INTERVIEW: Frankmusik (2013)
Back in the ’80s, the TV show Dallas decided that a whole season had been bad for the overall storyline, so they wrote it off as an extended dream sequence. That’s what we intend to do with Frankmusik’s second album ‘Do It In the AM,” since his new music (“Maps,” “Chasing Shadows”) is such an excellent return to the form of his landmark debut, ‘Complete Me.” Moving away from Los Angeles, a major record label, and a fiancée brought piano prodigy Frankmusik back to his senses and the wonderful electronic dance pop music that we all fell in love with him for originally. Now flying solo, or as he calls it, free, he is in control of his own destiny and has embarked on a US tour where his group is camping between cities and really seeing the states like never before. We anxiously await to see how this journey will inspire his upcoming musical compositions.
DJ Ron Slomowicz: Have you played in Nashville before?
Frankmusik: No, I have never been to Nashville or anywhere near this place.
RS: But you have toured the US before?
Frankmusik: Yeah, but we never managed to get to the Music City, we are glad to be here now though.
RS: What was your first impression of Nashville?
Frankmusik: As we drove in we all said that Nashville has a beautiful skyline; it’s a more notable skyline than L.A. It is nice to see a good blend of brick buildings here- that you don’t get on the West coast because everything is all wood and plaster.
RS: Is this the first night of the tour?
Frankmusik: Yes, this is the first show and the first night of the tour. We rehearsed in SIR Studios in Nashville after our 34-hour drive from LA. It’s good to be here and the venue is great, they have really looked after us and we are going to have a good time.
RS: You toured in the US in 2009, how is this tour different?
Frankmusik: That was only an East Coast tour that was in Philly, Boston, and New York. For this tour we are driving ourselves and it is very hands on, very rough and ready.
RS: You mentioned that you are camping as a chance to get to see the US.
Frankmusik: Yeah, we’re only getting hotels for gig nights and everything else in between we are going to be camping. We are a very outdoorsy bunch and it is much more interesting than sitting in a hotel every day.
RS: Going back to your first album, how did you hook up with Stuart Price to produce it?
Frankmusik: Very simple, the label hooked it up. They offered him a bunch of money and he agreed to the terms and we did the work over an entire summer.
RS: There was a real ’80s vibe to that album, was that intentional and was that your influence?
Frankmusik: Childhood is such an impressionable time, it’s when you learn language, safety, and when you learn what music you are going to be into. My mom played electronic pop music in the ’80s and that is what I grew up with. There is a controlled energy about electronic music that you don’t get from guitar-based music, and I quite like that.
RS: I am sure you were excited when you had the opportunity to work with Erasure.
Frankmusik: Absolutely, I was honored more than anything else. They have had a career longer than I have lived, and not many people in the music industry can say that. To be working with a group like them seems to transcend all of the fluff that you get on a daily basis in the industry. They are just two people that are grown and comfortable with themselves and the work that it reflects is absolutely brilliant.
RS: What was it like making the move from artist to producer?
Frankmusik: It was easy; I was a producer before I was an artist anyway. I produced my own albums, so there really wasn’t any difference.
RS: When you toured with them, how did their fans react to you?
Frankmusik: Pretty well. I knew that Andy was very flamboyant on stage and I wanted to try to match him with the live set, not in terms of wearing a corset and red sequins, but to audibly match the fun aspect of their music. The new album that I did with them was quite dark, but most of their hits are fun and uplifting so I tried to match that with Whitney segues and a little bit of Gloria Estefan, it was all very cabaret and fun. And a little camp.
RS: Your second album was radically different than your first album, what was the change and how was the process different?
Frankmusik: It was a complete left turn, different location, label, people, and environment. When you factor in all of those things if it would have stayed the same under those variables changing, there would have been something wrong with me. I used to call it a misstep, but now I call it the most wonderful mistake that could have happened because I learned so much from it. I think that if you get into a comfort zone where you just know your fan base and they can predict what you are going to do next, then you aren’t growing. I now know that I will never do that again and that will be fine.
RS: Looking back at that experience now, would you do it again had you had the same opportunities?
Frankmusik: Yeah, of course… Because I wouldn’t have ended up where I am now, which is much more grown and a lot more aware of my environment with the front and back end of things – from business to management to labels. As soon as you ask questions, you start finding out what the answers are and then you can work from that. If you don’t ask questions, you might as well have your head stuck up your ass.
RS: Are there any songs from that second album that you will perform on this tour?
RS: Any songs from the first album?
Frankmusik: Yes, and I want to be clear that there isn’t a connection between the fact that I am not particularly mad about my second album to me not doing them live. The first and the third album match much better, and the second album just doesn’t fit this context. I like a lot of those songs, but I don’t love a lot of them.
RS: Your recent releases like “Chasing Shadows” and “Map” feel like you have re-embraced your spark, what motivated the change back to that kind of feel?
Frankmusik: I was motivated when I walked away from my engagement, from Los Angeles, and got away from the noise that life can bring. It brought some clarity, salt in the wounds, and helped me to stop pretending like some issues weren’t there and allowed me to deal with them in a sensible and concise manner.
RS: Were the lyrics of “Map” a response to your ex-fiancée or your ex-label people?
Frankmusik: All of them, and that’s all that I need to say on that. I made a promise not to get into too much about my ex because I have done that so much in the past. But yes, you are right and I am glad that the lyrics conveyed exactly what I was talking about and feeling. Anyone can relate to that. It is not supposed to be a “fuck you,” but rather a “thank you very much, this is not working for me anymore, we need to go our separate ways.”
RS: It’s a brilliant song on many levels. “Chasing Shadows” has a real operatic feel to it, what was the inspiration behind that?
Frankmusik: I wanted to make a song that matched the feelings that I had when I heard “Run Away from Trouble” from my first album; I believe it is one of Stuart Price’s best songs on the album. He did a lot of work on the song and I wanted to see if I could produce something like that on my own. It was all about me losing faith in religion and finding a metaphor and just running with it. The light and the shadow reference made it very easy to follow through with that.
RS: How are you going to sing the vocals on that live?
Frankmusik: Just like I did in the studio, but two semitones lower. With that song I am just doing it on the piano and it is a much more simplified version of the song, trying to convey that in a 200-capacity venue is going to be awkward.
RS: I was going to ask you because the music that I have heard from your album is very complex electronically, how are you going to translate that for a live performance when you may not have all of that amazing gear with you?
Frankmusik: We brought a lot of amazing gear with us. There are just going to be two of us on stage, which is a new thing for me because we usually have four people. We spent 6 weeks pre-production figuring out what we can keep, what we can get rid of, and what we can do live. The backing track is completely manageable in terms of being able to do everything live if we have to. We aren’t trying to be the best musicians on stage, but instead we want people to make sense of what they hear and see. I had a huge debate with my mom about this and about doing it all live. My mom was like “shut up” and told me that I have already produced all the music myself and that is credible enough. You are not just a guy with a microphone singing over someone else’s beats, you made everything yourself.
RS: I would love to meet your mother. You are on stage with one other person, what are they doing and what are you doing on stage?
Frankmusik: My drummer is triggering the backing track that is a multifunctional track so we can repeat bits and go backwards and forwards whenever we want. It is in Abelton, a nonlinear audio interface. I will be doing live keyboards, vocals, and vocal effects and this thing called stutter editing where you can cut up the backing track live. Mainly singing my ass off.
RS: Do you produce with Ableton?
Frankmusik: No, we learned Ableton just for the tour because it was so brilliant for doing all of the live stuff. I work in Logic and Protools mainly.
RS: Talking about producing yourself, you are not with a label and you are independent, where did the decision to do that come from?
Frankmusik: I have done labels in the UK and in the US, which is a rare thing for most artists to experience. I have seen how they operate and I get it but it is kind of like Steve Jobs and IBM. IBM has their way of doing things and I am going to do things my way. Not everyone can do that, but I think that I have become self-sustainable enough to not have to ask too much of other people to translate what I want to see creatively. I produce and write everything fully myself and I don’t need to find a producer that I would only be able to find if I was signed to a label. It’s not for everyone, but I would say the new word for it would be “free,” I think that independent suggests that I am trying to sell records and I am not trying to do that. I think that music will inevitably be free, I mean, try to convince people of anything otherwise… Touring is the way forward, but there is branding and things like that that will come in the future. This is a new way but I am not trying to undermine what the labels are doing. But it just isn’t for me anymore.
RS: Will you ever go for radio play or club play?
Frankmusik: That involves hiring regional radio pluggers, and you hear horrible stories about payola and radio shows secretly being paid to play certain songs. I feel that if enough people get behind what I do without needing radio pluggers, that is the best possible thing. If it takes me another 10 years that’s fine, I am not going to pay a guy to get people into my music, I may as well be signed to a major record label again.
RS: Exactly, I love what you are saying. How did you meet up with Katrina?
Frankmusik: Katrina was a connection through a manager that I had for a while in LA, he was friends with Katrina’s husband and it came about from there. We did about 4-5 songs together, she is just stupidly intelligent and an incredible singer. When you work with people like that it isn’t a chore and that is the best place that you can be in. I only want to work with people that know themselves on a personal and creative level. If you don’t, it is not my job to invent who you are.
RS: Aside from your own music, what is on your iPod or music player right now?
Frankmusik: Good question, I have been listening to a lot of Postal Service’s Give Up album. That album changed my life; I forgot how much that album changed my life. There would be no Owl City if there was no Postal Service. For an American band like that and the journey that they have been on, I mean that was a side project, they are incredible.
RS: I have a dream collaboration that one day you will meet with Bright Light Bright Light and work together.
Frankmusik: That would be great; he has some damn good stuff going on. There have been rumors about us making something happen and although the rumors are false it could easily happen. I am sure that if we were in the same room we would swap details and make it happen.
RS: You seemed really excited about Waffle House, what was that all about?
Frankmusik: I had never been to a Waffle House before because they don’t have them on the West Coast and we love our waffles! When we are on tour and after eating a lot of bad American food, we just have to embrace the trash culture, I love it!
RS: Who or what is Visual Adhesive?
Frankmusik: He is my tour manager, co-photographer and general awesome genius. He name is Andy and he is a friend of a friend that I have known for about 6 years. I wanted to get someone new involved for the tour managing, and he jumped at the opportunity to go traveling for the next 7 weeks, he has been great.
RS: What is the song that you are most excited about right now off of your new album?
Frankmusik: The new version of “Fast As I Can,” the version that no one has heard. It has a more soaring chorus and better production. I fixed it because I released it in a rush last year and now I have made it into the song that it deserves to be. There is a piano instrumental called “Stronger” that is pretty powerful as well.
RS: A lot of people who are into cool pop, like Popjustice, are huge fans of yours, what about your music do you think that people latch onto so strongly too.
Frankmusik: If you are going to be specific about Popjustice, I think the wonderful thing about Peter is that he knows bullshit when he sees it. He doesn’t mince his words, he says exactly what he thinks, and he does have a long-term interest in people’s careers. He of course embraces the trashy, fun and frivolous crap, but I respect him because he shows respect when he feels that people deserve it. Most music journalists are told to write about this, that, and the other, and he really writes about what he feels. We have had our run-ins, but that’s good, I would rather have a contentious intellectual battle with someone rather than someone just be fake. I think that since I am just doing what I want to do there is less for people to have a gripe with.
RS: One question that came from a fan, if you could shag either Colette Carr or Natalia Kills, which one would you go for and why?
Frankmusik: I feel like quoting a Natalia Kills song right now and just say that “two is better than one,” I’ll let them compete.
RS: Nice, what would you like to say to all of your fans out there?
Frankmusik: Thank you to the ones that have stuck by me, I do it for the fans. I met a couple of fans earlier, one of the guys I met is in the army and I never thought that someone in the army would like my music, those are the nice little surprises that I do this for. I hope to get new fans and all the love and support from the ones that I already have, thank you!
RS: What is the best way to follow you?
Frankmusik: I would say that Facebook is the best way these days; I am kind of over Twitter as I like talking. My Facebook is facebook.com/frankmusik; I also use instagram for visuals updates which is instagram.com/frankmusik.
Interview conducted May 2013.