Interview with George Foxman from Free Bears

Interview with George Foxman from Free Bears

by Christian Lamitschka for Country Music News International Magazine & Radio Show

Lamitschka:  Music has many new fans throughout Europe who may be hearing about you for the first time. How would you describe yourself and the music you play to someone who has never seen or heard you?

Free Bears:  This is a very funny question as we use to ask all the people listening to us how they would name this whole thing. “It´s very special”…”plenty of rock n roll in this country music”….”plenty of countrymusic in this rock n roll”….simply it´s bearmerican music as all those influences found their way into our art. Folkmusic, Countrymusic, Rock n Roll, Rock….but originally our attitude is combining Countrymusic and Rock n Roll…..

Lamitschka:  How did you choose the title for the CD?  Is there a story behind the name?

Free Bears:  Our recent release is titled “Canyons & Goodbyes” as there is a very close connection to the songs of the album. “Canyon Minds” and “Hendersons Goodbye” are responsible for taking this title. We use to record this whole thing in a live situation in the studio because we wanted to capture the moment of the song and our minds. Only the choirs needed a little attention and we used the technical hardware during recording to make it remarkable. And of course the lyrics are NOT kind of stepchilds – they are essential – whether it´s a serious theme or a “party” theme….they have to fit.

Lamitschka:  Do you write the songs yourself? If not, how do you go about finding the songs for your CD?

Free Bears:  All of the album tracks are written by George Foxman (me) and have been arranged by the whole band. The recordings took part during a whole year, because we wanted to try out new songs while playing them to a audience and kept an eye on the reaction. Sometimes you´ll find out that you have written a real good song for an album but it´s doesn´t kick ass in a concert. Or in the opposite a song is a real live tune but there ain´t any kind of magic found in it in a recording situation.

Lamitschka:  Please tell us about the songs on your album (influences, etc).

Free Bears:  Influences are quartered. That means each one of us 4 guys put´s himself into it. Surely there´s a lot of Steve Earle, BR549, Hank Williams, Gary Allan,  Dan Baird…and all the other stuff. It´s seems to be unbelievable but there are phrases or licks and lines which are adopted from bands like Queensryche or Motörhead (good luck in searching those licks!). Musically it´s close to pure Honky Tonk Stuff (“Honkyfied”), straight country stuff (“Lucy”), irish folk (“Say what you mean”), Americana (“Canyon Minds”), simply rock (“Lookin back”)…..a wild melange of what we are and of what it´s all about

Lamitschka:  Your current single is being played by radio. What do you feel is special about this song that makes people want to hear it?

Free Bears:  That depends on the track. Especially one of our favourites to be played might be “Say what you mean” which is lyrically vey political and musically a counterpart – it´s very funny and danceable. So people are forced to decide. We like to play this little games because we think that music has not only to be entertaining it also can carry a message without pointing with a finger on problems directly. So when people catch the rhythm , the groove and the melody of the song it´ll take a little time until the message comes through. And maybe they ask whether it´s allowed to put such a serious theme into such a lovely and sweet and easy tune. Yes – it´s allowed! It´s a must…besides touching the dancing bone it´s important to touch the heart and the soul of the people.

Lamitschka:  What is your favorite song among all the songs you have recorded and what’s the story behind it?

Free Bears:  This is a very personal question – as each one of us has it´s personal favourites. To me there are two songs with a special history. No. 1 is “Shores of the rhine” which is one of my oldest and first songs I wrote for this band. One day I recalled my youth and how many good days and nights I spent down at the Rhine (river), hanging around with friends, B-B-Q, camping, singing, swimming….unforgettable summer days. So each time I sing this song there is immediately a picture and the mood of those days in my mind. No. 2 is “Lone Trail”…which is a poem by one of my favourite writers – Robert Service – the real big man of the north and wilderness. Most people know Jack London – but Service was the real guy….his poems and ballads are wonderful , deep and true because he knew all those people he wrote about . And even “Lone Trail” is musically very close to what my heart is beating to. The words of the song allow a view on a man and his world and whichever way he choses – it might be right or wrong, there´s always a risk, a danger but as well there might be a reward or good things to come.

Lamitschka:  How much creative control do you have over your music?

Free Bears:  As we produce all of our records by ourself we have complete control on every step. Sometimes people tell us what they like or what might be not so good and we feel free to talk about it and then we can decide to put on a change or not. But in this band most of the things are in a loop of discussion and sometimes it´s hard to find an end or a decision.

Lamitschka:  Do you have any interesting stories about how fans have been affected by your music?

Free Bears:  Oh …as we are doing this now for over 15 years there are a lot of stories happenend out on the road. Most of them are good, some of them are bad. Playing once in the south of Germany we asked a guy to take our camera and make some nice pictures of us while playing….but all that we found were girls asses and tits. He used to catch all those beautiful girls ….. we love those pics. In the last two years we played a lot of Open Air gigs….and sometimes, during playing “The rain came down” by Steve Earle it began to rain or there happened a thunderstorm and we had to quit the gig and leave stage in a hurry.  One time we played in a very very very small venue when a bunch of eastern European folks came in and started to party….they really started stagediving…but not from our stage…they jumped from the first level…from the gallery…..weird! After recording “Shores….” we presented it to an A&R guy…and his secretary stood by the window watching the rain and started to cry… really touched her soul…

Lamitschka:  Who inspires you musically and how deep do your musical roots run?

Free Bears:  My influences are very wide spread. It´s a range from classical music (Bruch, Stamitz, Mahler, Bach), Rock (Toto, Saga, Social Distortion, Annihilator), Country (BR549, Roger Miller, Brad Paisley, Kevin Welch), Soul (Isaac Hayes), Rock n Roll (Brian Setzer, Chuck Berry, Danny Gatton)….etc…..they all find their ways into my mind and songwriting. Although I never would copy 1:1 in my own songs, playing cover tunes is a kind of eternal learning situation and while learning other guys songs you´ll find out how they wrote songs or from whom they learned….it´s like a red line continuing

Lamitschka:  What do you think about today’s music scene versus its post and where do you see it going in the future?

Free Bears:  Oh today´s scene is very alive and has so many colours. It changes every week – but to be honest , there happens nothing new. This doesn´t mean that musicians or artist are bad – but there seems to be a lack of risk in the scene – especially in the country and rock n roll scene. And of course the economical circumstances between club owners, artists, GEMA etc. doesn´t make it easier. I would appreciate if people would start again to respect the worth and idea of real live performances. There´s so much more magic in it that listening to records (which is great at home or in a disco indeed!!!)….people have to learn again about the magic in the interaction between artists and themselves. I mean – you can dance, you can sing, you can only watch…..

Lamitschka:  If you had the chance to change something about the music industry, what would it be?

Free Bears:  Oh that´s quite easy. Bring back LP Covers….CD´s are too small….prohibit mp3´s! They sound horrible.

Lamitschka:  As an artist, you so many tasks such as recording, touring, interviews. What do you like best, what’s your favorite activity?

Free Bears:  Playing live and traveling throughout the country and find out what a wonderful world this is!!!!

Lamitschka:  Are you doing anything to take music beyond its current borders or are you happy where it is?

Free Bears:  This would implicate that there are borders. And borders are always made by men. We are already crossing borders and styles, mix them and try to find out whether people can find a way into it. That doesn´t depend on us….as soon as a note left our amps people are responsible for what they are doing with it. Most of the times listeners will catch our waves. Sometimes – even if people are “hardliners” – there is an inner blockage which makes it impossible to match.

Lamitschka:  What inspired you to become an artist?

Free Bears:  Girls of course. The guys with the guitar got the attention!!!!!..and of course my granny´s home which was fulfilled with instruments….but I guess she didn´t see the rock n roll in my stringwork

Lamitschka:  What drives you?

Free Bears:  Personally and musically my engine is pacifism and peacefulness. I am trying to be like I think a good guy should be. Like I said – I am trying….it doesn´t always fit, I know. So I ´ll try to connect the difference between entertainment and message. There´s a time to party and there´s a time to listen. I wish people in our concerts would be more patience sometimes and just listen to the songs or words. But on the other way it looks great to see ´em dancing.

Lamitschka:  What’s unique about you that will differentiate you from other artists?

Free Bears:  The difference between us and most of the other artists is that we try to spread our legs between young and not so young people. Luckily the people of our age grew up with rockmusic and rock n roll…so it´s a harder job to reach the kiddies.

Lamitschka:  Who is your biggest critic, yourself or others?

Free Bears:  I am always my greatest critic and I am never satisfied with a result of a recording…as soon as it´s burned you´ll find 10.000 points of critic instead of being proud being so privileged. It´s like a writer working on a book and when it´s printed he thinks that there are thousands of words which could fit better…..but our fans and friends are important, too. They can easily feel when there´s a lack of  harmony in the band….which shouldn´t take place on stage, but sometimes it does – and really everybody  can feel it.

Lamitschka:  When you get time off, how do you like to relax?

Free Bears:  Well…I like to hike…doing long distance trails, discover unknown cities and historical places, reading books, playing guitar….visiting concerts of all kind (at present I am very much into church organ)…..or just fooling around….that´s great!

Lamitschka:  What hopes and desires do you have?

Free Bears:  It would be great if people would love each other. All they need (except for being sick) is to be more empathic for each other. We should destroy all watches – because this little thing makes life a minute-driven prison. If people would learn to take the time they need….we could get more relaxed. This is my great desire and my hope is that it should be noticed that we all have only this one earth…there´s no replacement or reset.

Lamitschka:  Is there any place you haven’t played that you would like to?

Free Bears:  Oh yes….so many places which have not been rocked yet. I´d like to play on a ship once or at the Toronto Harboursite. I´ve seen some good artists there – like Buckwheat Zydeco. Or playing the arenas of Verona or Nimes. Maybe starring a big festival in the US or Australia could be very cool.

Lamitschka:  What can your fans expect to see when they see you in concert?

Free Bears:  They can watch 4 fantastic looking guys playing their asses off. A real good grooving band, hard working on their instruments….even there are some wrong tones sometimes….and a nice show….dancing, jumping, bumping….some funny jokes and stories from our lifes….seems to be good entertainment

Lamitschka:  When you’re on tour, do you have time to play tourist?

Free Bears:  We try to….watching castles…countrysides…views…landscapes…buildings…when there´s time enough….but I hate hurrying ….which we could slow it down a little bit and enjoy.

Lamitschka:  Many music fans today get their information about artists online. Do you have your own website and what will fans find there?

Free Bears:  Yes…we are available……there´s always the valid tour schedule, a new diary of being on tour, lyrics, songs, pictures, videos….a guestbook….all you can desire. Next will be an online shop so we can sell our stuff there….

Lamitschka:  What’s the best compliment a fan has ever given you?

Free Bears:  Like I mentioned above, the girl who used to cry while listening to “Shores…”….and our fans who don’t care about the style – the just love to dance and sing. And even this crazy guys who travels across the country just to listen to us playing “Heartbreak Highway”…..

Lamitschka:  What’s your favorite song that you wish you could have recorded?

Free Bears:  A hard answer. Maybe…shocking!….”Country Roads” by John Denver…meanwhile pretty much hated – but if you ever have been to Shenandoah Valley you´ll change your thoughts about that song. To me it´s a wonderful folksong about a very heavenly piece of countryside….it has nothing to do with countrymusic….but I really appreciate playing it and having all people – young ones, too – singing it with us.

Lamitschka:  Most careers don’t last as long as yours.  What’s given your career the staying power?

Free Bears:  As this band exists for 15 years now there is only one reason to hold on. There ain´t a better thing than making music, being on the road, get to know people…get to know life. There ain´t a better school than doing this. When I´m getting older once upon a time I´ll talk to my grandchildren and show them what is interesting in this world….even in Germany…man I love this country…´s beautiful and fulfilled with wonders from the sea to the mountains. We should treat this country with more respect and love.

Christian Lamitschka ( )

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