Chris Bay has been the shining light of Freedom Call for its entire 20 year span, literally creating the "subgenre" happy metal. His positivity though the music and live performances, though a stark difference from what most expect in heavy metal, is inspiring and uplifting. Walking away from a Freedom Call performance is like being bathed in light and love.
In a departure from Freedom Call's "happy heavy metal party," Bay just released a solo album filled with songs that continue that same light, but this time without any heavy edge. However, the melody is the same, the happiness and light still beams bright. You can take the "Freedom Call" from the name, but you cannot take it from the man.
Our correspondent Alanna Macron had a chance to speak with Bay about his new solo release "Chasing the Sun," which was just released February 23, 2018 via Steamhammer/SPV. Buy your copy at this location.
CROM: What made you decide to start off with your own solo project?
Chris Bay: Over the years, I was collecting so many songs and so many song material besides Freedom Call and so it was sad to leave it just back in my archive so I decided to just bring it to the people because in my opinion the song material and the songs were too good. But yeah,it’s not starting as a competition to Freedom Call so they’re totally separated.
CROM: Did you ever consider making these songs into Freedom Call songs?
Chris Bay: Oh no, because I wrote the songs always besides Freedom Call and I noticed it was never fitting to a power metal music style. I am a person who is preferring the original so always when you’re writing a song, there’s a lot of emotion into it. I think it’s a creative development of music and I want to keep as an original because I didn’t want to rewrite it or change it to a metal song. That was the main reason to leave the songs as original.
CROM: Did you have any particular influences with this music that wasn’t metal obviously?
Chris Bay: Oh of course. I was listening to so much music when I was young, and it was totally different. On the one side, it was the hard rock stuff, like Deep Purple, Rainbow, and Ozzy Osbourne, and things like this, but on the other side I was also listening to pop, pop rock bands like Simple Minds, INXS, Barclay James Harvest, Supertramp. All these bands were influencing me and I think I was listening to everything: jazz, reggae, and I think that made me as I am.
CROM: Well, it’s good to have a wide variety of music tastes rather than just listening to one.
Chris Bay: Yeah, I’m varied.
CROM: Was there anything that surprised you the most about doing a solo album rather than working with a whole band?
Chris Bay: Oh yeah, the first time it was a bit lonesome. I missed some guys around me, some people! But I had some help from our drummer, Rami Ali, from Freedom Call, he played the drums, because I’m not able to do that. So my hands, my legs and my arms aren’t really working in common. But the rest of the instruments, and all the vocals-I did it by myself. It was a good experience. I said it was a bit lonesome, but I didn’t get tired of doing this and after two or three songs producing, I really was happy because I could do what I want. I didn’t have to take care of anything around me. That was the positive thing for me.
CROM: So you would do the vocals one day, and then guitar the next day, and so on?
Chris Bay: Exactly, exactly. That was the process of about a month between my productions I had many shows with Freedom Call as well. We went on tour and I had to take a break, since Freedom Call has priority for me and that will never change.
CROM: Are you expecting to do any more with the solo work or you’ll see what happens?
Chris Bay: Yeah, I will see what happens. So the plan is to do the next solo album sometime so I’m not under pressure. I have my schedule with Freedom Call to write a new album. I’m also going on tour with my solo album with my acoustic guitar. And yesterday, I had my first show ever with the solo project. Yeah, it was very successful and the people loved it and I had so much fun with the people. And in May, I’m playing a couple of shows in Germany now in the next weeks and then I’m going to Columbia in South America and then probably to Mexico to play several shows. And today was the announcement that I’m supporting Axel Rudi Pell on his tour in October as a special guest so I’m not getting bored.
CROM: Was the show very different than doing a Freedom Call show, like a different experience, obviously?
Chris Bay: Oh, of course, yes. It’s quite lonesome onstage, because it’s just an acoustic guitar in a very small club, with maybe 50 or 60 people. My solo shows are very personal, a very personal atmosphere so people may ask me something during the show and I can tell some stories around touring and around my personal life and experiences I had as a musician.
CROM: With your solo work, that’s more based on your own experiences rather than Freedom Call, like where would you get the inspiration?
Chris Bay: I’m collecting every day. It could be the music that I’m listening to or I’m stopped at a red traffic light and when I’m sitting in the car, and I see an interesting person beside me and it’s inspiring me because I’m always walking with open eyes through my world and I’m collecting inspiration and I think maybe there’s a chance to make your music more unique than other music if you are collecting your experiences in your private way, while not only listening to music.
CROM: Right. So it would be pretty much anything can inspire.
Chris Bay: Everything. Everyday, there are interesting things. You just have to notice it, because so many things are happening around you, but you’re not noticing them because you’re walking around your world with closed eyes.
CROM: Understandable. I work in a hospital so I see pretty much everything.
Chris Bay: Oh yeah. There’s pretty much the real life.
[Around this time, my cat, Sterling, entered into the video and then started watching me]
CROM: Do you have any pets?
Chris Bay: Oh, no. Because of my schedule and I’m always traveling, I can’t take care of them. But sometimes a cat is visiting me in the morning or the cat is says “mews” or “give me food.”
CROM: That sounds like cats, they are very needy. I don’t know why people say they don’t like anybody.
Chris Bay: [laughs]
CROM: If you didn’t go into metal, do you think you would have gone into doing more solo work more?
Chris Bay: Well, the decision to make totally different music from Freedom Call’s music with my solo album. There is the intention, because if I were to release a solo album with metal music then people would have had questions because “Why, I have a metal band?” and there is no reason to start a second project with metal music because if I’m writing good metal music then I will use them for Freedom Call and when I’m writing bad or boring songs then I’ll just delete them. It’s the only reason I’m doing a totally different project from Freedom Call and that’s what made it interesting to me to produce, to write the songs. Because it’s like an oasis from the metal music. When I’m coming home from tour, relax while writing and I can work on more silent, direct songs.
CROM: Did you go through a lot of bad songs when you say you’re throwing songs out?
Chris Bay: Yeah, sometimes it happens because you’re thinking, “Oh I have a great idea” and then you’re sitting in the studio and writing out the songs and step by step you’re noticing, “Oh, that’s all bullshit I’m doing”, and this kind of music I’m not collecting, I’m deleting it because there’s not enough time in the world to work on bullshit..
Chris Bay: Yeah, of course.
CROM: It’s got to be good. So would you describe yourself as a perfectionist when it comes to the music that you produce?
Chris Bay: Yeah. I think, personally, when I was younger and went to school I was a little bit of a chaotic person. I didn’t do my homework, I didn’t do anything, no exercise. My parents were totally disappointed about this way. But when i’m working on music, I think that because it’s my passion, that’s my life and yeah, I’m kind of like a perfectionist. I’m always working on these details, these smaller things that have to fit perfectly.
CROM: And you do the composing for everything pretty much, not just the lyrics but the music as well?
Chris Bay: Yeah, mainly the music. So in the other times, with Freedom Call, I did it with a good friend and partner, Daniel Zimmermann, he played for Gamma Ray, the drums as well. His part was to write the lyrics and my part was to write the music, so we split it 50/50. When Daniel left in 2007, I had to start to write the lyrics as well. But yeah, it’s fun, and I really appreciate having a job like this.
CROM: How does it feel to not have to show the work to a band?
Chris Bay: Well, of course, it doesn’t matter what kind of thing you’re doing, you’re always going to have haters. Especially now, with the solo stuff, there are some comments on Facebook or some emails I’m getting, saying “oh that’s bullshit,” “that’s not metal.” But on the other side, I can do whatever I want. I can do a black metal or a thrash metal album and they would answer me in the same style. So they are haters, I have it every time, but I don’t care.
CROM: Sort of grow a thick skin where you just end up being like, “oh yeah whatever, it’s what I like to do, right?”
Chris Bay: Exactly. That’s my kind of work. I have a lot of people that are following, they like my music and that gives me a lot of motivation and energy. That gives me this power to ignore some haters or something, because I’m not forcing anybody to listen to my music.
CROM: I mean, I like them both. I’ve listened to a lot of Freedom Call and I’ve listened to the solo album. I found them both pretty great.
Chris Bay: Yeah, I think being open minded, that’s life. It’s a quality of life to be able to be open minded.
CROM: Always good, there’s too much out there in the world to just start hating on one thing especially with music. I remember reading that you said you were sort of going back to when you were younger. Was there anybody in particular you were thinking of?
Chris Bay: Oh no, because there were so many artists that I was listening to and I was following. I had my idols, like the singer of Saga, Michael Sadler. I was following this music in the early days and one time, I met him at a concert in my hometown and I felt like a little boy, it was my idol, I didn’t want to look into his eyes. He was such a nice guy and that’s why I’m really appreciative to have a job like this because all the people are nice people. They’re friendly, respectful and that’s really a great job to be doing.
CROM: So I’ve also heard that you do a lot of free metal festivals with Freedom Call?
Chris Bay: Yes, but I think this year 2018 is going to be more of a songwriting year. I need some time to prepare the songwriting, the song material. But our schedule is getting more and we’re going to play some big festivals around Europe and then I have my solo shows in Columbia and Germany and so a lot of things to do. I would like to split myself in two.
CROM: Yeah, you can make a clone of yourself! Are you planning on doing anymore shows with the solo besides in Columbia and in Germany, like in other countries?
Chris Bay: It’s like starting a new project and I think when the people start noticing, then they will contact my agents and it goes from there.
CROM: Okay, well I think that’s about it from me otherwise I’m going to start repeating myself even more than usual. Thank you for being supportive for my first interview.
Chris Bay: Well thank you for the time and the questions, and say hi to your cat for me!
Check out Chris Bay on tour with Axel Rudi Pell this fall!