Better Call Josh: A Retrospective on the Career of Josh Freese

From punk rock to pop, to heavy metal and new wave, Josh Freese is one of the most prolific drummers in the world. He has appeared on close to 400 records, performing and recording for: A Perfect Circle, Paramore, Nine Inch Nails, Devo, The Vandals, Sting, The Replacements, Guns N’ Roses, The Offspring, Weezer, Sublime with Rome, Evanescence, Selena Gomez, Miley Cyrus, Kelly Clarkson, Cher, Michael Bublé, Bruce Springsteen, Slash, Queens of the Stone Age, Danny Elfman, Hans Zimmer, and many others.

Josh Freese was born on Christmas Day, 1972 in Orlando, Florida, but has lived in Southern California since he was 6 months old. Growing in a family of musicians (his father worked as a musical director at the Walt Disney Company and his mother was a classical pianist) he was surrounded by music all of the time, starting to play the drums at the age of seven years old. He started playing professionally at the age of 12 in a Top 40 cover band at Disneyland in California, starting touring and making records at the age of 15, first with Dweezil Zappa and then the Vandals. With the punk rock band the Vandals he recorded all the albums from 1990 to this day, except for Look What I Almost Stepped In… (2000).

From 1992 he started to work as a session drummer, recording for Suicidal Tendencies, Paul Westerberg, Tracy Bonham, Devo, and Danny Elfman for the soundtrack of Freeway. In 1996 he joined Devo, one of his favorite bands as inspiration to learn the drums. In that period Freese recorded for Guns N’ Roses, Chris Cornell, Lazlo Bane, and Mike Ness.
In 1999 he joined, replacing Tim Alexander, the rock supergroup A Perfect Circle, recording their debut album Mer de Noms. With APC he played until 2011 when he left to pursue the committed work with Weezer. The album Thirteenth Step (2003) by APC is one of the most brilliant and creative works by Freese, who plays with majesty on a great variety of time signatures. Here’s the transcription of the main grooves included in the album.

josh freese drum transcriptions a perfect circle

Still a member of A Perfect Circle, he recorded for some of the most famous artists in America, such as Evanescence, Good Charlotte, Kelly Clarkson, The Offspring, and more. In 2005 he played for Sting’s Broken Music Tour, with guitarists Dominic Miller and Shane Fontayne, an important collaboration that will continue in the future. He also appeared on the DVD “Live 8 – July 2nd 2005” with Sting.
Josh Freese played with Nine Inch Nails on the With Teeth Tour in 2005-2006. With NIN he recorded some drum tracks on Year Zero (2007) and The Slip (2008). After the Lights in the Sky 2008 Tour, he left the band in order to spend more time with his family and his wife, who was pregnant with the couple’s third child at the time.

As a solo artist, Freese released four albums for his record label Outerscope Records, where he wrote, sang, and performed just about everything. He has co-written songs with Queens of the Stone Age, The Vandals, A Perfect Circle, Dwarves, Devo, and Sting. With an established reputation as one of the most demanded session drummers in the music business, he also recorded for Katy Perry, Michael Bublé, Nelly Furtado, Guns N’ Roses, Slash, Kelly Clarkson, Joe Cocker, Social Distortion, and other artists. After toured with Weezer in 2009 and with Paramore in 2011, in the next year he toured with Sublime with Rome to replace the previous drummer Bud Gaugh.

Freese appears on the 2014 Bruce Springsteen album High Hopes, playing drums on the track “This Is Your Sword”. He recorded drum tracks on Sting’s albums 57th & 9th (2016) and My Songs (2019), playing for the tours in support of those records. Recently, in the time of Covid, he recorded for Danny Elfman, Paul Leary, and Samantha Fish, recording drum tracks at his studio in L.A. for what he calls his “day job.”

Josh Freese plays DW drums, Paiste cymbals, Vater drumsticks, Remo heads. He uses DW 9000 series hardware and 9002 double-pedal.

josh freese drum set
Josh Freese’s 2014 session rig | DRUM! Magazine

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