By Zachary Swickey
How much would you pay to hang out with your favorite rock star? That was the question I considered when I read about the release of Josh Freese's latest solo album last summer. (Freese, of course, is one of the rock world's best drummers, who has worked with the Vandals, Devo, A Perfect Circle, Nine Inch Nails, Guns N' Roses — basically every important rock band of the past three decades.) The solo album was sold in packages on Josh's Web site that included everything from a personal phone call (that went for $50) to a private tour of Disneyland to even Josh's personal Volvo. I personally settled on the package that included dinner on the Queen Mary with Josh followed by drinks at Alex's Bar, topped off with cutting each other's hair in the Long Beach Courthouse parking lot (yes, I'm serious). His fund-raising campaign had been going on for a year, so I was unsure that I would even hear back when I inquired about it.
Lo and behold, Josh's wife emailed me back with all the info. Two weeks before I headed out to meet him, I got an e-mail asking if it would be alright if on Friday Josh swooped me up for dinner and a Vandals show, followed by Alex's on Saturday. That sounded like an upgrade to me (plus, there was no longer any mention of cutting my hair), so I went along with it.
I finally got to my hotel in Long Beach and Josh gave me a call. A few hours later he pulled up to a restaurant on the corner and greeted me whilst filming. It was already pretty late, and so grabbed some In-N-Out Burger on-the-go. "Don't we need to be there?" I asked, slightly concerned about his professional welfare.
"We don't need to soundcheck. It's all good," he reassured me. Meanwhile, I was throwing out questions about A Perfect Circle, since they had just announced a short west coast tour at the time of our conversation. "We're gonna play some smaller shows and make sure that people will come," he said. (I don't think that will be a problem.)
We got a little lost, and I had to give Josh a hard time for rolling in a Prius and seeking the help of my iPhone's maps to find the venue. "That's not very rock star, dude," I told him.
Backstage at the Vandals show, there were neither drugs nor hookers — no real illicit shenanigans at all, for that matter. Is this not Los Angeles and a punk rock show to boot? Everyone was friendly, and I managed to score some free beer and a great view of the show from right beside Josh's kit. They had not rehearsed or played a gig in months, but they looked like old friends having a great time on stage.
After their set, the party died pretty quickly. Josh had to get back to his three kids and pregnant wife.
The next day, Josh picked me up for drinks at his friend Alex's bar, which is appropriately called Alex's Bar. "They film the bar scenes of 'True Blood' here," he told me. "Johnny Knoxville interviewed me once at that booth for a thing." We talked about Dave Grohl's drumming on the self-titled Killing Joke album and how he ended up doing several songs on the With Teeth record for Nine Inch Nails. Josh then told the story of how he got the call to play on Slash's recent solo record after Slash saw him play with Nine Inch Nails at Lollapalooza in 2008. After a few drinks and some ridiculous pictures in the photo booth. Josh told me we had one more stop. "But don't get too excited," he warned. "It's not Trent's house."
We pulled up to a cozy California abode and Josh revealed his friend was having a barbecue. As he opened the door, he was bombarded by his children shouting, "Daddy!" It didn't take much coaxing from them to get Josh in his swimming trunks and in the pool with them. His oldest son Hunter had just got returned from his first European tour with pops. "What's the coolest place you've ever been to with your Dad?" I asked him.
"I know it's hard to believe, but Michigan was the best!" he told me excitedly. "We stayed at this hotel and it was connected to a mall!"
After hanging out with some great people and awesome little kids (who showed me how cool "Yo Gabba Gabba" can be), everyone said goodnight and Hunter asked to join Josh and I for the car ride back to my hotel. "You want to come over tomorrow and watch 'The Office'?" Hunter asked on the way back.
"Wish I could dude!" I told him. Josh thanked me and I tried to put into words how awesome the experience was, and that was that. I expected to meet a wild rock star, but I met a dude named Josh — a dad and cool, regular dude who happens to be an amazing drummer.