Interview: Frank Turner

This is an interview with Winchester wonder Frank Turner. Conducted on the 29th November 2012, backstage before his performance at Southampton Guildhall (review coming soon), on behalf of CRITICAL WAVE.

Frank Turner (picture from Wikipedia, taken by 'Manxstef')
Frank Turner (picture from Wikipedia, taken by ‘Manxstef’)

Of all places, what brings you back to Southampton Guildhall?

Well, this tour that we’re on at the moment is the longest and most, kind of regional UK tour that we’ve done in a long time. We’ve done a lot of those tours where you do Manchester, Glasgow, Birmingham, London, and calling it a UK tour. There are reasons for doing those tours, but they’re not my favourite. I did the Wembley Arena show earlier this year, and it was important to me to kind of send the message to people – I’m not gonna be one of those artists who then retreats into only doing big shows in big cities. I wanted to come back. So on this tour we’ve done Margate, and Swansea, and we’re doing Truro, and Inverness… all corners of the UK. I love playing here in particular because this was the venue I came to when I was growing up.

What are the hardships of touring?

With the proviso before I answer this that I think that it’s redundant anyone complaining about it because if it’s that tough, then just don’t do it. Nobody anywhere has a gun to their head, telling them that they have to go on tour. There are drawbacks to it of course. I miss everybody’s weddings, birthdays, christenings, funerals whatever. It’s tough sometimes hearing that somebody’s died when you’re on the other side of the world and there’s not really anything you can do. It’s very difficult to stay in contact andrelationships, but all of that is counterbalanced by the awesomeness of touring, which is something I love very much, so I’m not complaining.

Bearing that in mind, when the tour is finished, how are you going to feel? Relieved that you get a break? Disappointed that it’s over?

I’ve got two weeks off and then it starts again! I’ll just be doing my laundry and having drinks with friends. It’s Christmas, so I’ll be reminding my family who I am and what I look like! It’s a standard thing, getting my mum to cry over my new tattoos as she does that every time I get a new one…

Every time? How many do you have?

Thirty or forty. I’ve lost count… erm, many! Anyway, then I’ll be back out again. For me, it’s far more normal to be out on tour than it is to be doing anything else.

I know it’s a typical question, but I’ll ask it anyway. Is there anywhere that you haven’t performed yet, but really want to?

Yeah. I’ve been pretty OCD about my touring this year. I’ve got a list of every show I’ve ever played and a list of all the countries and stuff. So the main thing is that I really want to play places I haven’t been yet. In particular, one that’s really in my sights at the moment is South America. I’ve never been to anywhere in South America, and there are tons and tons of people down there who spend their lives emailing me, going ‘why don’t you ever come to Brazil or Mexico or Argentina or whatever?’. So I really need to get my arse into gear and go there

I don’t know that many people or bands ever do?

There’s a great punk scene down there. A really, really great punk scene. I’ve been talking to a band called Lagwagon about going over there, a great punk band from the Nineties, who are back together and touring again. They’ve been talking about going down there and I might go with them, and have fun!

You’re going to be coming back to Southampton pretty soon for another concert at The Joiners (a 150 capacity venue which is in danger of shutting down). How did you get involved with this?

I got an email or two from people letting me know that The Joiners was in trouble, and I love The Joiners. The first gig I ever went to was there, at a guess in 1994. I played there a million times in my life already. My old band Million Dead played our last ever gig there. We had already arranged to break up by that point. We played our farewell gig at The Joiners. So it has a lot of memories and meaning for me. I just don’t want to live in a Joiners-less world, I suppose is the best way to put it! I got in touch with Pat (Muldowney, the owner of the venue) to see if there was anything we could do and we put together a benefit show, which then turned into two benefit shows after their computer crashed when the tickets went on sale. So now I’m doing a matinee and an evening show.

The troubled Joiners Arms.
The troubled Joiners Arms.

What was that first concert?

It was a band called Snug, who are not all that well remembered by the history of music, but they were kind of… I remember Ash was kind of a big deal around that time as well. It was in that kind of vein. Weirdly enough, the guitarist in Snug was called Ed Harcourt who went on to be a singer-songwriter in his own right and who I have toured with and who in fact opened for me last time I played here.

With him there, it’s really stayed with you.

Yeah, yeah. I remember it because rock ‘n’ roll is my favourite thing in the whole world so my first gig sticks in my mind.

If your music were a food, what would it taste like?

(laughs) Probably a steak and ale pie. Wholesome. I don’t make particularly radical and adventurous music. It’s just country rock music. It’s also damn fine and tasty!

I interviewed Sonic Boom Six (also on the Xtra Mile Recordings label) the other day, and they said curry.

Really? I think they probably would actually. They would definitely taste like a curry.

Anyway, you’ve been working on a new album, haven’t you…?

Yes, I’ve been in California. Recording in California was a weird one because it’s something I wasn’t all that keen to do, because it’s such a tired cliché. A British act achieves success and goes to California. So I didn’t want to do that. And the music I make is self-consciously English and it’s meant to sound like it. Having said all that, I got to opportunity to work with a man called Rich Costey, who is one of the best producers in the world. He’s amazing, he’s made many of my favourite albums, and he works in California. If you want to work with him, you go there. It was fine in the end because we were there for a month and we worked every day for a month and we didn’t see sunlight at any point, so it could have been anywhere in the world. Except of course that we were in one of the best studios in the world. The equipment that they had was ridiculously good.

He worked with Muse didn’t he?

Yeah, he did. Production-wise he’s done lots of stuff, but if you throw in his mixing credits as well, it’s ridiculous. He’s worked with Johnny Cash, Bruce Springsteen, Weezer… I can’t remember the whole list!

It doesn’t look bad on a CV does it?

Totally. He was a remarkable individual to work with. He was borderline artistic with his attention to detail in the music. So, it was really good

So when will this album see the light of day?

That is an interesting question, to which I don’t have a direct answer yet. Within the first three months of next year. As always, there is also some debate between the record label people and everybody else about when the actual date will be.

Hmm… are they holding you back…?

Some people want it forwards, some people want it back, and there’s a million different considerations as to why it should be wherever. Among other reasons, we haven’t finished it yet! We finished recording it, but haven’t finished mixing yet. But when depends on many other factors

Before I go do you have anything to plug or preach to our readers?

I’m not much of a preacher! But come along to a show and say hello and get involved.

That’s marvelous. Thanks very much for your time.

Cool! My pleasure, man. Thank you.

And I hope Southampton serves you well.

Excellent. It usually does.

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