» Chris Bay - Freedom Call
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Interview conducted August 4 2018
Interview published September 5 2018

"I worked for some carpenters, as an assistant, but both sides were not really happy about that."

German happy metallers Freedom Call made an appearance at Skogsröjet festival in early August and Metal Covenant was given some time with vocalist/guitarist Chris Bay.

Tobbe: Freedom Call usually puts out an album every second year or something like that, so when can we expect another Freedom Call album out?

Chris: It's under construction. So I'm working hard on it. But we toured a lot. A lot of bands are releasing a new album every one and a half years or every other year, but they play just a few shows or do a small tour. But we really had an expanded tour. We started in South America, we have been in Southeast Asia for the first time ever and then we re-started the tour and we played so many concerts. Maybe the time that we need wasn't there, so just give us 6 more months to write.

But we could do that, because I think it's no problem to produce an album in a specific period, but it's not what people are expecting from Freedom Call, 'cause we have to collect really new influences and we want to make it special. People are used to get songs like Metal Is For Everyone or Power & Glory and they are expecting songs like that.

Tobbe: So this new album will of course follow the Freedom Call path.

Chris: Of course. It's us. That's Freedom Call. I think generally in the music business there are so many bands already existing and I think the business is getting faster and faster. I think 20 years ago, if you were releasing a new album, then during one year your album was the current album. It was the new album, for one year. Now, you're releasing a new album and one month later some people are asking "And what's next?".

I think Gene Simmons, or Paul Stanley, I don't know, one guy in Kiss, said "It turned. In the early days you made an album and went on tour to promote the new album. And now it has changed, because you're making an album to promote a tour.". That's the difference, because of the streaming and downloads and things like that.

So people are living much faster than 10 or 20 years ago. "Give me more! Give me more!", like go on YouTube and you can see so many different things, new things. So it's much better to take your time and make a special one. Make something special; not just the new Freedom Call album. It should be more.

Tobbe: Is there anything on Master Of Light that you won't built further on, that you didn't really like?

Chris: [Giggles] The same as always: I always try to avoid the word "Warriors". But I already have it. [Laughs] But I don't care. That's Freedom Call. I know that some really true metallers are haters or they're trying to avoid it because Freedom Call is not really true or is too funny, or too happy, but I don't care. I don't care about that. That's us and that is the only and one tiny chance to get your own trademark; that people are listening to your music and are saying "That must be Freedom Call.". If they like it or not… But they can notice it. It's Freedom Call.

And that's a big point in this business at this time. There's so many bands, they're sounding similar, could be this, could be that, I do not know, but Freedom Call: If you love it or hate it, it doesn't matter, but you can hear it's Freedom Call. That's authenticity, and that's the most important thing, because that's the only chance to get the people, to grab the people and to make the people emotional. There's so many brilliant musicians and they are working and are writing brilliant songs, but they have no authenticity, and that's the problem.

Tobbe: You and I met in March last year and then I asked you about a possible solo record, but the answers you gave me were very vague. You didn't really want to tell me anything and why was it necessary to keep Chasing The Sun [Out February 2018] a secret back then, because you had obviously started working on it?

Chris: [Laughs] Because I didn't want to mix Freedom Call and my solo stuff. I wanted to keep it separated and when I'm on tour with Freedom Call and there is no product, maybe I try to leave it a little bit on the side. So when we're on tour with Freedom Call, I talk about Freedom Call, and when I'm on tour with my solo album, of course I have to talk about Freedom Call as well, but the focus should be on my solo stuff. But now I've learned to handle it. I think generally it's one thing. So with my solo album I'm getting all the Freedom Call fans and maybe I can find some new Chris Bay fans and bring them over to Freedom Call. So don't take all these things too seriously.

Tobbe: Chasing The Sun is kind of like Freedom Call lite, in a lot of songs, and might Freedom Call eventually develop further and get closer to your solo stuff?

Chris: No, no, no. The intention is to separate it. I could use several songs off my solo album for Freedom Call, because I could rewrite it or rearrange it into power metal, melodic power metal, just by changing to mid-tempo and with fast double bass drums, but for me, the original idea, that's the thing. If I have an idea to a song, which is more jazzy, or with maybe some swing elements, or pop elements, or whatever and I'm starting to write and "Oh, that's a nice melody.", I could rewrite it for Freedom Call, but then it's not the original anymore and that's not good.

Tobbe: When you put out that solo record, what kind of response did you actually expect from the Freedom Call fans?

Chris: Seriously, nothing. Because it was maybe an egoistic thing. It was just a collection of songs which weren't fitting Freedom Call and I decided to not use it and to not rearrange it to make it fit Freedom Call music. There was no idea behind it; I just kept it on the side. And then I saw that there were more than 3 or 5 songs and "Oh, I have 10 songs.", so why hide it? It was a balance for me, because I can't do power metal 24/7, because I'm a musician, I'm an artist, and not only a power metal musician.

I want to feel free in this musical world and I didn't want to bother Freedom Call by changing the music style and I didn't want to bother the Freedom Call fans, because I think they wouldn't be happy if I bring this kind of music to a Freedom Call album. That's not cool. Because they are Freedom Call fans because of our music. But there are no special concepts; it was just music that I wanted to bring to the people.

Tobbe: Do you have any more of those songs?

Chris: Not yet. So I will continue with my solo stuff, but I want to keep the feeling of being free in music. Maybe the next solo album will be acoustic, or with a piano, or just strings, with an orchestra. I do not know. I will see in the future.

Tobbe: And I guess you have no time limit for it either.

Chris: No, nothing. This year I'm still on tour. I've already been in Colombia, I've played in Poland, I've played several shows in Germany and in October I'm going on tour with Axel Rudi Pell in the Czech Republic and Eastern Europe. I'm gonna play two shows together with Eric Martin, to support him. And I'm going to England to support Power Quest for a couple of shows and I'm going to Spain as a headliner with an acoustic guitar. And it's so simple; I just have to take care of myself.

Tobbe: In the liner notes, in the pictures, you're barefooted. Is it a way to express yourself by being barefooted?

Chris: Oh no. [Laughs] There is no reason behind it. It's just: it was a hot summer day when we did the photo session. It was in my garden. I felt very comfortable, because all these places where I did the pictures, and where I recorded the album, were in my home. I recorded all the tracks in my own studio and did the photo session there, so it's all very personal.

Tobbe: You played with a couple of other bands before Freedom Call and tell me what you remember about those bands and what you did back then.

Chris: I started very early to play in a band; I was 13 years old, in a band in school. But yeah, that was very early, so. And then, I think at the age of 15 or 16 I started a band, which had a touch of professionalism already at that age. We had a hit in our area. At a local radio station we were number 1 for weeks and things like this; had cool shows, with a lot of girls. But we made more of this pop music, like Duran Duran.

And there were two members from the band J.B.O., because I went to school with those two guys. And then at the age of 19 I had my first professional band, called China White. Very good band. We did some originals, but there was no album released, unfortunately, but I got some money. That's where I learned to know Daniel Zimmermann. That was the first time I met him, yes.

Then I got an offer from Zed Yago. It's a band from Hamburg. It was Jutta Weinhold's band, but she quit and the band was looking for a new singer and Herman Frank recommended me and then I worked with them for one and a half years, but there was no product coming out. But that was sort of the first touch with original music.

And then I got the call from Herman Frank from Moon'Doc. It was in 1993 and that's where I met Ilker [Ersin, bass Freedom Call] the first time. We did two albums, but we did just one live show. Only one; nothing more. [Weeps] And that was boring for me, because my focus is being on stage and perform and not only work in the studio. Then I connected Ilker with Daniel with Freedom Call in '99. Quite easy. [Laughs]

Tobbe: I guess you also started Freedom Call to get more room for your own creativity back then.

Chris: Yeah, of course. In the project, I will call it project: With Moon'Doc it was not my vocal expression that I'm feeling in the music. So I just lent my voice to Herman Frank, because I was used to sing in different dynamics with my voice. I could sing AC/DC and I could sing Guns N' Roses, but I also could sing Helloween, the highest parts, or Queensrÿche.

So I just gave Herman my voice, like "Tell me what I have to sing and I will do it for you.". But it was not the big thing for me, so I didn't feel really free. That was the reason why I had to build up my own band, where I'm deciding what to sing. I always had my own vision around music.

Tobbe: Did you work with something else besides music back in the day?

Chris: I did it for a really short time after school. I worked for some carpenters as an assistant, but both sides were not really happy about that. [Laughs wholeheartedly] I had to take care of my fingers and my hands, like "I can't do that.". A pussy-like carpenter. But I'm a really lucky guy, because in all situations where the money get a little bit less I always find a solution, like I found a new band, I found a project, where I could earn enough money to make a living.

There was one time where I built up a solo cover/original thing. I played as a solo artist with some backing and I played Manowar, I played Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and things like that, but also Freedom Call songs. I was performing this in small clubs, but I didn't have to work. So, no job. No wake-up call. [Laughs] But it's a big advantage to be a singer and a multi-instrumentalist, so that I can make my own projects.

If you're just a bass player, or just a drummer, or just a guitarist, it's hard to earn money. To entertain people with a bass is hard, but when you're singing you can entertain the people and you can always find some possibilities to make some money.

Tobbe: Quite a few members have left Freedom Call over the years and your drummer Ramy Ali left this spring and why do all these guys leave?

Chris: I think the reason is that in a band of our status you're not earning enough money for a living. You have to give guitar lessons, or music lessons, or you have to work in the studio for other projects. If you have a band like The Rolling Stones there's no reason to quit. It would be totally stupid. Ramy became a daddy and the responsibility is increasing and he has to take care of his family. Or you got an offer for a good fixed 9 to 5 job and it's better to take it because of your family, because of you're building a house, or for the future, whatever, for your parents.

There are so many reasons and if you don't have this passion and vision I can understand it, because if you're not really into this music, not into maybe songwriting, producing and these special ideas, it's a totally different situation and if you have another opportunity, to make more money or to settle down, do that! I can understand that. So people come and go and that's just destiny.

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