Freakshow is, without belaboring the obvious, one hell of a talented ensemble. The uber phenom voice of M!ss Crazy singer/guitarist Markus Allen Christopher, the tectonic thunder of Frankie Banali (Quiet Riot/W.A.S.P./the list goes on…) on drums, the unsung guitar wizardry of Jeff La Bar (Cinderella), and of course the fretless bass monster, Tony Franklin (The Firm/Blue Murder). Any of these names ring a bell? Yeah, I thought so. But just like a cherry 65 Ford Mustang, the name is meaningless unless that engine purrs. And to stretch a metaphor, Freakshow’s got the wheels and the engine to go all the way. Their self-titled debut CD, released in April blows the doors off just about everything hitting the airwaves this spring. Metalholic got Frankie and Markus to sit down with our own Rustyn Rose over the Independence Day weekend and talk about the band, the music industry, and more. Here’s how it turned out.
Metalholic – I appreciate you guys taking the time to answer some questions for our readers. Not enough people know yet just who Freakshow are or what you’re about. We got a huge response to the article we ran on the band few weeks ago, so I know the fans are looking for more.
So Markus, since this was your brainchild at the outset, what, in your mind is the key that turned what started as a Markus Allen Christopher solo project into Freakshow?
Markus – First off, thanks for having us. Thanks for the article you wrote on us and the CD. To answer the question. I knew that M!SS CRAZY was not going to tour due to the recession that was coming our way. So I figured I would start writing a solo record. As you see that didn’t happen and Freakshow was born. A beautiful born mature baby! (laughs) The CD is what I hoped it would be when it was finished. It was actually better. I mean look who plays on it!
MH- How does it feel to have such legendary talent bringing your songs to life? Are you still in pinch me mode?
Markus- Dude! It is the things kids of my generation dream about. These guys have such amazing careers. I know almost everything about them too. We could just sit here and talk about that. (laughs) It is an honor to be playing with some of the greatest musicians in rock history. I feel that I have worked hard to get here. I live this. This is what you try to achieve when you play hard rock!
MH- Freakshow have the talent and wheels to do something special. Do you see this project on a long-term scale?
Frankie- I would love to continue to work with Markus. I love the way he writes, his energy, his vocal styles and his friendship. Time will tell what we may do in the future. Now, don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy working with Jeff (La Bar) and have wanted to do so for a very long time, but I always bear in mind that he is a member of Cinderella as he should be, so it’s hard to say if his schedule and commitments would allow all of us to work together in the future. As to Tony, it’s a well known matter of record that he is entirely my favorite bass player to work with.
Markus- Thanks Frankie! Same goes for me. Playing and recording with Frankie has been wonderful. His style and musical advise has been most enjoyable. Frankie is a great friend. I feel that he guides me and protects me. That is gold. Like Frankie said if Jeff is available to do this down the road, let’s do it. Jeff is a great guy. Great player. Tony is bass guitar. If he plays again with Freakshow? I wouldn’t complain about it!
MH- I understand Tony won’t be able to tour with the band. Have you had any luck yet in narrowing down your choice for who will handle those mammoth shoes?
Frankie – It was always understood that Tony would be the bass player on the CD but not the touring bass player. I’ve worked with Tony on so many recordings that I can’t even count them and he’s the best. We wanted the best bass player for the FREAKSHOW material and we got the best. There are a number of very good bass players available to us and it’s just a matter of having a reason to reach out to any of them to see who would work best in a live performance situation without losing the essence of what Tony brought to the table.
Markus- Like Frankie said we knew the conditions of having Tony on the CD versus playing live. Tony was our obvious choice to get the best possible bass tracks for this Freakshow CD. As you heard, Tony kicked total ass on the record. When live shows occur we can address our short list of bass players.
MH- Speaking of touring, what are the current plans? Last I checked the website shows no booked date as of yet. Are you looking at hitting the clubs as headliners for intimate fan settings or picking up opening slots to hit and develop a wider audience?
Frankie- I will be very up front with you. There is no secret that there is barely a music industry that is active any longer, or at the very least, active as we once knew it. It is becoming increasingly impossible for bands to tour these days and make any sort of living doing it. This is especially true for new bands including FREAKSHOW. While I understand that there may be fans of FREAKSHOW either because they like the music we created or the musicians who recorded it or both, the reality is that it costs money to tour. There are few clubs that will pay enough money for a new band, too few routable dates and too high of expenses to really consider it because there is no rock radio to promote new bands. If you can’t hear the music on the radio, you won’t know if you like the band enough to spend money to see them. That is the reality. As far as getting an opening slot on a major tour, the fee for a new band that a promoter is willing to pay is very little these days and there are too many established bands vying for the same tours and dropping their fees due to the economy. And you can’t even use the argument that you will sell CD’s at shows because these days most of the CD’s are out on the Internet available for pirated downloads. That’s not to say that FREAKSHOW will not tour, but this is the reality at present.
Markus- I agree with Frankie. It is tough to go out even though we have fans everywhere. The right situation has to come our way. Believe that we want to play live. It would be real stupid to think we don’t wanna tour. Time will tell. Fans of Freakshow are growing. You never know what could happen.
MH- Classic hard rock and melodic metal got buried in an avalanche of grunge and rap in the 90?s. Freakshow’s sound harkens back to that era while simultaneously drawing on classic influences and weaving a modern twist as well. Markus grew up with it and Frankie, Tony and Jeff were part of that genre’s pinnacle success. Do you think we are finally cycling around musically to re-embrace that generation of music again?
Frankie- I don’t really think so because the music is not being given the opportunity to do so. As I already mentioned, there is no rock radio that plays new music to any degree, there are no major labels willing to sign new bands and certainly not willing to support the bands by giving advances. The independent labels over time have learned all the tricks that made bands dislike and distrust the major labels as well, so by and large all roads seem to lead to a clouded dead end.
Markus- No shit. It is really sad isn’t it? We have no choice but to be underground. I mean if Def Leppard took us out or Van Halen. Then we could get a break. But those slots are always taken. We have to do this on our own in a way. Hard rock like ours and the bands like ours take the back seat to almost everything in the industry. Thank God for the Freakshow fans we have and new fans that come.
MH- So many musicians who came out of that 80?s metal explosion are either reforming and hitting the touring circuit or putting “supergroup” projects together (Hagar and Satriani’s, Chickenfoot being a recent example). With the storied talent in Freakshow, do you see yourselves as a supergroup or simply just a great new rock band?
Frankie – I think that the title “supergroup” has been so over used for so long that it has very little value as a descriptive term. “Cream” were a supergroup, “Blind Faith” was a supergroup, ill fated, but a supergroup, The Jimi Hendrix Experience were a supergroup, and the defining supergroup of all supergroup’s was Led Zeppelin and all of these bands were a product of the late 60?s. While it is flattering for some who might say that FREAKSHOW is a supergroup, it’s an empty title. I prefer to think of FREAKSHOW as being a great band, with great songs of the genre, performed well by musicians who understand the music and vocally delivered by a great singer. Good enough for me.
MH- Markus, you’re a fantastic guitarist yourself, so how does it feel trading licks with a guitarist of Jeff’s caliber and experience?
Markus – Hey thanks dude. By the way, I’m alright at guitar. I’m not as good as Jeff or anything. But I can play. I loved being in the studio with Jeff doing guitar stuff. He was so easy going. It seemed as he was so held back in the studio most of his career. Together we brought out some timeless guitar tracks. I love what he did on the CD. I love what I did on the CD. Guitar tracks rip.
MH- You had many of these songs already together when you started this project. Did any develop during the recording process as a result of playing with these guys? Have you written any new material either yourself or with the guys for a sophomore CD, or have you not looked that far ahead yet?
Markus – I had four songs when I approached them. I wrote it as we talked about doing it. Frankie’s flight was booked and I still had ideas I was screwing with. When he came to record I just showed him what I had. He kinda knew what to do and then brought out some things I didn’t even imagine at the time. We did all the pre production together. Jeff came in 3rd. Tony was last to finish his track. I did all the rough bass tracks so we could have good rough mixes. I’m not a bad bass player by any means. (laughs) As far as new music. I have all kinds of stuff. But that is a ways away. I love singing and writing stuff that most won’t dare to try these days. I write Hard Rock!
MH – Why didn’t these songs simply become the next M!ss Crazy CD? Clearly you’ve taken yourself to the next level with this material. Did you feel that as the songs came out?
Markus – The next level is exactly what Freakshow is. M!SS CRAZY is a great band that I am so proud of. Everything that M!SS CRAZY stands for is me. That band was an outlet for me to express my feeling as a writer and performer. It got me noticed all over the world and gave me credibility amongst my hard Rock peers. The 2 CDs I did with Crazy are kick ass Rock that tells you what time it is. Freakshow has a different feel to it. It has the Crazy vibe because I am the singer/guitarist from M!SS CRAZY. This band is different because of the players, and the influence they have with who they are. We don’t need to remind anyone who played on this CD? I’ll say it now, I never was planing on this being the next M!SS CRAZY CD. Freakshow went to the next level. It’s not a bad thing! It’s fucking ripping!
MH- Can we expect a Freakshow video soon?
Frankie – To me personally it’s pointless to produce a quality video from a new band that might only get played on the band member’s individual Myspace and on YouTube. If it were fortunate enough to be shown on VH1, it might only get a handful of plays in the wee, wee hours of the morning. Why exert the time and energy for such little exposure and how can the expense be justified? Also, producing a “cheap” video can sometimes do more harm than good. Not being pessimistic, just being realistic.
Markus – No shit. Who’s gonna play it? I know what it is like to make cheap videos. Not good. Porn? Now that’s different. Just kidding… Just kidding. Wink.
MH – Frankie, what made you say hey this project could really be something special, I want to be a part of this?
Frankie – It is special! Freakshow is special to me. I think the single defining reason why I wanted to get involved was Markus’ songwriting abilities. He wrote great songs, was really easy to work with and let me do what I do behind the drums freely, and he play’s great guitar parts. Then there are the vocals, he really just did a fantastic job on the Freakshow vocals. I also appreciate that he knows enough to bring in a great engineer, Johnny Lima, to capture the sounds we were going after and producer Ronnie Borchert who intimately knew how to produce the music. Markus has been a good friend since I met him last summer. I would welcome the opportunity to continue working with him. Then of course, working with Jeff was a bonus and Tony, his bass playing, the icing on the freaky cake.
MH – Talk about the songs. Markus I know for you they are all your children so picking favorites is impossible. But are there any that really stand out for any of you? Which tracks do you really look forward to playing live?
Frankie – To me, all the tracks lend themselves to live performances, that really is a bonus and I would gladly play them all. If I really had to narrow it down, it would go something like this….. “WELCOME TO THE FREAKSHOW”, “EVERYONE”, “YOU WHO WINS”, “IT’S REALLY OVER”, “BURNING ME”, and then the rest of the CD in its entirety including “Mistaken”.
Markus – Frankie stole my answer!! (laughing) I want to play them all. They all are very important songs to me and I cannot wait to play these songs live. Geeeeeeez!!
MH – Speaking of playing songs live. For you guys it’s all about Freakshow, here and now. But fans are all encompassing of your career works. When we get a chance to see you live (and I pray that is sooner rather than later), can fans expect to hear an occasional encore that draws from the Cinderella, QR/WASP, M!ss Crazy days, or perhaps a classic cover song or two in the set, or will it be Freakshow material only?
Markus – Once again it depends. We will all look at each other and say how about this one or something. Everyone asks me if we will play QR or Cinderella songs or M!SS CRAZY stuff. I’ll do it all. I’ll sing it all. I don’t care. I just wanna be there. (laughing) “Bang Yer Head”!!!
Frankie – That really depends on the scenario. If you are talking a hypothetical club tour where set and performance time are not an issue, then I think we might all consider pulling a few things from the individual back catalogs to possibly include in the set. But that can be a double edge sword because you could have one faction that loved all the material, the Freakshow songs and the added “bonus” known material from our past, but then there is the potential for those who might hear the band live to only pay attention to the “known” songs and judge the band either good or bad for those songs and not by the Freakshow songs which would be unfortunate.
In a major tour scenario, time is at a premium and the Freakshow songs in my opinion should be the priority. Support acts get short sets and rarely the opportunity to do an encore. And again, while it would be fun to do some of the songs from our individual past, where does one draw the line or take the risk of being loved or hated for performing songs from the past that is being performed not by the original bands.
MH – Markus, who inspires you as a singer, a songwriter, and as a guitarist? What influences do you most hear in your songs?
Markus – Joe Elliott, Brian Johnson, Steve Whiteman. That kinda stuff. Led Leppelin, AC/DC, all the things rock is what I hear when I listen to Freakshow. I think the inspiration comes from all the things I have learned from the bands that made me like this. Those bands taught me the ropes. Showed me how to do it right. I can’t go back now.
MH – It seems every review of Freakshow, or article on the band mentions your chameleon vocal abilities Markus. Is that something you intentionally set out to achieve, or does the song just take your voice in a certain direction?
Markus – I just like to sing what the hell I want when it comes to a song. It all sounds like me anyways. I just borrow from the best when I do it. I mean we all learn from someone right? My influences are quite clear in what I do. That goes for writing songs and playing guitar too.
MH – Markus, you grew up with hearing the classic generation of hard rock (Sabbath, Zeppelin, KISS, Nugent, etc), while being raised during the commercial hair-metal era, and now you are playing/writing/performing in a new generation of music. If you were going on a road trip what five discs covering the emergence of the genre (late 60s/70?s) through today would you put in your CD changer?
Markus – AC/DC, Elvis, Beatles, Zeppelin, Britney Spears, Bee Gee’s, My hard rock stuff. I have to have my CDs and my shoes, so I have them.
MH- Aside from Freakshow, what artists are you listening to these days? Who would I find in your CD/MP3 players?
Frankie – Miles Davis, Wayne Shorter, Led Zeppelin, Tony Williams, FREAKSHOW, The Who, Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones, Herbie Hancock, Free, Allan Holdsworth, Mahavishnu Orchestra, etc.
Markus – New AC/DC, new Britney, Lady Gaga, Freakshow, Kelly Clarkson. I like girl singers.
MH – Britney? Seriously? And I was catching grief for listening to Saving Jane. I am redeemed. Thank you my friend. (laughing)
Markus – Damn right Britney! Great fucking CD she just did. I already play rock so….. I don’t really listen to new music much. I love the 80?s stuff. Girl singers kick ass. I like to try to sing along. I like ABBA too!!
>>> Pause for commercial break while Markus and I sing “Waterloo”…<<<
MH – As we’ve chatted there has been the recurring theme of the economy, technology and the obvious impact it has made on the musicians especially. If touring and videos are no longer fiscally practical for new bands, what will Freakshow do to get themselves noticed in a diffuse and challenging market?
Markus – Continue to PR our MySpace pages. The street teams that follow us and continue to spread the word on our avenues. I mean we have almost 100,000 people on our Freakshow MySpace page! That says a ton about Freakshow!
MH – What the hell happened to video television? MTV and VH1 have had to create special channels now just to show videos, and as you guys said, rock radio is in a coma. Are you surprised at the impact social networking sites have had on music?
Markus – Dude, It sucks man! What can you do? I’ll never sell records like The Jonas Brothers and Demi Lavato! What the fuck? Really! What the fuck?
MH – What do you guys think of the current state of the music industry?
Frankie – What music industry are you referring to…….?
Markus – Is that State next to Washington D.C. ???
MH – There has been a dearth of recent tragedy in the entertainment industry of late including of course Michael Jackson’s untimely death. If any of you care to share, how are you feeling about his passing? Does it surprise either of you that everyone has been so gracious and supportive of his image despite the pedophile scandal that’s plagued him for years?
Frankie – It is not my place to judge him for any allegations may they be true or false. I think he was a great songwriter, singer, performer and entertainer and I keep the creative side separate from the personal and often very public side. I think Michael Jackson was both very fortunate and very tragic on many levels. May he rest in peace regardless of who he was or wasn’t, what he did or didn’t do.
Markus – Frankie nailed it about Michael. It is sad when these things happen. It must have been the same when Elvis died only different. Who knows what the truth is. It is time to move on. Life is precious. Michael was an amazing talent.
MH – And of course we lost Farrah Fawcett, the world’s most popular Charlie’s Angel as well. So for fun, who was your favorite Angel? And Markus, the new Angels count too. =) I was always a Kate Jackson fan myself.
Frankie – May the beautiful Farrah Fawcett rest in peace. She also brought a great deal of joy to many and fought the hard fight with so much strength and grace. May she too rest in peace.
My favorite “Angel” might just be Bosley…
Markus – Hahahahaha Bosley!! I liked Farrah! I met her one time. I also liked Tanya Roberts!! Hot! The new Angels I liked Cameron (Diaz) and Lucy Liu!! Ummmm, I met them too. (laughs)
MH – Markus you mentioned Elvis a moment ago. I was actually at the Cow Palace in San Francisco (Daly City to be exact) watching KISS the night of Elvis’ death. Cheap Trick opened. Two very theatrical live bands (albeit in different ways). Markus you are also a very theatrical presence on stage and in your persona. Do you draw some of that influence from Alice Cooper and KISS, etc?
Markus – You saw KISS then dude! How much do you rock!!? I love KISS and Alice Cooper. I studied everything KISS. I love The Crow too. I put it all together with my trip as Markus! It’s fun. I like being the one with make-up. It brings out that total rocker in me. Totally.
MH – I could ask questions all day long and inevitably miss the one you’d most like asked and allows you to talk directly to the readers, so what would you most like the readers and fans to know about Freakshow?
Frankie – Have a taste of Freakshow, you just might like it…
Markus – If you don’t have the Freakshow CD!! Get it! iTunes has it and so does Retrospect Records!! Come visit us on our MySpace page www.myspace.com/freakshowrox and let us know you’re alive!! We love all of you Freakshow Rockers!!
MH- Guys, thanks again for taking time to bring the Freakshow to the Metalholic.co readers. The CD kicks major ass and here’s hoping David Coverdale gets laryngitis and Judas Priest must call you in to finish the tour.