Occasionally, you hear a song that comes into your ears with some sort of siren attached, where you just feel this primal energy that seems to come from all directions. It won't settle for just being detached musical amusement, it heads straight for your blood, your body, your psyche. When I first heard Dead Bed Bad, I had listened to a couple songs and knew they were good, I knew I wanted them to join our site. When I heard back from them, I listened again and that's when the song Love Burns The Man nailed me right between the eyes, and ears. It takes a few seconds to kick in, and then by god, you proceed to hear one of the most powerful songs of this generation. I mean this song hit me in a way that I needed to listen slowly to write down the lyrics myself so I could sing along in my head. I want to know the girl that this song was about and have sex with her! Your winter warmth from your summer skin.. Flames in the desert, crimson skies. Dancin' on the effigy with gasoline cans, love burns the man. When the song ends, your heart stops for a few seconds, that's how good it is.
Then you realize the artist is so prolific he's written and finished 2 full records in a year, with songs that all sound as different as night and day. The guy behind the songs, his name is John Frederick and I believe he can go as far as he wants to in music. I got a chance to ask him some questions and I've also come to believe he doesn't even know how good he is.
Dead Bed Bad (in case you want to listen while you read)
Scott: okay the first question is an easy one. When did you start to write songs and what's your general method?
John: I was 24 when I started writing. I couldn’t sing at all then but I was a budding studio engineer/producer/guitar player so songs generally started with completed arrangements. Then I would hum melodies over the track and fill in the gaps with lyrics later. Needless to say, the songs weren’t very cohesive but still interesting. Presently, songs are written similarly but with more specific ideas regarding feel, groove, message, content. Often, these days, I write poems and then write the music around that.
Scott: You have a live performing band as well? Have you recorded your shows and put them online anywhere? I'd be interested in that personally. What's a Dead Bed Bad live show like?
John: Yes. In three years I’ve been through 3 drummers, 2 second guitar players, 2 bass players and a couple of keyboard players. Not necessarily because I’m difficult to deal with though that has been an issue from time to time. Instead, I move at a very fast pace. I mean, I’ve recorded 3 albums in 3 years and I tend to expect the same pace in rehearsals. Unfortunately, musicians who aren’t getting paid can’t typically keep up. That’s life. The good musicians in Mid-Missouri are in 3 different bands. All of these factors dilute live performances. Time and money restrict us from recording live shows. We’re always rushed on stage and rushed off. Theres no time for someone to mic us correctly and capture it. Live sound engineers just get cranky and by the time we get on stage we’ve just moved the equivalent of your living room furniture. And I don’t think we’ve ever played a gig where the sound engineer offered us separate tracks of the shows so that I could properly mix them for a live release. Hopefully in the future that will happen. What is it like? Loud. Depends on my mood I guess. We have a lot of original material to choose from so we keep it loose and play whatever suits the venue/crowd. If on a particular night we’re a trio, you can expect the guitar to be loud and dirty and aggressive. If the Hammond is in the mix, things tend to sound prettier. You never know what to expect. We play all sorts of weird venues. Sometimes things get broken. Sometimes not. We’re playing a cat food drive tomorrow on the front porch of a music store. I can’t make this shit up.
Scott: I guess here is where I ask you where the name came from, is it your original name or were there other names prior to that?
John: It was simply a password for a router at one time in which you could only use the first 5 letters of the alphabet. You can type it with your left hand alone. The dot.com was available. I kind of regret using that name but then again there’s Led Zeppelin so….I don’t think the name matters too much.
Scott: I've usually described your music using the word "swamp". What's your reaction to that?
John: I think that is accurate when referring to certain songs. “Peddlers Jamboree” is fairly “swampy”. I’ve been working on a song that is very “swamp-blues” based so it’s funny you mention that. On a metaphorical level, I suppose swamps conjure up ominous feelings in conjunction with a certain tempo at which time is forever stuck/stagnant and my music might feel that way overall. Interesting thought, indeed.
Scott: With songs like Love Burns The Man and To Hell With Love, it's clear that you have your own vantage point about relationships and such. When did that start to manifest itself and what's your current take on the subject?
John: I’ve been madly in love a handful of times and they’ve (the relationships) always ended in disaster. Those two songs were written in response to my last relationship. Just when I thought I was old enough and wise enough to deal with loss on that level, the mega-storm hit again and literally destroyed structures. I was not sober then. Now I am…almost 8 months. My relationship with love as a sober man has yet to be fully revealed.
Scott: One of the folks I played your song for compared you to Jim Morrison, something that I thought of as well when hearing your stuff. Are you as intense a personality day-to-day as you are in your songs?
John: Some psychology professionals have referred to me as a “social deviant”. I suppose J.M. was the same. Whether or not that had to do with substance abuse problems, I don’t know. I do know that, as a sober man, my social grievances are similar. Intense? Not sure. It’s a constant internal struggle to smile and blend in and I have absolutely no interest in joining a fantasy football league.
Scott: Your biography said you spent some time as a lounge musician in Vegas. What was that like? Any good anecdotes?
John: I was very young at that time. That happened a few years before the lounge band thing disappeared. It was a blast at such a young age. One day I was dropping out of my first year of business college and the next I was in Vegas wearing tight pants and playing with 40 year old musicians in casinos every night. Ironically, I made more money then than I ever have as a musician since. Learning 200 top 40 songs probably was the best schooling as a musician that I could ever have had. Having said that, I absolutely loathe cover/tribute bands.
Scott: You have a song called I'll Be Your Ghost, what's that all about ?
John: An ex once told me to “ghost”. Basically, she wanted her cake and eat it too. Clever little devil. I suppose the song is all about relationship trickery—if you’re gonna lie, better be good at it or you’ll reap what you sew eventually.
Scott: I was struck by the image that accompanied your record Love Burns The Man, which is by Sheridan Irwin. Have you ever been a visual artist as well ?
John: Nope. Never. I can tell you if something is good or bad or cheesy or whatever. I have no idea how to create it though. I have no interest in learning either. My plate is full with the many hats I wear musically. If I ever feel compelled to sketch something I immediately feel guilty because I should be working on a classical piano piece or something. I asked Sheridan to make an album cover, gave her the demos, she gave me that in about a week via email. I paid her. Done. She captured the vibe perfectly. Very talented, she is.
Scott: You mentioned that you are perhaps close to shutting the band down due to seeming to not be gaining traction. What were your expectations going in, and when did you first know that you're good?
John: I still don’t know that I’m good. I’m stuck in a space where I can’t listen to people’s input because 95 percent of them don’t know what they’re talking about or they’re biased because they know you. I can’t sell myself to managers, booking agents, festival promoters because…well…I’m an artist…we live in self-doubt. Also, Love Burns the Man has been out 1 week exactly and one person has downloaded exactly ONE song. That’s $1. So, am I good? If the numbers don’t lie, the answer is no, I’m not. Furthermore, we played to about 10 people at our album release show. Yup, you heard correctly…10 people. But I’m not supposed to tell you those things. Bands will lie through their teeth publicly to make themselves seem like a bigger deal than they are. I get it. However, I can’t do that. It feels wrong. And when you get caught, you look like a fraud. I figure the only chance I have of making a career out of this in the future is through undeniable content. By “content” I sure as fuck don’t mean cute videos and tons of useless pictures on Facebook. I’m talking about a mountain of well recorded songs….a strong body of work. I suppose when more than 10 people show up at a show, I’ll know that people are starting to catch wind of this thing ORGANICALLY. I may be dead by then though. Who knows. It takes money to make money in music as well. If you ain’t got a rich mommy or daddy paying for online promo and the gas guzzler you’re touring in, people ain’t never gonna know your music.
Scott: I ask all Spotlight artists this question. Ever have any experiences of high strangeness like UFOs, the supernatural, or whatever?
John: I hardly ever have nightmares but, on the night before the planes hit the World Trade Center towers, I had a nightmare. In this black & white dream, there were 1000’s of wispy, ghostly souls swirling into the black sky screaming and screeching. It was horrible. I went back to sleep and woke up a few hours later as my phone was ringing incessantly early that morning. I was in Los Angeles at the time.
Scott: Does doing your own music free you?
John: A big-time dick of a Bentley-driving Hollywood producer was critical of my lyrics once. He basically said they weren’t good enough. At the time, there was a possibility that I might work with him. While I wish I had enough money to pay my debts and eat, I seriously doubt I would’ve been happy with the way my songs turned out after having gone through his cheese-dick production mill. So, in that sense, yes.