Freedom Call has its own world within power metal music and they delight thousands of fans all over the world with its infectious happy metal. If, by any chance, they are not currently playing somewhere nearby, they also bring their energy to you in the form of brand new DVD. And obviously, this is a great opportunity for us to interview the frontman and founder of the band Chris Bay, whom we fortunately did not listen to, and thanks to that, you will also find the secret of why he actually picked up the guitar and decided to devote himself to music in the interview.
Hello Samuel, good to hear you! Are you also suffering from the heat?
Yes, but living in mountain area, it is a bit more manageable.
Oh, man, you have wonderful mountains there in Slovakia. Much wilder than our Alps. I love it there. I remember we crossed near High Tatras when we played the festival there with Hammerfall. I just could not remember the name of it.
Yeah! We got those here J As you started to speak about the festivals – you are just releasing live album recorded on two of those, right? M.E.T.A.L. Fest was recorded in Pilsen and Regensburg. (Yes.) What inspired you to choose those two specific shows?
That is very good question. We decided quickly to film the shows so honestly – I gave to the promoter of Metalfest – Pragokoncert – I gave them call from our way to the festival asking if they could provide some microphones for the audience and for the front of house mixer and that we have right situation. First plan was to film just a bit of backstage shootings and some short shots behind the scenes to have something like roadmovie and then we quickly decided to film the whole show. (Laugh) That is also the reason – because we only had like 70 or 75 minutes of show time on Metalfest – that we have some songs that we recorded during the show at Regensburg. But I think that we did that pretty well and we have that “patchwork” DVD and not the whole Hollywood production with all the preparations. For me it feels much more authentic and that´s also because we decided that spontaneously. I think it´s a bit different from other DVDs where you have all the planning for months and doing things like this. We just did our regular show and we filmed it.
It was exciting because we never knew what would result look like. But in the end, we were happy with the result because of its authenticity.
How did the energy of those shows contributed to the whole atmosphere of the release?
I think it´s always focus of our shows – the audience. We do not focus on showing our skills, our instruments, or our performance to the people. We just come to play the show to have fun and to entertain the people! That they can forget their private problems for the duration of the show … that they just can have fun. That´s the focus of the Freedom Call shows, not the performance.
Have you done any special song selections for the shows in the moment you realized that this would be “the DVD show”?
No. (Laugh) That was the thing – we were not prepared for that. We didn´t have the rehearsals for special shows. That was the exciting thing. Also – we played those shows with two different drummers. In Metalfest, there was a stand-in drummer Chris Widmann, he is coming close from Munich and on the show in Regensburg, the drummer was Kevin Kott of Masterplan, a good friend of mine. It´s a patchwork thing, you know?! We just combined two whole different shows to bring our fans one live album.
When it comes to DVD – don´t you think that this whole two shows with two drummers thing might be a little bit confusing for the people?
Could be. (Laugh) But we really didn´t think about that. We just wanted to create something special and we just went with how our situation was at that time. We didn´t have the fixed drummer at the time, also because the pandemic thing, we didn´t request for fixed band member at the time, but soon we will bring out a very nice surprise regarding the drummer situation. Maybe it might be a bit confusing because on the bonus DVD – on 70,000 tons – we actually have one more drummer who was playing for us – it was Klaus Sperling. So it´s actually three drummers on one DVD release. That´s definitely is worth listen to. I mean, I tried to find another drummer so we can record songs with four or five, but sadly, I only could find three of them. (Laugh)
Are there specific moments or songs you are particularly looking forward for fans to hear or see?
Of course. For the Blue Ray of the Metal fest, I wrote a new song called M.E.T.A.L. Fest and it´s dedicated to this amazing festival in Pilsen, in Czechia. At the Masters of Rock festival, we will present this song live to people of Czechia and I am 100% sure they are gonna love it!
How do you believe that live albums are able to capture core essence of the Freedom Call live show experience? Live, it´s full of positivity, energy and some weird kind of happiness and I think it is hard to capture these things on recording.
Generally, yes. Mostly, when you are filming the show, you have all the preparations of cameras and recording system and I think a lot of musicians are feeling a bit nervous to bring to the people these funny things, easy humor and happiness and I think this is the main reason as we just normally played our shows. Not being nervous or something. I think that is the one reason – we just played our show for the people. The focus on this Blue Ray is the audience. Therefore, we have a lot of video footage of crowd where people are celebrating, singing, partying, banging their heads and I think many people would recognize themselves on this DVD and that is more important than the performance of the band.
You already said that Metalfest is one great festival, but how big was the role of people in the audience when deciding that those two specific shows would be the ones on DVD?
It´s actually same in Czechia and Slovakia. Both are very good place for Freedom Call, we have a lot of friends there and that was one more reason to record the show in Czechia. I mean, I am very sorry we could not record the show in Slovakia, but maybe next time.
How does performing live and connecting with audience differ from the studio recording for you personally?
I think just to play shows, playing the festivals, being on tour and travelling around the world – to me personally – that´s the reason to suffer in studio, that´s the reason to write new songs. The one and only reason is to go out and to be able to play in front of the people. To be on tour, you know? That is the most important part of Freedom Call. I am not the kind of person who is sitting for weeks or months day-by-day in the studio just to write new songs and to invent new beats and grooves or sounds or something like this. I am writing songs to be able to go on tour. For me, that is the only one reason. That´s my life. And as far as I know, I can say the same thing for the band members. They are thinking the same way as I do.
There is this thing now where bands are releasing some special editions for the albums, live albums, some limited add-ons to orders and stuff like that. Are you planning something like that for the new release?
We have our big release party at Masters of Rock Festival in Vizovice, Czechia and we have one more show on the day before that in Germany so what is special is that “big party weekend” that is in front of us. We are looking forward to that and we will introduce our new song “M.E.T.A.L. Fest” and we are quite excited to see how people would react to the song, but I am convinced that they will love it and they will sing with us.
When it comes to tour plans, we are in the middle of summer so it´s all about festivals now, but what about the rest of the year? What about your plans for the rest of the year – anything you can tell us?
Yeah, I think that after this time which we suffer during this pandemic and everything stood still, we are quite busy writing new studio album that should come out next year. That is one reason we would have less shows in autumn – October to December – because we would be producing new studio album. The time has come to do that. So we plan suffering in winter to record and produce the album and then party time again while going on tour next year. So we are expecting full tour schedule for the next year.
As a frontman, how are you preparing – both mentally and physically – to perform night after night?
As a singer, you always have to take care of your voice. That´s because of some illness and stuff – but I am not singer that´s taking too much care of it. I am usually talking to the people and I have to do a lot of things singers normally doesn´t have to do – like carrying stuff, prepare things and also, I am driver of tour bus. I am not seeing myself as a typical singer in a rock band. I am just a member, same as all of the others. I am not doing any differences between bass player and a singer, for example.
Saying all of that – driving, carrying stuff – touring itself is already pretty time and energy consuming – how do you maintain your energy and unbelievable enthusiasm you deliver on the stage?
I am drinking A LOT of beers! (Laugh) That´s my workout. Now let´s be real – physically, I am doing some sports – I am running, mountain biking for example and I am always busy. I am busy with everything – I am doing the management of the band, I am organizing a lot of things around the shows and I am always in a move. I think that keeps you in a good condition.
OK, and what about all that positive energy you deliver on stage. All mentioned before is stressing a bit, you know?
I think it´s the same state as anyone really deals with. You have some dark moments, some complicated situations in your life and I think that this might be some kind of self-therapy. When I am sitting in the studio and writing new happy songs – that´s some kind of therapy to myself. You usually do the opposite of what you are thinking about, you know?! I am happy person as well but everyone has his dark moments in his life and this helps me to survive these moments and come back to the “happy life”.
Are there any specific rituals or habits that you do before hitting the stage to get into right mindset?
Drinking a lot of beers. (Laugh) Other than that, we have no rituals. No holding each other hands or doing some funny things, no. we do not need some rituals to motivate ourselves. So it´s probably really just the beer. (Laugh)
Being on tour, there are always differences between stages – how do you adapt your stage and stage performance according to venue you currently play in?
I think with Freedom Call …. When you get those big bands like Iron Maiden or Kiss or Judas Priest, they are only playing big stages. They only play stadiums, the big venues and I could imagine that you could not appreciate it any more. Everyday playing sold out venues – OK, you are earning a lot of money, but that is not the main reason – but I think it´s much more interesting, at least for me, it´s a much more of a challenge to have both of it. Sometimes we play at Wacken in front of 80 000 people and next day you might play small club for 150 people. I think this is the difference that makes your life colorful and it makes it much more worth to travel around meeting people than when you are always in comfortable hotels, always under surveillance of security and travelling around the world in private jet and I think this makes it much more colorful and it makes it worth to work really hard while going step by step to higher status. I think that is the challenge.
What are the biggest challenges you have to face when you are on tour for a longer period of time?
Being on tour for a longer time – the longest time we´ve been on tour was 8 weeks. We´ve been on tour with Hammerfall and I think that 8 weeks are a bit too long. You are already forgetting where you are, what time it is and every day becomes the same procedure. So every day setup, sound check, hotel or tour bus and next day you just go to the next city to repeat that. I am preferring to be on tour 4 weeks tops. Then I need a break. For my mental health, it´s not for the physical stuff. It´s better to collect a little bit of energy again because it´s leaving you when you tour a longer time.
When you are on tour, there are also memories and some of those stay with you forever – can you share some of most memorable ones you got? Both best and worst.
I think every show has its very nice moments and I think I can say I can´t remember every single show ever played. Every show, you play same songs because you are not changing the set list, almost ever, while touring, but audience is totally different every night. Reason could be mentality of people – there is big difference if you play in Spain or Norway, because it´s different mentality of the fans. Also in South America – there is difference when you play in Brazil and Mexico, for example. People are reacting different. That is quite a challenge. But you are getting a lot of experience while touring, you are meeting a lot of people and you can talk to the people and it´s quite an exciting life. For example – while we played last tour with M.E.T.A.L. album, there was too little space in tour bus – because there were 3 bands on that tour – so I decided to drive parallel with my tour bus. So I was driving and the rest of the band was in big tour bus and I drove by myself and that was one more very interesting experience I did because I could really count the kilometers I was driving. I think it was 17 000 kilometers I drove parallel to the tour bus and I can say it was very nice experience. I think you can say that on that tour, I wasn´t rock star, I was road star. (Laugh)
Fortunately, I could not recall any really bad moments from being on tour. You can follow your passion and you are meeting a lot of nice people and I can not remember the one time I met real asshole or something. I think the worst thing on tour is when you get sick, at least for me. And I don´t even mean some serious sickness – even getting cold as a singer, which happened when we were on tour in Czechia with M.E.T.A.L. and it took me like three or four days till I was back to the normal status.
Looking back as a touring musician – how had life on tour impacted on your personal growth and your perspective of life?
I think as a musician that is the aim – to get on stage and play to the live audience. That is the reason you are practicing at home when you are young, this is the dream of every single musician. Being on stage, playing songs and talking to the people. And it´s very satisfying coming back from tour and seeing you got the result, response of the people because that makes it worth to work hard on new songs or practicing your skills on your instrument or with voice. That makes it worth. I can´t imagine that I have to go to office and work there 9 to 5. I think it´s special kind of life you live as a travelling musician. I think there are some musicians who dislike it and they prefer to work in the studio or write songs and arrange them. But there are also ones who just want to go out on tour and I can tell you a secret – I became a musician to get girls easier… and that´s it. (Laugh) I think that was the only reason, honestly, to have more girls. Well … and beers. (Laugh) But please don´t tell the secret. (Laugh) Most of the interviews might be really short, if I would tell honestly, it´s all about girls and beers. (Laugh)
Does this point of view changed over the time?
Of course. Over the years, I am not as nervous before the show and I recognized during the pandemic that I miss tours and travelling around, but I am not really that badly missing being on stage for a while so it was OK for me. Having this break for two years and I played some shows as a solo artist and with Freedom Call but what I missed mostly was travelling around and being in company with band members, our friends and fans. Back then, about 20 years ago, I was totally nervous before every single show and that changed, but it is still my passion.