Freewill’s debut album was one of those mythical beasts that would have been huge if it had actually been released. Instead it became a little gold nugget that was passed around tape traders for a few years before the band regrouped as Stonetelling re-recorded the album and released it on Network Sound in 1994. We spoke with guitarist Paul Cranston about the past here and also offered the lowdown on the new album here
To complete our trilogy of features on Californian hardcore band Freewill, we had a catch up with bass player Mike Hartsfield and drummer Charlie Trujillo as well as Paul who brought us up to speed with where the band is right now.
Interview by Tom Chapman
Photo by Veronika Reinart
MM: Two thousand and sixteen saw the reissues of the Freewill recordings. Can you tell us a bit why then? What made you decide the time was right, did you reacquire the recordings?
Mike: David from Mankind wad been asking for sometime about doing our original demo as a 7” so that was a no brainer. I was also regretting the fact that our first LP “Sun Return” was never properly released. The fact that we had started practicing a bit and shows weren’t out of the question I figured we could get rid of them over time.
MM: The infamous Lost & Found made a CD version of the original album, was that an official release in any shape or form?
Charlie: A friend who I grew up with was living in Germany for a couple years. He saw the CD in a record store and bought it. He mailed it to me and I was blown away. That’s when I learned about Pat Dubar selling our recordings. Not sure if Mike was already aware of it.
Mike: I had heard from a close friend that knew Pat Dubar better than I did and he warned me of the fact that our record had been sold off to Lost and Found and there was a CD on the way.
MM: Mike, can you tell us a bit why and how the original album was put out as Stonetelling on Network Sound?
Mike: Sure. Well, the three other members of Freewill were playing in the early 90’s as Stonetelling. I had spoken to them about releasing the original Freewill record and they either had, or were getting ready to update that recording with their current style and would be continuing as that band. So it made more sense at the time. It was on Network Sound since that was a label Dennis Remsing and I started to put out releases we really liked but weren’t a good fit on either New Age or Conversion (our individual labels)
MM: In those couple of decades when the band was dormant, did you think much about getting back together?Charlie: Paul and I were playing together the whole time under the names SuperStream and Milkweed Soil until I moved to the Central Coast at the end of 2004. It’s about a 4 hour drive each way and we ended Milkweed Soil. During this time we were all busy raising our kids. Mike was also playing in 32 bands at the same time.
Mike- Like Charlie said, we were all doing our own thing. We were all still in touch I just don’t think it dawned on any of us that it could be possible. By the way I was only playing in 29 bands at the time. I hate how Charlie exaggerates.
MM: And then what was the spark that helped reform the band?
Charlie: The passing of Jon Bunch brought us back together for his memorial show. Mike reached out to all of us and asked if we would want to play the memorial show. Of course we all wanted to and so we had a couple practices and played the show. It was bittersweet. Great to be reunited with Freewill but we wish it had been for a different circumstance.
MM: When you started up again, was the intent there to write new material, or did that happen later?
Charlie: We all enjoyed the time we were spending together and decided to keep playing after the memorial show. We wrote and recorded some new songs. It was fun again and felt great to be playing together.
MM: What was the first show you played after getting back together?
Mike: The Jon Bunch memorial show. Then we had a show at The Programme in Fullerton, CA. Then we jumped on for 2 shows with Dag Nasty.
MM: At your first Reunion show at the Jon Bunch Memorial you were a 4 piece, what happened?
Charlie: After the Dag Nasty shows we started getting some momentum. We had some opportunities to play with Good Riddance and others. Our singer Scott said he didn’t think he could commit to doing Freewill full time. He has a family and was working on some other musical projects that he felt strongly about. I personally was saddened because Scott and I went to high school together and were best friends for many years. None of us spoke for several months. One day I reached out to Mike and Paul and said that the 3 of us need to get together and just play music and write songs. Just do it and see what happens. We all went in not knowing what to expect. That brought us to our record All This Time on Unity World Wide
MM: I haven’t read the lyrics (yet), but I’d be interested to know what the song Race to the Bottom is about…
Paul: Race to the Bottom is a piece that observes and warns against extreme ideology. The events at the U.S. Capitol building served in part, to influence the song.
MM: Moving onto the new album – is it all material you have written recently, or are there some previously unrecorded old songs lurking in the mix?
Paul: Yes, this new record was all written fairly recently, with some guitar parts that had been resurrected over the course of a few years.
MM: And also The Show seems to be a look back at the olden days of shows – a mixed bag of memories. Can you tell us a bit more about that song in particular?
Paul: The Show is a snapshot from our lives as teenagers. We looked forward (in our youth) to going to Punk rock shows in the L.A./O.C. areas, only to have it ruined by senseless violence. It’s a testament to a great, but tumultuous time.
MM: What made you decide to work with Unity Worldwide Records to release this album?
Mike: I wanted this record to have every opportunity to do its best. I could have always released it on New Age but NA has become a primarily 100% hardcore label and I don’t think we would fit as well into the roster as we could somewhere else and I need to be fair to the band overall and it’s not just about what I might want. Working with UWW was an easy decision for us. They are great guys I have known for years and years and I know their hearts are in the right place when it comes to what they do.
MM: Mike, what’s your relationship to or since when and how do you know Joe and Sven? I mean the one living in the US and the other in Germany?
Mike: I have know Joe since the dawn of time and see each other fairly often. I met Sven on the 2012 Outspoken European tour (if I’m not mistaken) and he was such a great guy, I felt like we had been friends for years.
MM: Can you tell us a bit about how it is to work with (the guys at) UWW?
Mike: Easy and exciting. Ha, ha simply put. I wish my other relationships with other labels had gone this smooth. UWW is awesome.
Charlie: Sven seems great and I can’t wait to meet him in person.
MM: Do you know other UWW bands/artist personally and did you reach out for a feedback to them or Rev and Core Tex before joining UWW?
Mike: I already knew that Doug and the Field Day guys were stoked being a part of the family and they were guys I already knew and liked and that goes a long way with me.
MM: There is an exclusive Freewill song on the “Strength Thru Unity” Compilation, is it from the All This Time recording session too and how came it, that you contributed a song to the Conne Island Benefit Compilation?
Mike: Right around the time we started talking to Sven and Joe was the same time that they were putting the Strength Through Unity comp together so they just swung the opportunity on us. It’s really been a great lead in to the band kinda starting over, landing on such a great comp, then having the opportunity to get the record out. Really fantastic timing for us.
MM: Have you got plans to play (m)any shows to support the new album?
Mike: Oh for sure. There are many elements good and bad about restarting a band that hasn’t been a full time active band in over 30 years (ha, ha, ha). I am doing a lot of explaining as I email and talk to promoters trying to refresh their memories. In a lot of ways, we are a brand new band. 95% or more of all of the bands we played with at one time or another are long gone and so are the relationships when you could count on each other for shows. So we are currently doing our best connecting/ reconnecting and seeing what comes our way.
MM: Is a tour a possibility or do you have too many other commitments?
Charlie: Part of what makes Freewill work so well is that we are all on the same page. We all have families, mortgages, and people depending on us but we are very committed to Freewill and we are looking forward to doing some 2 week stints. You can play quite a few shows in 14 days. A goal we have is to get to Europe in 2022.
Mike: Thankfully the days of needing (or feeling the need) to go out for 4-5 weeks are a thing off the past (at least for me) so we would love to do a bunch of extended weekends, a week here or there and really want to do Europe in 2022.
MM: Looking around, there are bands old and new releasing some great records in recent years such as Field Day or the new Shades Apart album – have you got any personal favourite records from recent times that we need to check out?
Mike: Both of those bands are releasing EXCELLENT material right now, it’s insane. Besides the new stuff on New Age, Be Well, Locked Inside, Out of Trust, Dying for it, Liily, Safe, The Venomous Pinks, Change & Jinx.
MM: I heard rumors about shows together with Field Day, another UWW band, is that true?
Mike: Yes, making plans for some extended dates around Southern California with Field Day and Game Face.
MM: Did you know Doug and Peter of Field Day before joining the UWW family?
Mike: No, we just met Doug recently when the Strength Through Unity comp came out. He lives about 25 miles from me.
Charlie: Dag Nasty was a major influence on us. Of course we keep tabs on those guys to see what they are up to.
MM: What are the future goals and the next steps for Freewill?
Mike: Getting the record to peoples ears and seeing what we can make of all of it. then SHOWS and more recording.
Charlie: Play shows to support All This Time. Europe 2022.
MM: That’s all for now, any parting comments?
Charlie: A major and sincere THANK YOU to Sven and everyone at UWW Records, Core Tex Records, Revelation Records, Paul Miner at BuzzBomb Studios and our families and friends for putting up with us.
Mike: Thanks Tom for doing this. Huge shout to Unity WorldWide for having faith in us. Check out the social medias at @FreewillSoCal thanks!