I am psyched to feature Freddie McCullough for the next installment of my Rebel Beauty Project. Fred Los Angeles, as many know her, is a veteran of the LA and Northwest rock, punk, and queercore scenes. She has a knack for finding ground on the best side of all upsides. This magic owes its success to an easygoing, sociable charm and honest graciousness, qualities that underscore the work ethic of a serious musician dedicated to her craft.
At just 13 years old, Freddie began drumming in local swing and country music bands, a determination that later landed her at the Musicians Institute in LA and under the instruction of pro drummers like Joe Porcaro. After honing her chops in Los Angeles, Freddie made her way to Seattle in 1993, where she served as a founding member of the groundbreaking all-female punk band Rubber, as well as played in various bands, including the originative all-female Pink Chihuahua.
I met Freddie while also playing in the Northwest music scene, and, to my glee, she accepted my invite to play drums for Bobbitt (as in Lorena), a feminist metal band that I was forming with local Seattle vocalist Tonja Renee Hall.
Freddie headed back to LA in 2007 and jumped right back in with bands Kim D and The Killer Bees, Charlie Don’t Surf, and Kittenhead, and she has never stopped. Endorsed by District Drum Company, Freddie currently plays drums for Sapphic Musk and The Derolinas, as well as teaches private drum instruction, volunteers for Rock N’ Roll Camp for Girls, and does session and recording work.
What is your history with the drums? Why this instrument?
I tried piano, guitar, and accordion, but I didn’t have the patience to get past the rudimentary stuff. One day, I came home from school and my dad’s band was rehearsing in our living room. I had never really seen a band live before and had probably only seen a drummer on TV once or twice. I was blown away and immediately zoned in on the drummer.
So with a little bit of begging and pleading, I had about a year’s worth of lessons, and I just gained what I could listening and jamming to my mom’s records. I really loved Lou Reed, The Boys, Elvis Costello,The Talking heads, and the Ramones.
I’ve spent a lot of time playing punk rock, and I really, really love that genre—fast and interesting stuff. But, I grew up with a lot of R&B and pop. As a drummer, pocket and feel are important and exciting to me.
Do you think it is important for drummers to seek formal music education?
Oh yes, but I also think it’s an individual choice. For me, there wasn’t any question in my mind that I wanted to develop further than I could take it on my own, and the timing was right to take advantage of a great program. But, again, it really depends on the individual.
I’ve also known very successful killer drummers that are self-taught. It’s great to have mentors and inspiration. Music isn’t really something that you do alone, especially when you’re developing.
What are some of the challenges you have faced as a drummer and how have you personally overcome some of these challenges?
One of the hardest things I found was having a place to practice on the kit without disturbing others. You need a dedicated space. There are times I find myself without that.
Also, keeping it fresh and interesting has been another challenge. That means getting out of your space and watching and learning from others and listening to new or old great music….and playing gig’s….rock on!
Back when we were playing together in the Seattle 90s and early 00s, rock music was saturated with misogynistic and sexist attitudes toward women musicians. Have things changed? Is it just within certain communities, or are there some positives you’ve noticed about how female musicians are embraced in the larger rock music scene?
Your are not always going to be accepted, but you could say the same goes for anyone. Still, while sometimes it was just hard to fit in with the guys, I have met and worked with many awesome dudes who totally support and are great friends and musicians.
Best thing, really, is practice and play as well as you can and hang and play with people you like that stretch your abilities and have fun.
But, yes, things have changed in a positive way. I think we are more accepted, and there are more of us, especially within certain communities. In the larger rock music scene, we are being embraced, and things are definitely getting better. Women musicians are way more present, available, and involved. It’s not 50/50, but we are showing up with skills, and that is the bottom line ultimately.
What do you think has brought about some of the positive changes? Would you agree that our generation of punk feminist musicians are part of the changes you see today?
Most definitely. I think the Riot Grrrl scene and female musicians who were shaking things up spawned activism and workshops. There was also a coinciding feminist presence in the spoken word scene with people like Tara Hardy, Annie La Ganga, and Michelle Tea bringing in even more activism and workshops.
Right around that time or shortly after, Rock N’ Roll Camp for Girls came into being, and it’s become such a natural phenomenon. I don’t think we’ve ever had as many resources and safe cool places for women and girls to try out their creativity and build community.
Is that what inspired you to get involved with Rock N’ Roll Camp for Girls?
Yes! The camp is so amazing, and the people that bring it together and the community that they serve….just rock! It is a heartwarming and positive experience all around. It is a unique opportunity for the girls. I am thoroughly honored to be involved anytime it is possible. I am always amazed at what happens.
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