Cross-pollinating the scene
Frank Drake, of Greenhaus and Flag Promotions, discusses his plans for the scene, technical hiccups and their forthcoming album.
Frank Drake, AKA Frankie D, is a very busy man. Not only is he the man behind Flag Promotions, which dominates the Gothic/electronic scene in London, a DJ and a writer for Kaleidoscope Magazine, but he's also a member of Greenhaus, a regular feature of the London live scene. In the early days of the band, there was quite a bit of resentment, as people accused him of putting Greenhaus on the bill at Flag shows because he could. However, he says that, happily, this is less and less the case today.
"Obviously, I was a bit pissed off, but I could also understand it. My point is, obviously, I'm a promoter and why shouldn't we play, cause we feel that we've paid our dues; we've done a lot of gigs. We've probably done maybe a hundred gigs now with Greenhaus, and they've not all been very glamorous ones, we've done all those dodgy venues and terrible PAs and little backroom toilet places, so I don't think it's justified personally. And the nice thing is we're now getting very good, positive reviews. I think people's attitude now is, 'Frank runs Flag, he's in Greenhaus, so what'."
He also counters such accusations by pointing to the way that he, as a promoter, tries to keep an open door policy for new bands, saying that a lot of these bands were at the front of the crowd at Black Celebration supporting him because he supports them. "It's kind of a mutual thing." He says he tries not to have his favourite bands to the point where people think it's an old boys club.
"It's not about that, I really do put bands on on the merit of how good I think they are. I mean, I've put some bands on and they're not likely to bring any people in, I'm not going to name names, there are some bands I just think are so good and they're not getting recognised and I don't care that I'm probably going to lose money by putting it on, but I just feel that people ought to see these bands and they ought to get more credit."
As a promoter, he's in a unique position to influence the way the scene in London develops, and he acknowledges that he wants to try and broaden it. He says that he thinks the scene has been too insular for too long, pointing to a Ladytron concert he attended where 700 people turned up and he hardly recognised anyone there. Around the same number generally attend the Electrofest shows he does each year. With this year's Electrofest, featuring acts like the Droyds, Siobhan Fahey and Marlow on the bill alongside Covenant, TOY and Goteki, he hopes to attract people from the different scenes.
"In the UK, people seem to get stuck into very little genres, especially in London, it's very sort of 'they don't fit in and they don't wear the right clothes'. To me, good electronic music is good electronic music, if we can pull these things together a bit and mix it up, the scene would actually grow. I think one of the most important things is to try and cross-pollinate the scene a little bit, so that you don't end up going around in circles."
As a member of Greenhaus, he is aware of the drawbacks being considered part of a certain scene can bring. He denies that they feel held back, but says that they do feel they could appeal to a wider audience. Some of their broad range of influences comes from outside the scene as well as from people within it and he would love to support Orbital or the Chemical Brothers and people like that.
"One of our game plans, if you like, is to try to reach out to a newer audience, not that there's anything wrong with this audience. I don't want to use the word mainstream, because that sounds horrible, but I think we could appeal to a lot of people outside the scene as well as the ones we appeal to in the scene."
Listening to the band, the range of different influences they draw on is clear, with psychedelic elements sitting alongside electronic sounds. Frank himself is a major Doors fan, while Steve likes a lot of indie style bands like Primal Scream and the more psychedelic sounds of Spiritualised, while all the members are fans of electronic music like Gary Numan, a hero of Frank's, OMD and Depeche Mode. "We kind of like to take influences from as many places as possible to make it into some sort of homogenised Greenhaus sound, without sounding too bizarre."
A notable factor in recent Greenhaus live performances has been a number of technical problems, which Frank admits are beginning to haunt them, but he's sure they'll get over it. One of the problems they've been having has been due to the fact that they are changing their technology from one style to another. When they toured with MESH last year, they were fascinated with how they do their visuals using DVD format. Neil from MESH showed Andy how to do it and he's been busy making visual pictures for every song they do. They had hoped to debut the new system at Black Celebration.
"What we do is we put the visuals on there, but it has to be synched up with the backing, so that the drums and percussion synch up perfectly with the images so that it looks very dramatic. Unfortunately, we thought we could use Apop's DVD, and they said it was fine for us to use it, and then we found out they had a different type, so we couldn't."
But probably the main reason they have so many problems is the way that they perform live. Frank admits that it would be very easy for them to play a DAT and just do a little bit of stuff over the top. "Then we could probably be perfect every time, but that's not what we want to do, so you have to take the problems of sometimes a lead comes out, like tonight, again, just getting going and, urgh, we had a technical problem."
The new Greenhaus album is in the works, but a number of factors have delayed its completion. Initially, the very high goal they've set themselves for it took time to meet, but they have got 26 new songs recorded.
"Steve's the one that's the most prolific in the writing area, we, as in the rest of the band, add our elements to stuff that he does. Sometimes John and him work in the studio together and they tend to come up with more of the psychedelic stuff, if me and Steve work together, we tend to come up with more electronic stuff. And sometimes Steve just goes in and writes the basic structures and so on, on his own, because the studio's at his place, he can work all night if he wants."
The main factor that delayed them was their plan to work with a lot of singers. Frank was somewhat tight-lipped about who they are, saying only that they do have some quite big names and some quality singers from the scene involved (a singer called Lahannva was recently named as a member of the band). They hope that the next album will broaden things a bit for the band and they have been offered a deal from a quite well-known German label that they're hoping will come off.
"We're really looking forward to the next album, it's hopefully going to come out, earliest in the spring, but certainly not much later than that. We're shattered at the moment, so whether that changes or not, I don't know."
by Girl the Bourgeois Individualist