Oct 2, 2023
Shawn Franklin redefines the music production landscape with his top-notch restorations and collaborations.
Often in music entertainment, we heavily focus on those in the foreground—the artists and musicians—but we don’t focus on the talent behind the scenes delicately tweaking and fine-tuning songs and albums, making sure everything is perfect. In the dynamic world of music production, some individuals stand out because of their sheer talent, versatility, and ability to add a distinct touch to all they lay their eyes, ears, and hands on. Shawn Franklin is one of those people who stand out in the music production crowd.
With artistry that spans many mediums, Shawn Franklin has solidified his place among the production elite with various projects spanning well over a decade. With over 23 years of experience in sound engineering and performing with his band, The Scallions, Shawn’s true specialty is audio restoration and re-mastering new and classic material.
Franklin has worked on music for Anthrax, Stone Deep, Public Enemy, Chuck D, Chuck Mosley, Daddy O, Dirty Rotten Imbeciles, Prophets of Rage, Renaldo & the Loaf, The Residents, The Mentors, and many others. What started as pure love and enthusiasm for the music that inspired him as a kid became an innate understanding of the intricacies of music, allowing him to turn a lifelong dream into a reality, and he currently shows no signs of slowing down. Shawn Franklin has an uncanny ability to focus on sounds to determine how and where they need to be tweaked for a crisp, clean restoration.
Born and raised in a musically inclined family, Shawn developed an affinity for music at a young age, eventually learning to play the drums.
“My brother is four years older than me … and he played guitar. I wanted to play the drums, and before I got a drum kit, I would play on coffee cans. I’d play with pencils as my sticks and then for cymbals, I’d have the coffee cans upside down for the tin part. I would fill the center part with pennies for the snare,” he recalls.
His upbringing laid the foundation for his future success, as he immersed himself in a vast range of musical styles from metal to hip hop and everywhere in between. After discovering Kiss’ album “Hotter than Hell”, Franklin’s passion for music grew exponentially, and during his teenage years, he was led to explore the makings of what goes into a spectacular recording.
“My brother heard ‘Calling Dr. Love’ from Kiss on the radio in ’76 … I think I was four years old … and then I heard it and we both loved the song. We got the 45 and had no clue what they looked like or anything like that. Just hearing that song and loving that song and then discovering everything they did image-wise, … I mean, that was just like icing on the cake.”
As Shawn’s music tastes began to expand, so did his record collection, and once he discovered the band The Residents, he was hooked. The Residents would play a huge part in Shawn’s life later, so this discovery was fortuitous. With many other bands and musicians influencing him, such as The Beach Boys, Jefferson Starship, and The Beatles, Franklin was eventually led into the world of hip hop when he discovered breakdancing.
“It was the summer of 1984,” says Shawn, “my friend started [dancing] doing the worm one day, and I had no clue what it was. I rented Breakin’ and I thought the movie was horrible but cool because it got me into the music. It had this street element … this energy.”
Franklin’s love for hip hop would continue to grow, and over the years, he would go on to discover many influential artists from the time, such as Kurtis Blow, Boogie Down Productions, The Beastie Boys, Public Enemy, and KRS-One.
“I heard ‘South Bronx’ by Boogie Down Productions in 1986 and I had never heard anything like it. The little horn stabs and everything just blew my mind.”
Franklin’s career with music would soon take a dramatic turn—one that would start to shape his destiny. In 1990, Shawn and his brother Mike began making music as The Scallions. Described as “Avant-Garde Power Pop” and influenced by San Francisco cult giants The Residents, Mike and Shawn started shaping their sound.
In 1999, the band began shopping material around when they hooked up with Tom Timony, a former owner of The Residents label, Ralph Records. In the year 2000, they put out their first commercially released album, “Mud Pie”, and following its release the album was promoted with interviews, reviews, and radio play.
In 2001, Tom’s label closed and left Shawn and Mike looking for a new home for their music. It was around this time Franklin reached out to Chuck D from Public Enemy via e-mail after obtaining his e-mail address on an online message board. After e-mailing him, Shawn met him in person at a lecture held on the campus of Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn. where Chuck acknowledged he had received the copy of "Gladys" that Shawn had sent over. "He listened to the song and really liked it and that was it.”
In 2002, the band signed with Chuck D’s label, SLAMjamz, and was asked to open for a few shows with Public Enemy in Massachusetts.
“He told me, ‘You guys are different’, and that was that.”
The year 2006 saw The Scallions release their album “Agony through Ceremony” as part of a CD/DVD combo on Chuck D’s label. From there, Shawn Franklin and Chuck D would spark a professional friendship that led to various other projects outside of his band that continues to this day, with Franklin currently producing daily segments for Chuck D’s RAPstation radio network called “This Day in Hip Hop History”.
One of the significant factors that sets Shawn Franklin apart is his remarkable versatility and after discovering he had a knack for restoring audio in a complex way, he began to experiment and push creative boundaries resulting in captivating and refreshing sounds.
Of his early remastering days, Franklin says, “In the early 2000’s, I had been collecting bootlegs forever, and I was always zoning in on certain aspects of the recordings: ‘This one has got a lot of noise,’ and ‘This one could use a tweak here,’ and I remember thinking, ‘I wish I could clean this stuff up and restore these.’ The technology was not there yet, but I had a friend turn me on to some software that was incredible for the time. It was like a nuclear bomb went off over my head.”
After discovering his secret weapon software, which he did not disclose the name of because it is his secret weapon, Shawn was able to start playing with audio.
“I really started cutting my teeth, fixing these bootlegs,” Franklin said. “I really got into it … but I didn’t have any ambitions to be doing audio professionally.”
Those first moments of tweaking audio for bootlegs began to set the stage for what was to come.
“So, I became friends with Renaldo from Renaldo and the Loaf, and so, as the story progresses … around 2014, Brian, who is Renaldo, was taking a trip out to the United States where he had plans to stay at my house. There was this album, ‘Title in Limbo’ by The Residents, in collaboration with Renaldo and the Loaf. When the album was released on CD, some of the songs faded in, and it was horrible. Prior to Brian coming here, I was telling him about it, and he was like, ‘I have a mix down.’ He’s like, ‘Maybe you can fix it up and restore this album.’ So, I did and matched everything up EQ-wise and he flipped out over it.”
That project then led to Shawn doing restoration professionally because the restored album was released worldwide.
“Public Enemy is one of my favorite rap bands worldwide. Two friends and I, who coincidentally worked for Chuck, had this idea of making a comprehensive cohesive product of every single A side and B side from all their seven-inch, 12-inch, and CD singles. So, we did this whole thing and we presented it to the Public Enemy squad in 2014. Chuck, at this point, was like, ‘You know, you guys really should start a production team,’ and we were all like, ‘Hmmm … let’s do it. Let’s do this professionally.’”
They decided to call their production team TDX, which stands for The Definitive Xperience.
“We had all these plans of doing all kinds of reissues from bands,” says Franklin. From there, Shawn and his team embarked on a whirlwind career of numerous opportunities.
Shawn Franklin’s reputation for excellence and his exceptional skills have attracted some of the most prominent names in the music industry and his collaborative works have earned him the trust and respect of many established artists such as thrash metal pioneers Anthrax.
“I had the idea to reach out to Charlie from Anthrax since Public Enemy had collaborated with them,” Franklin explains. “I ended up sending Charlie [Benante] a tweet because I wasn’t friends with him. I told him, ‘Hey, listen. I’ve been a huge fan of Anthrax since ’86 and I did a really fat remaster of ‘Spreading the Disease’. I really want you to hear it and I work for Chuck D.’ He got back to me and said he would love to hear it, so I sent him what I did, and he loved it.”
From there, Franklin spoke on the phone with Charlie, developing a professional friendship that led to numerous collaborations.
“He said, ‘I’m going to send you some songs that I love and I’m not going to tell you what I don’t like about them audio-wise, and I want to see what you would do.’ I’m thinking, ‘Well, I’m just gonna trust my ears and see what I come up with.’ So, I did that and sent him samples of before and after. I didn’t hear anything for a while until one day, I was playing drums and my phone started blowing up. I look down at my phone to see Charlie messaging me and telling me that I ‘killed it.’”
After successfully re-mastering those first few tracks, Shawn Franklin was sent more material that eventually led to him editing, assembling, and sequencing the ‘Spreading the Disease’ 30th Anniversary album and the ‘State of Euphoria’ deluxe album for Universal/Megaforce Records. Those projects then led to numerous other projects and collaborations with Anthrax and the professional relationship continues to this day.
Impact on the Industry
Beyond his individual accomplishments, Shawn Franklin has had a transformative impact on the music production landscape by recognizing the importance of embracing technological advancements and utilizing innovative techniques to shape and enhance the soundscape of his creative projects.
When asked about some of his other projects outside of Public Enemy and Anthrax, he said, “Working with Chuck Mosley from Faith No More, God rest his soul, was just incredible. I think that me being a fan of the music helps in my situation because knowing the catalog and the work makes it more personal.”
He goes on to say, “It’s like saying, ‘Hey, this guy loves our stuff but can also deliver the goods audio-wise,’ you know?”
In 2016, Franklin was asked to master three songs for DJ Lord for the 2016 Make America Rage Again tour and says of the experience, “Chuck had an assistant named Kate. She came to me one day and said, ‘DJ Lord needs three songs mastered … instrumental versions.’ So, I didn’t even think anything of it and told them, ‘Let’s go!’”
From there, Shawn went on to do the tracks with no problems and recalled the moment he got to experience his work firsthand live.
“I’m at Mohegan Sun Arena watching the Prophets of Rage show and it’s going along, and ‘Bring the Noise’ starts when it dawns on me that this was what I had mastered for them. I look around the arena and it’s sold out. It’s packed. I’m watching people lose their minds to the music and I’m thinking, ‘I worked on this.’”
As the music industry continues to evolve, Shawn Franklin remains relentless in his pursuit of excellence. While continuing to collaborate with renowned artists, Franklin strives to inspire others to follow their dreams and explore their creative potential. His journey from humble beginnings to working for Chuck D is a testament to his unwavering passion, exceptional talent, and commitment to musical quality. Through his versatility and groundbreaking production style, Franklin has redefined the music production landscape and left an indelible mark on the industry. As the music world eagerly awaits his next move, there is no doubt that Shawn Franklin’s influence will continue to shape the future of music production for years to come.
To learn more about Shawn and his work, visit one of the sites below:
Nicole Brice is a huge music snob and loves to learn new things about music each day. Questions or comments? Reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.