Interview: Frank Turner

jeanne crump chats it up with the punk-folk singer-songwriter …

As Frank Turner strolled through the humid streets of Florida, his opening line to me was, “You’ll have to forgive me, I am walking, trying to find a waffle house.” A great intro to the conversation, I may say. If you’re not familiar with whom I usually just refer to as “The Man,” check out my live review of his fall show at the Bowery Ballroom in New York. But make no mistake, his live performances cannot, and should not, be justified in sentences. I got a chance to talk The Man, and for all of you wondering, yes — he is as cool as you think he is.

Photo: Erik Weiss

Pop-Break: I actually live in Asbury Park, N.J., where you are ending your tour at the Wonder Bar on March 18. Why did you chose to end it here?

Frank Turner: I love Asbury — it’s a great place. We had a extra day at the end of the tour for various reasons, we needed a place that was within a few hours of Boston. and everyone immediately thought of Asbury because we’ve got a good history with Asbury — we’ve played the Lanes a few times, and The Stone Pony Outdoor Stage and did The Gaslight Anthem show, and we’ve got some great friends in town. We wanted to do it at The Wonder Bar because, even though it sold out quickly, we’ve got a headlining U.S. tour coming up in the fall with a lot of bigger venues, and we didn’t want to, you know, blow our load, if you know what I mean. It’s going to be a fun little end to the party.

PB: I wanted to talk about your touring, since that’s what you’re really known for — living on the road, writing songs about Wanderlusting. With these bigger tours with Social Distortion and The Dropkicks Murphys, has your desires towards touring changed at all? I’m sure they are more demanding and are much different than just being able to pick up your guitar and hit the road.

FT: Well actually, in some ways, these slightly larger tours are actually easier. We’re on a bus for this tour, so we sleep when we travel. One of the hardest things about touring in a van, strictly about touring the U.S.A., is that you drive for six hours then you have to get out and play a show, and you get to sleep for maybe four hours and then you get back in and keep going, you get really run down. So in some ways the bigger tours can be easier for that kind of thing. But at the end of the day, I like traveling and I like playing music, and it’s fantastic to me to be able to do that in any shape or form, and I’m not particularly fussy about the kind of form that it takes. That’s not of course to say that I’m not grateful for the fact that every time we drive around the U.S.A., there are a few more people coming to see me and my band play, and people in the U.S.A. seem to be coming around.

PB: Playing into that a bit, I was reading your blog a few months back and you had announced that one of your shows in Reno, Nev., with Social Distortion was canceled due to an illness and you went a bit into the politics of touring in the States –dealing with all the promoters, talent buyers, etc. I wanted to know your feelings on touring here. Is it something you look forward to, or say, “Eh, I’ve gotta go back to the States”?

FT: No, I definitely look forward to touring the U.S. Aside from my home country (England) it’s my favorite place to play. I could definitely see myself moving here and living here for awhile — that’s if I were to stop traveling around incessantly. [laughs] It was a bummer about that show [in Reno] because Mike [Ness] was sick and there was nothing we could do about that. As a singer myself, I know it’s a terrible feeling having to pull a show because you’re sick. But it was actually kind of a gratifying experience because we had a hole in the schedule and I called up my tour manager and my booking agent and everyone and we all kind of ruffled around, and we got a gig in Sacramento and another in San Francisco, both of which were announced in 24 hours notice, and they were great. A whole bunch of people showed up, and we had a lot of fun. It’s good to know that you can ruffle up that many people so far from home in that short of notice.

PB: So I know you’re on a U.S. tour with the Dropkick Murphys. Are they a group that you’re a personal fan of? Was this a random tour that happened or had this been in the works for awhile?

FT: They’ve actually been chasing me for awhile to tour with them. I wouldn’t say I grew up listening to the Dropkicks or was an uber-fan, but I can honestly say they’re one of the nicest bands we’ve ever toured with in terms of how we’re treated and how the audience has been reacting to us — and also, they’re a phenomenal live band. I mean, they really just explode and take over the whole crowd. It’s really quite inspiring to me to watch because that’s the kind of vibe I want at my shows.

PB: I read awhile ago that you were working on a new album. Can you tell us anything about that?

FT: Yeah, well, I’ve got a ton of songs hanging around right now in various different levels of finished-ness, and I found some gaps in my schedule to go into the studio, and I’m not the kind to be sitting around and waiting. I’ve got more than enough songs for one record, but I’m trying to get another whole pile finished to have a large selection to choose from and put the best ones on the record. Realistically, the new record will probably be out in January of next year. I’m excited about this new record. I think the songs are better than the ones that came before, and that’s always a good feeling.

Frank Turner performing live at Shepherds Bush Empire in London Aug. 2, 2008
Photo: Dan Griffiths (www.dangriffiths.com)

PB: How has it been working with such a legendary label such as Epitaph? Are you planning on releasing your next album with them?

FT: Yes, I’m definitely releasing with them again. They’re a great bunch of people, and I’ve loved working with them. I’ll also still be working with my original label back in England, Xtra Mile Recordings.

PB: The first song to turn me onto your music, much like I’m sure many other fans, was “The Road.” I watched the video the first time I ever listened to the song and I had always wondered if you really played 24 shows in 24 hours. Did you?

FT: Yes. [laughs] We really did. And we get that question quite often. It was fucking exhausting, but we did it. It’s something that I would put on a list to do once and never again. But it was fun, and it made for a great idea for the video. Looking back I always wondered why we didn’t start at 7 a.m. instead of 7 p.m. By the next night, I was totally beat. It was quite a 24 hours.

PB: Did you know all the people’s whose houses and apartments you filmed at?

FT: No, we actually put an open call up on my blog for people that would let us film. We got a great response, and it was really fun to play in all those different places.

PB: My last question is regarding your most recent release, The Second Three Years, which included unreleased material and a collection of covers. The songs you covered have a pretty broad range, from Bruce Springsteen and Nirvana to NOFX and “Build Me Up Buttercup.” Is there any rhyme or reason to the songs you chose? Are they just some of your personal favorites?

FT: Yeah, songs I’ve always liked for the most part. The thing is, music is mostly made up of the same stuff. You can rearrange it to sound however you like, even with pop songs. And that’s what I do here. People ask what guilty pleasure songs I have, and I say, “I don’t fucking have any guilty pleasures. If I like it, then I like it.” Look at what Fat Mike does with Me First And The Gimme Gimmes. I just like writing music, and that’s pretty much what it gets down to.

PB: And that is all we want you to do, Mr. Frank Turner.

The Dropkick Murphys and Frank Turner will be having their raucous, rock ‘n’ roll ceremony this Friday, March 9 at The House Of Blues in Atlantic City, N.J.. Turner will also end his tour at The Wonder Bar in the famed city of Asbury Park, N.J., on March 18.

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