In the third and final part of our interview with Rock House Method Artist and Instructor Freekbass, the funk bass player talks about his newest CD Junkyard Waltz, his Rock House Instructional DVD's, gives some tips on practice and talks about his gear.
If you missed part 1 and 2 you can read them here Conversations with FREEKBASS - A RHB Exclusive Interview and Conversations With Freekbass - A RHB Exclusive (Part 2)
RHB: You have had some good success with your latest album Junkyard Waltz.
FB: Yeah, well a big part of it is as you know is that the last few records we’ve been building up our name and all that kind of stuff. A lot of it is the writing of the CD and as an artist I’ve always been with the funk kind of thing, it’s what I do. Compared to our 1st or 2nd record where I was trying to make it this genre thing or whatever, this time I just wrote however I was feeling. I wasn’t trying to have a certain style of music dictated. I am who I am as an artist and the songs are going to feel kind of funky because that’s just how I feel inside. Bootsy even told me that once he said “Freek whatever you’re going to do is going to be funky so don’t sit there and think you have to write a “funk” type song”. So with Junk Yard Waltz and the help of Bootsy as the producer and a big, big chunk or part of it was a guy that helped produce the record named Tobotius who actually now tours with me. He’s a DJ that started with Bootsy and he’s Bootsy’s engineer. He actually just got done doing a project with Himself, Buckethead, Bootsy and Brain from Primus called Science Faction. He kind of came from where I did which was the Cincinnati rock scene and melded over into the R & B. He’s in a band called Animal Crackers which are all DJ’s, which is kind of neat. There are five of them and it’s like each one of them is a different instrument, like one guy does the bass line and one guy does the drum tracks, one guy does the vocals but their actually doing with DJ’s. So their like a live band putting music together but their using turn tables to do it. It’s a pretty neat concept. He came from a unique background so he and I get along great.
The album I would say was about 40% done, but I would say the last 60% of it was done over a period of 6 weeks from him and I just banging heads together and writing together. Like I said he comes from the same rhythmic background as I do, so it was nice.
On this record we got a lot of attention because it has stars on it like Mike Bordin and Buckethead who also helped. We’re starting to get some really nice air play on this record which is strange. I’m not used to that kind of thing. We’ve also gotten some really nice press quotes on the album.
The success has been a culmination of everything, ya know, the touring and people being more familiar with the Freekbass name and the attention to the guest artist really helps to bring a little more to it. But I think bottom line it’s the music. All that hype stuff is great. I mean it gets people to take a look or a listen but in the end it’s the music that has got to deliver. I’m not trying to toot my own horn but it’s a record I can say I’m very proud of.
RHB: So what’s next do you have anything in the works?
FB: Right now I’m doing a very heavy touring schedule to promote Junk Yard Waltz. I just got done with a west coast tour and am starting to work on a new CD as well. We’re going to try and have some new out by mid-fall. Getting back to the internet fan base thing, people just always want to hear new stuff.
RHB: You have a couple of DVD’s with Rock House titled “Funk Bass” there’s 2 levels for your series. I watched them and I have to admit they made me want to go out and buy a bass guitar and start playing.
FB: It was such a pleasure to work with the Rock House gang. The great thing was working with John and Joe. Most people wouldn’t realize it but the final program ended up being 8 months in the making. It wasn’t like I flew to New York and we talked about it the night before and then the next day we just went into the studio and went for it. We thoroughly put technique under the microscope and we put so much time into creating the tracks that I would be playing to. I did all those on my own studio because ultimately running scales and arpeggios and loads and all that kind of stuff is great but you’re trying to play music. You’re not trying to impress people with your music theory knowledge. That was the thing that I think was good about the Rock House DVD’s. They really give you that format that you can show someone not only how to play a scale or to show someone to put your finger this way or that way but also be able to make music out whatever the particular technique is that you’re doing.
When John and Joe first got in touch with me, they sent me some copies of the DVD’s that John had done in the past it was so refreshing to see what they have done. You know, I’ve watched a million of those DVD’s and sometimes their not the most exciting things in the world to watch. But, the Rock House ones you instantly get sucked into because like you said it gets you playing music as quick as you can. I’ve also watched a lot of the Rock House DVD’s like the Leo Nocentelli one and the Doug Wimbish one, and they are not only fun to watch but are full of knowledgeable techniques and details.
RHB: What are some of the details you guys paid attention to?
FB: I know there are some techniques that I do especially like when I thumping and I didn’t even realize that I was doing them and John was really good at asking what’s that little thing you’re doing right there and I would be saying back to him “I was doing something with my thumb?” I didn’t even realize I was doing anything. So he really broke it down to the meat and potatoes of how you do a certain technique. I find the Rock House DVD’s unique in that they are entertaining but they also get you playing right away which the other DVD’s I’ve seen in the market place don’t seem to do. There’s kind of a disconnect between the teacher and the student, where as the Rock House DVD’s get the teacher involved with the student.
They also go beyond the DVD’s with the website and the blog that you guys are doing and even the interview that I’m doing with you right now, it’s kind of like being signed to a record label in a way or the way that an A&R person would work you on a roster. I like the way that Rock House works their products in a positive way and get it out there to the right people and they know their market place too.
I’ve gotten so many great emails from people about the DVD’s and we sell them out on tour also. It gives me a chance to connect with a different kind of fan base. I just can’t say enough about how honored and excited I am about being part of the Rock House roster. Joe and I have been talking about doing some other DVD’s too but I can’t say too much about it right now. But I do get a lot of people asking about coming out with another level.
RHB: So what playing tips can you pass onto aspiring bass players?
FB: First off, whether you’re playing bass, guitar, keyboard or whatever always try and keep your instrument within eye shot. Don’t box it up, especially if you’re at home. Don’t have it in a case and stick it in the corner. Keep it out and put it on a stand. If you’re watching TV at night have it close to you so that at a moment’s notice you can just grab it and start banging around on it. When you do whatever your practice regime is try to keep some kind of a semi-format to it, the first 3 or 4 minutes do some finger building or stretching exercises. Then move onto some scale or music theory stuff, and then finish off by playing a song or two. I’ve found that if you start off with the song stuff, I call that the desert of the meal. So if you compare it to a meal you’ve had desert and you don’t feel like going back and eating the first part of the meal, you don’t feel like going back and doing scales and that kind of stuff. So it’s always good to have some kind of format when you’re practicing.
Make sure you play a little bit every day. Another thing is, say you just learned a lick, like a lick on the Rock House site. I know you guys have a lot of licks and other stuff on the site, don’t play that just once or twice and say to yourself “well, that was cool, I got it.” If you listen to lick in a song that lick doesn’t happen just once or twice it happens at least a 100 times through that song when you’re talking about a 4 or 5 minute song so play that lick over and over again. Also a big key when you doing this is to use some sort of time keeping device like a metronome. My theory is about that groove. For instance it doesn’t matter if you play like Flea who plays a million miles a minute or if it’s someone like Sting or Adam Clayton from U2. The reason they are in that league of great players isn’t because of how fast you play, it’s because it’s all about their groove. When you play with other musicians that’s the main thing you remember about them. It’s not how quick they are or the kinds of acrobatics they can do on an instrument, it’s about how they groove. So, always, always try to practice with something like a drum machine or metronome or some kind of time keeping thing. Even if you’re playing scales because then it makes what you’re doing musical. If you’re playing a scale and you’re keeping it in time with some kind of groove it makes it musical. That’s one of the things that I tried to do on my Rock House DVD’s , even in level 1, if you’re playing a simple C Major scale or G Major or minor arpeggio I tried to write some groove to it so you could see if you put some groove to it those scales they become musical. Some of the old Jazz or Bach or Mozart or Beethoven, a lot of that stuff is just scales going up and down. What makes them musical is that they have a rhythmic theme to them. So, the more you can get that rhythmic theme going when you are first starting out, you’re going to end up being a better musical player right from the get go.
RHB: Music as a meal what a great concept. Practice the appetizer, then have the entre and main chorus and finish up with desert.
FB: That’s exactly it, the desert can be whatever cool lick or song it is that you want to learn. You want to make the appetizer the stretching and the meal is the arpeggios or the scales or whatever. Just keep things in that kind of order.RHB: You’re bass guitars are some of the most unique instruments I’ve seen. Tell us about your equipment.
FB: The basses that I play in stage, and I call them my 1,2,3 basses because that’s actually what the design is if you look at them when they are standing up. The design is a logo that we used to used in the band Shag when I was playing with them and touring on the road, we used to use that logo. Then when Freekbass started going out it was just a symbol that we used and I met this guitar maker on the road, a guy named Dwight Madox, his company is MDX Guitars. He came up with the idea of how we were going to do this. We were hanging out after a show and he was showing me the guitars that he had made, so about 5 or 6 years ago he made me my first 1, 2, 3 bass. That bass is now hanging in Bootsys’ resuraunt in Cincinnati, which has kind of a hard rock café kind of theme. My third one was just completed a few months ago. But the second one that was made is kind of my main baby right now. The idea is that I’m always going to have that kind of design but I want to have different colors and variations. He made them perfect.
I actually started out as a Fender precision bass kind of guy and so even as crazy as they look they are actually the specs of my Fender P-bass. Both the neck and the way the pickups are.
Amplifier wise I use a Kustom Groove Bass Amp. I have an endorsement with Kustom. They got in touch with me a few years ago about being an endorser and they were coming out with this new bass rig called the Groove Bass. It’s an amazing rig, it’s got a bunch of low end, which is perfect for me but then it also has enough definition for all the intricate crazy kind of slap stuff that I do and then I use a bucket load of pedals that I use. I think pedals are kind of like an IQ thing (laughing) “Oh I’ll just put one pedal on” and then you think “oh, if I had that one”. All of the sudden one pedal leads to 2 and 2 to 4, and 4 to 10 and 10 to 20. It’s kind of a never ending battle. I’m from the school of if I want one sound I want one pedal. I’ve never been a big multi effects processor type of guy. That way I can dial it in exactly how I want it. I like taking pedals and combining them and getting that exact tweak so it’s way I want it. Then I will combine 2 or 3 pedals to create one sound. I remember when I first started playing bass I was like “This is great I can just plug straight into one amp and I don’t have to be like all you guitar players with all you’re pedals”. And now I’m out hitting most guitar players in regards to pedals.
I just want to add that I have met some of The Rock House members at shows. I want to remind them to look me up after the show. I’m always happy to talk about bass with them. Hopefully I will see and meet more and more of them out there in the future.
RHB: Feekbass has a bunch of sites that you can keep up with him on. Some have news, some have free downloads of his music.
I hope you enjoyed what I hope was a unique look into one of the most colorful bass players in the business today.
Up next in a couple weeks will be an interview with Metal Guitarist and Rock House Instructor Gus G. of Firewind, who has also recently played with Ozzy Osborn.