Last week Urbanista caught up with one of this country’s greatest singer songwriters and one of this writers favourite artists, Frank Turner. Frank has released eight solo albums in the last 13 years, following on from his time with Post-Hardcore band Million Dead. Franks albums feature incredibly honest writing, coupled with variety in musical genre. His albums often move between his folk and punk rock influence as well as into other musical spheres. Frank’s latest album No Mans Land, tells the tales of many historical females, and was recorded with an ensemble of female musicians in contrast to Frank’s usual backing band The Sleeping Souls. His tour at the end of 2019 in support of the album was carried out in a very different form to the typical set up as is discussed in our interview.
We started the interview by addressing the current elephant in room, the current lock down measures:
“Like everyone I’m spending a lot more time on Facetime and the like. I’m trying to make the best out of a weird situation.”
“At the beginning of all this I thought we were all in this together, that’s not true, certain people are finding this much harder than others, depending on their situation. I’m fortunate to live in a house with a bit of outdoor space and I’m very grateful for that.”
We discussed the cancellation of Frank’s gig due to take place at the end of March and the unfortunate ending of his latest tour, being cut short just before completion. We also talked about rearranging shows and the risk that it poses.
“I couldn’t believe it, if only this all happened one week later. The vibe of the shows had been so cool, playing stuff I hadn’t played for a while.” “It really fucking sucked having to pull those shows.”
“I think people rescheduling now are out of their minds. I don’t know how long this lockdown will go on for, but I think there will be a period with less lockdown, with gigs going on, but it’s not just about regulations, but about how comfortable people feel going to gigs.”
“If the government said I could put on a gig tomorrow, I’m not sure how many would come, people are scared and wary of their health and health of their families, which is totally legit.”
“I think we all have to be very cautious about when things should start happening again, which is a worrying thought for me as it’s how I make my living, as well as being my passion in life.”
We discussed the long term effects of the current situation and what the future may hold.
“I’m not sure anything will ever get back to ‘normal’, on some levels, both in my industry and in society more broadly, maybe that’s an opportunity for us to change things for the better.”
With so many people getting creative from their homes, artists of all kind are finding ways to share their talent and inspire others to get involved. Frank has been very busy live streaming shows and readers should take time to check one out. But away from streaming from lounges many of us have had to find other things to do and many people are struggling with their new way of living.
“I’ve been making lists of things to do around the house, spring cleaning and tidying shit up, but that’s all done now!”
“I’ve got little projects on the go, writing material for my next studio album, so I’ve been working on that. I have been producing stuff for other people, friends of mine.”
“There are some days when you get up and get loads of shit done, and you feel like your succeeding in life and there are days when you wake up feeling blank and empty and stare at the walls for 12 hours.”
“I’m trying to not be too angry with myself if there are days when I don’t feel productive. I think it’s understandable to be like that now”
“It’s important not to be hard on yourself if you don’t succeed every day.”
Away from self-isolation we talked of Frank’s gigs, how he builds a setlist from a wealth of boss material and new direction of the ‘No Mans Land’ Tour. Frank told us how he came to start recording the shows and the decision to release the recording from the Newcastle leg.
“The regular show is the punk rock thing, running round getting the crowd up, and that’s all well and good, that’s the main thing I do but it’s only one aspect of what I’m capable of doing.”
“The idea behind the tour we did last year was for us to be seated and the audience to be seated and to take a different approach. It was more about listening and storytelling, with a narrative arc to the whole thing.”
“We started playing a lot of different versions of songs in the tour, after about a week we’d settled into the vibe, I thought this is really special and different and we’re not gonna do this forever so we should document it. So we started recording shows and at the end of the tour I had about 30 shows recorded, I then sat down and had a very boring week listening to 30 shows. Newcastle came out as the best one for how we played and how we interacted.”
After congratulating Frank on his recent nuptials, we caught up on lock down honeymoon, balancing writing, recording touring and more. Plus we discussed the dreaded first dance at the wedding.
“Thank you, we had a great honeymoon previously, but it’s a funny old thing, this is definitely the longest amount of time me and my wife have spent in each other’s company, ever.”
“It’s a feature of our relationship that I’m quite often away touring, so I’m pleased to report that we’re still getting on well. I’m very grateful to be locked down with someone I love and care about.”
“There are people who are locked down in abusive relationships and that’s a terrifying thing, so I’m pretty lucky.”
“I’m just constantly ready to go and my brain is fizzing away with ideas and stuff, there are 24 hours in the day, I do worry sometimes that I’m too busy in public spheres and I don’t want to be churning it out for the sake of it.”
“I find it quite difficult to not be busy, I mean I get quite caught up if I’m not keeping myself busy”
“We danced to Crazy Little thing Called Love by Queen” “I really, really, don’t like dancing in public, but I told my wife, I’m gonna do it, she said I don’t have to, but I said it’s tradition I’m gonna do it.”
“My wifes a trained dancer, which makes it harder, she taught me a couple of steps which were enough to make me not look like a complete moron, whilst she did some impressive shit.”
Currently with no clear idea of when the lockdown will end and with it unlikely that we will be able to come together in ways we are used to for a long time, our conversation turned to festivals.
“I miss festivals, there’s not gonna be any this year and that’s a tragedy, I had some good ones lined up.”
“Festivals are great though, my friend Jay, (Beans on Toast) he’s got a song about how festivals are just like a fantasy, alternative reality for a few days and I definitely subscribe to that, they’re great.”
“ I don’t know when we’re gonna be back to festivals being what they used to be. I hope next summer, we’ll see.”
Our interview took place on the 7th anniversary of the release of Frank’s 5th album Tape Deck Heart. ‘Recovery’ taken from the album stands out as representing a big shift in Frank’s life and lifestyle.
“That whole record was me coming to terms with some of the issues I had in my life, so there was a big shift in terms of writing, but also that song changed my life, in terms of it being one of, if not the biggest songs, so it’s definitely had a huge impact on my life”
This Urbanista couldn’t help asking about whether one of Frank’s earlier, political tracks, Thatcher F*cked The Kids get many outings anymore?
“Well I played it the other day on one my live streams, the funny thing about that song is that it attracted a certain type of person who doesn’t care about music, but wanted to hear their opinions sung back to them, so I put it on the back burner, but it’s come out once or twice in recent years and I’ve thought, actually, I should play it more often.
“I stand by it, but I’ve had my ups and downs with that song, it’s definitely more in my affections right now than it has been for quite a long time”
As discussed in the interview Frank is a very busy man. He campaigns on many important causes, from mental health and wellbeing to saving important venues and Agent of Change. You can catch him streaming live to support many great causes. So if you’re new to Frank Turner be sure to check out his live streams or one of his many fantastic albums!