After viewing his performance as the opening act for The Gaslight Anthem earlier this month (https://speakimge.wordpress.com/2010/08/11/william-elliot-whitmore-and-frank-turner-excellent-opening-acts-for-gaslight-8510/) I became infatuated with Turner. I listened to nothing but his Love Ire & Song (2008) and Poetry Of The Deed (2009) for a week straight. I fell in love with songs like “Photosynthesis,” “Long Live The Queen,” “Dan’s Song,” and “Try This At Home.” I needed more, I had questions, I required answers, and Turner was kind enough to field them.
Campfire Punkrock is the title of your first solo EP. How did you come up with this name? Is this the tag you apply to your entire solo catalogue? What do you feel separates your music from the rest that you had to create a new musical genre to place it in?
The name came from a conversation with a drunk guy in Dundee after a show. I have no idea who he was, alas, but we talked about what I was trying to do musically. I’m not sure I was trying to define a genre, but it seemed like a fun title for a first release.
I’ve been watching your Bonnaroo video of “I Still Believe” on a loop this past week because I love this song. What persuaded you to write this track? What is the message you’re trying to send with it? Do you plan to record it anytime soon?
We’re going to be recording the song in September with an eye to releasing it before the end of the year. Glad you like it. I just wanted to write a song about rock n roll, there’s not much more artistry to it than that.
Frank Turner performs “I Still Believe” at Bonnaroo 2010 (via. RamblesTheMan on youtube.com)
You come from a punk rock background with Million Dead . A lot of punk musicians try to keep up that “bad ass” persona while on stage, and that goes for a lot of musicians outside the genre as well. However, rock n’ roll legends know how to interact with an audience, and you do that very well with your humor. Why is it so important to you to have some personality on stage and to interact with a crowd?
Again, it’s not something I’ve really plotted. My mother brought me up to believe that manners are important, so I try and be nice to people on and off stage. I don’t really have or want to have a separate “persona” for performing, I consider myself to be an ordinary guy playing some songs for people.
I’ve been listening to your song “I Knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous” and I was wondering if you can discuss it. Was this song written from personal experience? Who is Prufrock? Who are these “stars” you are old friends with? Who is Justin and why is he the only one of you that’s going to make it? Why were you revolting and what caused it to fall through? Just a few jumping off points.
The title of the song is kind of a jokey reference to a poem by TS Eliot called “The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock”. The poem is about greatness passing you by. The people mentioned in the song are old friends of mine, actually pretty much the bar staff of a pub in North London called Nambucca where I used to hang out and occasionally sleep. They’re one or two line portraits of friends, I guess they’re amusing to people who know the characters, but hopefully also broad enough for everyone else to identify something with. Justin is also known as Jay Jay Pistolet and made some great music, but is currently not doing anything as far as I know. We had a conversation many moons back in Southampton before a show about how many new Ebglish folky bands were around – me, him, Mumford, Laura Marling and so on.
“Try This At Home” is a two-minute, punk anthem calling for a non-violent musical revolution against trends, scenes, and icons. What did you experience that caused you to write this song? For those that may not be familiar with the track, can you explain the message behind it?
For me the most interesting and exciting part of punk rock is its iconoclasm – the idea that, as Tom Gabel put it, “We can be the bands that we want to hear”. I wanted to write a song about that. I grew up with punk, and it remains in many ways my guiding light, philosophically speaking.
“Try This At Home” by Frank Turner
While opening for such acts as Green Day, The Offspring, and The Gaslight Anthem you’ve managed to play some large venues, festivals, and audiences. As a solo artist, how have you been able to successfully transition from playing smaller club shows to much larger establishments?
That’s an interesting question which I’m not sure I know the answer to. It’s a strange facet of the way show business works that you don’t get many dress rehearsals for the biggest shows you’re going to play. I guess you just have to think about how to engage larger crowds of people, how to make sure everyone feels like you’re playing for them. It’s an instinctive thing, I suppose.
Can you discuss any details of your latest collaboration with Jon Snodgrass? Is it truly a “masterpiece?” What can we expect?
Haha, Jon and I made a plan to write and record an album together in two days last year. I’m pleasantly surprised that we actually found time to do it, we’re both pretty busy for the most part. It’s a pretty humorous collection of songs, but I do think we came up with some gems in the midst of it all. We’re trying to get it released as soon as possible.
I’ve heard The Offspring, you’ve mentioned Elvis and Bruce at The Stone Pony show the other night, who are your biggest influences, musically or otherwise? As well as what they mean to your sound, what messages and attitudes did you take away from these people? How did they affect who you are?
Growing up, as well as listening to a lot of hardcore (Black Flag, Minor Threat etc.) I was into an English band called The Levellers, and the first Counting Crows album looms big in my memory. Springsteen is important for me now, as are Dylan and Young. I guess I’ve grown up to become a fan of songwriting. As mentioned earlier, the iconoclasm of punk is important to me, Henry Rollins is a big inspiration, as, in a different way, is Hemmingway.
My readers and I are always looking for new music. What are you listening to these that we should be aware of?
Recently I’ve been listening to the latest Mewithoutyou record, which is phenomenal, and Dr Dog. From the UK people should check Laura Marling, Beans On Toast, Ben Marwood, Danny & The Champions Of The World.. I could go on for days.
I have a lot of readers and friends that are in bands trying to make it. So from one artist that has made a huge name for himself to others that are trying to do the same, what advice can you leave them with?
Work hard and enjoy it. There’s not much more to say without getting into tedious specifics, and I don’t have a secret blueprint for success. But it’s a lot of work, and as long as you keep loving the music you make it’s always worth it.
“I Knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous” by Frank Turner
What’s next for Frank Turner in terms of projects, tours, or anything else you want to discuss?
I’ll be on the Social Distortion tour in the US in the fall with Lucero, which is going to be great. I should have a new EP of songs out before the end of the year, and a new album out early next.
Turner will play a number of dates in Europe and in the states before embarking on dual legged, two-month tour of the U.S and Europe, beginning on October 10 at the Austin City Limits festival and ending in London on December 12. All U.S. shows, after his solo set in Austin, will be in support of Social Distortion. Catch this man and Social D in a town near you. You’ll be glad you did.