ldfw3 brand ambassador: gold frankBack
The Made in Leeds and The City Talking designs our Brand Ambassador Gold Frank has produced for LDFW3 show off the tattoo artists two trademarks: detailed, black and grey fine-lines, and highly stylised West Coast lettering.
Gold Frank studied graphic design at university, with a concentration on lettering and typography, but avoided going into the industry – “Sitting behind a desk pushing a mouse around all day, it’s not really my style.” But from an early age graphic design had been taking over Frank’s skin, in the form of Latin-American, Chicano-style tattoos. “It was virtually impossible to find that style in the UK,” said Frank. “I was going to America and Europe to get the exact style. These black and grey tattoos originate from the prisons, where all they would have is a motor from a tape player, with a pin or a needle on the end, and black ink from a pen. They didn’t have thick needle groupings, so you get that fine line.”
Tattooing wasn’t Frank’s first mode of expression, though. A youth spent skateboarding became an adulthood in business, establishing the clothing store Chimp in Leeds, winning multiple awards before selling it on after twelve successful years, when he felt he could take it no further.
“I started doing visual merchandising, working for other companies, like Miss Sixty and Energy, going over to America and picking from their collection for the UK. But to be honest my whole interest in fashion changed – I kind of felt like I’d done it, that there was nothing else to really aim for. I just needed a change of direction, and I needed something to make me make that change. Selling the shop was the only thing I could think of.”
Frank seems always to need something to aim for. “I knew that the kind of style that I like to get tattooed in was virtually impossible to find in the UK. I’ve searched high and low, and I was going to America to get tattooed. I kept thinking, why is there no one doing this in the UK?
“I got tattooed off a guy called Boog, who came to my house. He’s the leader in that field in the world, any tattoo studio out there has got his flash on the wall, he’s the god of this style in my eyes. He did my arm, and he was saying, ‘You should be doing this, why are you not doing this? If it hadn’t been for him telling me that, I would never have tattooed, I just never thought I would be good enough to do it. But he’d seen some of my drawings and my artwork and he gave me the push and the confidence to think, you know what, I can do this. I saw a gap in the market and hopefully I’m filling that niche.”
“I’m not the kind of guy who can just sit on my arse, so pretty much straight away I started to give myself a backside kicking,” said Frank. “I basically taught myself. A really good loyal friend of mine, Lou Malloy, he gave me my first power-pack and my first bit of advice: he said, the only way you’re gonna be able to do this is if you do it on your own, because you’re not the kind of person who can do an apprenticeship. And I would not suggest anyone in the world does that! I set myself a goal of a year to get good at it. I just had to work my arse off, eat, sleep and drink tattooing, 24 hours a day. I got rid of my girlfriend, I was just tattooing all the time, drawing all the time, reading books. I was looking at artwork and constantly absorbing myself in it. That’s the only way I could do it.”
The hard work has paid off with Frank’s studio, Brotherhood Tattoo in Central Arcade, now attracting clients from all over the country. “It’s a high end product and that’s what we try to offer. With my business partner Tony Homchan, who is the best portrait artist in England by far, I think we’re one of the first studios in England to be only offering black and grey tattoos.”
With the studio a success, Gold Frank keeps moving, exploring his other great passion, hip hop. Growing up, “Hip hop and skateboarding were my main things,” said Frank. “I just completely absorbed myself into American culture from a really young age. I discovered Ice-T and I was like, this is the shit, this is what I like. I immediately went out digging in the crates trying to find these Ice-T records, I was absolutely sold on it. NWA, the whole lot, I loved it all.”
That hip hop love became a mixtape after a surprise freestyle at Scars on 45’s rehearsal studio got serious. “Some of my friends were sat with their mouths open like, eh? Where did that come from? But I’d been secretly writing a few little lines here and there. The mixtape – Gold Bars – was done in an old school style, so it shows my hip hop background, and my roots, and that I’m not just jumping into this.”
2013’s album, Quite Frankly, put the emphasis back on Gold Frank himself. “It’s a dark sounding thing and I’ve always liked dark sounding hip hop. Hip hop’s about the struggle, you know? And it has been a struggle. I’ve gone through a lot of things in my life, and things have not 100% been easy, and if people want to know about that, it’s all in my music.” You can download both the mixtape and the album for free from GoldFrank.co.uk.
The music, like everything Frank turns to, will keep evolving. “I’ve done the mix-tape and the first album, and got them out of the way and now I can talk about the next thing when I do my next bit of music. I can move on from that now. I’ve got it off my chest.
“I’ve been speaking to a guy that produces music for clubs in Ibiza, and I’d love to do something like that kind of raw, dark, edgy kind of dance music, to kind of go on a different vibe.” You get the feeling that one of the reasons Frank loves hip hop is the freedom it gives you to experiment and push yourself. “It’s satisfying when someone appreciates it but that’s not ultimately what drives me. You can just do what you want. Absolutely do what you want.
“I’m my own biggest critic, and whether other people like it or not doesn’t really interest me. My gratification is when I listen to my music after I’ve not listened to it for a month or so and think, yeah, I’m proud of what I’ve done there.”
Such retrospection doesn’t occupy Gold Frank for long, though. “I feel like I’ve not accomplished everything. There are still things for me to do. What they are – I’ve no idea. But this is not the end. Tattooing is not the end – I don’t expect to just do this for the rest of my life. I’ll do it until I’ve had enough of it. I’m sure there will be something else, but I don’t know what it is until that time comes. But I’m happy for the time being. I’m happy for this month.”
Originally published in The City Talking Leeds: Issue 07