|Welcome to the exclusive interview with Tony Franklin!|
|Tony Franklin has long been carving a name out for himself as one of the most proficient and innovative bass players in the world, early on developing a special technique with the fretless bass, which Tony said was inspired by watching Weather Report's legendary Jaco Pastorius. You can easily say however that Tony is surely inspiring thousands of other bass players across the world with his own inimitable style. His credits include work with The Firm, Jimmy Page, Roy Harper, Blue Murder, and countless others. Now, Tony has directed his inspiration towards his own solo work, and the results have been tremendous. His first release "Brave New Tomorrow" gained critical acclaim and really brought Tony's often overshadowed name to the forefront. Tony was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule for this wonderfully insightful and intelligent interview!|
|Q: Tony, thanks so much for taking time out of your hectic schedule to join Me here! I just had to start off by telling You that I have heard some of the tracks from your very first solo album, "Brave New Tomorrow" and I was blown away! I will definitely be getting this album from You. How did it feel to finally have the artistic freedom to put together an album that you can truly call your own?
A: First of all, thank you for your kind words, it really means a lot. The album was a dream fulfilled for me, and yet I still view it as part of an unfolding adventure. I had hoped that the album would have been heard by more people, as I really believed in it. I still do. And yet now, I can stand back and see how it was part of a fascinating "big picture". Everything to do with that album, from the writing, the recording, the mixing, the mastering, the artwork... on and on, was an incredibly valuable learning experience for me. Some of the "toughest" situations in my life have provided me with priceless lessons and direction. This album was exactly that.
The way that the album has helped me the most, is in the making of the next album. The new album is completed and I'm thrilled with the outcome. I've been working with a talented singer called Scott Kail. We're putting a band together right now and intend to play live shows before too long. I'll put any updates on my website.
Q: The fretless bass work is incredible as always but I was really knocked out by your lead guitar work as well! This was definitely a side of Tony Franklin that we unfortunately rarely get to see, but it was well worth the wait. Was the guitar your first instrument? I know that the bass was actually the last instrument you decided to pick up!
A: The guitar came at about the same time as the bass. They just seemed to "fit" together. I love playing the guitar too. In the music world I've been more known for my bass work, so my guitar work has taken a back seat. And honestly, I have complete musical freedom on the bass, i.e. I can play most styles if I choose to,though Rock music is my favourite. On the guitar, I play my material and my own style very well, but if you were to ask me to play "Stairway to Heaven" or something, you wouldn't be very impressed! Ha ha!
Q: Coming from a very musical family background gave you the benefit of becoming a multi-instrumentalist at a very young age. Is this correct that your parent's had you up on stage with them at age six? What were you playing and what was the crowd's reaction?
A: Yes I played with my parent's band from age six. We played many styles, from ballroom dancing to the current pop tunes, or 50's and 60's stuff, whatever the occasion needed. "Music for all occasions" was the band's motto. In the early days I would sing, play the drums, the clarinet, the tambourine... I played a wide variety of instruments... even the bagpipes at one point, with a full Scottish outfit! Yes the audience loved it, especially the old ladies! Arrrhh... what a cute little boy! Yeah... right!
Q: What was it that originally brought you to the fretless bass technique? It is a technique that frankly very few bass players, even good ones, can do well, but You have made an absolute art of it!
A: Thank you very much. After hearing Jaco Pastorius's first solo album, I HAD to have a fretless bass! So I went down to London with my parents and got one from the "Big" Music Store there... the Bass Centre! It took a few years before it was sounding good though. It's a tricky instrument for sure.
I think my style has evolved because I play fretless bass with a rock feel and attitude. I hear from some bassists that the fretless is not made for rock music, but I disagree. Yes it does take more work initially to make the fretless bass work in rock music. But it's not something I think about any more.
There's so much expression and subtlety to the fretless bass. Can you imagine what a singing voice would sound like with frets? It would be so stiff and expressionless. The fretless bass gives me the complete freedom to express myself however I want to. Sometimes people listen to me play and don't realize it's a fretless bass - until a little "unfretted" moment occurs! At the end of the day, the bass is still the bass, whether fretted or not, and it has it's role to play within a band. It needs to hold down the groove and the low end. I don't believe in playing"fancy" just because I can. The song is the most important thing.
Q: I did want to ask You about Your time in The Firm with Jimmy Page, Paul Rodgers, and Chris Slade. I really loved this band and in fact "Radioactive" was one of the very first songs I tried to learn on the drums! It was sadly a very short lived projecthowever. What are your reflections looking back on The Firm now?
A: It was a great moment in my life. At the time it seemed like it would last forever. And yet it passed by so very quickly. I had a great time on so many levels. Musically, I was playing with some of the best in the business. I was part of the making of two albums by three guys who had done it very successfully, many times. I performed at some of the most prestigious venues in the world. I was exposed to the rigours and the fun of road life, at the highest level. We had the best management, road crew and record label. We were treated like royalty! It was a magical time.
Q: It seemed to Me that the band was really unique and nobody sounded remotely like You guys at that time. I think The Firm was way ahead of their time. Do you think possibly that it was because of this that theband was so short lived?
A: I don't know if it was ahead of it's time, but then again I may be too close to it. The intention was to make two album and then assess it from there. If it had been hugely successful then we may have continued to make further albums.
Q: Although The Firm's second album, "Mean Business" failed to do much in the charts, I always felt that it was a superior album to the first one. I think you guys really stretched the music a lot further with great tracks like "Dreaming" and "All the King's Horses". Which album did you prefer more?
A: Musically I think the second album was more interesting. But there was a special vibe on the first album, a chemistry that was somehow lacking on the second album. Both albums are special to me, but if I had to choose between the two, I prefer the first album.
Q: Getting back to your solo album, the critical reaction has been wonderful to the album. Are we going to be lucky enough to get another solo album from You in the near future?
A: Yes, as I mentioned earlier, my next album is completed. It has stepped up to a whole new level from the first one, in just about every way. As you know I sang all the vocals on my first album, and I'm very happy with how that turned out. My vocal has a John Lennon vibe, and so the songs on the first album were crafted to suit my voice. However on the new album, the material demanded a vocal with more grit to the voice and also a greater range. I'd recently been working with vocalist Scott Kail on a different project. So I asked Scott if he'd like to do my album, and he said he'd love to. I don't think that either of us had any idea about how well this would go. The two of us are like musical brothers. We compliment each other so well, and the chemistry between us is magical. I can honestly say that of all the people I've worked with over the years, I've never had this kind of connection musically with anyone. We're putting a band together right now - which is a journey believe me! I'm not looking for any name guys, just the right people. There's a youthful energy to the music, so I want young players. It's an exciting time. I'll be sure to announce all the details on my website.
Q: Tony, I want to thank you so much for your time and I want to wrap up here by asking You what we will be seeing you doing here in the near future. Any projects or tours coming up this year?
A: Most of my focus is now on the new band. We've played the album for a few close friends in the Industry and the reaction has been very positive. They all ask "when can we see the band?". As soon as we're ready we'll be getting out there and playing. I have high expectations for this band. Thanks for your time!