Virtuoso is a word that should be used rarely. But when discussing someone that oozes talent and skill like Cincinnati's Freekbass (born Chris Sherman), we feel comfortable applying the noun.
Freekbass is a musician that never stops growing and developing. He's worked with such music gods as Bootsy Collins, Bernie Worrell, and Buckethead. He's wowed festival-goers as an artist-at-large close to home at numerous Bear Creek Music Festivals. He crafted a nearly perfect funk album with his band the Bump Assembly,
The album is a bit of a return to pure funk-roots form for Freekbass, back from the electronic sound he's developed in recent years. Freekbass is looking to bring that heavy funk to Florida for a string of four shows starting off with a pre-New Year's Eve show at the Funky Biscuit that promises to completely bring the house down.
Freekbass took the time to speak with us about his humble beginnings, working with musical giants, and his new album before heading down to the Sunshine State to shows us how it's done in Cincinnati.
When did you first realize you had such passion for music and the bass in particular? How did the transformation into larger than life Freekbass come about?
I've been gigging since I was a real young kid. I started off as a drummer at like 6 or 7, banging around on stuff. But it was in sixth grade, there was a school assembly put on by Oberlin Music College, a big school in Northern Ohio, and confidently, they sat me infront of the bass player. And as soon as I heard the sound and the rhythm coming from him, I found my calling. Even the way I approach bass now, I tell people I'm kind of like a drummer that plays notes, with percussive melodies and such.
As far as the Freekbass transformation, it was Bootsy Collins that named me that. We were in the studio, and because of all the crazy effects and all the weird stuff I do on bass, he kept saying, "Hey, do that freaky bass thing." And then all of a sudden the engineers and everybody just started calling me Freekbass and it stuck. Even my mom occasionally calls me Freekbass, it's kind of crazy. It's like the Clark Kent/Superman or Bruce Wayne/Batman alternate persona thing going on, it's amazing.
You've worked with behemoths in the music industry including Buckethead, Bootsy Collins, and Bernie Worrell. What's it like working with such legends?
To be able to sit in a studio and record with these people is amazing. Bernie Worrell, during the recording of my last album, actually stayed at my house in Cinnincinati for a week. I remember sitting upstairs thinking, "Wow, this is so bizarre. Bernie Worrell is sleeping right now downstairs, right now." (laughs)
He such an amazing person, as well as Bootsy and Buckethead. It's just amazing to see the legends work, and they have the best attitudes. Genuinely great people. A part of it has to do with growing up in Cincinnati, being surrounded by the strong funk history there. My friends were learning Nirvana and Green Day songs while I was learning songs by Zapp and Dr. Dre.
Your latest album Everybody's Feelin' Real is a depature from 2011's Concentrate, which was mostly an instrumental electronic mind-warp, into more a more smooth, classic funk sound and structure. What led you back to pure funk?
It just felt like the natural next step. Around the time of Concentrate, I was touring with Headtronics, with Steve Molitz (Particle) and DJ Logic. DJ Tobotius and I were doing a duo thing for a while.
With this album, I just feel so comfortable in my skin; this is where I feel natural. Duane Lundy, the producer of this album, is a godsend. When we first started talking about doing this album, I told him I wanted it to have the same feeling as Maggot Brain by Funkadelic or Talking Book by Stevie wonder, and he said we should record in the same way they did, to have that kind of vibe.
We set up all the instruments in a circle and did the song together. If someone messed up a little bit during the final part of the song, we'd go back and rerecord the whole thing, no overdubs. It was an amazing journey, and this record, of all the ones I've done, I feel like it laid the blueprint of things to come. Duane is more from that Brain Eno School of producing, keeping things organic, and getting into your head. It's been a real pleasure.
In this year alone, you've released three videos on the internet from the new album. What was the thinking behind this?
Believe it or not, we're actually working on the fourth video, the title track from album Everyone's Feeling Real which should be out early January. I've always been real into the multimedia aspect of music, being a fan of people like David Byrne and David Bowie, where these artists create so many layers and textures to their music and persona. I really want to do as many videos of the album as I can, go that direction.
We try to capture the vibe of the song, and everybody spends a good part of their waking life online, it just seems like a great way to get the music out there and give people something entertaining to watch. It's been real fun.
What are you most looking forward to when you get down here for your run down in Florida?
Warm weather, that's the big one. (laughs) We're in upstate New York right now, and it's awful cold. It's been kind of raunchy. I'm really looking forward to getting out of this cold as soon as possible.
But on a serious note, the fans down there are incredible. It's such a great scene, it's great to play for all the people I've met through playing shows, and especially through playing Bear Creek, one of my favorite festivals to play. It's just an amazing scene. The energy down there the last time we played was incredible. The Funky Biscuit is a such a great venue, can't wait to play it the day before New Year's Eve, start the parties off, then we're going to the Dunedin Brewery on New Year's Eve. We will also be playing Gainesville for the first time, so I'm excited about playing to a new market.
And like I said, the warm part doesn't hurt either.
Freekbass, 8 p.m., Tuesday, December 30, at the Funky Biscuit, 303 SE Mizner Blvd.,
Royal Palm Place, Boca Raton. Tickets cost $5 in advance, $10 at door. Visit funkybiscuit.com.