Without wishing to go too deeply into details, I have a long association with UK hardcore heroes Freebase. We’ll hear about fragments of that association as this piece develops, but for now I’m just happy to be conversing with Freebase frontman Mark Fieldhouse for the first time in over a decade. After the requisite amount of getting back to know one another (about half an hours worth, on the affable throatsmith’s dime, thank goodness) it’s time to get on with the task in hand – the Freebase reformation. What’s the go, old matey? What happened to break things up the first time around, and why reform now? “Things really ground to a halt in 2003 after the release of our second album. I’d had enough of the band really, I just needed a break. I never really got out of music, I still went to loads of gigs, still drank with the same people I had when I was in the band, but I had a lot of personal upheavals during that time, as well as becoming a dad, which was great, and the time just sort of flew by.”
So what was it that finally decided you to get back into things? “The time was just right. I sorted out all the personal shit, and one or two people had been asking me about it, not music people but friends, and I think really I’d been thinking about it myself. So then I happened to ask (Download Festival head honcho/promoter/talent booker) Andy Copping whether a reformed Freebase would be able to get a slot at Download 2012. He said he’d be able to swing it. So that really called my bluff! Then I had to get a band together!”
And what about the lineup? Did you know who you wanted or were you happy to cast around until you came up with some suitable musicians? “I knew that this time around I didn’t want anyone wishy-washy.”
To my eyes as a semi non-com the whole operation seems to have stepped up a notch this time around – I don’t know whether professional is the right word, but things seem to be being done ‘properly’ this time around. “That’s why I rang Ian Glasper. He’d been in Stampin’ Ground (a truly magnificent UKHC outfit that you must check out if you don’t already know them). He knows what’s what. When I said we had an offer to play Download it took him about twenty seconds to agree to do it. He then ‘shall I ask Ade (Stokes, Glasper’s rhythm partner in SG)? I had a few drummers in mind but obviously this was a great idea ‘cos they’re a partnership.”
What about guitarists? “Well, Ryan I knew obviously from his band Assert who we played loads with in the old days.”
And longtime Freebase guitarist Nick? “Obviously I wanted him in the band, but we hadn’t spoken for years and after the acrimonious split I wasn’t sure, but those friends I was talking about earlier helped build some bridges. He was obviously unsure because of what had happened, but I just said we had to put it behind us and take this opportunity to start again.”
It all seems to be going well so far – a Download appearance, a plum support with thrash darlings du jour Municipal Waste. Everything seems to be going swimmingly. Are you happy with everything so far? “Of course. I felt the first album we recorded (2000’s Nothing to Regret, produced by Andy Sneap) was OK, but there were elements I wasn’t happy with-“
I have to interrupt here. That album has got a photograph of me in the CD booklet. Surely that isn’t one of those elements? “It may be. But whatever, I thought My Life My Rules (2003, produced by Tue Madsen) was really good, and it’s kind of like we’ve got unfinished business to continue the good work we started with that album, you know?”
Sounds good. So what form has this ‘unfinished business’ taken? Tell us a bit about the new recordings, and what other plans you’ve got for the near future… Mr F takes a deep breath, then he’s off - “OK, the new recordings are a new EP titled From The Basement; it was Ade's idea about how we were all doing something honest and it was coming from our souls and hearts after 15 years each of being in bands (Freebase / Stampin Ground and Assert) and touring a lot, and having record deals and basically doing our time putting in the effort, and re-trying after 10 years! We have all known each other for 15 years and the collaboration felt right to get together and play Download Festival and some more shows ... and also write a few new songs. A very good friend Miles Hackett (who used to run Deck Cheese Records) was starting a new vinyl-only label and asked if we'd be interested... well realizing we are not rock stars I thought it was good for Freebase and good for him. In the 20 years or more that I have been involved in the record industry I have made some good friends, and Miles I trust like a brother. The label Dry Heave Records was founded and we just issued a 5 song EP available on blue splatter vinyl (and beer vinyl with blood and piss splatters only available from the band and at gigs). It features 2 new songs Scars (Cut From Your Lies) and Welcome To Hell and 3 re-recordings from the debut CD Nothing To Regret which is out of print now... but mainly we redid those songs because I was never happy with my vocal delivery on the CD or the way the end product was produced!”
So what lyrical ground are you covering with the new material? “We’re keeping the real subject topics and issues in focus. Scars... is a very personal set of lyrics about parental alienation and false allegations, things which cause massive problem for fathers here in the UK. It’s a subject very close to me, as after my divorce I was accused of being a paedophile and was in court, being banned from seeing my daughter for months, whilst an 'investigation' was undertaken. My daughter had to face vigorous in depth interviews (at 6 years of age... taking her innocence) and proving my innocence and the maliciousness behind the allegations. Welcome To Hell is how the world is so fucked up today, and how we live in this throw away culture taking everything for granted and focusing on the wrong things. Ian, myself and Nick wrote these lyrics. We re-recorded Respect, Run Me Down and Sympathy Vote simply because Respect was always in the live set and well known, and I wanted to do Sympathy Vote because it's a fuck you attitude song with a great chorus, and Run Me Down was Nick and Ian's suggestion. Given more time we may have written another newie ” ...
Does the EP only come out on vinyl? “The EP does actually have a free digital download link with it, to please the techno people of today”.
And I hear your early demos are getting a dusting off too? “The demos are being released by Irish label Underground Movement. Again a true friend Ian Lawless, who I have known since the mid/late 90s, runs this label. This release features our first demo tape from 1996 and the second from 1997 (both of which sold in the hundreds at the time) and also the 3rd demo we did with (then unknown producer) Russ Russell, who’s now a firmly established producer. The 3rd demo was never released, but it was the tape that got us great interest and got us signed, having offers from 5 labels at the time! It features 16 tracks and is a great closure to the first part of Freebase. it features all old photos only.... and new liner notes from both me and Nick. Both are available our website or our facebook page.”
And the rest of 2012? “The rest of the year... well festivals... We play in England in July with Municipal Waste and another gig in August, Wales and Ireland in September. The rest of the UK will see us in October / November. We’ll also be in Europe in November with our good friends Hard Resistance and somewhere in between we are planning dates in Malta. We are just trying to make this time special, not play all the time, as we have families and kids now, but try and make it a special occasion for all.”
Ah, Hard Resistance, now there’s a name that conjours up a few memories in the ol’ Adams Noggin – but space is tight and that’s a story for another day, eh Mark? Anyways, enough of the reverie – suffice to say Freebase are a top band well worthy of your attention, wherever you live on this blighted planet of ours – you know what to do… go to it!