Sitting Down With Freekbass

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Born and raised in Cincinnati, OH, Freekbass has been creating music since a young child. Specifically, the musician fell in love with the bass at a young age, after the Oberlin College of Jazz performed for his school when he was in the 6th grade.  The young musician was captivated by the sound and rhythm the instrument created, and was absolutely mesmerized by its specific tones.  Initially, Freek began his musical career as a drummer. After a short stint in that department, he then moved on to the guitar, before eventually following his true passion for the bass.

After what he described as “falling for the funk,” Freek’s passion for the rhythm and overall tone of the instrument were almost hypnotic in a sense, confirming the notion that this was his instrument to play.  Since then, he has been touring the country, spreading his funky sound and hoping others take notice along the way.  After seeing his show a few months ago in the Columbus area, I soon realized I had never attended a performance with a bassist and a drummer as the sole musicians.  With Big Bamn playing alongside Freek on the drums, the two shared an amazing chemistry from the start.  Although seemingly different than any other show I’d seen, I was into it, and felt that the Sunday crowd was impressed as well.

Now, with a new CD titled, “Everybody’s Feelin’ Real,” Freekbass seems to be in a very creative space, both musically and mentally.  After attempting to create similar vibes to albums such as Sly and the Family Stone’s “There’s a Riot Goin’ On” and “Maggot Brain” by Funkadelic, Freek and his musical producer/engineer Duane Lundy, had to get on the same page in the studio.  Lundy informed the bassist that if he wanted to have a comparable sound to those albums, then they needed to be recorded in a similar manner.   Makes sense, right?  However, working and recording in the studio is not as linear as it may seem to outsiders, and creating this album seemed to channel a different spectrum of the bassist’s musical talents and brain. However, the process worked, and “Everybody’s Feelin’ Real” brings the sonic funk that Sherman was looking for.

You can check it out here: Everybody’s Feelin’ Real or exclusively on Rise and Vibe as well:

 

Freekbass – Victoria Thunder

 

We also had the opportunity to sit down exclusively with the bass player for an interview here at Rise and Vibe Music. Check it out below!

Photo by Sonya Ziegler

Sitting Down With Freekbass:

1.) Why the bass? What initially drew you to the instrument?

The main reason was the sound and rhythm it created.  When I was in 6th grade Oberlin College Jazz band performed at our school. I was sittingdirectly in front of the bass player, and when I heard the tones coming out of that instrument I was mesmerized.  Plus, growing up in Cincinnati there was always funk around…and the bass was one of the initial reasons I fell for the funk…the tones plus the rhythm was always sohypnotic.  I started off as a drummer, then moved to guitar, and then came home to the bass.  Also, I liked the chunkiness of the instrument.  Guitar always felt so delicate, like I would break it if I played too hard.  The bass could fall of the roof, and you could dust it off, and start making more music with it.

2.) So, like myself, you are a native of Cincinnati, OH.  For all of our readers out there, what was it like growing up in “The Queen City?”  How would you describe the city to others who have never visited?

Cincinnati is a pretty interesting place. Parts of it are conservative, and parts of it are liberal.  It is kind of a microcosm of the United States.  We are pretty much a twin city with Northern Kentucky (Covington/Newport).  It has always had a strong musical scene with a great history of music.  I have been asked in interviews outside of Cincy if I would play music if I grew up somewhere else, which I say I am sure I would, but not sure if I would be playing the funk.  Once I discovered funk and bass music as a kid it seemed like it was everywhere here.  In the last few years downtown Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky has really started to explode. So many new restaurants,galleries, music venues, etc.  It is turning into a pretty special place.  I was born in Cincinnati, and still live here today.  For a touring musician it is nice because we are so central to so many cities…Chicago is about 4 1/2 hours, Atlanta about 6, Nashville a little over 4…even NYC is only a little over 10.

3.) What was the music scene like growing up for you there?  How does it compare to the music scene now?

I was lucky enough to start hanging out in Clifton in Cincinnati when I was a kid when I first started playing in bands. Clifton was like the Greenwich Village part of Cincinnati.  All of the bands were playing all original music, so you had to learn not only to play your instrument, but you had to learn how to write songs too.  And there were noboundaries…the more original or avant-garde the better. So for me, part of me was obsessed with funk, hip-hop, and groove music, and part of me was enchanted by this Clifton art-music scene. It was pretty exciting place to be as a kid.  As far as now, I tour so much anymore I don’t have a real strong sense of how the Cincinnati music scene is. I am sure it is still doing great by all of the new and cool music venues popping up all of the time.

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4.) Who were some of your biggest musical influences growing up?  Whoare some of your biggest influences or inspirations in the industry today?  Why?

Growing up, if I had to narrow it down to just a couple I would say Dr.Dre and David Bowie.  I used to play bass along with “Doggystyle” and “The Chronic” non-stop growing up. And the “Scary Monsters” CD by Bowie would be on a loop in my room for many years. The songs along with the production on that album are so hypnotic.  I am probably most influenced and enamored now by a lot of the musicians.  I have been lucky enough to play with because of their talent and to seehow they are painting a constant new journey, breaking new boundaries, and living the music.  Folks like Bootsy, Mike Dillon, Bernie Worrell, Skerik, Jennifer Hartswick, Mike Gordon.  I am not bringing these people up to name-drop, but seeing folks like that do their thing up-close with so much passion first hand is very inspiring.

5.) You currently teach bass in the Cincinnati area, is that correct?  When did you realize you wanted to start teaching music to others?  Could you describe the joy you get out of watching that ‘lightbulb’ turn on in a child’s brain?  

That is correct. I also teach online at TrueFire.com (http://truefire.com/guitar-sherpa/sherpa_class.html?room=Freekbass) for folks not in Cincinnati. I feel as a musician that it is a kind of a responsibility to share your knowledge to other upcoming musicians.  Other musicians did it for me growing up, and it put me on a solid path, so I feel anyway I can do the same, it feels right. I really try to talk about the importance of groove and pocket when I teach. When you see each week a student’s groove get better and more dialed in, it is pretty special. Each person’s groove is so specialized, like their own fingerprint, so when you see it developing in front of you, it is exciting. I am inspired by them as hopefully they are by some of the things I show to them.

6.) Aside from your hometown, do you have a favorite place to play throughout the country? What makes this venue so special to you?

Montana has always been a great place to play for me. I did not play there last summer, but for the last 4 years before that I have toured there when we head out west to play.  It really is Big Sky Country out there…just beautiful.  If I had to choose one venue, I would say BearCreek Music Festival in Live Oak,Florida.  Paul Levine has created something very special there for both the musician and the audience.  As a musician it is great because you are usually booked for multiple sets. So instead of the usual festival or club gig where you play and as soon as you are done you are heading to the next city, with Bear Creek you get to actually hang and interact with other musicians and folks at the festival.  It makes for a very creative time.

7.) Tell us a little bit about your newest CD titled, “Everybody’s Feelin’ Real.” What was your creative process like in the studio? How long did it take you to record the entire thing? What do you like most about the album?

You always get excited about a new release, but this is the first album I really feel like we have captured some of the sonics and feels of albums I grew up listening to.  The album is produced by the very talented and creative Duane Lundy (Jim James of MMJ/Ben Sollee) at his Shangri-La Studios in Lexington,KY which itself is a magical place.  Before we started to record, Duane and I met and he asked what I wanted the album to sound like.  I told him I wanted it to capture that same vibe as when I heard” Fresh” and “There’s A Riot Goin’ On” by Sly & The Family Stone, or “Maggot Brain” by Funkadelic. He said to me, if you want to have a vibe like those albums, we will need to record it like those albums. So with every track the bed tracks of bass, drums, and keys were all done at the same time, in the same room, live and loud. If we got 3/4 of the way through a song and someone made a mistake we did not do overdubs, but would all start over so it was all live. Plus we were all about 5 feet from each other. If there was a little microphone bleed, that was ok…capturing the moment was what was important.

I like on this album that I got to be just a musician and a songwriter and nothing else. On a lot of my past albums I have had a hand in the engineering/technical side of things which is cool, but it can split your brain into 2 thoughts. Also ,very happy with the tones we got on my bass, and all of the other instruments…thick, real, and dirty.

 8.) What is the most difficult aspect of creating an album for you?

Writing lyrics. I do really enjoy it, and feel and hope I get better on each album. But you open up parts of your brain that can be exhilarating but strange too. Just like you practice to get better on your instrument, I think writing lyrics is the same way. My favorite albums are because of the playing and the lyrics.  And there is always that fear of a writer/lyricist of sounding cliche.

9.) If you had to describe yourself in one sentence to our readers, what would you say?

A drummer that plays notes.

 

For all things Freekbass related, be sure to check out http://www.freekbass.com

If you’re looking to see Freekbass live this year, check out his tour dates here: Freekbass Summer Tour ’14

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