Fireballs of Freedom – Welcome to the Octagon – Interview

Fireballs of Freedom

Welcome to the Octagon (Estrus)
by Jon Sarre

An “interview” with Jim James (manager), Kelly Gately (guitar, vocals), Von Venner (guitar, vocals), Sammy James (drums) and several people who may or may not have been present
illustration by Jonathan Ian Mathers

“Fireballs are…” confidently states Fireballs of Freedom manager extraordinaire Jim James (James James? I dunno if that’s his real name). His brother Sammy happens to drum for them. It was probably a good reference for someone. Jim never completes the sentence. He’s got an empty case of Bud over his face. It’s like a mask, sorta like some approximation of a witch doctor getup from a bad movie. He looks like the Samoan god of cheap beer, only paler. I wait a while for him to say somethin’ else. Nothing comes. I look over at Kelly and Von. They look at me like they don’t know where this is goin’ either. Okay, next question.

“What about freedom? It’s July 4th, ya know.”

“Freedom is the third word in the band’s name,” Jim answers cryptically.

“That doesn’t make sense.”

“Fireballs of Freedom! One, two, three! Three words!”


Some sweaty semi-professional wrassler forced (I swear) tabs of acid on me and Brother Bradley Wayne Shaver around 2:00 a.m.. I think Jim was behind it. I’ve heard all the stories about the indignities the Fireballs make journalists foolish enough to look for the “real story” endure. Anything for a scoop like this, tho’, that’s my motto. I’d parted ways with Brad over at the local convenience store. He went home to have sex or somethin’. I met up with Kelly and mebbe Von and some roughhouse Montana friends at the store. We bought a buncha beer and drove a borrowed or mebbe stolen US Forest Service car back to the secret location of Casa Fireballs. Had I been blindfolded, I probably wouldn’t be able to reveal where they hole up to plot the Master Plan, but since I promised to keep my eyes closed (and I peaked, I mean peeked), I could probably pick the place outta a police lineup, but that’s too messy and expensive and I’m no squealer, no sir.

They introduced me to Jim. He was on the phone, as always. Shirtless. He works shirtless a lot, I hear. It’s good for his memory, or so he says. He was beratin’ a doubtlessly sleepy Estrus honcho, Dave Crider.

“Art Chantry? What the fuck?

“Not Chantry again!

“Mick Rock! We want Mick Rock! I don’t care if he’s dead!”

“What’s wrong with Chantry?” I ask naively, after Crider begs off the telephone with some excuse about havin’ to go back to sleep.

“What the hell do you know?”

I look over at Kelly and Von. They look back at me.

“Not much, I guess.”

“Fuckin’ a, you don’t! Fireballs of Fuckin’ Freedom, babee! This shit is the shit and if we can’t at least have the guy who shot Bowie, what’s the fucking point?”

“That was my first question.”


“What’s the fucking point?”

Kelly pipes in,

“Oh Sarre, ya want me to make pizza the rest of my life?”

“Don’tcha have guns or somethin’?”

“Yeah, but that’s not a good idea right now. Why do you ask?”

I needed to take a piss.

There was this couple in the bathroom cutting up lines of Valium.


“That’s okay, want one?”


I knew that would hurt tomorrow. I’d forgotten my Physician’s Desk Reference at home. How would that mix with beer and whiskey and LSD? I stepped back into Jim’s world.

“Freedom…” I inquired.

“It’s July 4th.”

“So it is.”

“There ya go.”


Jim leers over. He’s still got the beer case mask. He breathes uncomfortably close to my face. Some girl asks me for something. A light? A smoke? I hand her someone’s keys. I realize things are getting confusing. Really confusing.

Sammy James arises from his basement room. His internal radar picked up the vibrations of beer cans being knocked over.

Kelly: “Ah, you know, make up the rest.”

Von: “Ask me later.”

Sammy: “What?”

Jim: “I bust my ass for these guys.”

“I’ll bet.”

“Do ya think this is easy?”


“We won’t settle for anything less than complete and total world domination!”

Kelly and Von go through a difficult fit of laughter.

“Do you ever consider replacing them?”

“Well, Kelly and Von are pretty fucking easy to keep happy. Beer and the odd controlled substance do the trick. My brother’s another story, but he’s my brother.”

“You should keep him around.”

“Goddamned right!”

“So what’s with the mask, Jim?”

“What mask?”


Now I was talkin’ like him. Bad juju.

My memory gets a little hazy after that point. I lost my shirt, literally. My shoes, too. I think Jim used some sorta Montana or North Dakota or wherever he’s from Jedi mind trick on me. Then again, it coulda been the chemicals. They’re nasty, evil things, these chemicals. I’d lost count of whatever was swimmin’ around my system by the time Von made a beer run at 7:00 a.m.. By 8:00, we were enjoyin’ the bright light of a new day and Busch beer on the spacious deck of the Fireballs headquarters. Jim was still up, negotiating a tour of Sweden and the Far East. It’s amazin’ what energy the guy has. He doesn’t even require a telephone to do this stuff.

We’d forgotten the interview by that point, but Sammy warned me not to give people “the wrong impression” of them. I wasn’t sure what that was supposed to mean. These Fireballs of Freedom are clean livin’ healthy gentlemen. Unless, it’s a national holiday. Then all sanity is out the fuckin’ window. I woke up around the middle of the afternoon with strange cuts and bruises and sand in my ears, surrounded by a veritable forest of beer cans. I blame Jim, but like I said, anything for a story.
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