By Simone Goldstone | Soundcheck Columnist
For the first time in 12 years, Jefferson Starship – one of the most successful rock bands of the 1970s and 80s – has released new music: an album titled “Mother of the Sun.”
Orange County is welcoming them with open arms on October 18 as they premiere their new songs live for the first time at a drive-in concert at the Orange County Fairgrounds.
Sprung from the ashes of the iconic Jefferson Airplane via the late, great Paul Kantner, Jefferson Starship took the arena rock world by storm with hits such as “Jane,” “Miracles,” and “Count on Me,” to name a few.
David Freiberg is the only surviving member of Jefferson Airplane who’s currently in Jefferson Starship. Frieberg was a vanguard of psych rock and the San Francisco sound with his first group, Quicksilver Messenger Service. He joined Jefferson Airplane in 1972, and later, Jefferson Starship. Frieberg wrote their hit “Jane” and is also known for the distinctive organ riff in “Miracles.”
In anticipation for their much-awaited show, Freiberg talked with the NB Indy’s music writer Simone Goldstone about reuniting with former Jefferson Airplane lead singer Grace Slick to co-write the new song “It’s About Time,” playing the famed Monterey Pop Festival, and hanging out with Janis Joplin.
Simone: Congrats on the new album, it must be nice to put music out again. I know it’s been a while.
David: Thank you. It’s really good, and been nice to go out and play. We haven’t played together for eight months now. And the OC has always been a good place to play.
Simone: Grace Slick helped write “It’s About Time.” What was it like writing with some of the original members again?
David: It was good. That’s a song about women’s empowerment. Grace and Cathy [Richardson, current singer for Jefferson Starship] were in LA and Kathy was staying over with China [Slick and Kantner’s daughter] and they were watching the Women’s March in Washington DC. They kind of said ‘Wow what a great thing, we’ve got to write a song!’ and ‘Yeah, wanna write some lyrics?’ We didn’t really think much of it, but then later, in the mail, Grace had sent Kathy the lyrics.
Simone: Some of the lyrics in “Run Away Again” are “This is a disease that has no remedies, this is a war that has no enemies.” Was that topical?
David: That song was actually recorded last year! We had no idea. Maybe we can tell the future or something, who knows.
Simone: Any advice to the new generation in this era? Anything you learned from the 60s or 70s that’s important for us to know?
David: Number one is to never give up. And especially now, don’t give up. Anything is possible if you don’t quit. Everything is cyclical, and the only thing you can depend on is that it will repeat. It seems like we’ll never learn, but one of these days, we will. Let’s hope it’s this time.
Simone: Was there was a moment from that time or playing with Jefferson Airplane or Paul Kantner that left the biggest influence on you?
David: It all did. I know it’s hard not to ask that question, but that’s a tough one. The best gig that I ever played was Monterey Pop Festival in 1967, with Jimi Hendrix, the Who, Janis Joplin, and more. I played it with my first band, Quicksilver Messenger Service. Three days, and everything went off perfectly. I can’t recall anything like that. And there was Otis Redding and Ravi Shankar. Three days, and you saw all of them.
Simone: Is there one story about Janis Joplin that you could share? I know she crashed with you guys for a week or so.
David: Yes, when she first came to San Francisco. I was trying to be a professional folk singer. Must have been 1962 or something. I hooked up with two other people, and we did this thing, Folk Singers for Peace. We went down to Mexico, and we got on the third-class train to Mexico City. We were going to sing and live with the people there, and it was really idealistic and crazy. And then we were deported and arrested for singing at the wrong meeting! We were deported to San Antonio. And the girl that was with us, her father was Lyndon Johnson’s personal attorney.
It seemed so unfair, so we hitchhiked to Austin and she went looking for her friends and Mike and I hung out with the Folk Music Society. There was this guy named Chet and this girl playing the autoharp and singing with this huge voice, and it was Janis. We traded numbers and I told her, “You should come out to San Francisco, we’re having a real good time there.” And she showed up with her friend Chet. And Chet started the Filmore (the famous venue in San Francisco). It was kind of ridiculous.
She was kind of messed up, but at some point she found herself. And she always could sing. We hung out with her quite a bit. One time, we were driving down to L.A. to go to the Troubadour in a Volkswagen van and we were drinking Red Mountain Burgundy Wine. And that’s when she wrote that song, Red Mountain Burgundy. We got to the Troubadour and it was a Monday night, and she found a guitar, went up and sang, and brought the place down.
Then she got messed up with the wrong people. And she had to escape, and went back to Texas. When the rock and roll stuff in San Francisco started happening, Chet talked her into coming back, and she actually came out with Big Brother and the Holding Company.
Simone: And you lived with David Crosby in Venice Beach as well.
David: Yes, with Paul Kantner and David Crosby. That was before he was in the Byrds before they were in bands. We were just trying to be folk singers. We got a place three houses from the beach, and we never got anything done! We just spent all our time at the beach (laughs).
Simone: Wow, how do you handle and deal with the nostalgia?
David: Being in the moment is the only thing that counts. The only time that you can really do anything is now.
Simone: And you’re a practicing Buddhist, correct?
David: Yes, I’m a Buddhist. I practice with chanting and we chant for world peace, and that’s what we’re doing. That’s our ultimate aim.
Simone: What is it about performing that keeps you touring and playing into your 80s?
David: Really, I don’t know (laughs). I just keep having more and more fun. When I came back to Paul’s band in 2005, and rejoined, it just kept being more and more fun, right towards the end. That was the band that we got together when Cathy joined and then Jude Gold joined. And within four years he (Paul Kantner) passed away, and we just had to figure out how to keep playing. Grace was all for it and so we continued, and now it just grew into this. And we had such a good time. It was hard to not play for so long. I’m looking forward to playing the new stuff and not forgetting the past. And keeping Jefferson Starship alive until I die.
Jefferson Starship performs two shows, 6 and 8:30 p.m., on Sunday, Oct. 18 at the OC Fair & Event Center drive-in concert, presented by Auto Sonic Concerts. Tickets are $69 to $125 per car and include up to four people per car.
Visit https://www.autosonicconcerts.com for tickets and details.