Franky interviewed by Brian Draper from YESFanz
Brian Draper: Thank you for speaking with me today about your great new album by 'The Franky Valentyn Project, 'All in a Dream'. First off, tell me about 'The Franky Valentyn Project' - when it started, who is in it
Franky Valentyn: I wanted to make a semi-autobiographical album that I could listen to and get lost in and forget that it was my work. It became a side project that started in the mid 90s far removed from my “cover band” world. It was meant to be concept album based on the people, places and events that shaped my thinking, set to the backdrop of musical styles that I loved. I wanted it to have that “symphony feel” with different movements. As time went on I realized I needed help (ok, a lot of help) to make the album a reality, so I bought in some marvelous singers and musicians such as Ben Craven and Steve Layton to name a few , to help on things that I finally conceded were beyond my musical talents. It took on an almost “War Of The Worlds” type feel with so many talented people guesting on it”.
BD: I understand that you started work on this album quite a while ago - what were its origins? Did your plans change over the years?
FV: Most of the songs were written, demoed, re-written, forgotten about between 85-98 (Paul was the first one) The final 2 were Faery Queen and Moons both in 2006. The original project had another 5-6 songs but didn’t fit into what was the “dark” shape the album became. I started tracking the album in 98, the day after my dear friend band mate Vikki from Le Club Nerd passed. There were so many twists and turns in my professional and personal life it became a stop start affair. It became just something I went to once and a while for solace while working on projects for other artists. Couple that with my solo career, my own health problems and the birth of my daughter, it was way down the list of priorities. 5 years ago, my long time friend Russell Grigg (who co-produced) said he’d help me finish it. So I scrapped nearly everything to the point of re doing all drums and bass parts myself. Once again life got in the way and I shelved it. 6 months ago it kick-started again thanks to a little help from my friends (love ya work)…and came together very quickly. It was a good day when I first held it in my hands. Ironically my first words were “Look, it’s a real little boy now”. Haha.
BD: I'd like you to take us through some of the album's tracks. Track 1 is 'Gothic Horror' - a kind of Rick Wakeman meets Queen sound. I first heard an instrumental version but now there are some great vocals on it. What is the background to this one?
FV: I always had the opening in my head since about 1981. I just needed a story, a hook. This was the last of the “songs” to be written. It’s a semi true story based around one of “those” nightmares some of have had about being chased by something you can’t see. I wanted as big an opening track as possible…as time went on it got bigger….and bigger, 72 tracks in total. The end product features the amazing Ben Craven on vocals along with my live duo and songwriting partner Wendy Angel, Opera Australia’s Teresa LaRoca, a cameo by YESFanz own Robert Forbes on Theremin and Ian Joyner’s wonderful old Mini Moog. In the end I got the desired bombastic result.
BD: 'Goodbye my Faery Queen' has a peaceful piano intro into an instrumental - a very moving track and one of my favourites. What is the inspiration for this one?
FV: Most of my YESFanz friends know that I lost my daughter Sheree when she was 2. I had always wanted to do something for her when the time was right. Most of my ‘female” inspirations had left me by the time I got around to penning this one including Lewella (as in “Hope For Lewella Yet” from the album), my grandmothers and of course Vikki-Lee. It was written basically as is while I was at a friends BBQ, it just came to me so I departed the “party” and wrote it on his piano. I’ve always been very fond of this piece.
BD: 'Paul Isn't Dead' is obviously about the rumour that Paul McCartney died in a car accident and was replaced by a double - so I take it you are a non-believer?
FV:Non believer…I was on tour in Perth during my final weeks with the Beatnix and was getting bored and worn down by the long touring schedule. I started recording my first ever demos on a friend’s old Fostex 4 track (I’d never seen one before). Before I came over one day he gave me a subject “hey, I challenge you to write something along the lines of Paul really is dead”….. I love a challenge. The subject matter has always intrigued me. When I was younger, the story frightened me a little…so much so, I couldn’t listen to the end of Strawberry Fields….haha. Some of those Beatle album covers still give me a bit of a shiver. I love the Beatles. They are equal with YES as my favorite band.
FV: The last track on the album 'The Jovian Moon Suite' got a preview on the YesFANZ album 'Songs from the South Side of the Sky' and I think it also featured at a race meeting one year. It is a 4 part instrumental suite, quite dramatic. How did this one come about?
FV: The sounds of classical music have always intrigued me. Wakeman and Oldfield came along and influenced my playing/arranging style...but more than anything (if you don’t count sport) I loved astronomy…the “romance” of the final frontier … When I first heard The Peer Gynt suite, 4 Seasons, and the Holsts “The Planets” I thought I’d love to do a piece like this. It was supposed to be part of a project called “The Heavens” and was meant to feature more pieces. When the opportunity arose to have it part of the SftSSOTS album, I fast tracked it and after that it took a life of its own. I’m quite proud of it and sometimes I don’t even believe it came out of my head. I’d love to hear a full orchestra play it one day. The second movement, Io, has another life these days (in 4/4 no less) called Firestarter and has been used in conjunction with The Golden Slipper Day at Rosehill in Sydney and has been played to an audience of over 100 million world wide. I am very proud of it.
BD: The album has a wonderful cover by Lou Steer - tell me about that collaboration?
FV: How good is it?.I was blown away. I’ve known Lou for 10 years now as part of the YESFanz family. I gave Lou the basic premise and a few weeks latter I went around to her place and she showed me not just a draft, but what you see on the cover. It’s a fantastic job. To come up with what she did on the shell of an idea that I gave her is the work and mindset of a truly great artist. A special mention to Lilly Moorhouse who illustrated the inner sleeve and CD itself. This was the first time she’s done artwork for music, and I hope she gets to do many more.
BD: So now that you have got this album out, when can we expect the sequel?
FV: 17 years?….no, not really! I do have a few things almost ready to go. One almost completed project is an instrumental album called “Life As We Know It” which has music related to birth, first love, death and all those life moments in between (One song “Welcome To The World” appears on the South Side Of The Sky album). Another original project is more of a contemporary album co written by Wendy and myself which will be due out later this year. As for “All In A Dream” I already have a plan to strip it back to piano/vocal storytelling and maybe do it live, but I think that won’t be for a little while. I’m also producing albums for others. I think first I need to lie down!