Join us for our traditional look back at the news and features that floated your boat this year.
Best of 2023: Josh Freese has long been known for his prolific output, having become a first-call studio (and live) session drummer. We’ve noted before, if you own a record collection, there’s every chance you own Josh Freese drum tracks - in fact he has played on so many songs and albums that he admitted in 2021 that he forgot that he’d played on Avril Lavigne’s debut.
So, perhaps you know Josh Freese from his work with A Perfect Circle, Guns ’N’ Roses, Sting, Nine Inch Nails, Weezer, The Vandals or Devo. Or maybe you’ve caught him live with The Offspring, Paramore or most recently at the Taylor Hawkins Tribute concerts, where he not only blew minds replicating Alex Van Halen’s parts, but turned-in perfect performances with Foo Fighters.
Here though, we’re taking a look at some of Freese’s CV that you might know, but not realise featured him on drums. Along the way, we'll find proof (if it was needed) as to why Freese is one of the busiest session drummers in rock, and beyond.
1. Meredith Brooks - Bitch
While Meredith Brooks’ biggest hit begins with a classic sampled breakbeat in the form of The Honey Drippers’ Impeach The President - via none other than Shabba Ranks’ Mr Loverman, no less - the acoustic drums are courtesy of Josh Freese.
You’ll have to wait for the chorus to get the first glimpse of Freese, with a none-more-90s kit sound comprising a punchy bass drum and tight, dampened snare. It blends seamlessly with the sample and is a great example of Freese’s ability to give exactly what is needed when it comes to hooky pop grooves.
2. Chris Cornell - Can’t Change Me
After Soundgarden split in 1997, but before forming Audioslave in 2001 Chris Cornell embarked on his first solo album, 1999’s Euphoria Morning (now titled Euphoria Mourning). Central to the album’s songwriting and production were Alain Johannes and Natasha Shneider, and while Victor Indrizzo, Greg Upchurch, Bill Rieflin and Soundgarden/Pearl Jam drummer Matt Cameron all contributed to a drum track each, the lion’s share came from Josh Freese.
The album’s lead single bounces between the 6/8 groove of the verses and the double-time, 3/4 waltz of the main theme. All the while, Freese plays it steady, leaving plenty of space for one of rock’s finest vocalists to do his thing, but not without managing to insert a hooky recurring drum fill. To hear more of Josh on the album, check out Flutter Girl, Preaching The End Of The World, Follow My Way, Mission, Moonchild and Pillow Of Your Bones.
3. Michael Bublé - Haven’t Met You Yet
Amongst the heavy-hitting rock, punk and metal entries on Josh Freese’s CV sits this ear-worm from pop-swing crooner Michael Bublé. It’s taken from Bublé’s album Crazy Love - co-produced by Bob Rock - which actually featured Freese on three songs: this, the title track and Hold On.
Gone are the machine-gun rolls in favour of sparse fills, stripped back playing and plenty of cymbal accents alongside the brass section. Freese sits comfortably in the radio-ready production with a fat sounding snare marking the backbeats to his bluesy shuffle. Once again, it’s Freese in session mode showing exactly why he gets hired.
4. Infectious Grooves - These Freaks Are Here To Party
In the late ’80s/early ’90s, funk met rock with greater popularity than it ever had before. Suicidal Tendencies’ frontman, Mike Muir’s other band, Infectious Grooves remains one of the best-loved bands of the era, but you might not know that Josh Freese was once a part of it.
Freese took over from Janes Addiction drummer, Stephen Perkins for album number two, Sarsippius’ Ark, joining a pre-Metallica Robert Trujillo to complete the kind of rhythm section that now seems mythical.
The 20-song album featured covers of Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song and David Bowie’s Fame, but These Freaks Are Here To Party remains an Infectious Grooves classic.
5. Evanescence - Bring Me To Life
The early 00s were a seriously busy time for Josh Freese, with albums from A Perfect Circle, Puddle of Mudd, 3 Doors Down, Seether, Avril Lavigne, The Offspring, Kelly Clarkson, Good Charlotte and many more being released with his drum tracks between 2000-2003.
One of the biggest, though, was Fallen, the debut album from Evanescence. Freese played all the drums on Fallen, including mammoth hit, Bring Me To Life, and the band included footage of Freese tracking some of his parts for the title track on their 2004 making-of DVD.
Following the Nu-metal tradition of beats-meet-guitars, Freese’s live drums on Bring Me To Life hit proper in the first chorus, and arguably Freese’s drumming plays a big part in giving Evanescence’s debut the rock-solid precision required for it to go on to sell 17 million copies worldwide. Incredibly, Freese reportedly tracked the album’s drums to little more than a click track, guitars and vocals.