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Interview conducted November 3
Interview published January 11 2020

"I think it was a very exciting time when we got the record deal, and it was a good deal, and I really have to say maybe we didn't really deserve it at that time."

German happy power metallers Freedom Call visited Stockholm, Sweden for a show in November last year and Metal Covenant spent some time with lead singer and guitarist Chris Bay before the band's set.

Tobbe: First of all. Less than a week ago you guys announced that Freedom Call had lost its drummer, once again. What happened? No sweet-talk now. [Timmi Breideband was only part of Freedom Call during 2019 and joined the band after the album M.E.T.A.L. was recorded.]

Chris: It was totally unexpected for us. It came from nothing. We played a show in France, and it was perfect. And so was the atmosphere in the band. But it seems to be family problems. Timmi is young and he has two kids. Yeah, he didn't tell us about his situation before and I think it was just a mind explosion for him and he decided to support his family, and that I can understand.

There are things that are more important. But for us it was totally unexpected. So it was a shock. We all were like "What the hell? In the middle of the tour?". Some people were probably thinking that there was some trouble in the band, but there was nothing. So, it happens, but we did our best and were handling it quickly and the tour will continue.

Tobbe: It was only, I think, maybe 4 days before you were leaving for this tour leg and I guess you had to rehearse quickly.

Chris: No, because Kevin [Kott] was playing many shows with us in 2018, so we just had to check the additional songs, but we did that at soundcheck in Finspång. [Kevin also played the drums as a session musician on M.E.T.A.L.] There was no time for practice or rehearsal before we left home.

On one hand it was a shock, like I told you, but on the other hand we noticed how many good friends we have. They were all supporting us and they were calling back and recommending drummers to help us out of this situation. So that gave us a very good feeling, to have such good friends.

Tobbe: When Freedom Call loses its drummer, immediately there's a lot of people asking for Dan Zimmermann's return. It's always the same.

Chris: Of course. Always… But on the other hand, he was part of the new album [Dan plays the drums in the title track.] and his spirit is always around us. And forever he will be a part of Freedom Call. So, if not on an album, then in our minds.

Tobbe: Another thing about member changes. Ilker [Ersin, former bass player] quit in 2018 and his goodbye note wasn't the happiest I've ever read. You and he seemed to be on such good terms when he came back, so what happened now between you and Ilker, that you maybe don't really wanna talk about?

Chris: Also personal things. I think maybe a reason is age, because when you come to a certain age you can't go with blind eyes through life. The responsibilities are growing, some have kids, some have families, some have financial things. Yeah, you're getting more serious when you're getting older. And that is maybe one reason why it happens, or the reason why a lot of things happen.

Also maybe divorces happen in a special period of life, when you're noticing yourself "Is that really what I want to do for the rest of my life?". And that's the last chance to change something, because later, well, there is no party anymore and maybe the last chance to go separate ways. And there are different kinds of splitting. You can be serious with honest words face to face with a person, or you can try to find a reason, just to get rid of this honest way to talk to a person, and you just find a reason to go.

Tobbe: Your new album was out in August. Not so long ago, even if it probably was done early in the year. So, if you look back at it now, in what way do you think that that album go in line with what you have done before with this band?

Chris: For me, as the artist, the songwriter and the producer, it's very hard to compare the albums or find the differences between the albums, because to me it's just music I wrote. I think it's more for the outside people, the journalists, or the followers to rank or to rate the albums. I'm not able to do that, because all our songs I wrote were touching my heart and there is a lot of passion in them. I can't decide what's good, what's better and what I can do better.

Of course there is a development, but there is also a development for every single person in his job; not only for musicians. But I must say that the reaction from the fans and also the press was incredible. I do not know why. [Laughs] Because it's a Freedom Call album and we won't invent the wheel a second time. It's amazing. People love the new album and we have also recognized that we have many more visitors in our shows. So it's increasing, and that's good.

Tobbe: Could you ever imagine the band taking a slightly different path someday and intentionally writing a different kind of music?

Chris: For Freedom Call I'm the main songwriter and then Lars [Rettkowitz, guitar] is writing some songs. But we are not a band that is sitting 24/7 together, like "I have this note on my mind.", so in my opinion it's not working. But for bands that is working as a team where every single person is developing in a different way, then the music will change, of course.

Or maybe there are some bands or projects that are doing that on purpose because they are thinking about earning more money or to follow a trend. But anyway, when there is a small trademark in the band and I'm changing that, then the fans are saying "No, it's not my thing anymore.".

And when you're trying to make a different kind of music, then you will meet thousands of other bands that are doing exactly that style, but maybe for longer and also better, and then it's not authentic anymore. If I want to change the music style, then I would start a new project, with a new name and with other musicians, or I will record a solo album.

Tobbe: So will there be more solo stuff coming from Chris Bay someday?

Chris: Oh yeah. In December and January there is a tour break, so I have around 8 weeks, and maybe I can start to write songs or collect some ideas. And maybe there is a Christmas song. [Laughs] But the good thing with a solo album is that I am totally free. So I'm not under pressure that I have to continue with the same style from the first album [Chasing The Sun, 2017] and that gives me a very good feeling. I'm totally free. It's a good outlet for my musical side beside Freedom Call, because Freedom Call has to be Freedom Call. With a solo album I'm free as a bird, so maybe it will be just acoustic or a piano. We will see.

Tobbe: When you were a young boy, did you already then wanted to be a musician? Or did you have other dreams as well?

Chris: No, always. There were no alternatives. In the age of 5 I always tried to try out some instruments. And then I really told my parents that I wanted to play an instrument. At this time I got the alternatives to learn the flute, but I said no, and the guitar. And the age of 7 I got my first lessons. Every Saturday morning. I got an acoustic guitar and it was so big. I still have it, and I used it for recordings on my solo album, for just some notes.

Then I moved to a musically focused gymnasium and there I had to learn to play the piano. I went to school on Saturdays so I couldn't continue with the guitar lessons and from that on I never took guitar lessons again, so I'm autodidact. I'm not a guitar virtuoso, but because I've played for such a long time I could say I'm a very solid guitar player for this stuff. And I figured out that that makes me able to write songs without focusing on the instrumental performance. It's just music to tell a story, and not to play a guitar solo or something.

I would say it could be that you're not able to write catchy songs, and have clear songwriting and arrangements, when you're an extraordinary instrumentalist, because you will always try to show people your performance and your ability. But people are not interested in that. They are fine with simple things.

Tobbe: In the beginning of Freedom Call, were you ever thinking that you were living your dream, or were you rather thinking that you've at least had come close to living your dream?

Chris: I think it was something in between. I think it was a very exciting time when we got the record deal, and it was a good deal, and I really have to say maybe we didn't really deserve it at that time. Because we didn't build up Freedom Call from a small band, playing local clubs and growing up slowly.

Yeah, Dan Zimmermann was playing with Gamma Ray and I was in Moon'Doc with Herman Frank. We were not growing with the band and then got a record deal, but it was more like "Boom! We got a record deal!". It was because of Charlie Bauerfeind and his connections in the music scene. Yeah, sometimes in your life you also need luck. Then I swore to myself "From now on you have to work day by day on this music!", because I wanted to stay in that situation.

And I almost did that and maybe that is a reason why it was constantly growing. It was a really serious thing, it was a job, it was my profession, my passion, and I really wanted to keep that. But yeah, there was a lot of luck, to be honest.

Tobbe: You have started the second half of your career now, the way I see it, and where do you see yourself going musically in that second half? Can you imagine yourself doing Freedom Call in 20-25 years? Will you ever get tired of doing this?

Chris: I don't know if you're getting tired. Maybe it could happen that you're getting tired of doing this metal thing. I think I do not want to jump with leather pants in an old age. But who knows? Because generations are changing and maybe when we are older it's a normal thing that musicians are continuing. But music will always be my passion. But maybe in 20 years I'm playing small clubs just with an acoustic guitar and for half of the concert I will tell some stories from my life.

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