You might know Brandan Schieppati from his days in Bleeding Through or his current project the Iron Son, but recently he has given up the microphone for a pair of dumbbells by opening up his own gym in the Los Angeles area, Rise Above Fitness. As one of the leaders in the scene for advocating fitness, he is going out on Warped Tour this summer to help musicians stay fit on the road. With health and wellness emerging from the underground in music, Schieppati says it’s starting to become a way for musicians to express themselves beyond the stage. We spoke with him to talk fitness, his podcast and new solo project, training musicians on Warped Tour and how working out can help battle addiction.
Let’s go back to when Bleeding Through first started touring a lot. What was your fitness regimen like back then?
BRANDAN SCHIPPATI: It kind of started in high school; I played baseball, football and I actually hated working out. I did it because it was a necessary thing to do. When I quit sports my senior year to play music, something was missing; that aggressive output. I started working out more than I did when I played sports and started loving it. The early days of touring, the means weren’t there for it. I started bringing weights on tour, but my education of it like what to do, what not to do was pretty shitty. Everything I did on tour was the same things [fitness-wise] over and over and over again. As you know, to do that over and over again and expect different results is crazy. I wouldn’t necessary say I was in the greatest shape. I went on a trip to Mexico in 2007 and saw pictures of myself and thought, “What the fuck happened to me?” I was 27, your body takes a toll where it’s not putting on muscle, you’re eating the same shit you ate when you were in high school and it’s not good. I started bringing different weights on tour with me and I would actually go to gyms on the road. My fitness level went up from 2008 toward [now].
Tell me a little bit about Rise Above Fitness and why you wanted to open up your own gym.
I hated working out in public gyms. To me, they’re there when you need it, but I feel like it’s counterproductive depending on when you go. You want a vibe that’s going to pick you up. You’re going to walk into a gym every day and think, “I’m going to kill it today.” Sometimes [when] you go to a public gym, you feel like leaving as soon as you walk in. A gym is a gym, but it was mostly just not for my mindset or my attitude. I started working with one of my trainers in 2007 and he had his own gym. I didn’t know about the private gym/studio gym demographic or business. I knew about the grassroots of Crossfit and warehouse gyms. I liked the atmosphere of the warehouse gym, but I didn’t like the dynamics of Crossfit. I said to myself, “It would be so cool to open a warehouse gym, get to play rap music, teach knowledgeable curriculum where you want to want to train balls-to-the-wall and then leave.” I wanted a place where athletes could train with non-athletes and bankers, mothers and be around a certain culture like we’re there for them. I wanted to build this like a band: I wanted to build a product where people could listen to this music and love it. Whereas in a lot of [other] bands, they go out there bored. I wanted to catch the eye of other people and their enthusiasm and think it’s fucking awesome. I wanted to build a culture that mixes music with knowledgeable training.
You play rap music at the gym. What about punk and metal?
We play everything. The only thing that probably doesn’t get played is country [music].
Do you have a lot of musicians in the scene training at your gym or some you train personally?
I write a lot of programs for people that are remote. I do Ronnie Radke’s programming on the road, Davey Muise of Vanna, some of the guys from We Came As Romans, A Day To Remember…a lot of stuff for people on the road. Jake from August Burns Red and some local guys from bands. People stop by all the time when they’re on tour.
You’ve previously said you want to merge fitness and music together. How are you doing that?
I’ve had this brainchild idea where I want to do a touring workout. Build it like a tour, set up a remote gym and have people come and work out. I started putting the pieces together for this idea last year when I went on Warped Tour last year. I was training some of the bands on Warped Tour and they helped me put it together and promote it. This year, Warped Tour actually reached out to Rise Above Fitness to do the whole tour. This year we’re doing the whole tour, we’re going to set up a backstage gym with three training sessions a day. I’ve always thought that with fitness as a business venture was kind of like a new punk rock [for me]. It was underground and I noticed that when I did Warped Tour in 2005 [it was so much different]. I would set up a gym in the parking lot, and people would walk by and make fun of me. A decade later, I’m backstage at Warped Tour working out and now there’s about 30 to 40 bands working out with me. This year, we’re really trying to capture between 40 to 60 band members working out [with us] on tour. We’re going to do fit challenges and we’re going to work with catering to do Rise Above Fitness-approved meals so people can eat healthier.
Are you a pretty disciplined eater?
I’m about 70/30. My philosophy is that I eat like an adult. I don’t make childish decisions when I go out to eat. I’ll get steak fajitas and not a bean-and-cheese deep-fried burrito. I’ll throw cheats in there a couple times a week to keep my sanity. I think people take too much stock into dieting, just make smart decisions.
You recently started a new band called the Iron Son because you got the music bug again.
I wanted to do music. I took a year-and-a-half off to try and figure out what my next step would be with music. I had some other projects that never panned out from myself pulling the plug. The thing is, I don’t really need music anymore from the business side, which is a really comforting feeling. I decided instead of trying to put together a full band that I would do my own thing on my terms and that’s just what I want. I didn’t start playing music in the beginning to sell T-shirts or records, I played music for myself. With the Iron Son, I didn’t want to have people dictate what I was going to do. I wanted to play shows I wanted to play and not have it hanging over me to be on tour with certain bands or sell this many records…it’s a very liberating feeling to get back into music on your own terms.
Are you going to try and do anything with the Iron Son on Warped in addition to Rise Above Fitness?
No. I have a band here [in California], so if I ever go to the East Coast or overseas to play, I’ll hire a band because it’s more so a solo project. Kevin Lyman said it would be cool to play a couple shows, but it would be too much of a hassle. We have been playing more shows lately. We’re just taking a slow approach. If we get asked to play a show, we’ll play and go from there.
Tell me a little about your podcast.
Basically, I started doing a Q&A with a camera, but thought it would be more natural without it. I like interviewing bands that have members who work out. I also wanted to interview fitness people I respect and have something interesting to talk about. Sometimes, I do a Q&A and will ask them questions about music, fitness, their lifestyle, sports. I’m not doing it to have a super-crazy-popular podcast. I’m shocked how many people are subscribed to it and how popular podcasts have become.
Who have you talked to in terms of musicians?
Levi from Miss May I, Chris from Motionless in White, Davey Muise of Vanna, Chris Kael from Five Finger Death Punch….I’m going to interview Robb Flynn from Machinehead who works out quite a bit and Jake from August Burns Red who also works out quite a bit.
Your gym is called Rise Above Fitness and Henry Rollins does work out all the time…
It’s funny because I actually put together a book five years ago—it never came out—but I did interview him about something along the same deal. Right now, I’m trying to get him on it. I guess we’ll see.
You’ve said in the past that your gym has helped you battle addiction.
People have different types of addiction problems; mine was self-defeating and a sexual addiction, which is a very real addiction. It’s one of the hardest addictions in the world to kick. It’s a definite real thing. It’s not like I was engulfed, it was a brief spell; it was an insecurity thing. I wasn’t able to deal with my bipolar issues. It was more of a feeling thing, I wanted to feel something. [The gym] has helped me with that and level out my bipolar issues; self-esteem. People might see me and think why would I be self-conscious, but everyone deals with self-esteem issues. That’s just life, if you try to deny it, sometimes it doesn’t work. You might sink into worse habits, so finding an outlet like fitness can help you with addiction. I see a lot of people come into the gym who are battling addiction who use fitness to help them through it.
The whole punk scene is pretty much a breeding ground for that.
Music is such a great outlet for expressing yourself and I find that fitness is almost an equal power. For me, I express myself better almost through fitness than with music. S