Fresh off his time on ALT Homegrown Spotlight, CloudMaker is putting the finishing touches on his fourth album.
CloudMaker, Eric Frank’s musical project, will release Primal Unity on Aug. 4 on Chain Smoking Records. It will be his fourth record, and Frank says it’s a step closer to his ultimate vision.
“After my last project kind of wrapped up, I had been doing drums and keyboard for that, so I kind of launched into CloudMaker (in 2019),” he said. “Some of that was discovery. It was just me, and I was collecting vintage synthesizers. So, I would be carrying like eight synthesizers to a gig. It was pain, but it was fun.
“In learning that, a lot of the synths I was using for mixing had certain characteristics and sounds that lent themselves to more of synthway-type of genre. But what I had in mind was something more heavy and industrial. It’s only after experimenting for so long that I finally made all these machines sound super gross and disgusting and distorted and getting what I want out of them and writing the songs that I want to. So, this is more of fulfillment of what I’ve been trying to do. I’ve just been discovering how to get there.”
w/Boy Jr., Trauma cat
9:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 11
The Brass Rail (+21)
1121 Broadway, Fort Wayne
$7 · (260) 267-5303
You can hear some of those new tracks when he performs at The Brass Rail on Friday, Aug. 11, with Boy Jr. and Trauma Cat.
Help from friends
CloudMaker is Frank’s project, but he does receive help from guitarist Zach Smith of Swell Time and March On, Comrade. According to Frank, the idea to bring in Smith was two-fold.
“One, I didn’t want to be alone on stage,” he said. “Two, I felt it could use a little bit more of something. Zach came in for the third recording after I had written the songs, and (he) kind of layered them on top. On this last one, it became more of a full-length instead of a fourth EP, so he was more part of the process, and I wrote a little bit more with him in mind. That adds a little bit more of the heaviness and turn in direction that we’re going for on this album.”
When it came to finishing the album, Frank turned to another friend, shipping it next door to his neighbor C. Ray Harvey.
“He’s more into the mixing than I am,” he said.
What they had when it was said and done is eight tracks of music Frank feels will get the crowd moving.
“I try to keep them all upbeat,” he said. “There’s a couple slower ones, but I just wanted something more straight-forward, keep all the tracks around three minutes, make them fast and more hard-hitting. Just make something more engaging for the audience when I’m playing live.”
And when it came to cover art, he turned to another friend in photographer Bambi Guthrie … as well as some mud, which he is shown covered in.
“She just kind of indulged me and my idea to be covered in mud and have some photos taken of me,” he said of the photo shoot with Guthrie. “It was a very uncomfortable and cold process, because we did it in the middle of winter in my garage.”
Starting from scratch
The road to Primal Unity began with a lot of experimentation for the drummer drawn to synthesizers.
“One of my motivations to start CloudMaker was to see what I could do by myself without using a computer,” Frank said. “So, everything I do, it’s just old MIDI technology. Everything is talking to each other. All the sequences are working in conjunction. Even my light show has a basic MIDI interface, so I have to program every single one of those lights. When the light dims or it gets bright or flashes, every step of that is programmed manually into my sequencer.
“I’m not necessarily a performer,” he said. “It was a challenge to get out from behind the drum set and put myself out there in front of the stage. It was very frightening for me, which is why I kind of pushed myself to do it because it was super uncomfortable. Part of having the lights in the show is that I’m not going to be up there dancing or I’m not the best person to work the crowd.”
Starting out with vintage equipment, Frank upgraded after finding those synths a bit “temperamental.” Regardless of the equipment he’s using, what it can create keeps him coming back.
“At the end of the day, there’s just something beautiful that goes into the engineering of these different synthesizers,” he said. “Each one has their own characteristic. They’re just awesome machines.”
Avoiding computers has also led to Frank wiping the slate clean following each album. Yep, once he’s finished an album, he clears the slate.
“I’ll write a batch of songs and play them,” he said. “Then, by the time I’ve released the album, I pretty much hate them. I delete them and start from scratch. So, anytime I start a new album, I’ll go home, delete everything and start new. So, I can’t play any of my old songs because they’re gone. I’ve wiped them from my hardware. It’s not like a computer where you have a backup.”
Master of his domain
Frank admittedly is not your prototypical frontman. In fact, performing as CloudMaker mostly came about as a way for him to showcase what he had been creating.
“I like messing with equipment and writing,” he said. “Performing is more of a by-product of, ‘OK, I’ve written this stuff. If I want anyone to listen to it, this is part of it.’ But it’s not necessarily my favorite part of the process.”
His favorite part is creation, which he is in total control of.
“I would love to have a full band, but I also don’t want to relinquish control,” Frank said. “Whatever this is, however big or small this thing I’m doing is, it’s mine and I’ve worked hard to make that. Relinquishing that control and letting someone add to it is interesting. I’ve kind of had to overcome that in myself.”