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Interview with Poison Sun
26 November 2010
(interview by Duncan Jamieson)It’s been almost two years since I spoke to Herman Frank, but you couldn’t accuse him of letting the grass grow under his feet. As part of the Accept machine he’s been enjoying international critical success and touring extensively. Somehow though, he's still managed to find the time to record a new album as part of the band Poison Sun, fronted by none other than his wife, Martina Frank, whose big gutsy voice is the perfect foil for Herman’s meaty riffs and fretboard gymnastics. I caught up, over the phone, with the affable guitarist and his better half at their home in Hannover.
It’s a great album Herman, less dark than your recent solo effort ‘Loyal To None’. It’s more melodic, more upbeat.
HF: Thank you, I really like the album. It won’t be the last.
How does being in a band with your wife differ from life on the road with the boys in Accept?
HF: No big difference. You enter into a professional relationship. Martina is a very good singer. She used to sing country and pop and has done backing vocals for me on other records I produced. She would say, “Why can’t I have backing like this?” So here we are. We tried out ideas to see what would suit her voice and my style. I think it really works. Whether we tour depends; Accept are very busy and we tour again in the New Year and continue until some festivals in May and June 2011. Maybe, in between, there will be some spots where we can do something. We’d like to but I am realistic about it. New bands don’t face the truth in this industry. Times have changed. There’s not the support from record labels to tour. You can’t afford it and I’m too old to spend all my money on a tour.
You must be delighted with the response that’s met Accept’s recent record and tour from fans and the press. Everyone I’ve spoken to and everything I’ve read has been really positive.
H.F Yes, it’s been very good. I’m enjoying it but the other guys are taking care of the interviews for Accept.
Fair Enough! Let’s talk a little bit about the Poison Sun debut. It’s more melodic rock than before but your playing is unmistakable. It still hits you like a lightening bolt. You also manage to get your full polished production sound on what I imagine must be a restricted budget. There’s an expression in the liner notes that terms the songs “Groove Monsters” which is very apt. Is this your phrase or someone at the record company’s?
HF: Ha! Ha! I like that. What? Groove Monsters? I must remember that and use it in other interviews. Yes, this is a different band than the Herman Frank record. I deliberately didn’t want it to be Herman Frank mark two. I wanted it to be different and with Martina it certainly is. However, there will be a new Herman Frank album in the future. I already have a few ideas. Thanks, about the production. You know I lost my studio. The lease was up and the landlord wanted to turn it into a pizza take away! It was stressful as I had to mix the record, here at home, on my headphones. It was difficult but I’m a big fan of composing and I wanted to do it. Nowadays you have to love making music for its own sake. It can’t be about the money.
There’s a real variety to the songs. ‘Hitman’ has a male vocal, behind Martina’s vocal which sounds uncannily like an Ozzy Osbourne number. Who was it and were you thinking about an Ozzy vibe when you recorded it?
H.F: That’s me! That’s my voice. For the backing we needed extra vocals. It’s impossible to just have Martina’s voice as backing so we went for something different with more roughness and thickness.
It works well, making the record sound different from a lot of female fronted metal out there at the moment. ‘Phobia’ is another great track, again with your vocal adding colour. It’s a real AC/DC stomper.
H.F: Yes. The songs are catchy. Martina is responsible for all the lyrics. I do a melody and Martina finds something that works for her voice. We work like that.
Talking of the lyrics; what was the idea behind the title track ‘Virtual Sin’?
HF: You can talk to my wife about that one. (Herman hands the phone over to Martina)
MF: Hi, I think the idea of sin is much used in rock and metal. It’s funny for people to see a woman making metal. People said, “She sounds like the Bonnie Tyler of Metal!”. It’s not like modern metal with so much screaming. There’s melody here. The idea of ‘Virtual Sin’ was not only about evil, but that there are sins that are fun too. They give you some kind of freedom but if you do too much though they can kill you. That was part of the idea but it’s good for people to make up their own minds about the meaning of lyrics.
What’s it like working with Herman?
MF: Everyone wants to know that! It’s like a relationship where sometimes you have to fight for your ideas. My heart was in metal from the beginning, but as a woman it was easier to get work singing in other types of music. I saw Herman in the studio for a couple of years. I saw what he was like, what he said, how he reacted, how he worked with other singers. He really takes care of the singer, working on their vocals and asked myself if I wanted to do that. You know he’s a very strict person in the studio but you have to trust him. You must believe he has a reason for doing what he’s doing and that it’s right. He’s like Hitchcock! He was strict but he made great movies.
Herman’s already mentioned that his commitment to Accept means going on the road with Poison Sun is going to be difficult. You must want to do that.
MF: There are problems for me going on the road without Herman. We thought about that but who would do it? Who could we get who plays like Herman? What guitarist could or would want to try it with a new band? I can’t afford someone like Herman. I can’t pay 2,000 euros a show! (She laughs and hands the phone back to Herman)
One song that will surprise anyone who is familiar with your music is the cover of the Pointer Sister’s classic 80s hit, ‘Excited’. Whose idea was that?
H.F: That happened here. We were listening to the radio and the song came on and we thought it would be a cool thing to play, with its pumping groove. I worked out how the guitar would sound and it seemed to work for us. You know I wasn’t going to do a typical metal cover like ‘Smoke On The Water’ or ‘Cat Scratch Fever’. Great songs, but I wanted to do something different or there’s no point. Maybe a folk song or a pop song like ‘Excited’ done in our metal way.
You said earlier you had some ideas for a new Herman Frank record. Any chance of you singing more and not just backing vocals next time?
H.F I’ve just got a few ideas at the moment. As for singing, I have enough to do playing guitar. I’m too exhausted! I’m over 50, after a gig I want to go back to my hotel as it is. If you sing, it means no cigarettes and that’s boring. I’m an old dog. We’ll see how Accept goes next year. When Accept played earlier this year we were on a large bill and Rob Halford, who was also playing, said we were the best band of the day. We (Accept) can make another album and then another and another. I want to do a few things! Why should I stop? It keeps my fridge full and pays the rent. It’s a good thing. I don’t need income from my other bands. Maybe it’s easier. If I want to spend another week in the studio on something to get it just right I can. It’s very nice. It’s still got my name on it so I still try to do the best I possibly can.