Frankie Whyte and The Dead Idols hail from Canada. But that’s OK; we like ’em anyway. Self-described as a “rock ‘n’ roll misfit explosion band,” the group’s raw, energetic, nothing's-gonna-stop-us-from-having-a-good-time vibe feels just about right.
Apparently the promoters at radio station Q107 agreed with that assessment when they selected the band from more than 350 contest video entries to open for Bon Jovi at the Air Canada Center earlier this year. Other tours have seen the band opening for Kiss, Finger Eleven, Our Lady Peace and more.
Frankie, lead guitarist and vocalist, comes across as a no-apologies rock chick, and no, I don’t have a problem with that!
Here’s Frankie’s take on life, the universe, and, oh yes, playing guitar …
GUITAR WORLD: Tell us how you started. What made you pick up the guitar?
A lot of people see artists on television or in magazines, that popular “Beatles” moment, where you realize you want to play music forever. I never had that moment. it all came together relatively backwards for me. I started playing guitar and THEN discovered the music. I remember walking into a music store when I was 11 years old and seeing a Les Paul on the wall – sunburst. I had to have it. I didn’t know why I wanted THAT one in particular, I didn’t know anything about guitars or how to play them at the time: Strats, Teles, Pauls … six strings, they were all the same to me. Once I saw that Les Paul, that was it. I picked it up, and I still haven’t put it down.
How would you describe your playing style? Are you a perfectionist or more into going with the flow?
It’s not perfect at all. At times I wish it was. However, through imperfections, that’s when something special happens. On our latest single, “Keep Walkin’,” I made a clam laying down the outro solo. We kept it; it’s now my favorite part of the song. I like to play hard and sloppy and with attitude – and put emphasis on melody in my parts. Whether you’re playing a power chord or shredding, as long as it’s from the heart, fuck all else ….
What's your setup like, gearwise?
Simple is best for me! Les Paul – Keeley Clean Boost – Diamond Memory Lane – 65 Amps London Pro 1x12 Combo. I alternate between my JAM Pedals: the Fuzz Phrase and the Rattler when I want a more chaotic tone. I keep a Fender Esquire on hand as my backup. Love me some Sp’raaangsteeen vibe!
We know how you came across that Les Paul. What made you choose the other gear?
I think it’s really important to put a lot of care and thought into what you play; your gear is quite literally “your sound.” My friends call me a “tone snob.” I have no idea what they’re talking about. Guys? 65 Amps: an exclamation point forms above my head when I try to articulate the sound to people. And that is why I use 65. Gear that gets you stoked and inspired and speechless, go with it! When you think you sound good, you deliver better.
How many times have you had bad sound on stage and think, “That was the worst show ever …” Don’t let that happen! Control what you can control, take the time to pick the right gear for you. Even if the sound isn’t great in a venue, my amp never changes. I can play through those moments confident, nail it and feel energized – all thanks to Dan Boul/65, and this little punchy combo. I love you, London Pro. I’m going to go hug it right now.
What's the one piece of gear you couldn't live without?
I’m obsessed with my Diamond Memory Lane Delay. It sounds bitchin’! If my house was burning down, I would definitely grab it ... and my London Pro … and my Les Paul … and then shuffle my dog out the door with my feet … oops, that’s four things: pass, next question!
Have you encountered any challenges being a woman guitarist?
When we were supporting for Kiss, a friend of mine was in the audience for the first show. After the first song he overheard someone say, “That’s a chick!?? Playing that guitar!??” People always assume that Dan is the lead guitarist in our band, because he’s a man. And that I’m playing power chords, because I am a woman. Come to the show, see for yourselves, people, I dare you!
That Bon Jovi gig must have been a bit surreal. I hear you’re a big fan. Did it live up to your expectations?
Bon Jovi was in February, and it definitely lived up to our expectations and was a blast. Richie Sambora is actually my No. 1 utmost favorite guitarist, so that was quite the thrill for me.
When someone sees you and The Dead Idols live, what do you want them to walk away thinking?
At the end of the day, I just want everyone to have FUN. We work hard on stage, and we can’t hide the fact that we love what we do – what up with this “no smiling in rock" epidemic … Les Paul … 65 … fists in the air ... rock ‘n' roll ... I’m grinning ear to ear. I hope you are too.
What's coming up for you?
We’re working on a new record and will be doing festival dates around Canada this summer. Keep an eye out on our website!
If you want to see Frankie and the boys in action, check out this clip:
At the time of posting, you can download Frankie’s latest single, “Keep Walkin,’” for free on their site. Punky, gritty, rock ‘n’ roll fun. Oh no, now it’s stuck in my head … keep walkin’, keep walkin’ …
Laura B. Whitmore is a singer/songwriter based in the San Francisco bay area. A veteran music industry marketer, she has spent over two decades doing marketing, PR and artist relations for several guitar-related brands including Marshall and VOX. Her company, Mad Sun Marketing, represents 65amps, Acoustic Bass Amps, Agile Partners, Guitar World Magazine, and many more. Laura was instrumental in the launch of the Guitar World Lick of the Day app. She is the lead singer for the rock band, Summer Music Project. More at mad-sun.com.