Vandals and Sting Man Josh Freese Puts Himself First: Long Beach-based drummer Josh Freese may well be the busiest man in music. The list of bands he’s played with is a veritable who’s who of contemporary rock: Weezer, A Perfect Circle, Sublime (with Rome), Nine Inch Nails and Guns N’ Roses are just a few highlights of a list that’s as long as your arm. He’s not a one trick pony either; he’s also performed on albums by pop artists such as Kelly Clarkson, Katy Perry and Miley Cyrus. Nowadays, he’s working with Devo and Sting, he’s filling in with the Offspring, and of course, he’s forever a member of his first love, punk band the Vandals.
The guy never stops working. So when the pandemic locked us all down and effectively put a stop to touring, he got itchy. He started writing and recording a bunch of one-minute songs for the hell of it. But when old friend Stone Gossard (Pearl Jam) resurrected his Loose Groove record label and propositioned Freese with the idea of releasing an album, he was all for it.
“I started writing and recording these songs with no intention at all of releasing them, or at least selling them,” Freese says. “I didn’t want to go through the whole process of making a record. I’m too lazy. I love the process of writing and recording music and doing it on my own. I have a home studio that I always complain about never having enough time to work in, so I didn’t have an excuse now. So I went back there and started writing one-minute songs, which is also very non-committal. It’s not very daunting to have to write a one-minute song for the sake of a little art project. Some of them turned into songs that sounded like regular rock & roll songs, and some of them just turned into weird little one-minute snippets of things.”
Freese referring to himself as lazy is ironic. Or maybe just plain wrong. He’s always on the go. Very often though, he’s working on other people’s music. It’s great to hear what pours out when he’s not restricted at all.
“The fact that it was done from a 100 percent pure place, not trying to achieve anything or make any money from it or any of that stuff, it was really fun and something I’d be doing whether it be released or not,” he says. “Aside from having it not be some major undertaking, I also wanted to make little fun videos, literally on my phone. Put up these one-minute songs, make full little videos and post them on Instagram, just for the fuck of it.”
One of the interesting things about the album, which is called Just a Minute, Vol.1, is that it runs the gamut of rock subgenres. Opening track “Ain’t Nuthin Funny Bout 2020” is a Revolting Cocks-esque industrial-tinged tune. Then “Where I Have to Go” is more straight-up rock. Then “The Dwarves and the Queens” is a punky riot. That’s all great, but Freese had to find a way to make the record flow.
“I don’t know if it flows or not,” he says. “Some people take that really seriously. There’s an art to it and I’ve watched people drive themselves crazy sequencing an 11, 12 song record. I didn’t want that to become a burden. So at first, I was like ‘fuck it, the way I listen to it on my computer or in my car is automatically alphabetized.’ At first, I was gonna do that. I like starting off the record with the ‘Ain’t Nuthin Funny Bout 2020’ song because that really set a tone for all of us last year.”
The fact that the album has Vol.1 in the title suggests that there’s going to be a Vol.2.
“Volume 2 is done and mastered, and the cover’s done,” Freese says. “If I needed to put it out in a month, I probably could. But we’re gonna wait. I have to tie up a few loose ends on the artwork and the inner sleeve stuff. But it’s recorded, mixed, mastered, and most of it’s ready as far as the theme, the look, and the tie-in to the first album. I’m hoping for January, maybe February.”
Since concerts started happening again, Freese has played sporadic dates with Devo, Sting, the Vandals and the Offspring.
“The Vandals and the Offspring have been longtime friends,” he says. “A few months ago when the drummer wouldn’t get vaccinated, Dexter called me and said they need someone who is able to go out in the real world and do this stuff – could I fill in for some shows? There was a handful of stuff I was able to do, and then I had some Devo obligations. I had a Sting obligation a couple of weeks ago and I’m doing some stuff with Sting Vegas. I’ve probably done a total of five gigs with the Offspring, but I’m going to the UK with them next month.”
When you have Sting, Devo, the Offpsring and the Vandals all pulling a limb each, you know you’re doing something right. Freese has been in the Vandals since his mid-teens and the band remains close to his heart.
“All of us have our real jobs, mine being the drummer in other bands that make decent money,” he says. “But I always like to go back and do gigs with them. I always joke that I need to keep the Vandals in my back pocket for punk rock cred while I work with some of these pop superstars.”
Josh Freese doesn’t need to worry about his “punk rock cred” any time soon. The guy has seen and done it all and, like we say, he never stops working. He’s trying to find balance in his life though.
“I’m always balancing how much I can be gone, and how much I can be around for my kids and standard poodles,” he says.
Vandals and Sting Man Josh Freese Puts Himself First: The Just a Minute, Vol.1 album is out now.