The “Eye of the Tiger” trilogy continues as Frankie Sullivan, from the band Survivor, enters the Anderson complex. He had come for the Arctic Blue Burst, Drop Top Classic. As we discovered last week, he had ordered it after an awe-inspiring experience with his Tiger Eye, Hollow Cobra.
He and his engineer Phil greeted all of us warmly and were escorted into the Anderson Artist Lounge. A case was brought in and laid before Frankie. The latches clicked open and the case lid was lifted. Loud gasps and audible exclamations rang out. Phil was impressed and Frankie was seriously happy. He picked it up and strummed, followed by a few choice riffs. Unparalleled resonance was undeniable and Frankie could not help but praise its obvious tonal attributes.
Following the acceptance of this Arctic Blue Bursted, Maple necked masterpiece, Frankie asked us to treat him to peeks inside a few of the mysterious black cases that surrounded them. All was going well until we popped the latches on a Cajun Red, Hollow Cobra—outfitted with twin M1s in the neck and middle positions and a powerful H3 full-sized humbucker bringing up the rear.
Frankie fell faint and Phil had to catch him. Recovering, he cradled the Hollow Cobra and held it close. He strummed it once—and then again. He was visibly moved and knew he must have it—there was no question of that…but there was a problem.
This majestic Cajun Red, Hollow Cobra had been ordered by Perry at Express Music near Tampa, Florida. He had been waiting 6 months to have this one in his store. It was not available—sorry. But there is something rather persuasive about a genuflecting Rock Star as he wipes a tear and clasps his hands together. We called Perry. Eloquently, we explained the situation and Perry listened sympathetically. Frankie then spoke with Perry, explaining how important this Hollow Cobra could be for him. Perry was reluctant. Frankie knew the situation was a desperate one and pulled out all the stops. He offered Perry a free cup of Starbucks coffee and a chance to sit in with the band when they come through town. Perry, being very magnanimous by nature, agreed and the deal was done. Everyone was happy!
What follows is an Anderson interview with Frankie concerning everything musical. Enjoy!
TAGW: Survivor is a band that ruled the airwaves in the ‘80’s and beyond. Does it feel good to be back? Not that you ever really went away—but back in everybody’s head, everyday?
Frankie: Sure does! We’ve been hitting it pretty hard the past couple of years and it is now beginning to pay off. Hearing the tunes on the radio and seeing the fans showing up at shows is the biggest treat. I am so glad we all decided to go at it again.
TAGW: How and when were you approached by Starbucks to use, not only your song, but also the band in the commercial?
Frankie: Starbucks sent a request to use “Tiger” as a part of an advertising campaign back in January of this year. I was very interested right off the bat but had no ideas that Starbucks would end up featuring the band in such a dominate way.
TAGW: The word is that you guys are working on a new album. What is the line up of the band and what can we expect from this project?
Frankie: Survivor is Marc Droubay on drums, Jim Jamsison lead vocals, Randy Riley bass, Chris Grove keys, and yours truly on guitar.
We began writing and recording just before the holidays and then really hit it hard about February, right after we shot the Starbucks commercial. I’ve been at it ever since. To this point we have nearly all of the songs for the record done and 4 songs are completed through mix.
Survivor is not a band that relies on gimmicks—never has. We have always been very song-based. And now we’ve added even more fire to what we write and how we play. There is a passion with this project like never before. This new CD definitely has its share of very edgy rock tunes but still features the signature Survivor sound and style. One thing I avoided was any attempt to record a “hip” version of what one may think is cool. We are known for our songs so we tried to write the best songs possible to record. The biggest difference in the band now is a newly found freedom in our playing. It feels as if there are no boundaries and I believe you’ll be able to hear that passion and freedom in our playing.
TAGW: Frankie, you have been an Anderson Guitar Player for easily over 10 years. You caught on to this whole Anderson thing very early. Were you a precocious child growing up?
Frankie: I think, in many ways, I was. I am also very picky about my gear, guitars and clothing being numbers one and two. When I began retiring my vintage guitars to the vault, I went on a search for something I can play now that both feels and sounds like what I am used to playing. It is not easy to grab a guitar and have it sound like a 58 Strat or 59 Les Paul!
TAGW: How did you first get turned onto Anderson?
Frankie: I had a guitar tech named Derek at one time and he turned me on to the whole Tom Anderson experience when he began working with me. He was friends with Joe Ness, who was part of Anderson Guitarworks back in 1988. So we met up and it went forward from there.
TAGW: As we understand it, when you called to order your recently acquired Tiger Eye, Hollow Cobra, with two P-Series pickups, Starbucks had not yet contacted you. And yet you chose Tiger Eye as the finish. Was that just a coincidence or do you just live right—or did you have some sort of premonition that things were aligning again?
Frankie: I feel it to be some of all that you asked above. I try to live right and be authentic to myself more than anything. I had seen a growing interest on the usage of “Tiger” in the corporate world and always felt there was a product out there that would be a great match with the tune. I have pretty good gut instincts and do not like to allow any weeds to grow under my feet. Perhaps because I am constantly on the move, I have a bit of a vibe about things before they happen. Also, I really think that believing in yourself and in the truth carry great value. It is not easy in this business but I try to look at life in the bigger picture. I think that living in the moment is the right place for me.
TAGW: Could you explain a bit about how you like to layer the guitars in the studio to get a big guitar-based sound?
Frankie: First off, I am not a fan of doubling every guitar part to death until there is no vibe left in it. I think when you go that route the performance is lost and buried due to the additional tracks. When I get the feeling I want to double a part to enhance it, I generally will do so by changing guitars, using a different amp, and many times I’ll either slow down or speed up the track just a touch. That keeps the original personality of the track intact and still adds another interesting performance. If I do choose to layer, I sometimes like to play the part I am doubling differently onto a new track. I find that the inconsistencies between tracks gets the vibe I am after. I may use as many as 16 or 19 tracks of guitars but they are, generally speaking, very different sounding and played with several different tunings. Also, I sometimes may double an electric guitar track with an acoustic guitar. That is a very interesting sound to my ears.
TAGW: Will you be touring after the new album?
Frankie: Yes we plan to. At the moment we are out doing all of the summer concert series that many Classic Rock bands do every year. But we don’t do anything by the numbers. There are bands that just go out and do the same show and the same songs year after year. I am certainly not knocking them but that doesn’t get it for me. I’ve got to have the feeling that I am running up Everest and that there is always something bigger. The new record gives me a lot of satisfaction in that area. It is about growth still within the bounds of Survivor’s personality.
TAGW: What is your live setup?
Frankie: I have had every setup one can imagine! But I have been using my current one for about 5 or 6 years now. My amps and gear are all done by Custom Audio Electronics. My friend there, Bob Bradshaw, began making amps about 6 years ago—but very few were actually made. I bought two of them. They are called the OD1. I love them and have never looked back!
Bob knows I am somewhat of a purist and not into the barrage of effects—it takes away from the organic nature. So, one day he and I were discussing building me a new rig and Bob came up with the most brilliant idea ever. He made me a system where I plug directly into the amp, straight from the guitar. This avoids having anything in the chain on the front end. The extra speaker-out jack in the back of the OD1 feeds an additional amp—a VHT. The VHT powers the two or three effects I use and then out to two 2x12 cabs. All that comes out of those cabinets are the effects, so they are 100% wet.
The most important part of this setup is the totally dry, organic guitar sounds that come from the OD1 located center stage. This way I get the absolute best of both worlds for me. And the mixer also has more control over how much of the effect cabs he wants to add to the live mix. It is a very interesting setup and works great for me. I love the idea, design, and most of all the sound I am able to get out of this setup. I have three or four other rigs made by Bob as well but haven’t used them in a few years. His heads, if you can get one, smoke!
TAGW: What current Andersons do you have and what are we building for you now?
Frankie: I have about 8 or 10 original Anderson Guitars—before the headstock change. I also have a couple of “Tele-style” guitars that Tom made for me in ‘89 and ’90 that I doubt he even remembers. Of those, my fav is a blue see-through Swamp Ash, Maple neck that just sounds great to this day. I have never so much as opened it up, much less changed even the pickups. Also, there is a “Tele-style” guitar he made for me in ‘90 that I still like to use in the studio. It’s a very thick sounding guitar.
Of course I’ve got the Tiger Eye, Hollow Cobra that came with the P-90-type pickups in it. It sounded amazing! While I was recording, I wanted to try out Tom’s latest mini-humbuckers, so I called Roy and Bruce at Anderson Guitarworks did the swap for me.
Once I plugged-in that Hollow Cobra with those new M-Series pickups, I thought my engineer was going to fall out of his chair! It is a “Huge” sound and yet very harmonic and organic. It doesn’t have that overdriven, scratchy sound I cannot stand. The pickups are every bit as powerful as any pickup out there but they have a purer and truer tone to them.
There are also two more new Anderson I recently got that are equally great. I have an Arctic Blue Burst, Drop Top Classic with a humbucker in the bridge and two single coils. And then I have what I call, “THE GUITAR!” It is a Cajun Red, Hollow Cobra setup with a humbucker in the bridge and two M1, M-Series pickups in the neck and middle. I can get about 11 different tones out of that guitar from “Telecaster” to “Les Paul!” Also, I am able to switch the pickups to, I think, about 10 different settings. I can split the bridge pickup with every combination, or not, as I wish. There is one setting I really like that I cannot get on a “Strat.” I split the bridge humbucking and combined it with the front mini. So you have a single coil sound from the bridge as well as a single coil sound from the neck. It is very warm and organic—very vintage “Strat” sound—or as I simply call it, “The Anderson Guitar Sound.” I gotta say, as good as the older Anderson guitars are, the new ones are even better!
The Anderson People are nice folks who build what I believe to be one of the top two guitars out there worth buying. I really don’t play much of anything else these days other than my Anderson Guitars. They simply do it all without having to be concerned about playing guitars worth 45K live anymore. Why bother bringing out the old “Les Pauls” and “Strats” and “Teles?” I can get all those sounds, and more, out of Tom’s Guitars.
TAGW: Who is you favorite cartoon character?
Frankie: Rick Nielsen!
• MODEL: – Hollow Cobra
• FINISH: – Cajun Red with Binding
• BODY WOOD: – Quilted Maple Top with Mahogany Back
• BODY WOOD BACK COLOR: – same
• NECK WOOD: – Mahogany with African Rosewood Fingerboard
• HEADSTOCK COLOR: – Matching
• NECK BACK FINISH: – Satin
• NECK BACKSHAPE: – T/A Standard for Cobra
• NUT WIDTH: – 1 11/16-inch
• SCALE LENGTH: – 24 3/4-inch
• FRETS: – Heavy—Exclusive Anderson Stainless Steel
• BRIDGE: – Vintage Tremolo
• TUNING GEAR: – Locking Tuners
• HARDWARE COLOR: – Chrome
• PICKGUARD: – N/A
• NECK PICKUP: – M1
• MIDDLE PICKUP: – M1
• BRIDGE PICKUP: – H3
• SWITCHING: – 5-Way with Add Bridge Push/Pull and Bridge Splitter
• PICKUP COVERS: – N/A
• PICKUP RINGS: – N/A
• STRING GAUGE REQUESTED: – .009-.042 Elixir Nanoweb
• DESTINATION/LOCATION: – Artist