Conducted at the Haunt club, in Ithaca, NY, Sunday October 20, 2008. Preset were band members Sean Drinkwater and Liz Enthusiasm. In absentia was Freezepop member Kasson Crooker, aka The Duke of Pannekoeken.
Chain D.L.K.: Why did you decide to play The Haunt?
Freezepop: We had been trying to book something in Upstate New York for awhile but we hadn’t had any success doing that, but now we’re working with this other booking agent who has been working with a promoter here and we were able to add it as one last stop on the tour.
Chain D.L.K.: Well, I’m glad you guys came. We don’t get a lot in the way of this kind of music here. It’s no secret that your association with video games (Guitar Hero, Rock Band, Dance Dance Revolution) have broadened your audience. In what ways do you think it’s helped you, and in what ways hindered you?
Freezepop: Well, in the obvious ways it’s helped us is that so many people that would have heard of you otherwise now know of us. Before the games, you would have had to have been into the electronic music scene or sought us out to have known about us. The first video games (our music was in) Frequency and Amplitude were more niche markets for hardcore gamers. Then with Guitar Hero, it just kind of blew up because everybody plays that. It’s been great exposure; especially since the first seven years we’ve been in existence it’s been just kind of DIY for us. It’s been a way of getting our music out there without being on a label. In ways that it’s hindered us- um, I don’t think it’s hindered us that much; maybe it’s harder to have “cred”, people saying, “Oh, they’re just a video game band”, or seen as just a gimmick, but I don’t really see that because our music sort of sounds video-gamey anyway. It’s happy pop music.
Chain D.L.K.: There’s a certain replayabilty with video games, so people are hearing your songs over and over again, like Top 40 radio overkill….
Freezepop: Yeah, and our songs tend to be the really hard ones to play, so (in the games) you’re forced to do it over and over again to beat it…
Chain D.L.K.: Do you think that really works to your benefit?
Freezepop: Our music is generally pretty catchy anyway, so it all kind of works.
Chain D.L.K.: For a band that claims not to be full-time (you all have day-gigs) you guys have done a lot of touring.
Freezepop: Moreso in this past year, year and a half to support the new album. The big difference now is that we have a booking agent whereas in the past I was doing all of our booking and I’m not really that good at it. To put together a tour was just this huge effort. Because we didn’t’ have the connections…
Chain D.L.K.: Well, for not having the connections, you guys still managed to play Europe…
Freezepop: Well in Europe, it was like, where we had friends in bands who could hook us up with shows..
Chain D.L.K.: Ah, networking.
Freezepop: Yeah, networking. People over there, in setting up the tours are just so much more helpful. Here, if you’re representing yourself and trying to talk to club management, they’re just not interested. You need some sort of go-between person. Over there, it could be like some weird webzine in Sweden gave us a review, so I’d write to the reviewer and say, “hey, we want to come over there, can you recommend any clubs or promoters we should contact?” and they would give me tons of names of people and that’s how I put our tours together.
Chain D.L.K.: Is it expensive for you to tour internationally?
Freezepop: Yeah, we never broke even on our tours over there. We looked at it as a subsidized vacation. We really want to get back over there, but now with the economy, and gas prices and everything just twice as bad…
Chain D.L.K.: Is that affecting your ability to return there?
Freezepop: Well, our booking agent is investigating the possibility of returning (to Europe) without losing tons of money, so we may have to wait a little bit longer.
Chain D.L.K.: When I had read that you played Istanbul, it blew my mind.
Freezepop: That was crazy!
Chain D.L.K.: I’ve been to Istanbul, and it’s a weird city when you’re used to Western culture.
Freezepop: Yeah, it was a strange thing… I do all of our mail order and I’ve never sent a single CD to Turkey. And then a couple years ago two different promoters emailed me within a month of each other and said, “We want to bring you to Turkey.” And I was like, “okay, do you guys know each other, are you working together?” And they were like “Oh, no no no…” so the guy who brought us over, his uncle owns this huge booking agency, and he’s branching out on his own, doing a lot of indie synthpop things, 80’s tribute nights and things like that. I had no idea what to expect when we went over there.
Chain D.L.K.: Did you get good audience response?
Freezepop: YEEAAAH! A lot of it was just sort of the novelty of an American band playing. We played two shows in Istanbul and Ankara. The Istanbul show was about 500-600 people. I’m sure a lot of it was the curiosity factor. Ankara was smaller but it’s a smaller city. We were actually surprised that a lot of people knew the music. What we discovered is that people over there just bootleg and copy CDs (unlike here where it’s looked down on) and it’s completely accepted. Taxes on CDs over there are just so high that buying one could cost as much as 30 bucks. It’s just sort of a different mindset. They (Turkish promoters) pay to bring you over because most (American) bands don’t put Turkey on their touring itinerary.
Chain D.L.K.: Did you get to do any sightseeing in Turkey?
Chain D.L.K.: No??? What the…
Freezepop: Well, we flew out of Boston on a Thursday night, we got there (Istanbul) on Friday afternoon, played the show Friday night, went to bed, woke up the next morning, drove to Ankara, did the show, drove overnight and flew out on Sunday morning.
Chain D.L.K.: Wow! You missed some great sights.
Freezepop: I know. It was torturous. The promoter made all our travel arrangements. It was frustrating. I really wish had gotten to see more of the city. We went to Dunkin Donuts in Istanbul.
Chain D.L.K.: Small clubs vs. larger (festival) venues, which do you prefer playing?
Freezepop: We do festivals and conventions so rarely that it’s still kind of a novel thing.
Chain D.L.K.: Wasn’t PAX a pretty large event?
Freezepop: PAX was huge. PAX was the biggest show we ever played.
Chain D.L.K.: How many people were there?
Freezepop: This year, I heard estimate that the audience was somewhere between five to eight thousand.
Chain D.L.K.: What about The Totally Normal Event in New Jersey.
Freezepop: Well, that wasn’t really that huge- maybe five to sex hundred people, but there was definitely an interesting mix audience-wise. The crowd was all over the map, some Sci-Fi people, Anime people, Goth people, and S&M people…
Chain D.L.K.: What equipment/instruments are you currently using onstage?
Freezepop: Almost nothing. (Laughter) Well, we have two drum units with trigger pads; two remote keytars hooked up to two small Korg synths (microkorg & korg R-3), which we also do vocoding through… that’s about it.
Chain D.L.K.: So how much is sequenced/pre-recorded?
Chain D.L.K.: (with raised eyebrow): None???
Freezepop: Well that’s a lie. On some songs, a ton of stuff, on others not so much. We’re pretty busy onstage… there are a few songs where I can walk around and not do a whole lot. We’re generally pretty busy onstage.
Chain D.L.K.: What gear do you use in the studio?
Freezepop: I’d nearly have to take that on a song-by-song basis. For the first two records we mostly just used this little Yamaha QY-70. For the new album (Future Future Future Perfect) we decided not to use much QY-70. We actually have two different studios (Sean and Duke). We’re both running Digital Performer and Logic, he (Duke) uses Reason a lot, I don’t. We both have Moog Voyagers. He has an Alessis Andromeda; I have a Dave Smith Prophet 8.
Chain D.L.K.: So do you lean more to hardware synths than soft synths?
Freezepop: Yeah, no…I like the synth sounds in Logic. Well, I mean, yeah… when it comes to putting down real tracks I tend to gravitate more towards the hardware because I do have access to a lot of good analog stuff. I have a Roland Juno 2 that’s my favorite bass synth; it gets used in almost every song… SH101…we used a lot of Linn drum on this (the new album) and Roland Space Echo, more hardware type drum sounds…we even used a little of the old QY on some songs. But we did try to make it sonically a little closer to what our “tastes” would be…a little darker and a little heavier…the songs are still humorous and ironic, or whatever, but sonically, we just wanted it to be a little… bigger.
Chain D.L.K.: Do you do your own mastering? Do you use Pro Tools?
Freezepop: No, not really. I’m kinda anti-Digidesign… I don’t know what Kasson’s (“The Duke”) reason for not using it is. I do have a lot of hardware that could be considered mastering quality stuff, but not of the caliber of the people we get to master our stuff. We wouldn’t leave that up to us. We do all the mixing ourselves… so far, although we’ve been talking about doing the next album at a different studio.
Chain D.L.K.: So do you think you might work with an outside producer?
Freezepop: Totally up in the air… maybe… We’re going to get Giorgio Moroder.
Chain D.L.K.: Really???
Freezepop: (laughs) We’ve had a lot of talks about people to bring in at this point…
Chain D.L.K.: Ideally, who would you really like to work with, if you could work with anybody you chose to?
Freezepop: Um… Vince Clark. That would be fun. Maybe Kraftwerk.
Chain D.L.K.: Kraftwerk might be an interesting but weird ordeal.
Freezepop: …Ian Stanley? …Flood? …I doubt Flood would be right for Freezepop…maybe Goldfrapp’s producers…maybe the Ladytron guys…Alan Wilder from Depeche Mode… if he’s not busy I’d love to work with him.
Chain D.L.K.: On another subject, how do the members of Freezepop like to spend their leisure time on tour?
Freezepop: We tour a lot with Alex (Boy in Static), we pretty much just make fun of him. This tour honestly, we’ve had no time. If we’re lucky we just get a little time to chill out at the hotel. It’s been kind of non-stop. We had a day off where we got to visit some friends in North Carolina. Yeah, if we have time it’s nice to look around and maybe go shopping but not this time around really.
Chain D.L.K.: Does your set list change from gig to gig?
Freezepop: It does. There are certainly some songs that we have to play at every show…all the video game ones are a must but we do try and vary up the sets.
Chain D.L.K.: How would you describe the typical Freezepop fan?
Freezepop: It’s really all over the map. There are a lot of video-gaming type people; a lot of sciencey type people.
Chain D.L.K.: So obviously your audience leans more towards nerds than indie rockers or trendy clubbers.
Freezepop: Well yeah, they obviously pick up on the fact that we’re kind of nerds ourselves. It used to be more of a split between indie rock kids and video game nerds, but since the games have gotten bigger, it’s definitely leaned the other way.
Chain D.L.K.: Do you play to that or doesn’t it really matter?
Freezepop: Well, to an extent…we try to include at least 3 to 4 gamer songs a night in our sets. There’s not a night we don’t play the song from Guitar Hero 2 (“Less Talk More Rokk”)..and we also happen to really like the song, so that’s an easy one to choose. But I wouldn’t say we pander to the (gamer) media.
Chain D.L.K.: How important is image to the band? Do you try and cultivate a certain image?
Freezepop: We’ve always been very conscious of it. But I wouldn’t say we’re cultivating a particular image. It just kind of comes naturally to us. It’s been a pretty organic process. We’re just generally snappy dressers. Our image has kind of evolved over time with the music. At first we were just kind of goofy looking, and as the music has kind of expanded, so has our visual style.
Chain D.L.K.: Your influences and musical likes (Depeche Mode, Human League, Duran Duran, Goldfrapp, etc.) have been well documented elsewhere. What music is currently in rotation NOW in the Freezepop CD player or iPod?
Freezepop: Scott Walker..Genesis (middle period)… some new bands… a wide variety of music really.
Chain D.L.K.: How do you guys feel about the current political/economical climate?
Freezepop: Kind of scared. We don’t generally get into politics too much as a band. At the moment, the band is leaning very, very liberal, where five years ago maybe that wasn’t the case.
Chain D.L.K.: So I assume you plan to vote?
Freezepop: Oh yeah. But we’re from (very liberal) Massachusetts, so it’s not like it’s going to make that much of a difference.
Chain D.L.K.: Do you always want to keep your home base in Boston, or have you considered relocating, maybe with the next level of success you achieve? Is there somewhere you’d rather be?
Freezepop: It’s funny; we’ve been kind of tossing the (relocation) idea around for awhile…we never quite get there though. I think a part of it is there’s never one city that seems the obvious place for us to go. There are a lot of places we’re 75% on, but there are always a few really big drawbacks. So, I don’t know, we’re still kind of undecided.
Chain D.L.K.: What’s in the future for Freezepop; next album, etc.?
Freezepop: Started writing a couple lyrics and some musical sketches, but we haven’ really formulated anything concrete. Can’t even begin to tell you how it would sound. It’s a mystery to us at this point. Considered doing something really dancey; Kasson (Duke) might want to do something like Broadcast…it’s hard to say really.
Chain D.L.K.: Your music is very 80’s influenced. Do you ever wish you could go back to the 80’s and have been doing things back then?
Freezepop: I’d like to go back to the 80’s and do the Go-Gos.
Chain D.L.K.: Any one in particular?
Freezepop: No. Obviously Jane and Belinda were the prettiest, but it would have just been fun to hang out with them and see what stupid things might happen.
Chain D.L.K.: Well, as far as stupid things go, in their heyday, they were pretty druggy.
Freezepop: That’s okay. It would still be fun to watch.
Chain D.L.K.: Does Freezepop have any vices or addictions?
Freezepop: Star Wars figures. Thrift shopping, shopping in general. Our dog. We spend a lot of money on him. We even have Freezepop doggy shirts. They’re pretty cute.
Chain D.L.K.: Do you still hand out freezepops at your shows?
Freezepop: Not so much… they’re difficult to keep frozen on tour.
Chain D.L.K.: Too bad. I was going to ask you to put me down for a blueberry.
Visit Freezepop on the web at:
[interviewed by Steve Mecca] [proofreading by Steve Mecca]