INTERVIEW: Frank Turner (Part 2)

Posted on February 6, 2011


Here is the second part of my interview with Frank Turner. The first part can be found here. This interview took place at 53 Degrees in Preston, back in December. Here, Frank discusses Million Dead, possible side projects and the future.

Frank’s career hasn’t always been clear-cut. Many of those familiar with him will remember his time in post-hardcore group Million Dead, who split up due to irreconcilable differences. He is adamant that he never wants to belittle his time in the band though. “I’m very proud of all the music we made in that band. It came to an end. The actual process of that end wasn’t very fun.”

 “I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing now, if I hadn’t done Million Dead before. I’m glad it happened,” he continues. “Once the end of Million Dead rolled around, I just didn’t want to be in a band anymore. The last year of Million Dead was just murderous. Four people who want to kill each other, sat in a van driving around Europe…it’s no fun.”

It was a big change to go from the hardcore band environment to being a folk/punk singer-songwriter, but it seemed more natural for Frank. Plus, the control he has over his music makes the entire process a bit easier.

“Well, everything’s easier than it was in the Million Dead days. We were very strictly democratic about every creative decision, which I think is a good thing. It made us more of a sum of our parts. But it did mean that we almost broke up once over what was going to go on the back cover of an album, which is just fucking retarded.

“At the same time, the flip side of that is that there are moments when I sit there and I’ve completely lost any ability to tell whether something’s good or not.”

Whilst his solo career is the centre of what Frank does, and what he’d love to do for the rest of his life, he’d like to try other things. “I would like to do…maybe not a hardcore band, as such, but something that sounds like Jesus Lizard, something really nasty and heavy. Then, I’d like to fuck around with some electronic stuff at some point.”

 Thankfully for us, if that does happen, he’ll likely come back to what he’s doing now. “I feel very comfortable making the music that I do. It feels like the music I was supposed to make.”

 As anyone who’s listened to Frank’s music will testify, his lyrics are relatable but personal. When I suggest his song-writer may be therapeutic, he quickly agrees. “I mean for me, the whole point of art, per se, is empathy. I believe that life is a nasty, brutish and short experience, and the secret is to find ways of alleviating that by laughing and having a good time, despite everything.”

Aside from his own brand of acoustic folk/punk, Frank does a few covers, giving them his own twist. He doesn’t think there’s much point in recording a straight cover, and finds it much more exciting to puts his own ideas into them. “If you’re going to record and release a cover, there’s no point doing it straight. You might as well just listen to the original. So, I do try and do something different.”

Talking of other band’s works, the conversation shifted to what band he would join, past or present, given the chance. “The problem is, I don’t really have an answer to that question because all the bands I absolutely adore are bands where there’s something special about the line-up. I think The Band are arguably the greatest rock band of all time, but I wouldn’t want to be in The Band and fuck with it. Maybe you can say Napalm Death, because so many fucking people have been in Napalm Death, I could give it ago.”

When a musician tours as extensively as Frank Turner does, there are bound to be difficulties with keeping it fresh, particularly the set-list. He believes there’s definitely an art to a set-list. “There’s a balance to be struck, essentially. I definitely ere more on the side of what the audience wants to hear. I consider myself an entertainer, and my job is to make people happy.”

With so much material already, and a new album currently being released, Frank still tries to be open to any requests. “I’ve written a lot of songs in the past 12 years, and there’s only so much space up here for lyrics, chord changes and shit.

“The other week someone shouting out “Ladies of London Town”, this is in America. I was so surprised by the request I said “Yeah, fuck it, we’ll do that.” Started playing it, and got half way through the first verse and had to say “Sorry, I really don’t fucking know it”. I had to break it off, which was a shame.”

Frank’s schedule after the tour finished was clear, and it’s pretty much gone to plan. He got a week off for Christmas and New Year, and is currently in the studio recording his fourth studio album. This is being done a bit differently to his past records, something he’s excited about.

“It’s the first time the recording as been open ended, which is interesting for me. Usually it’s just been write, record, leave. We did Poetry of the Deed in ten days, but this one we’ve got…well, we don’t have a strict finish date. I think it could be interesting, anything could happen.”