By Adam Lovinus
By Lilledeshan Bose
By Gabriel San Roman
By Rachel Mattice
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Daniel Kohn
By Nate Jackson
By Mike Seeley
Following 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, he 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?”
* * *
Any time you start talking about musicians making money, the phrase “sell out” will pop up.
Freese says he has come across a few negative responses on fan message boards and blogs, reacting to the prices of some of the more outlandish upper-tier packages. The $20,000 one in particular has stirred up a bit of controversy.
Tom Mrzyglocki, a 19-year-old in Melbourne, Florida, bought the package; he’d first heard about the marketing campaign through Tool’s website. A big fan of Devo, A Perfect Circle and the Vandals, Mrzyglocki flew out to Long Beach for a week in early April and got to spend a night on the Queen Mary, play a round of miniature golf with Escalante and Keenan (Escalante won—but only because he was keeping score, Mrzyglocki says), have a pizza party with Mothersbaugh and pick out three items from Freese’s closet (a custom Devo shirt, a Vandals hoodie and a Tempur-Pedic travel pillow from Brookstone). Mrzyglocki was treated to a few bonus incentives such as yoga class with Amdurer, hanging out with members of Tool at a Puscifer show, and attending a Vandals show and a recording session with Slash.
Mrzyglocki paid for the trip with an inheritance left by his father, who had committed suicide in 2007. He says some of his friends had “questioned my sanity,” but he declares the one-of-a-kind week well-worth it. “It’s a free-market economy; [Freese] can do whatever he wants,” Mrzyglocki shares over the telephone. “I think it’s mostly tongue-in-cheek just to promote his small solo career, but he probably wasn’t expecting anything out of it.”
“I could’ve done it all in three days, but my girlfriend and I moved him out of his hotel, and he stayed at our house. He’s a good kid. I didn’t know anything about him until he landed,” Freese explains. “By the end of the week, I felt like I had become a big brother to him. . . . The last thing I wanted was for the kid to go home and go, ‘You know, I guess it was okay. Yeah, I met Maynard, and he was a dick, and then he dropped me off. Thanks.’”
However, many criticisms posted on the Internet blast Freese for accepting money from a teenager. “I was really bummed reading [about it] on the Internet one night, and I felt pretty shitty. I put this thing up for sale; someone bought it. I didn’t know if he was 60 or 15.”
Freelance photographer/pharmacist Andrew Youssef, 33, of Huntington Beach, purchased a $250 Cheesecake Factory lunch—the first fan package experience ever for Freese.
“I think [Freese’s marketing strategy] is genius. I think people are jealous they didn’t think of it first,” Youssef says. “With the music industry going the way it is, he’s gotten more publicity out of all this than anybody could even dream of buying.”
Youssef says he’s definitely another satisfied customer. “I think the criticism is definitely unwarranted. Obviously he’s doing it for the money a little, but it’s not like the people who wanted to pay for it are feeling gypped at all,” he says. “I don’t think you’re hearing any complaints from anybody who spent the money.”
* * *
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 he’s being given a tour of Disneyland by Freese as a part of the $5,000 package. Freese has on a huge smile under a baseball cap and sunglasses; a one-strapped Tumi backpack is slung across his chest.
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.