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Welcome to Appetite for Discussion -- a Guns N' Roses fan forum!

Please feel free to look around the forum as a guest, I hope you will find something of interest. If you want to join the discussions or contribute in other ways then you need to become a member. We especially welcome anyone who wants to share documents for our archive or would be interested in translating or transcribing articles and interviews.

Registering is free and easy.


2019.04.DD - SA Drummer - Interview with Frank

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2019.04.DD - SA Drummer - Interview with Frank Empty 2019.04.DD - SA Drummer - Interview with Frank

Post by Blackstar Mon Apr 22, 2019 6:03 am


"It's wonderful being in Africa"

Let's get some back story before we get into other things. Your father was a Latin percussionist; was he actively involved in music? Professionally? And how do you feel this af­fected or influenced you with regards to becoming a drummer?

My dad came to America from Cuba in the mid 1950's. He was playing but not a pro. He gave up music sometime when I was very young. I never got to see him play professionally. He wasn't very excited that I fell in love with music. So I would have to say that he was influential in my playing by not being influential, forcing me to look outside of my home comfort zone to learn and grow. Luck would have it that I grew up in the capital of the world, New York City, and the world was right out­side my doorstep. My dad did provide a stable home and love.

Tell us about your first concert you ever attend­ed, KISS, if I'm not mis­taken. What was that experience like for you and was this the point when you knew you wanted to be a drummer?

This is where I have the belief that something greater than I ,had/has a plan for me. My dad knew nothing about American music, especially rock music. My sis and I saw Kiss on TV one night and I was blown away. My mom bought me "KISS Alive" and I was hooked on rock. In '77 KISS was about to play MSG in December of that year. I asked my dad if we can get tickets. He had no idea what KISS was, noth­ing, no clue. He said "Si" , "yes" in Spanish. My sis and I couldn't believe it, he was a tough man to get ash outta. That night is the reason why we are having this interview. I had no idea what was coming with those four superheroes with fire, guitars, drums, platform shoes and the smell of pot in the air. It was scary and exciting at the very same time. I'm still chasing that dragon of that night.

Have you always been a rocker? What styles of music influenced you growing up?

I've always wanted to be a rock drummer. Playing Punk and Hard rock in NYC. I played different styles, not great, but I gave them a go. Some funk, some reggae. But I just wanna rock!!

What was your first band you ever played in?

First pro band was a band called "The Beautiful". We were signed to Giant/WB in the early 90's. Did an EP and Full length album. I played in a pop/dance cover band in High School. First time I got paid to play music. $15 USD I think. That would have been in the early 80's.

From your first band on­wards, who have you played for? And how do you feel each of those bands helped build you up to the musician you are today?

Too many to list. Every situ­ation has lead to some sort of learning experience. I'm learning today, everyday with Guns N' Roses. It never stops. There is always a chance to grow.

Moving towards Guns N' Roses now. You filled the drum position in 2006 when Bryan Mantia had to leave. What was going through your head when you got the call?

When Brain (Bryan Mantia; GNR Drummer 2000 - 2006) and the band reached out, of course my mind was blown. Can't put it into words. But I was ready. It was time for me to really see what I was made of. Can't say enough of Brain and his trust and faith in me. I wasn't going to let him or his legacy down. He is my hero.

How much time did you have to rehearse the set before hitting shows with them? And was it a nerve racking experi­ence?

I learned all the material in the basement drum studio in my home in NJ. Flew out to meet the band in London. The tour schedule at the time was mostly festivals with a few arena shows. The band was able to soundcheck on the arena shows, and with a limited amount of time. So I did three short sound checks on those shows and MY first show was a festival show, so no soundcheck that day. A little nerve racking I guess...

Tommy Stinson and Richard Fortus played a large role in you enter­ing the band, do you feel like this, again, is thanks to all the bands you had played in before?

I've been playing with Richard Fortus since 1993 in many different bands. Two bands which got record deals and tons of session and even more live shows. I met Tommy through Richard and we played some of his solo gigs in and around NYC. So yeah, I had built musical relationships with them. They were comfortable with me. Besides my playing, they knew that I was a good fit personality wise.

Being a fan of the Rock/Punk scene, were you a Guns N' Roses fan before joining up with them?

Guns was very popular in NYC. We were big fans of the first EP. They sounded very much like a NYC punk/rock band. We could hear The NY Dolls, The Dictators and the Heartbreakers in their music. They came to NYC a few times before they broke big.

Did this add to the pres­sure of performing with them on the Chinese De­mocracy Tour?

There was more than enough pressure to go around.

Were you planning on joining the band full time from the start? Was this always on the table? Or was it a new develop­ment that came about during the Tour?

It was not a plan for me to join full time. At that point I was keeping the chair warm for Brain. But at the time, a new baby and all, there was no rush for him to get back on tour. He was free to spend time with his new family.

When you take into consid­eration that Brain (Bryan Mantia) among other names, left Guns N' Roses due to touring stress or not being able to be with family, how do you find that you cope with the high demand of being on the road so much? How does this affect your family?

It's tough on the family. But its the life I have chosen and my life has never been better. I am a better man for my family because of what I do. I love what I do. I'm very lucky.

I heard somewhere that you had a very DIY kit when you first started playing? Can you tell us a bit about it?

Ha!! Well, not really ... it was all jacked up. Multicolored pile of crap. I think a Ludwig 22'' Kick drum may be, may be a Ludwig rack tom 12'' Floor tom might have been a 14'' Slingerland. Yeah, it did the job at the time though. My first "nice" kit was a white Vistalite Ludwig kit. From the early 70's. It was affordable because some of the toms were cracked and glued back together with super glue, hahahahahaahah.

The kit you use with Guns N' Roses is sur­prisingly small, espe­cially when you consid­er all the 20 something piece kits floating around out there nowa­days. How did this set up happen for you? And how do you feel it im­pacts your playing or, more importantly, your musicality when serv­ing the songs?

I learned two very important things about my drums and drumming growing up in NYC. The more drums I have, the more I have to carry and I tend to overplay. So less gear and less play­ing. Just groove yo!! GNR are a rock and roll band. Charlie Watts (the Rolling Stones), John Bonham (Led Zeppelin), Phil Rudd
(AC/DC), Steven Adler (GN­R; 1985 - 1990). They play simple kits . If its good enough for them...

You've recently been posting about having drum lessons with Dave Elitch. Is this a new de­velopment? What are you specifically working on with him? Is it new con­cepts or just refining what you already have?

Dave has been fantastic. He is such a smart and thoughtful teacher. He's had been so attentive to my needs as a drummer and specifically in this band. We are averaging almost 3.5 hours a night on tour. Drumming for that long on such a high level takes a special skill set. He has been work­ing with me on how to get the most out of my energy. We have worked on changing my physical approach to drumming. Playing in differ­ent "Gears", relaxing more. In turn my pocket has become deeper, I'm not leaning forward musically, I'm leaning further back and the band feels it. Dave is part master drummer, part spiritual guru and part physical therapist.

Do you often still find yourself practicing?

It's hard to practice when on tour. At home I try to at least do two hours a day. But yeah, practice is a must. The older I get the more I find myself practicing more. Making sure everything still works. Hahahaha. I'll do about 5 days a week.

I'm assuming you were really stoked to have joined GNR when you did. But how do you feel now with the current tour's line up? What a powerhouse team. Slash and Duff McKagan up there with you. Isn't that a little bit surreal?

GNR is on another level. Axl, Slash, Dizzy and Duff have raised the stakes. This thing right now is a juggernaut. I'm so glad to be a part of this. So glad that the main guys are together enjoying themselves. Melissa Reese, Richard Fortus and I have worked really hard in fitting in and making them feel comfortable musically.

You've actually been the longest standing drum­mer in GNR. Do you feel like part of the family? Or do you still get a little star struck up there some­times?

Axl Rose has literally em­braced me from day one. I've always felt a part of the family. But, yeah, I'm playing in a band with immortals now and I treat it as such. Stakes are sky high.

I know you have been asked this and I just need to know as well. When Steve Adler made a guest appearance? How did you feel about that? Was it intimidating? Awe-Inspir­ing? Or was it just anoth­er great memory you added to your scrapbook?

This whole tour has been a healing process of sorts for Axl, Slash and Duff. I think Steven jumping up and play­ing with them is part of it. Celebrating the past while also closing the door on the past. Steven is a sweet man. He helped in creating an iconic album. There is no way I or anyone can hate on that. Same thing with doing "Slith­er" from Velvet Revolver. Axl singing that song. Its all part of the healing pro­cess. Plus that song rocks hahahahaha.

With Slash, Duff and Axl all on one stage, things must get really Rock n' Roll really fast. Do you guys play to a click track? If so, do you find yourself work­ing hard to keep all of that raw energy on stage in check?

I do use a click at the start of some songs but just to get us going. Duff and I have the grooves on lock down now. Count four and we are running.

It must take a ridiculous toll on your body to be playing the high energy shows that you do as often as you do? How do you keep yourself fit and strong for all of this? There must be something because let's face it man, you look amazing!

Jeez!! Thanks hahahah. Yeah, like I men­tioned earlier. Been working with Elitch on changing "Gears" during a show. I'm picking my spots to let loose and/or preserve energy without affecting the music. Still rock out but not the whole time.

How big of a part do you play in the drum arrangements in GNR? Have you changed them or do you, for the most part, play the original parts with your own flavour?

Funny thing about being the drummer in GNR is that I have to encompass somehow three different GNR eras. Adler (1985 - 1990), Matt Sorum (1990 - 1997) and Brain (2000 - 2006). Three very different drummers. With Chinese Democracy (2008 Album), I shared some parts with Brain on the record so I pretty much play closer to what's on the CD album. With Adler and Sorum I try to stay somewhere in between the two drummers. Adler's off the rails, punky feel and Sorum's steady hand feel.

Do you feel like you are at the peak of your career or are there still other goals in sight for you?

I'm a person that feels like I'll never reach the peak. I'll always be climbing and I hope that I never reach the peak. It would only be back down from there. I have and want so much more. And I have so much to give. I have so much to learn.

Favourite Rudiment?

Every fun drum lick I do is a form of a "Paradiddle".

Favourite drummers currently?

Digging Mike Miley from The Rival Sons. Jason Gerken of Shiner. Just got into the album "The Egg". Kelli Scott from Failure.


Last edited by Blackstar on Wed Oct 05, 2022 3:11 pm; edited 2 times in total

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2019.04.DD - SA Drummer - Interview with Frank Empty Re: 2019.04.DD - SA Drummer - Interview with Frank

Post by Soulmonster Mon Apr 22, 2019 3:28 pm

Great! Can't remember having read an interview with Frank before Smile
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