By Rebecca Bulnes
By Laurie Charles
By Chuck Strouse
By Lee Zimmerman
By Laurie Charles
By Falyn Freyman
By Hans Morgenstern
"I'm a clown, not a complete whore."
Any time you start talking about musicians making money, the term sellout will pop up.
Freese says he has come across a few negative responses on fan messageboards and blogs, reacting to the prices of some of the more outlandish upper-tier packages. The $20,000 one in particular has stirred up a bit of controversy.
Tom Mrzyglocki, a 19-year-old from Florida, bought the package; he'd first heard about the marketing campaign through Tool's website. A big fan of Devo, A Perfect Circle, and the Vandals, Mrzyglocki flew from his home in Melbourne to Long Beach for a week in early April. He spent a night on the Queen Mary and played a round of miniature golf with Escalante and Keenan — Escalante won — but only because he was keeping score, Mrzyglocki says. Mrzyglocki had a pizza party with Mothersbaugh and got to pick out three items from Freese's closet (a custom Devo shirt, a Vandals hoodie, and a Tempur-Pedic travel pillow from Brookstone). Mrzyglocki was treated to a few bonus incentives such as a yoga class with Amdurer, hanging out with members of Tool at a Puscifer show, attending a Vandals show, and sitting in on a recording session with Slash.
Mrzyglocki paid for the trip with an inheritance left by his father, who committed suicide in 2007. He says some of his friends had "questioned my sanity," but he declares the one-of-a-kind week well worth it. "It's a free-market economy; [Freese] can do whatever he wants," Mrzyglocki shares over the telephone. "I think it's mostly tongue-in-cheek just to promote his small solo career, but he probably wasn't expecting anything out of it."
"I could've done it all in three days," Freese says, "but my girlfriend and I moved him out of his hotel, and he stayed at our house. He's a good kid. I didn't know anything about him until he landed. By the end of the week, I felt like I had become a big brother to him... The last thing I wanted was for the kid to go home and go, 'You know, I guess it was OK. Yeah, I met Maynard, and he was a dick, and then he dropped me off. Thanks.'"
But many criticisms posted on the Internet blast Freese for accepting money from a teenager. "I was really bummed reading [the criticism] on the Internet one night, and I felt pretty shitty. I put this thing up for sale; someone bought it. I didn't know if he was 60 or 15."
Freelance photographer/pharmacist Andrew Youssef, 33, of Huntington Beach, California, purchased a $250 Cheesecake Factory lunch — the first fan package experience ever. "I think [Freese's marketing strategy] is genius. I think people are jealous they didn't think of it first," Youssef says. "With the music industry going the way it is, he's gotten more publicity out of all this than anybody could even dream of buying."
Youssef says he's definitely another satisfied customer. "I think the criticism is definitely unwarranted. Obviously he's doing it for the money a little, but it's not like the people who wanted to pay for it are feeling gypped at all. I don't think you're hearing any complaints from anybody who spent the money."
Paul James, 41, and his girlfriend, Charlene Mulharsky, 36, of Huntington Beach, wait with Freese in Float Lab Technologies, which has deprivation tanks. A glowing recommendation from record producer Rick Rubin some five years ago turned Freese on to the tanks. The facility is located in a nondescript, unlabeled storefront on the Venice Boardwalk in Los Angeles.
James, who has a shaved head, is wearing a green plaid top and Jack Purcells, Mulharsky a L.A.M.B. tote bag, pink T, and cargos. At Mitsubishi Motors, where they both work, they're known as the "wild-and-crazy accountants."
After hearing about the fan packages on the radio, James and Mulharsky quickly settled on the $500 listing — the Sizzler dinner sealed the deal.
"This whole thing is awesome," James says to Freese when he arrives. "Like, I mean, I was really fired up for the Sizzler. When I heard you on the radio talking about the Sizzler, I was like, 'I'm dooooown; I am so down.'"
After a quick read-over of the one-page sensory-deprivation-tank guidelines presented by the owner, known only as "Crash," James and Freese strip down (yes, totally nude) and climb into their respective tanks — which look like heated, glorified, darkened meat freezers — and disappear.
Some 40 minutes later, after the two emerge, Freese asks how James' float was.
"I was kind of scared at first," James admits.
"You know what the problem is?" Freese asks. "If I'm lying down there for a long time, the whole time, I'm like, 'What am I doing here?' I've got, like, 3,000 messages, man. I've got to go to lunch and a session; I can't just sit here!"
"I'm not much of a relaxing kind of person," James replies.
"Me neither," Freese says. He pauses. "What are we doing here? Let's get out of here!"
After the group arrives at a Sizzler on Wilshire Boulevard, they pose for a photo in front of a sign advertising new dinner specials.