Dylan Frost is the lead singer of global dominator Sticky Fingers. And he recorded his first solo EP in Papamoa. We meet the artist, the manager and the producer for an exclusive session in the studio.
WORDS JENNY RUDD / PHOTOS SALINA GALVAN
The Sticky Fingers frontman along with his band have had sold-out world tours and racked up a gazillion YouTube views. These days, the Australian musician is often found in Tauranga as its the home of his management team.
As soon as I met Pato [Alvarez], we connected on a deep level. He invited me to come and stay with his family after a Sticky Fingers tour. My confidence was gone. I was a shell. I needed to sober up. His intentions were sterling. He put a plan in place to start fixing things. We wrote it all down on paper. I went training with Kelvin ‘Crazy Horse’ Joseph, to get my physical self back. And Pato reminded me that I was a singer, so we made a plan to do a solo project so I could enjoy singing and music again.
I have had to learn from a lot of mistakes in the last couple of years. I need to be careful about what I do publicly, especially as I have some young fans. My emotions can be like the dead of the night. Tiki [Taane] and Pato got me to slowly look at my demons, they made me feel comfortable with it. I had to dig really deep. Our code is loyalty and respect.
I could see and hear in my head the kind of music I wanted to make before we got in the studio.
But then I wrote masses with Tiki and [fellow musician] Laughton Kora, who took time out of his schedule to join us in the studio. They helped me discover and go deeper than I had before. Every day I was in the studio. I wouldn’t even realise how much I was learning until I reflected back. They planted seeds. Their knowledge was immense. Tiki has always had a huge influence on me musically. I’ve been listening to his stuff since I was young.
After I finished recording the EP, we found out Sticky Fingers was booked for a European tour. We are so much stronger and better than we’ve ever been. Working solo has made me a better band member. Like anything, you have to work and work and work and work. You might work for five years and still not get anywhere. In Sticky Fingers, we had no money for ten years and we just stuck at it.
My debut as a solo artist will be at Soundsplash in January 2020. We booked it before the EP was recorded – we had no music! We worked backwards. You usually record music then book shows!
Tiki’s a demi-god, Pato’s a life force and Laughton’s a divine being. If I think about everything too much, I get vertigo and go dizzy. So Pato’s been teaching me to do one thing at a time. He’s a sense-whispering ninja. He’s brought out the best in me.
This multidisciplinary talent has toured the world as a teen with Salmonella Dub, produced music for almost every big name in New Zealand, is a respected sound technician, writes global smash hits, and even managed to choreograph a wedding proposal in his music video.
Dylan operates on another frequency. The only way I can describe him is multidimensional. He’s the real rock ‘n’ roll deal. Music is the vehicle for his raw and pure expression. This EP is the closest you’ll get to being inside Dylan’s head.
He’s very expressive and creative because he’s got a lot to draw on from his life experiences. When he performs, you can really feel it. He carries it all with him and expels it on stage. He’s explosive. Because he has studio experience too, he knew how to amplify the characteristics of a live performance in the studio to give it that same emotive feel.
As soon as the vibe hits in the studio, I have to be ready. And, with Dylan, you only have a window. He’s so fast and his attention will drift, then he’s outta here and you won’t see him again. He likes having friends drop over and join in, so I have to be part of the party and be sociable but also stay focused so I can get him to record that vocal or jump-play that riff again. Then I mix it fast, and we’re onto the next thing.
My job as a producer is to capture ideas, arrange them into something that does it justice, and makes sense to the listener and stays true to the artist’s vision. Dylan had millions of ideas: voice, rap, melody, harmony, guitar, beats, everything. It’s like trying to put your arms in the sky, get hold of the stars and order them into something. Where do you start?
You’d never know this studio was here. From the outside, it just looks like a family home in Papamoa. I moved here nine years ago from Woodhill where I had a huge studio in the forest. When I first started out, I just produced everything from my spare room. I did Six60, Shapeshifter, Rob Ruha, Ria Hall and all my own stuff too. It was tiny!
Dylan and Pato left the studio after some intense sessions and I spent three weeks on my own making sense of all the files of sounds. I’d start in one corner, clean it up, start somewhere else, do the same, then go back all the way through it. It was a huge job. But it was also a highlight of my career. To work with someone so talented doesn’t happen every day.
The man who made Tauranga the centre of New Zealand’s live music scene (Bay Dreams, One Love, A Summer’s Day Disco) is now the boss at Pato Music Group (PMG).
I wasn’t really looking to become Dylan’s manager; we’d become really close friends as I’d been touring Sticky Fingers around Australia and New Zealand for a few years. He’s now signed to my management group, PMG. I have other artists too, but Dylan was the first.
Dylan has demons. I’ve been in a hole before and got out of it with the help of my wife, Monique, and friends, including Tiki. I could see Dylan was lost last year and wanted to help him, so he could feel like I do now. So much better. He has all the talent he needs to be the best. He just needs support.
What Dylan has achieved with the Sticky boys is extraordinary. They’ve just started their Australian tour and are playing sold-out venues to 17,000 people.
Tiki Taane is one of the best musicians and producers in the country. He helped me when I started out as a promoter, mentoring me and agreeing to play for me just to support what I was doing. It’s like a generation thing! Tiki taught me all those years ago, and now I am teaching Dylan the same things and giving the same sound advice I received. And Tiki’s still there with us.
This EP happened so fast. Dylan was staying with my family and chilling. I called Tiki and asked if he wanted to jam with Dylan. I wanted Dylan to get writing because that’s how he works through what’s going on in his head. They’d met a few times on the scene. The next day we went round to Tiki’s to hang out. We hooked up a guitar and suddenly the boys were making music. By the end of the day, we’d recorded the first hit.
It’s a beautiful thing to talk about ideas then actually do them. This is the first EP I am recording under my new label, with my first artist. I can’t wait to see how far Dylan’s going to go. He’s one of my favourite artists in the world, right now. And I work with hundreds through my events, Bay Dreams, One Love, Soundsplash, and the other shows we tour. To manage Dylan is so exciting.
We are already getting offers for Dylan to tour Europe, South America, Asia and Bali. We’ll do a world tour with this music that we have all created together. I’m so proud of Dylan.