Brian Gruber On Writing and Koh Phangan

12 Feb 2021

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We are so blessed on this island! Not only do we have the most beautiful nature and settings here, we are also blessed with a local community here that is amazing! We meet so many interesting people here on Koh Phangan.
Even though our island is small she still offers enough variety to bring around so many different artists so Phanganist was happy to meet with Brian Gruber! A writer and an artist - and according to his facebook wall at least also; Author, entrepreneur, father, marketing hack, actor, San Franciscan with a Brooklyn-wired brain - who has chosen to make Phangan his base for now and who actually wrote one of his books while living here! We are pleased to introduce you to yet another Phanganist and Fallang local on Phangan, Brian Gruber!

What is your Koh Phangan Story?

I was heartbroken after the end of a beautiful globetrotting romance. We kept a private blog for a year tracking and sharing everything we were feeling and experiencing with the intention of turning it into art of some kind. It was a wonderful and specific document of the ascent, ecstasy, descent and breakup of mad love. I had dinner with a friend in San Francisco and after four hours of Italian food and a couple bottles of wine, I drunkenly promised to write a sexier, funny male version of “Eat, Pay, Love.” I traveled to Koh Phangan, ended up at The Sanctuary and wrote the book in a month using the blog posts as raw material.

What is your life philosophy?

Explore the world, share the stories and help others share theirs.

Tell us a bit about Brian Gruber the Author and the man?

I grew up in Brooklyn New York, in a Jewish family, grandparents emigrated from Europe at the turn of the century. My dad Sol was a taxi driver and loved regaling his customers with stories. I began my media career as the first marketing director of C-SPAN, where I hosted national call-in shows with politically prominent guests such as Cesar Chavez, Nancy Pelosi and John McCain. Married with two daughters, I built my career as head of marketing for large cable TV operations in major cities. I founded, which brought the world's leading public forums (Chautauqua, New York Public Library, Aspen Ideas Festival) to the web, conducting interviews with writers and public intellectuals such as Norman Mailer, Malcolm Gladwell, Christopher Hitchens and Robert MacNeil. I also founded, an automated platform live-streaming the world's elite jazz clubs.

I am the author of two books, my Koh Phangan-based novel “Dauphin, Dorian & Dead" and "WAR: The Afterparty," a Kickstarter-funded global tour of the scenes of the last half century of U.S. military interventions. I am currently working on a bio of Billy Cobham, jazz fusion pioneer and to many the greatest drummer of his era.

Who are you? What are you? How did you become what you are?  ;)

I am an idealistic, somewhat adventurous media and communications guy with an appetite for personal risk and exploration. I love exploring both my external and internal worlds, and have been traveling for much of the past three years.

What have you been doing before?

I spent a couple of decades in the cable television and digital media worlds, proud of my accomplishments, raising and supporting a family, though have gradually shifted from marketing other people’s media and content to creating my own as an entrepreneur and writer.

How did you get around to write? Have you always been writing or was this an interest that came later? For some special reason?

I always had an interest in communication and content creation. As Steve Jobs is once rumored to have said, “Real artists ship.” I wanted to complete a creative work. So I did. Then did another. Now doing a third.

When did you first recognize that you would (be a writer) write books?

When my breakup with my girlfriend left me so distraught, with heart palpitations and real worries about my physical demise, that I felt compelled to use writing as a cathartic experience to explore what happened and what my real ideas were about life and love.

How did you get to the possibility of actually writing a full book? It is not so easy in this world, which requires money for everything to live!

The first book I simply did in my spare time, mostly in a one month travel jag as funding for my new startup had not yet materialized. My second book about war and its aftereffects was funded on Kickstarter; it was the most popular print journalism campaign of its kind at the time. My third has a financial partner. As when I did stage acting for 10 years, I believe it’s wise to have other income streams that can support your creative freedom. In the case of “WAR: The Afterparty,” the project resulted in several communications consulting projects in Southeast Asia so income can come indirectly, from networking, personal branding and serendipitous encounters in orphanages, factories and on social media.

When did you write your first book?


Which book was this? What are your comments on it?

“Dauphin, Dorian and Dead: The Year Without a Net” uses, with permission of my ex, our one year of blog posts and texts and explores what we seek in romance and midlife. The last part of the book takes place on Koh Phangan and was written as I explored and wrote about the relationship, sometimes with the help of male friends I met on the island, who recently went through similar experiences.


What are you working on currently?

The woman in the book had a large chateau in France. One morning, Billy Cobham showed up, one of the great masters of percussion of the last half century. Over the years, I watched Bill perform in Milan, Rio, New York, the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles and he had an endless stream of mind-boggling music stories. Was playing in a dance band and Jimi Hendrix was the guitarist, was in Leonard Bernstein’s youth orchestra, was in the band for Muhammed Ali’s Broadway play, how he met Miles Davis, how Mahavishnu Orchestra started during two weeks of jams with John McLaughlin, performances with every major jazz great of the last 50 years. So finally I insisted, we have to get these stories down. He mentioned he was doing a six-day residency at the fabled Ronnie Scott’s in London with a 17 piece big band orchestrated by famous British arranger Guy Barker. I said, I’ll come to the shows, interview all the musicians and others who have played with him, club owners, jazz critics, and we will spend 10-15 hours getting all your stories down. The shows were in June—three friends came from Phangan to London for the show—and I am writing the book now.

What do you hope to accomplish with your stories?

Illuminate and explore the human condition and use the creative projects as a conduit to meet and draw out the stories of remarkable people


Do you write for your own pleasure or for your reader’s pleasure? Like, do you feel that you have a “message” for your readers in your books? Something they have to know or understand?
A common message or different from each book?

In my first stage play, the principal actor related a story of a playhouse he performed at in New York. As the actors walked onto the stage, a sign overhead said, “Fuck the audience.” Of course, you are there to entertain and inspire and educate your audience. But you are there first to fulfill your artistic vision to your own complete satisfaction.

Do you have a general thread through your books, a perspective or a direction? Do your books have a general theme in common?

I like storytelling and drawing out people’s stories. There were a lot of oral histories in the WAR book, getting the untold narratives from people on the other end of the gun barrel. And I did a lot of interviewing at C-SPAN and in my startups. I love the opportunity to hold the attention of a master musician or political leader or witness to history and help form and share their stories.

What do you prefer, facts or fiction? To read? - or to write?

I started wth fiction, now more interested in non-fiction and prefer to create rather than consume, though I am a lifelong avid reader. The decline of western civilization will be closely tracked by the decline in literacy and reading.

How was the path as a writer for you? Did you have to fight for it or did it all come more or less naturally?

Some actor friends used to say, i can’t breathe if i am not acting. I could breathe quite well without acting. Or writing. I increasingly see my life as my art, how I choose to live and engage with the world. It does not come naturally. Storytelling comes naturally. We became communities and cultures when we started telling stories around a fire. The craft of writing involves a range of technical and communication skills that require honing and study and a lot of practice. I was intimidated to write books. I thought I needed years more education and training. Then, I said, fuck it, I’ll learn to write well by writing, lots.

Where did you learn the skills of writing? Or maybe not? Is there such a thing as autodidact writers? ;)

I had an excellent public school education in Brooklyn, then good experiences at Queens College for my B.A. and Pepperdine for my M.A. I was a pretty good written and oral communicator in business. So I have some innate communication skills, had a few decades of useful experiences and learning and then there is a cultural factor. Most Jews are steeped early in the value of education, reading and ideas. In Afghanistan, traveling for the WAR book, I was verbally assaulted by an Islamist in a Kabul swimming pool. He insisted Jews controlled the world’s banks and media. I said, yeah, comedy too.

How come you choose to stay in Phangan now?

Besides gorgeous sunsets, beautiful people, good yoga, great food, low overhead, access to the rest of Southeast Asia, the beaches and waterfalls and hills and culture, I’m not really sure.

What are your hopes (or dreams) for your stay in Phangan? And for your future?

I have been here for two years, on and off. I don’t know, I may stay for a few years, or i may stay forever. It’s hard to beat, an idyllic place. Nature, people, food, spiritual and bodywork opportunities, lovely culture, great lifestyle wherever you choose to live on the spirituality/ hedonism spectrum.

And to round it all up; what is the most important thing in your life right now?

Living my vision, exploring the world, sharing the stories and helping others share theirs. That, my family and friends, my pursuit for optimum health and sucking the marrow out of life each day.

Thank you Brian Gruber! It was and is a pleasure!! We are lucky to include you in the Phangan community! Good Luck with exploring inner and outer spaces and many wishes from us that your family and friends stay healthy and happy so that you together can suck the marrow out of life each day! ;) 

Brian is organizing a Writers Workshop in the Sanctuary in September and of course we highly recommend to join! Brian is an inspiring creative intelligent thoughtful sweet being and we wish him and his students very good times and lessons there! We are happy to announce that we will be following up on his workshop here in the magazine! So join us at The Sanctuary and Write your story in Paradise! A transformational writing retreat at The Sanctuary 9-15 September!

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