Monday, October 03, 2011

10 Questions with Frank Turner

Frank Turner is an English folk punk singer-songwriter.  He released his fourth studio album which in my opinion is the best record of 2011, England Keep My Bones, earlier this year (you can see my review here) and is currently on tour in the US with Andrew Jackson Jihad and Into It Over It.  For those in the OKC area, Turner and co. will be making a stop at The Conservatory on Wednesday (October 5th) for what is surely to be an amazing show. 

On one other quick note, Frank Turner has become one of my favorite artists in the last year or so and the fact that he not only agreed to do this interview but responded to my inquiry on the same day that I sent it speaks volumes.  

This interview was conducted via email October 1 – 2, 2011. 

For more information on Frank Turner check out his official websiteFacebookTwitter, MySpaceLast.fmAllMusic, and Wikipedia pages.

Dave:  When did you first start playing and writing music?

Frank Turner:  I first got into rock'n'roll music of any kind when I was about 10 and discovered metal (Iron Maiden to be precise). I got a cheap electric guitar for Christmas off my folks that next year and started playing. I was trying to write my own stuff pretty much from the get-go, it just seemed obvious to me that I'd do that as well as learn songs by other people. That's not to say any of it was any good for years though, haha.

Dave:  You are one of the many artists from the punk rock community/scene that has taken up an acoustic guitar. Why do you think so many of you have ventured into the folk / alt country / Americana genre?

Frank:  It's an interesting question. I think part of it is cyclical, music moves in waves and people like Springsteen (for example) have passed through the uncool phase that naturally followed superstardom. I for one got into his stuff through Nebraska, which was not a record I was aware of when I was growing up. I think there's a degree to which the punk scene is reinvigorating itself by restating old principles with new forms, if you see what I mean. In the last few years it's also become something of a bandwagon, if I'm honest, and there's a degree to which I think some people see it as a cheaper way of touring, which seems a little tacky to me. But I'm not one to judge. For the most part it's great, there's been a lot of great new music in this ballpark in the last few years.

Dave:  You have recorded with the likes of Tim Barry, Jon Snodgrass, and Chuck Ragan. What have been your favorite collaborations?  Who would you like to collaborate with in the future? 

Frank:  The "Buddies" record I did with Jon was one of my favourite records that I've made actually, it was a blast. There are a ton of people that I'd like to work with some day. John K Samson from the Weakerthans, for example, or, if I'm being ambitious, Loudon Wainwright III.

Dave:  One thing that I really like about the whole folk punk / alt country scene (especially those of you that have been part of the Revival Tours) is the family atmosphere that reminds me a lot of the way the underground scene in general felt like pre-Nirvana. Why do you think this is such a close knit scene?

Frank:  Uh, hard to say really. From my point of view, being the English guy, I feel like I've been welcomed in to a pre-existing network of friends and musicians - Chuck, Tim, Jon and so on have all known each other for a long time, I'm the new (and younger, I should add) kid in town. I think the fact that we're all people who aren't on our first wind through music means that we're all a little wiser to the pitfalls of ego bullshit. Everyone's toured with other bands and been through the fire of that kind of thing before, and the fact that we're all still on the road means that we know how to handle the lifestyle.

Dave:  Speaking of Nirvana, how did you get involved with Kerrang's Nirvana tribute? What made you decide to record "On a Plain?" Was Nirvana a big influence on you?

Frank:  Nirvana are one of my favourite bands. I think they deserve their accolades. I was asked by Kerrang to record a song; there was a degree to which my choice was restrained by how many other songs had been "reserved" already by other bands. But "On A Plain" was basically my first choice anyway - when covering a song you have to pull something different, something not obvious, out of it, and it seemed easiest to do that with this song, to me.

Dave:  Your new album, England Keep My Bones, is a very uplifting record. In fact I'd go so far as to say that it is one of the most spiritual records that I've heard in years. Being an atheist, do you find it odd that people could find your music spiritual? Were you always an atheist?

Frank:  I come from a religious family, in a pretty reserved Church Of England kind of way. And I'm not a campaigner against religion, I'm entirely comforatble with conflicting views, I just hold my own ones pretty firmly. Personally, I find the word "spiritual" a little suspicious, much like the word "supernatural" - nature is super enough as it is, thanks. I think that human existence can be a wonderful thing in and of itself, without positing extra layers of activity or meaning. I'm glad you find the record uplifting, thank you.

Dave:  In an interview on JBTV you mentioned that you are a libertarian. What type of libertarian do you consider yourself? Do you feel that you are more in line philosophically with the likes of John Locke and Thomas Jefferson or Ron Paul or Ayn Rand?

Frank:  I don't know too much about Ron Paul actually. Rand, well, she has some pithy quotes here and there but her writing was pretty terrible and her imagery isn't to my taste at all, let's just say that. I actually consider myself to be a pretty classical liberal, but the word "liberal" has been so abused in recent history that it's pretty much meaningless now. (For example, the Liberal party in the UK is currently pushing for the state to draw up a list of approved journalists and ban anyone else from writing publicly; the mind boggles). My political heroes are people like Locke, Paine, and Jefferson and Franklin as well. To put it another way, I'm an Enlightenment fan, but specifically not a Marxist.

All that said, and I don't at all mind answering questions about it here and there, I'm a musician first and foremost, not a politician, and I wouldn't want anyone to avoid my shows because we sit on different sides of that aisle.

Dave:  This is a High Fidelity inspired question. What are your Top 5 favorite bands/artists, albums, movies, TV shows, books/authors?

Frank:  Oh wow, tough questions. Bands: The Weakerthans, Bruce Springsteen, Black Flag, The Levellers, Bob Dylan. From that, albums would be "eft & Leaving", "Born To Run", "The First Four Years", "Levelling The Land" and anything from the first 5 Dylan records (or maybe the basement tapes, argh, hard to pick). Movies, uh, Big Fish, The Royal Tenenbaums, Unforgiven, La Haine, The Big Lebowski. TV - Deadwood, The Wire, anything by Reeves & Mortimer, Monty Python, Breaking Bad. Books - Catch 22 (Heller), East Of Eden (Steinbeck), Fugitive Pieces (Ann Michaels), Constitutions Of Liberty (Hayek), 1066 & All That. Man, I reserve the right to change my mind on all of that, haha.

Dave:  What's next for you?

Frank:  A lot more touring. I have plans to do a hardcore / noisecore side-project sometime next year, but when we'll do it is pretty unclear right now. I'm also working on a book of tour diaries, very slowly, and a whole pile of new songs as well. I don't like to be bored.

Dave:  Any final thoughts?

Frank:  Uh, not right now. Ha.


rsctt said...


Dave said...

Huh what?

Patti said...

Fine interview! I'm glad you got to email with him.

Dave said...

Thanks Patti!