Pop music-maker on ‘restricted’ straight guys, teaming with Erasure and getting naked for the gays
Frankmusik goes where no straight man’s gone before. Just look at what he did in 2008, when he disrobed, and bared his bum, for a spread in one of the U.K.’s gay magazines. Then, recently, he got naked again, on a massage table, for a promo that has a bunch of bears giving him a rubdown.
Clearly the guy’s an original, which isn’t just evident in his friendliness with the gays, but his music, too. With that, he’s proved that pop isn’t just a woman’s world, mixing music for Lady Gaga and Pet Shop Boys and releasing his first album, Complete Me, two years ago.
The 25-year-old follows up his electro-pop debut with Do It in the AM, but it’s not the only project with his name attached to it – he also produced Erasure’s new album, Tomorrow’s World.
On the road with the synth-pop legends during their first U.S. tour in five years, Frankmusik chatted about how working with Erasure was his “calling,” being an anomaly in the music business and why he wishes more straight men would let go of their inhibitions.
Hey, Frank, how are you?
Hot. Not hot in a physical sense. Like, it’s actually hot.
I already know you’re hot … physically, anyway.
Thank you, sir. Compliments will get you everywhere. (Laughs)
Where does mine get me?
This is a recorded conversation. I’ll tell you off the record some other time.
How did the title track, “Do It in the AM,” come about?
It’s about losing it in my mind. I’ve never really spoken about this in an interview properly because I don’t really think anyone’s really been highbrow enough to engage in it but, being creative, I like having the creative freedom at night, because it’s like my little secret. I’m making the party in my studio, and I’m making the songs that people want to party to.
So do you keep an alcohol stash in the studio?
No, no. I don’t drink. Well, hardly. It just doesn’t agree with me. I used to drink like a fish, but I just get heartburn. I’m getting old, man. And the hangovers — I actually cannot stand the concept of a hangover.
What’s your a.m. routine?
Shower, shit, shave. No, wait — shit, shower, shave. You don’t want to shit after you’ve already had a shower. The three S’s. Sometimes you can do four S’s if you’re lucky, which is sex, shit, shower, shave. That is much more likely to happen these days since my missus has moved in.
How did your move from London to L.A. influence the album?
Just not being in London, being in a new city. I haven’t got any really massive circle of friends or anything. I came here to experience emptiness.European culture is very clustered, very pedestrianized and everyone is very closely knit. I love L.A. for its vastness. It’s devoid of any real sort of social integration because it’s so spread out, and I love that. I love the fact that I can be really anti-social and obnoxious in my studio and just concentrate on work.
You’ve gotten naked for the gays on a couple occasions. Do your gay friends call you a tease, because I think you might be?
I could be a tease; it depends on if you fancy me or not. The main thing is, I’m having fun. That’s such a shit thing to say, but it is actually that. Straight male artists are restricting themselves through their sexuality, and I think you should just be open to anything, especially in the press. If someone has an idea and it’s tasteful, yeah, I’ll do it. Fuck it. When I did the nude photo shoot, that was for male eating disorders. I wanted to support that cause, and if it meant a few famous guys getting their clothes off and talking about their own experiences with eating and their health, then fuck — any day dude, any day.
Why is it such an issue for straight guys to open up like that?
You have to ask them, because I’m definitely not one of them. I think it was because I was brought up by my mom; I didn’t have a dad, so I didn’t have, like, this tenacious male figure in my life that was trying to make me fit a certain mold or anything. My mom sent me to ballet school and poetry recital classes. I mean, I was dancing around in a fucking leotard! I didn’t know any different. If you don’t know anything different, it doesn’t mean anything. It’s imposed on you, this kind of straightness.
I feel so bad for guys, because you have this culture where people’s gender has to fit into a demographic, which is just stupid. Men are just as expressive as women. I was just lucky enough that somebody as intelligent as my mother brought me up that way. It’s a combination of common sense and not sort of digesting the bullshit that’s fed to you in culture. I wish more men were expressive because, I’ll tell you, there’d be a lot less trouble in the world.
Do people ever think you’re gay?
I hope so, because that means I’m surrounded by stupid people that I can manipulate. That’d be nice.
Who are your boy crushes?
George Clooney. He’s an absolute gentleman and a brilliant, brilliant human being and very good at what he does. And he’s just really classy about it. I love classy guys. Not being a gentleman drives me crazy. I think being respectful and well-mannered is one of the most attractive things that any human can be.
You’re an anomaly in pop music, because the genre is so dominated by young females, and you’re a straight white guy. Why do you think there are so few like you in pop music?
Once again, it goes back to what it’s like to be a man these days. Why is it that we feel that the only type of males that should succeed in this market are ones that come from a boy band? Or they’ve got to be a rapper, or they’ve got to be some beardy guy holding an acoustic guitar. Apparently dancing around and singing pop songs is only reserved for people like Usher and black culture, which I think is bullshit. White guys can do it too, but I think we’re having a huge identity crisis.
I’m not a heavily political person, but I think there are some real plain facts staring us in the face that need to be dealt with — why can’t a guy dance and sing without being seen as queer? Does that say anything bad about me, or does that say something really bad about the culture?
Tell me about your relationship with Erasure’s Andy Bell. Has he ever tried to get into your pants?
No, no, not at all. The closest we got was when we were doing the new single and he enjoyed what I was making so much that he said something like, “I could fall in love with you,” but I think he was referring more to the music that we were creating. (Laughs) He’s a wonderful human being and incredible to work with. I see Andy more as a family member than a sexual stranger.
When did your relationship with Erasure start?
Beginning of this year, I think. I met Vince (Clarke) at his house in Maine and I met Andy in London. I met them both separately. I’ve yet to actually meet all three of them at the same time, so that will happen when I’m on tour with them.
How would you compare the sound of their album to yours?
I mean, it’s Andy Bell. The vocals are incomparable. His male tenor is like a freight train running through a china shop. I mean, the power! You believe every word he says, because he lives what he says. He is in the song. It’s not some cookie-cutter bullshit, and that’s what I love about him.
They stand for actually creating so many things that have been imitated blandly since they first made it. They’re incredible, incredible pioneers. And I’m glad I could celebrate their originality once again.
Was it intimidating working with them?
No, no. It felt like my calling, it really did. I felt like I needed to make that album … for me and for them.