How it started: Fred was just eight years old when he happened upon a copy of “Destroyer” by KISS in a local department store’s record bin. “I just stood there staring at it for awhile. That image on the cover just blew my mind!” He hounded his mother until she bought him the album and little Freddie rushed home and threw the record on his Fisher-Price turntable. “When I heard that opening riff of ‘Detroit Rock City’, that was it. I knew I had to be a musician.” His father soon bought him his first guitar. A cheap Les Paul knock-off. “I never really took proper lessons and it still shows in my playing, even today.” However, what he may have lacked in technical skill, he has more than made up for in passion and determination. Now, many years, bands, and guitars later, that passion and determination has been realized in Gonzo’s Toybox. As the band’s sole remaining founding member, Fred has helped forge GT into one of this area’s most successful regional acts.
Influences: “There have been so many, but it was Ace Frehley that made me want to play guitar. After that, the defining moment was when I first heard ‘Eruption’ by Eddie Van Halen. I can see it like it was yesterday…standing slack-jawed in my bedroom not believing what I was hearing.” This started an endless cycle of influences that have included: Randy Rhoads, Gary Moore, Brian May, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Audley Freed, Michael Schenker, Warren Haynes, George Lynch, Richie Kotzen, Zakk Wylde, Eric Johnson, Brent Mason, Danny Gatton, Scotty Moore, Jerry Cantrell, Steve Vai, and Joe Satriani, to name only a handful.
Gear: Fred is somewhat notorious for his gear addiction, having been through countless guitars, amps, and effects. “I’ve played just about everything out there and owned guitars that have ranged in price from $500 to $5000. I always seem to come back to Gibson Les Pauls, though. Aside from my ebony Les Paul Standard, I currently play an Ibanez RGA3120, I think it is, onstage. It sounds great, plays great, and is very versatile. Plus, if it got stolen or broken, it’s not that big a loss. I also have a pine-bodied G&L Telecaster that is a killer guitar. As far as amps, I’m a die-hard Mesa Boogie guy. I used to use modeling amps back in the day, but there is nothing like a quality tube amp sitting in it’s sweet spot. I currently use a Mesa Road King II and a Mesa Mini-Rectifier. I also like Fulltone and TC Electronic effects. I’ve had these massive complicated MIDI rack rigs in the past, but now I like just keeping it on the floor and simple.”
Q&A with Fred...
How would you describe yourself as a person?
Obese…really determined, loyal to a cause, I like to laugh and joke, music is spiritual to me, but mainly, just obese.
How would you describe yourself as a musician?
A hack. No, really…I totally suck! Sometimes when I’m onstage playing, I can’t wait for the set to end, just so I can come off and kick my own ass! Yeah, I’m really bad.
How do you relax, offstage?
Probably, like anyone else. We don’t have kids, so my wife and I are free to go do things and enjoy life a little more. Go out to eat, see movies, take trips. I love to watch concert DVD’s. I have a pretty good collection. Plus, my wife and I watch a lot of TV shows. BIG fans of “The Walking Dead” here!
Best gig and why?
I’d have to say the 2007 or 2008 Evansville Freedom Festival. Just an ocean of people all ready to have a good time! It was a huge stage, as well, which was a lot of fun. Also, a lot of those old Fast Eddy’s shows were off the hook! It’s hard to pick just one.
Worst gig and why?
We played the grand opening of a new club in Evansville some years back and nobody showed up…not a single person! Actually, a couple did come in, but they thought it was something else and asked for a refund. The manager was literally standing in the street trying to get people to come in! It was pretty bad.
Craziest thing that ever happened at a gig?
This wasn’t really crazy, but I’ll never forget it. We had just finished doing a song for our troops, overseas. It was always important to us to do that because we have so much respect for them and what they do. Anyway, after we finished, a young man walked up to the stage and handed me a handful of Iraqi money. He explained he had just got back from deployment in Iraq and he just wanted to thank me for recognizing what they go through over there and I still have it. It was very humbling because I know I couldn’t have done it. These folks go through hell everyday on our behalf. What they pay for my freedom is something I’m thankful for everyday!
What other member of GT irritates you and why?
Oh, that’s easy…Ed Sein! He just can’t take a bad picture and I don’t know why…I’ve tried! You can catch him on the toilet, drag him out of bed at 4am, dunk him in a huge vat of cottage cheese and he still comes out looking great! It just makes me sick! And, I swear, his hair moves on it’s own without any wind…I’m not kidding!
How do you deal with critics?
Easy. It’s just a matter of following them home.
What do you think accounts for GT’s longevity?
We just love what we do. We have respect for it and the folks that come to see us. We like to have a good time, but we approach this like a business. We don’t tolerate excess or ego. Plus, I think there’s a lot to be said for just having really good chemistry together. We always try to do things just a little better and we strive to make our audience forget they’re in a bar. We want you to feel like you’re at a big rock show. The lackadaisical approach some musicians show to their craft is something we do our best to avoid.
The zombie apocalypse has started. You have time to play one last show. Where and why?
In the parking lot of a gun store, because we’ve been waiting a long time for this and it’s time to get the party started! Time to kick some tunes and a bunch of zombie ass…Gonzo style!