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When asked why Al-Sayed chose that particular package, he 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, the 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 he’s an aspiring musician himself, about to study music theory at either Indiana University or Purdue in the fall.
The group finally reaches its destination inside the Haunted Mansion and is ushered into the room with the “stretching walls.”
Freese grins and asks, “You want to know something scary? I can recite every single word of this.”
He’s not kidding. “Welcome, foolish mortals to the Haunted Mansion. I am your host—your Ghost Host,” he begins, reciting the same speech playing overhead in time. “Your cadaverous pallor betrays an aura of foreboding, almost as though you sense a disquieting metamorphosis. Is this haunted room actually stretching? Or is it your imagination, hmm?” People around him are staring. “And consider this dismaying observation: This chamber has NO windows, and NO doors. Which offers you this chilling challenge: To find a way out!”
Freese lets out a maniacal laugh.
“Of course, there’s always my way,” ?he finishes.
The two hop into their Doom Buggy and ride off into the dark, where happy haunts materialize. Afterward, Freese reveals that from 1985 through 1987, he probably made out with more 13- and 14-year-old girls than anyone else in the world while in the Haunted Mansion.
“My whole summers were spent at the Haunted Mansion,” he says with a laugh. “Let’s put it this way: My first groupie experience was in the Haunted Mansion. I’ll go on the record with that.”
But that rumor in the summer of ’87 that Stan Freese’s kid got a blowjob on the monorail? Not true, Josh says.
* * *
Controversial or not, Freese’s flippant marketing tactic has everyone from fans and non-fans to marketing execs and other professional musicians talking.
“Josh is irreverent and perceptive and punk in his music and his marketing,” says Gossard. “His creative energies are so vast he’s having fun with all aspects of his music and how people get interested in it.” (Gossard later retracts this quote, thinking it way too serious and e-mails a possible alternate: “That little punk-ass bitch is cracking me up. Shit, I love Josh Freese.”)
Mothersbaugh, composer/artist/Devo front man, also admires his band mate: “Josh may be the first artist to go beyond talking about it and finally figure out how to sculpt the ‘new business model’ to really work—letting the Internet and technology complement and enhance his own sense of humor and expression in a truly original and honest way that is ultimately attractive to fans and converts alike, appealing to their own personal interest for interaction,” he says. “I’m seriously jealous.”
In addition to his peers, publicists and virtual strangers have approached Freese, confessing they hung their heads in shame for not thinking up a similar scheme first. “Of course, I want to make money. I’d be lying if [I said] it wasn’t about the money,” Freese says. “But it’s not only about the money. There’s plenty of easier ways to make money, but especially now, at a time when the whole record industry is kind of scratching its head and chasing its tail and is like, ‘What are we going to do? How are we going to do something different?’ Even if [the packages aren’t] great, the fact that it’s different makes it great. Everybody’s freaked out, and then I came up with this thing that was so different that made everyone behind their desks have a laugh.”
Freese says that the success of the fan packages is just getting to see the end result—what he had hoped to achieve had been done without the help of a street team or having to hire a staff. “I got the word out, and whether people bought it or not, people forwarded it to all their friends and said, ‘Hey, you have you seen this?’”
Freese is keeping busy with what remains of the fan packages—he has a couple of lunches left to do this summer, and he’s working on writing those songs for Mrzyglocki and Al-Sayed’s respective purchases. He’s got a new record, Dirty Mature, coming out, which will include “all of the weird instrumental songs” that serve as the soundtrack to Freese’s homemade YouTube videos (youtube.com/joshfreese). He is scheduled to do one-off shows with Devo, Sting and the Vandals in the coming months and will be embarking on a two-month tour with Weezer in August. He’ll also be working with Devo on their first new record in almost 20 years.