What do you get when you take 3 legendary musicians and one vocalist from an upcoming band? Answer – FREAKSHOW! If you have been living under a rock for the past 6 months than I may be able to forgive you for not being aware of this incredible new project.
Tony Franklin (The Firm & Blue Murder) provides some of the smoothest bass tracks you will ever hear, Frankie Banali (Quiet Riot) is playing his drums harder and faster than ever, Jeff Labar (Cinderella) kicks it with his world-renowned style of guitar & Markus Allen Christopher (Miss Crazy) wrote the songs and has lead vocals that can cross over to a Cinderella feel or can even sound reminiscent of the classic 80’s & 90’s feel of rock/metal vocals. Raspy yet powerful.
Tony Franklin as well as Frankie Banali were kind enough to take the time to talk with me about Freakshow and how they became involved in this adventure.
TFL: ‘Freakshow’ is your latest musical project – how did your part in this project come to fruition?
FB: My initial musical involvement was a very straight forward affair. Markus asked me when I would be available to come in and lay down drum tracks and I let him know what my available times were. Once we sorted the time frame out, he sent me I think three or four songs that he had as drum machine demos that were very well done. I flew up to San Jose4 where Markus is based out of and started to work. He had budgeted three days for pre-production and three tracking days. We completed the pre-production in one rehearsal, just he and I, and then I recorded the 10 tracks in two evening sessions. One was a seven hour session including set up, miking, getting drum sounds and tracking the drums for seven of the songs. The next evening I recorded the next three songs in about 2 hours. There was a problem with the recording drive which wiped out the very first song I did on day one, so early the next morning before flying back to LA I had to go back in to the studio, set up the drums again and re-cut the first track. The Pro Tools system can sometimes be Pro Fools! There was one additional track, the eleventh one, which was just Markus singing and playing acoustic guitar. I had him send me a MP3 of it and I took that into a studio in LA and added congas, shakers, tambourine and a timpani and sent the files back to him. He liked it and added it when he mixed the record.
TFL: When I spoke with Tony Franklin he mentioned that you contacted him to participate in playing bass for the album. What is it about Tony’s style of bass that drew you to him?
FB: Well, I think it’s a matter of record that Tony, that is MR. FRANKLIN, is my favorite bass player to work with and record with. He is the total package. Great player, very inventive, knows just what to play on every song; you always know it is Tony when you hear him because he is that distinctive and he is a wonderful person. There are four bass players that I have always admired and wanted to work with. Jaco Pastorios, John Paul Jones, Glenn Hughes and Tony Franklin. Since I did actually play one song with Jaco when I was in a south Florida club band and he came up and sat it, I played with Glenn Hughes on the Hughes/Thrall album and a few live shows & having had the opportunity to play live and record numerous sessions with Tony, three out of four has been great for me!
TFL: When I spoke with Markus, he mentioned that there is talk of taking the album on the road to play some live shows. Tony has clearly stated that he will not be playing bass on the road – will you be on the drums Frankie?
FB: It was always understood that Tony would only do the record and not tour. There were no surprises there and no issues. I am very interested in touring with FREAKSHOW. The question really is with the music business being in the state that it’s in, there are a lot of factors that will determine if it will be possible to tour.
TFL: Did you actively participate in the writing of any of the songs?
FB: Markus wrote great rock songs for the FREAKSHOW release, some of which were really complete except for the drums and guitar solos. That made my job very easy in that all I had to do was find just the right drum parts to interpret the songs from my perspective. The rest of the songs he and I solidified the arrangements of each one and I gave careful thought to the drum parts based on the mood and attitude of each particular song. There were 2 songs that Markus really thought what I additionally brought to the table merited writing credits. One was because of the vibe the drum parts created, the other because I took it in a direction far different from what Markus had anticipated. Markus is also a really good guitarist which made it fun for me because I instinctively play to and off guitarist when ever possible. I’m happy he appreciates my musical and drumming contributions.
TFL: What other projects are you working on Frankie? What else can your fans look forward to?
FB: This past summer I contributed drum tracks for a session for Guns & Roses man on the keys Dizzy Reed. Oddly enough, the tracks also had Alex Grossi on guitar and Chuck Wright on bass which everyone knows were both part of the final QUIET RIOT touring lineup. This was a very cool session for me to have been part of.
In the early part of July I recorded drum tracks for a new artist ‘Ashes and Acid’ which were a lot of fun because my rhythm section partner was none other than the great Billy Sheehan on bass. Billy is a monster, but all of you already know that! I am supposed to do a video for one of those songs in November or December. It was also very rewarding for me since the producer of the project is the talented Neil Citron who I worked with when he engineered as well as participated in the guitar tracks for my ’24/7/365 THE TRIBUTE TO LED ZEPPELIN – Frankie Banali & Friends’ CD: Neil was also the guitarist on the’Rehab’ QUIET RIOT release.
The last week of July I recorded the drum tracks for FREAKSHOW. Jeff LaBar from Cinderella recorded guitar and solos on that project. Jeff is the real deal, his guitar style is as authentic as it gets and I’ve been waiting a very long time for the opportunity to work with Jeff.
On Saturday, August 16 I played a set with the ‘Big Ball Stars’ at the Key Club in Hollywood. It proved to be a fun set! The lineup for this version of the BBS included Robin McAuley/Voclas, Brent Woods/Guitar, Phil Soussan/Bass, Neil Turbin/Vocals, Dizzy Reed/Keyboards, Chris Homes/Guitar, and I was the guest drummer for the evening.
There it is and that’s that….for now!
Frankie Banali – a true gentlemen & phenomenal drummer.
Now it’s Tony’s turn:
TFL: I’ve had the opportunity to hear a few tracks from FREAKSHOW Tony and I do like what I’ve heard. Musically I like what you guys have put together.
TFL: How did the opportunity for FREAKSHOW come to your attention?
TF: Through my dear friend Frankie, Frankie Banali who I have known for a long, long time – I think 20 plus years now have done a number of recordings, projects and live shows with him & I put words in his mouth but he calls me his ‘favorite bassist’ but I don’t (laughing) necessarily put words in his mouth…you might want to check with Frankie on that! They were wanting a bass player for the bass of course and Frankie without hesitation recommended me. Markus and myself did work together a little bit through my job here at Fender. I had worked with him a lot so Markus without hesitation said ‘yeah yeah would love it if you have the time to do it’ so that’s how it all came about. I made clear right from the start and said ‘hey I just want to make sure that I’m only going to be committing to do the album because that is all I would be able to do.
TFL: Did you participate in any of the writing of the songs or did you just come in and play the bass tracks?
TF: All the tracks were finished, all the writing was done and most of the tracks were recorded before I received it or when I received it. So I was literally just playing bass tracks down on pretty much completed tracks. Some of them, a lot of them had completed vocals, didn’t have any of Jeff’s solos and stuff on it yet, but they were pretty much done. I was not involved in any of the writing at any level.
TFL: Like you said, you made it clear that you wanted to come in and play the tracks, there was no intention of touring on your part was there?
TF: No, there never has been and there isn’t. It was just one of those things because I have enough of my own commitments. I have A lot of stuff going on, I have my family & I have my full-time job at Fender; and a lot of other music, well they are not bands or anything but there is talk of a specific reunion but we won’t go into that right now we’ll save that for another interview maybe later. I wanted to be clear with them right from the start that I had a feeling that they were looking for that last member so I had a feeling that may be something on their minds about looking for a permanent slot. I wanted to be clear and straight with them right up front that I wasn’t looking to join the band, just so for one they were clear; but also to make sure they were comfortable with me just coming in and doing the album and not making any commitments beyond that because they might have been looking for a permanent guy because sometimes people like to have players who play on the record and then that goes out on the road. I wanted them to be OK with the fact that I was not going to be into doing anything beyond the album & they seemed very comfortable & with that – so I though ‘OK let’s go ahead’ and that was sort of the determining factor for me.
TFL: What other projects to do have in the cooker now?
TF: Just pretty much as we spoke last time I think. The bass album, my book, the screenplay and lots of recording sessions with other people and as hinted a little earlier about a possible reunion. Well John Sykes, Carmine and myself are talking about doing some Blue Murder stuff and it’s looking pretty positive to doing it we’re just seeing what sort of response there is about us getting out there and doing some shows. It’s not like we’re looking to doing a bunch of endless touring, they’ve all got other commitments and we really don’t want to do that, but if it makes sense to do go out and do some nice shows, like some Summer Festivals in Europe & japan and maybe some cool opening slots over here – we’ll see what presents itself, but we are talking about doing that. I am constantly working on stuff with my own recordings, song writing, my bass album, all recordings for others…it’s a full time job. Never a dull moment for me!
It’s always a pleasure to talk with the one and only Tony Franklin, if the opportunity ever presents itself to you – be sure to ask him why he calls himself the ‘Fretless Monster’ – apparently I am the first person to ever ask him this question…so I have chosen to keep the answer to myself. Tony is a very easy-going man who enjoys talking about his craft – Blue Murder reunion – AWESOME!
You can find out more about FREAKSHOW at www.freakshowrox.com or on MySpace at www.myspace.com/freakshowrox – keep your eyes peeled for tour dates and check out their live performance – I’m sure it will be nothing shy of dynamic.