TEENAGE FRAMES and The CRAZY SQUEEZE are two good reasons for us to have a little talk with Frankie, but his solo album “Street Penetration” has made us even more curious…
Can you tell us how you first got into music? What were the first records you bought? The first band shirt you wore?
“Music was always a part of my household when I was a kid- mainly old rock n roll and country. I didn’t become obsessed with music until I was about 12 years old, and at the time was really into anything on the radio or early days of MTV, and I collected 45s (singles) exclusively- my first being Dolly Parton “9 to 5”, soon followed by ABC “Look Of Love.” First bands that ever made me love rock n roll was Creedence Clearwater Revival and the Rolling Stones– ubiquitous stars of classic rock radio. The first band shirt I think I ever wore was probably a 1976 Jefferson Starship “Spitfire” Tour shirt I stole from the lost and found at my Junior High School. I thought the design was so cool.”
When did you realize that you wanted to play in bands and not just listen to them?
“I recall watching an episode of New Wave Theater that featured a band called Unit 3 and Venus, with an 11 year old girl as lead singer. And then I saw an expose on The Plasmatics showing Wendy O chainsawing TV Sets and smashing shit up, and it hit me that this was something I could do and be a part of and have fun and be creative with, so I immediately started a band- a two piece with a neighbor. We called ourselves The Mental Cases. We used to make cassettes, which I would then play for my fellow students at school, who must have thought I was insane- just me and my friend banging on drums and acoustic guitars, shouting things like “My Baby Eats Dirt” and “Running With The Angel.” From that point onward I was hooked and have never stopped performing, writing, and loving every minute of it, the good and the bad.”
Can you tell us a bit about the TEENAGE FRAMES?
“Teenage Frames have been one of the most satisfying disappointments of my musical life. We really felt- at one point were delusional enough- to believe, absolutely, we were gonna be a MAJOR band. Not the biggest, but you know- on the level of Primal Scream or Social Distortion. We certainly believed we had a more interesting take than all of the pop punk junk in the 1990s. We made a valiant attempt at this. Unfortunately, our egos were too distorted at the time to see the whole picture, face our own deficiencies, and comprehend how these things unfold- and then coming to grips with that made the failure more painful. However, it also makes you recognize what is there- even what you may have missed or dismissed initially, and poses the question of where next to go. I love writing with Eric Vegas so much, and recording with Jim and Aaron has just gotten better and stronger, so we’re still a band producing material, working on a new full length LP (our 3rd in 20 years! HA!) that has so far- quite easily- reaffirmed why I stuck with this- I am in the midst of my greatest creative period, and just loving it.”
You then joined The CRAZY SQUEEZE, can you tell us how it all happened?
“Johnny Witmer had already formed The Crazy Squeeze while The Stitches were on a break- or things had slowed down for a minute, gone through a few line up changes, and was possibly looking for a simple, direct player who was reliable and could write and sing and would not be drama or hassle (I can be a little of both, but far less than your average musician).
I was reticent at first because I am a front man- lead singer- main songwriter, action man- and had never, ever played an instrument in a band. I barely could tune a guitar. But Johnny assured me all he needed was me to do very simply stuff so he could wail and flail and do all the fancy guitar mangling, and to sing/write half the songs. It was an easy fit. I slid into his concept quickly- as we are both very centered around 50s rock n roll and R&B and 1970s Pub Rock and Proto Punk and early Punk in general- and we were off and running. It’s always fun playing with those guys, and even more so touring. I think touring in The Crazy Squeeze has been my most favorite part of the band, and some of the greatest experiences of my life. We should be out on tour again soon, with a new LP or single.”
When did you have the idea to write a song each day for a whole year? Was it easy to do when you were on tour in Europe with The CRAZY SQUEEZE?
“I got the idea in December 2014. I had just finished writing and recording over 80 songs that year that had no place to go. I felt if I just kept writing I could use the initial songs for the first 2 months, and by the time they were depleted, another batch would have been written and ready to go. And that’s how it worked in total, though certain weeks I made sure I wrote for THAT day, just to keep the thing somewhat fair and balanced. The entire project was life changing. Certainly from a creative stand point. I had my good friends over at Sex Tape Records- Stacy Ellen Rich and Eric BigArm (from Die Group and Tenement Rats)- post all the videos/songs for me while I was in Europe- I made sure I’d done them before I left. However, the final month was all stuff written to order- that morning to post that night. I am in the middle of doing a similar- albeit less extensive- project, NEW SONGS for 2020. Subscribe to my YouTube Channel and see them everyday!”
Were you thinking some of these songs could end up on vinyl?
“NO! I treated them as demos, nothing more. Raw ideas eventually graduating to better conditions. But I am a sucker for Lo-Fi, 4 track, spontaneously crafted music- so when Bill Xero approached me with his idea for English Disco Records, and his vision for putting out a collection of certain songs on vinyl, I was stunned and over joyed. It’s turned out to be what I hope will be a series of LPs collecting my demos- the sound, style, and presentation- though not entirely Hi-Fi- is as close as I’ll ever come to getting that gritty, raw, immediate energy and thrill of the best 1960s records.”
I remember I watched JOHN COOPER CLARKE’s “What’s In My Bag?” and he actually talked about you. Were you surprised he did?
“Shocked!!! Absolutely shocked. Working at the record store I was at- in that time frame- I gave CDs of my music to every entity I saw that I admired or thought was interesting- and did not care the outcome- if it went in the trash, etc. I am a tireless advocate and champion for my own cause. Tom Petty refused a CD from me once!!! HA! I wasn’t bothered. So John Cooper Clarke was no different. Didn’t give it a second thought. I could not stop giggling once I saw it. It was simply an honor to be mentioned by the man.”
Can you choose 5 albums that are important to you and tell us why you like them?
THE WIPERS– Over The Edge: I spent all of my teenage years in Portland, Oregon. The Wipers were the first ‘local’ punk band I heard that changed my life and influenced me, this LP in particular. Greg Sage was very accessible in those days, so he became my one and only musical mentor. His music will always have a deep place in my soul.
VELVET UNDERGROUND– White Light, White Heat- LP: Though the first LP with Nico may be my favorite, this one simply melted my face off when I first listened to it, LOUDLY, on headphones. It’s punk as fuck. Wild, anarchic, poetic. ANY deconstructed thing you heard bandied about afterwards has a direct line to this. And you do gotta listen to this at FULL BLAST. Let it surge through you. It’s filthy, ragged, unclean, undisciplined, layered audio magic.
NEW YORK DOLLS– LP- At this juncture it’s almost comical to name check this thing, but it truly is one of the most absorbing rock n roll records ever made, and as pure a definition of the style as Chuck Berry‘s guitar licks. It’s also somewhat progressive and unique in what they did with the form, and the lyrics are hilarious and smart. AND they were basically teenagers. Everything about this band was perfect, and the legend should grow bigger every year, they are that worthy still, as much as Warhol or DuChamp or Dali- they put art into rock n roll with out being overly pretentious or condescending or self congratulating- or even fully aware- they’re natural state of being so cool and collected, tight and on point. LOVE them to bits!
BUDDY HOLLY– 20 Greatest Hits (MCA)- I was lost in this record for years, and patterned so much of my songwriting style after this master of the hook. As important and as much as Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard and Charlie Rich and Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra do for me in similar- yet separate ways- it’s Buddy Holly‘s relationship to melody and projection that I feel allows my writing to flourish with strength and purpose.
JAMES BROWN– Live At The Apollo- LP- Just about every rock n roller’s favorite LIVE R&B record- it is THEE record that ill keep giving, an R&B throttle train of rhythm and power and immediate soul. With the best back up band on the planet you hear the frame work of transcendence and grace, and James Brown‘s theatrics- his raw and nasty vocals and funky personality, all wrapped up beautifully in this legendary recording that I can put on any time and it’ll instantly make me wanna dance, sing, get wasted, and write music. So many other records I love don’t give that- cause this sucker is special.
Last great live band or artist you’ve seen?
“Best, most recent shows I’ve witnessed- Bobby Caldwell, Jack Jones, The Hangmen, Robert Forster, The Fleshtones.”
Any new exciting bands in L.A. at the moment?
“Savoir Faire & the Voyeuristics, Hot Licks, Tenement Rats, Double E & Bad Business, The Reflectors.”
What are your projects for 2020?
“Continuing my NEW SONGS for 2020- either until I run out of ideas, songs, or energy- or the year itself ends, new TEENAGE FRAMES LP fully recorded, new stuff by THE CRAZY SQUEEZE– either a 45, a full length- or both, writing about music for various blogs or publications, and selling my music to every outlet I can- from film to TV to audiences- this will be a year I exploit myself to the fullest. So come check it out- I am chronically producing content that I hope will be titillating and thrilling to those who encounter it. At least that’s the purpose.