Global Bass Online August/September 2001
by Christopher Buttner
"There are a lot more strings to my bow than a lot of people know"
The bane of any journalist in preparing for an interview is finding that the bio for an artist is so well done and covers so many points that you realize you might be hard-pressed just to find even 5 new questions to ask the person. Such was the case with Tony Franklin.
With a career spanning decades of playing with some of today's finest and heaviest musicians, however, I hoped there might be a few stones left unturned. This is a man who has played with and for rock luminaries we all recognize. The Firm (with Jimmy Page and Paul Rodgers), Roy Harper, Kate Bush, Blue Murder (with Carmine Appice and John Sykes), Glenn Hughes, Gary Hoey, Tony McAlpine, Driver, a Jeff Beck Tribute album, a New Age duo called Celestial Winds, Donna Lewis, a Queen Tribute album, Pearl (again with Carmine Appice), Gary Wright, Robbie Krieger, David Coverdale and Derek Sherinian. What a list! Still heavily involved with Derek and other new projects, his first solo album was released in `99. Now the wheels are turning on a second solo album, so it seemed like a good time to speak to Tony. What other rabbits could this man of many talents pull from his musical hat...and where would he find the time?
Being somewhat of a Gear Head, one of the first places I visited after reading his bio was the Equipment Page. A bit disappointed to find it 'Under Construction', I ask our guest what was up with that?!
Tony: I know! (Starts laughing uncontrollably)
I've actually had
a few emails about that and I need to get on that. So, I'll take that as a
prompting! It's been almost a full time job maintaining the website.
Tony: Sure. I do love doing it, `cos I love doing it myself. This gives me a lot of interaction with the fans and it allows me to keep it up to date. People like the updates as well. But that hasn't been happening. I've just been soooo busy.
Global: It makes them feel like they could almost just phone you up and talk music. That really helps in an artists profile and often translates into sales of the artists music.
Tony: People also feel that if you keep them informed and up to date, it's your career and they're involved in it. It's important.
Global: Are you getting much e-mail from fans?
Global: Looking at some of the pictures from the `80's, you can't help but think, "holy crap, big hair!!". I've noticed on your most recent album, Brave New Tomorrow, you've opted to move away from that!
Tony: Yeah, well the hair spray bill was just getting to be too much! There weren't a lot of hair spray endorsements going around then!
Global: Well, they missed an opportunity. I am surprised nobody actually did approach bands about that. There was money to be made!
Tony: Especially in those days, in the Eighties it was all about the hair.
Global: So are you still endorsing Fender?
So I approached Fender and we basically made a carbon copy of my main fretless. Except we put an ebony fingerboard on it, which produces a slightly different tone, but it's a lot more durable. I use wirewound strings so they tend to be a little harsh on the fingerboard. But when it came out the box this thing was perfect. I've now made it my main bass.
Global: Having been influenced to some degree, as most were and still are, by Jaco, did you dope the neck up nice and thick with a lacquer when you had the custom model built?
Tony: The previous one I did, I had what was known as a Diamond finish. It actually took about a week to apply. That was because of the rosewood. But the ebony is hard enough to do without it. I don't actually like the tone so much of a lacquered finish. I've always preferred just the bare wood, but the strings do take their toll.
Global: On the new bass, were the pickups wound differently?
"I don't know, just give me the loudest!!!"
Global: Do you have an endorsement deal regarding strings?
It blows me away that DR actually has someone winding these by hand! I've had these strings on there for 7 months at a time. Now I haven't topped Duck Dunn's 22 years yet! (Laughs)
Global: He wouldn't be too too concerned about the top end by now, I imagine! You had a solo album out in late `99 called Brave New Tomorrows. Now you are involved with Derek Sherinian on his newest album, called inertia. On it you are covering four tracks. Aside from this do you have any new projects set up for the near future?
Tony: Yes, I do, in fact I am just beginning to work on one right now.
Global: Do you have a working title yet?
Global: When do you see this 'Top Secret Project' being completed
Global: On your own album, who do you plan upon using?
Global: Were you able to maintain all your chops from all the other
instruments you've played and bring that into the present?
Greg is very much of a 'song player'. I worked a lot with him on different projects. That was really one of the main reasons I wanted to get him in there. He's so good for one thing, but he's got that mindset towards songs and I love that. Drummers aren't always that way. A lot of the best ones are though.
Anyway, so this next one is going to be heavier, more bass driven, probably gonna have a few more guests on it. Probably get Carmine (Appice) to do some. He is amazing. He's been doing this for a lot of years and he still has this incredible drive and momentum. It's amazing and inspiring.
Global: When do you hope to have "The Next Album' done?
I recognize that I could be more business minded. As far as promoting, getting out there and doing 'the push'. But it's not something that comes naturally to me at this point.
Global: Do you have a bit of a problem letting go, letting someone else
carry part of the load?
Global: Might it be because you have distinct goals as to where you want to go, therefore it sometimes is difficult to let go, to give the ship over to another navigator.
Tony: It really is difficult, but at the same time, I really believe that those kind of people are out there. You need someone who is almost like at the grass roots level. At the same time someone who also has the contacts and the ability to check in with the right people at the right time.
Global: Perhaps one of your fans. Someone who writes you all the time, again that SuperFan kind of person, who does it just for the love of doing it and being part of your team.
Tony: (Regarding the album Brave New Tomorrow) I am doing the best I can right now to get it out there, but right now I don't have the 'machinery' to take care of that. I have a lot of friends in the industry, but this is like full time job in and of itself.
Global: From your years with The Firm and Blue Murder were you able to set
aside a bit to invest in today's projects?
Global: Most people caught up in living the Rock and Roll dream never think of that kind of stuff.
Tony: I was 22, I was over here for the first time. I was loving every minute of it. It was a wild ride.
Global: So in the here and now, aside from all the recording projects, are you also working live?
Tony: Oh yeah, I'm still a working musician. I'm not sitting back on any great royalties or anything like that. I'm still working, but bringing that awareness into what I am doing now, especially with my own album, you have to think of these things.
There are a lot more strings to my bow than a lot of people actually know. Bass has been a lot of people's awareness of me. Understandably, because I am a bass player that played with these rock bands. I am known for that.
But there is a lot more to me than that. That was another thing I wanted to show, to demonstrate on my previous album. That I am also a guitarist, a keyboardist, a vocalist and a songwriter. I'm a producer, I can do a lot more. The Secret Project is actually allowing a lot of that to shine through.
So, that's a very real issue, I want to set up the future now and not be having to look around for gigs later. I love working. I love music and that is something that has always been there. I was born into a music family. I was playing music before I even knew I was a music player. It's such a big part of me.
It was so natural to me, the whole family played. It was just there. I would play music day and night, then play gigs regularly in my parents band. By the time I was 14, I was playing 4 or 5 days a week and consistently as well. What an upbringing, what an experience I had from that!
Global: Can you describe your present day style of songwriting?
Global: That's asking a lot of yourself. Is your record label
Global: Were they okay with it?
Tony: They were, but at the same time they didn't really know what to do with it. It was all about the songs (that was the underlying theme of the album). I played all the keyboards, the upright bass, the clarinet on one song and the recorder. So it was quite diverse in it's musical tastes and arrangements.
There's a definite thread to it. But that took them by surprise. So the reason I am saying that is that with this second album, they want to have more of a familiarity to it. More 'straight-ahead rock'. That is one of the reasons I am bringing in some well known guitar players as well. I'm really into that, the melody but putting it across in a heavier way.
Global: I know that Tony McAlpine has done this. You've work with Tony
yourself, haven't you?
Global: Now here's one for you. Fretless bass is an exacting science.
Why did a heavy rock bassist end up preferring fretless?
Global: Some of this music really moves! How do you pull off such
detailed playing at such speed on a fretless? How do you keep control over your
Global: Do you use fretted at all?
Global: You were involved in a book called Bass Secrets. This is mentioned on your site and that it will soon be available.
Tony: It's actually a really good book. I was a column writer for what was GUITAR FOR THE PRACTICING MUSICIAN. I was writing the bass columns for about two and a bit years for that. They had some great players do columns for that over the years. So what a great idea. They put all the columns in one book. What I like about it is there are some straight ahead kinds of exercises. But there is also more of, shall we way, the substance that makes some bass players great. The philosophy, the mindset, it ends up showing more than just the exercises, it shows the bigger picture.
There is far more to be a good bass player than just knowing the right exercises. You have to be aware of other musicians. You have to be aware of the song, you have be aware of life. I actually play my best if I have been away from my bass for a while.
Get the experiences of life. That's where the greatest inspiration comes from. If somebody's just playing 8 hours a day they are just wearing little blinkers and experiencing nothing.
You can visit Tony at his website, found at: http://www.tonyfranklin.com
Tons of great photos, links to sites you'll want to add to your bookmarks, some music files that'll stir your blood and soon some equipment photos as well!
Brave New Tomorrow, his first solo album, is also available from his site, as will be his newest album, once released. You'll be able to keep track of the aforementioned Secret Project from this site, once it is released later this year.
web page is: UNKNOWN (sorry)
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