HT Interview: Freekbass Keeps It Honest

HT: With Concentrate, did you produce it?

FB: It was predominantly me and my partner Tobotius. He is a DJ/Producer who I just did Camp Bisco with and we tour as a duo. When we play live, we call it Freekbot, kind of just combining our names into one. So, he and I put it together, but there’s one track I worked with Adam Deitch from Break Science and Lettuce. He produced that track. We worked on a couple tracks with DJ Spooky in New York. Steve Molitz, who plays with me in a group called Headtronics, also from Particle, produced a track as well.

HT: Could you also give a bit of background on the time-frame and the studios you used as well?

HT: We primarily worked out of Tobotius’s studio, where he and I do most of our material, which is out of Cincinnati. We did a lot of of bouncing back and forth with other studios across the country, like the two tracks DJ Spooky did. Spooky is out of New York City, so he would lay down a foundation track and then send us the track in Cincinnati, where I’d lay my bass down, maybe some vocals, some samples, Tobotius would do a bit of scratching and then shoot it back to him up there. Same with Adam Deitch and Steve Molitz.

The track I did with Deitch is called Funkin’ All Night and once we got done with that track, we played it for Bootsy Collins – both myself and Tobotius work with him quite a bit – and said, “Hey man, would you want to do some vocals on this, it seems like something right up your alley?” He was real down with that, so he ended up writing some vocals on that. So it was really one central studio down here in Ohio, where we assembled everything, but the recording process was done at different people’s studios depending on who was on what track.

HT: In terms of process, does it usually begin with a bassline or does the the DJ stuff tend to come first with you filling in the bass parts to fit?

FB: It kind of depends track by track. One might start with a drum beat, one might start with a string line, or one might start with my bassline, but the thing I did kind of on that note, is that even though this is an electronic-oriented record and in theory I could have stacked my bass to death with a thousand bass tracks on it, the thing I wanted to do was to keep it as organic as possible. I didn’t want to put a million bass tracks on it and then when you go to play it live, it’s not possible to reproduce it right. I wanted to keep every track really honest. There are a couple little overdubs here and there, but most of it is predominantly one track through the whole thing, once I figured out what I wanted to play. That was definitely a conscious thing going into the record in that sense.

HT: You’ve had a couple of pretty huge weeks just now with the new album coming out and having played Electric Forest and Camp Bisco. Do you get the feeling that in terms of your career, that you have reached an inflection point in terms of popularity and things falling into place at the right time?

FB: Yeah, probably over the last year and a half to two years, it’s really felt where I’m at career-wise that I’ve found my comfort space. One musician who has always been a huge influence of mine who I’ve been fortunate enough to work with is Bernie Worrell. For those who might not know, Bernie is a big keyboard player for Parliament/Funkadelic, but he is just about as well-known for all the stuff he did with the Talking Heads. You know, whether you’re listening to George Clinton or the Talking Heads, you still hear Bernie within the music, and he always brings the musicality to another level. I feel like I’m comfortable now where I can bring myself out in the right situations with the right people a little better.

I think when people see or hear music, the main thing want to see is honesty. So, when you are bringing out your honesty as a player, they sense that and you sense that within yourself. In the past couple of years, whether it be Headtronics with DJ Logic, or people like Bernie and Bootsy, or the thing I’m doing with Tobotius, it all definitely feels more in my comfort zone. It feels natural and I don’t feel like I’m forcing anything, so hopefully that’s why things are starting to stick on the wall a little more than they have before.


Freekbass w/ Bernie Worell & DJ Logic – Billie Jean

HT: You mentioned finding your comfort zone and your place, a question I wanted to ask you falls in line with that. Where would you say the bulk of your fanbase is coming from now, is it more electronic music fans or jamband fans, or a combination?

FB: I think it’s kind of a combination. That’s a lot of the reason I wanted to get Adam Deitch on the record for instance. Before I knew who Adam Deitch was, Mike Gordon from Phish did a track with me on my last record, and right when we were recording, he said, “Hey, have you checked out this cat Adam Deitch yet?” I told him I hadn’t, and he described him as “kind of the drummer version of you” in that he can bounce from the jamband world to the electronic world. Not that I’m trying to be the bass version of Adam Deitch, but I really like both fanbases.

As you know, there’s such a cross between the jamband world and the electronic world, and even the pop world in a lot of ways. They are all kind of melting into one. So, hopefully I’m kind of grabbing off each one of those. You know, even though my bass playing is very groove-oriented, I use so many effects, that it lends itself to the electronic medium as well.

HT: I saw that you’re in the midst of working on some instructional bass videos. What types of techniques are you focusing on?

FB: It’s pretty exciting. A couple years ago a company called the Rock House Method hired me to do two instructional videos, a level one and a level two, essentially teaching how to play funk bass. Level one was kind of for beginners starting off with scales whereas level two was a little more on the intermediate side. Now, there’s a company called TrueFire that wants me to the intermediate and advanced stuff, which I’m really excited about. With the Rock House stuff, I loved it, but I had to tone it down a bit. With this one, I’ll be able to show more of what I do. It’s primarily guitar players, but when they wanted to do bass, they decided to use me and another bass player, Stuart Hamm. I’m just going to basically talk about some of these unconventional techniques like I’m talking to you about.

I do some of my thumping and and popping techniques that are kind of unique and stuff I want to show about how to keep a groove going. There’s a group I play with with DJ Logic called Headtronics that is 100% improvisation for about a two hour show. Logic puts out a beat, I start making up some bass that feels right and Steve Molitz does his keyboard thing on top. I want to show that process that I go through, whether it’s live or in the studio, where you hear a drum beat, or a string sample, or a keyboard player, or an actual drummer and determine how to create the bassline and keep the groove going better with that bassline. I’m pretty excited about it. I’m charting the program now. I believe we are filming at the end of August, so I’m guessing it will be out at the beginning of September.


Red’s Fan

HT: Last thing, I know you are a pretty big baseball fan. What was the story with your Reds’ song?

FB: Yeah, I did a song for the Cincinnati Reds called Red’s Fan that they play at the end of the games and they filmed a video that they show down at the park. They even had me throw out the first pitch last year, so I was geekin’ on that as you can imagine!

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