Frank Turner – Archived Interview – Oran Mor, Glasgow

 

The Backstage area at the Oran Mor looks more like a Gentleman’s cigar club than your average venue dressing room in Glasgow. As we walk out of the private lift with his tour manager Frank sits strumming on his acoustic guitar on a red leather sofa surrounded by his band. After our introductions we had a chat about among other things his music, him being a “Festival Slut” and about him not being interested in being the next “Billy Bragg”.

Ross – You’re just back from a tour of the States, how did you enjoy it?

Frank – Yeah it was good, it was long, it’s such a cliché and not a statement but America is really big and the tour I did it was a month of shows. They started in LA then went to Florida, Chicago and then to New York and Washington and it was along way. We had quite a few days that were 600 mile drives and stuff, you get good at peeing in bottles. The shows were cool and like you kind of have a head start over there if you have an English accent particularly in the underground music scenes or whatever. People are very anglophile and so to be honest anything that’s not an American accent and everybody wants to know what’s going on, and I was touring with some cool bands “Fake Problems” from Florida and Chuck Ragan from “Hot Water Music” as well. So yeah I had a good time and got to see quite a lot of the country.

Ross – What are the crowds like in America compared to here? Is it different or pretty similar?

Frank – Eh not massively to be honest, As I say I think it helps having an English accent for the most part, I mean I’m just starting out over there so it’s kind of different. Some of the shows we were doing were pretty small but then some of them were bigger shows but it was cool, people seemed to be kind of warming to what I was doing generally speaking so yeah I had a good time.

Ross – Is the atmosphere over there different just now than it’s been on your previous visits given the state of the economy and the upcoming election?

Frank – Ehm you know its funny everyone is talking about the economy over there and nobody is talking about the election its really weird. I talk about the American election ten times more when I’m in the UK than when I’m in the US so it’s a bit odd. I mean in fairness I’m kind of travelling around in punk bands and stuff and your in a particular demographic and America is a very divided country, but people were bothered about the economy and the whole bail out business that was going on while I was there. Absolute crap if you ask me personally, but yeah people were kind of worried about that. I guess it was kind of an interesting time to be there election wise but it was more of an observational thing because they weren’t really talking about it that much which in itself is a kind of interesting/worrying thing. Its like your about to elect the leader of the world can you be bothered talking about it fuck, I guess retrospectively it’ll be an interesting time to have spent in the states depending on what happens with the election.

Ross – “Long Live The Queen” was released on Monday, with all the proceeds going to the breast cancer campaign. Obviously a great cause and the gesture goes along perfectly with what’s a really touching song. How’s it going so far? Are you happy with the support and reaction you’ve had to the single?

Frank – Yeah its been kind of nuts basically, its funny we’ve had stuff we weren’t really aiming for, me and my label and my management and stuff, like the radio one thing in particular we weren’t looking for it. I mean its awesome and great but it wasn’t on our sort of to do list, get radio one playlist kind of thing, it just sort of slightly fell into our laps. I was actually in Washington DC and I got the phone call, eh we just got radio one playlist and I was like fucking hell ok how did that happen? And they were like I dunno so we traced the causality of it back but yeah, its been nuts and the shows on the tour have been really busy. Four of them have sold out in advance and the rest are busy and its bigger venues than I’ve done before and that includes anything I’ve done in the past with other bands and stuff so its just a really exciting time for me in my life.

Ross – How have the first couple of nights of the UK tour gone?

Yeah it’s been really good, Leeds was sold out which is a nice way to start a tour and the crowd reaction was just immense, and last night in York it wasn’t sold out so it wasn’t quite as many people but if anything the crowd reaction was better. Also I mean I’ve been playing with most of the band for a while but we’ve got a new keys player in the band and we do a couple of numbers with Chris TT and Emily Barker as well and we’re getting better. I couldn’t be happier about the way that we’re playing as a unit at the minute, forgive me for saying so but we’re fucking good and we’re getting better as well and its just really gratifying thing to be up on stage with some consummate musicians playing really well.

Ross – After two albums and two EP’s do you feel like you’ve now completely made the transition into the folk world?

Frank – Ehh yeah, yeah, I certainly think I’ve kind of put my ghosts to rest, not that they were ghosts particularly but I mean I’m increasingly not having ex “Million Dead” written underneath my name everywhere I go. You know I’m proud of everything we did in that band but its kind of nice that I don’t have to spend my entire life talking about it and everybody thinking about it the whole time. It’s interesting the whole Folk thing because much as with Punk, Folk describes an ethos as well as a style and what I’ve done has never been pure Folk sound wise just as it’s never been pure Country or pure Rock or anything else. At this moment in time I’m actually really really into stuff like “Born To Run” Bruce Springsteen and that kind of thing so I think that’s the kind direction I’m creeping towards.

Ross – One of my best friends is a massive Springsteen fan and he keeps on saying He’s gonna headline Glastonbury next year, he’s gonna headline Glastonbury

Frank – Oh my god if The Boss headlined Glastonbury I think I’d just fall apart

Ross – Do you think there’s still a preconceived misconception with the majority of the British public that anyone wielding an acoustic guitar is just another James Blunt?

Frank – Erm in some circles yeah and I think in some circles your never gonna sort of conquer that and it’s annoying the way the word Singer-Songwriter has acquired all of the utterly dross and mediocre assumptions that go along with it. Because you know the original singer-songwriters the likes of Neil Young and Gram Parsons were two utterly incredible songwriters. I do think maybe not so much with the general public but I think there is some kind of acoustic guitar based renaissance happening in the Punk scene internationally at the moment. There’s so many people in the punk scene getting involved with Folk as an ethos which is cool, my one worry about it is if a bandwagon starts rolling then it’ll lose it’s authenticity pretty quickly and it’s credibility will fly out the window. I don’t want to sit here and say I was doing it first, but I was (Laughs), do you know what I mean? Not first out of anybody ever but you know if it suddenly becomes this thing where every single punk band the world over starts putting out records with acoustic guitars on and shit I think that will get quite boring quite fast. It’s cool at the moment because its very authentic and its just people doing it because it makes sense. I think “Against Me” are a big band that have kind of moved it on the same way I think Springsteen has contributed to it a lot, Chuck Ragan who’s doing a revival tour out in the states at the minute that I did a couple of shows on too and yeah it feels very like zietgeisty in a way this whole kind of crossover thing. But I think when “The Offspring” bring out an acoustic guitar based punk album I might move back into grindcore you know what I mean and say I’ve had enough, but we’ll see.

Ross – Are you enjoying that fact that now with your solo career your songs can be lyrically much more personal in nature?

Frank – Yeah I mean the thing with “Million Dead” was that I had this thing about how I wasn’t going to write any songs about personal stuff because it was boring. There’s this old “Chuck D” quote “your personal subject runs minimal it’s sex for profit” and you know I love Chuck D he’s fucking great so yeah I had this whole thing how there were a million other things to write songs about in the world. I guess I just kind of stopped ignoring lines to myself, plus also certain lyrical subjects go with certain style. I think if I’m sort of brushing my way through a kind of folk number and start trying to sing about Socio-Economic systems it’s going to sound a bit fucked. Yeah I mean it’s not been that conscious for me personally to write a set of lyrics and then to sing them out every night on tour it has to be something that means something to me otherwise I’ll just drown in boredom on my own. Yeah so I guess I just naturally gravitate towards that and whatever comes out is whatever’s bothering me at the time.

Ross – On “Love, Ire & Song”, Distance and time seem to be two common themes running throughout, were they a big influence on your songwriting at the time?

Frank – Yeah the distance thing definitely just because we finished recording “Sleep Is For The Week” and then basically toured until we started recording “Love, Ire & Song”. So it’s a lot of things about being on the road, I mean you know you just sort of try your best to not write about how awful it is to be a touring musician because that’s a boring and narrow subject. But yeah it comes through that it was a time in my life that I was spending a lot of time far away from people and things that are familiar to me. So yeah it does come through and I was fractiously going through attempting to stay in a long-term, no long distance relationship around then which obviously didn’t work I think that’s a kind of an underlying theme of the record which is probably really obvious but there you go.

Ross – In general how does a song come together for you?

Frank – I kinda have bits and bobs of words hanging around but the music comes first mainly cause I’m a songwriter rather than a poet. So yeah you know people talk about my lyrics a lot which is great and its very flattering but its like I spend soooooo long working on the tunes and stuff as well so I’d like them to talk about that as well.

Ross – Are you working on new material for the next album?

Frank – Yes definitely loads of stuff, we’ve actually got a song that we’re hopefully going to get into the set this tour not tonight cause it’s still a little scrappy here and there and I need to finish writing the words (laughs). But eh it’s nearly there it’s in the classic stage where its just got one verse worth of lyrics being sung sort of two or three times or whatever and it needs to expand and go somewhere else. But yeah no definitely got loads of stuff going on, I mean when we’ll actually be back in the studio and getting a record out I’m not 100% sure. The way things have been going the last month or so all of a sudden the labels been talking about doing a re-push and re-promote of “Love Ire & Song”, Which you know makes business sense and everything and that’s great but I don’t want to leave it too long otherwise we’ll have a backlog of songs in our brains and I’ll probably have a haemorrhage.

Ross – In the past a lot of people have branded you as a political or “protest” singer, do you feel you’ve managed to distance yourself from that? Or does it still linger in your mind when your writing that some people have this impression of you being some kind of figurehead for their political agenda

Frank – People do, the British left are a very kind of possessive group of people and I wrote a song with the word Thatcher in the title and this means that I’m theirs for all eternity despite the fact that none of them seem to have fucking actually listened to the lyrics for any of my other songs. You know I did a Glastonbury warm up for the left-field and it was very flattering to be asked to play. I got up and I played songs like “Once We Were Anarchists” and “Love, Ire & Song” and they were all like “wahhhhhyyyyy, fight, fight, fight” and I’m like your just not listening. It’s funny because on the one hand there are political things that bother me and I happen to have a forum for my expression and so yeah I do obviously talk about some stuff but the problem with it is that I don’t like being stereotyped. Essentially I find it very annoying and tedious, and protest always strikes me as a slightly half-arsed way to describe what you do. You know civil liberties and privacy is a big bug bear of mine and there’s a song in the works about that but I’m just not really fucking interested in being like “The next Billy Bragg”(in a really high mocking voice). It’s funny I met Billy Bragg and he said he’d read that about me and he said there’s nothing wrong with the old one, and I said, I know fuck.

Ross – Yeah I’ve read things you’ve said saying you think his best work is his non-political stuff

Frank – Yeah definitely I also actually think that’s the new record that he did “Mr Love And Justice” is an excellent album. He’s one of those artists where not many people listen to his new record because he’s got a back catalogue and everyone just wants him to play the hits but I really thought that the new record was good.

Ross – Just finally your “Frank Turner Festival Slut” T-shirt was an inspired piece of merchandise how did you enjoy the ride so to speak?

Frank – It was good we did a lot of festivals and I must say by the end of the season I was bored of wandering around fields in the mud and just wondering where the fuck anything was and you know not having soundchecks. You know festivals are great and they expose you to a lot of people but there’s kind of definitely a point when you say no more. But I mean Reading and Leeds was an incredible way to round the summer off, I mean that was really something else and I really feel like those two shows really moved things forward a lot and I think that a lot of the stuff that’s happening now kind of came off the back of Reading and Leeds. I’m sure by next summer I’ll be in the mood to trudge around fields again so maybe I’m just in tune with the seasons.

Ross Cunningham

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