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Rock Star Hobbies

January is a month of rebirth and resolutions, but did you know that it's also National Hobby Month? (Yeah, I didn't either until I read about it online.) The first National Hobby Month took place in April 1955 and was sponsored by the Hobby Guild of America. Annual observance moved to October in 1976 and finally took its place as a permanent January fixture in 1987.

To mark the occasion, the following is a list of what some of rock's star players do to stay busy when they're on break from their day jobs. After all, no musician can really rock and roll all night and party every single day. Even the most badass rocker needs a break from utter debauchery and ear-splitting volume every now and again.


Guitarist Brian May held degrees in physics and mathematics and was well on his way toward his physics doctorate when his band Queen's popularity first exploded. Brian had always retained his keen passion for Astronomy though, and in 2006, after a 30-year break, he returned to Astrophysics and his doctoral thesis. Upon submission of his updated thesis on the Motions of Interplanetary Dust, Brian achieved his full PhD degree from Imperial College, London, in 2007, a year after he co-authored his first book, Bang! The Complete History of the Universe, with Sir Patrick Moore and Dr. Chris Lintott. May subsequently accepted a post of Visiting Researcher to continue his work in Astronomy, and following a 5-year post as Chancellor of Liverpool John Moores University, Brian now holds the honorary position of Chancellor Emeritus. May co-authored his second book with Lintott and Moore in 2012 titled The Cosmic Tourist: The 100 Most Awe-inspiring Destinations in the Universe. He also had an asteroid named after him: the 52665 Brianmay.


In his spare time, guitar virtuoso Steve Vai is an avid beekeeper and an honorary member of the British Beekeepers' Association. "I got into beekeeping by chance," says Vai. "For some reason, a bunch of bees decided to live in the wall of my neighbor's house. My neighbor wasn't happy, but as a result, my wife's garden looked fantastic. When my family moved, I decided to plant fruit trees and found out honeybees were the best way to pollinate them, so I got my first swarm." Vai says that he can relate to the honeybees' "work-itself-to-death" work ethic and calls the act of raising bees a "Zen-like experience." Vai now maintains five colonies of bees in his backyard and harvests the honey himself. He auctions the nectar—dubbed Fire Garden Honey after one of his records—and donates proceeds to his Make a Noise Foundation.


Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea is big into the game of chess. He regularly plays his bandmates backstage and even dared to challenge an actual chess master during 2011's Brazilian Rock in Rio Festival. Flea, along with several other people (both in the band and not), took on Magnus Carlsen, Norwegian chess grandmaster, reigning World Chess Champion and the No. 1 ranked player in the world. Carlsen beat everybody, of course, but Flea gave an impressive showing, lasting longer than anyone else.

Classic Cars

The dynamic Jeff Beck is into classic Ford hot rods. He performs much of the exterior and engine work himself. Beck told Car Crazy, a television series for automotive enthusiasts, that he unsuccessfully tried to buy the yellow deuce coupe driven by the character John Milner (Paul Le Mat) in George Lucas's 1973 film American Graffiti. Beck, however, took matters into his own hands and built a replica of the car, and a few years later, came to own the license plate number THX 138, which was the plate number Lucas used in the movie.


Rush lead vocalist/bassist/keyboardist Geddy Lee loves baseball almost as much as he does music. He has been a big-time baseball memorabilia collector since a friend first presented him with a case of team-autographed baseballs back in the '70s. In the documentary Rush: Beyond The Lighted Stage, Lee explains how his love of baseball grew as a way of letting off steam. He found himself watching a lot of baseball in hotel rooms between gigs, and from there he began to amass an impressive collection of baseball memorabilia. Lee's museum-quality collection includes prized baseballs signed by Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Christy Mathewson, Honus Wagner and Cy Young, among others. In 2008 he donated his collection of almost 200 autographed Negro League baseballs to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City. Lee is also an avid wine, art, and monocle collector.


Rock legend Eric Clapton prefers to spend his downtime fly fishing, and even has a fishing rod named after him called the Slowhand Special. Clapton once told Vanity Fair he would like to die fishing, and says he finally sought help for his alcohol addiction after breaking his fishing rod in a drunken mishap. Sharing Clapton's passion for fishing is The Who's Roger Daltrey, a master fisherman who specializes in trout. According to Daltrey, when he's fishing, he feels the same as if he's "smoked half a dozen joints." He's so into it, in fact, that he's turned it into a side job. For the past 30 years, Daltrey has owned the Lakedown Trout Fishery in East Sussex, England, which Trout Fisherman magazine once described as "the prettiest fishery around."


Iron Maiden frontman Bruce Dickinson gave a whole new meaning to the phrase "getting high" when he took up recreational flying in the 1990s. Dickinson traces his love of flying back to relatives who were in the RAF (Royal Air Force), and to the band's drummer, who took Bruce up for a flight having himself learned to fly at the height of the band's popularity in the 1980s. Dickinson decided to take a trial lesson one day while on holiday in Florida. "I had what can only be described as a semi-mystical experience," he says. "It really was an epiphany." The metal singer now holds an airline transport pilot's license and regularly pilots Boeing 757s, including the band's Astraeus 757, which he flew for tours in 2008 and 2011.


"It was a case of replacing one addiction with another," says Alice Cooper, golfaholic. The man known as the godfather of shock rock put down the bottle years ago, picked up a nine iron, and hasn't put it down since. On his VH1 Behind the Music special, Cooper says taking up the game helped to keep his mind off alcohol and essentially became a new, healthy addiction. The 65-year-old ace junkie does everything he can to get in at least 36 holes a day, six days a week. Over the years, he's improved his game to the point where he typically scores in the mid-70s. He has hosted his own annual tournament since 1997 and is such a golf fiend, he titled his 2007 autobiography Alice Cooper, Golf Monster: A Rock 'n' Roller's 12 Steps to Becoming a Golf Addict. Rush's Alex Lifeson and Judas Priest's K. K. Downing are also lovers of the game.

Martial Arts

Megadeth frontman and thrash pioneer Dave Mustaine has explored many hobbies over the years, including horse breeding and skydiving (the latter being immortalized in the track "High Speed Dirt" from the album Countdown to Extinction), but the hobby he seems to love discussing the most is his love of martial arts. Mustaine started studying different fighting techniques when he was 12, and earned a first-degree black belt in Ukidokan Karate under Benny 'The Jet' Urquidez as well as a black belt in Taekwondo. He's even an official Goodwill Ambassador to the World Taekwondo Federation in South Korea.

Metal Detecting

Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman has been fascinated with archaeology and excavation for decades. But it wasn't until he bought a metal detector in 1990 and unearthed an ancient homestead from the Roman Empire that his passion blossomed. Wyman has been combing the British countryside ever since, uncovering a ton of incredible artifacts along the way. His finds are mostly gold coins and blades, some dating back to the 1300s. Some of these treasures are worth over 1,000 British pounds, though Wyman, as you might imagine, cares more about the history behind them than their monetary value. Wyman is such a metal detector aficionado that he released the Bill Wyman Signature Detector in 2007. "Metal-detecting is not just for anoraks or eccentrics," he says. "On any garden, country field, footpath, woodlands, beach or moorland you can find a huge variety of historical objects, all easily located with this high-quality metal detector."

Model Trains

When asked about his fascination with model trains, the legendary Neil Young told David Letterman that he finds them "relaxing." Young says that in the mid-'70s, when he was out shopping for holiday gifts, he came across a huge Lionel train set that cost thousands of dollars. "And like any rich hippie," he says, "I bought it." Young began as a model train hobbyist and collector and eventually dedicated space in his 2800-square foot barn to a massive 750-feet track layout with landscape, tunnels, and buildings. He created a research and development company called Liontech to help the storied Lionel, LLC train manufacturing company create model trains with sound systems and control units, and then became part owner of Lionel, along with an investment company. It was Young's designs and inventions for Lionel that helped to bring the company out of bankruptcy in 2008. Rod Stewart is also an avid model train collector as was the late Randy Rhoads.


Paul Stanley was too self-conscious to sign the first painting he produced (a moody spherical piece called "Green Planet"), but when friends saw it hanging in his family room and started asking questions, a hobby was born. The paintings of rock 'n' roll's 'Starchild' are, like his music, pretty loud and bold. For a man who made a name for himself playing guitar in Japanese kabuki make-up, Stanley's paintings are surprisingly colorful and warm. He has a soft spot for hippie symbols such as peace signs and hearts, and a Pop Art-like flair for cultural iconography, including Robert Johnson, the Statue of Liberty, the Mona Lisa and his KISS bandmates. "I was afraid that if people knew I [painted], they would fluff it off," he says. "At some point, someone talked me into doing a show and it really took off. Between the serious collectors and the curiosity seekers, it's been very rewarding for me." Stanley takes his art quite seriously these days and commands high prices for his work.


I'm a recovering addict. Cameras are my new drug. So reads the tagline of Nikki Sixx's photography blog. The Motley Crüe and Sixx:A.M. bassist/songwriter and former heroin addict is a man of many passions—music, radio host, writing, and photography. His love for photography began over 20 years ago, when he carried a 35mm camera around on the road to document what was happening on tour. "Just basically shooting and documenting my life was instant gratification," he tells The Leica Camera Blog. "I'd get the film back and start to think of the things I could do differently. I was getting more into the idea of not just snapping a picture." These days Nikki spends a lot of his between-show downtime visiting the seedier parts of different towns to meet and photograph the downtrodden. His work displays a finely developed sense of professionalism and style that makes you forget he is the founder of one of the biggest, bawdiest rock bands in the world.


Guns N' Roses and Velvet Revolver guitarist Slash found a way to channel his excess energy that doesn't involve drugs or booze. The top-hatted rocker is a longtime pinball enthusiast who once had his house jam-packed with arcade games. He even designed one of them, which he modeled after GNR. It was billed as the loudest pinball machine in history. Slash wasn't one of those teens who hung out at the arcade. He came to pinball in his 30s and got hooked on it. While he admits he's no Pinball Wizard, Slash is top scorer on all the games in his house. He notes that although both guitar and pinball require a similar accuracy, concentration, focus and nimbleness in the fingers to play, guitar still remains more satisfying to his soul. "[Pinball] doesn't do for me what a big, fat nice-sounding single note bend that feeds back a little bit does," he says.


Eddie Vedder's passion for surfing is well known. The Pearl Jam frontman, who has been surfing since he was 12, first turned to music and surfing as a source of comfort from his tumultuous childhood. Surfing has always been a part of Eddie's creative process. In an interview with Surfline.com, Eddie compared riding a wave to writing a song. "The good songs ain't ten yards offshore, being out there for ten minutes and coming back in and going back out. You gotta go deep, and get into some kind of mad-scientist phase at some point, to where the good stuff is." Several of Pearl Jam's songs, like "Amongst the Waves," "Oceans," and "Big Wave," reference the ocean. Both Kirk Hammett and his Metallica bandmate Robert Trujillo are also avid surfers.

Article by: James Harper Google+
Image Credit: WikiCommons, Michael Gäbler

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