Meet Freekbass and The Bump Assembly
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Ohio funk-playing Freekbass and his band, The Bump Assembly, are grooving into Steamboat Springs for the first time Friday, Nov. 15, as part of a tour presenting their newest album, “All The Way This. All The Way That.” Alongside Freekbass, who the legendary Bootsy Collins has called “a spiritual warrior for the funk,” on bass, the group features drummer Rico Lewis, keyboardist Sky White and vocalist Sammi Garett, also of Turkuaz. Explore Steamboat chatted with Freekbass to learn more about the group.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Explore Steamboat: How did you get the name “Freekbass”?
Freekbass: It’s kind of a funny story. I was just starting to get my name around town (Cincinnati) in the late ’90s, early 2000s, and some other musicians and I were recording some songs about Jimi Hendrix at Bootsy’s (funk and R&B bassist Bootsy Collins) studio. We hit it off really well, but he’d just met me and probably couldn’t remember my name. Bootsy said, “Man, you got that freaky bass thing going,” and everyone in the studio started calling me that too.
ES: Tell us about what the Cincinnati music scene is like, and how that has influenced your music.
F: It’s definitely really been steeped in fun for a long time. There’s a label called King Records — one of their top artists was James Brown. There’s always been a strong funk thing in both Cincinnati and Dayton, which is 40 minutes down the road. You had Bootsy, the Ohio Players, Slave, Zap, Midnight Star, Babyface — no matter what part of town you grow up in, there’s always funk around. When I was a kid starting to play, I was listening to Snoop Dog and Dr. Dre. Especially being a bass player, what drew me in was the sound of funkadelic, ’90s hip hop. That’s what felt right to me, that’s what got me excited, and that’s what I’d try to emulate.
ES: You released your seventh studio album, “All the Way This. All the Way That,” in May, the first time working with The Color Red. What was that experience like?
F: Their label has a very distinct sound because everything’s recorded straight to actual physical, analogue tape, so it’s got a very retro, warm sound. Everything’s done within one take. You go down to the studio, and you rehearse like crazy. You have that real honest sense of how records were made, and there’s a real honesty to the songs, as well. Not quite half of the songs (from “All the Way This. All the Way That”), we’d released as singles. Where one side has retro stuff, Itaal’s (Grammy-winning composer-producer-musician Itaal Shur, who co-wrote several of the album’s tracks) stuff is futuristic. That’s where the title came from; every song is all the way retro or all the way futuristic. But it’s all under the umbrella of funk.
ES: Before you head to Steamboat Springs for Friday’s show, you’re recording in Denver at The Color Red label, again. What’s new about this batch of songs?
F: Last time we came in here, we didn’t really know what to expect. With this recording, we spent a lot of time doing a lot of preproduction in Cincinnati, so we’re coming in with a lot of developed songs to put in The Color Red machine. Should be a pretty exciting session. The nice thing about the Color Red stuff is we don’t worry about how we’re going to recreate them live — it’s got that same sonic quality.
When: 10 p.m. Friday, Nov. 15
Where: Schmiggity’s, 821 Lincoln Ave.
ES: In addition to writing music and touring, you also teach lessons and make instructional DVDs (“Learn Bass with Freekbass.”) I’m curious to hear how you enjoy the creation of these instructional videos compared to the writing and playing of original music.
F: I do a lot of instructional and a lot of bass master classes and Skype lessons; I think they all work hand in hand. With music, it’s almost an obligation. Being a teacher, whether you’re literally teaching on DVD or just by working with other musicians, it’s a process that’s all about sharing. If you try to keep everything bundled inside to yourself, the music doesn’t have a chance to grow as it should. It’s all music; each makes the other thing better; it all kind of works together. When I was a kid, going to camps was game changing, and there’s almost a responsibility as a musician, as you learn things, to pass them along to someone else.
ES: When you’re on tour in a new place, how do you like to explore the area?
F: A lot of times, you’re in the bus ’til you pull into the concrete parking area venue, then it’s onto the next city. A lot of times, you don’t get to see the city, but when we do, I love meeting new people and new places and going exploring around whatever city you’re in to see what the traditions are and find the best coffee or tea houses. If you have time, that’s the best thing in the world.
ES: Once a Freekbass show is finished, what feeling or lesson would you hope your audience has taken away or learned?
F: I always hope they feel like they’re part of the band. Funk is such a symbiotic thing between us and the audience. Sometimes, a song can be five minutes or sometimes it can be 20 — that’s based on the audience and their energy. There’s four to five of us on stage, but the audience is just as much a part of it, and they’ll always be part of the band. Everybody can be part of The Bump Assembly.
ES: For people who haven’t heard Freekbass before, what three songs would you recommend listening to to get a good feel for what the band does?
F: 1. “Knuckle Sandwich,” 2. “Steppin’ Out of Line,” 3. “You Make Me Want to Dance.”
Julia Ben-Asher is a contributing writer for Steamboat Pilot & Today.
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