By Chris Gray
By Corey Deiterman
By Jef With One F
By Chris Gray
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"Here's my second prediction," Escalante continues. "He's going to be the first drummer to break into the David Byrne/Peter Gabriel/Radiohead stratosphere in terms of talent and ingenuity, and it's going to be fun to see where he ends up. Will he get the same recognition he gets behind the kit? Just how far ahead of his time is he?"
Any time you start talking about musicians making money, the phrase "sell out" will pop up.
Freese says he has come across a few negative responses on fan message boards and blogs, reacting to the prices of some of the more outlandish upper-tier packages. The $20,000 one in particular has stirred up a bit of controversy.
Tom Mrzyglocki, a 19-year-old in Melbourne, Florida, bought the package; he'd first heard about the marketing campaign through Tool's Web site. A big fan of Devo, A Perfect Circle and the Vandals, Mrzyglocki flew out to Long Beach for a week in early April and got to spend a night on the Queen Mary, play a round of miniature golf with Escalante and Keenan (Escalante won — but only because he was keeping score, Mrzyglocki says), have a pizza party with Mark Mothersbaugh and pick out three items from Freese's closet (a custom Devo shirt, a Vandals hoodie and a Tempur-Pedic travel pillow from Brookstone). Mrzyglocki was treated to a few bonus incentives such as yoga class with Amdurer, hanging out with members of Tool at a Puscifer show, and attending a Vandals show and a recording session with Slash.
Mrzyglocki paid for the trip with an inheritance left by his father, who had committed suicide in 2007. He says some of his friends had "questioned my sanity," but declares the one-of-a-kind week well worth it. "It's a free-market economy; [Freese] can do whatever he wants," Mrzyglocki shares over the telephone. "I think it's mostly tongue-in-cheek just to promote his small solo career, but he probably wasn't expecting anything out of it."
"I could've done it all in three days, but my girlfriend and I moved him out of his hotel, and he stayed at our house. He's a good kid. I didn't know anything about him until he landed," Freese explains. "By the end of the week, I felt like I had become a big brother to him...The last thing I wanted was for the kid to go home and go, 'You know, I guess it was okay. Yeah, I met Maynard, and he was a dick, and then he dropped me off. Thanks.'"
However, many criticisms posted on the Internet blast Freese for accepting money from a teenager. "I was really bummed reading [about it] on the Internet one night, and I felt pretty shitty. I put this thing up for sale; someone bought it. I didn't know if he was 60 or 15."
Freelance photographer/pharmacist Andrew Youssef, 33, of Huntington Beach, purchased a $250 Cheesecake Factory lunch — the first fan package experience ever — from Freese.
"I think [Freese's marketing strategy] is genius. I think people are jealous they didn't think of it first," Youssef says. "With the music industry going the way it is, he's gotten more publicity out of all this than anybody could even dream of buying."
Youssef says he's definitely another satisfied customer. "I think the criticism is definitely unwarranted. Obviously he's doing it for the money a little, but it's not like the people who wanted to pay for it are feeling gypped at all," he says. "I don't think you're hearing any complaints from anybody who spent the money."
A few weeks later, Freese finds himself in front of the Indiana Jones Adventure ride at Disneyland with Ferris Al-Sayed, 18, from Carmel, Indiana. A recent high-school graduate, Al-Sayed is quiet, but he slips in every now and then with a funny one-liner. He wears a faded, black Nine Inch Nails Ghost T-shirt with a black button-up over it. It's his first time in California since childhood, and he's being given a tour of Disneyland by Freese as a part of the $5,000 package. Freese has on a baseball cap and sunglasses; a one-strapped Tumi backpack is slung across his chest. And he is wearing a huge smile.
Pearl Jam guitarist Stone Gossard had FedExed Freese a thick envelope a few days earlier, containing the letter to Al-Sayed explaining his favorite song off Since 1972.
When asked why Al-Sayed chose that particular package, he replied simply, "He [Freese] has to write a song about me and spend a pretty extensive amount of time with me."
Freese and Al-Sayed head toward the Rivers of America, and then run into Eric Wilson, the bass player of Sublime. Freese points out the Mark Twain sternwheeler floating just behind them, where he and his little brother would play hide-and-seek while his father and the Disneyland Band played at the bow of the riverboat.
Freese, Al-Sayed and Wilson pose for photos in front of the Pirate's Lair on Tom Sawyer Island. Al-Sayed cracks a joke about chopping off Tom Sawyer's foot and replacing it with a peg leg. He stands, posing with a thumbs-up and his mouth gaping open.