I wanted to try and write a succint introduction describing the music produced by Francis Albert Machine, but fuck it. My words could never match his so I'll shut up and leave it to Francis as he talks Jolly Rancher sweets, musical prostitution and his hate for MTV Unplugged...
Who or what would you say your main influences were?
I have so many I'm not even going to start to try and list them - virtually none of them are immediately identifiable in my records. The links section on my webpage is probably a good place to start. I admire honesty in music - not just lyrically, but you can tell when someone sounds the way they do because they kind of can't help it.
You've released two Eps to date is that correct?
Yes. Plus the track on the Artists Against Success online complilation ( http://www.aas.mcmail.com/now ) - which is a cover of 'My Funny Valentine'. Nice and short so it doesn't take too long to download and is well worth the effort. Honest!
Is there anything up and coming - singles, albums, tours?I'm recording the album as I go along. It's 75% done - there are millions of songs, just a case of getting them sounding right and glueing them together in the style of the singles. It's looking likely that i'll do another singles before the album as there is one track the everyone seems to love and I'm getting talked into it. But what colour vinyl should I plump for? I'm thinking blue.
I'm going to get some remixes done by people like Transistor6 - just to see what it sounds like...I might hate it but I'm too curious for my own good.
I was totally against playing live for such a long time because it's so demoralising to be stood there on your own playing such personal songs while people talk over the top of it all. Once I convinced my friend Vic Twenty and his girlfriend into backing me up on guitar and keyboards it got so much more appealing and the gigs we've done have been a lot of fun. I really want to do some more, but it's hard to find people who are willing to promote such quiet music, probably because it's even harder to find people who want to listen to it. When we played Birmingham, there was an indie disco going on in the room downstairs and you could hear it pumping away as we were trying to play, and in Bath I could hear the air conditioner ticking out of time with the song and it was really putting me off. But the audiences were great and very attentive - I think because they had turned up to see loud live music and there were these three people stood there playing slow, sad songs really quietly. What IS weird is that people would go up to the other two afterwards and say how much they enjoyed it, but no-one ever came near ME. I must just give off the wrong signals or something...
Can you describe the new material? Is it still totally acoustic?
It's pretty much all based on the acoustic guitar - I'm a bit of an acoustic guitar fascist in that I can't abide all that 90's MTV Unplugged shit where people just bash out chords and sing along with a plaintive look on their face - like they're showing how versatile they are. There is so much more that you can do with an acoustic guitar if you bother to play it properly; I'd like to see it reclaimed as an instrument in its own right rather than just a quiet version of the electric guitar that you pull out when you can't fit your Marhshall stack through the door. Ok enough - you shouldn't have got me started on that....
There are a few new ones with percussion and -dare I say it - drums...but the drums are incidental rather than traditional. The provisional title of the album is "Francis Albert Machine & Friends" because I have a few other people playing here and there - but it's still 90% me. Lots of short songs with minimal clever chords. I like to present things simply. There is a tendency for people making this kind of music to disappear far far far up their own arses, and I sincerely tried to avoid that. Lyrically the themes are more of the same; there is humour buried in there somewhere but I don't know if people notice it. I don't want to come across as some kind of po-faced deadly-serious manic-depressive troubadour/potential serial-killer. No matter how bad it gets I'll forever try to see the funny side. This isn't always appreciated at funerals.
What about the name? I have a feeling it's from a book, but I'm not entirely sure so why Frankie Machine?
It's from the book 'The Man With The Golden Arm' by Nelson Algren. It was later made into a film starring Frank Sinatra. He's a junkie jazz drummer who gets out of prison and tries to go straight but fails miserably. And his wife is a real bitch. I don't know why I mentioned that.
It's a real pisser because when I chose the name, I trawled the internet to see if there were any other bands using it - couldn't find a thing so off I went, did the first single and then late last year it turns out that an American band called Frankie Machine have an album out. If you look through their reviews I think they're some kind of poor man's Foo Fighters, but I've not heard the record myself. They had a tour sponsered by Jolly Ranchers of which I'm quite jealous - imagine all those free sweets?
What was the appeal of signing to Artists Against Success?
Within the culture of small independent labels like AAS, you don't really 'sign' to anyone. It's a musician/label joint effort based on repsect and a love of music, and because I'm involved in it at every step I know it's all going to happen as I want it to happen. You always read articles from bitter ex-rock stars bemoaning the record label who didn't do this right and failed to do that right. The ethos of a label like AAS is that the artist is just as much to blame as the label when the record sells NO copies, gets no airplay or reviews and the artist ends up a rentboy crack addict(with a pile of unsold singles under his bed).
Has your aim ever been to break into the mainstream?
You're going to think I'm a liar if I say no, but in all seriousness it's the least of my worries. I'd like to have more people hear the music but then, you've heard the records, it's hardly chart-material is it? I don't think Dr Fox would dig it.
What is your view on the state of the music industry in this country at the minute?
It's fucked up isn't it? Let's be honest. I was watching 'Popstars' on TV and the idea of kids that are so desperate to be famous is pretty bizarre. It's people saying, 'OK here I am, I'm young and good-looking, I can sing and dance a bit - take control of my life and sell me'. Which is basically prostitution isn't it? I'm sure there are prostitutes these days with more self respect than some of these boy bands. But I think both have an important role to play in society so it doesn't bother me.
It's when major labels try to package "alternative" bands for the mainstream by toning down all the things that made them "alternative" in the first place that it really gets me down.
I think the internet is doing wonders for people making music independently and on their own terms, but it's way too fragmented. So many people are trying to do the same thing, but in isolated pockets. I think in a year or so things might start to come together a bit more and there will be a meaningful movement, or I could be wrong and it'll just get worse. The major labels are scared shitless of the internet, which is a glorious thing. The more they try to control it, the more it gives us something to be alternative to.
Do you wish that you were in a band or does the solo life suit you?
I spent years being in bands and it's a fact that most artists have enormous egos, but are actually incredibly insecure. So the dynamics of being in a band always see to lead to disaster. Put 4 or 5 of these people in a group situation trying to create music and it's never long before violence flares and perfectly good friendships are ruined. I haven't been an official member of any band since 1996, but I've been unofficially in lots of bands, with little or no creative input of my own, and had more fun (not to mention success White Town) than I ever did before. Being in a band is like trying to be in love with four people at once, whereas no commitment session work is like casual sex - no one gets hurt because everyone knows the score right from the off. To extend the metaphor, Frankie Machine must be like musical masturbation. Make of that what you will.
I could tell you the story of my life, but we'd be here a long time and you'd probably not believe some of it - suffice to say, yes the solo life suits me. The only person you have to trust is yourself and the only vision you have to stick to is your own.
The single'54th and 3rd' is out 8th May and you can see Frankie Machine at the Bath Moles on 3rd May with Airport Girl, Free Loan Investments and Sportique or upstairs @the Garage Friday 4th May supporting Mountain Men Anonymous and The Warm Jets