| Band: Halovox|
Interviewer: Joshua Heinrich
Formerly the vocalist for Brand New Idol, Frank J. Freda recently released the self-titled debut of his new solo project, Halovox (my review can be found here). Combining old and new synthpop influences, Halovox blends catchy melodies with danceable rhythms and the occasional ballad to create a strong modern synthpop sound. I recently got the opportunity to interview Freda about the new album, his past endeavors, and the synthpop scene in general.
Hi Frank. Thanks for doing the interview. Did you enjoy the continuous torrential downpour known as summer?
Thanks for having me! It definitely has been soggy this summer… I just hope that the people down in Florida and the surrounding areas get the help they need to recover from the recent storms.
The synthpop scene has long been associated with and dominated by European bands. Have there been any obstacles working as a synthpop artist in the US that you feel may have played out differently if you were working in another country where synthpop is more mainstream? How would you compare the response to your album in America to the response it is getting in other countries?
Whenever I think about that I always think of Norm Macdonald from Saturday Night Live when he would do the news and say "Well, David Hasselhoff is a huge rock star in Germany, where his latest album sold 5 million copies this week - which once again proves my theory: Germans love David Hasselhoff."
But seriously, I do wonder if things would be different if I lived in a country where synthpop is more mainstream. I think that it might be easier to schedule shows because there might be more venues that would be willing to have me. That's the only major thing I can think of. Thanks to the internet, I am able to promote myself all over the world and it doesn't matter where I am. I am very happy about the response to the album both in America and internationally. The CD has been purchased from NY to Hawaii in the U.S. as well as in Canada, Portugal, England, Germany, Poland, Italy, Greece and Japan.
The last several years have seen something of a resurgence in popularity for a number of bands commonly associated with the 80s ranging from New Order to a reunited Duran Duran. How do you feel this has impacted the perception of retro synthpop and new wave in the US and abroad? Do you think that this increase in publicity has effected the independent synthpop and new wave scenes and indirectly fostered more mainstream interest in your work and the work of others in the scene?
I think that the resurgence in their popularity can only help artists like myself as well as the alternative music scene in general. I wish that more radio stations and video television would focus on this music as opposed to the mass produced assembly line music that is forced on us by commercial radio. Anything that might stir interest in current synthpop and new wave is a wonderful thing. Unfortunately, I think the only thing that will foster more mainstream interest in electronic and new wave is if it is shown that it will be profitable for the big players in the industry.
How do you generally approach songwriting for Halovox? What were some of your inspirations for the material on the album?
A lot of times I just sit and play for hours and save any ideas that come out to see if they can be used. Sometimes I'll write music for a verse section or a chorus section and then go back to it later and try to build the rest of the song around it. Other times I'll come up with a vocal melody or lyrics and try to build the song around that. Songs come about in a lot of different ways and sometimes the finished version sounds nothing like the original idea, but that's part of the fun.
The songs on the album are mostly inspired by relationships and the emotions and situations that come with them. Some are autobiographical in nature and others are pure fiction. I really don't set out to write about anything specific, I just go with whatever I feel.
You have said "Silent Whispers" played a very important role in your musical development. How so? In what ways did writing this song impact what you were doing at the time and what you're doing now?
"Silent Whispers" was one of the first songs I wrote that I was proud of. I felt that I had come up with moving lyrics and a good melody. The experience gave me confidence and encouraged me to believe that I was capable of writing decent songs. It was actually written in the early 1990s and I eventually did a demo recording of it in 1999 which helped get me involved with Brand New Idol. It was included on BNI's "Still Beautiful Falling Apart" CD and was subsequently remixed by David Lilja (http://www.cutpaste.org). I was inspired by David's remix and included a new version of it with improved vocals on the halovox CD. Its inclusion on the album has sort of brought me full circle. The album has all of my new songs and ends with the song that got me started.
You have an interesting array of influences that include progressive rock and hard rock/metal bands. Did any of those bands have an influence on Halovox, or did this project rise from sort of a unilateral synthpop influence?
Absolutely. I believe that everything I've ever listened to has influenced my music, lyrics, vocals and production ideas. One example would be Pink Floyd. I love "The Wall" and two of the songs on the halovox CD were in some way inspired by songs from "The Wall". I thought of "Nobody's Home" while I sang "Awkward Silence" and one of the voices I created for the spoken narration in "Retrospect" was reminiscent of one of the characters in "The Trial". It's kind of buried in "Retrospect", but it's there and makes me think of "The Wall" every time I hear it.
Halovox sort of borders on retro synthpop while incorporating more modern elements. Do you, personally, feel that your work is rooted more in 80s synthpop or the current synthpop scene? What more modern synthpop bands are you into at the moment?
I think that it's definitely a mix of modern and retro. I like to think that it's rooted more in the current synthpop scene, but some people may think that I'm more retro. People can classify halovox any way they like - all that matters to me is that they like what they hear!
My favorite modern synthpop bands are Xero/G, Simulator, I-Synthseist, Eisdrive, Provision, Iris, The Diginity of Labour, The Echoing Green and The Nine. I highly recommend checking these bands out. There are links to all of them on halovox.com.
Could you elaborate a bit on your instrumental setup for our readers that are musicians or are interested in recording?
At the moment my set up is a Korg Triton, Korg 01/W, Mackie DFX-12 mixing board and ACID Pro 4.0. I record all of the individual instrumental tracks at home. In the studio (http://www.musicmachinestudio.com) we use Pro Tools 6.1 to record the vocals and to mix and master everything.
Your cover of Depeche Mode's "Fly on the Windscreen" is likely to be one of the album's main selling points for Depeche Mode fans. What made you choose that particular track? Knowing that devoted Depeche Mode fans are often exceptionally picky and over-analytical when it comes to covers (not to mention Depeche Mode's own material), how has reaction to your cover been so far?
In all honesty, I never intended to cover "Fly On The Windscreen". I wasn't planning on having any cover songs on this CD. I thought I'd do a cover on the next release. Even then, I wasn't thinking of doing a Depeche Mode song. I thought that would be too obvious a band for me to cover.
I was messing around with some loops in ACID and it started to sound like "Fly On The Windscreen". At first I thought I should take it in a different direction and make an original halovox song, but the more I played with it the more it shaped up to be easier to go where the music lead me and that was to just go ahead and do "Fly On The Windscreen".
I have been pleasantly surprised in that the reaction to my version has been very positive. I just wanted to do a respectable job on it and I think I did.
After working with Brand New Idol for several years, have you found it liberating to work as a solo artist again? Which did you enjoy more: the group dynamic or working on your own? What do you think carried over to Halovox from your work with Brand New Idol?
It is definitely liberating to be working on my own again. When you're working with other people you all have to make compromises. You have to choose when you will meet together and what roles everyone will have. When you work by yourself you can do things your own way and you are in complete control over the music and the promotion of that music. I like being responsible for everything. I enjoy the challenges and I appreciate the rewards for my hard work. At this point in time, I enjoy working on my own better than the group dynamic.
Working with Brand New Idol got me prepared to get on stage and that is the most important thing that carried over.
Are there any plans for a tour of any sort or more frequent gigging to support the new album? What is Halovox's live lineup? Do you prefer the energy of a live performance to working in the studio or vice versa?
Since April I have been trying to play at least one show every month. So far I have only been playing shows in New York, but I hope to start performing in NJ and Philadelphia. If the opportunity presents itself I will consider destinations that are a little farther away.
I have been very fortunate to have the assistance of Seth Questor from Xero/G. He has been helping me out on synths. I will also have Ross Beall from Simulator joining us from time to time. He will be with us for the halovox show on October 9th at the Batcave in NYC and possibly at shows in the Philadelphia area.
I like the creative process of working on songs, but I don't like the long studio hours that are necessary to mix things. I love the energy of live performances and the instant gratification of looking out into the audience and seeing that they are enjoying the music. I have a lot of fun on stage and Seth is a great guy to work with. I also love meeting new people at the shows and the opportunity to gain some new fans.
Anything else you'd like to add?
Thank you again for the opportunity to do this interview and for reviewing the CD. I'd also like to thank all of my family, friends and fans for their continuous enthusiasm and support.
Halovox website: www.halovox.com
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