INTERVIEW: Frank Ferrer - Guns 'N' Roses, PSSR
Frank Ferrer is the longest serving drummers in the almighty band that is Guns N Roses, his career spans over four decades as a session drummer and artist. He has worked with everyone from Tool, Wyclef Jean and Lou Reed to Tommy Stinson, Linda Perry and P. Diddy, and he shows no signs of slowing down yet. His band ‘PSSR’ have just released their latest single ‘Last Time’ which is an energetic rock and blues number through Golden Robot Records.
We caught up with Frank to talk about all the details on PSSR, find out what the Diva commonly known as Animal Lector is up to and ask what advice Frank can give the next generation of musicians.
Elle Jay: Hey Frank, how are you doing?
Frank: I’m good thank you very much, I’m in the desert of California, you know holed up waiting for this thing to blow over. Where are you? Are you in Australia?
Elle Jay: Yeah, I’m in Perth, Australia
Frank: Oh, I love Perth, Fremantle, I love Freo!
Elle Jay: Yeah, it’s such a beautiful place
Frank: Yes, it is
Elle Jay: So, the latest single ‘Last Time’ its so upbeat and energetic, I love it. It’s the song we need right now, you can’t listen to it and not feel good about yourself, it really picks your spirits up.
Frank: Oh, that’s so nice, thank you Elle, that’s really cool, that’s great to hear.
Elle Jay: Where did the idea come from for the song? I’m guessing you recorded this back in 2019 before everything happened?
Frank: Yeah, we recorded back in 2019, maybe a little longer than that. This record has been in the can for a minute (American slang meaning a while), then Mark at Golden Robot Records heard it and wanted to put it out, so we finally got it out.
The song pretty much is about, pre Covid obviously, but in New York City you always have to remind yourself that its never as bleak as it is, just remember ‘when was the last time you had a good time’ you know, don’t forget that.
Elle Jay: OK, so I have to check is it pronounced Pisser?
Frank: Yes, its pronounced Pisser, P I S S E R. We changed it to PSSR a couple of years ago as people were like, ‘no way are Walmart going to put out a record with PISSER on’. Haha, so we changed it to PSSR but its pronounced PISSER. It’s weird but that’s the way we chose to go.
Elle Jay: Haha, it works, where did the name of the band come from?
Frank: Ah, there’s a couple of different (stories), it depends what mood you catch Eric, Eric named the band. Its basically the English term and I think you guys use the term in Australia ‘taking the piss out of someone’. Eric is constantly doing that so he’s a pisser. [Frank cracks up laughing] That’s one of the stories, there’s plenty of stories of where the name of the band came from but that’s the one I like.
Elle Jay: Its definitely a good one, who wrote ‘Last Time’?
Frank: Pretty much Eric writes most of the material, it gets filtered through the rest of the band but Eric Jacobson, the lead singer is the main songwriter
Elle Jay: Ah OK, so how do you bring it all together, especially with you all having so many commitments?
Frank: PSSR, is a band that Richard Fortus from ‘Guns N Roses’ was also involved in, it’s a band that every time we went back to New York City, we were all in the same town at the same time and we would play a PSSR show.
Just to give you a little history on ‘PSSR’, ‘PSSR’ rolls out of the ashes of this band that Eric, Richard Fortus and I were in, in the late nineties called ‘Honky Toast’ and we did a record for Sony on 550, we did the record and got dropped, you know like most bands do! So, Richard and I go off to do other things and Eric pretty much started ‘PSSR’ soon after that, he started ‘PSSR’ in the early 2000s. So he’s been writing songs for years, and we get together and write some stuff, ‘Last Time’ was written before I actually joined the band, so that would be a better question for him. This band must have like thirty songs, we could do a couple of records right away, we recorded these ten songs for the album but the band has a body of material, its been around for a minute.
Elle Jay: That’s cool, so up to now, you’ve released ‘Push’ and ‘Broken’ now I know were talking about ‘Last Time’ but I’ve got to say I love ‘Push’ it’s got that real Seventies vibe to it.
Frank: Yeah totally
Elle Jay: Where is the album up to? Is it slated for a release this year?
Frank: Yes, I believe early December, I’m not exactly 100% on the date, I believe it might be December 9th but its on for early December that the whole album is coming out. It has, you know the feeling of the record is like you’re hanging out on Avenue C in New York City on a January night so it’s kinda cold and wet and you’re making your way through the city and that’s what the record sounds like. That’s the only way to describe it, grimy New York feel.
Elle Jay: That’s really cool
Frank: Yeah there’s a lot of Punk Rock influences, Hard Rock influences, our peers you know, bands that were around when we were kicking like ‘D Generation’ and obviously the classic bands like ‘The Dolls’ and ‘The Dictators’ and ‘The Stooges’ so it has everything in there you know.
Elle Jay: I know Rob (Rob Bailey is the guitarist in PSSR) is also a producer, did he produce the album too?
Elle Jay: Ah sweet, where did you guys record the album?
Frank: We recorded in New York at a couple of different places, Rob Bailey pretty much has a whole studio and the drums were recorded out at a studio in Pennsylvania, actually at a barn. Then we took the tracks and Rob pretty much put it all together in his home studio in New York City
Elle Jay: I hate to ask this question as everything is on hold at the moment, I’m guessing you would have toured this album had things not changed?
Frank: The goal was to do this between the ‘GNR’ dates as we were also supposed to be very busy this year. The goal was to squeeze them in between tours but obviously everything is on hold right now.
Elle Jay: Are you able to play any shows in America at the moment? I’ve seen you’ve recently played with ‘Mule Kick’ in New York
Frank: ‘Mule Kick’ is basically ‘PSSR’ without Eric, even though Eric comes up and plays with us once in a while but its Rob Bailey, Brett Bass who is the bass player on the record also, myself and then we have this keyboard player Rob Clores who was playing with ‘The Black Crowes’ for a while, he plays for a lot of different artists like “Jesse Malin’. So, he plays keyboard and then Rob will sing a bunch of different songs, guest singers come up and sing songs, then Eric will come up and we will do a couple of different ‘PSSR’ songs. I mean I wouldn’t want to call it a jam band or a covers band but its just basically, the only way I can describe it is a bunch of guys that love different types of music and we get together and play it. We do it at a bar called ‘Arlene’s Grocery’ in New York City, it’s a lot of fun, a lot of tequila, a lot of margaritas, and food and music, its just a fun night. It’s fun we’ve been doing it for four years now.
Elle Jay: Man, I’m living in the wrong city, I need to get to New York to see things like this
Frank: Perth is cool man, I mean I love Australia, it’s my favourite country in the world, I love the people there, I love the food, I love the coffee, my favourite wine, I drink ‘19 Crimes’ all the time. You live in a wonderful beautiful country man.
Elle Jay: Are you guys able to jam at the moment? I’m not sure how tight your restrictions are at the moment?
Frank: I mean right now America is really bad and I’m in California, which is really really bad, so right now were pretty much trying to wait this thing out and see if everything changes by the time the record comes out. Everybody’s kinda quiet, everybody has family and that has been the most important thing, making sure everybody is safe and sound, I mean were in a bad spot, but the minute were able to get to do something we will, for sure.
Elle Jay: So, when all the restrictions lift, is there much chance of getting PSSR out here to Australia?
Frank: That’s the goal, I mean the first shows that ‘PSSR’ play outside of New York will hopefully be in Australia, so that’s the goal. I can’t wait to get back down there, I can’t wait.
Elle Jay: I was watching one of your podcast interviews and whilst you said ‘Guns N Roses’ is a dream to be playing those size stadiums, ‘PSSR’ is you actually your passion.
Frank: Yeah, ‘PSSR’ is in my heart. I mean I have the greatest gift in being in ‘Guns N Roses’, it’s a dream come true, literally a dream come true but with ‘PSSR’ I play with a few gentlemen that I grew up with, that I love very much, I love them and their families, so ‘PSSR’ is family. ‘PSSR’ is a passion to me and its in my heart. I’ll do ‘PSSR’ forever, it doesn’t matter how old I’ll be, I’ll do it forever
Elle Jay: A very random question for you, is it true that you weigh your drum sticks before you go on stage?
Frank: Haha, yeah, yeah but no I don’t, my tech does, this is the first time I’ve ever had someone do that for me but he weighs my drumsticks, I mean isn’t that incredible?
Elle Jay: Yeah it is, my husband is a drummer and I asked him and he hadn’t heard of it before. So, this is one of Imy’s things?
Frank: Yeah, so ‘Imy James’ is my drum tech, great, great guy, he’s also my friend, I consider him my friend. He used to work for ‘Aldridge’ (Tommy Aldridge) from ‘Whitesnake’ and ‘Ozzy’, and ‘Aldridge’ made him weigh the sticks, that’s when he started weighing them.
Elle Jay: That’s so cool, do you find it makes you a more proficient drummer?
Frank: Oh, for sure, we play super long shows, so you get tired and you might want to pick up a lighter stick, so its good to see ‘oh here’s a lighter stick’. I believe the gram is what they’re weighed in, so they’ll be like a 66/67 or 64/65 and he writes it on the butt of the stick, so if I look down in my stick bag I can see all the numbers so if I’m feeling a little laggy and I maybe want to use a lighter stick then I can grab like a 65, but if I’m feeling good and I want to keep pumping away I’ll grab a 67, it makes a huge difference. Ask your husband to do it, its does make a difference.
Elle Jay: Thanks, Ill ask him to give it a try. I asked him if there was any question he would ask one of the greatest drummers in the industry, and he wondered what advice you would give a drummer that is playing rudiments and paradiddles regularly but really gets stuck and hung up playing covers, he loves music but just not a covers musician.
Frank: Ok, I would say this to any musician, and I know right now is not a good time because of the Covid situation but play with as many different musicians as you possibly can, that’s the only way you can really get better. I mean you can sit at home and shred and play every lick of every ‘Rush’ record or ‘Tool’ album but if you cant develop a musical relationship, you cant get a feel for how other musicians approach their instruments, then you’re never going to get really good. I mean don’t be afraid to suck, go and play with everybody, that the way I did, the minute someone was like ‘hey you wanna come play in my band’? I’d be like, ooh that stuff is tough and I’ll be like ‘Yes’ I wouldn’t think about it twice, you know a lot of the time I wasn’t really very good but the only way is by playing with other musicians, musical relationships are the most important, that’s what music is. It’s getting together with other people and creating something together in a group, that’s important and I would tell that to any musician.
Elle Jay: That’s great advice to all the musicians out there. I wanted to ask you about a moment back in the early nineties, when you were on tour in LA, you were signed to Warner and in the middle of the tour they dropped you, you guys had to make your own way home via St Louis back to New York. Now bare in mind this is fifteen years before Guns N Roses so you had no clue that dream was to eventuate, but you’re in LA with your band, your dreams seemingly just being made then its snatched away from you, what on earth do you do to get through those dark days and moments?
Frank: That’s great that you asked this question right after I answered the last, I had a really good relationship with my other band mates, with Jonathon and Perry, we supported each other through that, I mean yeah it was difficult but we had each other. I cannot stress that enough, and like I was talking about in that last question, musical relationships, you have to find people that you play well with but most importantly people that you can spend time with, you can be in a band with somebody and not hate their guts and them not hate your guts, so that got us through.
The three of us looked at each other and were like this thing is not over, they’ve dropped us but our arms are still attached to our bodies, we can still play our instruments, lets go back home, regroup and see what happens. I mean is difficult but its really important to really like the people that you play with, it’s really important.
Elle Jay: That’s great for musicians to hear, there’s a lot spoke about when people hit their dreams but not so much about those dark days, so thank you.
Now you play some acoustic sessions with your daughter, Olivia, I know she’s a grown lady out there with her own music career. You will have a lot of fans who will have grown up watching and listening to you who now have their own kids who are venturing out into the music industry, what kind of advice would you give them as a parent who may be worried about their child going out in the scene?
Frank: That’s a more difficult question as I can only give you the perspective with Olivia, obviously you back them up, they’re going to make mistakes, you can’t protect them, a lot of the lessons especially in this industry you have to learn on your own. You’ve gotta take your lumps and make sure that when they do take their lumps you’re there for them, support them. You might not agree 100% with what they’re doing or what path they’re choosing, but they have to turn into their own people and the only way they can do that is they have to get out and walk the walk on their own. You can support them, you’ll be there for them, but this is a lesson they have to learn on their own and that’s the approach I’ve taken with my daughter, I’m not super hands on which pisses her off but at the same time she has to understand that I’m not always going to be there, there’s a lot of sharks in the water, you have to learn how to swim and a lot of the time you have to learn how to do it on your own. And that’s not advice for every parent as every child is different.
Elle Jay: Thank you for that. So how is Animal Lector doing?
[Frank cracks up laughing]
Frank: Last time I saw him he was great, he’s bummed that were not out, he was psyched, he was going to be in Europe and The States, right now Animal Lector is a little bummed.
Elle Jay: Oh no, does he go out with all your project and jams or purely Guns?
Frank: No, he’s a diva, he ain’t sitting in no club. Animal is a diva, he’s only doing big shows, staying at The Four Seasons, he’s not playing no little clubs [were now both cracked up laughing]
Elle Jay: So, one last question, what is your message to your fans, what would you like to say?
Frank: Well here in The States its pretty bad as you know, so my message right now at this very moment as I’m sitting here in the desert of California is wear a mask for yourself and for your neighbour, stay home as much as possible and the sooner and more intently that we do this the sooner you’ll see us play. That’s my message to the fans today.
Elle Jay: Well thank you so much for talking to us at The Rockpit, we can’t wait to see you back in Australia and for the ‘PSSR’ album in December
Frank: Thank you, I’ll see you soon Miss Elle, this thing will be over soon.
Interview conducted for The Rockpit, Australia on 11 August 2020