After a quick read-over of the one-page sensory-deprivation-tank guidelines presented by the owner, known only as "Crash," James and Freese strip down (yes, totally nude) and climb into their respective tanks — which look like heated, glorified, darkened meat freezers — and disappear.
Some 40 minutes later, after the two emerge, Freese asks how James' float was.
"I was kind of scared at first," James admits.
"You know what the problem is?" Freese asks. "If I'm lying down there for a long time, the whole time, I'm like, 'What am I doing here?' I've got, like, 3,000 messages, man. I've got to go to lunch and a session; I can't just sit here!"
"I'm not much of a relaxing kind of person," James replies.
"Me neither," Freese says. He pauses. "What are we doing here? Let's get out of here!"
After the group arrives at a Sizzler on Wilshire Boulevard, they pose for a photo in front of a sign advertising new dinner specials.
"I hadn't been here in a while until recently, but I do enjoy it," Freese says while in line at the cash register. "You know, I love airplane food." He pauses for a chorus of ewwwwwwws and wrinkled noses. "I'm not being funny; I'm not being ironic. It reminds me of being 12 years old and putting food in the microwave."
He pays $58.27 for three steak-and-all-you-can-eat-shrimp dinners, cooked medium, with Diet Pepsis and baked potatoes. Everyone shuffles into a green-vinyl booth by the drink station.
Topics of discussion before the food arrives: feeling old at concerts; Freese having to lie to his fiancée about working too much; Keenan's winery; how both James and Mulharsky have been to an astounding number of NIN and A Perfect Circle concerts.
Just as James puts in his plea to get A Perfect Circle back together for a reunion, the three steak plates arrive: Freese wasn't kidding about loving the food there — he inhales the steak and shrimp as he gives diplomatic answers about which fellow musicians are "cool" and which aren't. It's really the ultimate fan opportunity to geek out with one of your favorites:
"Aaron North or Robin Finck?" James asks, referring to the former and present guitarists for Nine Inch Nails.
They're different people, Freese hedges, and he loves them both.
James mentions that he and his girlfriend would be seeing three NIN shows within six days.
Freese dives into his cheese bread. "I'm going for it, man," he says. "I'm really enjoying the Sizzler experience, by the way, guys."
"Mmmmhm!" James responds. "No, it's spectacular."
Forty minutes later, Freese announces he has to book it to Hollywood to make a recording session with Devo before rushing home for some family time.
Upon departure, James gives it one last shot: "Well, get Maynard, Billy Howerdel, and get them all in a room..."
"WE'RE GETTING THE BAND BACK TOGETHER!!" Freese yells.
Freese hates his dog.
Frankie, a brown Chihuahua, doesn't seem so bad, but Freese points out that Frankie almost always wakes up his three children after he finally manages to get everyone to bed.
Freese is sitting in the back house of his almost-oceanfront-but-still-modest, one-story, Long Beach home. He shares the house with his fiancée of ten years (Amdurer), children (Hunter, 8; August, 2; and Olive, 3 months), two cats, two fish, and, yes, Frankie.
The home is beautifully decorated, with plenty of art displayed and kids' toys strewn about. The back house holds some children's-sized teal- and lime-green-colored, rounded-edge furniture. Large, translucent bears stand on a white credenza, and a large-scale model of the Tiki Room at Disneyland sits atop a tall bookshelf.
August, whom Freese refers to as Auggy, stands just outside the door and screams, "Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaddy!"
Freese talks about his kids constantly and turns into a puddle at the very sight of them: "We were talking this morning, and he's just learning how to talk and communicate and getting his vocabulary together, and it's so cute!" he says, kissing the curly-haired toddler. "Hey, Auggy. Hi. Hey. Do you know you're cute? You did know that?" He rapid-fire kisses August's forehead.
Freese recently quit as drummer for Nine Inch Nails so he could spend more time at home. "I needed to be around a bit more in 2009 for my kids," he says. "They need their dad right now. I'm still going out of town but just for bits at a time. I'm sure there will be a time when I go out for a long time again... but just not right now."
Freese grew up in a musical family: His father, Stan Freese, has been working for Disney for 38 years. He had started out as the first leader of the Disney World band when the park opened in 1971 and then was transferred to Anaheim, where he eventually became — and remains — Disneyland's entertainment director.