Today is the second part of The Rock House Blogs' interview with funk bass man Freekbass. In the second part of the interview FB talks about deciding to play bass for a living, how he learned his way onto the music scene and shares some thoughts on the music industry.
Part 1 of this interview can be found here - Conversations with FREEKBASS - A RHB Exclusive Interview
RHB: So what was it that made you decide you were going to play bass for as living?
FB: Well, you know, I started playing live pretty early. I started playing clubs when I was 14 or 15 years old and I always hung out with people that were a little bit older than me. I would have to say I knew pretty much as soon as I started playing. I still did things that most kids do at that age too. I was playing baseball as well as other sports. But, when I started playing clubs and started writing music I just couldn’t even imagine myself really doing anything else. I always toyed with the idea of doing other things but I always felt that I was almost lying to myself about doing something else. So I would say from the time I was 13, 14, 15 I was pretty determined that this was what I was going to do with my life.
RHB: Did you take lessons or were you self taught?
FB: A little bit of both. I was involved in a couple things that had a big influence on me. I went to the Jamie Ebersol Jazz Improvisation Clinics. He puts out a whole series of instruction that’s geared toward Jazz and improvisation and he has these clinics throughout the summer. The closest one to me was at the University of Louisville down in Kentucky which is a couple hours away from Cincinnati. He would have different artist as well as the master classes. You would practice and then play ensembles at the end of the day. My teacher was Rufus Reid who played with everybody from Miles Davis to …. Well you name it he’s been on a million Jazz records. He ended up being just such a huge influence on me. The clinic was about a week to a week and a half long and you would end it with a performance.
You had asked me earlier if I always knew I was going to play electric bass but I went through a period where I played double bass, you know an upright bass. I was torn because I was studying with a guy from the Cincinnati Symphony and at the same time I was going to these Jazz clinics so I was thinking about being a Classical bassist or a Jazz bassist and I was pretty serious about that. I looked into colleges so I could study with those kinds of people. But that influence helped me with the music that I do now.
I also studied privately with a guy named Lynn Seaton. He was in Count Basies’ band for a while. He is an amazing jazz bassist too. So I guess you could say I studied with more jazz guys in terms of my private training.
I think more than anything what helped my playing the most was getting out there at a young age and playing clubs. I teach privately myself and I always tell my students that private lessons are a great thing, especially if you have a teacher you can connect with. But, getting out there and doing it live in front of people, getting that on the job training, there is just nothing better than that. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing in front of a thousand people or five people or even just jamming with the people you play with it’s the best experience.
One thing I will tell you though is that if it’s possible play with people that have been playing a little bit longer than you or have more experience. Like when I went to the Ebersol clinics for instance. All the horn players were a little bit older than me, they were all smokin’ players and I was like this young upstart kid that was just close to their level. I got stuck with those guys and I had to learn to keep up with them. Even when I was playing in rock bands I was always playing with people that were a few years older than I was. I’m thankful that they were kind of patient with me but it almost forces you to up your game to as close to their level as you can get, and that’s a good thing.
RHB: So surrounding yourself with better musicians is a big key.
FB: Yeah, they’ve all been there and so as long as you’re willing to learn and to listen to what they are saying I think they will be willing to work with you. You just have to stay at it which should give you more motivation to go home to the wood shed and work on things on your own. That way you can keep up with them the next time that you guys get together.
RHB: We’ve run several articles on the blog about getting out to jams and playing with other people. There is a bit of a fear factor or intimidation factor that goes on inside the head when you first do this. But most of the guys at jams are actually pretty patient especially if you show a desire to learn something.
FB: Well, that’s just it. That’s the rush and the thrill from teaching or playing with kids or someone just starting out. When you see that person connect, even if it’s their first time behind a drum set or their first time they picked a guitar chord or played a bass riff. For me there is no bigger rush than seeing that person make that connection for the first time, it’s such a special thing. It’s such a thrill for the person starting out and it’s just as big a thrill for someone who is experienced to witness that happen. To see that thrill in that persons eyes.
RHB: Do you feel like you have made it in your career or are there still things for Freekbass to accomplish?
FB: The longer you go on this musical journey, the more you want people to hear your music. It’s not about trying to be the biggest start on MTV or whatever, you just want more people to experience your music and hear what you’re doing and that would be a big thing about touring for me. Touring is not for everybody but for what I’m doing I think it’s very important for me to get out on the road. I’m sure I’ll be on the road 40 or 50 years from now, I’m going to be like Willy Nelson ya know. I’m not going to just sit back, I’m going to be out there touring as hard as they were in their 20’s and 30’s. That’s a future accomplishment for me.
I remember when I was a teenager I would think I would like to be on Saturday Night Live or something like that. Of Course everyone would like to be on that show but there is a show out there called Austin City Limits, which is on PBS, I would just love to be on that show, ya know because they are so eclectic, it’s just more about the music. They’ll have some huge band like Coldplay one day and then the next they will have some obscure band that just tours a lot, well maybe not obscure but they definitely have more of a cult following and they will have them on the next night and it’s just more about the quality of the music not so much if they have had a top 10 hit, or whatever.
RHB: Any thoughts on the state of the music industry as it is today?
FB: As you know Curt, from all the blog stuff out there, we are in such a revolutionary time in music and I think when we look back 10 or 15 years from now it's going to be even more different. I have friends that work at record labels and places like that and I mean man they are really freaked out right now. It’s just a whole nuther ball game today. Even in just the last few years the game has changed so much. Ya know the big thing when you were a kid was to grow up and get a record deal. Well, record deals are kind of…..well their a big question mark.
RHB: They’re getting to be a thing of past aren’t they?
FB: Well, I guess the record labels may have a little more money for advertising but that’s really about it, ya know? It’s all about building a following now. It’s all about the niche or whatever genre of music you’re doing, it’s not about the “deal”.
It’s funny because you look at these bands that are like these huge MTV bands and they go to play live and they have trouble selling out a concert hall. Then there are bands like say Wide Spread Panic or Government Mule, these are guys that don’t have hardly any radio air play at all and their selling out huge arenas. So the whole thing has just flip-flopped and 99.9999% of that is because of the internet. It has just changed everything. We’ve both directly seen it, the effect of how that grassroots thing can just build through the internet.
FB: Obviously what you want to do when you get your band together is that you want to start to play live as soon as possible. Just to get in front of people, because those are the people that are going to be your best test market. It gives you a chance to see what songs work or what routines work and of course musically it helps you to be playing in front of people. Continue doing that and then you want to get out and tour different markets. You don’t want to base all you music on one market. There are going to be songs in one market where some people like them and some people don’t. Then we go to another market and everyone thinks it’s the best song in the world and that’s the other thing about actively touring. It’s not just about getting up and playing live in front of people, it’s that you are always playing in different types of “test” markets. Like I said you don’t want to rely on just one city or town to tell that something is good or bad.
The other thing is aside from some of the obvious things like getting a my space site set up, is just to get your music out on the web and start to get it out to people and start letting them listen to it. It’s so easy now and there are so many sites that are free. So, starting a My Space page or doing a blog, like The Rock House Blog and the twitter thing which is a huge sensation right now. Promotion wise I think it’s unlimited.
In part 3 tomorrow Freekbass talks about his latest creation "Junkyard Waltz", Rock House Method, his gear and what the holds in store for him.
Onto part 3 here - Conversations with Freekbass - A RHB Exclusive (Part 3)
Onto part 3 here - Conversations with Freekbass - A RHB Exclusive (Part 3)