The Lowdown: Frank Turner

From Punk Boy to Folk King, Frank Turner has quickly established a name for himself since Million Dead disbanded in 2001. His Folk-Punk sounds and heartfelt lyrics have managed to capture hearts all over the world, even in places that Mr Turner himself, was unaware of.

Having already been interviewed by Altsounds before, we caught up with the lovely man himself before his gig at Leeds Met University, to see what he has been up to lately, who his idols are and to see if he had any good jokes to share with us this time…

You were recently on tour with Gaslight Anthem in America, how was that compared to other tours you’ve done? 

It was great. I’m great friends with Gaslight and they are a great band. It was really fun playing to those kind of size crowds in the states. Their playing to like a thousand people a show, I’ve not really done too much of that in the states so, it was great. I was riding on their tour bus as well which was very comfortable, not least given the size of the drives involved. Western Canada is a pointless place, it’s a wonderful place it has very nice people, but its just acres and acres of nothing and driving on a tour bus makes that a lot easier than driving in a van.

What were the American fans like compared to the British fans over here? 

There’s not masses of difference. Its hard to say this without sounding like a twat but my sort of career trajectory as it were, in the states is different I’ve done less over there and I’m less well known in the states than the UK, but the crowds are cool and there was some mind blowing stuff going on that tour. We got to Vancouver. I’d never been to Vancouver before in my life. I go on stage and it was about half full [about 500 people there] and as I walked on this massive banner that said “Welcome To Vancouver Frank” popped up in the middle of the crowd and everybody new the words to the first song I played. I was just like “what is this a setup”? It’s mad when that kind of thing happens.

Did you get to meet Bruce Springsteen? 

Not yet my god!

I thought he was making an appearance? 

He was supposed to but I wasn’t at the New Jersey show. The thing is I’m not on the east coast with them so I wasn’t at the New Jersey show, but I’m sure apparently he will be there. But sadly I wont be there. My heart breaks. I did do a cover of Thunder Road which came out on vinyl. Brian gave him a copy of that. I think he is easily the best songwriter and performer of his generation.

Now you’re back in England to do your own headline tour and bar two shows Wolverhampton and Plymouth, they are all sold out. Are you surprised by this? 

Plymouth sold out today, so hooray. And you know what? At Wolverhampton we had more than a thousand people through the door. I caught myself going “No! its not sold out” and then I was like “Wait a minute, a year ago I was playing to like 300 people so get over yourself.” It’s mad. I kinda feel like I’m a bit out of my comfort zone, in a great and awesome way. I’ve been touring for years and years and years but I’ve never really toured at this level before, or at least not as the headliner. Its great, its insanely nice to walk out in front of lots of people who know the words to your songs.

Out of your tour dates that you have already done and the ones that you have left, which ones are you or have you been most excited about? 

Nottingham was something else. We sold out the big room which is 1900 people. Graham [my tour manger] and the sound guy came backstage after the show pretty much in tears just saying that he’s been touring for 25 years and he was like “I’ve never done a show like that before.” We all came off stage and everyone was a bit shell shocked actually. We all just sat in the dressing room and we were like “What the fuck just happened?” That was cool and I’m really just looking forward to Shepard’s Bush Empire. I actually judge my own career progress as it were, not through record sales or radio or anything like that but through venues that I play. I have seen some of my fucking heroes play Shepard’s Bush Empire and the fact that I’m headlining there and that it’s all sold out; that’s when it really hits home to me that something exciting is happening in my life. Plus I’m going to see all my friends as well which will be nice.

Is it better to see your friends and family out in the audience or does it not really matter? 

Sometimes its hard to spot them in these crowds but generally speaking they come backstage before the show or whatever. My sister lives in Leeds so she is coming tonight. We are going to hang out and she will be at the side of the stage I would have thought. I am probably going to embarrass the crap out of her, by dedicating her songs or something like that!

That is quite evil! So as well as a headline tour around England and Ireland and releasing an album this year, you played Reading and Leeds Festivals again. How was that compared to last years appearance? 

It was great was a big step up. Reading is particularly…I’m sorry to say that Reading was my festival when I was younger. Every year has been a turning point for me and this year no less, I mean that is probably the biggest crowd who have been there to see me that I have played to in my life. I saw 15,000 people each day! Its mad. I had a wonderful time. It seems like an obvious thing to say but walking out to 15,000 people is a lovely, lovely feeling.

So which gigs do you prefer, the outdoor festival type or the indoor gigs you are doing now? 

On balance I’d probably say indoor shows just because you get to play for a little longer and you got much more control over your environment. The problem with festivals is you don’t get to sound check and everything is like “arrgghhh,” up until the minute you come on stage. It’s not a very relaxing time, festivals. They have their appeal though. You get to play to a lot of new people at festivals.

Have you ever met any of your idols at festivals?

Not so much at festivals but recently I’ve been on a good run of meeting heroes. I recently met Tim Armstrong from Rancid and that was pretty fucking good. And I met the guys in Converge who are my favourite hardcore band. I played a house show in Boston and they came because the girl who threw the party turned out to be an old friend of theirs. I was just a total fan boy, its kind of embarrassing actually.

So speaking of hardcore punk bands do you still speak to the members of Million Dead? 

Most of them. I’m less and less bothered, not that I was ever bothered about talking about Million Dead. I always say if anyone ask’s if I’m proud of what we achieved as a band; we were a good band and in many ways it’s a shame that it came to an end. I think we could have made one more good record, but it’s just so totally in the past for me now. I don’t spend much time thinking bout Million Dead do you know what I mean? It was a while ago. Me and Ben [the drummer] have known each other since we were kids so were still really close.

What punk bands actually inspired you too start your own punk band?

Aahh good question! I was really into stuff like Rancid and NOFX and that kind of thing when I was like 14. Propaghandi and The Descendants actually are the other two that need mentioning on that sort of list. As far as Million Dead, I was basically obsessed with Refused and a band called Vampelt, who were a local band from Chicago. They were reasonably obscure but I’m just utterly and desperately in love with that band. They did a one off reunion show in Texas this year and I was there! I was literally just crying while they were playing because they were so fucking good.

What do you think of modern day punk bands? Who would you say is your favourite? 

Oh I dunno. It’s difficult. The definition of what is and what isn’t punk has got very broad these days. I really like Fake Problems, I really like Against Me. I really like Crazy Arm, from Plymouth who I’m taking out on tour in March. They’re amazing. People quite often ask me what I think about the punk scene and I have no fucking idea what the punk scene is. I really don’t care.

Lots of bands in Punk are being accused of selling out, like Green Day. 

You know what I’ve been having these arguments for what 15 years. You know what? It’s boring and I don’t fucking care anymore. If I like a record I listen to it. If I don’t I wont.

Fair enough. So after Million Dead broke up what made you want to be a ‘folk’ singer? 

An awful lot of different things. Partly just to kind of change some taste in music. I still listen to a lot of punk. I got into folk and country really heavily midway through Million Dead. I didn’t really wanna be in a band anymore because of the band politics. I was fucking sick of it and just to seemed like an interesting thing to try. When I started doing it I wasn’t convinced I would be doing it for very long but I feel like I have found my niche very quickly.

Its gone very well for you. 

Yeah I mean not even in terms of success but just in terms of song writing. Straight away it was just kind of like “Yep. This makes a lot of sense. This feels really good.’

Your songs are very personal do you ever feel exposed with your songs like “Long Live The Queen”?

I mean yeah a little. The problem is, there is a very kind of clear line for me psychologically between what’s private and what’s public. I’m not bothered. The only problem is that sometimes people, other people, don’t really grasp that fact. I guess I meet people who think they know everything there is to know about me because they know the words to my songs. Its kind of like ‘well ummm’ its not the entirety of my being on the page. There’s a bit more to it I hope.

So one last question, we know you have spoke to Altsounds before and the very poor jokes you said apart from the Stevie Wonder one which was good. So do you have any recent good jokes for the readers? 

I’m trying to think if I have got any that are clean.

You can tell us dirty jokes that fine. 

I had a really good one the other day. No you know what I’m going to pass. If I think of one i’ll tell it on stage tonight. I’ll shake on it.

Thank you Frank. 

Thank You.

Original article first appeared on Altsounds website on 25/01/10

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