FRANKMUSIK: FIRST TIME IN DRAG
Words Hugo Harris Photography Greg Bailey Hair and Makeup Michelle Webb, Hugo Gamboa
Vincent, aka Frankmusik is a creative artist to be reckoned with. His eclectic mix of high energy electro and moody autobiographical beats have taken him from top selling albums to performing alongside Keane, The Pet Shop Boys and RuPaul amongst a feast of co-produced material for the likes of Ellie Goulding, Lady GaGa and Amy Winehouse. Alright Darling sat down with Vincent to discuss the past, present and future of Frankmusik, from discovering Drum and Base in the rooms of his Grandmothers house and bribing his teachers with Champagne, to climbing the music industry ladder and his change in direction.
Today however things are somewhat different, off come the thick rimmed glasses, the casual white shirt and skinny jeans to be replaced by a figure hugging black dress, long painted nails, and a contoured face any queen would be jealous of. You may call her Franky Muse……
Hi Vincent, so firstly I would like to ask you how did you first start getting interested in music? I heard that there was a lodger in your Grandmothers house who use to give your his old music?
Yeah, yes. Thats right, crazy fucking guy living in the house who was listening to Jungle and Drum and Base, he had all the tape packs and he would give them to me when he was ether done with them or sober! So yeah from the age of 10 I was exposed to underground Techno, you know, music I would never go out see for another 8 years. People I was listening to probably a bit earlier than I should have been like Nicky Blackmarket. People that were influencing people like the Prodigy.
What about Basement Jaxx?
Love Basement Jaxx, but that was a bit after. You know you associate people with a record deal as otherworldly as a teenager, but when I realised they lived in Brixton I thought, well if they can do it so can other people?
Did you try to track them down?
No, no, no. They are apparently very colourful people, they have a bazaarway of doing things so I never bothered to reach out to them. Never meet your heroes.
Well has there been an occasion then when you have met your heroes?
Yes, actually I was in Sirius XM in New York doing an interview and I was with the lady at the time who was doing the press for me. So Daft Punk walk in out of costume and I’m trying to be cool, you know its cool its just Daft Punk, just don't pay any attention. My fucking radio plugger is loosing her fucking mind and she's wearing this denim jacket that has the whole of the back covered in Daft Punks logo in studded metal. She's saying I gotta get it signed I just gotta get it signed! She was the one who was meant to be fucking professional you know? So anyway she got something signed and I just sat there because I was too embarrassed. I didn't even look at them, I didn't even want to know what they looked like.
You didn't even see at all what they looked like?
They were literally standing like right next to me and I just kept looking straight ahead, I couldn't do it. I didn't want to ruin whatever illusion I had.
You had this great interest in music, so what made you go to study at Central St Martens?
Yes I went to St Martens and then LCF (London College of Fashion) after that. I did an art foundation at St Martens, waste of time. I mean it was fun, it was free, it was something to do. All I remember was I didn't turn up to any of my classes and I had to bribe my tutor to pass me with a box of champagne. I said, “listen if I buy you a box of champagne can you pass me and just say I cant show in the final degree show because something really bad happened to my work on the way here” and it actually worked.
I got passed and I chose my LCF course by choosing three Universities at random on a sheet with my eyes closed and I got in all three choices, but I chose product design for the fashion industry. I was making women’s handbags and shoes down near the Barbican. It sucked. The commute sucked, I was having to get on the train with lots of suits you know, and I hated it. I think it was the commute that actually finished me off. I just could not handle going from Croydon to the Barbican every morning. The course, well I remember someone saying to me , “Just because you like buying clothes doesn't mean you like making them.” I thought sod it I really like making music lets give this a chance. My mum was heartbroken at the time, “You cant leave university it’s too important.”
So I got a part time job at Levis in Croydon, I can now guess peoples waist size and inside leg (Vincent then points to me and say “34 inside leg.”), I was also putting music out there on this old website that still exists apparently called Myspace. Myspace was this wonderful way of creating a digital personality, highly creative but sadly Facebook took over and has never been replaced.
Maybe then Myspace was something that was just a part of our generation?
Yes Myspace and Nu-rave. You know Justin Timberlake has like a shit load of shares in Myspace, so you know he maybe doing something with it for all of its 7 users.
In 2007 you first EP came out under Frankmusik, but how did you go then from Part-time sales at Levis with a Myspace account to a hugely successful EP?
Well I was a beatboxer on the side and I was doing a lot of live P.A’s and this manager at the time put me in touch with a producer in L.A and we made some tracks. Just messing around really beatboxing and making some music, they tried to give me a record deal as a beatboxer but I didn't care for the beatboxing too much, the beatboxing life chose me! So I knocked it on the head and I just chose my own production, made the EP and the producer in L.A said this stuff is great, lets make it even better! That's how I got the record deal with Island, it was based on the music I made with him out there. A year and half later I then had my first album out.
At what point then did you record with RuPaul?
Well I recorded twice. One indirectly and then one directly. It came about when I met one of his close friends Lucian at a Gay Bar in Santa Monica and we got talking through mutual friends and all that. Then a couple of months later I got this track called, ‘Fly Tonight,’ and he asked if I wanted to sing on it which ended up on his album born naked. Then sometime later I met RuPaul at an event, to put a name to the face. Then another while later I bumped into him outside my studio where I said to him you and me should do a track together which was, ‘Die tomorrow,’ and that ended up on the Realness album. Awesome stuff.
How was it working with RuPaul?
The thing about Ru is, that televised side I have never met in person. Thats the irony. Ive just met Ru in suit and a pair of glasses and I thoroughly enjoy both. I enjoy the televised vision and Ru the business man who has built the World of Wonder empire. Working with him? Totally 155% professional, like doesn't take any shit and just gets the job done. It was an absolute joy. He’s just Ru.
And now you are having your first time in Drag. Looking like you never have before…
Correct, a world exclusive.
…so what made you think yeah I want to do this.
Well for a start Ive always hung out in the gay crowd, ever since the early days when you know Nu-Rave was popping off, there was nightclubs in East London, like Boombox and Anti-Social where you'd dress up crazy and I’d go manly for the music and the creativity of it all. So for me it was never a big problem. I then started going to Sink the Pink and Madame JoJo’s and its pantomime and its brilliant, its pure pantomime. Being straight can be boring sometimes, so you know we do have a lot of conveniences being straight, society does not scorn the white middle class privilege male. So when you're on the fringe it forces you to do more extreme things. That's why things like drag happens and I’m glad it happens. I don’t care who you're fucking, I don't care who you are when or whatever, sexuality doesn't bother me. If you are having fun then great, do it.
When it comes to me doing it, you know there's been so my discussion about my own orientation and its not like I'm playing up to it but it’s that when people are questioning my sexuality, they art questioning me, they are questioning their understanding of a straight man. Their way of looking at things. I guess I just always loved fucking around with things, like with music, I never really cared about genre, I don't like things being so fucking boxed.
So how was your first time in Drag then?
Great, great, I loved the attention. Its fantastic. A lot of tricks of the trade I learnt about, its not just putting on make-up and a pair of high heals. Like the tape on the side of your head. That tape is then attached to an elastic band which holds everything up and the wig is also doing the job of pulling your head back as well. So I guess I was getting what can only be called a Croydon facelift. The most glamorous of Croydon facelifts. Its the layers, its like music, the layers of music you add, the make up artists they were doing a painting on my face basically.
Away from that, when did I first feel that I was in drag? The make-up I couldn't pay attention to because I couldn't see what they were doing. it was seeing the long nails and the hair coming over my eyes. Fuck like this is weird because there is no blokey way of scooching a wig off your face and the way to hold your hand with ginormous nails. I tried texting with them and that didn't work.
Could you recognise yourself?
Nooooo. I didn't want to look at it until the very end. I wanted to be totally unaware of whats happening. For a start I didn't realise the make -up artists were going for that look, you know it was dramatic, it was super drama, big eyelashes, big contours, the full show. That's fantastic because I'm there thinking on a technical side this is going to be great for the photographs with the flash hitting and the less of my face that you notice and the more the make-up is doing the work, the more the illusion will be realised. I just wanted it to look good more than anything and they did an amazing job……O and the PVA glue on the eyebrows, Im still picking that off now!
How do you now feel after your first time in Drag?
Its like being in a theme park but you are the ride. A roller-coaster of emotions. Its quiet fun, its different I think if you know I was going out and I would be worried about my nails falling off and walking around in heals and stuff that but I would do it for like a nigh for a laugh but I would do it in the context of where there were other people doing it. I wouldn't just go to Tiger Tiger in Croydon dressed like that, “bitch she's here!” but then again no tranny would go to Tiger Tiger ether probably if they cared for their self preservation.
Your Drag name?
I’m sticking with Franky Muse.
Could this then potentially be then your next Album cover?
Never say never. I would probably then want to do it in the style of the new romantics. Contextually like Patrick Nagel who did like Duran Duran’s artwork in the 80’s. Im not someone who is particularly motivated in pushing the agenda of gender, because like others I don't need too. Doing something like this I suppose is a contribution to, ‘it doesn't fucking matter what you are.’
You recently released your latest song This, will that be a taste of things to come?
Its a bonus track because, the rest of the album does not sound anything like that. This was a good nod to the sound before the album started. It was a song I just wanted to get out. A pretty good sounding song that you could do a good cinematic kind of video for it. Its big and slow and we got it done literally in a couple of weeks from writing the song to shooting the video. Then we decided to go away from the pretty much feeling sorry for yourself sound which was starting to haunt my music a little bit, and go back to my earlier energy which was a lot more fresh, fun and not let the world get you down. So we went a bit more dancey and a bit more urban, but don't worry not rapping. Public schoolboy rapping, bad idea!
A lot of my friends were saying Vince we want to be able to dance to some of your music and in my head Im thinking I have to go out and perform this live at some point I may as well make it fucking fun for a change. I think people know I can do deep and meaningful. That is clear as day so lets do something that is a bit more uplifting and accessible but without selling out.
And some of the songs have a similar sound to the work you did with RuPaul.
Yeah thats true and I think from doing projects like that it has reminded me that you don't need to carry the weight of the world on your shouldersin music you can have fun too. You don't just need to hide behind the acts that you help produce and let them have all the fucking fun. You forget yourself sometimes and I’m really happy with whats coming out.
FrankMusik will be releasing his new album For You in Mid-August with his US tour starting in October.