Josh Freese’s extreme marketing for ‘Since 1972’

SMILING AMID TIERS: Freese dreamed up the marketing plan for "Since 1972," on which he also did by far the biggest share of the creative work, providing engaging vocals.
SMILING AMID TIERS: Freese dreamed up the marketing plan for “Since 1972,” on which he also did by far the biggest share of the creative work, providing engaging vocals.
(Ken Hively / Los Angeles Times)

Drummer Josh Freese has spent a fair amount of time in high-flying circles as a member of Nine Inch Nails, Guns N’ Roses, the Replacements, a Perfect Circle, the Vandals and Devo. So when it came time to release his new solo album, “Since 1972,” he figured it couldn’t hurt to aim high, without ignoring the average punk or alt-rock enthusiast who might want to check it out.

Freese created a tiered program in which the more buyers pay for the 11-song collection, the more they get for their money. For $7, fans can download the album from his website, but for anyone with a spare $75,000 kicking around, Freese has assembled a package that leaves the word “premium,” well, cold.

Josh Freese: The headline on a Friday Calendar article about drummer Josh Freese’s marketing gambit called him John Freese —

For that princely sum, the Buddy Rich of alternative music promises that he will:

* Write and record a five-song EP about the buyer’s life.

* Join the buyer’s band (if he or she has one) and go on tour.

* Take the buyer to a flying trapeze lesson with his former NIN cohort guitarist Robin Finck.

* Send the purchaser home with one (but only one) of his own drum kits.

And he’ll throw in a T-shirt.

“It’s gotten a lot of attention, which is good,” said Freese, 36, between bites of a Cobb salad at a cafe in Long Beach Airport recently. “I’m not expecting that anyone will really buy the most expensive packages, but if they do, I’m up for all of it. It’s not like I’m gonna go, ‘Oh, dude, it was just a joke.’ ”


Freese dreamed up the extreme marketing plan himself, crafting other packages that run from $15 to $20,000, and he was invited to talk up the promotional scheme last week during an extended segment with KROQ-FM’s (106.7) morning team Kevin and Bean.

It was valuable airtime for the musician, who recently played with Devo at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas -- the band is readying its first studio album in nearly 20 years -- and then jumped right into sessions for a solo effort with another former GNR member, guitarist Slash.

“My girlfriend and I joke that we’re scared for different reasons,” he said. “I’m nervous that no one’s going to care and no one’s going to buy any of them; she’s nervous that I’ll have to eat at P.F. Chang’s three weeks in a row with weird super friends.”

Freese wrote and plays about 99% of the music on “Since 1972,” with a little help on the occasional guitar part from such pals as Pearl Jam’s Stone Gossard and the Vandals’ Warren Fitzgerald. As a songwriter, he shows an affinity for muscular alt- and hard-rock grooves laced with crisp guitar hooks under his engaging, chipper vocals.

There’s a bit of Paul Westerberg’s lovable loser in “Blood on Your Knuckles,” a hint of Vandals’ silliness in “I Wanna Cheat on My Girlfriend,” and a taste of the bona fide wistfulness that often accompanies age and responsibility in “2002.”

He concedes that his unusual pricing strategy is elevating the kinds of grass-roots marketing ploys many musicians have adopted in recent years to an entertainingly absurd level.


“People are doing things right now similar to this but on a more serious note,” he said. “So why not go crazy with it, where I’m giving people foot massages, taking them to Disneyland and letting them take items out of my closet?”

The closet raid kicks in at $2,500. For a more modest investment of $15, buyers get a physical CD and DVD.

It’s the trade-off he’s willing to make to get the word out about “Since 1972,” and to keep his music career moving along while he resets his priorities to focus on the 8- and 2 1/2 - year-old sons and 2 1/2 -month-old daughter he’s raising with his girlfriend.

To that end, Freese recently quit the post he’s held since 2005 as the drummer for Nine Inch Nails. “I already miss being in Nine Inch Nails,” he said. “But every time I mention it, my girlfriend reminds me that I’d be much more bummed if I were calling her from the road while I was on tour in Singapore and missing my family. And she’s right.”

Scaling back the amount of time he’s away from home also allowed him to finish songs that had been in various stages of completion since his 2000 debut solo album, “The Notorious One Man Orgy,” for which he also handled virtually all the parts.

As for the rollout of the new material, it’s an extreme example of the entrepreneurial spirit that’s flowering in the midst of the record industry’s economic woes.

“I’m smart enough to know that it’s pretty ridiculous to think anyone’s going to buy the most expensive ones, but at the same time I would love nothing more than to get to deliver on them,” he said, flashing a still-boyish smile. “Realistically, I’m not nearly famous enough to where it’d become a problem. Trent [Reznor of Nine Inch Nails] couldn’t do it; the Chili Peppers couldn’t do it -- they’d have to make 7,000 phone calls the first day.”