As far as biographies go Franky Perez really has one of the most fascinating stories you will encounter anywhere in music! Hailing from Las Vegas, Nevada, the list of people that he has collaborated with is a genuine who is of who from the rock and roll encyclopaedia ranging from Billy Gibbons and Joe Cocker to Darius Rucker and Ringo Starr whilst he has also performed with Steven Tyler, Cody Jinks, Chris Janson and Slash to name just a few. In addition to being the vocalist for Finnish symphonic metal band Apocalyptica and working with System of a Down’s Daron Malakian and John Dolmayan as part of Scars on Broadway, Perez has just released his fifth solo record “Crossing The Great Divide” which is available HERE.
Perez recently appeared at Black Deer in Kent where he was one of the most talked about artists at the festival following three rousing performances. We recently caught up with Franky over Zoom when he had returned home to Las Vegas to learn more about his career, new record and his experience at the festival performing to the UK audience. Let’s kick off with talking about the festival that you were just over for, Black Deer was a lot of fun and being brutally honest it was the first time that I really came across who you were and your music. Whilst I did manage to catch one of your sets, I also heard a lot of people talking about you when I was walking around the site over the weekend but, it must have felt like such a cool event to be a part of? “That’s very cool. I have always loved as an American your rock and roll offerings. I’ve always wanted to get my own band there to play and I always said that they’re going to get it. That’s really what I felt which was such a breath of fresh air. It felt like a real working-class crowd and that we were in it together so it was a really great experience for me, and I can’t wait to come back. I’m already bugging that I want to come back and need a later slot. I have played a ton of festivals and a ton of shows in the UK with other bands but to see that response was just eye opening for me. Also, one of the things that I love about performing there and especially festivals is that I’ve played festivals where on one stage it’s a metal band and later on another stage it can be a pop band, but you see the same people in both audiences. They will take the ride with you and if they decide to stay is on whether they like it and I like that. The first day we opened the main stage where people were trickling in and by the third show, the tent was packed so there was obviously some word of mouth happening, I love my country and playing there but you would be hard pressed to find a situation where that is the case at home.”
You’ve been touring for so long and have been over here many times in countless other capacities playing with other bands so does it feel a little weird to have people discovering you as a “new artist”? “Ha-ha, yes I am the oldest brand-new artist going. That’s the beauty of music and being an entertainer, I feel like Peter Pan and I keep surrounding myself with new Lost Boys, almost to a fault where I’m trying to crack a code of what is it that is going to resonate? It’s not like I’m looking for some insane amount of success with a ton of Ferrari’s, it’s not that. I just want to be able to walk that line where I am able to just entertain people and have a stage. There were times on that stage and especially on that third day where people were just losing it and I felt like a kid again. When I left the stage with my guitar player who has been with me for almost twenty years, I’ve always known this but reiterated it but be honest! Be honest, be who you are, you don’t have to do anything else. I’ve done the work, I’ve put in the work, I’m good at what I do and if I be honest then people are going to react to that which was especially what I felt at the Black Deer Festival.”
A lot of people from the States talk about the attentive nature of audiences over here, I guess that when you were about to drop a record that must be really beneficial to gauge what songs really work and what people gravitate towards? “Absolutely! I even saw that on a smaller scale, like I said we performed three shows and by the third day I had my set fine-tuned. I knew what worked, what didn’t and even how to perform certain songs, like what missed on the first. There was something that happened when I was writing this record because I financed, engineered and produced this record myself so I had no one breathing over my neck and I was able to be a dreamer again. I was able to be the eternal optimist within this project. As I was writing, I was thinking live with this chorus will do really good so let’s sure we hammer it home to be a great moment for the crowd so it was really cool to see that some of those things that I thought would work actually did work live.” Tell us about the new record “Crossing The Great Divide” and how it grew from riding across the country on your motorcycle. “It all came from one song, it’s “The Great Divide” at the hight of the pandemic when we were afraid to go outside, and everything was very uncertain. It was March 13th of that year that emails were coming in that shows were going away, contracts were going away and I found my first time since I was a kid without direction or place to focus my creativity. I went backwards so I went back to what I did when I was a kid, I went acoustic, I started writing and the first thing that I wrote was The Great Divide. I was sending songs as I was writing them to friends and in two weeks, I had eight songs that became a whole album called “Suddenly 44”. I sent that to the president of Ducati motorcycles who is a friend of mine and he asked what I’m doing with this? I’m like nothing, I want you to enjoy it, I’m sending it to friends. He said people need to hear this, maybe we can work something out where you get on a motorcycle and we hatch this plan where I visit shuttered venues and some of my friends. Long story short, that was how the trip came about.”
“That trip was Las Vegas to California, California to Seattle and then across then entire country to New York City down to DC. When we get to DC, there are these club owners that also financed documentary films who heard the story and thought that this would be a great film. As a kid I never thought that I would set out to make a documentary, that was the last thing on my mind. Then next thing you know, a month later, I’m in Florida with this little camera crew about to embark upon a journey back across the United States visiting my musician friends and visiting healthcare facilities turning it into this beautiful film. What happened in that journey that was eight to ten hours a day on a motorcycle on a highway and I was being inspired by all of these things that I’m seeing where I really got to see humanity at it’s core which inspired all of this music. It took me about thirty days, and I got from Florida to Las Vegas where I already had the whole thing mapped out then one thing came after the other, but it all came from that one song.”
You filmed a documentary on the trip that accompanied the record but preceded it’s release, whilst there was a lot of covid impact on the album, did you ever feel it could have been perceived as a covid record as such? “I really hope that people get the opportunity to see the film, because even the film started as a covid thing and a snapshot of that time. So many documentaries and even ones that I love, start one way and end another. It became so little about the pandemic and more about me finding myself again as an artist. We have this whole idea of what our neighbour is like because of what we are being told that they are like but at our core we just want to be understood, we want to be heard and want to be loved. It became a journey of that, self-realisation and realisation of my surroundings. If it would have been a covid record, it would have been a dark record because we had uncertainty, doubt and depression so I made a conscious decision to go the other way which has been very different from my other albums. I made a conscious decision that there is enough of this in the world so even if I can contribute a fingernail or a dust particle, I want it to be a positive one and that is what the album became.” We haven’t really touched upon it but whilst you have been in the industry for a fair while and have released four albums of your own, you have been on the road or worked with what is pretty much anyone that is anyone. You are bout to head back out playing shows with Apocalyptica again, so does it feel strange or different going between your own shows and being you as such to playing as part as other projects? “The first thing is that all of the projects that I’ve been involved with or people that I’ve performed with, I’ve never solely done something because it’s a payday or because I’ve had nothing else going on. If I don’t believe in a project, I won’t do it. First and foremost, I think that shines through that I’m genuinely happy to be there and that the music deserves that. The thing about Apocalyptica, genre wise is very different but musically, the level the level that we expect of each other is that we are eye to eye. Those guys get it, if they had chosen to become steel pan players, they would have been the best steel pan players. They are very humble, and they wouldn’t say it, but I can, but it’s the closest that you can get to greatness on a stage.”
“It’s a different level and we have that mutual respect, they didn’t hire me because I was a metal singer. They heard a voice on a demo on a ballad that they sent out to perspective singers and they fell in love with my approach, not that I could scream but they say artistry in that and I’m very fortunate that they saw through all of that. We have cultivated this Apocalyptica featuring Franky Perez thing, more so than they do with other singers and we have our own little thing. I guess to go back, the only thing that anyone can do to any project that they step into is don’t do it for the payday because people don’t give the listener and the fan enough credit, people can read through BS and that is one of the things that I’ve seen with all of these bands that I’ve worked with is that all of the fans accept me because I’m there for the right reason.”
CROSSING THE GREAT DIVIDE 1. When I Think of You 2. The Great Divide 3. Samurai 4. California 1976 5. What Gives You the Right 6. Illumination 7. Shadow Boxer 8. 90’s Love Song 9. Anywhere But Here 10. 20/20 Vision 11. Leaning Into the Wind The new album from Franky Perez is out now and you can find “Crossing The Great Divide”HERE. He will be back on tour through the US and Canada with Apocalyptica this fall whilst you can keep up to date with Franky socially through INSTAGRAMTWITTER & FACEBOOK.
True country music is honesty, sincerity, and real life to the hilt. Garth Brooks