By Steve Brennan
By Ashley Zimmerman
By Michele Eve Sandberg
By Abel Folgar
By Ashley Zimmerman
By New Times Staff
By Abel Folgar
By Laurie Charles
In addition to being a second childhood home, Disneyland gave Freese his start as a professional musician: When he was 12, he played the electric drums on the Tomorrowland Terrace Stage in a cover band called Polo that had won on Junior Star Search.
Soon after that, Freese played with Dweezil Zappa and joined the Vandals. Joe Escalante, entertainment lawyer/former radio host/bass player of the Vandals, says he has admired Freese's talents since 1990.
"After the first Vandals practice with Josh, I told Warren [Fitzgerald] and Dave [Quackenbush] that, at some point, we're just going to be sitting around bragging about being in a band with Josh Freese to anyone who will listen," he says. "Twenty years later, that has come to pass. He's found a way to make the most out of being a professional drummer and somehow stay rooted with his original band, friends, and family.
"Here's my second prediction," Escalante continues. "He's going to be the first drummer to break into the David Byrne/Peter Gabriel/Radiohead stratosphere in terms of talent and ingenuity, and it's going to be fun to see where he ends up. Will he get the same recognition he gets behind the kit? Just how far ahead of his time is he?"
A few weeks later, Freese finds himself in front of the Indiana Jones Adventure ride at Disneyland with Ferris Al-Sayed, 18, from Carmel, Indiana. A recent high-school graduate, Al-Sayed is quiet, but he slips in every now and then with a funny one-liner. He wears a faded, black Nine Inch Nails Ghost T-shirt with a black button-up over it. It's his first time in California since childhood, and Freese is giving him a tour of Disneyland as part of the $5,000 package. Freese has on a baseball cap and sunglasses; a one-strapped Tumi backpack is slung across his chest. And he is wearing a huge smile.
Pearl Jam guitarist Stone Gossard had FedExed Freese a thick envelope a few days earlier containing the letter to Al-Sayed explaining his favorite song off Since 1972.
When asked why he chose that particular package, Al-Sayed replied simply, "He has to write a song about me and spend a pretty extensive amount of time with me."
Freese and Al-Sayed head toward the Rivers of America and then run into Eric Wilson, bass player of Sublime. Freese points out the Mark Twain sternwheeler floating just behind them, where he and his little brother would play hide-and-seek while his father and the Disneyland Band played at the bow of the riverboat.
Freese, Al-Sayed, and Wilson pose for photos in front of the Pirate's Lair on Tom Sawyer Island. Al-Sayed cracks a joke about chopping off Tom Sawyer's foot and replacing it with a peg leg. He stands, posing with a thumbs-up and his mouth gaping open.
Freese and Al-Sayed decide to tackle the 45-minute wait at the Haunted Mansion. While in line, the two chat about music, and Freese swaps stories about his rock-star pals such as Twiggy Ramirez and Buckethead, the latter of whom is apparently a huge Disneyland fan. A pregnant woman with a belly ring and two scrunchies in her hair stands just behind them, listening in on their conversation. Al-Sayed reveals that he's an aspiring musician and about to study music theory at either Indiana University or Purdue in the fall.
The pair finally reach their destination inside the Haunted Mansion, where they are ushered into the room with the "stretching walls."
Freese grins and asks, "You want to know something scary? I can recite every single word of this."
He's not kidding. "Welcome, foolish mortals, to the Haunted Mansion. I am your host — your Ghost Host," he begins, reciting the same speech playing overhead in time. "Your cadaverous pallor betrays an aura of foreboding, almost as though you sense a disquieting metamorphosis. Is this haunted room actually stretching? Or is it your imagination, hmmm?" People around him are staring. "And consider this dismaying observation: This chamber has no windows, and no doors. Which offers you this chilling challenge: to find a way out!"
Freese lets out a maniacal laugh.
"Of course, there's always my way," he finishes.
Afterward, Freese reveals that from 1985 through 1987, he probably made out with more 13- and 14-year-old girls than anyone else in the world while in the Haunted Mansion.
"My whole summers were spent at the Haunted Mansion," he says with a laugh. "Let's put it this way: My first groupie experience was in the Haunted Mansion. I'll go on the record with that."
But the rumor that he got a blowjob in '87 on the monorail? Not true, Freese says.
Freese's flippant marketing tactic has everyone from fans and nonfans to marketing execs and other professional musicians talking.
"Josh is irreverent and perceptive and punk in his music and his marketing," says Gossard. "His creative energies are so vast, he's having fun with all aspects of his music and how people get interested in it." Gossard later retracts this quote, thinking it way too serious and emails a possible alternate: "That little punk-ass bitch is cracking me up. Shit, I love Josh Freese."