... Camp Freddy
PAUL ROGERS TALKS TO THE REVOLVING-DOOR MEMBERSHIP OF LATEST LA SUPERGROUP CAMP FREDDY.
Camp Freddy is an LA-based covers band supergroup built around a nucleus of former Cult bassist (now Doheny guitarist) Billy Morrison, drummer Matt Sorum (the Cult/Guns N’ Roses/Velvet Revolver), guitarist Dave Navarro (Jane’s Addiction and former Chili Pepper), vocalist/MC Donovan Leitch (son of folk singer Donovan) and bassist Scott Ford. Their MO is basically to play occasional shows (which is all their respective schedules will allow), with sets consisting of almost unrehearsed versions of choice cover songs, and inviting a rotating cast of rock luminaries to join them for a couple of songs each. Everyone from Moby to Kid Rock, Slash to Ronnie Wood have jumped on stage to join in the Camp Freddy fun.
“Camp Freddy is not a band, but it is also way more than a jam session” explains Billy, the outfit’s ringmaster. “Camp Freddy is an occasional happening, a freak of Hollywood nature. What happens when we get together and play is anyone’s guess! Surprise guests, lounge singers turned heavy rock superstars, some of the world’s greatest guitarists playing three chord punk tunes... it’s just about having fun - we play some of the greatest rock and roll songs ever written, have a real laugh doing it, and invite artists that we respect to play them with us. It’s the real spirit of rock’n’roll!”
Camp Freddy (named after a character in the classic Michael Caine flick The Italian Job), was born when Donovan asked Billy to help him assemble a covers band for a six song set to entertain at the opening of LA’s ultra-hip Standard Hotel. The Camp Freddy phenomenon has only snowballed since: “In the space of a year, Camp Freddy has become this bizarrely desirable thing to do. The list of guests that have performed with us over the past 12 months is testament to how much fun this is.” says Donovan.
Dave Navarro: “To be honest with you, when you’re touring with a band for many months at a time, it gets a little tiresome and redundant and it does become ‘work’, as wonderful a job as it is,” considers the guitarist. “There’s something about getting together with musicians and songs that you all know and love and just having a great time, forgetting all the business and the headache that goes into touring. That makes it fun, it kinda kicks life back into the musicianship.”
But all the core Freddies agree that there are some serious artistic by-products from their seat-of-your-pants circus: “We get an opportunity to play with so many great players while doing this that we grow as artists and musicians” says Dave, “and then, when we return to our ‘actual’ bands, there’s not only a new fire, but there’s also an expanded musicianship that comes from this. I’m a better guitar player having played with Slash 10 or 12 times than I was before.”
Billy Morrison concurs: “Where else am I going to get to stand on a stage and play with [Rolling Stones’] Ronnie Wood, Slash and Dave Navarro? And Matt Sorum! It’s ridiculous!”
Although Billy claims they never practice, rehearsals are mentioned more than once during our chat. “Maybe we get together the day before the show and pick out the songs on the set list,” Dave concedes, “but we sometimes don’t even know until the day of the show - like just an hour ago George Clinton [legendary Godfather of funk] suddenly decided to join us tonight!”
“In New York we were actually on stage and the guy who manages us whispers in my ear: ‘Kid Rock wants to do a song.’” Billy recalls, “And so, in the middle of a song I’m running round the stage saying ‘we’re going to do [Led Zep’s] ‘Rock ‘n Roll’ in E ... now!’, and everyone played it. That’s how the Camp Freddy vibe works.”
“And then Chad Smith [Chili Peppers’ drummer] too,” adds Sorum, “I called him yesterday, just to see what he’s doin’, and he called me back and said ‘I want to come down!’ So, it’s the same thing when I’m playing next to Chad Smith I become a better drummer. It’s that kind of thing, it brings us up to another level.”
Dave sums it up: “Camp Freddy is like enjoyable homework!”
I did not know that
5 THINGS ABOUT CAMP FREDDY AND IT’S INMATES THAT YOU MIGHT’VE MISSED.
*Billy Morrison actually sprang to infamy as a member of one-time Britrock (non) hopeful’s Stimulator. Looks like hanging out in LA agrees with Billy a lot more than Camden market, where he used to work!
*Former Camp Freddy alumini to front the band for a song on the night include Henry Rollins, Casey Chaos, JS Clayden, Buckcherry’s Joshua Todd and er, Robbie Williams and Macy Gray!
*No one’s yet tried to count how many albums that the various members for the band have been responsible for, but its safe to say that with GN’R, Jane’s Addiction and Red Hot Chili Peppers its comfortably over the 50 million mark...
*Camp Freddy used to be called The Slags. Or at least that’s what the UK version fronted by Morrison debuted as at the Barfly a few years back when a rather less high profile of punk names including the Damned performed.
*Billy Morrison has a secret past: if you’ve ever seen Robbie William’s risible promo video for ‘We Will Rock You’, then you may wish to have a closer look at the armoured-up, spiky haired goon throwing shapes on guitar next to Williams. Hargh!