Interview: Azza From Frankenbok

Aussie metal veterans, Frankenbok are set to return with a triumphant new album entitled Vicious, Lawless which was released on July 14th. Fresh from dates with Superheist and Dreadnaught, Frankenbok will hit the road through August and September in support of Vicious, Lawless. The album marks the bands eight official release and 20 years of playing metal for the masses. Only two members remain from the original 1997 line-up, Azza Bok and Timmy Bok, and they have been flying the Frankenbok flag high for those two decades. With 60% of the band joining in the last 2 years, Daniel White from Scar the Surface, Tom Rossell from House of Thumbs/Heaven the Axe & Ricky Barbour from ISOLAR/Scale, the line-up is now secure and more hungry and ferocious than ever. Vicious, Lawless is set to explode onto the scene and cement Frankenbok’s place in not only the local, but international community as well. We had a good chat with original member Azza, and we talked about their new album, hitting the road, recording, the dreaded Naughty Box and much more.

Since the new album has been released, are you guys happy with the positive feedback and stellar reviews that Vicious Lawless has been receiving so far?

I'm a bit taken back actually. I was so focused on getting the job done that I never really thought about how the album was going to get received, and it sort of snuck up on me a bit. I'm tickled pink as they say. Absolutely stoked man, I'm really happy with it.

How'd it go taking a more DIY approach for this album? You guys took it upon yourselves to mix and master the record correct?

We sure did, and it was great. It comes with its hurdles and stuff though, because our ex-singer Dan McDougall was the man behind the dials actually recording everything. He hadn't had a lot of experience, that was the first full record that he's ever recorded, and there's a lot of trial and error as we go. I would say that it was a great experience and how we were really able to have it our own way and get it done how we wanted to do it. If we weren't happy with something, there was no problem coming back and doing it later when we could get it right rather than worrying about it. After an hour or so of playing the same solo and you still can't get it right, you kind of lose it after a while because you've pushed it to the point where you're starting to give someone else the shits. When you're doing it yourself, it's only you that you're putting out (laughs) so I don't mind putting myself out for days on end.

Fair enough then. The new album has a very raw and hard hitting sound, it's also got a lot of different metal elements taken from all sorts of styles. Did you go into this record with a particular idea of how you wanted it to sound?

Nothing was really cooked up as far as particular sounds that we wanted to emulate and stuff like that. I think that we just kinda wanted to make it sound like it already sounded when we were recording. Like it hasn't been threw a machine or something like that, we really wanted to capture the sound of what Frankenbok really sounds like when you're standing in front of it. You know, getting beer or sweat sprayed on you, and feeling like you're in the actual rehearsal room. The fact that it was mixed by Ricky, our new guitarist and the fact that it was done by someone within the band and mixed by someone who's in the band as well, I think it's the first time that one of our albums has come out sounding like it does when we're playing in the studio. It's very real and I'm pretty stoked about that.

Yeah, I think it's going to be a new trend for bands to do that from now on because there's so much over-produced shit out there and it just doesn't have that raw sound that metal should have I don't think.

You're right, a lot of bands are going back to that. So when they do go back to the old school way of doing it yourself, I think that's when we'll start going into big production albums. We always seem to find a way to be out of the loop (laughs) which is cool with us.

How was the tour with Superheist and Dreadnaught last month? Any crazy stories or shenanigans from the road that you can fill us in on?

We had a wicked time, everybody in those bands we all go way back with. Dreadnaught had a lot to do with basically getting Frankenbok on the map and getting behind us, creating a record label and putting our first album out as well as organising our first interstate tour. Probably the next big thing that we did back then was the Devastation Vacation tour, and we've been partners in crime with those guys ever since then. Whenever Frankenbok and Dreadnaught play together there's always a room or a place that always gets referred to as the 'Naughty Box' (laughs) and some people like me almost every night swan dive into the Naughty Box and then there's some people that don't want anything to do with that shit, mostly people that just wanna get some sleep.

I can only imagine what that would be like. What's it like touring nowadays compared to 15 years ago when the band was still in its early days?

There's lots of things that are very similar. I'll tell you what hasn't changed much, I'm still seeing a lot of the same faces at shows, those are the ones that have always come out to see us and they're some of the most loyal fans ever. Playing to these familiar faces ever since we first started playing shows, and seeing them come back now is really good. It's gotten harder, you've definitely gotta throw more money behind just getting yourselves around and more money into promoting the tour so you can actually get people to turn up. But I think as long as you don't do that thing where you get mature and start to grow up, then you can still really enjoy touring. A lot of people think that it's all tequila fueled parties and shit like that, but the majority of it is just waiting around and usually waiting some place where you're uncomfortable. But we've just started getting back into it again, and once you get off the road you already start thinking about getting back out there again, it's pretty addictive. Once you get a taste for it you almost can't live without it.

Are you keen to do this national tour next month? What can people expect for those who haven't attended a Frankenbok show before?

I'm so keen! We did a lot of shows in a row there for a while and then once it finished I sort of gave myself some time to be a family man and just being able to not think about rock and roll for a week or so. Maybe binge watch a season of something, but I think after a day or two I was back on the phone trying to organise something so that we could get back out there and amongst it. We started plotting and planning, also doing these interviews and reading these reviews it's hard not to be excited about it, because it's almost like getting a peek at your Christmas present, it's been pretty awesome. So yeah, doing these interviews and catching up with all of these people that are keen for the tour, it's very exciting.

Good stuff. So between albums do you guys take a break and then once you get that itch back do you start writing and recording again? What's the process for Frankenbok between album cycles?

We have no dead set plan. But we've kind of learnt that if we do make dead set plans, you can take your well laid plans and stick them up your well laid arse. Shit happens and life gets in the way ya know? Usually we'll finish a tour and we'll take a month or two off, and the moment you do that the phone will ring and something pops up that you just can't say no to. Whereas you pick a particular month that you want to saturate with shows and that's when someone turns up to rehearsal with one arm in a sling and says they can't play for 3 months. So we sort of just roll with the punches and with what life delivers, but I think the current plan is to finish the year with all of the Vicious Lawless stuff and maybe head over to New Zealand as well. Then maybe some regional stuff, but as much as I'm very excited about this album that we've got out, it's taken a really long time to come out and I'm happier with it than anything we've ever done. But I'm really excited to actually start writing a new album with the newer guys that are in the band because they're not just some hired guns that do as they're told and play when they're told to play or anything. They're a big part of this band as well and I know that they're going to have some fantastic ideas.

Very cool. It must be a good feeling to be in a well established band such as Frankenbok where you're pretty much a staple for Aussie metal. But do you ever wonder "Oh shit, what if nobody shows up and they've forgotten about us?"

No we don't wonder about that because we know what it's like and it still happens man (laughs) ya know? Just when you start to think that your shit don't stink, there's always a really good reminder, I mean you can never start to thinking 'We have arrived' because that sort of stuff still happens all the time and even for some big international bands. I won't mention names, but there's horror stories of bands that have come out and played in front of 70 people and these guys are a really big deal. It still can happen, and what I do still appreciate is that after 20 years we don't have to pick up the phone and beg for shows which I know that some bands that are starting up have to go through that.

Yeah definitely. Are there any bands out there that you haven't played with that you'd maybe like to share the stage with someday? Any big acts from overseas that you'd personally love to play with?

There's heaps, they're not all metal but there's a tonne of bands. Ever heard of a band called Maximum The Hormone?

Oh yeah for sure, the Japanese band, they're crazy!

Yeah, they look like they'd be a whole lot of fun, they've got an incredible presence and they mix and match their sounds a lot but when they do a particular sound they really nail it. I'd be keen to do something with them. One of my favourite bands is Gogol Bordello, I mean some of the bands that I'd want to play with don't exactly appeal to our audience. There's some overseas bands out there that I'd like to play with but there's so many over here to. With this Vicious Lawless tour that we're doing, there's a lot of new bands on there that I haven't seen before, so I'm pretty excited about that and I've word on the street that they're good. But I still think there's plenty of bands to discover here before I even consider looking overseas.

There's plenty of talent here in Australia that's for sure. What would you say to someone that wants to go and see Frankenbok but isn't quite sold on the idea. What would you tell them to get them off the couch and into the pit?

I would say, I will guarantee I good time. There's been a lot of guys that have brought their girlfriends to a show that don't like metal nor enjoy it. But those are usually the ones that leave the show afterwards excited and saying that they've had such a good time. I mean, it's heavy but it's more of an amplified party in a way and we're serious about what we do and what we play but there's also a lot of smiling that goes on at our shows. I would just guarantee a good time you know?

Yeah, its always a fun atmosphere with good vibes.

It's metal, it's heavy and it's dark. But in saying all that, it's about as much fun as you can have with your clothes on.

Vicious Lawless is out now and you can order it HERE or on iTunes, also stream it on Spotify.

Written by Steve Jenkins

Check out their music video for the track 'Stalker Stalker' below:

TOUR DATES Saturday, August 19: The Evelyn Hotel, Melbourne Friday, August 25: The Bald Faced Stag, Sydney Saturday, August 26: The Back Room Brisbane Friday, September 1: The Boston, Perth Saturday, September 2: The Edinburgh Castle Hotel, Adelaide

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