To capture the vibrant energy to captivate an audience takes brilliance, precision, and unwavering skill. Not everyone has the ability, especially during a time defined by live streams and recorded sets where the atmosphere is muted by the glass covers over our viewing screens and the plastic coating that projects the sound. Franky Wah is an act that recently enchanted and dazzled audiences despite these obstructions during the BBC Radio 1’s Virtual Big Weekend. It’s no wonder that today he brings us another amazing sonic adventure with the release of his mixtape, The Revival Vol. 1 via Ministry of Sound. In conjunction, we had the pleasure of diving into his artistry with an exclusive interview.
Franky’s mixtape follows in the footsteps of his stellar singles and remixes of the past year. In similar style, The Revival Vol. 1 takes listeners through underground dance-styled records that ooze vibrant waves of emotional connectivity and pure enthralling sound design. The two singles “Come Together” and “You’re Not Alone” have set the dance world alight with the former added to the BBC Radio 1 Playlist, crowned “Hottest Record In The World” by BBC Radio 1 tastemaker Annie Mac, and “Self Certified” by MistaJam. The Revival Vol. 1 also contains remixes of legendary acts Moby and MJ Cole. Through it all there is a moving sentimentality of emotion that connects to a deeper level than a lot of electronic that has been released in recent times that listeners will feel and embrace through each twist of sound. It is also why I had to interview Franky and learn more about him.
How did you get into electronic music and how did it evolve into production and DJing?
Production started as early as school and it was actually hip-hop but I came away from production because it seemed like a not very realistic goal as a kid. You tell people you want to be a plumber or an electrician and they’re like “ok go for it” but you tell them you want to be a music producer and they’re like “ok, sure whatever”. It was kind of put on the back burner and I decided to do my music but pursue something a bit more stable and realistic. When you get into real life however and you have to pay your bills and work, it’s hard to give music your all because you use your spare time wisely and you might want to also go out and do other things. One day though, something just clicked. I went to Vegas about 6 years ago and came back and said right, “I need to pursue this properly and start producing music full time” and that’s what I did and it started from there. The music I was listening to on the flight home and seeing the billboards of Calvin and Tiesto on the side of MGM made me think, there’s a goal to aspire to. If your music can take you somewhere that big it’s certainly a goal to set your mind to. The music I was listening to then sounds nothing like what I’m making now. At that time I was inspired by people like FKJ, SG Lewis and Kartell . I don’t make anything like that now but they were just inspiring artists. It all started from there really. I took it one step at a time and actually really learned the production process, spending all my time in the studio. Most people who are DJs work backwards into production but for me it wasn’t a rush – I never rushed this really. I love music and it takes me away from day-to-day life and I’ve always enjoyed what I’m doing – it’s been one of those things that kind of happened over the duration for the last 5-6 years. It feels like a long process but I always tell anyone who asks for advice to just “enjoy the ride”. I played DJ sets to no one but it’s all part of the character building process. Since then, I’ve warmed up for big DJs, I’ve headlined sets, from playing to 200 people in 200 cap venues to 30k people at Creamfields main stage. It all adds to the pot and part of the journey…you don’t want to rush it, you miss so much by doing that.
What are your favorite electronic albums or songs? How about your favorite non-electronic music?
FKJ is definitely in there for me, in particular his track ‘Skyline’ – I couldn’t tell you why I just find FKJ a very inspiring person in general. I love that he’s a multi instrumentalist – he’s that inspiring and talented he almost makes you want to be better or quit! There’s an album that I recently posted on my social media, it’s 18 years old now called ‘Summer Dance Anthems 2002’ and I still have that very original CD – that’s got to be up there for an inspiring electronic album that I’ve bought over the years. So many sounds in that album are relevant to what I’m doing now because I almost lend some of the influences from that era to that genre and implement it into my productions, but with my own, modern, up-to-date twist. Non-electronic album, without a doubt, has got to be ‘The Chronic 2001’ by Dr Dre. My Mum wasn’t too keen on me being 10 years old and blasting that due to the explicit lyrics. Also, ‘P Diddy and The Bad Boy Family – The Saga Continues’. I was given it at Christmas when we had the family over and I remember my mum saying I could have it but I couldn’t listen to it whilst my Manna and your Poppa were there!
What are your biggest musical inspirations? What about inspirations outside of music?
What inspires me is the mindset music gives me, what it does to me and how it takes me away from things. It’s saved me in many ways. If I can make other people feel like that with my music then that for me is the biggest box ticked off really. The messages that I get from people all over the world now makes me feel so lucky that my music’s out there and getting heard. People send me the best messages and it’s nice to know that you might be helping them through a rough time. I’m also inspired by making people feel good and dance – that’s a big goal for me as a producer. A Grammy nomination is what drives me, that would be an absolute dream come true. There are certain goals that I’ve managed to tick off this year like being played on BBC Radio 1 by people like Annie Mac, Pete Tong and Danny Howard, even just getting them to say my name. I’ve already kind of exceeded any expectations I have as a producer, so I’d be happy with anything more than that. I’m very humble but I’m still going to shoot for the stars and aim for more such as a Brit Award, a UK Top 40 or 100 on Billboard. Outside of music my Dad always inspires me. I always say I want to be like my dad as I grow up and it’s because of who he is. He’s the best man I know! I come from a very rural area and the village I’m from only has a population of around 800. We are farmers through generations and I think that my brother will be carrying on the tradition – which traditionally I should be doing – but my dad massively supports my dreams of becoming a musician. It’s so nice that things are happening that they can resonate with, such as hearing my music on the radio – I’m grateful for the fact that he supports my dreams.
If you’re drawing a writer’s block, what do you do to break free from it?
There’s a few things I try, I’d say my temporary fix would be to get myself into the gym – I used to be a competitive bodybuilder so going to the gym and training always helps. I’ve got two dogs who I love taking on walks in the beautiful countryside where I live, so it’s great to get out on in the fresh air. Long term, I feel it’s important not to force it, especially now that I’m making music full time, I tell myself that I’ve got to be in the studio every day because it’s work now, but I just need to remember how and why I started. For example, if I’m not feeling creative and there’s not an immediate idea or melody in my head, I don’t try and lay it down or force it, I try to enjoy other things and get creative. Then when I have the urge, I go and put some ideas down because most of the writer’s block can be because I’m forcing something. I’ve signed an album deal with Sony and there have been a few times where I’m thinking “I need to get a hit out” but need to remember that when they approached me they signed me because of what I made before and to do what I have always done.
How do you want your sound to be described?
Unique, uplifting, emotional, nostalgic!
Who would be your ultimate collaborator, alive or dead?
I would love to collaborate with Mike Skinner or Billie Eilish. I’ve been bugging my management to set something up with Mike as I’ve got the perfect song for him! I really respect what they’ve both done and in a way I’m trying to do the same with my music. They are both very emotional, they haven’t tried to fit in and I’ve put that across in some of the music I’ve made by making new, original stuff. The way both of them broke is incredible. Billie Eilish ‘Bad Guy’, you would never have thought it would be a day time radio playlist record, that’s someone digging their heels and saying “this is what I’m doing” and I think the greats over the years have all done that! Producer wise, I love Sasha, he’s an icon to me and has been championing my music for well over a year now. I had the pleasure earlier this year of meeting him at the Warehouse Project in Manchester, England and he closed his set with my track “Get Me High” – it was amazing! We have actually got a track in the pipeline so that’s something I’ve manifested over the last few years that has come to life so hopefully the same will happen with Mike and Billie! Kolsch is another one, Tale of Us as well – they are my top three right now. At the moment
A lot of your work uses minimal vocals or vocal samples, is there a reason for this?
I think because you are limited with the amount of samples you can use, how long you can use it for etc. means the formula I use to produce a record isn’t always based around a long length vocal. I love playing around with tiny 2 bar loops and when I’m sampling I’m that guy who will sit there for hours on end flicking through looking for the right sample. It’s not like samples drop on my lap – I’ll listen to a sample that’s a minute long and it’s something I’ve slithered out at 45 seconds. Being left to your own devices is so much easier as a producer to allow you to get stuck in producing – I’m sat on over 300 records right now because I don’t have to wait around for singers/songwriters. That’s when the process gets delayed a lot more and you’re not able to churn out as much music. I do want the balance as well though – I brought the record out with Robinson which is a full vocal track and worked with Jesse Ware.
Walk us through your process of creating a new record.
9 out of 10 times it will always start with drums, unless I’ve been sent a vocal from the label for example, then I’d generally start getting some nice pads in and defining a key of the track. More times than not I start with a kick drum and start processing my drums because a lot of producers process an EQ once the record is done, whereas I process an EQ as a go. I just find this so much more beneficial for mixing purposes because if you don’t process them as you go, you might hear a loop that you’re sampling and think that it works and when you get down to processing it there’s no space in the mix. I always start with my drums and I find that once you’ve got your drum pattern sorted it will always define your bass groove and I’ve learnt that the hard way other the years! I’ve put a kick and a clap in and played the bass line and then you’re trying to work drums around the bass line, but if you get your drums nice and tight the bass line falls on your lap.
Your newest record, “You’re Not Alone” has just dropped, what does this record mean to you and what sort of feelings do you want listeners to feel while listening?
Two meanings behind the record; I’m from a big family and it reminds me of a really good family holiday in Wales – no idea why but it’s embedded in my memory for some reason. I’ve got 2 brothers, 2 sisters and it was just one of those holidays where you didn’t need to be abroad and that song would always be on the radio. Aside from that, I played my debut set at Hï Ibiza last summer and when my mates and I went back for an after-party, I was slightly drunk and I just had a moment of clarity and put it on. Everyone suddenly remembered it from back in the day and how good it was – I decided that I was going to remake this record and that’s exactly what I did the following day. I want people to feel nostalgia with it but don’t want people to compare it to the original – it’s not there to be compared – it’s there to be seen as a new take on it and hopefully people like it.
You also have your mixtape coming out at the end of May, what can we expect from it?
You can expect how I describe my music. It’s like a little story in its own right and definitely says what I’m trying to say as an artist. I think that you can expect a journey and expect variety – there’s a 130bpm on there to 110bpm so that gives you an indication to how it’s going to go. There’s Freya Ridings, Moby, Olive, a downtempo track at the end that myself and Ruby Wood wrote. This is genuinely turning into something already that we weren’t anticipating… initially there was a hit on it with ‘Come Together’ which I produced in October and I think people thought it was written for quarantine, but it wasn’t and hopefully this album is going to turn into something that is more than we anticipated. It was really just 14 tracks we were feeling that all made sense when you put them together in a mix, they all blend together and flow.
If you could choose any environment for people to listen to the mixtape or your music as a whole, where/what would it be?
This is unique to the listener and should be listened anywhere that you feel calm and at peace, whether that’s walking up to a spot in the place that you grew up into the top of the hill and taking in the views, whether it’s simply laying on your bed with your headphones in. I think it’s worth taking an hour out of your day to listen to it in its entirety and that is one thing I want to stress. I really want people to listen to this in its entirety, it makes a lot more sense that way.
What else is on the horizon for Franky Wah?
When things are back to normal we want to run a series of ‘Franky Wah All Night’ at intimate 400-500 cap venues in key cities across Great Britain. Also, so much more music! I have 4 full albums completed and ready to go, all of different feels – one similar to the vibe of Vol 1, one is quite lo-fi and chilled, one for sunrise moments and one hard, melodic techno. Eventually I want to follow in the footsteps of Eric Prydz with the way he does his live show – that’s the way I see this going!
To stream The Revival Vol. 1 follow the link here or continue down. You can also view a mixed version here or by clicking play on the video below, which Franky filmed live out in a field in Yorkshire.