video: a first look at frankie wade’s vision of utopia
The debut track from Deptford-based wordsmith looks towards the future’s perfect past.
Frankie Wade was born in Milton Keynes but currently abides in the creative den of Deptford, where the 27-year-old scratches out a living as an actor, model and musician. Basing his life around creative contentment rather focusing on financial gain, the newcomer explains his ideology best in his new track, Utopia, a beautifully shot look at a life better lived. For his very first release, we find out 10 things about Frankie and his forward-thinking, future-focused new video, Utopia.
1. Today, Frankie drops the video for Utopia, his debut release, via i-D.
Utopia is Wade's "hello to the world", and is produced by Maschine Man Tim and Rvph. "The idea of Utopia came from myself and my best mate [Wonderland's Fashion Editor] Sam Carder," says Frankie. "He lives across the road so we always chill and have crazy deep chats about the world, society, the meaning of life - you know, just the usual (laughs). It seemed that every time we put the TV on or saw a newspaper, something 'bad' was happening; more cuts, people losing their jobs, youth centres shutting down, public funding cut etc., etc. Being a young teen/adult growing up is tough. There's a lot of pressure on what to do, deciding the right thing to do - go to university, come out in loads of debt, get a job to pay off your debt. When I was deciding to go to university, not once did anyone say to me 'What do you enjoy?' or 'Go and study something that you're passionate about.' It was more like 'Study this, it will get you the most money.' I used to sit and look through graduate job prospectus' to see what companies paid the most money, and therefore what degree I needed. I was literally solely focused on money and at the age of 16/17 that is all that was around me, so I knew no better. I see now that that is so fucking wrong. And on a wider scale, obsession with money and riches is what's wrong with the world. So Utopia is a world where money isn't the focus. Listening to your soul and following your passion is the key. [Spiritual guru] Osho says, 'Creativity is the biggest rebellion to society.' I've read a lot of his work, he definitely influenced my writing. There's so much out there telling the youth that money is king - I wanted to send a message that your passion is also important, so wake up and dare to use it."
2. His favourite line in Utopia is... 'You ain't gotta be Picasso to make a work of art, satisfy your being it's the only thing they can't put behind bars.'
"I hope people don't get it twisted and think I'm saying by following your passion I'm being unrealistic and encouraging everyone to quit their jobs and become an artist! I'm saying, if you love to paint, then paint, even if it's just for yourself. Let your soul speak, it's the feeling of bliss you get from creating. No one can take that away from you. No government can put a fine on it or restrict it from you, because that creativity is innate, it's inside all of us. I honestly feel if you follow that 'thing' that gives you that feeling, then the universe just helps you out. Five years ago I was washing cars on a Business Management trainee scheme and to get by I also delivered Indian takeaways in the evenings in my little Clio. Never in a million years did I think I'd be making music and having my first video premiered on i-D!"
3. He created the video with director Savannah Setten and creative Sam Carder.
"We wanted to create a visual that created a new world for the viewer, a moment of visual escapism. A world of Utopians elevating and overcoming limitation in society and finding their own Utopia in a Dystopian World. When I first approached Savannah about directing the visual and sent her the track, I could feel her passion for it; she spent a lot of time writing the ideas and the concepts you see in the visual. Her focus was creating moments of narrative in a world that felt saturated with that same feeling of passion and raw emotion the track gave her on first listen. Savannah wanted to give a surreal 'dream pursuing' sensation, something that was thought provoking and left the viewer battling with their own questions after watching it - and that's exactly what she has done. She took the message of the track and completely ran with it, she's so talented and she took Utopia to a whole new level - I owe her a lot!"
4. As for the rest of the cast and crew, everyone worked for free.
"The best thing about Utopia is that we shot it with no budget. None of the crew or the cast was paid. Everyone that was a part of Utopia took part because they listened to the track, resonated and connected to what I was saying so much that they just wanted to be a part of the project. That is the most beautiful thing about it. By writing Utopia, I created a Utopia. Money was not the main focus, creative passion was. And we had some big boy people working on it - Aaron Reid director of photography shot J Cole's video a few months before. David Silver, editor; Savannah, director. We had models, a boxer... all of who took their own time and time off work - everyone was passionate about being a part of something that is actually saying something. The quality of the piece is proof that when something is done with love rather than financial purpose, it's unquestionably better."
5. The death of his grandpa was Frankie's inspiration to pick up the pen.
"I wrote my first poem at the age of 15 when my Gramps died. My cousin Louise wrote a beautiful poem and read it out at his funeral. I never had a desire to write before, but I guess she inspired me to write. It eased the way I was feeling after losing Gramps, and it was as though I was speaking to him."
6. But it was a crappy job that really gave him the impetus to create.
"I didn't write again until I was in my placement year at University. I was studying Business Management at Nottingham Trent, and part of my course required me to get a management trainee job. I ended up working for Enterprise Rent A Car; cleaning cars, working crazy hours and being paid next to nothing. I had to stick it out as it was part of my course. But that's what made me write again. I was really frustrated and unhappy and thought 'surely this isn't life'. Writing helped ease the way I was feeling. So I guess in difficult times I learned that writing was my release."
7. The actor-rhymer-model might be described as a bit of a polymath.
"Writing is my number one though," says Wade, who recently made a Shakespeare short for the Guardian, and is signed to Select, of his triumvirate of talents. "I write every single day, even if it's just a sentence or a couple of lines. If I don't write, I feel congested. I feel grounded when I write, it's like coming home, back to myself - without sounding too wanky, but it's like my therapy. Acting is another passion, and one that I take seriously. Me and the team [Sam Carder and Damian Collins] have some crazy ideas to really intertwine my music and acting together, which I can't wait to start working on. Modelling is something I stumbled on. I never wanted to be a model. But it's been a great platform to meet a lot of creative people. It helps pay my bills, but it doesn't feed my soul in the way writing and acting does. I feel I have a lot more to offer than my exterior."
8. Frankie cites everyone from Ken Loach to Kendrick Lemar as inspiration.
"Musically, Mike Skinner is up there. I've listened to The Streets since I was about 12. I never used to listen to any American music because it was always talking about guns and drug dealing. I'm not about that life so I couldn't relate. Whereas Mike's lyrics are more everyday, everyone can relate to them. Who else? J Cole, Kendrick Lamar, Nas and Chance are always playing on my phone. I feel they all carry so much weight, in terms of their content, the message they deliver, they're all very conscious and aware. Also Erykah Badu and Lauryn Hill - mad tings! Ken Loach, the film director is a huge hero of mine. The integrity that he has is unquestionable. His work always carries such important messages that comment on society. I feel Utopia has a bit of 'Ken Loach' about it."
9. Although the world is a bit crap right now, Utopia offers a sense of optimism in these dark days.
"Utopia is definitely hope, and the youth are fundamental - they're the ones that I hope will implement the message. It's tough nowadays - following your passion isn't easy. If it's quick money you're after then maybe following your passion isn't the right path for you. I could have got a stable, comfy, well-paid job after Uni, but I didn't. Yes I fell into modelling, but trust me I've never been ballin' (laughs). I've always supplemented my earnings by working in a shop/warehouse and still to this day I do. I get by because I don't buy anything; I spend my money on my acting classes and I live in a single bedroom in Deptford, so my rent is dirt cheap. But it means I don't have to earn a wedge, which means I don't have to work 40/50 hours a week. Which means I have time to work on things that make me feel alive."
10. Frankie's version of Utopia is a universal one.
"Let's take it back and keep it simple; less technology and more nature. No empty homes and homeless people. No wars. More love. I hope that Utopia shows that I am actually an artist and an artist with things to say. Going forward musically, things will sound a little different to Utopia; I think it's important to maintain the element of meaning in all my work, but at the same time it's still got to bang. I've got a great team and we've got crazy ideas. We just wanna break barriers, create and spread love."
Text Hattie Collins