An interview with Frank Turner
Ellipsis catches up with Frank Turner ahead of his gig at Liverpool Guild of Students.
Welcome back to Liverpool! So tonight’s show is only a few days into your tour and you’ve still got a lot to go but at the end of it you’ve got your 2000th show in Nottingham, are you looking forward to that?
Yeah definitely. I mean I’m sort of trying not to think about it too much because it makes me feel so old but it’s a cool milestone and I got to choose where the show was going to be and I picked Nottingham Rock City because it’s my favourite venue in the world. So I’m looking forward to the show, it’s going to be fun.
And I saw that Beans on Toast will be one of the supports?
Yeah. So the supports for show 2000 are Beans and Toast and a band called The Tailors, who are a London country band. Those two together are the people who have basically musically brought me into the world I’m in now. Jay’s obviously going from strength to strength which is great. The Tailors haven’t played a show in 9 years and no one really sort of remembers them particularly, in a way which I think is unjust. I’m actually joining them for the show because their guitarist has moved to Vancouver. So they were down a guitar player and I said ‘I’ll do it!’
The first time I saw you was a few years back in Manchester and I remember feeling this big sense of a music community. Is that something that’s important to you when you do live shows?
Yeah, I mean a friend of mine said to me a while ago, half in jest but I think it’s true, one of the things I appear to be doing is desperately trying to recreate the tonic ideal of what I thought punk rock was when I was 14, and what punk rock turned out not to be in practice. I mean I love punk rock, it’s my life, but you know, nothing ever lives up to its ideals. That’s not how life works. But to me punk rock is supposed to be about a safe, common egalitarian space where everybody is sort of on the same team. In particular the iconoclasm of it was important to me, by which I mean it wasn’t like the people on stage were sort of like these Gods from another universe, it was like tonight’s their turn but tomorrow night it’s going to be your turn or my turn or somebody else’s turn to be the focus of attention. It’s important to me that I don’t hold myself above my audience if I can and I like a nice atmosphere.
And it was a really good atmosphere! So you’re about to do your 2000th show but is there anywhere on a music bucket list you haven’t played yet?
I’m sort of a bit of a magpie about these things so anywhere that I haven’t already played I would love to play. I’ve got like 6 US states to go and South America is at the top of my bucket list and has been for ages but I think we are finally about to announce some shows down there. It’s quite a difficult place to get into. So yeah like I say I’m happy to play anywhere I haven’t played before really.
You’ve also announced the release of your new film which is out in a few weeks. Was there a moment where you decided ‘let’s make a film’ or did it just happen?
So Ben Morse, whose film it is, is a good friend of mine. He makes lots of my music videos and has been my tour photographer for a while and he suggested making a tour film and I said yeah, cool, that sounds great. Not least because I trust him implicitly and everyone is used to having him around, so we all kind of forgot he was there after a while, in a good way. The film was supposed to be about the band that never stops and then we stopped about a month into filming. It ended up being a film about a year of crisis in my life which makes I think a better film, a more interesting film. It’s quite an uncomfortable watch for me because quite a lot of it is about me falling apart as a person and then being put back together again. Yeah he showed me an edit and asked me what I wanted to take out, you know if I was uncomfortable with anything and I said look, I’m not going to ask you to take anything out because it’s your film and I don’t want to make just kinda like a kiss-ass hagiography, you know I wanted it to be an honest representation of what you were documenting. But yeah the first time I watched it through I was just like ‘oh my god.’ But it was an interesting process.
What do you hope the audience will get out of it?
I mean I enjoy rock documentaries just in of themselves. You know it’s a candid look at who I am, what I do, why I do it and how I do it. So hopefully people will take something away from that. I’m sort of the wrong person to ask that question to, if you know what I mean? Like if someone asks me ‘do you think it’s any good?’ I’m like I have no idea, how could I answer that question? Other people have seen it and they think it’s really good so I’m happy.
If you could pick one thing, what would you say your favourite thing about being a musician is?
Haha that’s a hard thing to pick. Erm, I would just say the life. You know I wake up in the morning and I think about playing music, then I talk about playing music and then I play music with my best friends. I get to bring bands I like on tour with me and I travel the world and I’m in a different place every day. And that incidentally is a big part of it. The thing about touring that I love the most is the fact that every single day you start fresh. The last show that we did I made a series of decisions about the set list and what I said and even just things like does that note go up or down at the end of the line, and tonight I get to make all of those decisions again. It’s like it’s a fresh creation every day and that’s just so liberating.
You’ve released six studio albums so far, if you could go back in time to album one what advice would you give yourself?
Well that’s an interesting question. I mean my gut answer to that question is none because the finding out and the learning on the job is the fun and interesting part. Having said that I would definitely tell myself to stretch more because I’ve injured myself a lot with doing what I do for a living, like I have been through quite a lot of injury in my time. Some of that just comes with the territory but quite a lot of it was because I was completely unsporting at school and what I do is pretty athletic. I didn’t do any sort of preparation for that and then ended up just ripping, breaking, tearing and smashing various parts of my body. It would have been nice to have not done that because everything hurts now. So that’s probably the piece of advice I would give.