Maston



Being able to shape your own approach and aesthetics is something very important and difficult to conquer, unless you have the talent or the grace. In the case of the American Frank Maston, or simply Maston as his artistic moniker, talent and grace are accompanied by the hard work and the conscious clear and straight attitude towards the musical things around him. As he told us in the conversation we had with him, when he felt he had to make a change in his music, he made it by transforming the sound of "Shadows" in 2013, into something completely different. The sound of his latest 2017 LP, "Tulips", is what we would call today "experience collector". Although he has been in Holland for a long time, alongside his beloved friend Jacco Gardner, going along with him on his European tour, he has not stopped at his experiences there. He also wanted to attach and fit in his music all those musical styles he had listened from Italian and French composers at times. So it was time for the "Tulips" to be actualized and emerge, a soundtrack that stands so loud in every listener's ears, though his sounds talk about something invisible, something totally fantastic.

The whole aesthetics of the cover, the back cover and the vinyl labels look like a tribute to the formerly mighty Dutch "Philips". The font, motifs, even the obvious title of 'Tulips', refer to the Netherlands, where the American apparently spent much creative time. And, as we speak about time, on our question about the 24-minute total duration of the album, we learned that at first cut was 30 minutes long, but the record was printed for 45 rpm, which allows for better hi-fi quality, since corrugations are spread over a larger surface. As for the musical part of Frank's new work, the artist essentially manages to compose twelve musical themes that blend and coexist as harmoniously as the music of a film that allows each of us to become a protagonist and a fantastic hero in it. 60's Pop-Rock, Bossa, spacy keys, retro guitars and no vocals, is the aesthetics that very easily take us in times when some Italian Mafiosi would be looking for their next victim, or Jean-Paul Belmondo would be chatting with some mysterious women in a Parisian bar.

Maston tried to touch the psychedelic library music up to the point when unnecessary noise comes around... Τhere is a lot of noise in the whole range of this kind of music. The album would perfectly fit with the musical philosophy of the British Ghost Box, although as he told us, Phonoscope is the Label that he is already running on his own and plans to expand further. Needless to say that "Tulips" is considered to be one of the best records of the year for those who love the Italian library, soft psychedelia and 60's music.

Below, you can read the interview the American musician gave us, in which he refers among others to the details of his new beautiful LP.

 

 

The Basement: Hello Frank ! First of all, thank you for giving us the joy of talking with you about your new LP and your music. Amazing 2nd "Tulips" LP. Please, introduce yourself to us.
Thank you. I’m Frank Maston.


The Basement: You grew up in Los Angeles... Tell us more about that family story and how you got into music at first place.
I was born and raised in Los Angeles, where I'd lived until about 5 years ago. My grandparents are from Italy, and they immigrated to the U.S.- both my parents are from the East Coast and ended up in California, where they met. I don’t come from a musical family, but I was always interested in playing and my folks were always supportive of that. 


The Basement: Did you later on have some studies on music composition or in a way you are a self-taught musician?
I taught myself how to play (thanks to the internet) when I was 14 or so and just continued to progress to different instruments and eventually to writing. I took a few years of Music Theory in High School, where I learned to read notation and about harmonies, counterpoint, etc. 


The Basement: What is your favourite musical instrument and which is the one you usually use when starting writing a song?
I don’t really have a favourite instrument - it would probably be something I don’t play, like the Harp. My main instrument is the piano and I almost always start writing on a keyboard - either piano, Rhodes piano, or organ. 


The Basement: Let's get back to 2013 and your first LP. "Shadows" took us to eras when Phil Spector and Burt Bacharach were great. What was your purpose back then?
I was listening to mainly those types of things - Spector, Bacharach, Beach Boys, Nilsson. Also a lot of Joe Meek stuff. I was really inspired by that aesthetic and it influenced the kinds of things I wrote and my approach to production and arrangement. ‘Shadows’ was the result of that. 



The Basement: It took you five years to bring your next LP into light. When did you start writing the songs of the album? Tell us more about the process of making it. 
After Shadows, I toured for while with Maston and then wasn’t sure if I wanted to do another record or start something else. I was working with some other artists and just spent a lot of time listening to and exploring new music. After a few years, I had some ideas piling up and they sounded nice together so I started developing them into what became Tulips. I was living in The Netherlands and playing with Jacco at this time. 


The Basement: Why did you go to the Netherlands? We know Jacco Gardner is one of your good friends.  
Jacco and I were friends and he asked me to come to Holland and play in his band. I was a bit tired of the first phase of Maston- touring for Shadows, etc. so I was up for something new. I helped out a little bit on his record Hypnophobia and we toured a lot in Europe and the U.S.


The Basement: How did you decide to found your Label Phonoscope? I somewhere read that you're already doing the production for other artists.
When we did the last tours with Jacco in the Summer of 2016, I got a few opportunities to mix or produce records for other artists. So I came back to L.A. and brought a lot of vintage gear I had collected in Europe and started a small studio where I was working out of. I was also making some short films on 16mm in the same space. So I named it Phonoscope. I spent the last year working with other artists and when I had some free time I thought I’d finish the music I made in Holland. The label evolved as an extension of the studio and that’s how I’ve released this record and the films I made. I’ll also be releasing some work by other artists that have worked in my studio as well. 


The Basement: I tend to believe that you're on purpose totally different in this album, comparing to "Shadows". No vocals at all, but this French and Italian sense of film music is the main thing. Am I right?
I had already made Shadows and written in the pop format so it didn’t really interest me. I had been listening to mostly soundtracks- a lot of Italian and French composers- so that just naturally became my world and the ideas I came up with were more in that realm. I wouldn’t have made another record if I hadn’t felt like my tastes had changed, I don’t like to repeat myself. 


The Basement: Baroque pop, retro soundscapes, dreamy spacey keyboards and so many other characteristics in "Tulips", that make it an unbelievably lush and dreamy album. Do you think 24 minutes in total were enough to express yourself?
The songs that ended up on Tulips were from a batch of about 30 different songs/ideas. I chose the themes that worked well together. I was thinking of some soundtracks I really liked when I was putting the record together and I think the final track listing and mixes are reflective of what I wanted to communicate. The Netherlands is a small country so it’s fitting the record would be small as well. The LP plays at 45 rpm, which also allows for a more hi-fi sound and that’s only possible because of the running time. 



The Basement: Can you pick one artist that you cooperated with and marked your work? Do you have any "dream" collaboration for the future?
Working with Jacco influenced me a lot. Our sound engineer Jasper Geluk was also a big influence on me- he turned me on to a lot of cool music and different ways of doing things. His enthusiasm toward sound and recording was very inspiring. 


The Basement: Can you spot what is with library music that makes it so interesting to explore? We think that your album is a truly work of outstanding artistry.
I think because it’s meant to be background music, there are much bolder and interesting choices made that you don’t usually hear in pop music. Library Music is there to communicate a mood, which is often much more effective than pop songs. 


The Basement: Do you have a favourite band from today's artists? Propose us any new albums regardless of genres, that you think we must have a listen to.
King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard made a record with Mild High Club called “Sketches of East Brunswick” which I think is the best record from 2017. The production and performances are fantastic and really inspiring. 


The Basement: Any gigs planned in your country or abroad in the next few months? 
Maston is a studio project now, and I’ll be staying in the studio for the foreseeable future. Working on more Maston music as well as records for other artists. 


The Basement: What are your aspirations for Maston?
I plan on just making more music, learning and growing in the studio. I’m not the kind of person that stays in a bubble- I love absorbing and learning from other artists and musicians. So I’ll hopefully continue doing that. 


The Basement: Thank you so very much Frank, it was a pleasure talking with you. We wish you the best for the future and please, get soon a vinyl distributor in Europe !  :)

 

 

 

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