A Perfect Circle’s Josh Freese Sings About His Fans on New EP
Between his many drumming gigs (The Vandals, DEVO, and A Perfect Circle to name a few), Josh Freese has found time to record a new solo album called ‘My New Friends.’ Freese recorded, wrote, played, and sang almost every note on the album.
Freese recently spoke to Noisecreep about the EP while driving to a session with singer-songwriter Michelle Branch. Freese discussed subjects including how he balances his time between being a drummer and a dad, as well as how to transcend beyond the drummer stereotype.
Freese, the father of four kids as well as a veteran drummer-for-hire, recorded an EP of five songs based on the lives of a few particularly generous fans who bought a much higher value version of his prior solo CD, ‘Since 1972.’
When did you find time to record a solo record?
Having four kids is unbelievably time-consuming. That’s why it took a while to come out. It’s difficult to make the time for myself to record my own stuff sometimes. I do it whenever I have a few minutes. What it comes down to is, when I told these guys when they bought these [added value album] packages where they got a song written about them, I said listen, this isn’t going to happen in the next couple of months. Often, you have to wait ten years and go, ‘Hey wait a second! Wasn’t this a song back in 2010?’ I had to light that fire under my ass, so to speak, to get it done. People were waiting.
Did you play everything on this record?
I did. All except one guitar solo. There’s a guitar solo on the second track, which is done by my friend Warren Fitzgerald from The Vandals. He played a solo and the rest is me.
So who are your new friends in ‘My New Friends’?
One guy, his name is Ferris Al-Sayed. He’s a Middle Eastern guy from Indiana. There’s Tom Mrzyglocki from Florida. He got two songs written about him. He kicked down more cash money, so he got more music about him done. There’s Chuck Thomas from Tennessee. Eddie Torres from New York City, he got the last track on the record. They were guys that bought opportunities to have songs written about them and released in a serious fashion, not a ‘I’ll write a quick song about you tonight on an acoustic guitar, recorded poorly, burn you a copy, write the name of the song with a sharpie and send it to you so you can play it for your friends.’ I spend a lot of time and money and energy on this, and work on it as hard as any other records of mine. I fund it myself and make the time to do. The type of stuff that I do, I do it on my own and engineer it myself for the most part. I record most of it myself. Play everything myself. I’m proud of it. I hope they like it too. They seem to. But who knows?
When you did the various high-value package deals for your last CD (2009′s ‘Since 1972′), you drew some serious attention. Which deal purchase surprised you the most?
It’s definitely the one Tom Mrzyglocki bought. It was a limited edition of one. It was for $20,000, and someone bought it. He got two songs written about him on the EP and one of the songs is basically saying ‘Hey man, you could have bought a new Four Runner or a car for that.’
This is a one time only offer thing with all of these interesting experiences of adventures available on it. He goes ‘I’m young and crazy enough to shell out the money to do it.’ Of course I’m going ‘Right on! Of course you should do it. It’s not as much that as me saying as much as going through someone else, I could understand that. There are a million cars out there you could buy until you’re grey and old. But this was a much more interesting thing that he knew would only happen once and wouldn’t happen again. There were people involved he wanted to meet. There are things involved he wanted to go to. He was excited about it.
On the first song, ‘You & Me & The Tuba Tree,’ what is the tuba tree?
The tuba tree is the big tree at my father’s house. If you go on YouTube and punch in ‘You & Me & The Tuba Tree’ and you’ll see the video I made for that song. It flashes up once early in the song, but at the end you’ll see it over and over. It keeps repeating the scene every time it says the tuba tree. It’s a tree he’s had at his house for over 25 years. It’s filled with old tubas and sousaphones hanging from all the branches.
What originally inspired you to do the ‘Since 1972′ CD?
I made a 12 song record in 2000 called ‘The Notorious One Man Orgy’. I wanted to put out another record but it took me forever because I wasn’t getting off my ass. Sure, I was in a bunch of different bands, but I wasn’t getting it done. I finally got myself to get it done and put it out. I made both those records because I’m a songwriter. I’m not a very successful songwriter, but I’ve written songs since I was a kid. I love doing it and it’s another facet to my creative being. I don’t wanna just sit there and play drums for other people. I’ve got more in me that’s gotta come out. It was something I had to do and wanted to do. Whether eight people buy it or 18,000 people buy it, I’m glad it’s just out there as an option for people to buy. The record is like a time capsule — it can live on forever. Who knows what people may discover or not discover in the future.
Have you ever played your solo stuff live?
No, I haven’t. I’ve always been freaked out about it. I don’t have the guts to start a band and do all that. If I were 24 and didn’t have kids, maybe I would. Or I weren’t getting hired at all or my drumming career was going down the tubes, maybe I would. I’m too busy doing what I’m supposed to be doing. If I thought I were one of the greatest singers ever that should be out there fronting a band because I know that I am, then I would do it. But I don’t feel that way. I’m musical enough to get my point across and record stuff from my home studio and put it out there. I’m not like ‘I’m great, I’m gonna knock em dead, people are gonna freak out…and I’m the next Jeff Buckley!’ You have to feel like that to put yourself on the line. I know a lot of people that aren’t that great but they’re crazy enough to think they’re crazy enough to think they’re really, really great. So they do it! They give it their all. There’s something enduring and aspiring about that, but I think I’m smart enough to know I’m not that great.
So we won’t be seeing the Josh Freese Band live any time soon?
Somehow if it could be the Josh Freese Band and somehow I’m not involved in it. Have four other people play my songs! [laughs] The drummer for this band The Replacements, one of my favorite bands from Minneapolis, Chris Mars, put out a solo record. He had a band for four or five of his musician pals who played a couple of shows as the Chris Mars Band, and Chris was sitting at home. He wasn’t even at the show! I kind of like that idea, saying it aloud!
I take it your kids aren’t old enough to be your backup band.
You know what would be funny? I should just put them all in a room with instruments, even though they’ve never played and just let them wail away on it, and call that my band!
Whenever you name comes up, there is always the reference to your time playing with the Disneyland Marching Band. Looking back, does it seem surreal how far you have come as a player?
Absolutely. I look at my son and his friend who is 12. When I was his age, I was getting endorsements from Zildjian Cymbals and DW Drums. I was playing band shows and I joined a musician’s union to play at Disneyland. I was paying taxes! To me it was very normal because it’s all I do. I knew I was special back then and I thought it was cool. I knew it was out of the ordinary to be paying taxes in a musician’s union at 12. But not until now, 25 years later, where I could go, ‘It’s pretty wild.’
What else are you working on these days?
I’m working on another record with The Offspring. I’m doing this tour with DEVO. I went to South America about a month and a half ago, on tour with Paramore for three weeks. They lost their drummer so I filled in. I’m about to start some Weezer stuff. I’m driving to a studio right now to make a record over the next three days with a female artist, Michelle Branch. She’s a singer-songwriter. [I've] known her for a while. [I've] never worked with her, but am finally getting a chance to work with her, [so I'm] looking forward to that. This summer, a lot of Weezer dates and maybe some A Perfect Circle dates as well.
A Perfect Circle just relaunched recently. I saw the ‘eMOTIVe’ night which was pretty cool.
Yeah. We did a tour in November. It was our first tour in seven years. [The last show doing the 'eMOTIVe' album] was harder than we thought. Not the tour itself… [but] I wasn’t looking forward to ‘eMOTIVe’ night. When I was told we’re doing all three records, I thought ‘ah man…we’re going to do a covers record?’ A lot of the songs, the way they were recorded was really strange. It’s hard to duplicate that stuff live. At the end, what’s cool is as much as it is a pain in the ass, we would do a cover of our cover, which we made it even more different. It was inspiring and fun to do. [Even though] I thought I was going to look forward to the least in every city we went to, I really liked it. Maynard [James Keenan] proved me wrong. He was like, ‘This night’s going to be great.’ I was like ‘Oh god! I don’t think so.’ I just kept my mouth shut. He was right. We all enjoyed it. Sometimes we would be practicing some of those songs. We never learned every single song we’ve ever played [before]. It was challenging but fun. Sometimes when you’re on tour and playing the songs perfectly every night, it gets tiresome. Not a whole lot of excitement, but I’m hoping it all works.