“Counter-Factuals are Usually a Waste Of Time”: An Interview with FRANK TURNER

“Counter-Factuals are Usually a Waste Of Time”: An Interview with FRANK TURNER

Frank Turner is a singer-songwriter from Hampshire. Having started out in punk bands in the early part of his career, Turner went solo and has had incredible success in doing so. From selling out venues across the UK, including Wembley in 2012, to achieving similar success in the states as well as last year releasing his sixth full length album, Positive Songs For Negative People. I sat down with Frank Turner before his sold-out show at the Limelight, Belfast to ask him about the new record.

 

You’re currently in the middle of a UK tour, I just wanted to ask you where you’ve been so far and how its been?

FT: It’s sort of been difficult for me to delineate where set tours begin and end. We did a sort of big mainland UK tour in November last year, then we did a few weeks in the states, then we did 4 weeks in Europe. We had about ten days off which was a huge break for us. I played in Exeter last night for the caverns 25th birthday and then today, we’re here (Belfast), Dublin tomorrow, then a benefit show in London and then I go to Canada. So busy, but exciting.

Positive Songs has been out since August now, how has the reaction been compared to your other albums?

FT: Its been good, I mean its an interesting moment. Its my sixth record and I’m definitely not an underground artist anymore. Its funny because that changes the way certain people react to you. Obviously, by definition, it means there is more people paying attention but there are certain people who only like bands if it gets to be their little secret and they are often quite vocal in letting you know that they don’t like you anymore once they cease to be your little secret. It’s slightly annoying when people review an album and talk about anything other than the music.

Its been my most successful record in that states and in Europe. The basic thing for me is that I got to release a sixth album which is something not many bands get to do. You know, I put it out there and there is still people paying attention. I think I’m right in saying tonight is our biggest Belfast show to date, I mean we’ve played this venue before but tonight we’re sold out I think so fuckin heck that’s great you know and finding any sort of level where I’m still growing at this point in my career is really wonderful.

You’ve have a bunch of very interesting music videos as part of this album cycle, I wanted to ask, how did CM Punk get involved with the video for The Next Storm?

FT: It disarmingly simple basically. Ben Morse is the guy that makes most of my music videos and he got wind of the fact that CM Punk is a music fan and I think he saw an interview where he mentioned me or something like that. We have a mutual friend in Ryan from “Off With Their Heads”, an amazing punk band. We sent him an E-mail saying do you want to be in the video and he said yes that’d be cool and that was that.

Yeah, I’ve been really happy with the videos we’ve done for this cycle so far. The Tape Deck Heart videos I wasn’t all that stoked about in retrospect but this one I think we’ve got some good shit done.

Despite the title Positive Song’s For Negative People, there is still quite a few darker songs, lyrically anyway. Is the balance between more uplifting songs and sadder songs intentional?

FT: Not really, certainly not consciously. I think about albums wholistically as well as individual songs, and you know when it comes to choosing which songs go on a record I suppose on some level that’s playing out in my head, but its not quite as concious as going “oh happy song, sad song”

but it’s weird, I guess just temperamentally I would say that this record contains some of the most upbeat songs that I am capable of doing. Certainly whilst also being serious, there are fun songs, but like in terms of serious songs there are some of the most serious upbeat songs on this record.

I wanted to ask also, Song For Josh is of course a very personal song. Is there any time you have written a song and thought it’s too personal to put on an album?

FT: Yes. The whole deal with Tape Deck Heart was that England, Keep My Bones did really really well and Tape Deck Heart was the first sort of ‘post-success record’. Obviously it was my fifth record so I’d been doing this shit for a while but you know England, Keep My Bones went gold and we played the Arena shows so that was a moment where it was like “okay, fuck”.

The themes of England, Keep My Bones are quite bombastic anyway sort of about Death and national identity. And it seemed to me that the obvious thing to do would be to get broader in my scope and with that in mind I decided to not do that because I’m a contrarian and I thought “fuck it”. Obviously I had something to write about, like a quite unpleasent break up and it just seemed to me it would be interesting in the moment where everyone was paying attention to go inwards rather than outwards.

With that in mind, theres a fair amount of stuff on Tape Deck Heart that I had to really push myself to not listen to the alarm bells. I was kind of like “fucking hell you can’t say this in public” and I had to keep saying “ignore that”. The biggest lyrical influence for that album was Aidan Moffat from Arab Strap because Philiophobia is one of my favourite records ever.

In retrospect I cant quite believe I put the song “anymore” out and I dont play it live and I’m not sure I ever will because that song fucking hurts and theres a part of me thats still like “jesus fucking christ did I actually say that in public” and it’s funny because it’s not an often requested song either you know what I mean, I think that one was a little over the line.

So do you think, if you were going back to re-record Tape Deck Heart would you put that on the album?

FT: I don’t know. I think that counter-factual are usually a waste of time. Things happen the way they did. Plus the other thing is I have a habit of being hyper-critical about the albums that I’ve done, which I think is a healthy part of the creative process. It’s only when things are quite far in the rear view mirror that I can listen with any degree of relaxation. I mean I can just about listen to Love, Ire & Song and not immediately start drawing up lists of things that annoy me about it. Certainly it will be a while before I can listen to Tape Deck Heart in that way, or indeed Positive Songs

So you released your first book of Tour stories of course last year, and you were obviously writing some of the book around the same time you were writing for this new album. So do you think writing the book kind of impacted how you ended up writing songs for this album?

FT: No really, the writing of the book went on for a longer period than that. I started working on the original entries for it in 2011 or something there wasn’t a publishing deal in place at the time it was just an idea I was toying with. I worked over some of it over a long period of time and then rushed to finish it once we had a deadline in place.

It’s almost making me think about things post this album. I’ve almost got a sense in my head at the minute it’s time for a change. I think that six records in the same sort of ballpark is a good showing. I mean, we are five months into what is probably going to be a two year tour for this album. I just think that after all that, and possibly with the influence of having written a book that its probably time to do something slightly different after this.

But I don’t know what that means. I don’t know if that means I’m going to record a drum and bass record or something I mean I listen to a lot of IDM but I can’t make it, I’ve tried and I’m rubbish at it.

Tape Deck Heart musically was quite a folky album and this new one is a lot rockier. With the re-issue of Harmony no Harmony by Million Dead last year do you think revisitng that record impacted the writing of the new album?

FT: I definitely think I was trying to make more of a punk record with this one. I put it down more to touring with Dropkick Murphy’s because it just made me kind of want to play heavier songs. But also its just trying to change things up you know I’m always at pains to try and not repeat myself.

I was actually going to ask a question about Mongol Horde, is there anymore plans for Mongol Horde?

FT: It’s very theoretical at the moment. Obviously Matt’s (Nasir, Mongol Horde guitarist) here because he plays in the Sleeping Souls and we’ve been kicking some riffs around sending them to Ben (Dawson, Mongol Horde drums) and he’s been sending some ideas over. It is something we wanna do. It might well be that the other two get some music together and I add vocals to it later. We want to do another record it might be two or three years before that actually becomes a thing.

So tonight’s show is your first Northern Irish gig in a while, I believe it was 2013’s Cut The Transmisson festival in Derry. So what kind of expectations do you have for tonight?

FT: Yeah it was! Which is way too fucking long, sorry about that! But you know, I’ve always been somewhat of a populist with our setlist’s so we try and cover all the bases and keep everyone happy. Obviously there will be a fair amount of new stuff because that’s the album we’re touring but yeah, there will be some songs we will see!

You’ve got a band from Derry supporting you tonight, Waldorf & Cannon. I wanted to know, do you ever get local bands from the areas you are playing in to support you?

FT: Well actually Wallie from Waldorf & Cannon is a sometime roadie for me and it’s his new band. When these shows got announced Wallie dropped me a line and said can we open the shows and I said fuck yeah. I’m really looking forward to seeing them because they seem to be totally out of their minds.

However I more usually do full tour supports, where I get one person and try and take them out to all sorts of different people. Partly because I like to concentrate on one person if Im trying to help someone out. Say for example Will Varley’s just been out in Europe and the UK with us and we took him to the states and I think he’s an absolute genius and I want him to do a whole bunch of stuff.

I went through a long period of time where I was planning to do a local supports only tour and trying to pick stuff myself but that’s a lot of work. The other thing about it is, and it’s boring but it’s true. Logisitically speaking if you have the same line up playing everyday then everyone can get into a rhythm in terms of the crew, loading in and loading out etc.

As you say, you brought Will Varley out on tour with you & and you have always been very vocally supportive of you fellow labelmates on Xtra Mile. I wanted to ask what you would recommend coming out Xtra Mile this year?

FT: There’s a question! The Will Varley record is amazing. Skinny Lister are working on a new record this year I know that, that’s exciting. They’ve just done a Northcote record I think which is going to be really cool and we’re doing some shows with Northcote out in the states. There’s a bunch of stuff but to be honest I’m not 100% up to speed with it as we sit here right now.

Finally, I just wanted to ask, what is next for Frank Turner?

FT: Well this Tour Schedule goes through probably until summer 2017. It’s gonna be a long year but I mean we’ve got the new EP coming out at the start of March with four other songs on it that are from the positive songs era, not from the same recording sessions. Yeah we are just going to be on the road touring that. I have ideas of what is going to be coming next but it’s way too early to start talking about it yet.

 

LIVE SHOWS

UK Sun 14 Feb 2016 Bristol BBC 6Music Festival
(Full Band, at Motion)

UK Tue 16 Feb 2016 London The Monarch
(Solo, benefit for Warchild UK)

CAN Thu 18 Feb 2016 Halifax NS The Marquee
(Solo, w/ Northcote)

CAN Fri 19 Feb 2016 Moncton NB Tide & Boar
(Solo, w/ Northcote)

CAN Sat 20 Feb 2016 Fredericton NB The Capital Complex
(Matinee, Solo, w/ Northcote)

CAN Sat 20 Feb 2016 Fredericton NB The Capital Complex
(Solo, w/ Northcote) SOLD OUT

CAN Mon 22 Feb 2016 Kingston ON The Mansion
(Solo, w/ Northcote) SOLD OUT

CAN Mon 22 Feb 2016 Kingston ON The Mansion
(Late show, Solo, w/ Northcote) SOLD OUT

CAN Tue 23 Feb 2016 London ON London Music Hall
(Solo, w/ Northcote)

CAN Wed 24 Feb 2016 Waterloo ON Maxwell’s Concerts & Events
(Solo, w/ Northcote) SOLD OUT

CAN Thu 25 Feb 2016 Thunder Bay ON Crock’s
(Solo, w/ Northcote)

USA Sat 27 Feb 2016 Hinckley MN Grand Casino
(Full Band, Grand Minnesota Taste Together)

CAN Mon 29 Feb 2016 Red Deer AB International Beer Haus
(Solo, w/ Northcote) SOLD OUT

CAN Tue 01 Mar 2016 Canmore AB The Drake Pub
(Solo, w/ Northcote) SOLD OUT

CAN Wed 02 Mar 2016 Kelowna BC Flashbacks
(Solo, w/ Northcote)

CAN Thu 03 Mar 2016 Vancouver BC Commodore Ballroom
(Full Band, w/ Northcote & Mo Kenney)

CAN Sat 05 Mar 2016 Calgary AB MacEwan Ballroom
(Full Band, w/ Northcote & Mo Kenney)

CAN Sun 06 Mar 2016 Edmonton AB Union Hall
(Full Band, w/ Northcote & Mo Kenney)

CAN Mon 07 Mar 2016 Saskatoon SK O’Brian’s Event Centre
(Full Band, w/ Northcote & Mo Kenney)

CAN Tue 08 Mar 2016 Winnipeg MB Garrick Centre
(Full Band, w/ Northcote & Mo Kenney)

CAN Fri 11 Mar 2016 Toronto ON Danforth Music Hall
(Full Band, w/ Northcote & Mo Kenney) SOLD OUT

CAN Sat 12 Mar 2016 Ottawa ON Bronson Centre
(Full Band, w/ Northcote & Mo Kenney)

CAN Sun 13 Mar 2016 Montreal QC Virgin Mobile Corona
(Full Band, w/ Northcote & Mo Kenney)

USA Mon 14 Mar 2016 New Haven CT College Street Music Hall
(Full Band, w/ Northcote & Mo Kenney)

USA Tue 15 Mar 2016 New York NY New York Society For Ethical Culture
(Solo, book discussion show with Dan Ozzi)

USA Thu 17 Mar 2016 Gainesville FL High Dive
(Solo, w/ Skinny Lister, Beans On Toast & Will Varley)

USA 18-21 Mar 2016 Miami FL Salty Dog Cruise
(Solo)

ES Wed 30 Mar 2016 Barcelona Bikini
(Full band, w/ Ducking Punches)

ES Thu 31 Mar 2016 Valencia Loco Club
(Full band, w/ Ducking Punches) B

ES Fri 01 Apr 2016 Santander Escenario Santander
(Full band, w/ Ducking Punches)

ES Sat 02 Apr 2016 Gijon Teatro Albeniz
(Full band, w/ Ducking Punches) B

ES Mon 04 Apr 2016 Madrid Sala Arena
(Full band, w/ Ducking Punches)

IT Thu 07 Apr 2016 Milano Circolo Magnolia
(Full band, w/ Ducking Punches)

IT Fri 08 Apr 2016 Treviso New Age Club
(Full band, w/ Ducking Punches)

SL Sat 09 Apr 2016 Ljubljana Kino Siska
(Full band, w/ Ducking Punches)

SK Sun 10 Apr 2016 Bratislava Majestic Music Club
(Full band, w/ Ducking Punches)

RS Tue 12 Apr 2016 Belgrade Depo
(Full band, w/ Ducking Punches)

HU Wed 13 Apr 2016 Budapest A38
(Full band, w/ Ducking Punches)

CZ Thu 14 Apr 2016 Prague Lucerna Music Bar
(Full band, w/ Ducking Punches)

PL Fri 15 Apr 2016 Wroclaw Firlej
(Full band, w/ Ducking Punches)

PL Sat 16 Apr 2016 Warsaw Klub Proxima
(Full band, w/ Ducking Punches)

DK Mon 18 Apr 2016 Aarhus Atlas
(Full band, w/ Ducking Punches)

DK Tue 19 Apr 2016 Copenhagen Lille Vega
(Full band, w/ Ducking Punches)

NO Thu 21 Apr 2016 Bergen USF Rokeriet
(Full band, w/ Ducking Punches)

NO Fri 22 Apr 2016 Oslo Rockefeller Hall
(Full band, w/ Ducking Punches)

FI Sat 23 Apr 2016 Helsinki Tavastia
(Full band, w/ Ducking Punches)

SE Sun 24 Apr 2016 Stockholm Debaser
(Full band, w/ Ducking Punches)

SE Mon 25 Apr 2016 Gothenburg Pustervik
(Full band, w/ Ducking Punches)

DK Wed 27 Apr 2016 Aalborg 1000Fryd
(Full band, w/ Ducking Punches)

BE 29-30 Apr 2016 Meerhout Groezrock Festival
(Full Band)

USA Thu 05 May 2016 New York NY The Grid Music Initiative
(Solo)

USA Fri 06 May 2016 New York NY The Grid Music Initiative
(Solo)

DE 24-26 Jun 2016 Scheessel Hurricane Festival
(Full Band) Buy Tickets
All Ages
DE 24-26 Jun 2016 Neuhausen Ob Eck Southside Festival
(Full Band)

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