An Interview with Frank Turner
Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls are currently on their UK Tour, then to The USA and Canada. Ella Wood and Gabriella Ahmed had to opportunity to interview him, before his second show of the week at our beloved Rock City.
Hiya, how are you?
Getting there.. today at least!
I actually saw you last night!
Was it any good? Fun? I had a lot of fun!
Yeah! So I’ve heard you say that your last album, Tape Deck Heart, was a break up album, what would you describe Positive Songs for Negative People as?
Crawling out of the wreckage. I mean there’s a lot of.. I don’t want to get too involved in this metaphor, but there’s a degree to which the two albums are linked. Tape Deck Heart was a record about failure, for the most part.. for me it was a record about reaching a point in your life, when things are falling apart and it’s just like slightly more meaningful when you’re in your 30s than when you’re in your 20s, you know what I mean? And I was interested in that whole thing. The new record is, again I don’t write collective songs, I write songs and then I put them together, but they tend to be about things going on in my life. Positive Songs is a record about kinda putting the pieces back together again, and trying to sort of.. get out from under.
Do you have a favourite song from the new album?
Ahhhh it’s always the typical question. Shouldn’t do really, there’s a whole degree of filtering which goes on my crazy process before a song gets recorded, or let alone gets put in a record. These are all songs that I like, but yeah I think my favourite song on the record has to be Josephine because I find it quite difficult to explain what that song’s about, which I always thing is such a good sign. You know it demonstrates that it needed writing. But I’m also really happy with Silent Key, that’s a piece of work. I think words and music are kind of equal on my mind, in terms of consideration of what I care about.
So you’ve played many small venues in the past, and now you’re playing venues like Rock City, but do you think you’ll play at Wembley again?
Maybe, if it seems like the right thing to do. We’re playing Alexandra Palace next week which is the same size as Wembley, I think it’s a slightly nicer venue if I’ll be honest. What I like about Aley Paley is that it’s all standing, Welbly it’s all seats up the side and they get all shitty about people standing, and that’s not really to my taste. I’ll be honest, I wans’t really aware of that till the show.
Yeah people behind me were getting annoyed!
Yeaaah that’s why I like Aley Paley, same number of people but it’s all standing, so everyone can have a laugh, which I think is important. And that’s the kinda thing I definitely want to keep. But yeah, the main thing for me, is playing shows that everyone can get into. I don’t want to exclude people from shows, and I also like to mix it up a bit as well, otherwise it’s boring.
I read an article recently in which you said you’d like to delete the song Ladies of London Town from history, why is this?
Aha that’s funny, something I’ve learnt over the years, is that my talk doesn’t translate that well on paper sometimes, because I’m quite flippant when I talk, and I run my mouth and say stuff, which is shit, and when it’s written down it looks way more intense than it’s meant to be. I wouldn’t ever delete that song from existence, it’s a little bit cringy for me in some of the places, some of the words to the song, I also feel musically I don’t feel it segways from the verse to the chorus effectively – to be technical about it. To me a song should flow all the way through, and there’s a bit whenever you come to the chorus of the song, it just annoys me! But f**k it, there’s always song you like more than others over time, and the thing is, actually I’m probably going to start playing that song again now, because since I’ve said that, so many people have gone “I f**king love that song” and it’s like, it looks like it’s going back on the setlist!
It’s a popular thing among your fans to get tattoos based on your songs, the lyrics and symbols and stuff. How do you feel about this? Are they any tattoos you’d rather they didn’t get?
No.. It’s a complicated issue for me, because when it first started happening it felt weird for me because I didn’t really get it. But then again I’ve got a lot of tattoos, most of mine are music related, and one of my things is I just don’t think about myself in the same mental bracket as Queen like my tattoo (laughs) that would be ridiculous. But if people want to get stuff done, that’s cool. The other thing for me is that it’s not my responsibility, it’s a shit tattoo done, that’s not my problem, you know what I mean? There’s people all like I got your logo tattooed on me, and I’m like you made an independent decision, on your own. I mean for me all my tattoos I’ve got are either people who are dead or bands that have broke up, y’know, because I think you can’t f**king choose to get a tattoo of a band then get pissy for them not being exactly what you wanted them to be. A band or artist should be who they are, you know, and there’s that sense of ownership which people feel over the music they like, which I understand, but it does get really f**king annoying for me sometimes, like when people tell me I should be a guy who makes my own songs for the rest of my life, and I’m like really, I don’t want to be 25 for the rest of my life. Sorry, that’s not an age I want to relive in y’know, so that’s an issue, but for the most part, when people get tattoos, it’s a compliment and I’ll take it.
Do you have a favorite tattoo?
Probably the backs of my hands, I f**king love them; my friend Keenan drew the pictures for me. I mean there’s a fable The Fox and the Crow, but it’s also there’s a band called From Me Without You, who wrote a song called ‘The Foc, the Crow and The Cookie’ which is the second track on their record, which completely and utterly changed my thinking about music. Like I walked away from that a changed man kind of thing, I definitely recommend that album, and it’s one of the best records I’ve heard in my life. But also my grandfather’s called Fox, so it’s a family name on my mum’s side of the family. So yeah, the drawing was done by my friend Keenan, and the ink was done by my friend Ian, who are both good friends of mine.
So I came to see your gig last night, it was great! What is it about Rock City that particularly appeals to you?
Rock City is the biggest independent venue left in the UK. People who own and run this venue are the good guys. If you’re ever wondering what the good guys look like, they’re doing it for the right reasons, it’s just a f**cking great place! It also helps it’s a really good room for a gig I think. It sounds good, has good lights, it just all the staff here are really great, they do all these little things like, they put up posters telling you when you’re playing up in Rock City which is great, and like even last night they gave me a present. I think even my favourite memory of Rock City was last summer I came, and we played the basement, and usually they don’t put on catering for basement shows? It just doesn’t make sense financially, so I was all ready to go out and get a bite to eat outside, then we came in and the chef has something brewing up, and I was like we doing catering today? And he looked at me and was like, it’s you you d**k, of course we’re f**king doing catering, you’re one of ours. And I was so grateful, so yeah, it’s good fun.
I was happily surprised you hear you play ‘The Ballad Of Me And My Friends’ last night, after you said at Wembley that it was time to put that song to bed.
Well I changed my mind, the thing for me, what I liked about it is that I feel good about that song now. The problem I had with it, is that it seemed a little bit kind of, automatic, it was always the last song in the set, and I was kinda going through the motions a little bit. And it’s a really special song to me, and I didn’t want to feel like that, so it was definitely a moment in time when people felt annoyed if I didn’t play that song. So by putting it on the bench a little bit, it’s kinda cool, because when I play it now, it feels special.
I’ve noticed that you often keep parts of your show as just you, why is this?
Well I think the Sleeping Souls are like the best band in Rock n’ Roll, and I want them to be involved in everything I do. But within that, I started off just me and my guitar, so there’s people who prefer me on my own, I think they’re wrong, but they’re entitled to their opinion! And it’s nice for everyone, it keeps the show kind of narrative. I want the show to have light and shade.
You usually play a really long set, is this so you can fit in as many fan-favourite old songs as possible alongside your new stuff?
Yeah well it’s not something I’ve sat down and consciously planned, but from when I started I’ve gone to playing two nights in a venue, so yeah I tend to do more an hour and a half sets, I dunno, like I think it’s really important not to bore your audience. I’m hypersensitive to that, the setlist is not identical every night, but it has similar kind of staging posts y’know? And we’re in a place where, if I started to feel people were getting bored, y’know you came to my show!
I was very squished! I was next to those women who you were “Don’t be a d**khead” to (laughs).
What was going on there?!
Not sure, they were either really drunk or high, because one minute they were fighting, next minute they were best friends.
That shit does my absolute nut in, I really got f**ked off with that guy who was whooping when I was playing because it was like: a) We’re having a moment here, stop being a c**t, but also it was just like the thing I was going to say, and funnily enough there was a video of me in that exact same song, losing my mad majorly on the internet to some drunk idiot high on ket shouting “Take your shirt off” but the thing about it, is that it takes a fair degree of concentration to do what I do? I have to remember lyrics, and chords, and everything else, and trying to emotionally challenge the song and connect with people and it’s “CAN YOU STOP F**KING DISTRACTING ME, SHUT UP!” you know, and apparently I say f**k like 60 times a minute or something (laughs). But it’s a laugh.
You encourage people to sing along at your shows, but does it annoy you when people get the songs wrong, for example with Father’s Day you have the slow version?
No no no, it’s fine, it’s like I’m not overly fussed about it, to be honest I can’t hear the audience that well anyway with all my monitors going in and out, and I like to concentrate on what I’m doing, but the sing along thing is in a sense – just so it’s not just us shouting at an audience, for two hours then leaving you know. It’s collective endeavour, and as long as people’s hearts are in the right place. I mean I’ve been known to shout, “Sing along and if you don’t know it make it up!” which is a line, but it’s a good one!
What is your absolute favourite song to perform live?
Well, yeah I like playing songs that people want to hear, an ashamed populous to a degree. Within that, I like playing new stuff at the moment, it feels really good, playing ‘Get Better’ live and stuff like that,but ‘The Next Storm’ is a funny song, and my opinion about it is changing as time goes by, which is true for like most of my songs. But like that’s a song which builds a lot, definitely every time we play it, people are kinda there at the beginning, but by the end of it they’re f**king THERE. You know what I mean? And it’s like it hadn’t occurred to me it was structured like that before – quite interesting in that way, but I love playing that song because by the end of every night, everyone’s just going f**king nuts, and I’m like “Ahhhh yeah okay shit why doesn’t the song start like this?” yeah.
Ahh fab, That’s us all done. Thank you for your time, we’re looking forward to seeing you play tonight!
By Ella Wood