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“It’s the classic Martin, and it’s just getting better, having been aging for 20 years,” Freeman says of the D-28 he’s always used. “It’s the guitar I’ll have ready if the Apocalypse comes. I’ll sling my Martin over my back and head into the woods.”
Talk about some other influences.
You know who influenced me vocal-wise: simple but powerful? It’d have to be Randy Newman, because I love every single one of his records. He’s got this one song, “I Just Want You to Hurt Like I Do,” that’s really un-PC. The protagonist in the song just left his family and is talking to his son. Instead of telling the son that he’ll love him no matter what, he’s wanting the son to hurt like he does. Randy’s never afraid to write like that. To me, it’s really punk rock, going against the norm and not really giving a shit.
Another huge influence, especially lyrically, is the English folk movement from the mid-’60s to the mid-’70s, all that stuff like Steeleye Span and Fairport Convention, pieces that have a very old classical sound. But really, I listen to everything, and it’s all an influence—good reggae, amazing rock ’n’ roll, and on and on. Really, as a guitarist, I can’t see how you can’t take into account the great artists and songs in every genre, whether you’re talking about Led Zeppelin or Thelonious Monk.
How would you describe your recording process?
I’ve been in recovery for a couple of years, and in the first year, when I began to think about this record, I couldn’t do much of anything, like I said before, my brain was still healing. At some point I read an interview where someone had taken an iPhone and used its recorder to put down whatever rough materials he had, in preparation for an album. So I did the same for this record. I probably amassed 100 little ideas from riffs to choruses to bridges. I collected them for probably a good four months before I wrote the record. When I listened back, a lot of the ideas didn’t make much sense, but there were also a handful of great ideas, so I took them and expounded on them. I wrote all of them on my porch, just me and the D-28, in a whirlwind two-week period—very simple and acoustic.
Has your relationship to music changed since you became sober?
Surprisingly it hasn’t essentially changed. I really try not to stand on a soapbox about sobriety—people approach things in all different ways, and what works for one person won’t necessarily work for the next. What I’m finding has changed is that I approach music in a really positive way. I’m much more focused; I had the best time making this record because I was actually on Planet Earth. One of the biggest benefits to me is that sobriety has basically wiped away so much crap. I can actually put my ideas into action now. But my sense of humor is the same, as is the stuff I write about, and I’m really happy about all of that.
Talk about your guitars.
I’m a Martin and Gibson man. My main guitar is the Martin D-28 I’ve had since Ween signed to Elektra. I got some money and went out and bought that guitar. I’ve written 90 percent of my songs on it since. I bought it new, had the store pull out five different D-28s for me to check out, and that was the one. It’s the classic Martin, and it’s just getting better, having been aging for 20 years. And it’s the guitar I’ll have ready if the Apocalypse comes. I’ll sling my Martin over my back and head into the woods.
What about amps?
I’ve always used a Mesa/Boogie [Dual Rectifier] Trem-O-Verb and that and I’ve got a Music Man 212 that I love. It has the tan vinyl covering and two 12-inch speakers—Music Man’s answer to a Fender Twin. When I play live, I always ask for a big Mesa/Boogie with a giant cab. Man, that sounds freaking great with the Les Paul.
Live, I always have a delay pedal, a flange, and a phaser, generally by MXR, and for distortion I use a Boss pedal. When I’m at home I tend to use all Electro-Harmonix stuff—the one with phase and flanger, the Polychorus, is amazing. I’ve used it a lot for recording, but the Electro-Harmonix stuff is just a little too sensitive to bring on the road. So I don’t really do anything very special when it comes to effects. I just go for something simple and standard. I don’t really see the purpose of using a big pedalboard—for me it would just cloud everything up and obscure the music.