DCs Who Rock

dr billThe year is 1976. Terry Chimes can hardly hear himself think as he steps out on the stage with the rest of the band: Joe Strummer, Mick Jones and Paul Simonon swagger out into the heat of the lights glaring overhead. The crowd is enormous; 100,000 people stare at Chimes as he walks to the drum set and gets ready to play at the Olympic Stadium in Los Angeles. He’s sweating, he’s shaking, he’s smiling and he’s cursing. He can hardly believe he’s here, in the thick of it, one of the most famous people in the world in the biggest punk band in history. “I remember consciously thinking before going on stage that I must enjoy the experience, because I might not play to such a large audience ever again, so I’d better make the most of it,” recalls Chimes. Now, as the former drummer for both The Clash and Black Sabbath and current London-based DC thinks back to those days of long ago, it’s apparent he’s living a completely different life from the one that preceded it.

“If you had told me at the age of 16 that I would be on TV, have number one hits and play to such large audiences, I would have replied that I’d be absolutely ecstatic,” he says. “The truth is that when I did all that, whilst I was generally happy, I was not ecstatic and the expected euphoria just wasn’t there. I am not saying that I didn’t enjoy my music career and I most certainly would do the same again. But, years later, I remember standing in front of a 12-year-old boy who had, throughout his life, woken up every single morning soaked in his own urine. After three weeks of [chiropractic] care, he reported to me that for the last five mornings he had awakened completely dry. The boy was quite nonchalant about this but his mother, standing behind him, was unable to hold back the tears. The problem that had blighted his entire life was now solved. There weren’t 100,000 people in the room; only the boy and his mother. The feeling I got from having changed that boy’s life was the euphoric feeling that I had been searching for all these years.”

While Chimes’ success as a musician is experienced by very few, this chiropractor and rock legend’s love for music is a shared passion to which chiropractors all over the world can relate. When you consider the release that music can provide and the genuine joy that comes with creating something original and new; the demand for innovation and adaptation, as well as the organic nature of music, it’s not too big of a stretch for chiropractors to take on the role of practitioner by day and musician by night. In fact, the two passions seem to go hand in hand.

“Where I see the greatest influence of the band on work life most is in our interactions at the office,” says drummer Hamilton Wetzel of the Atlanta-based practice shared with chiropractic partner Howie Krisel. Wetzel and Krisel (organ and vocals) perform in the band Highly Worth Hearing (HWH), alongside guitarist Mike Wexler. “Not only the seamlessness between the two of us, but with patients too. You pick up not just on verbal cues, but on the less noticeable physical cues too—those minor quirks you notice when you’re playing,” Wetzel says. Krisel smiles at this and notes that the two are also training for a marathon together. “We can almost read each other’s minds,” Krisel adds. Wetzel throws in that their friendship is a full-fledged “bromance” to the snickering of his bandmates.

When you watch the trio play their mixture of jam band psychedelic funk, the ease in communication and comfort levels among all three friends is palpable, so it only makes sense that Wetzel and Krisel carry it over to patient matters as well. With the release of their first album back in the fall, a steady practice for Krisel and Wetzel, and a satisfying career in an ad firm for Wexler, Wednesday night band practice is a happy respite from it all. In fact, Wexler’s basement, where the band practices, looks like a souped-up version of any college band’s practice space. Framed posters of Moe, Jimi Hendrix and music festivals line the walls, Christmas lights are draped just behind Wetzel’s drum set, and Krisel is enveloped in an exotic three-roomed barrier of tapestries. When you’re there, with the pristine white carpets and icy cold beer supply, it’s like being on an island.

As they practice, it’s obvious that band time is devoted to the joys of jamming—smoke streams in and they pulse out the strobe lights for their two-hour weekly show (even though it’s just for themselves and, in this case, one reporter).

“When we’re all playing together, somehow the music takes on a life of its own. I can step out of myself,” Wetzel says, his other band members nodding in agreement.

“I like to call those my ‘magical music moments,’” says Wexler. All family men, the members of HWH have stepped away from their dreams of “making it big” and reaching Terry Chimes’ status (though it should be noted that Wexler did play with accomplished jazz musicians for a while and Krisel once opened for Matchbox 20). But, in a way, they kind of already have…made it, that is. Wexler is happily married with a good job and a dream basement. Wetzel and Krisel have found a true calling in their chiropractic practice and in their young families. And, they’re all doing what they really want to do with their lives. Plans for upcoming musical festivals and weekend gigs are scattered across their calendars like the opening riffs for new songs and future albums hover in their midst like a wide, golden horizon.

Ricky Fishman, a San Francisco-based DC, has a lot in common with HWH. Though he tends to play more indie rock and garage rock, this 30-year bass-toting veteran knows all about balancing chiropractic with music and has even found a way to fuse his two passions together. Starting out as a regular face in San Fran’s punk scene in the late ’70s and opening for high-buzz underground acts like Romeo Void, Pearl Harbor and the Explosion, and the Dead Kennedys, Fishman was on the brink of stardom before he discovered his heart was pulling him in a different direction. “A friend of mine showed up at my door one day in San Francisco. He had become a chiropractor and, after several conversations that revolved around my interests in philosophy, health and healing, he said, ‘Well, you should be a chiropractor.’” From then on, Fishman’s life found new purpose and after a few years’ break, he began to see his two worlds intertwine. Fishman not only started playing around town in local bands again and recording with various singer songwriters as a studio musician in his downtime (recent album releases are “Take Root: 1.0” with Lonnie Lazar and the Vaporizers, and “Glad to Go” with Four Stroke Bus) but, around his practice, he started to see an onslaught of musicians in dire need of chiropractic care. “Because of my understanding of the biomechanics and the challenges of being a musician [heavy equipment and amps], I have a very unique understanding of what the challenges are. You look at my website and see that I’m working on the Musicians Chiropractic Project [offering discounted care to musicians] as well as writing about the particular challenges of being a musician,” says Fishman. “And this is also spelled out in my care of performers in general. I see a lot of circus people, theater people.” Fishman goes on to say, “I really see chiropractic as its own art form and I know the zone that one can get into while playing music can actually be quite similar to when one is a chiropractor. When I’m fully present and engaged as a chiropractor—it’s the same space I get into as a musician.”

It’s in that space, that “zone,” as Fishman calls it, that “magical music moment,” as Wexler calls it, that Bill DeMoss, an Orange County DC, spends a good portion of his time. With a successful practice, DeMoss Chiropractic, a booming philosophical group, The Dead Chiropractic Society, and a “chiropractic Woodstock” in his annual music and chiropractic philosophy festival, California Jam, one would think DeMoss hardly has time for multiple hobbies. But it’s through his triumvirate of passions—surfing, chiropractic and music—DeMoss says, that he’s able to keep everything else in balance. “All three are very Zen, they’re all spiritual, and they’re all about balance and rhythm in life. To me, it’s just integral that I have these outlets. I keep my life very structured. I try to surf every day; I almost, in a sense, see surfing as my religion. I get to travel all over the world hanging out with dolphins and sharks. It gives me a major respect for life and for God,” he says. “I have to get out of the work zone and into the ocean to refresh myself,” says the especially fit and energetic 52-year-old. “It’s really all about living and walking my talk.” This means eating well, surfing and playing music when DeMoss isn’t busy working, producing his weekly high-octane YouTube chiropractic philosophy show, Dr. Bill’s Weekly Buzz, and promoting Cal Jam. “BJ taught us not to take ourselves too seriously. I take that message to heart. That and his advice to ‘get out of your head often.’”

DeMoss’s “Weekly Buzz” has elements of Alton Brown’s “Good Eats” program—full of music, special effects and skits. There’s an undercurrent of fun and wackiness that permeates his otherwise slightly serious YouTube channel. The same can be said for his two bands: the Adjustors, in which DeMoss performs with his three brothers (who are also chiropractors) and the Dead Chiropractic Society Band. While there’s a harder edge to DeMoss’s songs, they’re predominately message-driven with titles like “Highway to Health.” This year at California Jam (Feb. 18-20), he’ll be playing a cover of the Beatles’ “Come Together” with a screen playing images of great chiropractic philosophers streaming behind him.

“Music is my chiropractor for ‘above the Atlas,’” says DeMoss, rattling off musicians like Tom Petty and Jeff Tweedy as a few of his favorites. “At the end of the day, you can just pick up a guitar and take the stresses away. It’s just you with yourself; you’re painting a picture with music.”

It’s been 15 years since Terry Chimes left the music business and the joys of playing beside legends like Billy Idol. It’s been eight years since his induction in to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and yet, as you step into one of his office locations, what you’ll find is the same cool Brit, who has found a new way to make people want to get up and dance. With a tremendously large client base and the largest alternative health-care consultation company (Chiropractic Heaven) in Europe, he says, “Making such a difference in the lives of so many suffering people has given me a much more profound happiness than I ever managed on the stage. It is a case of doing what you love and loving what you do. My clinics have seen 44,000 patients so far. So, it is just possible that I will ultimately reach an audience of 100,000 people again. Except that this time, it’ll be one at a time.”