23 March 2007
For the cover of his newly released second volume of autobiography,
I Am The Voice Left from Rehab
, James Freud has deliberately chosen an unflattering shirtless image of himself, when he was pot-bellied and puffy faced a short time before his October 2004 stint in a Manly rehabilitation clinic. He writes: “Today, I would rather stick a gun in my mouth and pull the trigger than pick up a drink.”
EIGHTIES rock star James Freud looks a little careworn, but in great shape considering his five suicide attempts and the drinking that led to his friends intervening and slinging him into detox and then rehabilitation two-and-a-half years ago.
The 47-year-old former Models lead singer, best known for hits
Out of Mind, Out of Sight
, is well turned out in a bold blue suit jacket and black collared shirt, with a silver skull and cross bones belt buckle on his pants. He’s slim and tanned; meditating and jogging around his Gold Coast home agree with him. He also plays golf, surfs and rides his bicycle.
Nicotine and caffeine are his drugs of choice now, he says. He’s been smoking cigars at Circular Quay before this interview in Sydney. For the cover of his newly released second volume of autobiography,
I Am The Voice Left from Rehab
, Freud has deliberately chosen an unflattering shirtless image of himself, when he was pot-bellied and puffy faced a short time before his October 2004 stint in a Manly rehabilitation clinic. He writes: “Today, I would rather stick a gun in my mouth and pull the trigger than pick up a drink.”
It’s a harrowing yet engaging read, and gives Freud the chance to come clean on the lie he disseminated in 2002 after the release of the first volume,
I Am The Voice Left from Drinking
. Back then, he told journalists he’d beaten the bottle, just like the long list of drugs he’d given up years earlier.
Yet when he appeared on Bert Newton’s morning TV show during the book’s promotion that year, Freud had been swigging vodka from a flask off camera. An ABC Melbourne announcer, Jon Faine, privately questioned Freud’s sobriety after the performer was interviewed on Faine’s radio program around that period. Faine was spot on and, in fact, the worst of Freud’s drinking was yet to come.
Won’t the singer’s sobriety be questioned this time? “Have a look at the cover,” Freud says of the new book. “That’s what I looked like when I drank. And now I’m very healthy. I haven’t had a drink for two-and-a-half years. I’m training for the Gold Coast marathon. I eat well.
“The other book was written with the right intention, and I had given up when I started writing. I kind of believed that I was not drinking, that I sort of had it under control.”
Yet by October 2004, Freud was packing his bags to leave his family in their Gold Coast home to fly to the US, where he intended to drink himself to death. When he landed in Sydney, old friends including Martin Plaza from Mental as Anything met him on the premise of a sleepover, tore up his air ticket, and forced him into detox and rehab.
Freud finally admitted he was powerless over alcohol, that he had a disease. He has a few guesses in the book at why he drank: it was an Irish character trait, he suggests, although when pressed on the point he says his parents never drank to excess during his childhood, and that he had a fairly happy time growing up in Melbourne, although his parents split when Freud was in his early teens, his father Joe leaving the family home.
Freud admits he bought into the mythology that to go from pop star to artist, one had to self-destruct. Then, when touring with the Models in 1982, the band’s plane hit an electrical storm, sparking the first of many panic attacks, from which alcohol would provide succour. His failed dreams of solo stardom after the Models broke up around 1987, in contrast to a “Peter Pan-existence” where his every rock star whim had been catered to, didn‘t help.
But the essential reasons for his drinking may be simpler than those any psychological excavation may uncover. “Once I got drunk or stoned, I just loved it,” he says now. “I just thought it was fantastic and wanted more of it.” Now he says he’ll be a member of Alcoholics Anonymous for life.
What does the rock star who once claimed religion and faith were for the “poor and hopeless masses” mean when he writes he has chosen to believe in God? “I’m just a believer in the universe. I’ve seen proof that things happen for a reason. There are no coincidences. It’s not really religion, because religions are evil; all the wars, the killing and child abuse that goes on in the name of man-made religion.
“Look, I believe in a God. I look for a calm and peace. I meditate and I pray. I don’t know who or what it is I’m praying to, just that there’s a force stronger than me.”
Certainly Freud’s wife Sally, a television producer and children’s story writer, comes across as a saint for providing Freud with more than 20 years of mostly unconditional love and support. But Freud does not back away from his book’s assertion that love is “usually wasted on the self-obsessed addict”. He needed the “tough love” of family and friends, to force him to choose between them or the bottle – life or slow death – which he finally got.
Freud is finishing a new solo album,
Canoga Park Garage Band
, which will be sold as a download only, in between producing an album for his sons Harrison, 19, and Jackson, 17, and their burgeoning band Sonic Dogma. The family has shelved plans to stay permanently in LA for financial reasons.
Freud says he loves his sons and their bond is close. He’s made amends with Jackson, who had been appalled and hurt by his father’s drinking, although Harrison has “become an obnoxious teenager who tells us to get stuffed”.
Freud writes that he’s worried Harrison “may be in AA by the time he’s 21”. Indeed, on Harrison Freud’s myspace site, the young singer declares himself to be an “insane drunk”.
“Look, ultimately, everyone’s got to live their own journey,” says his father now. To control drinking, says Freud, is “one of those things where nobody can influence your life until you’re ready, until you’re open to it”.
June 29 1959: born Colin McGlinchey in Melbourne.
number 12 on Australian charts. “Everything I had aspired to since age five, but such a frivolous song; wish I’d written more insightful lyrics.”
1982: Models’ album
Pleasure of Your Company
released. “Best album I ever did.”
1984: Marries Sally Clifton. “Destined to be together, but I got stoned and didn’t dance with her. I regret that.”
Out of Mind, Out of Sight
single number one in Australia. “The pinnacle, but an anti-climax because Sally and I had separated for a couple of weeks.”
1988 and 1989: Sons Harrison and Jackson born. “Greatest thing in my life, but they were horrible as babies; deprived us of sleep.”
with Martin Plaza. “Love that album; so different to anything done here in Australia.”
October 17 2004: Last drink. “As low as I could get.”
October 17 2005: One year’s sobriety. “The best. Never thought I could go one year without drinking.”
December 2006: Produces song
, performed by Harrison and Jackson as Sonic Dogma. “Fantastic. Jackson wrote the track and when Harrison sang, I looked at Jackson and went: ‘Holy f---!’”