Interview: Frank Turner

Headlining the main stage on the final day at this years Y Not Festival in Derbyshire’s beautiful Peak District was Frank Turner, and we caught a precious few minutes with the talented man himself…

Looking wonderfully Rocky, casual and rugged, Frank couldn’t have looked more different to how he did that night on stage, he wore a sleeveless tee, scruffy jeans and a general relaxed disposition. Here-say is a terrible thing, and rumours in the press camp were rife with Frank being a difficult interviewee, but as expected they couldn’t have been more wrong. Frank was so much fun, he couldn’t have had more time for us and he was genuinely lovely. As much as a star off stage as on. With the scene set here’s what he had to say.. 

So! You’ve been on a fairly big festival tour of late, with some interesting festivals that aren’t necessarily your run of the mill festival. How has that been?

Yeah really good, it’s been a fun summer. We only really did one major UK festival which was Sonisphere, and even that for the music that I play was a bit kind left-field and it went very  well, which I’m pleased to say. It’s been really fun, like-Larmer Tree was great, Kendal Calling was amazing, Wakestock was a bit weird if I am honest with you but good, and then we’ve been doing lots of cool German and European ones as well and some American ones too! Obviously it’s great doing Reading and Leeds and T in the Park, but it is kind of more fun in a way to get out to the less generic ones. I feel like things are less processed, there is more opportunity for adventure…

We were actually in the crowd for Sonisphere, it was a great show!

Oh cool! I really enjoyed Sonisphere, it wasn’t that I was nervous about it per-say, there was just a little worry in my mind that we were going to get a bunch of Anthrax fans throwing piss at us or something!

You guest wrote the Kerrang! review of Iron Maiden’s set at Sonisphere, and you’ve also taken part in Mastermind with Iron Maiden as your specialist subject. How did that come about?

I hate the word that I’m about to use, but the way they do “Celebrity” Mastermind (feigns gagging) they contact the charity first and ask if they have any patrons that want to be involved, and I did loads of work last year with Shelter and indeed this year, and they just sent an email going “don’t know if you’ve got any interest in this, but would you be up for going on Celebrity Mastermind?” and I was like “yes, definitely!” I was a nerd when I was kid so Mastermind has always been high on my list of things I wanted to do, and I have always said that Maiden would be my topic. It was so funny because when it all got confirmed I rang up my mate Ben who plays drums in Mongol Horde who’s one of my oldest friends, and I’m like “Mate I’m doing Mastermind” and he went “you doing Maiden?” and I was like “you know me too well”. I did it and it was really fun and it raised money for a good cause as well which is the most important thing. It was nice as well because when we got to the TV studio there was a vintage Maiden shirt from the band that they had sent over as a present, which I then wasn’t allowed to wear on air because you aren’t allowed to wear logos on the BBC. I actually interviewed Bruce for The Guardian in Copenhagen the other day, and that was cool too he’s mental, absolutely mental.


Did you manage to catch the fly-over that Bruce was part of at Sonisphere?

I did, he’s- and I say this with all the love in the world, but he’s got that middle-aged man obsession with flying machines. I mentioned it when I interviewed him, and he basically talked about planes for an hour!

You personally have quite a few projects, is it difficult to maintain them all?

I’ve got into the habit of using the word “day job” as what I’m doing today, and I know it is a terrible thing to say because that’s the wrong word. But this -my solo stuff- is my priority and the main thing that I do, and then I just find time around the edges to do the other stuff. Mongol Horde is just kind of scratching an itch, it’s really good fun playing with old friends and making a different kind of music that I really love, it’s just a good time really. I’ve done a bit of production work here and there. I get bored really really easily, I’m terrible at just not doing anything so I usually find something to do.

The newest album “Tape Deck Heart”, and the album before that seem to have a slight theme to each of them. Is that a conscious thing, and do you go in with the intention of writing about a specific theme?

No, I try not to actually. For me I think that the thing that I try and do when I’m writing is clear all considerations, and just go what is a good song to my tastes or whatever. But at the same time because I write chronologically, there are certain things that are in my head at various points in time. When you are collating the record after the event you can present things in a certain way, but I don’t write concept records if you know what I mean. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with that per-say, if people want do that then fucking ay, but personally I just always want to be kind of naturalistic about it almost, whatever comes comes and if I decide to write a song about chips then that’s that.

What dance would you most like to learn?
(Smart question based on his song “Four Simple Words” that’s hook states “I want to dance”)

What dance? I am shit at dancing! You know I have to say there is something really classy about being about to ballroom dance properly, you know what I mean? Like that would be a pretty cool thing to just pull out of the bag, I’m not talking about this super kind of flashy shit- I’m just talking about being able to Waltz properly. I like the idea of being an old man in a suit who can Waltz, that would be pretty fucking cool, with a handkerchief in my pocket and a silver tipped cane.. yeh.

Speed Round

Dream dinner guest dead or alive?

Dead or alive, Hunter S Thompson.

Worst thing you’ve ever put in your mouth?

(Chuckles) I’m going to answer that in a clean way… I’ve done a few tours in China and some of the food out there is very very odd. I can’t tell you what it was because that’s the other thing, the way they translate is broken and I know it’s because there is a difference between pictorial systems and the way language is arranged, but you’ve got things like “Fluffy Cloud Mushroom”, and you’re like “okay, I’ll have whatever the fuck that is..” so I’ve eaten some weird shit in China.

Weirdest day you your life?

Probably the day that we did the Olympic-thing, because it was just weird. My favourite part of that day was my flat mate runs a pub and I just happened to be chatting to him, and we were all sworn to secrecy about the fact that we were doing the Olympic-thing, so we weren’t allowed to tell anybody. The day before he was like “it’s the Olympic-thing tomorrow we’re going to get the big screens down the pub and have a bit of a party, do you want to come?” and I said “I will be there, in a matter of speaking” and he was like “Whatever..” So then we did the ceremony and there was this big celeby after party and I hate that world so the minute we were done I got in a cab to his pub and was like “Hey” and he was like “fuck, fuck!” (Frank miming how his mate was pointing from the television and back at him) It was pretty good.

Page Turners with Frank Turner..

Test yourself against FT!

1 “Call me Ishmael”

2 “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”

3 “Because we’re all so very twenty-first century”

4 “They’re out there. Black boys in white suits up before me to commit sex acts in the hall and get it mopped up before I can catch them.”

5 “I’d never given much thought to how I’d die” 

Five opening lines from famous novels..

And I have to try and identify them? Oh Jesus Christ! (Looks at card) From novels? Because that’s a song of mine is it not? Okay, we may have thrown in a trick one! 1/5

In that case number three is one of mine. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” that’s Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities? Correct 2/5

Oh shit, I should know “Call me Ishmael.” Oh hold on wait, isn’t that Moby Dick? Correct 3/5

Yes, okay! And then I don’t know the other two.

“I’d never given a thought to how I’d die” what’s that? Twilight Twilight! (laughs) I’m going to take pride in the fact that I didn’t know that one.

What’s number four? One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest

Oh, really! Shit, I love that book I haven’t read it for a long time.

Three out of Five! Not bad Mr Turner.

That was fun! Thank you.

No Frank Turner it was a pleasure, thank you!