Freekbass, an eastside Cincinnati native, spent most of his time finding his wings in the Clifton + Downtown neighborhoods. “To a 14-year-old kid, Clifton felt like being in Greenwhich Village,” he says. They supported his live music, encouraged his originality and cemented his bass place in a growing Cincinnati music scene. He met Bootsy Collins in the early 90s, who graciously bestowed the “Freekbass” moniker after seeing him shred in person.
Flash forward 25 years later, to when Freekbass is releasing a new album, “Everybody’s Feelin’ Real,” and continuing to pioneer a Funktronica genre that maintains the essence of funkdaddies like George Clinton and the Parliamentary Funkadelic while driving a distinctly modern, groovetastic party. We caught up with Freekbass to talk about what fuels his funky fire after two decades, and what his journey has been like over the last 20 years.
CM: Welcome back to Cincinnati. What do you love most about home?
FB: Being a small, small part of the amazing music history here. It’s pretty incredible when you think of all the groundbreaking music that has come from Cincinnati. I’m on the road so much these days that I don’t get a good read on the Cincy scene as much as I used to, but I love hearing other bands and artists not from Cincinnati talk about all the new venues popping up. Home is everywhere I go.
CM: That’s pretty excellent that you hear other touring bands talk about their time in Cincinnati. What’s your personal favorite venue to play here? What’s different about playing here versus shows in other cities?
FB: I’ve only played there once so far, but I really dig the Southgate House Revival. I love that there are three different music rooms going at the same with different genres in each. It almost has a festival vibe. When I play in Cincinnati, I tend to hear my birth name a lot more.
CM: That’s pretty surreal. Let’s talk about what inspires you on the road. What do you do outside Freekbassing?
FB: I love teaching, so I give bass lessons when I am not on the road. It makes you go through the whole process of how you learned what you know, and passing along that knowledge you have as a player is incredibly rewarding – I feel like it’s almost my responsibility as a musician. Inventing lessons forces you to be creative on a schedule, which as weird as that sounds, keeps my creativity flowing and helps me not be stale.
CM: Grooming the next generation of Freekbassists, I can dig it. What other artists do you get down with lately? What draws you to them?
FB: I have been digging on Portugal. The Man lately. I like the cross-pollinating genres in their music – that’s what always gets me excited about any band, and one of the big reasons I am such a Bowie and Funkadelic fan. How they can take things in pop culture and bend them into their own sound is super dynamic.
CM: You’ve played with some heavy hitters in the past – Buckethead, Bernie Worrell. What are some of your best collaboration memories?
FB: Jamming with Buckethead at Booty’s birthday party was wild, and playing “Red Hot Mama” with Bernie Worrell at Bear Creek Music Festival this past year was also special one for me. Bernie is one of the original players and writers of that song, and playing it live with him was a surreal moment for me. You should check it out.
CM: That’s a pretty legendary stage presence. How would you describe the evolution of Freekbass to get to that point?
FB: It’s definitely a journey that when you feel like you can see where the road leads, you find another path off the yellow brick road that takes you to a totally different spot than where you thought you would be. That’s the beauty of music; as hard as we may try sometimes, it can't be predetermined.
CM: So along this journey, what are your biggest influences and inspirations at the moment? How is that shifting and shaping your sound?
FB: I’m very ying-yang right now. I either listen to older, very organic albums that were mostly recorded with a couple of microphones and a few tracks, or electronic grooves that utilize technology as much as possible. You’ll hear that in the new album; we recorded all of the bed tracks live together with no overdub takes, putting songs together using a lot new sounds made possible by today’s technology.
CM: That’s a great lead into “Everybody’s Feelin’ Real.” What’s special about your groove this time around?
FB: I got to work with Duane Lundy, a great producer who has a vision similar to mine about how we wanted this album to sound. We talked for many months about that vision and sound before we laid down the first note. Most importantly, we stuck to that original blueprint we had charted out from beginning through the final mastering of the album.
CM: What has been most rewarding about that process? What are you most excited about with this release?
FB: It’s rewarding to release something that you feel you gave 110%, and without cutting any corners. For me, I usually need a long break from listening to an album when I finish it. But with “Everybody’s Feelin’ Real,” I enjoy listening to it like it was another artist performing the material.
CM: For new Freekbass fans, how would you talk about and introduce them to your latest production?
FB: They can actually stream the new album online, so they can check it out on my Bandcamp page. Of all the albums I’ve worked on, this one feels the most representative of what I do.
CM: Awesome, we always love a great preview. Since you have a more traveled perspective of the music scene than most readers, how would you describe the current state of Funktronica?
FB: Awesome healthy. From bands like Dumpstaphunk, Pretty Lights, and Lettuce to the new Daft Punk album, the live funk/dance/groove scene is alive and well.
CM: With the genre thriving, what are your hopes and goals for your music and your band?
FB: To continue to tour and perform live as much as possible. It’s always tough being away from my family, but I love being on the road playing in different cities. I always say it is the truck driver gene in me. As a band, I want to get tighter as a unit in both creativity and the performance vibes. I am blessed to work with incredibly talented musicians in The Bump Assembly: Big Bamn on the drums, Dan Barger on the Sax and the amazing Razor Sharp on the keys.
CM: That’s a great name for a talented collective. So what do you really want people to know about Freekbass?
FB: That I know a secret: The Reds will win the World Series within the next three seasons.
CM: That’s quite the prediction! Let’s hope you’re right. Do you have a message in closing for Freekbass disciples?
FB: There are many sides to stand on to see the top of the mountain. Climb the path that feels right and real to you.
Freekbass is celebrating the release of his new production, “Everybody’s Feelin Real,” at the Southgate House Revival on Friday, June 13th. It’s also sponsored by the Bunbury Music Festival to get people hyped for the festival from July 11-13, so it’s absolutely free for everyone that wants to attend. Free show, many bass. Much bumpathon. See you next weekend.