Bassist Tony Franklin – The Firm, Blue Murder, Roy Harper – The full in bloom Interview / Webcast / Podcast
The Firm / Blue Murder / Roy Harper Bassist
The full in bloom interview with The Firm / Blue Murder / Roy Harper bassist Tony Franklin is now available. LISTEN TO THE ENTIRE INTERVIEW VIA THE CLIP ABOVE OR ON YOUTUBE.
An excerpt taken from the beginning of our interview has been transcribed below. You can listen to the entire interview via the embedded YouTube clip above or the Soundcloud widget below. Check back for more video / transcribed excerpts from this interview.
full in bloom: What’s new and what’s in the future?
Tony Franklin: Well, what’s happening right now….I’m doing a bunch of different recording sessions. I have my home studio, and it has been pretty cool, I just keep busy with a lot of different stuff. I am also working on a bass instrumental album, long-awaited; I’m getting that finished. I just completed a Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp with the Alice in Chains guys and Stone Temple Pilot guys. I don’t know if you know about Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp.
full in bloom: I do, yeah.
Tony: Yeah, it’s a pretty cool thing. I’ve done quite a few of them, and they have a movie coming out, a documentary, hopefully later this year. I’ve been heavily involved in that. They’ve shot a lot of footage with me behind the scenes and with my band. That’s been an ongoing thing. There are just so many different things that are currently going on. I am in the process of writing a book, all sorts of things. It’s crazy and cool and I like to be busy with different things. I’m always doing one-off or different gigs. I’m actually playing up in L.A., about ten days time, the 7th, 8th and 9th, at a very cool thing. It’s not my typical kind of thing, but it’s fun because it’s with friends and great musicians. Stephen Perkins plays drums, from Jane’s Addiction, Kenny Olson on guitar, some other people. It’s actually a thing called ‘Think Floyd’ and what it is, it’s a place called the Wisdome L.A., which is part of the Arts District in downtown L.A., attached to the University of the Arts, or whatever it is in downtown…and they put on this huge art kind of display, 3D-thing, in a huge dome. It’s pretty trippy and people would just lay back on couches – they’re packed in the place, maybe 600 people; they’re having to turn people away. – and we play the music of Pink Floyd. It’s perfect music for doing that. I’m involved in a lot of different things and I like that. The sessions I do vary from to new age-y pop stuff to heavy prog stuff. I’ve always liked to play a wide diversity of music. Did you have any questions about that, because I was going to go on to the future stuff?
full in bloom: Sure. Go on to the future stuff.
Tony: In about three weeks time I’m heading out for a month with Jason Bonham and his Led Zeppelin Evening. He has a regular bass player, a guy called Dorian Heartsong, but he had some family commitments or something. Jason and I go way back to The Firm days, actually. So, he called me to see if I wanted to do it. I have been diving into Led Zeppelin like I’ve never done before. Part of it is opening for Peter Frampton and some of it is their own shows. That’s going to be a lot of fun. Beyond that and the bigger picture…there’s been a lot of rumblings about John Sykes and I getting back together, which we have been jamming with the intention of doing some tour dates, not as Blue Murder. We would play a broader spectrum of his music from Thin Lizzy to Whitesnake to Blue Murder and new stuff as well. I think realistically that would probably be towards the end of this year or early next year.
full in bloom: Does John not want to do a Blue Murder reunion? I’m assuming Carmine (Appice) is available, or is he too busy?
Tony: John doesn’t want to do it because he wants to play a broader spectrum of music. Carmine, if we were to do it, wants to just play Blue Murder, and that’s ok, that’s fine. But who knows, at some point we may do it in the future. I don’t know. But at this point, John wants to be a bit more broad because he’s involved in so much great music. You know the Whitesnake stuff, my God, nobody plays it like he does. We’ve been jamming with a new drummer, a guy called Fred Boswell Jr, who is phenomenal. I don’t know about Blue Murder, it may or may not happen in the future, but this will be the first thing.
full in bloom: I was thinking some one-off gigs would be cool. I was thinking that about The Firm after you had said something (about The Firm) on Twitter the other day. I think people would just go apeshit over a reunion of The Firm. Even if it was just a handful of gigs in major markets. Even Blue Murder, if he’s (John Sykes) around, some occasional one-off gigs would work just fine, instead of a tour?
Tony: Well yeah….here’s the thing. I agree to a certain extent, but if you are going to do something like that….we were always very tight and very well rehearsed and it’s not just something that you can just not do for a couple of months and do a one-off gig. You really have to put a lot of…it’s very physical, that music. Just realizing that by playing the stuff and everything, you’re emotionally spent from it all. John won’t do anything unless it’s top notch. So, you’ve got to really put in time for that and so, just to do it for a couple of one-off gigs is like, to me, it’s not really going to serve Blue Murder very well. The Firm, that’s a different matter, because I don’t think we’re close to that happening, but you just never know in our world. It was actually close to happening, it was before the Led Zeppelin O2 Arena thing happened, which kind of changed the course of everything. There was talk of it, although I heard about it after the fact. I wasn’t involved in any discussions per se about whether I’d want to do this because my answer is always going to be yes (laughs). The Firm, to me, would be a cool thing. With The Firm, it was the first band that Jimmy (Page) and Paul (Rodgers) had been in since Led Zeppelin and Bad Company, and neither of them would touch their old band’s material, because they wanted to establish The Firm as an entity in its own right. They wanted the music to stand on its own, and I respect them for that. Some people say, ‘well, it wasn’t like Zeppelin, it wasn’t like his heights,’ I’d say, well, he as creating music that was true to that moment and I think it stands alone in itself. I give them great credit for not leaning on their old material, because that would have been easy to do. But now that time has passed, I think you could do The Firm material and you could do some Zeppelin, same with Bad Co and Free; Jimmy could play that stuff killer. It could be a lot broader show and I think it would be really cool to do a few shows in major markets. It would be meaningful, but I don’t know. Paul’s in a very happy place in his career. He’s doing the solo stuff, he’s did the “Free Spirit” thing and he’s doing Bad Co. I don’t know if he wants to do that, but you just never know.
full in bloom: How does your friendship begin with Roy Harper?
Tony: I’ll give you the quick version of that. My first professional gig was in Birmingham, England. It was a 10-piece dance band called Pete’s People, and this was the early ’80s. We were doing covers, dance music and everything from ’40s, ’50s, ’60s, ’70s, and the current pop, disco music. I played “Funkytown” three times a night. I don’t think I’ll ever forget how to play that one (laughs). The drummer in that used to work at a music store in the drum department in Hereford, England. The manager of that music store was, at that time, Roy Harper’s manager, or on his team. Roy was doing a session in Birmingham, and so the manager asked the drummer in Pete’s People to do the session and he asked, ‘do you know a bass player you could bring along?’ And that’s where I came in. I was twenty years old, maybe nineteen at the time. I knew nothing about Roy. But anyway, I went in and did the session, did three songs. It went well enough I suppose, because they ended up calling me to see if I wanted to be involved. Although it was between me and a more established player at the time, a guy called Dik Cadbury. He was around Roy’s age and everything, but they went with me because it would bring a new kind of energy to the band. It was kind of like almost a coin toss. Anyway, I ended up doing that first album and some gigs with Roy…and subsequent touring and all that. It went really well. I’ve played on a bunch of Roy’s albums and of course the connection between Roy and Jimmy, that ultimately led to us playing together with Jimmy and then The Firm. It’s amazing how things happen. It can go one way or the other, just almost on a flip of a coin sometimes.
full in bloom: What’s it like working with Roy?
Tony: He’s great. He’s funny. He sharp. He’s just a deep thinker. Everything he would think about would form his music. He’s hilarious. We’ve spent so much time just laughing. Of course, he’s very focused. He’d also, especially as time went on, just give me complete freedom. There was one track on….it might be Death or Glory?, which was late in ’91. It was called “On Summer Day.” A very open, longer piece and it was just, at this point, voice and guitar. Typical of Roy, he’s very flow of consciousness. The music doesn’t always necessarily follow theoretical correctness. Very much of a flow, like Jimmy Page. The bar lines would disappear and all of sudden you realize, ‘oh, did we miss a beat?’ You don’t know, it feels very natural. The song was full of that. I said, ‘I think I can lay something down on this.’ He said, ‘ok’ and he just left me to it. At the end of it, he listened to it and said ‘wow, I didn’t think anybody else could play on that.’ He and I have a very special, meaningful connection. It’s always been that way. We talk for hours, still do. Although not as frequently, because he’s in Ireland, I’m in the States. We both have got life happening. But we’ve always maintained a close relationship, I love him.
full in bloom: A long time ago, you had posted a picture (on Twitter) of the two of you and I commented, ‘you guys should have a cigar.’ You ended up liking the comment.
full in bloom: Not everyone knows that he’s the one that sings “Have a Cigar.” I know a lot of people know by now, but not enough. I think a lot of people still think it’s Roger Waters.
Tony: Absolutely, definitely, and wow what a fantastic job he did. There’s actually a documentary about the making of Wish You Were Here, and they talk about that, Roy’s in it as well. I guess both David Gilmour and Roger Waters had a go at the vocal, they play some of it in there. It doesn’t nearly have the spirit and the emotion and the whole vibe that Roy’s version did. He was very close to them, of course, and he was in the studio when that was being cut. He said, ‘I’ll have a go at it.’ Then he delivered that blistering performance. So yeah, not a lot of people know that it was him. He’s a special one, he really is.
full in bloom: I saw that documentary. I loved how Roger Waters was still like, ‘I think, given more time, I could have nailed it,’ which I’m sure he could have, but I do think Roy’s…I mean, what a performance. I don’t think it could get any better than that.
Tony: Oh God yeah. I didn’t want to say that comment about Roy, but I’m glad you did, because he was a little hesitant and felt like he shouldn’t have done it. I can’t imagine any other performance but Roy’s, it’s just so perfect.
full in bloom: So, he’s the one that introduces you to Jimmy Page..
full in bloom: Do you remember meeting Jimmy for the first time?
Tony: Yeah, I do. It was up in Blackpool, England. We were working on Roy’s album, which would have turned into Whatever Happened to Jugula?. It always very relaxed. Jimmy walked in and said hi and that was it. It was very relaxed and it was just all about the music. It was just perfect. Actually that environment was perfect because we’re there and we’re focusing on Roy’s music and just making a great album. So, it was very relaxed and very focused…and fun. I mean, we just all had so much fun. Yeah, it was magic, really. That really played a big part, because we were in a working environment, and it wasn’t Jimmy’s own thing. He was able to just focus on it and just play, as was I. We weren’t working on his thing, or The Firm, or anything – it was perfect. That really played a big part of connecting, which ultimately led to The Firm, because everything about The Firm is very organic. Not like, ‘oh, who should we choose, who’s a great name.’ Jimmy knew that he wanted to work with Chris Slade. I believe they had done some things, maybe back in the session days. I do believe that actually Jimmy played on some of the Tom Jones stuff in the session days, which Chris Slade did in those early days. So, they knew each other and had done some things. So, the story is that Chris Slade got a call from David Gilmour and Jimmy Page on the same day. Gilmour called first and asked him if he wanted to do the tour…I think it would be the About Face tour in 1984, to which Chris said yes. Then Jimmy called Chris later in the day and said, ‘hey, I’m putting this thing together…..
Start the audio / video clip @ around the 18:00 mark to continue the interview.
There is a lot more interview to go (approx. 40 minutes). We still talk a lot more Blue Murder and The Firm. You can listen to the entire interview via the embedded YouTube above, directly on YouTube at this location, or the Soundcloud widget below.