Interview with Funk Bass Guitarist, Freekbass, from Dec. 28, 2006
Jimmy Rae: Can you tell me some more about the live DVD and also about the new CD due out late spring/early summer?
Freekbass: The live DVD is going to be both live footage of the band, and some stuff with me sitting in with other folks. It was filmed at different shows over the last year and a half from places such as North Dakota, Montana, Ohio, and Kentucky . Some of the additional musicians that appear on the DVD include Bootsy Collins, Bernie Worrell, and Buckethead. It is shot by Jeremy Sewell of Staunchy Productions who has shot stuff for RatDog, Flaming Lipps, and Les Claypool. Jeremy has a great eye, so was a treat hooking up with him for the DVD. It will be nice to get this out for folks who have not got a chance to see a show, and might know us only by the CD’s. Plus we like to stretch it out live, so nice to have that captured and get that side of things out there. I’ve seen some of the edits, and it is looking and sounding pretty good so far.
We are finishing up the last of the recording on the new studio CD right now. It’s been a bit since we released a studio CD . Got some nice, raw tracks going, and the majority of the tunes are all brand new material. Bootsy is going to be the executive producer again like the first two, and got some cool cameos on the disc such as Bernie Worrell, Bootsy, Jen Durkin from The Rhythm Devils/ Deep Banana Blackout, and a couple of other pretty cool ones which we will talk about more as we get closer to the release date. We have been touring quite a bit since the last CD “The Air Is Fresher Underground”, so been nice getting some of that heaviness on tape. We’ll probably be putting up a ruff mix or two up at our MySpace page soon.
Jimmy Rae: What are your feelings on the two Funk Bass Instructional DVD’s you will be working on for a spring ’07 release? You won’t be just playing to people, but also teaching people now on how to play funk bass, what are your thoughts on that?
Freekbass: I am really excited about those, and the whole process has been inspiring. When you teach, it makes you go thru your whole learning process again which is a trip: what worked for you, what didn’t, etc., etc. We are going to be doing a Level 1 and Level 2 version, and I am hoping that any musician, whether a beginner, or someone who has playing for a while, will be able to get something out of it. They will be under the umbrella of “funk bass playing”, but there will be some “meat and potato” stuff in there for a bassist from any genre. I have been approached before about doing a DVD like this, but Rockhouse Method seemed like the right ones to go with because their products are very interactive for the student. For instance, when you buy a copy of the DVD, there is a number password included which you can go to their website to get additional info. Things such as the tracks that I put together and will be playing to on the DVD, but without the bass mixed in so they can play along too. They have a diverse stable of artists at Rockhouse that have DVD’s out such as Doug Wimbush (bassist for Living Color), Bernie Worrell ( keyboards for P-Funk/ Talking Heads), Dave Ellison (bassist for Megadeath), Leo Nocentelli (guitarist for The Meters) to name a few. Anyway, hoping a person who picks one up can learn, but also have some fun listening and grooving to them too.
Jimmy Rae: I saw you’ve worked a lot with Bootsy Collins, what’s it like working with a funk legend and how did that come about; Bootsy being so heavily involved with you and your band?
Freekbass: I feel blessed everyday to be working with someone like Bootsy. It’s funny, when we first hooked up I thought “wow, I’ll learn all of these really cool bass tricks and licks”. Of course there was that, but the main thing is he taught me how to produce records, and get around in a studio. He is from the school of “teach” a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime. Plus, he has a great person to give you insight on how to survive in the very up and very down world of the music business. I always say to folks who ask me what Bootsy is like that if you took away all of the music stuff, he is the first person you would want to go fishing with and just hang.
To give you the “Cliff Notes” version of how we met. I was playing bass on some demos for Gary “Muddbone” Cooper (singer for Bootsy’s Rubberband, P-Funk, and now working with Dave Stewart ). There is a label in Japan that was doing a Jimi Hendrix Tribute Record using a bunch of funk bands writing songs about Hendrix. P-Funk, Ohio Players, etc., etc. Anyway, Gary was doing a track with P-Funk Guitarist Michael Hampton and asked me if I would like to play bass on the track. I was very honored to be asked , said yes, and asked who was producing and engineering the track. He said “Bootsy”, and I must of done one of those double-takes like in the cartoons while saying “whaaatttt???”. So to make a long story a little shorter, we get to Bootsy’s studio, and he and I just kind of clicked, and think he might have been digging my bass playing . We stayed in touch, and he started having me out to his studio to start writing songs together, and learning about the studio. It was around that time he gave me the nickname “Freekbass” because of the way I play, and it stuck. We continued to write songs for the first Freekbass CD, and then I put a group together, and started doing the road thing .
Jimmy Rae: Can you talk about your four-year experience with the group, “Shag”, in the mid-90s? What did you get out of that experience and that group?
Freekbass: That is the band I cut my teeth with, and discovered I had, what I call the “truckdriver-gene” in me because I dug playing on the road so much. It was a great, learning experience both musically, and personally. Plus I made some of the best friends a guy could ask for.
Jimmy Rae: I see you guys are blowing up nationally, but how does it feel to be so well-recognized and well-respected in your hometown of Cincinnati? Does that mean even more to you and feel even more special as a musician?
Freekbass: Thanks for the nice words. Well, it is always nice getting a little props in your own backyard for sure. Although, I have a heckuva long way to go, it gives you the fuel to keep moving. We did a track and video for the Cincinnati Reds this year and with being a hardcore baseball fan that I am, it was a thing that I am still geeking on being asked to do. Last season they had me throw out the first pitch at a Reds game, which was a total trip. Had I not being playing music in Cincy, that probably would not of happened. I feel very proud to be from the Midwest and Cincinnati. I am sure I would still be playing music if I was from somewhere else in the country, but I am guessing the style and the way I play would be a lot different..
Jimmy Rae: I understand you grew up wanting to be a magician initially, how come you didn’t pursue that instead of music?
Freekbass: I could always figure out how to thump an “E” string, but could never get that rabbit to come of the hat thing together.
Jimmy Rae: How did you initially get so involved with music and especially wanting to learn the bass and play funk?
Freekbass: I actually started off as a drummer, then moved to guitar, and ended up on bass. I always dug the sounds and tones the bass made, and guitar always felt to delicate for me when I played it…like it would break or something…the bass was big and chunky which I dug. I remember in 6th grade I had a math book with a Fender bass guitar on the cover and I would just stare at it for hours.
Playing funk had to do with growing up in Cincy. If you are from the burbs or the city, funk always was around it seemed. When I was a real little kid I saw a funk group from Cincinnati called Midnight Starr play a concert and was hooked.
Jimmy Rae: I understand you grew up with an obsession for cartoon superheroes and comic books, relating to the underlying themes-how did that come about and do you still hold an obsession for that?
Freekbass: Yeah, I am still a comic book/superhero geek. I think I always liked the underdog/outcast aspect of a superhero. You would have all of these cool powers, but you had to be humble and secretive about it or risk being shut out . X-Men really brings that out in both the comics and the movies. Plus the outfits are pretty nifty too.
Jimmy Rae: I saw that you had many musical influences in your life, Elvis and The Beatles thanks to your mom and you really got into the music of Zapp and Midnight Star along with Sly Stone, Stevie Wonder, Larry Graham, Parliament and Bootsy, any other major influences on the music you make and play today?
Freekbass: Big fan of Dr.Dre , David Bowie, and Talking Heads to just scratch the surface. Really been digging The Mars Volta & Benevento/Russo Duo lately.
Jimmy Rae: What was it like opening for George Clinton and the P-Funk Allstars?
Freekbass: It was great ! Not only just being able to play a show with them, but then being able to hang and see them play which is always a treat.
Jimmy Rae: If you had to pick one favorite artist or group, who would that be for you personally and why?
Freekbass: Oh my…not trying to be coy on this one, but don’t think I can pin it down to just one artist. I might hear one thing and be like “that’s the one”, and you play me a whole different song or genre, and I would be “that’s the one”. My moods jump all over the place, and that is the nice thing about music is that each one of those swings can be filled with a different song or band.
Jimmy Rae: Do you have any hobbies besides music that you like to do in your spare time?
Freekbass: Besides being a baseball junkie as I mentioned earlier, I love reading. Mostly dig biographies, and non-fiction, that is when I don’t have my face in a Batman comic.
Jimmy Rae: Have you ever played in Indianapolis, IN before or been to Indy, if so what do you think of the city? How does it compare to your hometown?
Freekbass: Oh yeah, it’s been a bit, but many times both with Freekbass and Shag. Love playing Indy, and have some good friends I have made over the years. It’s very similar to Cincy in a lot of ways with the people. Seems there is always a party at the show and a party after the show in Indy. Always tuck another RedBull in the suitcase when we play there.