The transition from rock star to electronic music is probably no easy feat (can’t say its something I’ve done personally!) but had you been following Shaun Frank’s career for some time you would have assumed it was an easy feat. Earlier this year at Toronto’s Bestival debut I had the opportunity of sitting down with Shaun Frank and picking his brains about his musical journey, the rock world versus the electronic world, and his own production style.
So how long have you actually been doing music for? I know you come from a rock background.
My parents had me playing piano when I was five and I played in a couple of bands in high school that actually did quite well. My dream as a kid was to be Kurt Cobain that’s all I wanted to be, so singing in a band made sense. My dad brought me up on really good singer-songwriter music like Tom Petty, The Beatles all that stuff so I was also writing and singing songs.
Following that, how was the transition then from being a rock-star to DJing and producing?
With dance music a lot of the guys come from tech side with samplers, computers, and all that stuff. I come from a song-writing background I think you can hear that in a lot of the recent tracks I’ve put out where I emphasise the vocals, melodies, and the lyrics. As for live DJing, it was crazy, I remember the first time being on stage and being like “where’s the microphone?!” The crowds for dance music are way more engaged so right way I was blown away. I mean it’s the same thing, you’re up there and you’re just trying to put out a positive effect on people with music and make them feel something and that’s all you really can hope to do. When I was in a band it was through my voice now it’s with the songs I choose to play, how I mix them. It’s actually way harder to DJ than to sing – for me at least!
Did you start in production or did you start in DJing?
I started out producing but then it was like “oh shit now I need to learn how to DJ” because I was producing and producing for years and I realized if I was going to have to perform this stuff I’d have to get good. I skipped the whole Serato/Traktor thing and went straight for the CDJs learning how to beat-match and how to mix properly, I bought a pair and just sat at home for weeks learning. My first show was terrifying and my second show was also terrifying. Today was still terrifying, but it was also amazing!
Compare and contrast playing in rock shows and playing at an electronic festival, which do you prefer?
Oh man the vibes at an electronic show are just way better and it’s almost like how it’s supposed to be. My father went to Woodstock and he told me about it and what he described is much more like these electronic festivals than any of those rock festivals I ever went to or played. It’s all about meeting up with people, hanging out with friends, maybe even meeting the love of your life. Peace, love, unity, and respect I mean that whole PLUR thing – cheesy as it is, really does go on here. It’s all about the community and creating a vibe and it’s great and it’s refreshing because I’ve done all that stuff before and this is new to me and I love it.
If you could headline any festival in the world which would you pick?
Glastonbury! It’s a festival I grew up wanting to play, I’m not sure it’d make sense with the music I’m playing now but it’s such an epic festival and the fans that go are really there for the music. If I get to play ULTRA next year that would be unreal too.
You really seem to represent the local Toronto scene in the artists you work with (VanRip, Delaney Jane), talk to me about that.
Delaney Jane moved to Toronto to be an aspiring actress and singer, she had an amazing voice and I just wanted to help her. I had a bit of help as an artist coming out, not a lot, but I realize how important it is to get that support and I’m definitely feeling that now. I’ve done a track with Oliver Heldens I’ve got one with Sam Feldt and one with KSHMR, these guys have really come in and supported me and that’s been amazing and I really want to give that back to anybody that I think is musically talented and deserves a shot. I want to make sure I’m there to help them, you can be the greatest musician in the world and never have your music heard by anyone and I never want to see that happen to anybody I come into contact with.
On the topic of Toronto talk to me about the ‘Shades of Grey’ music video. Oliver Heldens and yourself just put out an open casting call and shot the video, what was the idea behind it?
Hunter Siegel actually came up with the idea! I called him at his hotel when he was in LA was asking for his help because I knew he was good at this stuff and all the ideas I had gotten so far were crap. So he thought for a second then he’s like “how about this?” – he gives me this idea and we wrote the music video based off that and that’s the video!
You’ve worked with Oliver Heldens, Sam Feldt, KSHMR as you mentioned – what producers do you want to work with that you haven’t already?
Oh man definitely Oliver – their production is literally next level if I could do a track with them it’d be mental. Mat Zo or Porter Robinson would be awesome too.
If you had to pick between seeing a Calvin Harris show or a Skrillex show which would you pick and why?
Skrillex, no disrespect to Calvin Harris because I love him too but I’ve seen Skrillex a few times and on a purely live level Skrillex just brings the noise. His sets are always incredible and he comes from the same background as me so I respect that.
One final question, if you could describe your production style in three words what would they be?
Melodic, soulful, heartfelt, feels house music. That was like five words but there you go!