To coincide with the release of their new four-way split, with partnes in crime; Teef, Quiet Man and Blasted on Dry Heave Records MM caught up with UKHC stalwarts Freebase for a brief chat about life, the universe and hardcore . Singer Mark and new bassplayer Jaff were put on the spot…
Interview by Martijn Welzen
MM: Has the sound of Freebase changed over the years? Being better musicians, being older (and maybe wiser), and having a different line up must have had some influence on the band, right? I did notice that the production of your songs on the new split EP was crystal clear. Was that always your goal? Would you have wanted it for the 90s releases?
Jaff: Yes, but its not always about being better musicians or getting old, a lot of how bands change can just be simple things like being able to communicate their ideas more clearly, obviously line up changes will mix things up a bit too but I think that is the thing with Freebase, there is nothing set in stone, no formula or any set rules to follow. I think every Freebase release has been varied with some songs sounding more punk, some sounding more metal.
Russ Russell did a fantastic job with the new material and I think it is the clearest sounding batch of songs Freebase have released I think every band in the world would want to have that, look at how far technology has raised the bar for bands who would struggle to come up with the budget to get a similar quality recording in the 90’s.
Mark: I really think that we write what we feel at the time. Who is in the band etc. Freebase has always had a collection of songs which include elements of hardcore, metal, and punk, we just draw from our favourite influences, and some times sounds seem more prominant than others. Jaff is certainly right… nothing is set in stone with Freebase. We were lucky enough to get Russ involved again at this point, as he’s a very sort after guy these days. Myself and Nick have known him for years, so he was the man we wanted. He was the guy that did the demos back in the day, when we had offers from five labels sitting on the table, so we needed to test his skills again [laughs].
MM: What’s the theme behind the artwork as of late… ‘From The Basement’ with the skeleton, and now with this new EP, the zombie thrasher…? Seems like your reaching into Crossover territory, whereas earlier on, it was pure uncut hardcore…
Mark: Well to be honest, its just good artwork, again including elements of our influences, or if you like maybe nostalgia of our past, mine and Nicks especially. Miles from Dry Heave Records commissioned two seperate artists with ideas, and it’s how they came out. I think your correct in saying Martijn, that it does have more of a crossover theme, maybe because we feel the need to be more undisclosed these days about everything. It just felt correct, and we loved what Miles had suggested, and let us add to also. Plus the pictures look great in black and white, that was also a contributing factor.
MM: Freebase has been known to have had a few, uh “band tensions” in the past, so how do you guys get along now?
Jaff: We all know that the reason we’re doing this is for the fun so I think no one is over reaching with any personal agenda for the band, we are all just focussed on the next objective. Right now our focus is on this split 12” and getting ready to go out and play some shows.
Mark: [laughs] Ahhh yes… Older and wiser now. We definately do this with a different mindset. We are adults, and from our life experiences certain things take priorities now. There is plenty of banter invloved between us, but we get along fine… As long as I don’t have to sit next to Mick in the van!!! [laughs] A lot of the past issues were probably as we were all so wired and fried, things outsiders may have said, probably caused situations. We should have taken a ten year break earlier, we spent alot of time together, in rehersal rooms, studios, on the road, and in pubs… probably too much time.
MM: Who writes the sings these days? How is it split up? Is anything possible musically, bearing in mind the Assert / Stampin’ Ground background of some of the members, which were wildly different bands stylistically….
Jaff: A lot of the new songs have come about from jamming in the rehearsal room between all of us, some left over from previous writing sessions and some parts we worked on at home. As far as influences go we all have lots of common ground and since joining Freebase last year I have been introduced to bands I had not heard previously through other members passions for these bands.
Mark: It’s definitely a band vibe with us. Every member has bought an idea or two to the table. I think this is because we are all musicians, because we have all been in bands that have toured for lengthy periods etc. Myself, Nick, Ryan, and Ade have been mates since the late 90s, so a long time, and Jaff fits in Freebase as if he has been around just as long also, so with five guys of the same ilk, it’s easier. We don’t have a problem sharing song ideas with one another.
MM: And what about lyrics? Is it all on Mark? Do you always agree on the lyrics, and the way they’re delivered. I always find it amazing if a frontman is also able to make someone else’s words just as powerful as his own…
Mark: Again, we have all had a share to some extent. On ‘From The Basement’ one of the songs “Welcome To Hell” was 99% Ian’s ideas as I had writters block. I would say I write most of the core content, but call upon support when I get stuck, but also occasionally people bring ideas forward. The best idea wins, it’s as simple as that really. I suppose I feel it’s my job to take the lead in this area, seeing as my instrumental knowledge is errrrrrrm non-existant! I would love for someone to say “here go… sing this here, that there, and do it like this…” easy job.
MM: Why have you decided to release another vinyl / digital download instead of a CD? Will we maybe see all of Freebase newer songs compiled on a CD someday?
Jaff: I think its a cool way of doing things these days as I remember looking forward to going to buy physical copies of music and could spend hours going from shop to shop looking for music and hoping there would be something that stood out from everything else and at the same time i want to be able to listen to it immediately so I think its a good option. Some bands have been releasing tapes again which is pretty cool. Its always hard knowing what to do for the best but I think this format caters for almost everybody.
Mark: Yep, big album artwork, big sleaves for the collectors, especially as this release is 12”. And digital downloads for the i-phones and i-pods etc. Old school and new school.
Maybe it would be a good idea to collate all the news songs on a CD when all of these limited vinyl runs sell out, who knows? But it definately won’t happen while the smell of wax is still potent.
MM: Speaking of your newer releases, they all contain just a few songs. Is an EP, easier to write than a full-length? Especially with hardcore, as there’s always the danger of having less energetic songs on it. An EP with just a few songs is more like y’know, all guns blazing for a much shorter time….
Jaff: We basically gave ourselves a time limit to write stuff so there was a little bit of pressure involved which has crept into the music a little and there is no less energy than usual. Besides writing an album would have taken us 3 years!
Mark: [laughs] it’s just the way it is for us at the moment…
MM: What’s the topical content of the newer songs? And how would you say they sound, and fit in with the vibe of the band of the ‘My Life, My Rules’ era…?
Mark: In my opinion ‘My Life…’ was always the best stuff we had written. I think this new stuff is equally as good, well I’m proud of it anyway. As far as topical content, we always were a band who were realistic. I often delievered topics of a true nature, and tried not to latch on to typical subject matter. From the last e.p. ‘Scars (Cut From Your Lies)’ addresses the issues of false allegations of child sex abuse and parental allienation, whilst ‘Welcome To Hell’ is really about how shit and corrupt the world is heading. Don’t expect too many love songs from us yet! On this new e.p. we have one instrumental ‘PND’, a fast as fuck old school HC number in ‘F.A.F.Y’ which basically tells people don’t expect hand outs, and a traditional style Freebase tune ‘Peace Offering’ which touches on the subject of people doing something wrong, seriously wrong, and expecting to say sorry and its all okay. There’s a couple more we have ready to go, but you’ll have to wait until the next enstalment of Freebase to figure these out, we have also recorded a tasty cover version. That came out surprisingly good, as it’s a band that I have never been a massive fan of, but Ade was really keen to do it.
MM: How did that split with Blasted, Quiet Man and Teef come about. You’re all on Dry Heave records, but is that the only connection? Did you know all the bands and had a say in who’s going to be included?
Mark: Well to be honest, we were supposed to be doing something with a great HC band called Menshevik, who had an EP out on Dry Heave a while ago. But the fools went and split up… shame as they were a really strong band. Whilst we were shopping around for another band we really wanted to put out a split with, Miles suggested more bands, more ideas, and it all kind of fell together, especially as we were keen to do 12” vinyl this time, bigger and better appeal for us vinyl junkies [laughs]. I’m looking forward to catching Teef and Quiet Man live, as their tunes sound killer. As for Blasted, well, what can I say… if you have heard their last e.p. you will know how fantastically frantic these guys sound. Miles is dead easy to work with, as he’s a music fan himself, and is open to discussion of what may work best.
MM:We haven’t heard that much from Freebase in 2014? What is your personal highlight this year and can we expect more releases / shows in 2015?
Jaff: From when we finished out last show of 2013 at Fearfest in Birmingham we were geared up towards writing new material, we spent all of our rehearsals just writing and getting ideas together, we’d already decided on a deadline to get in the studio so we were again all focussed on that one goal. Getting to work with Russ Russell at Parlour studios was as good as I’d hoped it would be, I was already a fan of his work and knowing that we were going to be working with him was inspiring and the closer we got to recording the more time I spent making sure I was completely prepared to get the best result for the new recordings.
Mark: My personal highlight this year has to be the release of this new 12” vinyl, and playing with Slapshot again… it’s been a while. But also the special guest slot we have on Broken Bones London gig will be very enjoyable, a blast from the past; so we have a few good points coming. After recording in March we decided to take a bit of a break, as Ade was making some personal work changes, that were very important, and I was away at every oppurtunity taking in the European festival circuit, and having a couple of well earned holidays with my daughter. I believe it was the right thing to do. As for shows and releases in 2015, yes, they are coming, and people shouldn’t be worried about contacting us via Facebook to see if we can play.
Things will have to be planned out alot clearer now though, as Jaff has another band Days Of End (ex Stampin’ Ground /Underule / Anger Management members) , and they will be gigging etc, and I have my newly formed thrashcore band Cerebral Scar, but Freebase will still be an active force in 2015. I personally feel the band is in very good shape at the moment. Maybe as we are not out gigging endlessly this time it will help longevity. Europe is definately on the cards for us in 2015.