The incomparable MR. FRANK WOOD

Here Frank talks about his influences, his past, his present and his future…

His life in the 70s’:

I did security with the Grateful Dead, I got to do all the big concerts on the East Coast, you know, they’ve got a hundred thousand people. Then they’d come to the back and say stuff like, “Man, I’m on the list… Jerry’s waiting for me, com’on man…” and oh the dogs… the dogs were vicious, one dog he would go like, “Grrr, grrr” he would bite anything, metal, the gate, anything. So I would be like, “Dude, s’not my dog man.” (hahahaha, evil laugh, evil laugh…) and they’d go “Hey, cool” and they’d walk away, no confrontation. And then when the band was on stage, we’d put the dogs in a room that we wanted secure, and, you know, they might get in, but they’re not getting out! (hahaha, evil laugh, there’s that evil laugh again)
So, we’d be hanging out with Owsley and Robert Hunter and people like that. You know relaxing, hanging, playing music. In the 70’s I also hung out with a lot of old black Jazz musicians, like Sam Rivers, Miles Davis, River’s wife Bea, and drummer Rashid Ali. I met them through a good friend of mine, Juma Sultan. Juma Sultan was the man who introduced Jimi Hendrix to Buddy Miles and Miles Davis, so I would hang out with these guys. Music was really free form in the 70’s. Oh, and James Blood Ulmer. Juma was like “I got this guy, he wants to do Rock‘n’Roll.” And I’m like thinking, black jazz guy doing Rock’n’Roll or do I go with the hot blond, Joy Rider… Eh… I think I’ll go with the hot blond Punk Rocker, right… Well, I’m still working with the hot blond, and still busting out ass trying to get it out there, meanwhile, Blood’s got albums and Grammy’s and this and that! Hehe… Who knew, right, but we’re still friends, you know…

With Juma, he would have a house and every time he got a house, he would like seal off a room and sound proof it, because we would sit there, partying. People would start getting stoned, and pick up an instrument and start jamming and it was like “Boom” next thing you know, it was like wow… and Juma used to tape everything. Someone would go, “do that riff again” and they’d go, “what riff”, “errr, I don’t know” well, he would have tapes. As soon as someone would play, he would tape it. He’d call me up later and say what are you doing? Let’s catalogue some tapes. I’d go over there, and say, “This is so&so on horn, and this guy & that,” and then the guitar would come along and I’d be like “Hey, I know who that is, that’s Jimi!” Haha! So I grew up with all this stuff. You know what I mean, with the different environments, like Jazz, and the ‘Dead, and then the Punk scene, I’m really like a mixture of a lot of different things, hehehehe, then there’s the Italian part, (hehehehe, evil laugh) which we cannot talk about here… (super evil laugh) But, it was the interaction of the people and exposing them to other things, so they learn different things. Like, (bringing us into today) when Banana Fish did “Hot Stuff”, that’s an old Disco tune! But not the way they do it!!
I remember shows like when Santana would open for Clapton. Santana were called out for an encore, what support band does an encore? Eh? Well, they came out and did Soul Sacrifice… follow that! Well, Clapton came out and opens with Layla! And then for his encore they did Eyesight for the Blind, and Santana came out with his rhythm section, and John McLaughlin. And McLaughlin, Santana and Clapton had like a guitar duel, a four-verse guitar duel. McLaughlin did a riff, then Santana topped it then Clapton, then they went around and around and then the fourth round Clapton was unbelievable, man! And then… Santana comes back and tops that! Clapton was like, “my show”… And he just went so far over the edge, everyone was just… [jaw dropped] with that moment of silence and then “Yeah”… they went crazy! And that’s the stuff we need to have.

Up to the Present:

Frank bought the unplugged scene to New York in a way no other has.
That’s the whole idea behind the Sofa King Wild Jam I’ve been doing at Otto’s Shrunken Head. It’s like you never know who is going to show up. A Christmas ago, when Silvain Silvain showed up at Otto’s one night. I’m like “Hey, I haven’t seen you in fifteen years! If you think you can get out of my club without playing you are out of your mind.” So Sylvain says he wants to play with Mad Juana, so we get Love Pirates, Gass and Android, and Jonesy from F.P. TOZ was playing guitar so we put Sami on the bass, we had Danny Ray and Javier on saxes up there… they did a twenty minute version of Pills, with Sylvain being like Leonard Bernstein directing traffic! Pointing to this guy, sticking the mic in the sax, he was banging on Jonesy’s guitar. Jonesy comes up to me and says, “I’ve gotta thank you for my Christmas present.” I go, “what Christmas gift?” “I grew up listening to the Dolls, and Hanoi Rocks and I played tonight with Sami Yaffa and Sylvain Sylvain…”
Even Sami did it when I had him up there with Lenny and Billy Fica, and Sami goes “I’m playing with Billy Fica, Television …” I go “You’re Sami Yaffa!” But it’s the beauty of that and the stuff you create like that, you know… That’s what I try to do.
A regular conversation at Otto’s:
“What do you mean, you can’t play low? If you can’t play low, you can’t play. “But we’re a rock’n’roll band” I got one word for ya, Layla. Working with the dead all those years, hearing everybody and their side projects, you can play unplugged. It’s all about knowing your equipment, knowing your songs. Look at FPToz, unplugged it’s a whole different sound. Now you hear the words, and there is a whole different vibe to it.
Look at Queen V, one of the first shows she did unplugged was with me. And with Queen V, within like five minutes the whole room is quiet. I like to describe it like this. Queen V takes the crowd in the palm of her hand, crumbles it up, puts it in her pocket and takes them wherever they want. I have to ask her for the crowd back when she’s finished! It’s just so quiet, everybody just shuts up. Even me! Even I’m not talking! You know what I mean!! Hahhahaha!! That’s how powerful V is.
I had Eric 13 do it one night. Gina was there from Bantam, so Eric did one of her songs… and she’s like “Wow! That was so hot!” and I’m like poking her in the back saying, “go on, go on and do one…” she’s like “I can’t do this” I’m like “come on, you write the songs in the house with an acoustic!” “That’s because there is nobody there…” “There’s nobody here, just us…” I said “Would it feel better if I put a couch on the stage?” She got up there to do one. She got up there and she did two more.

Junp to the Future in Florida:

Clarence Clemons is a friend of mine (E Street Band), he has a place in West Palm, there’s Peter Crowley, he has a place down there, Cosmo, who used to work at CBGB’s, is doing Tobacco Road on South Beach. And then I just got 2 e-mails from people down there saying they got clubs in South Beach, and do I want to bring bands in?
I’m going on vacation, damn it! They think they can put me to work right away! But I know what’s going to happen, I’m gonna walk into Tobacco Road one day, Cosmo’s going to say, “Hey, Frank, what are you doing down here?” I’m gonna say “Taking over your Fridays!” (hahahaha) We’re taking over! “We’re goin’ ta rule the world Pinky!” with Rock and Roll!!!
I’m lucky, like I said. I know the best bands! My friends are in the best bands. You know apart from the above, the Sex Slaves, Unpronounceables, Banana Fish, Queen V, The list goes on and on, Bantam, hey… Blonde and Blue, Alison Gordy and Susan Mitchell, Lenny Kaye. Shall we talk about who’s on this week? Haha! New Professional, Sea Monster, I hate to leave anybody out, I know I will.
There was someone looking at videos one night, and he said, “stop, who’s that?” so we backed up a bit, it was Robert Lund. I said, “that’s the rock’n’roll seal of approval! I have these young bands that come up and they go “You know the old guy?” They look for Lundo in the audience. They are like, “oh, I hope he sees us and he likes us!” Then Lundo is up there in the front and they are “Okay, he’s up the front!” then they are looking at each other saying “is he dancing?” and the bass or someone will go, “Yeah, he’s dancing.” “All right, we’re in!” He’s the human oscilloscope, you know that fluid movement of groove and music. [Even] when you see his shadow, you know who it is! Those are the notes going through his brain.

On Food:

Frank is a great chef! This is where the Italian kicks right in. Coming from an Italian family involved in 5 4star restaurants, and quite a few pizza parlors to boot, he used to hang out with the chefs. Pointing to his round belly “This is not a beer - this is pure Buongustaio!”
Eventually, when I win the lottery, and I have my own fucking club… with a restaurant. Lundo suggested that yeah, the club will be Woody’s and the restaurant will be DuBois, Francois DuBois! Fank of the wood!
We did a gig at Denis’s with Joy Rider. These guys came down from CBS. They came down and they wanted to go out to eat. And Joy was like, “Frank, you gotta do something, you know if they go out to eat they’re not coming back.” The cooks had all left. So I went up to them and said, “the cooks have all gone, but there is a chef here.” They go “who?” I go “me. Let me go and see what we’ve got” I come back “We’ve got steak, chicken, veal, shrimp this and that, you pick the thing, and you will like it. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to pay.” So one guy wanted the beef, one the chicken, one the veal and one guy wanted veggie. So I made Pasta Primavera, for the veal I made Massala, the beef I made Bistecca Alla Pizzaiola, (you take the tomatoes, the onions, garlic, oregano you make the sauce fresh, then you take a nice big steak and you cook it cover it in the sauce and everything just goes into the beef and it melts in your mouth.) Shrimp Scampi, I did it all - in 35 minutes I was down with all the dishes. I said, you want something to drink? One guy goes, “I’ll have orange juice.” I said “Fuck you, you ain’t eating this! You’re drinking wine or water!” They all laughed and said, “Okay, we’ll take the wine!” Joy was looking at me like “you’re pushing it”… and I was “you ain’t eating my food, so fuck you!” (there’s that evil laugh again!)
In Florida my partner and me are great chefs. So at Thanksgiving we have had nothing smaller than a 40 pound turkey! We go out to the farm and we choose it, then they tag it. Then we go back everyday until the day and feed it, [really fatten it up]. We have 25 to 35 people at our house at thanksgiving.
So, I’m going down there, relax, make some money, then I’ll come back. After setting up all sorts of tours things. I just don’t have time while I’m here.
I’ve been booking bands since high school. One night I went out and I saw Joy Rider, in Tribeca at 111 Hudson. Ones. I went up to them and said, “if I can get you gigs, will you play?” They said “Yeah!” I know club owners… so I started booking bands. I realized a long time ago, if I want to hear the bands that I like, I’ll have to book’em myself! But I was doing it in high school! I found out the school had a $5000 budget. I started putting these mega shows together. Most high school dances were like one or two bands, I would put 5 bands on. We’ll put three on the poster, plus two others.

On the Pope:

These people they are praying for the Pope. I’m like “I don’t think he needs prays. I think he’s in. I’m pretty sure he’s gonna cut the line and he’s on the guest list, back stage, full access! And if he’s not, I want my money back, and I’ll be at the synagogue tomorra! You know… 16 years of Catholic education…
I’ve been lucky enough that my friends have been in the best bands around. And I lucked out with Steve Pang, Otto’s Shrunken Head, who allowed me to do whatever I want over there for the past two years. He sponsored the Banana Fish Zero Float at the Mermaid Parade. Now there is no Banana Fish so there’s no reason to have a float this year, but Steve’s going to have his own float. I’ll be back for the Johnnypalooza up the Catskills, the first week after 4th July to run the stage.
We should set up an “Old and in the Way” Tour. Because I’m moving down to Florida, Iggy lives in Florida, Sami’s talking about moving to Florida… we’re becoming the new Jews. You know how the Jews get old and move to Florida, well, right now it’s the old rockers! Fuck playing in the snow! Joy thought we should do an old “Godmothers and Godfathers of Punk” Tour was hoping Elda Stiletto would join her. Being an old Dead Head, Garcia did an “Old and in the way” album, so that’s what it should be, We’re old and we’re in the way.

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