'Freaque' wants his 'funky,' 'swampy' music to stay vulnerable

Gabriel Rodreick, as photographed by Julia Stanek.
Courtesy image

Minneapolis musician Gabriel Rodreick goes by the stage name Freaque. He and host Cathy Wurzer talked about his new music, expanding the sound in his live performances, being an artist with a spinal chord injury who uses a wheelchair and the tunes by other musicians that inspire his work.

Rodreick has an album release show coming up at the Hook and Ladder Theater in Minneapolis this Saturday, Oct. 29. You can listen to his music here.

Use the audio player above to listen to the full conversation.

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Audio transcript

[MUSIC - FREAQUE, "BROKEN PUPPET"] (SINGING) There's a fire in the freezer. There's some blood on the rose, some broken puppet on the wall. I just saw his eyes glow. I thought he was just [INAUDIBLE]. There was damage by--

CATHY WURZER: That's the song "Broken Puppet" by Minneapolis-based singer and songwriter Gabriel Roderick, who also goes by the artistic name Freaque. He's been busy putting out new music and playing shows. And he's on the line right now. I'm excited to have you aboard here, Gabriel. How are you?

GABRIEL RODERICK: I'm good, Cathy. Thanks for having me.

CATHY WURZER: Hey, thanks for being here. That song we just heard is one of your most well-known songs, "Broken Puppet." Tell me more about that song. Those lyrics really are pretty edgy.

GABRIEL RODERICK: Yeah. Yeah, it's a song I wrote a few years back. It's actually a song that I feel like I'm still learning from. I think when I wrote it, I had an idea, a little bit of a story in mind-- this broken puppet that's in some room. But the lyrics that came out of it--

Whenever I perform it, I find something new. It's the first song where that's ever happened to me. I think when you do any kind of art, especially performance, there's this feeling that you build these things, you make these things, and they become their own entity. And this song, in particular, is still-- I'm still finding new things about it whenever I play it, which has been a really cool experience. It feels like a little child that's walking and doing its own thing, and I'm just watching it.

CATHY WURZER: Well, it's almost like the song is maturing, it sounds like, for you, in a sense.


CATHY WURZER: I wonder-- I understand that you've been playing a lot of shows with some other creative projects as well. Tell me about those. You've been pretty busy, I understand.

GABRIEL RODERICK: So I perform music under the name Freaque. And I have a couple different setups there. I play solo, like this song on the piano-- just myself. More recently, I've been performing with a full band with a horn section and seven or eight members.

And then I also have a production called A Cripple's Dance, which is a live music, live dance production performed and created by people with spinal-cord injuries and people with able bodies. And then have been doing a lot more improv lately out of HUGE Theater. And I just finished up a run at the Fringe Festival with a group called Slender Vale, which is improvised terror.


GABRIEL RODERICK: And it was really fun.

CATHY WURZER: Wow. Improvised terror. OK.

GABRIEL RODERICK: Yes. So I've been all over the map lately. And it's been really fun.

CATHY WURZER: That dance performance is interesting to me because you don't often hear about a dance performance involving individuals who use a wheelchair.

GABRIEL RODERICK: It's pretty rare. There is stuff happening out there. There's a place in Minnesota called Young Dance. They have an all-abilities class. So they have kids with disabilities and kids without. But yeah, my production felt very-- I didn't know where to start. There was no rubric. I had to build from the ground up, which was complicated but also very exciting because I got to, I don't know, do something fresh and new. And it was very challenging.

CATHY WURZER: I'm sure it was. To be honest, people don't expect to see artists in wheelchairs on stage.


CATHY WURZER: It sounds like you're breaking some new ground here.

GABRIEL RODERICK: [LAUGHS] I think that's what I've been feeling since starting to play music back in 2012. It felt very-- had to pave my own way. Stages around the city aren't accessible at all. Most venues are a little tough to get into. So you just have to force your way through the door and just make yourself known. Be pretty unapologetic about it and just do you.

CATHY WURZER: Well, let me play some more music of yours. This is called "Me & My Bones." We're going to play some of it and talk about it.


(SINGING) Here you like these floppy hands and my wiry arms. My spine is curved and angled low, and my organs are tired of holding on. Here my neck is--

CATHY WURZER: Tell me about that song.

GABRIEL RODERICK: I think it comes from a lot of my past romantic relationships. And when I get into romantic relationships, I tend to get really anxious. And it brings out a lot of my insecurities about my body and about my disability. And so this song was a way for me to tell myself that if people love you, if people find you attractive, believe it, because I think I tend to become very self-conscious and have a lot of doubts. I've had people in my life who are like, I find you attractive. And it's hard for me to actually believe that.

So this was a way for me to dig up why I feel that way. And I think singing it and performing it helped me embody that. I worked on it with a good friend of mine, Dexter Wolfe Nelson. And we recorded it in the church that I grew up in, Calvary on 26th and Blaisdell. We recorded it in the sanctuary there.

CATHY WURZER: Oh, there's meaning in that, isn't there? That's interesting.

GABRIEL RODERICK: Yeah, yeah, there is. That place is in my dreams all the time.

CATHY WURZER: Everyone that we have on the program-- we talk about their music, but we also ask them what they're listening to, what inspires them. So I know that you are a big Tom Waits fan. Good choice, by the way.


CATHY WURZER: I love Tom Waits, too.


CATHY WURZER: Let's listen right now to one of his songs. This is "Green Grass."


(SINGING) Lay your head where my heart used to be. Hold the earth above me. Lay down on the green grass. Remember when you loved me. Come closer. Don't be shy.

CATHY WURZER: Gabriel, you know I'm going to say this. You kind of sound like Tom Waits. I hear some similarities there, my friend.

GABRIEL RODERICK: Oh, well, thank you. He is my favorite artist of all time.

CATHY WURZER: What do you like about him, by the way?

GABRIEL RODERICK: I think he's an incredible lyricist, an incredible poet. It's not just Tom Waits. It's his wife Kathleen Brennan. She writes a lot of music with him. So it's really the both of them that I'm a huge fan of.

And then I think just his sound. He's got this weird voice, this junkyard dog, sewer, whiskey, cigars voice. And then the first time I heard it, I just fell in love immediately. And then he's just experimenting. He's challenging himself. He's always been pushing himself to do something new. And it's theatrical, and it's beautiful and ugly and so many things at once.

CATHY WURZER: He's so complicated. That's why I love it, too.


CATHY WURZER: Yeah. I also know that you're inspired, in part, by this song. It's called "Ekuté" by Pino Palladino and Blake Mills. I'm going to play a little bit of this music, too.


Little instrumental there. What's inspiring to you about that music?

GABRIEL RODERICK: When I first heard it, I was floored. It was just so cool. There's this-- horn-sounding thing is actually a guitar.


GABRIEL RODERICK: It is, which--


GABRIEL RODERICK: That's Blake Mills playing. It's just so funky, and it's weird. Over the last couple years, I've really been leaning into a love for swamps and bogs and insects and slugs and the dirt and the mud of nature. And when I heard it, it was just that. It was creepy-crawly and dirty and stinky and just-- I loved it. And it just got me so deep in my gut and made me want to move. Yeah, I felt it-- truly, deeply felt it.

CATHY WURZER: Glad you shared that with us. Thank you so much. Gabriel, thank you for your time. It was fun talking to you.

GABRIEL RODERICK: Yeah, thanks for having me, Cathy.

CATHY WURZER: We've been talking to Gabriel Roderick, a Minneapolis musician who goes by the stage name Freaque. He has an album release show coming up at The Hook and Ladder in Minneapolis this Saturday, October 29.

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