Getting To Know… Frankie Flowerz

Getting To Know... Frankie Flowerz

Getting To Know… Frankie Flowerz

F: How did you first get into making music?

Frankie: My Dad bought me a Roland R5 drum machine in 1989 and when I moved to Switzerland in 1990 to work with a DJ Agency, things unfolded. I was a singer in a band and my keyboardist was working in a music store selling equipment and I would mess around with synths, creating grooves with drum machines, programming basslines, etc. Everything was analogue, so I started to invest in gear – a 4 Tascam track cassette recording machine, a Yamaha mixer and a microphone. My first DAW was Cubeat on those old Atari computers. The good old days of floppy discs and computer crashes.

F: What was the first dance record you bought?

Frankie: hmm… if it qualifies as a dance record then it would be ‘I Am’ by Earth, Wind & Fire.

F: Who were your musical influences and did they have an impact on your sound today?

Frankie: A lot I’d say, they all conditioned/influenced me. I grew up in the 70s, so there was a lot of music on the radio which impacted my taste. I listened to everything from soul, funk, disco, new wave, pop, rock, jazz, and punk – everything from Shalamar, Earth, Wind & Fire, Boz Scaggs, Quincy Jones to early B-52s and The Police. Movies such as Saturday Night Fever, Beat Street and Breakdance – copying the dance moves. I was DJing at school break parties at 15 with 2 tape decks. My biggest break was at a school talent show, where I did a bodypopping dance routine to Michael Jackson’s ‘P.Y.T/’ and won. Soon after I was competing in dance competitions, formed a breakdance group “Movement Inc” and we won titles. That got me interested in serious DJing a few years later, so even dancing impacted the musical path that I’m on now. Everything changed when I got into Prince, Morris Day and the Time after ‘Purple Rain’ came out.

F: What was your first release? 

Frankie: It was the ‘Free My Soul’ EP on Blaou Records, Berlin in 1999.

F: You’ve released on a diverse set of labels such as Hypercolour, Crosstown Rebels, OM Records, Turbo Recordings, Internasojnal and your own label Funkhausmusic. Is it fair to say you’re eclectic in your approach to making music, how would you describe your sound?

Frankie: I definitely am eclectic. I’ve produced music under different monikers including Audio Royal and Hybrid Funk (Funkhausmusic), 2Dawgs on Moodmusic and Das Deva – my first ever guise. I love mixing up elements of different genres, it’s a lot like looking into the fridge and finding stuff to cook something up, after a while you realise some ingredients are compatible and some aren’t. I think trusting our ears is important. And DJing definitely taught me that too – I learnt how to read what moves people musically and take them on a journey. When I started out DJing in the 80s, there wasn’t one style of music being played, it was much more eclectic than it is today. So my sound is basically a broad mixture of everything I’ve grown up with.

F: Which of your own tracks was the biggest labour of love to create? 

Frankie: It’s hard to pin down. Most of my LP music is very different to the 12” vinyl I’ve released on dance labels. So, honestly, my album-based writings are material based on real-life moments, projecting those into songs, and that can be anything from pain to joy. This probably is it ‘Groove On 98, the very first song I completed in 1998.

F: You’ve just released your brilliant new ‘Nightride’ album. What can we expect to hear?

Frankie: I’d say a lot of different vibes. It’s a long LP.  I had initially planned to invest in music videos etc to promote my second LP ‘Tales Form The Living Room’ which came out in 2019. I’ve been working with a set of musicians in Berlin for a long time; who played on that LP and ‘Nightride’. So when the Pandemic hit in 2020, everything came to a halt so I told myself to write another LP. Over the next 3 years, I wrote new material, dug into my archives, plus drew from what I went through during the Pandemic. In a nutshell, ‘Nightride’ is a continuation and rebirth of everything I’ve learned along the way, and I’m still learning by the way, every day.

F: You’ve also collaborated with the legendary Robert Owens on a few tracks on the album, please tell us about those.

Frankie: Oh that’s some soulful stuff right there, and not only confined to music, it’s a connection! When I got Robert in the studio, I had all my instrumentals ready and could already hear his voice on them in my head. There we are in my studio with my songbook ready with lyrics and he gets on the mic, looks at the title of the song and just jams, making up fitting lyrics, and before you know it, I’m doing overdubs with his vocal tracks, and boom, song done! I never spent more than an hour recording him. Robert oozes feeling and is a very rooted person.

F: What’s your favourite track from the album and why?

Frankie: Every song has meaning for me, some highlights are ‘When U Smile’ was based on an experience I had with someone who was going through a rough patch, ‘Times Like These’ was written during the Pandemic, ‘Live the Moment’ was a reflection of life, ‘The Last Dance’ with Robert Owens was another Pandemic thingy, ‘Spend Some Time’ – my duet with Robert is another one of my favourites. Everything has emotional content for me.  

F: And what was the inspiration behind the album and how does it differ from your previous 2 albums?

Frankie: Life at that moment most probably, I never really did think about it, being confined within my 4 walls during the initial stages of the Pandemic and slowly getting out, being careful and grateful for the little things. Not being able to see my daughter and family during the Pandemic probably contributed too. I guess we all grow and get shaped, and formed by experiences throughout our lives. Hopefully, those listening can see this growth from all my work.

F: Who or what inspires your songwriting and how do you generally go about penning a new song?

Frankie: Many people contribute to that, mostly it starts with some sort of emotional phase. If I find myself overly pondering on something to the point I feel it needs to be archived in some form, then I`ll go into my studio or hum the melodies on my phone and scribble some lyrics. Then I’ll call Benjamin, get the groove ready and together we will work out the harmonic progressions and chord work. If I hear guitars, Julian comes over and he knows exactly what I like, he’s like all those playing on my records, simply intuitive. We’ve all got this chemistry going on. If I’m working on a dance track then it normally starts with a groove I like or begins with chord progressions I hear in my head, then I’ll play it on my keyboard. The rest unfolds then.

F: You’re a multi-instrumentalist, what’s your studio set-up like and what’s your favourite piece of kit?

Frankie: Yes I am when it comes to synths, bass and groove programming, plus vocals and mix engineering. I studied audio engineering at the SAE in Berlin in 1999. Much of it was analogue back then, so I’ve got a collection of hardware synths like the Korg M1, Oberheims, Roland vintage synths like the JX-1 and JX3P, the old Mackie 24-8 mixer, old AKAI samplers, Lexicon reverbs, Tegeler hardware processors and open reel tape machines. Plus being a mix engineer, I get into a lot of Plugins. It’s hard to pin down what’s my favourite because my Studio and gear are all hybrid these days and what I was fond of say 2 years ago, might not do the same for me today. I think it’s got a lot to do with the application. For instance, if I’m doing vocals, sometimes a condenser microphone nails it and many times my old Shure SM57 gets the job done, whereas an expensive condenser microphone just doesn’t capture the mood at all.

F: You’ve been running Electric Monday, the legendary weekly event at Kitkat Club in Berlin for a number of years now. What’s it all about and who can we expect to see there?

Frankie: Me and my business partner Ricardo Rodriguez have been doing it for 15 years, I run the bookings and DJ at the parties. Electric Monday is very musically oriented and I make sure we have a good set of artists from everywhere to play with us. I have guest DJs from all over the world every week, including Robert Owens who is a resident, Timo Maas, plus, Berlin has a lot of artists who reside here and many who moved here to participate in the city’s bustling nightlife. Newcomers are also very welcome as I believe in giving them a platform. The mix of what we do musically plus the KitKat Club’s atmosphere and setting makes it a very unique Monday Night in Berlin. One could say we are one of Berlin`s Monday Night pioneers.

F: Who are your 3 favourite producers?

Frankie: I don’t think I could limit it to only 3, there are so many genres I love and too many amazing producers around, but if I have to —hmm… Prince, Moodymann, Anderson Paak and Mike Dunn.

F: What else are you working on at the moment that you can tell us about?

Frankie: Oh, lots of stuff, I’m writing some dance stuff for my labels. Plus there`s a remix project for the ‘Nightride’ LP planned. I also run a label for Electric Monday called Voodoo Electric and we’ve got a compilation coming up featuring tracks from our residents. And I’m definitely working on a fourth LP too!

Frankie Flowerz ‘Nightride’ Album is out now on Funkhausmusic.

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