By STEVE MASCORD
THERE are rock’n’roll war stories and then there’s the saga of Killer Bee, a trans-Atlantic hard rock band ripped off before injury was added to insult.
Hot Metal recently spent more time than we should have on the phone to Brian “Bee” Frank who lived up to his name as he ran through the sort of narrative that would make a compelling, ahem, killer B-movie plot.
First there was the multi-national band being literally left by the side of the road in, somewhere in rural Germany, in1998.
“Unfortunately in this business it’s easy to get carried down the wrong path and we got tied up with some people in Switzerland who turned out to be not quite as on-board as we thought they were,” said the man whose most recent album featured the single “Get On Board”.
“… in the nineties … we were doing a lot of great shows, a lot of cool things were happening. We were getting the star treatment, it was like ‘yeah, we’re ready to go’. We were just on the tip of the ice and then we were raided at a hotel by police and stuff.
“The bus driver went home and left us with a van and our bags on the side of the road. ‘See you later, your promoter owes six million Swiss francs’. What? Wow, how can that happen?
“The hotel’s saying ‘We need our money’ and we’re, like, ‘we’re a rock band, dude. Look at how I’m dressed. Do you think I’d book myself into a Hyatt Regency hotel looking like this? Give me a break man’.”
The boys – a classic-sounding hard rock band if ever there was one – avoided jail but returned home with their proverbial tails between their proverbial legs. They could have disbanded, reformed under another name, done anything to avoid the debt that wasn’t theirs’.
“We ended up coming back to Sweden, putting our homes on mortgages and stuff and paying off a lot of people who got burned by these promoters as best we could.
“We went home in October and November and at the same time as I was getting burned by these people I got hold of a lot of the clubs who had been ripped off – no promotion, nothing around stuff they had paid for – booked a tour for January and February of the next year and went out and tried to pay back a lot of the money they had lost, doing free shows, tried to keep our face up. I think that’s what saved the band’s name, really.
“It just got frustrating so we took a break.
“There are a lot of people like that in the business. You have to be careful. You have to be really careful’.”
But wait, there’s more….
“I had an accident,” Brian says, with a slight sigh. “I fell off a roof and I had nine fractures in my ribs and three fractures in my hip so it kinda put our recording on hold. I toured with five fractures in my ribs, five broken ribs. I still have five fractures now but … it’s just the way it is. You’ve gotta live with it these days. You don’t heal as fast.
“You know, when you’re on stage you have an adrenalin flow so nothing really affects you. It’s after. It’s OK now. You learn to live with it. It’s been four years so that’s OK. It caused a bit of a stagnation in the recording process which in some ways was good.”
You can throw the tyranny of distance onto the long list of reasons Killer Bee just shouldn’t exist.
“We’re an international band. Over the years, we’ve had members from all over. In the nineties, we were mostly Canadian. My partner Anders (Rönnblom), we’ve been together for 30 years, he’s Swedish. Our keyboard player, Denny Demarchi from the Cranberries, he lives in Toronto. Shawn Duncan is in Los Angeles. We’re based all over the place.”
Frank is in Sweden by choice. Despite the ‘tank crossing’ signs in his local town (the video for “Get On Board” was shot at an abandoned military base), he says Scandinavia has a healthier attitude to music. (continued below)
“There’s a better communication between the generations, you know? When I was growing up there was a thing that we used to call the generation gap, through the sixties. Your parents grew up with the Sinatras through to the Presleys and that’s as far as you got toward rock. Then you got the Led Zeppelins and the Black Sabbaths. That was, like, a generation gap … the Doors and such. But now I find music to be a generation bridge and a lot of older people here, they encourage their kids to put on their records. “Hey, I like this.” “Yeah, I remember that”. It lets them communicate better. It’s more healthy, you know. It’s not like the secret-ism when I was a kid.”
Frank, it soon becomes apparent, is something of a deep thinker. Current album Eye In The Sky was born of, well, a conspiracy theory….
“One of the relationships I was in, the woman, she had a kid and bought him an Nintendo,” he says, explaining the title and the song “Joystick Warrior”.
“I watched how they got involved in this Nintendo stuff and as it evolved late into the nineties, different kids, and how they got so attached to this joystick they were playing with, right? In my head I had this conspiracy theory, right? It’s all been planned. They’re turning these kids into these military people. Well, now they are that. They’re sitting in bunkers in Nevada shooting down people in Afghanistan with drones.”
Big ideas for a band that lost it all and now has another shot, thanks to bringing everything in house and doing it for the right reasons
“The big music machine? It’s not really there anymore. It is for those fly-by-nighters. Those fly-by-nighters, they make tens of millions of dollars and they’re gone.
“The people that have sustainability, bands like us, they’re the ones that just want to keep going no matter what. We may not sell a million records in a week, we may not sell a million records in a year, we may not sell a million records at all.
“We just want to do what we do.”