Europe has always been known as the birthplace for many top-level contemporary bass guitarists and their upright brethren. From Dominic Di Piazza, Pino Paladino, Linley Marthe, Miroslav Vitous and countless others, the pedigree and quality of European bassists has always been among the hardest working in the world. Franck Hermanny is trying to continue to be among those that have been making strides in advancing the level of bass guitar in the heavy rock and metal genres.
Born in Nimes, France, Franck began his musical life playing the violin at age 6. Since then he has had an eclectic career that has included work with philharmonic orchestras, rock and fusion legends, as well as tours and clinics throughout Europe, Asia, and the Americas. Currently Franck is the spokesman for Ibanez’ new ASHULA line of fretted/fretless basses as well as a Markbass amps and Elixir coated strings endorsee.
His reputation is most well known as the man responsible for holding the low end for symphonic metal band Adagio, whose blend of classical string elements, epic metal roots, and prog back bone technicality, have landed Franck and the band fans that stretch from NYC to Tokyo, with the greatest concentration in their European homeland. For 2011 Franck plans on recording a solo CD, as well as recording Adagio’s 5th studio album, as well as doing more clinic work and sharing bass to the world. He was kind enough to share some answers with us regarding his bass world.
As someone who began their musical training at 6 on violin, what do you believe you gained on it that helped you translate your voice onto bass?
Even if violin and electric bass are really different instruments, music theory is the same, notes are the same, and ears are used the same way! I think violin was great to begin with, because even if I don t play it anymore, it helped me a lot, ear training wise. Plus, I learned theory, scoring, and passion for classical music as well.
Adagio is a band that blends the traditional sounds of classical music with the modern aggressively of metal. How do you find a tone that works well to cut through the mix, yet not sounds out of place with the strings?
Well, honestly, in Adagio, on the albums, bass is not the most important/leading instrument. Even if we’re perpetually working on different sounds and experiences, guitar & orchestrations are more “on the front.” On a Live situation with Adagio it’s another story! There’s only one guitar in the band (2,3,4 guitars recorded on albums!), so I’m more «present» in the mix, and I like medium bass tones now. Maybe it helps to “cut through the mix” a little more as you say! My jazz rock-fan year’s maybe…? Concerts allow me to play the songs differently too. I can re-arrange it, add improvisations, and generally, I have a few minutes to express myself with solo pieces during the shows!
As a musician who has toured extensively throughout the world, how do you personally go about preparing for, and completing a lengthy tour physically and psychologically?
When I was 20, I didn’t give a damn about preparing tours, health… ad stuff. Now, I do. (LOL) I try not to eat much, (& eat good things); try to avoid drinking alcohol, and partying. When conditions allow it, there is nothing better than a good night in front of a good movie in a good hotel, when it’s possible! I’ve never been a “sport guy”, but again now, I’m trying to do exercise as much as possible, and a lot of bicycle work.
You have become through YouTube, the spokesman for the new Ibanez Ashula line of fretted/fretless basses. How did you come to incorporate this instrument into your current sound?
And on the Ibanez website as well. I don’t know if I could incorporate this bass on EVERY song/style I’m playing. Depends on the song, or the mood. It’s fun, but I want to use it wisely. The only record I’ve played on with the Ashula is with Adagio guitarist Stéphan Forté’s forthcoming solo album. The short solo I did in the song, The Shadows Compendium, is performed on the Ashula, on the top 2 fretless strings. This is a really an Oriental type song, so, the Ashula bass and its fretless high-notes abilities fits very well. I have my Fretless Ibanez if I want to play an entire fretless part instead of just a theme or solo.
How has your knowledge of scoring and composition helped you as a bassist? And more so, how has it helped you as a musician in general?
Scoring helps a lot, reading music too. When I don’t want to learn 60 songs I’m supposed to, I score some of them, so I can read it later in the moment. It helps for studio sessions as well, teaching bass, learning, or reading scores, which don’t have any tablatures added, like Saxophone, trumpet or piano transcriptions. Composition is another thing. It depends if the song is focused or not on the bass. Sometimes it’s really cool to only focus on rhythm patterns or chords and harmony without thinking “bass parts” only! Most of the time my compositions are inspired by a drum pattern, a theme, or a chord progression, not just bass. What I like as well is to program the bass on the computer. Then, I do not think about the instrument in terms of fingering, abilities, licks, automatic fingers, or reflexes. I sing the bass in my head or use a mouse on a computer to find the good part. And sometimes, you just cannot play it! But, generally, it’s a good way to create original bass lines, I think.
How did you come to the Markbass family, and what is it about their amps that you find help you with your tone the most?
Back in 2008, I was looking for amplification deals and only two names came to my mind—one brand I was playing on for years (but I won’t name it), and the other one, MarkBass. I heard about it and once tried, I thought, these are amazing! I sent an e-mail with my resume and discography to both companies. Only one answered. The good one… LOL. I guess the other company was only interested in bankable artists selling millions of albums. What I like about MB is they’re really a neutral sound. I recognize my sound through it, plus, it’s really light equipment using great and innovative technologies. Finally, the MB people are among the greatest and nicest persons I’ve met in the Industry.
What type of content should Adagio fans expect to hear from your up coming solo effort?
Well something different compared to Adagio. No vocals, instrumental organic progressive/fusion power trio. This project involves my best friend guitarist Richard Daudé. Richard is among one of the most gifted guitarist I know, (along with Stéphan) —amazing guitar skills, technique & extraordinary phrasing, from subtle jazz phrasing to extreme shredding. This record contains all the kind of inspirations and various influences both of us once shared, from Metal, progressive & fusion bands, the 80’s guitar heroes “Shrapnel era”, jazz-rock bands, movies soundtrack composers, and much more!! No compromises, just music, filled with some bass interludes and a few famous guests to be announced!
When heading into the studio for Adagios 5th album, what are your plans to prepare, and make it a great record?
Well, we’re working on the album, and the demos are pretty good so far. Our new singer Kelly Sundown Carpenter is just amazing! We’ve already worked with him when we toured in Japan, back in 2007. Now, I don’t think there are any “plans”. We’re doing our best to record a good album, that’s for sure. I try to find good and efficient bass lines working on the demos. This time, I’ll spend a lot of time choosing right basses and right effects for my bass work. Normally, I only have a couple of days to record the whole album. I’ll take time for the next album. Musically, we’re back to the “Underworld” period, really orchestral, really dark, a lot of contemporary influences, and virtuosity stuff. We’re also planning a record/one-time show with the ONL (Orchestra National de Lille) one of the greatest French symphonic orchestras. Famous French director Jean-Claude Casadesus should direct it. It’s planned for a 2013 release (it’s a long process!).