Interview conducted July 28 2022
Interview published September 18 2022
"I'm fine with less money."
Chris Bay, main man, co-founder,
guitarist and vocalist of German power metallers Freedom Call, came to
Sweden in late July for a one-man acoustic mini tour with 5 shows in 4
Metal Covenant got an opportunity
to meet up with the man one afternoon at Skogsröjet festival to talk
about a few things surrounding a tour like this, such as traveling, overnight
stays, choice of songs and financial stuff.
Tobbe: You're doing 5 shows in Sweden, in
4 days. Tell me how a small tour like this is being booked. Do you or
the promotor take the first step?
Chris: Olof, from Skrikhult, is doing that. He's
usually working for Freedom Call and he booked several shows for me
in 2020, but because of the situation one got canceled, because of too
few tickets sold, but maybe in combination with that the Swedish government
was recommending people to stay at home and stay safe. Which isn't working
in Germany, for example, where you need to have a law.
there's a big difference between different countries. Olof was listening
to a show in Finspång and he was surprised about what kind of
show this is. You have different kinds of acoustic shows. Some guys
are sitting on a bar stool and playing some songs in the background,
but I am an entertainer and I would like to be in focus. I'm the clown.
And this is working quite well, because you don't
need double bass drums and other things to entertain people. Of course
it's in a smaller atmosphere, but people are happy to get entertained
and that's the baby of live shows. People want to get entertainment.
Tobbe: And about payment for these shows
and for a tour like this. Are you getting a flat fee first and then it's
depending on how many people that show up to the concert?
Chris: Yes, definitely. So, because we're living
right now in a situation, or generally, and not only because of the
pandemic, I think it's a giving and a taking. And also the promoters
need money, because if the promoters give the musician too much money,
then they will lose their business as a promoter.
So I think, as a musician or an artist, we also
have to take care about going in a fair way, and when there's a big
deal, then both sides should make money. And this is my intention and
I'm always reasoning about these topics. I'm saying, "I'm coming,
but I don't want to make quick money.". But if there is a good
number of people coming, then "Let's have a fair deal.", but
if there's not so many people coming I don't want to have my fixed money.
Tobbe: Still, as a musician, or as a working
man, you need to get paid of course, and you must at least break even
when doing these things.
Chris: Of course. But I think that these little
shows are not made just to make money. Because I want to make it possible,
I want to go on tour, I want to sit in my red Freedom van, or I want
to fly to some nice places and play for the people. But I do not want
to bring money, of course, so I can't afford it so many times in the
I'm fine with the small money, because I do not have a family, and I
do not have some financial pressure, or something. I'm fine with less
money. I remember, in the early days there were some weeks, I opened
my wallet, it was in the times of Deutsche Mark, and there was 1 Deutsche
Mark and 73 pfennigs, for a week. And I never went to my father and
said, "Hey! I'm a rockstar. Please give me money.".
Tobbe: How do you prepare yourself before
a tour like this one?
Chris: I'm trying to avoid practicing, of course.
[Laughs] But it's easy. I can do that in my living room. I'm responsible
for myself and nobody else. That makes it much easier.
Tobbe: Do you travel all by yourself?
Chris: Yes, in my van. So, I have a small bed
in my van, and when I have a long distance to go I can rest for a while.
But I am in a luxurious position now that I have hotel rooms booked
for me. But other bands do not have that, and they're really sleeping
with the band in a van, so, my respect. But I also did that. [Laughs]
Tobbe: Sleeping in a van for a couple of
nights seems okay, but doing it all the time I think would be very tiresome.
Chris: Yes, exactly. So, for one or two days
it's cool, but then it's nice to have a proper shower.
Tobbe: And as you travel all by yourself,
do you sometimes feel lonely, or is it just an adventure to you?
Chris: Many people have asked me, "You really
have no crew? You have nobody to talk to?", and I'm saying, "No,
I'm fine. Please no.", because I'm talking so much to people anyway.
I'm not talking about you. [Laughs] But when I'm arriving, then I'm
in the spotlight, like, "Chris! Everything cool?" and after
the show people come and I talk to them. I'm enjoying this mini tour.
When you come to a venue or a festival, is there always someone to greet
you as you arrive, or do you have to search for someone in charge sometimes?
Chris: No, that is all cool organized. People
are very nice, and most of them know Freedom Call and that makes it
much easier. But I'm always coming respectful, and I'm not asking for
stupid things, or some rockstar fuck. I'm coming just with my acoustic
guitar and playing some easy songs.
Tobbe: Usually bands bring merch to their
shows. Does Chris Bay carry a lot of stuff now?
Chris: No, this time nothing. So, I have shirts,
but I ordered just a small amount, because I can understand that people
want to support bands. They love to support bands, and not a single
person. And honestly, I would not feel so good if I would see a guy
with a photo of me on the shirt. I love it when people have Freedom
Call tattoos, but not of Chris Bay. So, it's a little bit too close.
Tobbe: How do you pick which songs to play
on an acoustic set?
Chris: That's the hard thing, so I'm doing that
from show to show, and sometimes I'm deciding while playing because
some audiences, especially in Germany, are more longing for cover versions
of big bands. I'm also doing that, because they are not into my solo
stuff or Freedom Call, which I can understand.
But yesterday, in Motala, I was quite positively
surprised, because they were asking for originals. They said, "Not
so many cover songs. Please play originals." and I said, "Okay!".
[Laughs] But I can do both.
it will be a good mixture. I think there are party people this time.
They will have a couple of beers, and that makes it much easier to listen
to songs like Nothing Else Matters, or, um, oh, I do not know, I forgot
the name. [Laughs wholeheartedly] So, some famous songs.
Tobbe: The Freedom Call songs that you play
are very different of course when played on an acoustic guitar, in comparison
to on an electric guitar. So what kind of idea do you follow when you're
playing the songs acoustically instead?
Chris: Oh, a lot of practicing. Just playing,
and playing around, and checking things. And yes, the songs are totally
different. It's another range. Totally different arrangements. I'm also
singing in different lines. That makes it interesting. So just taking
an acoustic guitar, and strumming, and singing the original things,
you know, that's not the magic.
Tobbe: I guess it's mostly about the melody.
So, you keep the melody in the songs instead of the right chords.
Chris: Yes, and that was the challenge, to show
people that you can bring a Freedom Call song, besides all the double
bass drums, and guitar tracks, and keyboards, and choirs, and things,
down to one single instrument and make it special. Because it's a song.
It's not just a performance. It's a song.
Tobbe: Are there songs that you have tried
to play acoustically, but they just wouldn't work?
Chris: Yes, it happens. Starlight, for example,
or Land Of Light, because you need this [Hums the keyboard melody].
I tried to find some instrument. Harmonica, for example. But then it's
getting ridiculous, and I'm walking on the edge to become ridiculous,
yes. And that's what I'm trying to avoid.
After the show, when you have picked up your gear, what do you do then?
Chris: Drinking and hanging out with the people.
So I never feel lonesome or something, because there's always somebody
around. A lot of Freedom Call fans are coming and using the situation
that there is no signing session. It's a personal thing and everybody
can talk to me. It's no problem. I'm just enjoying my time and especially
on festivals I'm meeting a lot of fellows.
Tobbe: After hopefully a good night's sleep,
what do you do the next day? Do you have breakfast and then just driving
to the next venue?
Chris: Well, I'm not in a hurry, because I have
a quick setup. I have less gear with me and I do not have a big soundcheck.
So, I have a proper breakfast, and then also enjoy the country I'm crossing.
Today I drove from Motala to here, beautiful
countryside. I stopped by a lake, and had a short break and a rest.
It's like being on vacation, combined with a little bit of music.
Tobbe: And then every day is quite similar
to the next one, right?
Chris: Yes, it is. But not on a tour like this
one. It's because I can enjoy every single day. But it becomes a little
bit too similar from day to day when you're on tour for, like, 4 weeks
or longer. Because you do not know where you are, you don't know what
date it is, you're totally out, you're just working like a robot. So,
in my opinion, 4 or 5 weeks is the limit, then you need a short break.