Phoenix’s own rock n’ roll soul shakers Freaks of Nature sweat and bleed on stage as if it was 1966 all over again. Their music is as raw as a side of ground chuck and sounds like it could fit right between One Way Streets and The Swamp Rats on a Back from the Grave compilation. Freaks of Nature’s music is by four guys that “get it.” They immerse themselves in this kind of music and culture from a certain time period not because it’s a trend, not to get girls, or to get rich but because they found kindred spirits in the type of music young people made in the mid to late 1960’s in their parents garage, it spoke to them and awakened a sleeping giant in their creative souls. This music won’t dazzle you with technical skill or bore you with metaphysical lyrics and metaphors, but if you can smell what these cats are cookin’, it’s going to exorcize your demons right where you stand!
Interview by Jay Castro
Please tell me who’s all in Freaks of Nature and what does everyone do in the band:
Steve: Lead Guitarist
And me, Daniel: Guitar, harp, and singing.
It is undeniable that you guys are heavily influenced by 1960’s music, in fact some of your past bands have also been influenced by music from that era. Tell me what you think today’s music lacks that yesterday’s music then had?
DANIEL: I honestly don’t think today’s music lacks anything. I respect almost all musicians. I think I’m attracted to its ineptness of the music from the ‘60’s that I grew up listening to. I’m also attracted to bands like The Gories, and early Cramps. Bands that might not have known how to play that well or they just didn’t play that well. The thing with the Back from the Grave albums which are basically this bands bible is that kids heard The Stones, they saved up their news paper route money and got instruments, went into a recording studio and came out with a 45. Your best friend can be the best guitarist in the world but his songs can suck. It happens all the time. Then there can be some guy that can’t play the guitar at all and comes up with an awesome song. That’s what was so cool about it, but there is some romance with the past. Sometimes you can suck and your music will suck, but sometimes you can suck but your music will be cool!
Do you remember who first introduced you to 1960’s rock n’ roll music?
DANIEL: I walked into my friends house when I was like 17 and this Pebbles compilation was playing and it was really tinny and trebly and I asked him what the hell is that?! He said it was his sisters girlfriend’s CD and I said I don’t care I’m taking that home! I’m going to steal that! So as soon as he went to the bathroom I stole it and I still have it to this day and it is still my favorite album, it’s in my truck right now. Then I was hanging out with my good friend Joel McCune and he was in a band called Cruel Daddy Doom and The Hemlocks and they did that kind of music. We started hanging out because he heard I liked Charlie Parker and Charles Mingus and I went over to his house and he played me the Tell-Tale Hearts, so we got drunk and I made two 90 minute tapes with everything on it: all these comps and 80’s reissues he bought when he was a teenager living in Puerto Rico. I think my favorite was this band called Music Machine and he was like yeah good luck finding this because they weren’t reissuing this stuff back then. So one day I was walking to the bus stop and I missed the bus so there was this thrift store right by so I walked in and right there in the dollar records bin there it was: Turn On by The Music Machine! So from then on all my money went into buying records. Then Mike from Eastside Records turned me on to all the Estrus Records stuff when they first started coming out The Oblivians and The Makers.
Freaks of Nature are currently recording a new album with Jim Waters of Waterworks Studios (Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Sonic Youth, The Drags) how did you hook up with him and how is the recording going so far?
DANIEL: We opened for Jon Spencer’s Blues Explosion at Crescent Ballroom and after the show they were all extremely cool and they knew their shit! They know their ‘60’s and their punk history. We talked forever with them after the show and the next day they were heading to Waterworks to record. The next day I got this call from this guy and he said “Hey my name’s Jim. I own Waterworks Studio in Tucson, I’m sitting here with The Blues Explosion and I’m calling to set up a date for you to come down here and record, these guys loved you and I want to set up a date with you right now.” I told him we couldn’t afford him and we were just a garage band and stuff but he was like “We can work something out man, if Blues Explosion likes you, I like you, and we can figure something out.” So I asked him if he knew how to record just like they did in 1966 and he said “Oh yeah, I know exactly how they used to do things back then.” So we went down there and used the first or second take on each song and it turned out Jim Waters is one of the coolest people I’ve ever met and we all had a blast. I sent the recordings to labels that I’ve bought records from and that I loved and Screaming Apple jumped on it and as of right now our LP is slated for around March.
You guys play out a lot around the Phoenix/Tempe area and you’ve played with a lot of great bands. Can you tell me about the worst show you can remember playing and what made it so utterly and completely disastrous?
DANIEL: That’s a funny question because with this band the worst show could be our best show! We played a burlesque show for a friend of a friend and we were doing them a favor but it was like, well it was just weird and awkward and we were definitely not fit to play there. I’ve been asked this question before and I always say that I don’t know because I get a kick from people hating us. I think anyone that’s ever played music has to some point. You think: why are we on that bill and you think to yourself on stage, oh man this is going to be horrible so let’s have a blast and when you’re done you walk out just laughing at how bad it went over and the look on people’s faces. So I’ve never had just a bad show because of that. We always tell people OK we’ll do it but I hope you know what you’re getting into. It’s not like we wreck the joint or anything.
I was reading an interview with Keith Richards where he said that anyone buying digital music is getting short changed. Do you agree with this?
DANIEL: Shortchanged? Maybe in the same way as reading a comic book online, but at the same time I’m so open to hearing other music and the fact that you can just click on something online or on Facebook. I do it every day, a band will say “hey can we play with you” and I can just instantly click and listen to them. The fact that you can come across a friend of a friend online that’s in Italy and that’s into ‘60’s music and I can just send him stuff and you can make a friend. It’s like holy shit, that guy would never make a friend in Phoenix and that’s how I get turned on to music too, the ‘60’s punk community is very small. The whole digital thing though definitely doesn’t compare to me putting something on the turntable in any kind of way, it’s just not the same. When I listen to something on the computer I will rarely listen to a whole song. I listen to a little bit of it and I think, yeah ok I get that but I never do that on vinyl. So in a way it is devalued. I still go to the record store and I still find gems. It’s weird that I can Google a record while I’m in the record store and hear it. There aren’t that many record labels that will put out a ‘60’s punk album but I can email people our songs. Sending something in the mail to Germany who knows, I may never know but emailing songs, I know they got it. It’s all about hearing that song, does it matter how I hear it? No, because if I love it and I see that album I’m buying it.
I’ve heard people say that playing/writing music it therapeutic to them in many ways. Have you ever felt this way at all?
DANIEL: Playing live, yeah how many people get to yell at a crowd of people and they applaud you for it? I think there’s something really funny about that. So yeah there definitely is. I get as much out of just practicing every week, turning up the amps, playing loud music and jumping up and down like fools. I do that at practice, it’s the same as playing live. So yes it is very therapeutic. I’ve been a skateboarder for 30 years and it’s the same kind of release. You get into a similar groove. The buzz it hitting you, the volume is up, people are smiling, there’s just a buzz in the air. There’s something therapeutic about not giving a fuck. There’s something therapeutic about being in a room where everybody there is there to have a good time. Everybody’s positive, jumping up and down. The people jumping and dancing in front of us when we’re playing are getting the same shit as we are almost. There’s also something therapeutic from making something out of nothing like writing a song. When an idea turns into reality, that’s cool, even if it sucks but it’s really cool when it turns out really catchy and sticks in your head or someone else’s.
This is the part of the interview that I like to call “The Fantastic 4” or “4 questions I stole from other interviewers” here it goes:
1. What was the first album you bought with your own money?
DANIEL: Turn on by Music Machine
2. What was the first band t-shirt you ever owned?
DANIEL: Pat Benatar, I think it was my sisters!
3. What was the first concert you went to without your parents?
DANIEL: U2’s Under a Blood Red Sky tour at Compton Terrace. I must have been like 14.
4. Beatles or Stones?
Phoenix New Times just named you as one of Phoenix’s best front men. In your opinion what makes a good front man and who are some of your favorites?
DANIEL: I would say Jay Reatard because he just did not give a fuck. He was rude, obnoxious, and mean to people and his own band I thought that was punk and that was energy. That’s just the kind of punk that I like. I don’t necessarily need to see blood or have someone throw shit at me. But whom I really like now, in Phoenix is Ryan Avery from Fathers Day. He doesn’t give a fuck, he’s up there having a blast screaming his guts out and he’s hilarious. It’s raw, stripped down punk. I would say Ryan Avery is my favorite front man in town. If I wasn’t on the spot I would probably come up with something else but I like my punk fucked up and I like it raw. I wanna hear Killed by Death type of punk or Back from the Grave style 60’s punk. They’re the most fuck up of the fucked.
What does the band have in store for 2015?
DANIEL: Other than the LP coming out, we plan to travel a little bit and play with other ‘60’s punk bands. We’ve never toured, we started as an actual garage band practicing in my house, having fun and we just got asked to play show after show. My band loves ‘60’s punk music, we love playing it. I’m lucky to have met these people. If there are any other people that like this type of music please contact me because we’re few and far between or come see Freaks of Nature shows and hopefully you like what you hear and we can talk music!