle, Rosie had his second life-changing “flash”.
Damien Cooley, who is best known from the reality TV series The Block, was conducting the auction. As he watched Cooley at work, Rosevear thought, “I’ve got to do that!”
“I went up to him afterwards and said, ‘Hi, I’m Craig Rosevear, really love what you’re doing, how can I do that?’
“He was fantastic. He was like, ‘OK, first of all, you’ll need to cut your hair. Take out all those ear-rings, shave off your goatie, go buy a blue suit and come back and see me in two weeks’. And I did. Did everything he said.”
As a result, Rosevear (and it’s “Craig” on the firm’s website, not “Rosie”) is a high-profile member of Cooley Auctions.
He sees similarities between being a rock musician and being an auctioneer, especially with the performance aspects: “So when people say to me, ‘Oh, a big step going from music to auctioneering’, I’m like, ‘No, doesn’t feel like any step to me. Instead of a set of sticks in my hand, I’ve got a gavel. Instead of putting on a bandana, I put on a tie.”
“What are you more comfortable in?”
“Easily both,” he replies, explaining some Saturdays he wears the tie at an auction during the afternoon, then puts a bandana on for a gig that night with The Casettes, a band comprising his high school music teacher, Brien McVernon, and a former member of his US band Cinderglass, Donovan Whitworth, who has made a home locally.
Rosevear still loves drumming, but “I don’t get to play as often now. That’s one thing that’s been cut down by the amount of other things I’m doing. But I’ll be in the car, listening to a song, and I’ll be air drumming along to it. I do it all the time.”
As for that “down time” he mentioned, Rosie surfs when he can, and he loves cycling. Although that can be also for a purpose. He is about to pedal 538 kilometres from Grafton to Newcastle for a Ride for Sick Kids charity event.
So how does he do it? How does he fit everything in?
“It’s not that hard, when you’ve got your family, you’ve got your fitness, and you’ve got your career,” he explains.
“You get a blend of those three things. You aim to get the blend right - I mean that’s obviously an ongoing process - but I think if you can, that’s the key to being happy.”