Interview with Frank Turner
I like to travel the spectrum of musical genres to shake up the grind of attending shows up to seven nights a week and one that is always of particular interest is singer/songwriters. They are always a joy to interview and I pretty much spoke to the king of the current punk rock songwriter class last week. That man would be Frank Turner.
While being considered a god of the alternative scene for so long, the new record that came out in 2011 ‘England Keep My Bones’ really pushed Frank into the mainstream audience and the insanity for him has only been going up and up. Leading up to his Wembley Arena headlining show that is just about sold out for April. We talked about the new record to come as well as American touring and something that you may have heard of called ‘Anglophilia’. Read on for my exclusive with Frank!
Artist: Frank Turner
Title: England Keep My Bones
Release date: 06/7/11
Frank Turner Official Website
Buy at: Amazon
So maybe a soft one to start. Obviously, you just played the shows in Austin, you were in Brooklyn, you’re about to do pretty much the world after this in a few weeks. Really going everywhere. Is this year just going to keep on going like that?
Yeah, I think so. I mean it’s kind of how it was the year before and the year before and the year before and that’s fine with me. It’s not something I’m complaining about. You know I love what I do. I love traveling and I love playing shows but as well, I also love getting a little bit more sleep then I have been recently but this is me. Moaning about my life. I’m sure I’ll be fine but no, it’s great. It’s exciting.
And then you’re about to play three nights with The Dropkicks and they’ve been around for quite a long time. Playing the two nights here and show in Lowell. What are you most looking forward to? They’re a huge irish band.
They are! I mean the Tsongas day we’re actually playing two shows. A matinee and an evening show and it’s like a gazillion billion people. I’ve actually played there before with The Offspring a few years ago. So I know it but yeah it’s a large place should we say and it’s going to be Saint Paddy’s day in Massachusetts with the Dropkicks. That day is slightly intimidating to me actually. I’m sure it will be fun but I’ll probably be really drunk as well. So I’ll see how that goes. It’s nice here though. I really like this House of Blues. It’s a good one. It’s fun to play in Boston so I’m sure tonight’s show will be a lot of fun.
Speaking of large venues, obviously you’re headlining Wembley for the first time and you only played it like two years ago with Green Day.
Well, we played the stadium two years ago but we’ll be headlining the arena for the first time. This is a different venue.
Right but you’re headlining Wembley Arena still which is huge. Which is insane for a musician!
Totally mad and it all feels very surreal. See it’s funny at this exact moment is when it sort of all kind of is the nitty gritty like nuts and bolts stuff is starting to rear its’ head. So all of the sudden, we’re planning some stage spots and set list and all of that kind of thing. It’s making it all seem more real then it has to date but we’ve sold nearly all the tickets so that’s exciting. It should be a good show!
So it’s already close to selling out?
Then obviously ’England Keep My Bones’ came out in June. Maybe, since you’ve been writing music for a really long time, before Frank Turner as a solo project, how did you go about the writing process for that record itself?
Well, I mean I don’t really have a writing process as such and people, especially kind of young kids, always come up to me and are like how do you write a song! I always feel kind of bad because I don’t really have an answer for that question. They just sort of arrive and I always feel like it’s like an alien attacking you and there’s no kind of fit to it. I guess I’m lucky in that. Obviously, I’ve spent a lot of time. It’s not like I just wake up in the morning with fully formed songs in my head. It’s just some days it works one way, some days it works another. I guess the main difference with ’England Keep My Bones’ for me was first of all, I feel like me and The Sleeping Souls who are my live backing band who also played on the last record, I felt this time we really kind of settled into the roles with each other. We’re really comfortable with playing with each other. It’s like we kind of know how we work with each other and how to work together the best. To make the best sound. We actually also did more pre-production on this record ’England Keep My Bones’ then I’ve ever done on an album. We demo-ed the whole record which we had never really done before. It was actually really good to do and definitely something I want to do again.
And then even though that only come out last summer, is there still something in the making? Being a song writer, I’m sure you’re writing quite a lot all the time. Is there something kind of in the plans?
Yes! We are going to be in the studio at the end of this summer. Hopefully have a new album out early next year. So I think we’ll probably be playing at least one new song tonight actually but there’s a lot of new material. I always kind of feel like it’s a relief more then anything else. You know I read an interview a few years ago with Nick Cave which I found very reassuring because he said that every time he finishes a record, he feels like he scraped up everything from the bottom of his barrel creatively speaking and if Nick Cave feels that way, because that’s quite often how I feel, then I admit that was kind of a relief.
To see that he had felt the same way?
If Nick Cave, who I think is one of the most incredible geniuses around today, feels like that then I’m kind of like ‘Phew!’ Confident.
Then obviously you’ve put out multiple solo records over these past few years and were in bands before, you’ve been around obviously in the alternative world for a while but now you’ve been selling out shows like crazy. I was at the Cambridge show with Andrew Jackson Jihad when you sold that out four months ahead of time or something. Congratulations!
Thank you! It was really good to play that show. For me, it’s a legendary place the Middle East and there was talk at the time of it being moved to a bigger venue. It was a difficult one for me because on the one hand, I never want what I do to be exclusive in any way. Actually, I was thinking about this a lot at South By South West because it’s all that kind of like ‘there’s this crazy party that no one’s going to be able to get into but so and so from Public Enemy is playing a deejay set’ and it’s like the whole principle of it is exclusionary and I think that’s awful. That’s not what rock and roll is supposed to be but at the same time, I’ve always wanted to play a show at the Middle East.
Have you really?
Yeah, yeah! I mean I grew up listening to a lot of punk and hardcore records and I had a massive love for Massachusetts hardcore so like Dillinger Escape Plan, Converge, Cave In. All those kind of bands from here. Favorite, favorite bands and I had tons of boot leg tapes of people live at The Middle East and that kind of thing. So it was really good to play there!
And then maybe do you remember the first CD or cassette you ever bought? And the first concert?
Well the first cassette I owned that was mine, I didn’t buy it myself my mom bought it for me, it was ‘Thriller’. Still one of the best fucking records. I think the first record I bought with my own money as far as I can remember might well have been a Judas Priest cassette. That’s how fucking cool I was. I remember the first CD I bought was by a band called ..Pigs in Space. This short lived british rock band and then first gig was a band called Snug who were a very short lived British punk band who weren’t very good. Their guitarist was called Ed Harcourt and he’s now a singer songwriter who I’m friends with and we’ve toured together a ton of times. So it’s a weird one because we’ve sort of come full circle if you like. He’s a wonderful guy.
Perfect and then obviously you’ve been touring for years, but I recently talked to like Kaiser Chiefs, Bombay Bicycle Club who are all in the British scene. Just starting to tour here. Kaiser’s toured here before but not recently. Maybe advice you’d give to bands who are just starting to tour here?
Get ready to work hard! Well, I think one of the things about America is that basically you can cheat in the UK. You can nail the right magazine covers and radio coverage and then you can sell out a room tour of a thousand cap venues and come back and do one tour of two thousand cap venues and you’ve kind of done the UK. A lot of american bands do that, you know. They’ll get a big hype and a buzz going and then they’ll show up and play big shows and the box is ticked if you’d like. So it’s found to be very frustrating when I was younger because there were lots of great English bands and there’s a lot of sort of soft spots for English bands in the music scene. You know in fairness, I’m kind of experiencing sort of that a little bit in the moment. There’s a lot of kind of anglophilia in the American punk scene. I guess it swings both ways but one of the things I like about America is you just can’t achieve-. Achieve is kind of a loaded word. I’m not sure if I should use that word but like if you want to be successful in America, you just have to tour and tour and tour and I think that’s one of the reasons I’ve always liked American rock and roll music more then English. Just because all of the bands are always fucking machines. Really well polished machines and even just looking at hardcore/punk when I was a kid, we have all these kind of hardcore shows with all of our bands and then one of kind small American band will come over and they absolutely walk all over us and the reason was because they’ve just done three hundred shows in a year where we’ve done like seven. Do you know what I mean? And it is kind of a clichéd thing to happen for an English band to go to America and then sort of implode but then they kind of realize the enormity of the task. I mean there’s obviously been examples but I don’t think there is anything inherited in British character that means that you can’t tour in America. You know I mean we do but it’s a long walk. Thankfully I love it. It’s absolutely no chore to me to tour. I love it but if you’re the kind of band that doesn’t like touring very much then America’s probably not for you basically. That’s the short answer.
"England Keep My Bones" by Frank Turner - release date: 06/7/11..