The Hands of Franky Machine
The Hands of Franky Machine is an hourlong audio drama written and narrated by Cursed Murphy – aka writer and musician Peter Murphy – with an original score by drummer, composer and Basciville member Lorcan Byrne.
Conceived as a movie for the ears, set in a gritty near-future cityscape, it tells the story of Franky Machine, a drum-battler who makes her living competing in the clubs, and her twin brother Sonny, an injured army veteran struggling with a street drug habit. Franky’s days as a battler are numbered: a corporate multimedia entity named Eurika has successfully lobbied to patent all existing musical notation – the ultimate pay-to-play – and its lawyers are sending legal threats. Franky’s dilemma: what happens when the thing you were born to do starts killing you? What happens when your gift becomes a curse?
The Hands of Franky Machine is a love letter to 1950s noir (the title is a nod to Nelson Algren’s The Man With the Golden Arm); to Lou Reed’s 1970s downtown romances; to cyberpunk writers like William Gibson and John Shirley; to movies like Blade Runner and Kathryn Bigelow’s 90s cult classic Strange Days.
“The story is set about five minutes into the
future,” Peter says. “The subplot involving Eurika’s algorithms was inspired by an online remark made by Cillian Byrne from Basciville,
and Sonny’s experiences in the veteran hospital were drawn from an interview I did with Henry Rollins about his experiences as a USO performer. I’ve been fascinated with drummers since I was a kid, and I wanted to write a sort of homage to manga heroines and comic characters like Halo Jones, to the riot grrrl movement and musicians like Joan Jett and Sheila E and Kira from Black Flag. And Lorcan is the only musician I know who could have conjured this world.”
The Hands of Franky Machine was scored, arranged and recorded over a ten-day period in August 2020 in the National Opera House, Wexford, thanks to a Covid-19 Crisis Response Award from the Arts Council of Ireland. Dan Comerford tech-supervised the sessions, aswell as directing an eight-minute performance clip and a short documentary film. Tom Bates (Saolan Productions) operated second camera. Sinéad Furlong conducted research and interviews. Artist and film-maker Mirona Mara contributed the intro voice-over, while Maria Byrne provided the graphic novel-inspired cover image.
The complete 60-minute audio-drama was recorded live in eight movements, vocals and drums together, with a minimum of overdubs, and is designed to be experienced in one continuous sitting, like a film or a play.