Punk in the Pasture

Devildolls frontman Danny Frye takes up more peaceful pastimes.

Julius Caesar Presented by The Cleveland Shakespeare Festival June 12-15 at the Shaker Heights Colonnade, 3450 Lee Road June 19-22 at Tri-C Metro, 2900 Community College Avenue; and June 26-28 and July 3, 5, 6 at Tri-C West, 11000 West Pleasant Valley Road, Parma, 216-732-3311.

After a decade spent as a well-traveled punk, Danny Frye has swapped touring for tulips.

"You should see the fuckin' stares that I get around here when I'm out on the lawn mower," says the tall, tattooed punk, by phone from the living room of his five-and-a-half-acre spread in Seven Hills. "This is all new to me. Now that I have this house and I'm on my second year of marriage, it's kind of cool to wake up every morning, walk down and get my mail. I've been planting flowers and trees, and I'm building an English garden with a pond behind the house. For the first time in years, I feel comfortable in my own skin. Music has afforded me to live a normal life now."

Six months ago, Frye's life was anything but normal. His band, Danny Frye and the Devildolls, had just landed a tour of China. Hellbent, the group's 2001 release, was on its way to moving more than 65,000 copies, and a recent split album with Swiss glam-rockers the Gutter Queens sold another 30,000. Though relatively unknown in the States, Frye had become a solid draw overseas. The Devildolls' most recent tour of England pulled in between 600 and 1,000 a night, and he was a budding star in Spain, where a solo album released on the Spanish label Monster Records notched 62,000 in worldwide sales.

But the tour of China was derailed when the SARS epidemic forced the country to close its borders just two days before the Devildolls were set to arrive. Financial struggles have also ensued: In September, Frye goes to court in Manhattan with a label he claims owes him $111,000. He's seeking another $32,000 from another label for unpaid royalties. Fed up with the hassles, Frye pulled the plug on the Devildolls at the height of their popularity.

"I really needed a break," he says of his decision. "I've spent the last 10 years touring 9 to 10 months a year. I don't know myself as a person, I know myself as a product, because I've always toured nonstop in support of this record and that record. The only time I was making money was if I was on the road, so I stayed on the road."

Now the 30-year-old Frye is making the transition from road warrior to studio musician, rocker-for-hire, and green thumb. Things are going well so far. Not a week after he shelved his band, Frye received a call from Sex Pistols bassist Glen Matlock, who had caught a Devildolls show on their last trip through England. Matlock invited Frye to accompany him at a recent gig at the Rock Hall. The two hit it off so well that they decided to launch a punk supergroup together, along with former Clash singer-guitarist Mick Jones, guitarist Sylvain Sylvain of the New York Dolls, and Blondie drummer Clem Burke. The new band, dubbed Clash of the Sex Dolls, will debut at Seattle's Experience Music Project on August 8 and may tour sporadically -- though nothing on the level of what Frye endured with the Devildolls. His main focus is on soundtrack production: He's creating the music for a 90-minute film and an hour-long documentary for Fox, gigs that came about after he performed last fall on Fox's syndicated courtroom series Texas Justice.

A few Devildolls details also remain. Frye must fulfill an existing deal with Britain's Changes One Records, so he's producing one more album of new material -- a double LP -- that's due out in November. The record, he says, will combine acoustic and instrumental tunes, both pop and punk. He spends most of his days working on it in the studio, then most of his nights recording soundtrack material. Retirement from the road hasn't exactly meant enjoying the quiet life, but at least Frye has time to stop and smell the flowers every now and then.

"I've gone through all the stereotypical downfalls of music -- the drugs and every other damn thing -- but I came full circle," he says proudly. "I'm back to doing it for the reason I started . . . because I love music."

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