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Micki Free: Jamming for Veterans and Playing the Dangerous Rock Game

Hard rock guitarist Micki Free talks about helping veterans and Native youth, and says that 'rock 'n roll is a dangerous game'

Micki Free, Cherokee and Comanche, is showing no signs of slowing his rock or his roll. The former Shalamar guitarist is still headlining venues with his American Horse Band. A new album on Frontier Records, featuring Free and Jean Beauvoir (collaborator with KISS, The Ramones and others) is set to be released in 2015. And, the man regularly appears with Carlos Santana and drummer Cindy Blackman-Santana. He has just announced dates and venues for an Australian mini tour with Leon Hendrix, younger brother of Jimi. He's receiving a Rock Honors Award at this weekend's 2014 Indie Entertainment Summit alongside Steppenwolf, Deep Purple, Metallica, Parlament-Funkadelic, Bootsy Collins, 2Pac and Nirvana. He may be 59, but he soesn't sound like a man who's ready for a porch-swing. Indian Country Today caught up with him in a rare moment of downtime.

Tell us about the benefit show you did for Homeless Veterans Concert in Pomona, California, at The Pomona Fox Theater, on May 25th.

I've got various projects that I do. The group that performed for the Homeless Veterans Benefit is a group of pro players: bassist Prescott Niles, formerly of The Knack; drummer Hawk Lopez, who's played on the Native Music Rock Tour; and others. The line-up for the show also included Redbone, Hank Linderman, Angela Razon and comedian Jim Ruel. The evening was sponsored by the Costanoan Rumsen Carmel Tribe, and Saginaw Grant and Mariana Tosco were the MCs.

How did you get attached to this project?

I got a call from the promoters to get involved. I do two or three benefits a year. Performing for veterans is close to my heart. My stepfather was a vet, my brother-in-law is a Vietnam vet, and I believe in the veterans and what they do for America, period. Native Americans are a big part of that group, and they fought and died for this country. I don't feel that this government has given veterans a real shot at what they should be getting, returning from war. They can't get jobs. They can't get healthcare or insurance. It's just sad. I try to do what I can. If I can reach out to help homeless vets, I'm there for sure, bro.

What's the scoop on the Beauvoir-Free collaboration deal?

Jean Beauvoir is a very famous producer and song-writer and artist in his own right. He was in the group The Plasmatics. He wrote and produced for KISS. He produced for The Ramones. His biography and list of accomplishments is endless. We're partners in songwriting. We had a group in the early 90's called Crown of Thorns, signed to Interscope Records. We were huge in the 90's in Europe as a hard-rock group. So, we're just glad to come back together as Beauvoir-Free and do another CD. We got signed to Frontiers Records World-Wide. We were managed by Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley (KISS) for 10 years. We're no strangers to huge record deals and touring big arenas. So, look for us out there in late 2014 and into 2015. We're doing the CD called American Trash.

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What genre or genres are you leaning toward?

It's gonna be just good rock 'n roll -- blues rock, classic rock, that people can relate to. It does especially well in the European countries, à la Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, Bon Jovi. So we're gonna put together a great record and tour on that. We start in studio next month. It'll probably take a month, or so, to write the record. We'll deliver it in October.And, probably late 2014 to early 2015 we'll start to tour, internationally. Frontier Records will release it in Europe first. There are going to be big festivals during the spring and summer. That'll be announced on Facebook.

Any special guests gonna be making cameos in studio?

Well, you know me, and Jean is just as infamous. So, who knows who is going to be on the record. With friends like Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, Carlos Santana and Cindy Blackman-Santana, Jon Bon Jovi, Joe Perry -- the list of people we know and have worked with is endless. So, if people are available, and so inclined, and the song warrants it, it will be a ring of stars and hit-makers. But the ICTMN readers will just have to stay tuned.

Your career has spanned many years, across many genres. Is that your key to success and longevity?

There's not a big mystery to my success. It's just what I do. I was lucky Gene Simmons heard me when I was 17 years old. Winning a Grammy, five Native American Music Awards, keeping it the mix, giving back. I always help, especially Native American youth. Try to give the kids a better choice, rather than gangs and drugs. I think the Creator looks down on me and sees I'm a humble guy and I care about my fellow human beings. I think that Native Americans need more people to look up to, and I try to be one of those guys. I do the best I can. 

Anything else on the schedule, stateside?

For me, my next thing is to get this record done with Jean. Then, I've got a couple of projects with some Native American Nations that I do some music programs for, and develop music programs for some Tribes in Arizona, Native Music Rocks-style. So, you'll see blurbs in the newspapers and on Twitter about those. Then I'll do another solo album. It's crazy, but y'know, rock 'n roll is a dangerous game.

Friends, fans and potential fans can keep up to date on Micki's many exploits at his website mickifree.com and his official Facebook page.