Interview: anything but idle with Frankie Whyte

FWDI005 Kevin Lamb
Photo (C) Kevin Lamb, Kevin Lamb Photography

“Why do you sleep on the left side of the bed or the right? Why do you like tea or coffee? Or beer or whiskey? Or blondes or brunettes? Some things in life simply feel natural to us: We’re at home when we have them, and homeless without. This is the way I’ve felt about music, for as long as I can remember.”

So says singer, songwriter, guitarist and frontwoman Frankie Whyte, of Frankie Whyte and The Dead Idols. Hailing from Toronto, the band are one of Canada’s foremost rock n’ roll hopes. And what’s more, they appear to have come to prominence the old fashioned way. Constant touring whilst holding down (two) day jobs; traversing their native country by hauling their gear themselves – sometimes precariously on public transport; writing, writing, writing and writing some more; grabbing opportunities by the throat when they finally come along. In short, they’ve been working long and bloody hard to deliver the best rock n’ roll they know how, and any profile in the rock world that they have, they’ve more than paid their dues to now enjoy.

So who are they and what makes them tick? What do they play and why should you listen? Skin Back Alley was lucky enough to speak with Frankie in the middle of a very hectic schedule to find out a little more.

Skin Back Alley: For those who might be less familiar with Frankie Whyte And The Dead Idols, can you tell us a bit about yourself and the band?

Frankie Whyte: We are rock n roll band called Frankie Whyte And The Dead Idols, from Toronto, Canada.

SBA: The new record is complete. How has the recording process gone?

FW: This record is the first album we’ve done live off the floor. It was a great experience and I think we’re all looking forward to working in such a way in the future. When you’re moving together at once it can very well feel like musical teamwork.

SBA: What can we expect from the new record?

FW: I think this record has a genuine recklessness to it. I think it’s true to the spirit of rock n roll, it’s not perfect. I’m not here to be perfect, I’m here to tell the truth.

SBA: Any news on a release date yet?

FW: Nothing announced as of yet, but it’s looking like early 2015.

SBA: Who have you been working with in terms of production and engineering?

FW: We went back into the studio with Duncan Coutts from Our Lady Peace who worked with us on our first two albums. He was joined by Byron Wong who we’ve known for quite some time. The album was mixed by Brian Moncarz (who produced Keep Walkin’), and then mastered by Tom Baker whom we were excited to work with for the first time.

SBA: Have you always been around music and musicians?

FW: I haven’t always been around musicians, but I grew up in a family of music lovers which was extremely impactful.

SBA: When did you feel like you knew that music was a path you wanted or needed to follow?

FW: There wasn’t one moment. Those things about ourselves that are too far back to remember. They are woven into the very fabric of who we are. Music has always been special to me.

SBA: Where did the “Dead Idols” part of the band name come from?

FW: Growing up I was really into Alice Cooper, Motley Crue, Kiss… I was also into Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Bruce Springsteen & The E Street band. The name was born of that ilk. The combination of those ideas. I wanted something to represent the weird, the off kilter. After all, rock n roll to me is about the outcast, those in the dark, those estranged.

SBA: Your song, “Keep Walkin'”, is something of a rock anthem. What was the inspiration behind it?

FW: At the time it was really important to me to write a song about perseverance. Sometimes life is just about putting one foot in front of the other. And that’s no small thing. We all need to be reminded of that from time to time.

Photo (C) Frankie Whyte and The Dead Idols, taken from their Facebook page

SBA: You’ve said previously that songwriting and structure didn’t come at all naturally to you. Are you more at ease with it now?

FW: Amidst my frustration, one of my favourite songwriters gave me a great piece of advice. He said “one day it will just click. You won’t even realize it and you’ll say “hey, I can do this now”. I had that moment about 3 years ago after writing literally hundreds of songs, practicing, refining, analyzing. I was really quite crazy about it for a while. However now I’m in a place where I feel confident in my ability and I’m writing songs that I love. I am able to get out of my own way and not concern myself much with “technique”, but rather just field the ideas as they come. What is that old saying… once you know the rules, you can break them.

SBA: I understand that you write with and for others. How does that compare to writing for yourself?

FW: It is the same, and it is different. I love doing both, however. When I write for myself I have free reign over what I want to say and how I want to say it. When writing for other people, I have to consider what is important to them.

SBA: You’ve previously mentioned a learning disability that you felt was hampering your songwriting? Can we ask what it was, and what message would you have for those suffering with similar learning disabilities?

FW: I’m a verbal learner. I learn best in concentrated situations, so if I desire to really understand something I will almost always seek out one on one dialogues. It will take me twice as long to complete a task than the average person, which means I always arrive early, and I always stay later than everyone else. I have problems with structure and order of information, which in school can lead to educational chaos. What is a learning “disability” though if not a terrible explanation for what actually is a learning difference, and differences are what make us ourselves. My best piece of advice would be to take the time to get to know yourself, figure out what’s going on inside you so that you’re able to advocate for yourself. Realize what type of environment you are at your best in. I have made tricks/structures/signposts for myself so that I am able to work productively, quickly and confidently in a variety of situations. Most importantly though, never feel ashamed about your differences. You’re as capable as anyone else.

SBA: You seem very passionate about issues of mental health too?

FW: I live with varying degrees of depression and anxiety. I know what it’s like to not be able to get out of bed or to leave my house, and for people to not understand why. The societal issues are vast in the area of mental health. I think the best thing we can do for each other is to have a genuine curiosity and care for the other. In the case of mental health, silence can be just as deafening as it can be defining.

SBA: There seems to be a really strong rock scene in Toronto and Canada at the moment. Do you notice that? Do you feel part of it?

FW: Toronto is a great city with a thriving music scene. To be honest, I don’t think I fully realized the scene until a photographer friend of ours Kevin Lamb completed his latest photography book 3 Songs No Flash: Canadian Music On The Road. It is not only a chronicle of Toronto bands but probably nearly every Canadian rock band that you love is included into this one piece. When you see everyone compiled together in one place, you realize how big and prosperous this community truly is. Absolutely we’re very proud to be apart of it, we’re very grateful.

Photo (C) A.J. Leitch, A.J. Leitch Visual Goods

SBA: What music is turning you on right now? Who should we all be listening to?

FW: This year I’ve been listening to Sempiternal by Bring Me The Horizon on repeat. I’m anticipating the new Black Veil Brides album that is coming out in October. Also awaiting the new SIXX AM. A lot of Metallica, a lot of Green Day. Then there are the stand by’s… Don Henley, Tom Petty, Bryan Adams etc. Rock music is my blood but I really just love good songs.

SBA: You’ve toured with both KISS and Bon Jovi in your time. What were those experiences like?

FW: They were a dream come true. Both bands shaped my playing in very significant ways.

SBA: You wrote a piece back in March for UberRock about the importance of Metallica. Are you aware of the controversy surrounding their upcoming headline appearance at the UK’s Glastonbury festival? What do you make of it?

FW: I actually haven’t heard about it. What’s up?

SBA: Well, let’s just say that the headline appearance of a heavy metal band at Britain’s most beloved music festival didn’t go down too well in some quarters!

Your online bio quotes Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. A fan of the movie?

FW: I’m a big fan of John Hughes movies. His screenplays are just phenomenal. John Hughes scripts can make me feel similar to the feeling I get when I hear a song that I identify with, I think “hey, that’s me”. That’s a good feeling.

SBA: As someone who used to work at a funeral home, I also share your apparent love of Six Feet Under. You liked the show?

FW: Not unlike John Hughes, anything Alan Ball is equally brilliant.

SBA: Can you share how and why you were “banned from a town in southern Ontario”?!

FW: In short, I wasn’t made aware of the no swearing clause in the gig contract. The rest is history.

SBA: What would “success” be for Frankie Whyte And The Dead Idols? What would you like to happen when the new record comes out?

FW: Success for us is making records on our own terms. Beyond that, whether in speech, writing, or music – it is important to me to let people know that they are not alone through whatever reality or adversity they face.

SBA: What’s next for FWDI? Tour dates on the horizon?

FW: Album release. Tour dates!

SBA: Any plans to play shows in the UK/Europe?

FW: We’re actually currently in the middle of discussing a UK/Europe tour. When things are firmed up, our sites will be updated accordingly and announcements will be made. Can’t wait to meet all of our friends over on the other side of the world.

Check out Frankie Whyte and The Dead Idols’ anthem of perseverance, “Keep Walkin'” below:

Find out more about Frankie Whyte and The Dead Idols at their official Facebook Page, Website, YouTube channel, Twitter and Instagram feeds.

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