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Josh Freese: Workin' for the Fan

Superstar drummer of Devo and A Perfect Circle sells himself, his famous friends, and all-you-can-eat shrimp dinners to promote his new album.

"I hadn't been here in a while until recently, but I do enjoy it," Freese says while in line at the cash register. "You know, I love airplane food." He pauses for a chorus of ewwwwwwws and wrinkled noses. "I'm not being funny; I'm not being ironic. It reminds me of being 12 years old and putting food in the microwave."

He pays $58.27 for three steak-and-all-you-can-eat-shrimp dinners, cooked medium, with Diet Pepsis and baked potatoes. Everyone shuffles into a green-vinyl booth by the drink station.

Topics of discussion before the food arrives: feeling old at concerts; Freese having to lie to his fiancée about working too much; Keenan's winery; how both James and Mulharsky have been to an astounding number of NIN and A Perfect Circle concerts.

Just as James puts in his plea to get A Perfect Circle back together for a reunion, the three steak plates arrive: Freese wasn't kidding about loving the food there — he inhales the steak and shrimp as he gives diplomatic answers about which fellow musicians are "cool" and which aren't. It's really the ultimate fan opportunity to geek out with one of your favorites:

"Aaron North or Robin Finck?" James asks, referring to the former and present guitarists for Nine Inch Nails.

They're different people, Freese hedges, and he loves them both.

James mentions that he and his girlfriend would be seeing three NIN shows within six days.

Freese dives into his cheese bread. "I'm going for it, man," he says. "I'm really enjoying the Sizzler experience, by the way, guys."

"Mmmmhm!" James responds. "No, it's spectacular."

Forty minutes later, Freese announces he has to book it to Hollywood to make a recording session with Devo before rushing home for some family time.

Upon departure, James gives it one last shot: "Well, get Maynard, Billy Howerdel, and get them all in a room..."

"WE'RE GETTING THE BAND BACK TOGETHER!!" Freese yells.

----------

Freese hates his dog.

Frankie, a brown Chihuahua, doesn't seem so bad, but Freese points out that Frankie almost always wakes up his three children after he finally manages to get everyone to bed.

Freese is sitting in the back house of his almost-oceanfront-but-still-modest, one-story, Long Beach home. He shares the house with his fiancée of ten years (Amdurer), children (Hunter, 8; August, 2; and Olive, 3 months), two cats, two fish, and, yes, Frankie.

The home is beautifully decorated, with plenty of art displayed and kids' toys strewn about. The back house holds some children's-sized teal- and lime-green-colored, rounded-edge furniture. Large, translucent bears stand on a white credenza, and a large-scale model of the Tiki Room at Disneyland sits atop a tall bookshelf.

August, whom Freese refers to as Auggy, stands just outside the door and screams, "Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaddy!"

Freese talks about his kids constantly and turns into a puddle at the very sight of them: "We were talking this morning, and he's just learning how to talk and communicate and getting his vocabulary together, and it's so cute!" he says, kissing the curly haired toddler. "Hey, Auggy. Hi. Hey. Do you know you're cute? You did know that?" He rapid-fire kisses August's forehead.

Freese recently quit as drummer for Nine Inch Nails so he could spend more time at home. "I needed to be around a bit more in 2009 for my kids," he says. "They need their dad right now. I'm still going out of town but just for bits at a time. I'm sure there will be a time when I go out for a long time again... but just not right now."

Freese grew up in a musical family: His father, Stan Freese, has been working for Disney for 38 years. He had started out as the first leader of the Disney World band when the park opened in 1971 and then was transferred to Anaheim, where he eventually became — and remains — Disneyland's entertainment director.

Stan has a warm, friendly voice and a lively laugh — it's clear where Josh got his sense of humor. Like Freese's friends, Stan says that his son's fan-packages plan wasn't a surprise. He shares a story about Josh's seventh birthday party. "He wanted to watch Monty Python — that's all he ever watched back then," he begins. "The other little boys were just not into it, and so they split. [Josh] was crestfallen." Stan lets out a laugh that sounds a bit like his son's. "He couldn't understand why other 7-year-olds couldn't get into The Holy Grail. That's when I knew we were in for a ride."

As a child, Freese had convinced his father to bring a set of drums down from the attic. Stan sat down and played a simple beat. Freese was able to follow right away.

"We couldn't get him into toys and stuff. All he carried around, even starting at 2 years old, was drumsticks," Stan recalls. "He came in knowing he was going to be a drummer, and if we wanted to be a part of it, that was cool. And if I didn't, that was cool too."

Freese began to practice to records. Funny enough, Devo's Freedom of Choice was among the first records he owned, in addition to Queen's The Game, Zenyatta Mondatta by the Police, and Van Halen's self-titled first LP. He later went on to play songs off Zenyatta Mondatta with Sting in front of as many as 400,000 people, and he has been a permanent member of Devo for the past 13 years.

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