Lanterna’s Henry Frayne Continues to Find Inspiration After 30 Years with ‘Hidden Drives’ (FEATURE)

Atmospheric instrumental band Lanterna released their seventh studio album, Hidden Drives, on June 4th (via Badman Recording Co.) – but as frontman/guitarist Henry Frayne explains, these new tracks actually emerged from material that he first wrote several years ago.

“I have a notebook of chord charts and song ideas, so in 2016 I sat down with twenty or thirty of these ideas,” Frayne says, calling from his Champaign, Illinois home. “The songs on this new album are the ones that maybe have been in the running for the last couple of records and they’re the ones, ‘That one just is not working out yet. I’ll work on that later.’ So the process was just finally moving these ten songs to a point of completion.

“In some ways, they’re the best songs, or they feel the best, because I finally was able to sit down and decide what they needed extra,” Frayne continues. “The title track, ‘Hidden Drives,’ was just a couple of chords on a synthesizer. I’d had this cassette tape [of it that] I played many years ago: ‘That sounds so great – I’ve got to do something with that someday.’ It’s finally came together with this record.”

As with previous Lanterna albums, Hidden Drives is predominantly guitar-based, though this time there is a noticeable shift to using more synthesizers. Even so, Frayne says that the band remain firmly rooted in rock. “It’s definitely not New Age because I’ve always wanted to have the drums in there,” he says. “It’s not completely synthesizers and atmospheric ambience and such.” He says this has always been his approach with Lanterna: “From the beginning, I did want it to have a big guitar [sound].”

Frayne previously achieved cult artist status while playing with Champaign-based bands ¡Ack-Ack!, Area, and The Moon Seven Times. In 1991, he founded Lanterna as a side project while he was still in The Moon Seven Times. When that band dissolved, he focused all of his energy on Lanterna, and has done so ever since. Since the band released their self-titled debut album in 1992, they’ve received significant critical praise and a devout fanbase.

With a laugh, Frayne admits that his fans may be surprised to hear what sparked his interest in becoming a professional musician. “It may sound like a joke but it was a Foreigner concert here in Champaign in 1978!” he says. “The next day, I got out the phone book and looked up the guitar store in town.”

Frayne took guitar lessons (“But if I was really rock and roll, I would have taught myself guitar,” he says, amused). His first teacher was more into jazz music than the rock songs that 13-year-old Frayne was asking to learn. Though he says that disconnect was frustrating at the time, Frayne has come to appreciate that instructor’s influence on him: “I’ve been drawn to the sound of some of the things that I learned in those early lessons, [such as] some of the chords that he taught me.”

In a preview of what was to come with Lanterna, the first song Frayne ever wrote was an instrumental. He says he still feels no urge to write words. “I do not have any lyric abilities – I cannot write song lyrics in any way,” he says, “so an instrumental band was going to be the perfect thing for me because you create a song and people can take from it what they will. Song titles are hard enough for me, but they do give an interesting starting point for people.”

Though Lanterna has been around for exactly thirty years now, Frayne says he has no trouble continuing to feel inspired. “I’m still pretty excited about creating these sounds and working on these songs,” he says. “I’ve been happy with keeping this project going because I think there is more to say. I always do feel like there is more music to put together, and I would like to get all of these sketches and song ideas out there someday.”

Photo by Theo Merritt

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2 Responses

  1. It’s always so nice to get little tidbits of history about Henry Frayne and Lanterna. I’ve been a big fan and follower now for fifteen years or so. I love the thought of a Foreigner concert being the inspiration for Henry’s life as a musician.

    I think, perhaps, we are all blessed that those first guitar lessons were jazz oriented. One of the wonderful things about Lanterna is how the compositions and the production transcend every kind of music. That’s the mark of true genius, of course. And also a reason to keep buying Henry’s latest…

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