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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 days.

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.

So 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 future.

But 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.

Tobbe: 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.

Tonight 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.

Tobbe: 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.

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