Having fronted UK hardcore four-piece Million Dead until 2005, Frank Turner has well-and-truly retained his punk cred whilst producing some mighty awesome folk tunes. With the recent release of his fourth full length "England Keep My Bones", Frank caught up with KYS to chat about his beef with music downloaders and his love for Australia.
Hi Frank, let’s start with the important things and find out your favourite type of traditional English cuisine?
Hm, good question. I’m a big fan of the classic steak and ale pie.
In 25 words or less, can we get a summary of your entire musical career so far?
Was in hardcore band, then started playing solo acoustic, put out records, got backing band, doing okay. 17 words.
Obviously you continue to be fully immersed in the punk community but tend to write more folk-influenced tunes. Which artists have inspired you the most throughout your years of making music?
There are different people for different eras in my life really. The first band I fell in love with was Iron Maiden. Nirvana and then NOFX and then Black Flag were all hugely important to me. In later years I’ve been sat at the feet of Springsteen, Dylan, Neil Young and Loudon Wainwright III.
You’ve just released your fourth album “England Keep My Bones”. How have you found the response from critics and fans so far?
Thus far generally pretty peachy. People have been singing along to new songs at shows, which always feels like a victory to me.
Having put out quite a lot of records by now, do you feel that how you write songs has evolved over the years? How did the writing and recording process differ from “Poetry Of The Deed”, for example?
I’d hope it has evolved, I mean, I don’t have much interest in standing still creatively. My songwriting has, hopefully, improved with practice. It’s also a little different playing with a set backing band now. I always wanted to have one but on early records it was a little theoretical. Now I know exactly who is playing what, and they contribute to some of the arrangements, so that changes things. "Poetry" we made as a self-consciously rock record. This time round I wanted things to be a little more stylistically varied.
So for this record you opted for a less full-band oriented sound than in the past. What was the reasoning behind that decision?
I wanted to make a more diverse record. There’s definitely some noisy rock on there, but there’s some acapella stuff and finger-picking too. I wanted to be more ambitious.
Your first single from the new record “Peggy Sang The Blues” was released back in April, and you’ve since released a video for it. Can you tell us a bit about the significance of this track?
It’s a song that is, in part, about my late paternal grandmother, Peggy, who was totally awesome. It’s also about some other things too, but that was certainly the genesis of it.
“England…” is the second album you’ve put out on Epitaph now. How has it been working with those guys?
Technically the third actually, as they released "Love Ire & Song" outside the UK too. It’s been great – there’s the heritage angle, the prestige of the name, but they’re also a great label on a day-to-day basis, they know what they’re doing.
No stranger to our shores, you were last out here in Australia in April. What were the highlights of that tour?
The whole thing was great, I’m a massive fan of touring in Australia, I’ve been over twice now but I’m hoping to be back with my band as soon as possible. My friend Chuck Ragan had told me for years that it’s a great place to tour, and he wasn’t wrong. Having the shows selling out, especially the Arthouse, was amazing to me.
Throughout your summer you’ll be hitting heaps of the big festivals over in Europe. What are you expecting from those dates?
Festivals are a great way to make new friends in the audience, and to catch up with touring buddies and friends in other bands. We’re doing the main stage at this year’s Reading & Leeds festivals, which is something I’m very excited about and proud of.
You’ve supported some huge names in your time like Green Day, Bliffy Clyro and your good mates The Gaslight Anthem. How do you feel those huge shows or festival dates compare to more intimate ones, such as those you’ve usually done down here?
Each different kind of show has a different vibe to it, and there’s a different set of skills necessary to entertain 5 people in a bar versus 5,000 people in a field. I wouldn’t say I prefer one over the other though, I just like to play music and it can actually be kind of refreshing for me to go between different set ups. It keeps me on my toes.
While you’re from England, I think it’s fair to say that the majority of artists you work with or tour with tend to be American. What’s the state of the UK punk and alternative scene today?
You are, alas, asking the wrong person. I have some friends back home who make music, but I never had much time for "scenes" anyway, and I spend very little time in the UK these days.
You’ve often expressed some very passionate views about the internet and the future of the music industry. What are your thoughts on the issue in 2011? What’s the solution to illegal downloading?
I have some passionate views about it because it’s my livelihood, my trade, that’s being discussed. I find it mind-blowing that there are some people in bands who aren’t exercised about the issue, in whatever direction. That seems negligent to me. The internet is here to stay and it’s by no means a necessarily bad thing, in fact I think we could be in the middle of a restructuring of the music industry which will be beneficial to musicians and fans alike (which is, presumably, what we’re all aiming for). In the short term though it’s problematic because some people who work their fucking arses off bringing joy to other people get fucked over (by those same people) and that’s an obvious injustice to me. In the long run I’m generally pretty optimistic.
Other than a whole lot of touring on the back of “England Keep My Bones”, what does the rest of this year hold for you Mr Turner?
Not masses, haha. I have a lot of ground to cover before 2012, and then beyond. I’m working on some other ideas, new songs, a book of tour diaries and so on, but it’ll be mostly time spent on the road. Which is fine by me.
Thanks for your time Frank.