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“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.”
(According to Freese, Stan’s oldest grandson, Hunter, shows no interest in becoming a drummer—he currently has dreams of being an architect instead, “which is heavily encouraged by Nicole and I.” In a separate conversation, Freese explains that “it’s the 2-year-old we’re worried about. It’s all about music, dancing and drumsticks for [August]. All that music stuff is around, though, and if the kids gravitate toward it . . . cool! And if not . . . cool, too.”)
Freese began to practice to records—funnily enough, Devo’s Freedom of Choice was among the first records he owned, in addition to Queen’s The Game, Zenyattà Mondatta by the Police and Van Halen’s (first) self-titled LP. He later went on to playwith Sting songs off Zenyattà Mondatta 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 acting as 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 appeared (and won) previously on Junior Starsearch.
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.’”