Music Interview - Frank Turner

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FA: How are you feeling about tonight’s show?

FT: I’m feeling good about it. This tour’s fun; it’s great having Ben [Marwood] and Franz Nicolay, who are both awesome people, along, and the whole vibe of this tour is playing small shows and me playing solo, which I haven’t done in the UK for a while. People seem to be really into it, and it’s sold out, so it should be good.

On this tour your Scottish shows are in Dundee and Dunfermline. Why play smaller cities, as opposed to Edinburgh or Glasgow?

The short answer is because that’s where the booking agent sent me, but I try to play different towns. If you’re only going to play one show in Scotland in a year or two years you might as well do Glasgow, but I come to Scotland all the time and I’ve played in Glasgow a gazillion times, but I’ve never been to Dunfermline before. It’s kind of fun to spread the love around and go to new places.

You have a new album coming out in June, can you tell me about the album?

It’s called ‘England Take My Bones’ and I’m really proud of it. I think it’s got twelve good songs on it, which is good, because there are twelve songs on it. I find it sort of hard to talk about it without actually playing it; talking about music is like dancing about architecture, as they say. I think it’s cool; it’s not a radical stylistic departure for me, but I’m proud of it and I hope people like it.

You tweeted recently that you were doing a cover of The Hold Steady with Dave Haus? Will this cover ever be heard by your fans?

I accidentally put an ‘s’ on the end—cover. Yes, Dave Haus is a friend—we did a bunch of shows on the West Coast last week, and we were doing a cover of the song ‘Constructive Summer’ together and we ended up in a studio with appalling hangovers, but we managed to get through it. It’ll be out on a podcast of some kind soon and I will post links to it as soon as I know anything about it.

Do you still identify with the Hardcore scene?

This is going to sound slightly semantically picky, but I would say I identify with hardcore but not necessarily the scene. I don’t know anything about the current hardcore scene in the UK—it’s been a long time since I had my finger on the pulse about that kind of thing, to the extent that people come up to me and say ‘I don’t even f**ing remember when this guy was a punk’ but that’s because they got involved in this like four years ago. I’ve been putting on shows since ’97, so if they want to have a hardcore-off, I’m gonna win so don’t bother, not that I particularly care if some total stranger thinks I’m not punk. I still identify with the ethos and the approach of hardcore which is incredibly important to me, and a lot of my favourite bands are hardcore bands: Black Flag, Dead Kennedys, Minor Threat, that’s the big three for me. There we go, that’s the big three for me. I listen to them a lot, but I couldn’t name you an up-and-coming UK hardcore band.

The rest of the questions were submitted by Fresh Air.org.uk listeners.

Louise Valentine: What do you think of Aberdeen University Canoe Club using some of your lyrics as a slogan? We are big fans and have “We’re definitely going to hell” on the back of our hoodies because we’ve always got a story to tell.

I think that’s great. It makes them sound like the Hell’s Angels of the canoe world. Thank you very much, actually, that’s very nice of them. 

Paul Grant: Do you feel a significance now that you've played over 1000 shows as a solo artist or do you prefer not to quantify your success and focus on how you've progressed as a writer?

The two are kind of separate and parallel in a way. When the 1000 show thing came up, and the number was looming, initially I didn’t really give a f**k, but then I decided it was something worth commemorating, so we put a show together in London and had a massive party in a car park in Shoreditch. I was out of my f**ing mind drunk by the end of it, which was fun, but then I flew to Toronto the next day and did a show in an art gallery and there were, like, fifty people there, so the fact that the wheel just kept turning actually made me feel really, really good. I got a tattoo that says 1001, rather than 1000, since it’s an ongoing process. I’m very interested in progressing as a songwriter, and my aim in life is to write a song anywhere near as good as anything Townes Van Zandt ever wrote, but whether that will ever happen remains to be seen. 

Chris Cook: Will your new Banjitar feature on the new album and are you playing any new covers on your latest tour?

The Banjitar does feature on the new album, and the producer had to argue with me not to put it on every song. During the recording I kept saying, “You know what this song needs right now? Banjitar!” It’s a banjo but strung like a guitar, so it’s got six strings. As far as covers go, I’m always thinking of new songs to play live. Recently I’ve been playing a song by my friend Adam which is called ‘You Can’t Always Choose The Ones That You Love’ and I’ve been playing some more Bob Dylan songs lately and a couple of Townes [Van Zandt] songs too.

Mark Borthwick: As your grandfather was an Archbishop, how do you think he'd respond to the lyrics of your song 'Glory Hallelujah'?

First things first, you shouldn’t believe everything you read on the internet—my grandfather was not an archbishop, he was priest. Don’t believe Wikipedia [laughs]. I had an idea to do this song for a while, and my grandfather died last year, and I think subconsciously I wouldn’t have put as much effort into finishing the song until he passed away, because I wouldn’t want to upset him since he was I man I respected enormously and have a lot of love for, and I don’t think he would have been very stoked about the song. At the same time it’s something that I believe and want to talk about. 

Rachel Scotland: Is the song 'Worse Things Happen at Sea' based on an actual break up and, if so, did you ever forgive the girl that made you so angry?

Yes it is—I don’t do fiction, really, not because I think it’s a bad idea but because I’m bad at it. I see her every now and again, and it’s a long, quite personal story, so yeah, kind of, is the answer.

Jon Dick: How much of a libertarian do you believe yourself to be? Do you, for example, think the NHS should go?

I consider myself to be quite a strong libertarian. That’s an interesting question, and the reason I hesitate to answer is that I think it’s a loaded question. I get annoyed that there are a lot of people on the left who seem to believe or cast those with libertarian views as being opposed to health care if they say the NHS is a bad thing. No one’s f**ing opposed to health care; the argument is about the best way to fund it. Since the NHS is the third-largest employer in the country, and arguably the single most inefficient organisation in the entire world, then I’m dubious about its merits. I don’t think it’s perfect, and yes, while it’s free at the point of use, I pay roughly 70 percent of my income to the state, so it’s not that free. Given that I haven’t used the NHS since I was about twelve, which of course is because I am lucky, I get irritated that people just swallow the state line about the NHS being a sacrosanct institution that no one’s allowed to say anything bad about. I don’t mean to cast aspersions on the person who asked this question, but a lot of the people who trot this stuff out haven’t fully considered the philosophical fundamentals of what they’re talking about, and they’re parroting a line they’ve been fed, and I find that intellectually redundant.

Jon Dick: Do you agree that drinking lots and riding in a tour bus for the majority of the year removes precisely the kind of human experience that means "fundamentalist" libertarianism is essentially flawed?

First of all, I think that’s a bulls**t question. I don’t see what’s not human about me, I feel pretty human. Yes, I have a different experience that that guy, but f**k you if you think that makes me any more or less of a human being. There’s lots of people who live different kinds of lives, and libertarianism isn’t a creed, it doesn’t have a bible, it’s an approach and a way of thinking about things and I don’t happen to think it’s fundamentally flawed. I’d really love to have it out with this guy over a beer sometime, and I think it’s a f**ing bulls**t and ignorant question.

Matt Clark: What sort of condoms do you use?

[Frank laughs explosively] I’m gonna pass on that one.

Vikki McIntyre: What is the most rock ‘n’ roll thing you’ve ever done?

I’ve never smashed up a hotel room—someone’s going to have to tidy it up and pay for it, and that’s inconsiderate and bulls**t. Yeah, I’ve gotten drunk and had some pretty meaningless sex on tour and done drugs and I’ve played a lot of shows, and if I do these things, and I’ve pretty much grown out of it now, I try to do them in ways that don’t harm or interfere with other people. 

Ryan Heatly: Do you ever miss playing with Million Dead?

There is something about the physicality of it, the pure, unadulterated rage of playing a Million Dead show, that I miss, but to answer the sub-question floating around that one, no, I won’t be doing anything like that again.

Ian Clement: Do you plan to continue solo music for the rest of your career or would you consider any other project?

I definitely want to do other projects, and I’ve been talking to a lot of people, about it, like Beardyman and I have been talking about making a record together, which would be a very different thing for me. I want to make a dirty dance record, something real f**ing nasty with heavy beats, which I can’t do, I’m pretty terrible at it.

Ian Clement: If you reach a point in your career where you’re no longer interested in touring, would you do more behind the scenes things, such as producing, or would you simply retire from music?

I don’t know, I hope that that point doesn’t come, though it may well do, realistically. Maybe management or producing, but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it, and there are lots of things in life I’m interested in besides music.

Chris Cook: What’s your favourite The Hold Steady song or lyric?

Wow, that’s a challenging question right there. I’m very taken with the lyric “Tramps like us and we like tramps”. We could talk about Hold Steady lyrics all day, and it’s fantastic having Franz along on the tour, although it’s fantastic because his other stuff is incredible and brilliant. I was a bit nervous talking to him about it, and we were talking about it last night—he brought up a bunch of songs that were very much his songs from the band, and he said that if I wanted to play those tunes, he’d play them, so we might be looking a dragging out a Hold Steady song on this tour. It’s probably not going to happen, though, since we haven’t rehearsed it. I’ll talk to Franz and see whether we can get something together for tonight, that would be f**ing amazing.
 

Myke Hall and Danielle Mattison, Open Til Midnight
Photo by Paul Grant
 

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