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2020.08.24 - Drinks With Johnny Podcast - Interview with Josh Freese

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2020.08.24 - Drinks With Johnny Podcast - Interview with Josh Freese Empty 2020.08.24 - Drinks With Johnny Podcast - Interview with Josh Freese

Post by Blackstar on Wed Sep 02, 2020 10:45 pm

Excerpts from UG:

During an appearance on Drinks With Johnny, hosted by Avenged Sevenfold bassist Johnny Christ, drummer Josh Freese looked back on his 1997–2000 tenure in Guns N' Roses.

Josh entered the group as a replacement for Matt Sorum and was involved in the creative process for what became 2008's "Chinese Democracy." He was succeeded by Bryan "Brain" Mantia, who joined the fold alongside Buckethead in 2000.

Freese also became the founding drummer of A Perfect Circle in 1999. He said (transcribed by UG):

"I worked there for two years. In October '97, I auditioned for Guns N' Roses, kind of halfway against my will, but I did it, and I got the job, and I worked for them for two years in the studio: '98, '99."

Freese added that he had "kind of" "gotten Buckethead the job," saying:

"Robin Finck, the guitarist for Nine Inch Nails, was playing in Guns N' Roses at the time [from 1997 to 1999, and then again from 2000 to 2008], and we were in this new configuration of Guns N' Roses.

"And towards the end of the two years that I was there, Robin ended up leaving and rejoining Nine Inch Nails, and we needed a guitar player. We auditioned a bunch of guys, and Axl was like, 'Do you know this guy Buckethead?'

"I was like, 'Yeah, I know Buckethead.' And he came down, and that's a whole long story, but I will just tell you - let's say you moved out from Iowa to LA with your buddy. Let's say you lived in LA and your buddy from Iowa was gonna move to LA and right when you moved to LA, you end up being somewhere else.

"I told Buckethead, 'Listen, man, I want to let you know that I don't think I'm going to be here too much longer, my two-year contract is up soon. I don't see these guys leaving the studio anytime too soon, as much as I like everyone down here. And I'm totally cool with Axl.'

"I was, on the weekends, moonlighting and starting A Perfect Circle with Billy [Howerdel, guitar] and Maynard James Keenan [vocals], and I was like, this seemed like a tangible thing - these guys wanted to go out. 'Let's play gigs tonight, let's go to a club and play a set.'

"Whereas there was so many other moving parts in the Guns N' Roses thing, so much second-guessing that it seemed like, 'This isn't going to leave this room anytime soon.'

"I told Buckethead, 'Listen, I don't want you to take this job. Me being your friend out here, as soon as you sign a contract, a month later, I'll go, 'See you guys.' I might not be here in a couple of months. I don't want you to think that I'm abandoning you, I'm giving you this information upfront.'

"And so of course after I left, Buckethead and Bryan being super-tight, and they're like, 'Who should we get on drums?' They already auditioned so many people in LA two-three years prior when I auditioned, they've already gone through all these drummers - who else are they going to call?

"So Bryan comes in, and they end up having him, I think Axl wanted him to feel a part of the band, a part of this project, so he had to re-record the drums.

"So it's him on the record, but he ended up doing every last open hi-hat and every last ghost note on the snare drum, where like, 'Oh my god, he's playing exactly what I just recorded,' which is totally fine, and I don't mind at all, doesn't matter to me.

"I also understand that world where they were coming from with it.

"One thing that I really took away from it, that I like - and I always think it's kind of funny when people are discussing 'Chinese Democracy' - this record that supposedly cost so much money, it took so much time: I wrote the title track, I wrote the song 'Chinese Democracy' and actually wrote the lyrics.

"And so, the one thing I take away from it is like, it's always funny, I walk into a room full of people and I'll go, 'What are you guys talking about?' They'll be like, 'We're talking about 'Chinese Democracy.' I go, 'I wrote 'Chinese Democracy.'

"I know some people in the room and other people are like, 'What the hell is this guy talking about?' 'Not the album, but the title track.' I normally rattle off to everyone I hang out with, but I'm not embarrassed by it.

"I think it's - actually, I like the song, it's just three chords, there's nothing special about it other than that it's just a cool groove and it's kind of dirty and rocking. It's simple, which I like."

Shortly after GN'R, you're starting up A Perfect Circle with Maynard. Take me through a brief little period of A Perfect Circle up to the latest release, which was by the way fucking incredible.

"I met Maynard in '97 - summer '97. I was playing with Devo [the band, also the name of Maynard's son] on Lollapalooza, back when it was a touring entity. Anyways, Devo was on the tour, Tool was on the tour, and I became buddies with the Tool guys.

"Everyone else on the tour said that they were kind of like grumpy and didn't really hang out. We were only on the tour for two weeks, but they were all fans. So when Devo popped up on the main stage for two weeks, they were on the side of the stage, every night.

"And the same guys that were kind of not giving the other bands the time of the day - we'd finish the show and they'd be like, 'Dude, can I get part of your yellow suit?' Adam's [Jones, guitar] got taste. They're all super-cool, and I love those guys.

"Then what happened was, literally four or five months later, I go audition for Guns N' Roses, I get the job with Guns N' Roses, and I'm now in this recording studio five nights a week with Guns N' Roses.

"There's guitar techs, there's drum techs, there's engineers, Pro Tools, all those extra people and employees working on it. So the guy running the Pro Tools rig was this guy Billy [Howerdel]. I didn't know him, and he knew the Pro Tools inside and out.

"This was 23 years ago back, not everybody knew it, so Billy shat the shit wired, and he said to me one day, 'Hey, you know my roommate.' I go, 'Yeah? Who's your roommate?'

"He goes, 'You know, Maynard from Tool. He lives out in Arizona, he rents a room from me and we're buddies. And I've got a house in North Hollywood, so he's in LA, we share a house together in North Hollywood, but he's only here part-time.'

"And I'm like, 'Oh, that's cool. Well, tell him hi.'

"A couple of weeks later in the studio, I'm with this guy Billy every night, and we're kind of becoming friends. We're in the studio one night, I'm walking through the kitchenette area at the studio, Billy's on the phone, 'Hey Josh, here.' 'Who is this?' 'Maynard.'

"I go, 'Hey, what's happening, man?' He goes, 'That guy you're hanging out with right now, Billy, he's way too modest and cool. He writes awesome fucking songs, and I want to start a band with him, and you should be the drummer.'

"I was like, 'OK, well, I'd like to hear it.' And so Billy played me some stuff; it was cool, it was different, and he was really passionate about it. He was kind of going through one of those things where he was tired of the Tool guys taking too long - I can't judge any of that stuff.

"So anyway, 'I want to make a record with Billy, you got to be the guy.' And so we all started hanging out, and it was kind of this thing I did on the weekends; working Guns N' Roses through the week, and then Saturday or Sunday we'd go rehearse.

"And there's some demos... And then we're going to play a gig, a couple of club things here and there. And also in the beginning - because I was still tied down to the Guns N' Roses situation, I had a contract with them, they did a few gigs with Tim Alexander from Primus.

"He's an original and a unique, awesome musician, and he's playing with them as well. He and Maynard were friends year before Primus and Tool played shows, I think he was living out of the States too.

"I started gelling a little bit more with Billy and with Maynard, and that kind of blossomed into that project, which is A Perfect Circle. And that first Perfect Circle record [2000's 'Mer de Noms'] - a lot of that stuff on it, I think it's a great record, and I feel proud of it.

"I always feel OK patting myself on the back for certain projects because there's tons of projects I played on that I don't like.

"I know other people that, musicians that would be like - whatever they've done is better than the last thing they did all the time, it's always incredible. At least for me, that's not the case.

"There's plenty of crap that happens and isn't as good as the last thing, and then when things do pop up that are special. I used to not feel OK saying, 'Oh man, I love that record,' or, 'I think that song I wrote is great. I think those drums I did are really great.'

"I used to feel funny saying that, and if you do it about everything then people stop taking you seriously, and you just sound like an egomaniac, but yeah...

"What I like about it is that a lot of it was: we would be somewhere on the weekends, I remember we had a friend at a studio in the Hollywood Hills, and he kind of did us a favor, 'Oh yeah, you guys use my studio, but only until 4 PM because I got someone that's coming in.'

"So we do these drums, and we'd have 15 minutes left, and Billy would say, 'OK, I got this other track. I just want you to play anything so I can go home and write to it instead of the dumb drum loop that I have on there, just crap something out real quick and I'll fix it, I'll do this and that...'

"So I do these drums knowing that we're gonna re-do it when we get signed and when we go to make the 'real' record, but some of these things were so spontaneous and off the cuff, fresh, like, I only heard the song once and then played it only once or twice.

"It wasn't like that for every song, there's a couple of songs on the record where like - you listen to it and go, 'Good, there's a really strange drum fill on the first verse...' Normally, you're not supposed to do that;

"There's some shit that is kind of like, technically wrong about it, you know, thematically, arrangement-wise, but in the end, we kept it, and we had this great mixer that mixed the album, Alan Moulder.

"So some of the stuff, we cut some stuff when we got the deal with Virgin, but there's plenty of other songs they just said, 'You know what? These drums are great.' I'm like, 'Dude, that's that song that I've never heard before. You had me play twice, I spent eight minutes on it.'

"And they're like, 'We love it, we're not gonna change it.' And then I listen to it, 'This is kind of fucking cool...' And there's something about it in the way that it is pretty off the cuff, and it is spontaneous and a little reckless, and definitely not too safe, but there are certain things that were just kind of a little abstract to me.

"I was taking a shot in the dark on it, and you didn't have time to kind of second-guess yourself or get too precious about your shit. I think that I'm sure you can relate too.

"It's like depending on the project you're doing or the record you're making, sometimes it's difficult to be able to commit to something or have everyone else in the room all agree with you or commit at the same time to something that might be a little bit too like, 'Dude, you got to punch that, you can't have that, there's a wrong note, you can't leave it.'

"Or the drums are rushed way too fast, you have to fix that... The other stuff that's perfectly locked and perfectly in time at all times becomes kind of a little bland, and it's the knees and the elbows that get thrown in there, you go, 'Holy shit.'

"Just like any genre too, it depends on the band. You can listen to this punk band over here might really suck, this band over here is weird, the drummer's really good, you know?

"Punk rock's always kind of had that stamp on it, and that kind of misconception with other 'real' musicians or guys that are a little more formally-trained that just because it's aggressive or loud or crazy-sounding that it can't be good, and that's not true."

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Post by Blackstar on Thu Sep 03, 2020 12:59 am

It seems there is a mistake in UG's transcription of this part:

I wrote the title track, I wrote the song 'Chinese Democracy' and actually wrote the lyrics.

In the video it sounds like Josh says, "I wrote the title track, I wrote the song 'Chinese Democracy', put the music and Axl wrote the lyrics."

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Post by Soulmonster on Thu Sep 03, 2020 9:42 am

I always like to hear Josh talk about his time with the band.
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