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Interview with Frank Lenz
by Rob from - 1340mag

Frank Lenz is an amazing drummer/producer. He has worked on some of my favorite albums, such as Plankeyes "Relocation", The Dingees "Sundown To Midnight", Cushs "EP", etc. He recently released a phenomenal 70s soul/disco album entitled "The Hot Stuff". I got a chance to chat with him about it while he was in his studio. Here is what was said.


Rob - The story inside the booklet as well as one of the themes of your record is that of the Indiots and the Kool Police. Do they represent pop music, record executives, or do they represent someone else? Frank - I have come to hate that word and sort of regret putting it on there. The idea of the Kool Police and the Indiots are just, I had these songs that were musically serious to me because I was tired of doing just indie rock all the time. Although I am a big fan and it is part of what I do, but I wanted to do this record that is reminiscent of music that I dug when I was younger. The responses that I got from some of the people that were the cool people that I know, you know the ones that know about bands six months before you do, and a lot of the responses were, "Gosh Frank, why are you doing this goofy music?" And that is sort of it; it was just kind of shocking that people who love music would be so adamant that I am doing something different that is not "Of the norm". So that is where that came from and again, it is not a great record. It is a good, fine, OK record, but I just wanted to make a statement outside of the regular old indie rock/indie pop. So that is where that came from.

Rob - Is it kind of almost a partial rage against the industries definition of cool? Frank - Not so much a rage against the industrys assumption of cool, just because I could care less what the industry thought was cool, because they are so crazy. Anyone that runs a record label or works for a record label in some sort of artist development is an idiot. They are all wrong. They dictate and choose what music the kids or America are going to listen to, basically they are in bed with MTV. So it doesnt matter what they think is cool, I just wanted to make good pop music for people who wanted to hear good pop music.

Rob - With the record, are you trying to kick against what you have done before? Because all of the stuff Ive seen you do before has been stuff like Fold Zandura and The Dingees and stuff all in the alternative/punk scene. Is it kind of you kicking against that? Frank - I wouldnt say it is me kicking against that, more than it is me not wanting to be typecast as any one type of musician and or writer. I mean even now as soon as I finished the record, I just finished a new EP that I am going to put out that has nothing to do with "The Hot Stuff," there are no 70s jams. Only because I sort of want to break free from the class struggle of pop music. I dont want it to be under anyones label weather it be pop, rock, punk rock, and especially doing some of the Christian rock stuff, I dont want to be labeled as any of those; I just want to make music that is cool and if people dig it then its cool and if they dont then whatever.

Rob - A lot of the people that I have talked to about doing this interview, when I told them that I was going to interview you, they responded with "whos that" or something to that effect. After I told them some of the records youve played drums on and done stuff for, they normally ask "so hes just a drummer guy?" Do you feel that you have gotten a reputation just as a drummer or…Frank - I guess, I mean its hard to have a reputation when no one really knows who you are. I play on records for a living. I play on everything from Plankeye to playing on demos for Natalie Imbruglia I mean I do everything. Its not that Im a really well known guy and I think that the only reason that anyone knows who I am is that I used tour with Fold Zandura and it was a small trio and I kind of had to overplay in to compensate for their being only three guys and a whole lot of music on tracks. A shorter answer would be, yeah, people do think of me as just a drummer. But even here with my friends who I work with all the time, they think of me as not only a drummer but a drummer who does this or a drummer who does that. And Ill come in and arrange a horn part and all of a sudden Im the drummer that arranges horn parts and then Im the drummer that does this or that so yeah, you know thats the way it goes.

Rob - How long have you been thinking of doing a record on your own for? Frank - I started writing songs actually only about 4 years ago. And I wrote really really terrible songs. I just tried to write better songs. Actually I spent three days in the green room studio out here, because I was house sitting. And I was fed up with the music I was listening to and I put on some older records and just sort of ripped it all off. I mean I like the record, its just not the greatest thing in the world its just sort of a fun good jam. Its not a record of songwriting songs, its just 40 minutes of just jams.

Rob The record is mostly 70s soul, is that what you are into? Frank No.

Rob What type of music do you like and what artists inspire you? Frank I like everything. As of lately Ive been listening to… thats a terrible question because I can never remember what Ive been listening to. Ill tell you whats in the CD player: Tom Waits "Franks Wild Years", Godspeed "Black Emperor", theres an Air record, the new Stereolab, Elliot Smith "Xo" thats what Ive been listening to lately. But I guess whats been inspiring me is just good pop. Thats why myself and most people I know, we fall back to things that have happened in the past. I think its a trap that people fall into only listening to "Pet Sounds" over and over again.

Rob "Pet Sounds" is such a great album though. Frank It is, but it becomes clichhat someone who is into "indie" music as a songwriter and doesnt want to be some huge guy on Warner Bros. Can credit these records. But the reality is they are the best pop music written. Simon & Garfunkels "Bookends" you are hard pressed to find a better pop record than that. And it is the essence and soul of pop music. Pop music has been through so many changes from Perry Como to Frank Sinatra to the influence of black music that its hard to pinpoint what pop is. But if you are a lover of pop music it is a mixture of things that is accessible yet touching and moves you. I mean even things like "Moon River" by… I cant remember right now, people think it is a cheesy song but if you listen to it is absolutely gorgeous.

Rob Have you noticed almost a trend in which indie bands claim artist like The Beatles or The Beach Boys or Simon & Garfunkel as their main influences? Frank - I think it is like a clichas I said before. But it becomes clichif someone claims someone like The Beatles as an influence and you hear some bulls*&$ like 976 hero and it is just dreadful, you end up thinking, man what Beatles record did you buy? Like where did you find that? If you listen to a band like Flaming Lips, you can find that…

Rob Like Starflyer Frank Yeah, every pop song will always have a Beatles reference. The white album alone stands… you know, every bit of great music you ever hear in pop. But yeah I think it can be clich/p>

Rob You get bands like Zao and stuff like that are claiming The Beatles and its like… Frank Yeah, what the hell, where could you possibly reference that.

Rob What do you think of Limp Bizkits touring across America having kids sign their songs over to them as a "tryout" for the band? Frank I think they are brilliant. I think anyone who can get away with it should, because anyone who is stupid enough to give that kind of music away deserves for it to be stolen. So I salute them.

Rob Your wife works for Metro One right? Frank Yes she does.

Rob Why did you decide to go with Northern Records instead of Metro One for your record? Did you go with Northern because of Cush or… Frank No, Metro One is strictly a Christian music label and Northern Records when I talked to them, because I have been working with them for a while between Cush and producing records, but when I talked to them it was actually about a publishing thing and I told them I had this idea for a record. And Im not one of those grandstanders that say I hate Christian music, Christian rock is gay, blah, blah, blah… I just decided that Im not going to do it. But if we can find a way to start putting out records that are not for the Christian market then great. So Northern Records is sort of, I think they are signing a couple of other bands that arent Christian bands also, so thats why. I mean, Metro One, what could they do with "The Hot Stuff"? Nothing.

Rob You are a part of Cush right? Frank Yes.

Rob What is Cush? Frank Cush is pretty much close to what the manifesto says it is.

Rob Which is… Frank And the manifesto says that it is pretty music, a community of musicians that put aside ego to make great music and also there is an element of worshipping God in it. So it tries to be that at all times, but sometimes it fails. But that is also part of the manifesto that we are human beings and we screw up. But the next Cush record is so far Andy and Eric writing songs. Its going to be a little different this time. They are going to write the jams and Im going to get pieces of it and Im going to put my flavor. But it is going to be the same concept, where everyone has their own and equal say in the project.

Rob The new EP is really cool. Frank Its my favorite man, I think the new EP is just jamming.

Rob You said you have a new EP you are working on? Frank Yeah, I just finished it. I think Northerns putting it out. I know they are going to put it out, but I dont know when.

Rob What does it sound like? Frank After going so mellow on "The Hot Stuff its pretty epic I think.

Rob Do you have any plans to tour your solo projects at all? Frank The only shows that are happening are around town live at different clubs. Ill tour if people buy the record. Im not going to go on tour to support a record no one is buying.

Rob What do you have for advice for people who want to become studio musicians? Frank Oh, gosh. In that specific area, if you want to become a musician that sort of survives in the studio to make money, dont because you will not. It is just not going to happen. But if youve dreamt about making a record in the studio, or if youve been in the studio making a record and you love it; then make sacrifices. Dont get married. Try to find odd jobs that will support you while you are working in the studio. Make friends with anyone that works in a recording studio. Make friends with the engineers. Hang out, if you are in a city that has an active music scene get up off youre a*^ and meet people. And the most important thing is that you always have to be prepared, you always have to be so good that you can step into a situation and kick a whole lot of a*&.

Rob Are you working with the Green Room right now? Frank On and off.

Rob Is that mostly Chris Colbert? Frank Yeah, Chris is in charge of that. He is in charge of the Green Room and he makes bad music sound good.

Rob How did Gene Eugenes death affect you? Frank It was the worst thing that has ever happened to me. I wasnt real super close friends with him, but I was there when he died and I watched him and that was a little bit harrowing. It affected me…

Rob What is your favorite record of all time? Frank See man, you cant ask that, because it changes every minute. Ill tell you what the best record of all time is that I can think of that Im listening to right now. And the only way I could do that is to look at my CD collection. And that is, Nick Drake "Five Leaves Left".

                                                                      - 1340mag





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