PODCAST: Legendary guitarist's unusual beginnings
MICKI Free is one of the greatest guitarists on the planet.
He has played with the who's who of the rock and roll world. Prince, Santana, Bruce Springsteen, KISS and more all class Micki as more of a friend than a band mate.
And it is easy to see why. Not only is he an extremely talented musician, but a very easy going and well natured man as well.
In their chat, Micki shares with Matt his first guitar, which he built out of a detergent box, going to his first live gig to see Jimi Hendrix, playing with members of The Rolling Stones in front of 100,00 people and the unusual reason why he wanted to become a rock star.
Matt Collins:I want to take you back, when did you first pick up a guitar?
Micki Free:Oh God, I am an army brat okay. My step-father was in the service. So when we were living in Germany I was listening to Cream and Jimi Hendrix and The Rolling Stones. I was probably about 12 when I first picked it up. I made my first guitar man, I made it.
MF:Yeah, I made it out of a detergent box and I stuck a stick on it and some rubber bands so I could emulate playing guitar and being cool. That's where it started.
MC:Have you still got that guitar?
MF:Yeah, it's hanging up in the Hard Rock (Cafe). No, I'm only joking.
MC:Haha, with a Micki Free signature, it's worth millions.
MF:Yeah, that's right.
MC:Is it true your first live concert was seeing Jimi Hendrix?
MF:Totally. My father came home with a couple of tickets and gave them to my older sister because his friend's daughter couldn't go to the show because she got in trouble. But my sister didn't even know who he was. She didn't want to take me but she had to. So we are sitting in the front row and all of a sudden this guy comes out with his big afro and pink bell-bottoms on and he goes, 'this is for the lady in the front row' and then the Stratocaster made this amazing sound and then he went into Foxy Lady and it was over for me. That was it.
MC:You knew your path in life after that concert.
MF:Yeah, but it was more than just his music. It was his whole vibe. He was so cool. I am really big into fashion and clothes and boots. I just love all of it. I think part of the reason why I wanted to become a rockstar was so I could dress up all the time.
MC:This show is called Coffee Chats, so I am interested in one of your current hits, Mojo black coffee.
MF:Well that song is about the coffee my mother used to make. It was so strong. I tried it a couple of times and I could barely drink it. In the song it says, 'Staying out too late, partying with the band, Mojo black coffee is going to make it right.'
MC:Is that how you drink your coffee now?
MF:I drink it, but it isn't quite like Mojo. It might be Small Joe.
MC:It's Mojo half strength.
MF:It's more like Mini Joe.
MC:Micki, you are the epitome of a cool musician. One of the first things I noticed about you was the tats. You have some very impressive tattoos. Can you remember the very first tattoo you got?
MF:Oh wow, you are never going to believe this. When I was younger I was a huge KISS fan. I got lucky in life and became very good friends with Gene and Paul, because Gene discovered me when I was about 18. But I was a huge Paul Stanley fan when I was growing up so I got a rose on my chest, the same rose that he had. But it is long gone now. It got covered up by some tribal stuff or something.
MC:Why did you cover it up?
MF:Because I needed more room. So Paul's rose had to go baby.
MC:Does he know that story? Have you told him that story?
MF:Oh yeah, of course. KISS managed me for almost two decades, so no stories were left unturned.
MC:You have played with the best of the best, who would you class as one or two of your biggest mentors over your career?
MF:Gene (Simmons) was a huge influence on me for his rawness and for getting the job done. But when I was younger, the two guys who impacted my style and what I loved was Carlos Santana and Jimi Hendrix. I've got to tell you, I've jammed with Carlos many times, he is so gracious and so giving. When I play with him he just pushes me to the front. And then of course, there is Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top. I went to the Bahamas and recorded with Billy. He gave me one of his signature guitars, off his neck. Just gave it to me, and that was crazy. And Prince too, most people wouldn't know Prince was a great guitarist.
MC:That was a hell of a list Micki Free.
MF:I know, right. I've got to add one more. Bill Weyman from the Rolling Stones. He was just such a gentleman and so cool. I was playing in London, 100,000 people at an event called, Hard Rock Calling. The night before, Bill invites me over to his house for a cup of tea. I was like freaking out. We had a cup of tea and a couple of glasses of wine. It was quite nice. The next day at the concert I asked him if he wanted to jam with me, and he said, 'of course. I have all ready told all my fans on my website I would be jamming with Micki Free.' The highlight of that gig was playing Jumping Jack Flash to 100,000 people and you could have heard a pin drop.
MC:When you play with some of these guys, is there an element that says, I have to raise my game here? Or is it overwhelming or do you feel like you are exactly where you should be?
MF:You know, it's a little of all three of what you just said. It's overwhelming playing with Carlos Santana. It's a bit overwhelming, it's exciting, but I feel comfortable in my own skin to play with these people.
MC:You are a proud native American man, you have made a point of keeping that indigenous heritage front and centre in your music. Why is that so important?
MF:Well a lot of people don't know this but I have made five native American flute albums. I play the flute like I play guitar. Very melodic, very consensually amorous. I like to connect, that's my biggest thing. I like to connect and know that I'm getting to you. I am a very proud native man, but I don't wear it on my sleeve.
MC:Well there is no room with all your tattoos.