Last month we headed down to The Fellow Pub in King’s Cross for a quick chat with everyone’s favourite Folk-Punk troubadour Frank Turner and this is how that played out.
Hi Frank. First off, how have you been?
Good, busy, you know. They’ve had me working pretty hard. I mean I’ve been running around all over the place. I worked out the other day; I did a count. On average I’ve done a flight every four days so far this year so I’m getting used to that. But, I’m not complaining because I’d rather be doing this than sitting at home waiting for the phone to ring.
I see you’ve been in the studio recently recording new tracks. Are you able to tell us what these are for?
The studio session was for B-sides primarily because the next single is ‘Losing Days’ and we’re doing a little EP around it. We did a Kinks cover, which was fun. We did a really old song called ‘Longing for the Day’. We did a new song. Well, it was a song that got written for Tape Deck Heart and I sort of forgot about or fell out of love with that I recently started playing again and it’s actually really nice, but then yeah, demoed 5 new songs as well. I mean I’ve got new songs coming. I have absolutely no idea when they’ll be released anywhere or what’s going to happen even in terms of arrangement, like whether they’ll be full band or just solo or whatever. But they’re there so I can start thinking about them.
Tape Deck Heart was your most commercially successful album to date. Did the critical reaction corroborate the consumer reaction?
We had some really great reviews of Tape Deck Heart, we had some less stunning ones as well. Hear me out on this, part of that is once you reach a certain point of success commercially and I guess, mainstream wise or whatever you want to call it you sort of cease to be the darling of the underground press. I’m not, incidentally trying to sit here and explain away every bad review I’ve ever got, do you know what I mean? I’m not saying it’s illegitimate for people to not like the record but yeah, it’s been funny. I think for a long time I’ve been someone who critics loved but didn’t sell that many records and it seems to be kind of switching around now, which is interesting. I mean, I’ve always tried to take the view that everyone’s opinion is equally valid. It’s very nice if someone who writes reviews for a magazine likes what I’m doing, but it’s not necessarily more important to me than somebody who buys the record or comes to the show. It’s funny because I actually think that Tape Deck Heart is actually one of the more impenetrable albums that I’ve done. I think it’s a bit, kind of more, dense in a way. It’s certainly not the most immediate record I’ve ever done. Obviously lots of people went ‘oh fucking sell-out’ which is predicable but it was kind of like ‘well yeah, but I think it’s a lot more of a challenging record to listen to than England Keep My Bones. Essentially though I’m not complaining though because loads of people bought the record which is great.
Are you still putting aside a lot of time for your fans, or are you finding it a lot harder recently due to your rise in popularity?
Well, first I would feel the need to interject and say I’m not a big fan of the word fan because it just seems a bit Marie Antoinette-ish. I feel that it is very important for me to be kind of, accessible in a way, or at least, that’s not even the right way to put it. I just, don’t want to be some arsehole that hides in his dressing room all day; it just seems a bit of a boring way to exist to me. I probably spend more of my day answering fan mail than kind of hanging out after shows than I did before. The problem is that I am never going to get around to everybody, and it is difficult occasionally because especially if you’re in the middle of a really long tour and its cold outside and you go and spend an hour and a half outside after a gig covered in sweat talking to people outside, that’s how you get sick. I sort of just try to find a reasonable way of doing it and you’re never going to please everybody. Every time I release a new record somebody somewhere says ‘oh you’d better take your email address off the website now or stop hanging around after shows and shit’ I always go ‘No, bollocks’ and I haven’t stopped doing it yet.
As far as I’m aware, and correct me if I’m wrong, Tape Deck Heart is your only record to date that has charted in the US. Why do you think that is?
Partly because of working with a new label out there, but also kind of just accumulated momentum. Everyone always says America is kind of like an oil tanker in that it takes fucking forever to turn around and its true you know. I mean, I’ve been touring the states since 2008? 7? I can’t remember, but you know just going round and round and round and round and round and you know, there’s just finally people paying attention out there. I’m not sure it means that this album is more popular in the states but kind of, just more people were aware of the fact that it was coming out. But yeah, it’s sort of heading in the right direction over there as well and we’ve had some great radio play over there as well.
There has been a lot of talk recently about whether music and politics should stop mixing. What are your thoughts on this?
I think it’s entirely personal really. I’m not really that interested in kind of sweeping ideas of artistic judgements because it reminds me of people saying shit like, I know I mentioned it in a song but you know ‘guitar music is out of fashion now’ and it’s just like ‘is it fuck.’ It’s just sort of like, if the herd of hipster journos are not listening to guitar bands right now good for them, have fun listening to whatever it is you choose to listen to and I’ll keep listening to music that I like. And similarly it’s like ‘it’s time for music to be political’ or ‘it’s time for music to not be political.’ What it’s time for is for everyone who is making music to make that decision for themselves, you know. There are a lot of bands I like who do not have a shred of politics in what they do and there are lots of bands I like that have lots of politics in what they do. Personally, I do feel that I had a lot more politics in what I did when I was younger, and as I’m getting older I’m getting less interested in it. It’s just kind of, simplistic and I think my main distaste about music and politics for me, and again this is completely personal, is that as soon as you put politics in to your music, people stop listening to the music and start arguing about politics and at the end of the day I want to be a musician. There’s nothing I enjoy more than playing guitar and writing songs, playing with other people and I don’t want that to be kind of, a background hum to an argument about politics. I care way less about politics that I do about music.
Does that have anything to do with your, shall we say ‘run in’ with the lefties?
Yeah, I mean I’d love to sit here and be super fucking punk and go ‘oh I don’t care, it didn’t affect me at all’ but of course it did, you know? I was completely inundated with vile and hatred for a short amount of time and I’ve never really had that before and it’s not very nice. Now that the dust on that has, I think, kind of settled I feel reasonably punk about it. I mean, mostly when people are on the receiving end of threats they issue some kind of public hair shirted apology and I didn’t do that because fuck you, I think what I think you know, I said some stuff and I stood my ground on it and I still do and I think that the people who hate me are going to hate me and that’s fine, good for them, they can carry on and I think that even a lot of people who disagree with me, and I might add that that includes the vast majority of my friends, at least have the decency to go ‘well everyone spends their life doing trite little Facebook posts about how you should stand up for what you believe in’ and that’s what I’m doing and this is what that actually looks like, not just agreeing what the latest trend on twitter is, but kind of standing against it. So anyway, end rant.
The lyrical topics in Tape Deck Heart changed dramatically from England Keep My Bones. Do you feel that you’re maybe losing the sense of patriotism that was a key element throughout England Keep My Bones?
Not necessarily I mean, the thing is I just don’t want to repeat myself, do you know what I mean? There was a bit of a moment kind of half way through the press cycle for England Keep My Bones when everyone was like ‘you’re the guy who writes songs about England’ and it’s like, ‘yeah, I was for one album’ but I was always going to write about something else this time round and the next record will be about something else again. I’m not distancing myself from any of the words on England Keep My Bones at all, but it’s just, I want to write about something else. The other thing is as well is that I felt, I really like England Keep My Bones, I’m really proud of it as an album and all the rest of it, but it’s kind of very loftily themed as a record you know, it’s kind of about death, and national identity, and the thing is, if you go too far down that road you kind of turn into Muse after a while, do you know what I mean. And bless them, I think that they are essentially a great band, but like, suddenly you start writing kind of grand conspiracy theories or state of the nation records, stuff like that and there’s something a little bit pompous about all that I feel. So I thought that it would be interesting to, rather than continue with a sort of outward journey, it would be interesting to kind of turn around and focus internally, basically.
Have you started writing for the new album?
Yeah, and it’s different again. I think the main thing with the new stuff I’ve got is, incidentally I should say that I have absolutely no idea when it is going to see the light of day and I might suddenly decide I hate all the new stuff I’ve got. Tape Deck Heart is kind of a downbeat record, its certainly not the happiest record I’ve ever written in my life and I feel that I want to write something a bit more positive in terms of its mood. And musically, I’ve been completely obsessed with a record called One Night Stand at Harlem Square by Sam Cooke which is a live and its just fucking spectacular from start to finish because its just so energetic. And I know it’s a soul album but its almost punk in a way that the songs just never stop coming, they’re all like 2 minutes long, they’re all totally fucking upbeat and in your face and I just really like that and I’m just really hooked on that record. I’m not saying that I’m going to make a white soul album or anything like that but I think that that’s given me a new burst of energy thinking about song writing, almost kind of just focus, do you know what I mean? I’m not in the mood for writing long, sprawling epics right now. I want to write short buzzy pop songs. Ash, 1977 was the other record, do you know what I mean. Obviously I’ve known that record for years but it’s the same kind of deal. Every song is kind of 2 and a half minutes long and they don’t fuck about. It’s just kind of like verse, chorus, verse, chorus, go, next song and it’s just like ‘yeah, fuck yeah man. Don’t bore us, get to the chorus.’
By Conor Giles
Dance Yrself Clean