Josh Freese Talks "My New Friends", Next Solo Album, David Lynch Flicks and A Perfect Circle
Tue, 12 Apr 2011 09:20:40
Josh Freese genuinely thinks outside the box.
His brand new EP, My New Friends, is comprised of five songs written about fans who purchased special "packages" from his official web site that got them time on quirky outings with Freese and his pals as well as their very own tune. Some of these excursions included hanging at Danny Lohner's recording studio, going to Disneyland with Freese, and mini-golfing with Tool and A Perfect Circle frontman Maynard James Keenan.
The songs on My New Friends are witty, sometimes punk-y rock 'n' roll with a whole lot of heart. Freese crafted some catchy gems that couple his sharp sense of humor and storytelling style with propulsive percussion and infectious riffing. It's fun rock 'n' roll at its best.
Josh Freese sat down for an exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author Rick Florino about My New Friends, his next album, David Lynch movies, and A Perfect Circle.
You crafted some very clever rock music on My New Friends.
I tried to. No one wants to put anything out that they can't feel proud of or stand behind. I didn't want to say, "Hey, I'm going to write a song about you" and then crap something out on an acoustic guitar and record it poorly the same night. I spent a lot of time, energy, and money working on the EP. It's like any other record I'd make but with fewer songs. It stems from something interesting and off the wall, but it's just as serious as anything else I've done. I'm glad that it shows. I want those people to feel like they got their money's worth. They can hear that it was recorded at a nice studio. There are witty lyrics and cool songs. It's not just a piece of shit [Laughs]. I'm glad you picked up on that and appreciated it.
How do you write a song for someone else? Did you have to spend a lot of time with these guys?
It depends. I spent about a week with Thomas Mrzyglocki. He got two songs written about him, and he became semi-famous on the Internet a couple of years ago for buying the $20,000 package. I spent more time with him than the other guys. I also didn't want to write super literal songs saying, "Tom was born in 1975, he went to school here, this is what he likes to eat, and this is what he likes to wear." I didn't want to make it too predictable, easy, or silly. I wrote about our experiences together, what kind of people they were, and what it was like doing what we did. It was less about what year they graduated high school.
It sounds like you guys had fun though.
Yeah! That's what the lyrics are about. The songs are cool, hook-y, and fun. The lyrics are really funny. On the first song, Ferris had five grand. He could've gone to Las Vegas or Hawaii, but he hung out with me [Laughs]. Here's us at Danny Lohner's recording studio in the Hollywood Hills. Here's us at Disneyland. He likes Disneyland just like me [Laughs]. It's all fun! I took it seriously, and I worked hard on the songs and videos. I shot, edited, and uploaded those videos myself. I don't have a single person helping me with any of that. It's all me, and it's in between playing drums with a bunch of people and raising four children—which I'm very involved in. It's not like I go to work and my wife takes care of the kids. My wife takes care of the kids when I'm at work and, when I come home, I take care of the kids along with her. I'm up every morning at 6:30 juggling, changing diapers, and getting the kids ready for school. I don't just kick back and let her do all of the parent jobs. Some of the lyrical content keeps with my regular, playful, nutty self. I'm not stretching to be someone else. The music all stemmed from fun and craziness. Hopefully, the songs reflect that. This is the third record I've made, and it's all pop rock 'n' roll. There are elements of new wave or punk rock here or there. It's straight-up melodic rock 'n' roll at the end of the day. Now, I've been sitting on a bunch of tracks that are really weird. They have nothing to do with rock music or drums. There's no singing. If there are voices ,it's people laughing in the background. It's weird avant garde shit. I've been wanting to put out a record like that for awhile. For a guy who's never done acid in his life, this will be my acid trip record [Laughs]. This will be the album where people go, "What the hell is going on?" Everything else has been pretty easy to swallow, but let's get back to the record [My New Friends] that came out this week [Laughs].
Is it important for you to tell stories with these songs?
I've always been a fan of great storytellers and songwriters. Paul Westerberg is probably my favorite songwriter all of time. I'm such a huge fan of his, and he's a real poet. He works in an abstract way with what he sings about and what he gets across. As much as Paul is this heartfelt songwriter with amazing lyrics, I'm very into The Residents who are the opposite of that. They're completely whacky, fucked, and bizarre. Their music has nothing to do with slice-of-life or emotion. I'm a huge Devo fan too. They work on different levels depending on how you want to try and interpret them. They're less singer-songwriter-y than Westerberg. It's about being a fan of different stuff over the years and how it rubs off on you, whether consciously or subconsciously. The influence is there, and that's important with anything not just music.
Is it fun to have a hand in all of these other forms of media.
Of course! I have fun doing that stuff. I've referred to the video stuff as "my hobby," but getting into it is another skill set that I can use and apply to what I do. I'm a musician, a songwriter, and an "artist." It all stems from being a creative person whether it's music, video, or photography.
Your personality shines through in these songs like it does when you're behind the kit.
If your personality can show through you in whatever you do—whether you're playing the drums, painting, writing a song, or doing a video—that's all any artist could ask for. My favorite drummers are guys like Stewart Copeland or Terry Bozzio who have a style that shines through and is undeniable.
If you were to compare My New Friends to a movie or a combination of movies, what would you compare it to?
That's a tough question for me because I'd probably compare it to some boring movie [Laughs]. I could compare my next record to some David Lynch movies because it's going to be completely out there and off the wall.
What are some of your favorite movies?
I'll tell you what I don't like…I'm not a science fiction fan. I'm not trying to be the one guy that says he didn't like District 9 or Inception, but I fucking didn't [Laughs]. During the first ten minutes of District 9, I wanted to get the hell out of there, and I was with two other people who were loving it. I either like the stupid classic comedy films like Caddyshack and Animal house that I watched when I was a kid or the Coen Bros' movies. Here are some movies that I've watched probably 30 or 40 times—Fargo and Sideways. I own two copies of Sideways, and I rented it on iTunes the other day in South America even though I can recite half of the movie. It's really dark and depressing, but it resonates with me a lot for some reason [Laughs]. Then, there are the David Lynch films. I really love Wild at Heart and Blue Velvet in particular. I also love Mulholland Dr.
Wild at Heart doesn't get as much love as it should.
It's incredible! It was Lynch's next film after Blue Velvet, which is so dark. To me, Wild at Heart has tons of crazy kooky classic David Lynch shit, but it's also very easy to watch—unlike Eraserhead which is classic but it challenges a lot of people. If you watch Wild at Heart, you say, "This is great! Why didn't the whole world love this film?" Some of the scenes that don't mean anything are some of my favorite scenes of all time. One in particular is when Nicolas Cage and Laura Dern first get into New Orleans. They're sitting at the bar, and the guy is speaking about the pigeons in that high voice. He's hooting and hollering about the band playing and saying weird shit that has nothing to do with anything. It's completely bizarre [Laughs]. Oddly enough, it's one of the only movie premieres I've ever been to over 25 years of having the opportunity to go. I went there in 1991 with Dweezil and Moon Zappa when I was 17-years-old. I hardly knew what I was getting into [Laughs]. I found out Lynch likes to play his movies really loudly. The soundtrack has a bunch of crazy metal. I was watching it like, "What the fuck?" I was thinking of how gruesome that opening scene is on the plane the other day.
What can fans expect from the A Perfect Circle tour?
People can expect all of the hits, baby…all two of them [Laughs]. We're not going to go out and play a bunch of new songs and make people wish they were in the beer in line instead of in their seats. We're going to pick a good batch of songs between the three records—mainly the first two. I didn't think I was going to enjoy playing the Emotive album on the last tour, and it ended up being a great night for us. It went from me going, "This is going to suck" to "This might be my favorite night now!" I know it sounds insane because I was the one asking, "Why are we doing a third night?" Then we all ended up really enjoying it. Anyways, we'll pick a great batch of songs between those three records and there might be a new song or two that gets played as well. We're not committing to making a whole new record right now, but we have committed to going into the studio next week kind-of-thing and starting to work on some songs. We've already started working on the songs. We've played and rehearsed them a little bit. We've sliced and diced around the arrangements a little. We're going to record them very soon but we don't want the pressure of saying, "We're making a new record!" Who knows though? Anything's possible. We could go in and start recording and say, "Wait a second, now we've got enough songs for an EP! Or, we've got seven songs. If we had three more songs, we'd have enough for a whole record!" That hasn't happened yet. I'm just saying. Never say never. To make a whole new record isn't the plan though [Laughs].
Have you heard My New Friends? Will you be seeing A Perfect Circle?