Bear Creek Festival Artist Spotlight:
written by Elise Olmstead
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Bear Creek Music Festival is taking place November 14-17, 2013 at Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak, Florida. The festival “is steeped in the tradition of funk music and the exceptional lineup reflects the eclectic nature of the scene.” Freekbass, an illustrious fan and student of funk legends such as classics Larry Graham, Sly Stone, Stevie Wonder, Parliament and Bootsy Collins, will be joining the lineup as artist-at-large. We can’t wait to see him slap that bass with the likes of The Roots, Karl D, Galactic and Lettuce.
What initially attracted you to the bass guitar as opposed to any other instrument?
– I actually started off as a drummer, but was always attracted to the sounds of the bass, and the chunkiness of the instrument. Whenever I played guitar it felt delicate like I could break the neck if I wasn’t careful. Bass felt connected to the earth with some girth. I play pretty hard so it probably was the best way for me to go. I always think of myself as a drummer that plays notes.
What inspired you to play funk music?
– Definitely from growing up in Cincinnati, Ohio. Both Cincinnati and Ohio have a strong funk scene and history. I have a strong memory of being a little kid hearing “More Bounce to The Ounce” by Zapp (from Dayton, Ohio) for the first time and how hypnotic it was. I wanted to hear it over and over. When I first picked up the bass that was one of the first basslines I learned to play.
How did you meet Gary Cooper from P-Funk?
-I think Mudbone (Gary) had heard about me playing around Cincinnati and asked me to play on some demos he was doing for different projects he was working on. Gary was a huge influence and teacher of the Funk to me. We would listen to his rare recordings and videos of concerts and rehearsals of him performing with the Rubberband and Parliament Funkadelic at his house for hours and hours. It was a special time as I was discovering my musical voice and identity. One of the recordings he had me play bass on was for a label in Japan doing a Jimi Hendrix tribute album with some of P-Funk. It was being produced and engineered by another bass player guy named Bootsy Collins.
You’ve worked with a lot of famous musicians including Mike Gordon and Buckethead. Who do you feel you “clicked” with the most?
-Hmmm, good but tough question because every musical situation is so different. Mike and I have gotten to be friends since we recorded together. With both being bassists we always connect on new bass gear out there and other bass geek things. He is a great guy and amazing musician and always a treat hearing him play.
What do you like about playing music accompanied by a DJ?
-The sonics that can be created with the beat by a DJ. And every DJ has such a different feel and take on those sonics. As a bassist who lives in that rhythm world it is inspiring to create a bassline that becomes part of that spectrum.
Tell us a bit about the experience of playing the Silent Disco at Bear Creek last year with Skerik? That was my first time seeing live instruments in that format.
-Love the Silent Disco. I have played a lot of them over the last few years. I think Skerik and I are doing it again this year at Bear Creek. As a musician it is like playing in a studio/recording environment with a ton of people giving you their energy.
Not many musicians tell their secrets and give lessons on how to play the instruments and music that they play. Why did you decide to make lessons available to your fans?
– It feels almost like a responsibility as a musician to pass along the knowledge you have learned in my opinion. Some musicians worry that someone might “steal ” their style. I think that is silly because if I took another bassist in the room and showed them every exact note and technique I played it is still going to sound like them playing it, and mine like me. That is one of the best things about music, each person has their own individual fingerprint.
As the “Artist at Large” at Bear Creek, who are you excited to get on stage with?
– Bear Creek is like going to the smorgasbord of musicians so any collab/sit-in is special. I am excited this year to be sitting in with another crazy bassist from Ohio. Also, looking forward to playing with Bernie (Worrell) again. I just sat in with Bernie last week and it is always some serious Funk with a large capital F.
What is in the future for Freekbass?
I am just getting started on my new album. It is being produced and engineered by Duane Lundy (My Morning Jacket, Ben Sollee) at Shangri-La Studios in Lexington, KY. Executive Producer is Bootsy Collins. We are recording it very organically with the band setting up in the studio all together and laying down the tracks live. If one person makes a mistake, we all start all over as a unit and do a fresh take. It is sounding so thick and raw so far. Very excited to get it out there sometime in spring next year. I have a blog about the album’s progress at http://freekbass.tumblr.com