The future is here, and it’s electric, as evidenced by the number of acts in the charts eschewing guitars and amps for synths and samples. Croydon born singer songwriter Frankmusik, real name Vincent Frank, is certainly forward thinking, as I found out during our interview.
He’s been geotagged by his record company, allowing fans to track his every move. It all sounds a bit Big Brother to me, but Vincent isn’t fazed by the fact that his location is common knowledge. ‘People say it’s gimmicky like major label record stuff, but even if I wasn’t signed up to major record label I’d have it set up anyway, I think it’s amazing, I love it!’ he told me when we spoke recently.
The idea that anyone can know “my exact satellite navigation position, by the accuracy of six foot. I wanna have the internet inside me, I wanna be able to just check my emails by blinking,” he enthuses. “I love it, technology, we’re all like a slave to it anyway, so we might as well embrace it as much as possible.”
His enthusiasm has led Vincent not only into the charts, but also into some other, less enviable positions. In February, he took part in the Live and Lost challenge, which saw him making his way around the country on tour armed with only £20 and his Blackberry. He used MySpace to organise food and shelter through the generosity of his fans, who also made gig suggestions. The singer seemed to take it in his stride, but tour took its toll.
“The main reason why I found it such a struggle was because I had tonsillitis the whole time,” he revealed. “I was there and I had to sing and be happy and excited and enjoy it, like I really wanna go fucking sleep, I just wanna go home, but it humbled me massively when you see the support and reaction I got from people.”
Despite feeling rough, Vincent managed to complete the tour and the subsequent show was aired on Channel 4. As with other pop stars who grew up in the increasingly Internet savvy age, he’s used technology to reach his fans and invites them to do the same. Unsurprisingly, he sees the Internet as a great resource for the music industry.
He’s outspoken on the issue of illegal downloads, blaming the industry for punishing punters because they’re behind the times technology wise. “It’s not stealing, it’s something that’s happening that the industry’s not ready for yet, they can only call it stealing ‘cos they haven’t found a way of exploiting it for themselves, which is actually the problem they’re having.” In a time when a Boston University graduate student was sued for $4.5 million by a major record label for infringing copyright on 30 songs, it’s evident that Vincent’s onto something there.
He’s still optimistic that the music industry isn’t going to crumble away, however. “That’s different from the social side music, I mean music is kind of in the fabric of all our lives, whether we want it there or not. It’s our soundtrack isn’t it?”
The soundtrack that Frankmusik has produced is a distinctive electro-tinged album that borrows heavily from the 80s, and he sites Electric Light Orchestra as his biggest influence. Another band he admires are The Pet Shop Boys, who he supported on their recent tour.
“They kind of epitomise a specific sound and they have an identity through their music, you know, they have a huge gay following, they also have a huge following across all ages and sexes, it’s not just for guys or just for the girls,” he says, adding “the one thing that I really respect and appreciate about them is how many hits they have actually made. When you see their live show you forget how many massive songs they had, and the demographic that they have is just brilliant.”
Vincent is keen to reach a wide demographic himself, and the blurring of genres going on in music at the moment is going some way to making pop cool again. “Music technology’s become cheaper so therefore people can have the power again, which got lost for about ten to 15 years,” the singer said. “It’s bringing it back to what pop music should, which is people without any agendas creating.”
Creating is what Frankmusik is all about, and Vincent is understandably proud of the fact that he’s written and produced his own album. “I will not have anyone write a single lyric of any of my songs, I’m not one of these people who believes that pop should be written for other people,” he told me, quickly adding “just for my own stuff. If you’re a beautiful looking girl and you can dance and sing but you can’t write songs, well fair enough it’s the only thing missing from the package, but someone like me, who’s a bloke next door who can’t really dance and can just about sing, it’s better if you can do everything yourself, and get it done properly without having to rely on other people.”
This approach is mirrored by many of the current crop of stars, with artists like La Roux, Little Boots and VV Brown carving out their musical niches with their own lyrics, their own production and their own instruments. It seems pop is a serious business now, and Vincent puts this down to technology too. “With the Internet and such, it’s harder to pull the wool over people’s eyes, people can immediately tell if something is fake or not.”
“With the power of the Internet you can listen to anything you want at any given time. I think their borders are opening up sort of thing, to a world of music they wouldn’t necessarily have the power of listening to, ten, 15 years ago.”
If technology is the way forward, then Frankmusik is going to be on the crest of the wave.
Complete Me is out now on Island. www.frankmusik.com