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Pay for Play

Superstar session drummer and Dadaist marketing genius Josh Freese (Devo, A Perfect Circle, the Vandals) sells himself, his famous friends and all-you-can-eat shrimp at Sizzler to promote his new album.

Upon departure, James gives it one last shot: "Well, get Maynard, Billy Howerdel, and get them all in a room ..."

"WE'RE GETTING THE BAND BACK TOGETHER!!" Freese yells.
_____________________

Freese hates his dog.

Freese plays with the Vandals at Punk Rocks 2009 at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado on May 28, 2009.
Courtesy Travis Keller
Freese plays with the Vandals at Punk Rocks 2009 at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado on May 28, 2009.
Courtesy Travis Keller

Frankie, a brown Chihuahua, doesn't seem so bad, but Freese points out that Frankie almost always wakes up his three children after he finally manages to get everyone to bed.

Freese is sitting in the back house of his almost-oceanfront-but-still-modest, one-story, Long Beach home. He shares the house with his fiancee of ten years (Amdurer), their three children (Hunter, eight; August, two; and Olive, three months), two cats, two fish and, yes, Frankie.

The home is beautifully decorated, with plenty of art displayed and kids' toys strewn about. The back house holds some children's-sized teal- and lime-green-colored, rounded-edge furniture; large, translucent bears stand on a white credenza, and a large-scale model of the Tiki Room at Disneyland sits atop a tall bookshelf.

August, whom Freese refers to as Auggy, stands just outside the door and screams, "Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaddy!"

Freese talks about his kids constantly and turns into a puddle at the very sight of them: "Auggy, you wanna come sit with me? I love this guy so much; he's such a cutie. We were talking this morning, and he's just learning how to talk and communicate and getting his vocabulary together, and it's so cute!" he says, kissing the curly-haired toddler. "Hey, Auggy. Hi. Hey. Do you know you're cute? You did know that?" He rapid-fire kisses August's forehead.

Freese only recently quit as the drummer for Nine Inch Nails so he could spend more time at home. "I needed to be around a bit more in 2009 for my kids," he says. "They need their dad right now. I'm still going out of town, but just for bits at a time. I'm sure there will be a time when I go out for a long time again . . . but just not right now."

Freese grew up in a musical family: His father, Stan Freese, has been working for Disney for 38 years. He had started out as the first leader of the Disney World band when the park opened in 1971 and then was transferred to Anaheim, where he eventually became — and remains — Disneyland's entertainment director.

Stan has a warm, friendly voice and a lively laugh — it's clear from whom Josh inherited his sense of humor. Like Amdurer and Freese's friends, Stan says that his son's fan-packages plan wasn't a surprise to him at all. He shares a story about Josh's seventh birthday party.

"He wanted to watch Monty Python — that's all he ever watched back then," he begins. "The other little boys were just not into it, and so they split. [Josh] was crestfallen." Stan lets out a laugh that sounds a bit like his son's. "He couldn't understand why other seven-year-olds couldn't get into The Holy Grail. That's when I knew we were in for a ride."

As a child, Freese had convinced his father to bring a set of drums down from the attic in their Placentia home. Stan sat down and played a simple beat. Freese was able to follow right away.

"We couldn't get him into toys and stuff. All he carried around, even starting at two years old, was drumsticks," Stan recalls. "He came in knowing he was going to be a drummer, and if we wanted to be a part of it, that was cool. And if I didn't, that was cool, too."

(According to Freese, Stan's oldest grandson, Hunter, shows no interest in becoming a drummer — he currently has dreams of being an architect instead, "which is heavily encouraged by Nicole and I." In a separate conversation, Freese explains that "it's the 2-year-old we're worried about. It's all about music, dancing and drumsticks for [August]. All that music stuff is around, though, and if the kids gravitate toward it...cool! And if not...cool, too.")

Freese began to practice to records — funny enough, Devo's Freedom of Choice was among the first records he owned, in addition to Queen's The Game, Zenyattà Mondatta by the Police and Van Halen's (first) self-titled LP. He later went on to play with Sting songs off Zenyattà Mondatta in front of as many as 400,000 people, and he has been a permanent member of Devo for the past 13 years.

In addition to acting as a second childhood home, Disneyland gave Freese his start as a professional musician: When he was 12, he played the electric drums on the Tomorrowland Terrace Stage in a cover band called Polo that had appeared (and won) previously on Junior Starsearch.

Following his stint at Disneyland, the then-16-year-old Freese went on a worldwide tour with Young and the Restless star/singer Michael Damian.

Soon after that, Freese played with Dweezil Zappa and joined the Vandals. Joe Escalante, entertainment lawyer/ radio host/bass player of the Vandals, says he has admired Freese's talents since 1990.

"After the first Vandals practice with Josh, I told Warren [Fitzgerald] and Dave [Quackenbush] that, at some point, we're just going to be sitting around bragging about being in a band with Josh Freese to anyone who will listen," he says. "Twenty years later, that has come to pass. He's found a way to make the most out of being a professional drummer and somehow stay rooted with his original band, friends and family.

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