Music News

Superstar Drummer Josh Freese Sells Himself to Promote His New Album

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Stan has a warm, friendly voice and a lively laugh — it's clear where Josh got his sense of humor. Like Freese's friends, Stan says that his son's fan-packages plan wasn't a surprise. He shares a story about Josh's 7th birthday party. "He wanted to watch Monty Python — that's all he ever watched back then," he begins. "The other little boys were just not into it, and so they split. [Josh] was crestfallen." Stan lets out a laugh that sounds a bit like his son's. "He couldn't understand why other 7-year-olds couldn't get into The Holy Grail. That's when I knew we were in for a ride."

As a child, Freese had convinced his father to bring a set of drums down from the attic. Stan sat down and played a simple beat. Freese was able to follow right away.

"We couldn't get him into toys and stuff. All he carried around, even starting at 2 years old, was drumsticks," Stan recalls. "He came in knowing he was going to be a drummer, and if we wanted to be a part of it, that was cool. And if I didn't, that was cool too."

Freese began to practice to records. Funny enough, Devo's Freedom of Choice was among the first records he owned, in addition to Queen's The Game, Zenyatta Mondatta by the Police, and Van Halen's self-titled first LP. He later went on to play songs off Zenyatta Mondatta with Sting in front of as many as 400,000 people, and he has been a permanent member of Devo for the past 13 years.

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.

After his stint at Disneyland, the then-16-year-old Freese went on a worldwide tour with Young and the Restless star/singer Michael Damian.

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.

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Vickie Chang
Contact: Vickie Chang