A Few Words With...Frank Cox
Frank Cox is a world class multi-instrumentalist, singer, & songwriter perhaps best known for his work with Heart's Ann & Nancy Wilson in their other band - The Lovemongers. The Lovemongers have a CD EP: "The Battle Of Evermore," & 2 CDs: "Whirlygig" & "A Lovemongers' Christmas" under their belts so far. In 2004, Cox released his first solo CD: "Impossible Life." It's a very intimate, personal record. Cox is a charming, affable guy & it was my pleasure to sit down with him and gain insight into the man and his music.
PS: What drew you to want to play guitar?
FC: My father was a piano player. Not professional - just parties and stuff. He taught my sister to play and she's still a great player. When it came time for him to teach me, I don't know I sort of resisted. So, I only have 2 years of theory under my belt which is why I'm such a bad piano player! Anyway, we're talking late - 50's here folks, and all I remember was wanting to be like Ricky Nelson! So my dad enrolled me in guitar lessons at the local music store. My teacher was this really cool rockabilly guy and the first song he taught me was "Stickshift". Man, I thought I was in heaven!
After a couple years of that I was ready for the emerging Folk Rock scene. By the time I was in high school - we'd convinced a local church to finance a coffee house for all of the local bohemian teen misfits! It was great. We had a jug band for the house band. When they played, I projected old Japanese horror films in front of them like a light show. Then me and my late great friend Jim would play our Peter, Paul and Mary and Dylan songs. So, in answer to your question - It was Rock N Roll Baby, yeah!
PS: What was your first gig as a musician?
FC: My friend Robert and I were sitting on his front porch one day in the fall playing our guitars when the postman came by. We must have been about 12 at the time. Anyway, he said "you boys are pretty good - would you like to play at our annual Christmas party?" Of course we thought he was joking - but he was serious. So there we were 2 months later doing out little Everly Bros. routine at the local Moose Lodge. I don't know why, but for the big finale we lip-synched "Rockin Around the Christmas Tree" at 78 rpms - instead of 45! I guess they liked us and I think we made $10 a piece!
PS: How did you first meet Ann & Nancy Wilson of Heart?
FC: My wife and I met them in 1979 at a party after the Dog & Butterfly concert at the Seattle Coliseum. The first thing that struck me about them was their sense of humor. I was like - "Oh my God, these guys are hilarious! - I'd sure like to get to know them better." As it turned out, my wife Kathy was a real estate broker at the time and the girls were in the market for some new homes. So, my wife found Ann a nice old estate in town and a 20 acre horse ranch for Nancy in the country.
After they were settled into their new cribs - they started having little get togethers. We started out playing Beatle songs around the fire. And of course at that time, Ann began having her annual Halloween parties. I remember there was always a stage set up with sound and lights - so naturally I had to get up there and make a fool of myself. In the late 80's, they started to include me in various demo sessions at Nancy's home studio. That's when we got into those 3 part harmonies. It was also a great chance for me to hone my engineering skills.
PS: How did the Lovemongers fall into place?
FC: Fast forward to January 1991. They'd just come off the "Brigade" tour. I think they were kind of restless artistically. You know, kind of bored with the big stadium rock thing. Also the grunge scene was unfolding in Seattle and that was exciting. A local promoter called Ann to see if she and Nancy would perform at a benefit concert for the Red Cross at the Paramount. They didn't want to do it alone - so me and Sue Ennis were recruited to round out the bill. What was supposed to be a one night stand - turned out to be a 10 year side career for all of us. When our first EP came out on Capitol I was so psyched! Hell, I would have been happy to be a piece of furniture - but I was actually in a band with Ann and Nancy Wilson! It was a great period for me and I will always cherish it.
PS: The Lovemongers always included covers of Moody Blues, Jon Anderson, & Todd Rundgren songs in their shows. Any Prog music fans in the band?
FC: The cool thing about the LM's is that everyone brings something different to the table. Ann and Nance may be main-stream rock n' rollers - but their musical roots are deep and rich. Sue comes from a more classically trained place which is great. Together we were all big Joni Mitchell, Peter Gabriel, Neville Bros. fans etc. I think what I brought into the fold was my interest in the avant-garde. You know - Laurie Anderson, Dead Can Dance, that kind of thing. So we had a great cross-pollinization thing going on from the git-go. And we were always on the look out for killer cover tunes to perform. That was our big thrill!
PS: When can we expect new studio album from the Lovemongers?
FC: Well that's a good question. The girls are very project oriented. Right now, it's all about Heart. They've still got things they want to accomplish. And that's cool. Nancy's also busy with her new career as a movie soundtrack producer. Sue is also busy teaching music and collaborating with other song writers. And even though I don't live in Seattle anymore, I foresee a time when the LM's will reunite again to do something. Hey - that's why God made motor homes!
PS: How long a period of time were the songs on your solo CD, "Impossible Life," written & recorded?
FC: Well, some of the songs date back to the early 90's. We did a lot of benefits back then for NW Aids, Northwest Harvest and Home Alive and the girls were always supportive of me and my tunes. They actually insisted that I perform them at LM gigs. So you gotta love it. Anyway back to the question. The songs were written over about a 13 year period. "My Beautiful" was recorded in '96 I believe at the Art Institute. I hung onto that DAT for years and when it came time to assemble my CD I used it - with everyone's blessings.
PS: Give me some background on a few songs. Let's start with "My Son."
FC: "My Son" is obviously a newer song. It's ripped from the headlines. I found it interesting and horrific at the same time that families would raise their kids from birth to become martyrs. That just wrecked me. I'd just bought this new keyboard and I banged it out in one night.
FC: When we moved to The Bay Area a few years ago, we immediately started going to garage sales to find stuff for our new house. On one occasion we stumbled upon a moving sale put on by these hippie musicians. They were selling a lot of acoustic instruments. I bought a handmade dulcimer from them for $75.00. When I got home, it was tuned to this open chord. I wrote "There" on it that night. It just sort of popped out. And yes, it is autobiographical.
PS: "The Vegas Gene."
FC: Dude, the Whirlygig sessions were so much fun! I kept a video diary of that time. I'm gonna watch someday - take a little trip down memory lane. Anyway, we'd probably recorded 2/3's of the CD when we came to the realization that we needed/wanted a funny song on our record. I guess that was my assignment - so I went home one night and came up with a concept song for my alter-ego Frankie Velvet. The Vegas Gene was originally a funny title for the CD we were throwing around. I thought it would be a great song idea. So I roughed it out and we finished writing it together in the studio. It was so much fun recording it because we got to be the bad lounge act and the audience reacting to it. That was probably one of the most wild sessions. I felt like I was K.D. Lang channeling Wayne Newton!
PS: "My Beautiful."
FC: Well, sadly the song was inspired by friends I'd lost over the years. You know how when your young and you have your whole life in font of you? Well, I know now that some of my friends were never meant to grow old. They burned bright and died young. So that's the painful reality of that song.
PS: "Home Alive."
FC: Wow, great question. Even though the song was initially inspired by Mia Zapata's untimely death - there is a lot of personal stuff in there too. I sort of morphed both worlds together. She was in a band - I was in a band. It's sort of about the day in the life of a musician. I first performed Home Alive as a spoken word piece at a gig for Home Alive at the OK Hotel in the early 90's. When I was putting my CD together - I set it to music. I was happy with the way it turned out - the next level, you know?
PS: In that song there is an interesting line: "The me that they think that they know." What inspired that line?
FC: That's great you zeroed in on that line. I thought it kind of summed what it's like to be in a band that has any kind of following. It was interesting doing shows with Ann and Nancy because they already had a huge following. It struck me one night that fans think they know you - when in fact they don't have a clue. So over the years, I observed this phenomenon and as an outsider I was able to process this information and work it into my song. It was kind of the missing line I was looking for to finish the song.
PS: We talked recently & you mentioned that you have a studio with your son. What's the setup & the plans for it?
FC: Oh God, that's what I get for opening my big mouth! Actually we invested in a mobile recording 2 years ago. And yes, we did some cool gigs with it - i.e. The VH1 series - "Live at the EMP", the Juno awards and some cool live shows for AOL. Whatever. The bottom line is that it became too difficult to operate it with me in Cali and my son in Seattle. So, unfortunately we are currently trying to sell it and move on. It was an interesting experiment that didn't quite pan out. Thanks for asking. For more info check out Pacificproaudio.com.
PS: What's your next project?
FC: I'm currently renovating our little farm house in the wine country. I plan to turn the garage into a rehearsal/recording studio space with an area for video editing. I hope to make a few homemade videos for a couple of songs on Impossible Life and then move on. I think my next CD is going to be edgy contemporary Christian. Really stripped down and raw. This is sort of what I feel I should be doing. I've been writing down new song ideas. I hope to start wood shedding on it this winter.
PS: Please tell me 6 CDs you just couldn't do without!
1. Revolver - The Beatles
2. Blue - Joni Mitchell
3. Horses - Patti Smith
4. Yellow Moon - Neville Bros.
5. Greatest Hits - Leonard Cohen
6. Van Lear Rose - Loretta Lynn
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