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Frank Turner

Discussion in 'Article Discussion' started by Melody Bot, May 19, 2016.

  1. Melody Bot

    Your friendly little forum bot. Staff Member

    This article has been imported from for discussion. All of the forum rules still apply.

    Frank Turner is about to return to the United States for another leg of the Positive Songs for Negative People tour. I got a chance to chat with Frank about how he feels about the album now that it’s been out for a little while, why his next record will be more “radical” and “experimental” than anything he’s ever done before, how Butch Walker ended up producing the album, why playing shows with Jason Isbell is a realization of a years-old dream, and how recording the mournful “Song for Josh” in a live setting almost made Turner, a “profoundly, sternly atheist man,” glimpse a higher power.

    Hey Frank.

    How you doing?

    I’m good, how are you?

    I’m good, thank you. I’m just out in the sunshine in the Regent’s Park in London. So, life could be considerably worse.

    That sounds like a good deal. Alright, so you’re about to embark on pretty big North American tour, is that right?

    Yes! Yeah, I mean, it’s in two separate legs, but this summer I’m doing 43, I think? 43 shows around the USA. So we’re hitting pretty much everywhere.

    Cool, you excited?

    Yeah, very much so man. I love touring in the U.S. It’s an honor and a privilege and it’s always a lot of fun as well. So, I’m looking forward to being back over.

    Yeah, this is your second time in the U.S. since you released Positive Songs, is that right?

    Yeah, that’s right. We were over in September/October of last year for the first attack, and we’ve got these two legs now. And we will be back over again before the record cycle is done, I can tell you that.

    Cool, and you’ve been touring around Europe in the meantime.

    Yeah, we were in Germany and Austria and Switzerland in January, we were in Canada in February. And then we’ve just done a really fantastic tour, we were a bit further flung this year. We were in like Scandinavia and Eastern Europe and Italy and Spain, and places I haven’t really been that much in my career, so that was really exciting.

    So you’re pretty much just on the road all the time, huh?

    Yeah, I mean, as much as I can be! It’s something that I really enjoy doing. I actually find it much easier to kind of have a “normal life” and get into a routine in an effective way when I’m on the road. Being at home actually takes some adjusting for me.

    I bet. So you also recently dropped an EP in addition to the album. What ‘s the story with that? Were those songs just b-sides from the Positive Songs sessions, or have you written and recorded since then.

    With one exception, they were songs that were written in the Positive Songs sessions and I wanted to get them out at the same time. Partly because I release my music kind of chronologically and I think I want things to fall under the same kind of release category, you know? And the whole thing of picking what gets on a record isn’t necessarily a question of just picking the best ones. You’ve gotta kind of put together a suite of songs that work together, and I’m not at all convinced that I did it right. But I just wanted those songs to be out before this record cycle is done.

    Part of that as well is that Positive Songs, to me, feels like it was a kind of conclusionary statement on a certain phase of my songwriting. You know, I’m working on new ideas right now and I’m going to try to takes some pretty radical stylistic left-hand turns, so I wanted to get everything that was part of Positive Songs out in the open at the same time.

    Yeah, because Positive Songs was definitely a big rock record, and the EP is sort of a different mood I think.

    Yeah, I think so, and this is part of it: I wanted Positive Songs to be quite a sort of bombastic kind of rock sounding record. I mean, dare I say it, I might even use the word punk! And these songs that were on the EP, they were written at the same time–they weren’t recorded at the same time–they didn’t quite fit. As I said, when you put a record together, you’ve gotta have a kind of suite of songs that work, you’ve gotta have a flow to your tracklisting and all that sort of stuff. So these songs didn’t quite make the cut for that, but that’s not to say that I like the songs less or think that they’re of lesser quality.

    Last year you did the “Rank Your Records” thing with Vice, and I think you implied that, if you could have chosen it, Positive Songs would have been your choice for number one. Now that the record is probably nine or 10 months old, do you still feel that way?

    Yeah, I do. And that’s part of the reason I’m quite keen to do something pretty radically different next time. To me, a big part of the creative process is hating on the last thing that I did. You know, I finish a record and a few months later, all I can do is think about what’s wrong with it. And then the positive thing about that is it means that it’s my brain trying to figure out ways of improving and doing things differently next time and doing them better. But I’m still pretty confident that Positive Songs is everything that I wanted it to be. And that to me means “Okay, I’ve ridden that horse, I’ve worn that t-shirt, it’s time for me to kind of look farther afield creatively.”

    What is it about this record that you love so much, specifically?

    I just think that I did what I set out to do. I mean, I know that’s not a spectacular answer, but it’s just…I wanted it to be kind of like short, direct songs about optimism, and that’s exactly what it is.

    How did you make that come through in the studio? I know you worked with Butch Walker and you guys really seemed to click. What was it like working with him verses other producers you’ve worked with in the past?

    Butch and I just sort of clicked personally and he just knew exactly what it was I was trying to do right from the word go. He knew exactly the sound I was trying to make and the vibe I was trying to get, and he was pretty much just kind of a facilitator. I got in the room with him and…a big part of what he did was get the label people out of our hair and just allow us to make the record that I wanted to make.

    And you had never worked with him before, right?

    No, I was not actually aware that he was a producer. I was a fan of his solo records and I discovered that he produced them himself. And I wanted to have a similar vibe to this record he did called The Spade, which came out in 2011, which he made. And I found out he produced it and I got involved. And it was only later I found that he actually is a really big-name producer as well.

    Yeah, actually, I’m a big fan of his. I interviewed him last year for his record, Afraid of Ghosts, and I thought this record sounded a bit like The Spade, so that’s cool to hear that.

    Yeah, yeah. It was definitely. You know, I was doing that thing where I was listening to records I like and trying to find one that sounded like I wanted my records to sound, and [The Spade] was the one that was sort of the top of the pile.

    Also the first time I listened [to Positive Songs], I thought it sounded a lot like a Hold Steady record, and I think you later mentioned on Twitter that they were an influence.

    Yes, definitely. I mean, they’re one of my favorite bands, you know? And they have been for long time. And that kind of joyous rock ‘n’ roll, almost like spiritual rock ‘n’ roll thing they do is a big inspiration for me.

    What were the other influences behind this record in particular?

    Well, I think part of it was just, I was thinking quite a lot about punk rock, you know? And about the punk rock bands that I loved growing up: you know, Hot Water Music, Dillinger Four, bands like that. And there’s something…in the past, a lot of my sort of song structuring and arrangements have been quite kind of spread out. Particularly Tape Deck Heart has got a lot of long intros and that kind of thing. And it was like: okay, fuck that, this time I around I want songs that just kind of explode the minute you put them on and just hit the chorus within the first 30 seconds. So I think it’s sort of bold and brash on that level.

    And then, so it’s this big rock record, but then you get to the end and you have “Song for Josh,” which is a song that, the first time I heard it, I just had to like, go into the next room and cry because it’s fucking heartbreaking. And you’ve had that song for awhile, because I remember videos of it floating around around the end of 2013.

    Yeah, it was…Josh died in the summer of 2013, which was just as we started touring Tape Deck Heart. And I wrote this song pretty much straight away. I was on tour with Lucero, who, as well as being mutual friends of Josh–they were actually the people who introduced me to Josh–so it a way it was fortunate for me to be surrounded with those people, because we could share memories “around the fire after the show” kind of thing every night, and sort of try to help each other through grief. And so the song came out of those kind of conversations. But I knew I wanted to put it on the record.

    Did you ever think about doing a studio take of it? Because I know you recorded it at the 9:30 Club.

    The idea of recording it at the club came pretty early, and once I’d had that idea I was kind of hooked on it. Part of it was this sort of nod to this song “The Ballad of Me and My Friends,” which is the last track from my first record, of which there is no studio version. And so I wanted to do a similar thing. I did cut a demo version of it to send to Josh’s family and to the club, to check that everyone was going to be okay with me doing this and that there were no sort of objections from family or friends or whatever. But I’m not gonna release that; I like the way that it’s raw as fuck.

    So it was sort of like a “This needs to be recorded at this venue live” kind of thing? Like it was more powerful that way.

    Yeah. And the atmosphere in the room when we were recording that night was pretty off the charts.

    Was that tough to do? Like, what if you choke up in the middle of that? Do you start over?

    I’m a…I’m a profoundly, sternly atheist man, but like…it definitely felt when we were recording it like the stars were aligning. For want of a better expression. I was pretty nervous about it, but the minute I started playing I knew it was going to be a good take.

    Great. So this North American tour you’ve got coming up, it’s sort of an interesting tour: you’re doing a bunch of shows as a headliner and then you’re playing alongside Flogging Molly a few times, and then you’re also doing a few shows in support of Jason Isbell and Chris Stapleton. How did you end up on the bill with arguably the two biggest names in country and Americana music right now, when those aren’t really your genres?

    Jason I’ve known for a little while and I sort of knew him before everything kicked off for him. And I’m very excited that things have kicked off for him. But he’s just such a decent guy. Like, we had us a conversation years ago about how we saw each other’s shows and how we’d play together when we became achingly famous or whatever. (Laughs) And now he’s actually gone and done it, and I respect him yet more for doing that. I must admit, I’d not heard of Chris Stapleton before booking those shows, but I’ve been checking out his stuff and he seems pretty fucking legit. (Laughs) So, I’m looking forward to it.

    Yeah, that guy can wail. So like I said earlier, you were playing some of the Positive Songs material on tour as early as 2013. So just like, half a year after Tape Deck Heart I think. So now that we’re nine months past Positive Songs, it sounds like you’re already thinking about another record. You said it was gonna be a big change of pace for you?

    There’s a sort of disconnect in my head between playing the live shows and the writing side of things. You know, those are different processes. But writing-wise, yeah, I’m very knee-deep in some pretty weird territory right now, which I’m really excited about. I can’t really say any more about it yet, because I want to keep it under wraps until it’s ready to go, but there is a lot of new stuff coming as soon as I can.

    Okay, cool. So are you gonna not play any songs off it yet on this tour?

    Maybe one or two here and there, but generally speaking, I’m trying to keep things under wraps this time around.

    So are you going to tour more and then just jump right back in the studio, or are you going to give it some time.

    Well we’re touring through to probably April or May next year, so we’ve got about another year to go with Positive Songs, and then I may have actually made an album before we come off the road, depending on what order we do things. But new stuff will be coming afterwards.

    Are you going to work with Butch again or will it be someone else?

    I couldn’t tell you just yet!

    Makes sense. So on Positive Songs, there are these couple of songs at the end that sort of…that go together really well: “Love Forty Down” into “Silent Key.” And the latter one is sort of experimental in songwriting for you because you’re telling a true story. Have you ever thought about taking a more narrative direction on an album-length basis? Like, when I heard those songs, I sort of thought like “rock opera,” so have you ever thought about doing something like that?

    (Laughs) I haven’t directly, no. I mean, it’s interesting to kind of get in character for songwriting, that was kind of new territory for me, and “Silent Key” is one of my favorite songs I’ve written…in my life. But I’m not sure that I’m quite into rock opera just yet. I’ve got a mate who’s trying to convince me to write a musical with him, but I kind of hate musicals so…so he’s got quite an uphill job before I actually say yes to that.

    Fair enough! So I’ve got a reader question here. He was talking about the book you wrote, The Road Beneath My Feet, which I still need to read. And he said “It ends right before Take Deck Heart. Would you ever consider writing another volume of it? I’d be interested in hearing more about the last few years and anything that comes after.”

    I mean, yeah? Possibly? The thing is, I think the interesting part of any kind of the rock biography stuff is always the sort of transitional stage, you know? The bit where you get from being a kid playing in a bedroom to playing arena shows. And that’s kind of what the book that I wrote is about. It becomes less anecdote-heavy and less intriguing, I think, once you get into the sort of established cycle of touring and recording and touring and recording. So I think maybe it will be a few years yet before I settle down to write any type of sequel for it. But I mean, I really enjoyed the process of writing a book, so the idea of writing something else of some kind is very appealing to me.

  2. JRGComedy

    Trusted Supporter

    Thanks for throwing in my question, @Craig Manning! You really need to read that book :-p
  3. Craig Manning

    @FurtherFromSky Moderator

    No problem! And I certainly intend to. It's on my list for after I've read this new Steven Hyden book.
  4. Every time I meet/read an interview with Frank, I want him to be my best friend. I'm very excited for the experimental new stuff, and I agree that Positive Songs was the definitive statement he's been trying to make for a while (I like Tape Deck Heart most, but understand that it can be unwieldy and bloated at times... I love it all the same).
    Craig Manning and dvdjmskng like this.
  5. Ryan

    Might be Spider-Man...

    Caught onto this guys music way too late, solid interview
  6. skurt

    Sleekest of beaks. So Good.

    Which EP do you reference in the interview, did I somehow miss a new Frank Turner EP?
    How did this happen!
  7. JRGComedy

    Trusted Supporter

    The Mittens EP.
  8. skurt

    Sleekest of beaks. So Good.

    JRGComedy likes this.
  9. JRGComedy

    Trusted Supporter

    I think you'll really enjoy both!
  10. dvdjmskng

    The horizon is my home... Supporter

    Great interview Craig! I'm intrigued about the change of pace on the next album. Do you think he's looking to explore new themes with his lyrics, or looking to add a few extra bits and pieces to the band? Personally, I'd love to hear him with a gigantic string section.
  11. JimmyIymmiJ

    Music, a steady riot in my soul. Prestigious

    Can't remember if I heard it on a podcast or read it in a different interview, but I remember he said he was writing a history record.
    BackyardHero11 and Turkeylegz like this.
  12. Craig Manning

    @FurtherFromSky Moderator

    I think the clearest sign of where he's going has got to be "Silent Key," which is a bit more experimental in its melody and very narrative-based. But I think he could do pretty much anything going forward. I wouldn't rule string sections out!
    JimmyIymmiJ likes this.
  13. JimmyIymmiJ

    Music, a steady riot in my soul. Prestigious

    Based on your interview and some of the other things I've read and heard recently, that song seems to be a total jumping off point for where he's going.
  14. Craig Manning

    @FurtherFromSky Moderator

    Yeah, I'd say that's a fair assessment. I don't think we will necessarily get a whole album that sounds like that, or even any songs that sound particularly like that, but I'm guessing he'll be inspired to write in more experimental ways like he did with that song.
    JimmyIymmiJ likes this.
  15. BackyardHero11


    I love the idea of a whole Frank album telling narrative stories based on events in history, and yes. string sections haha.
  16. abw123


    New song - Sand in the Gears - is great. It's on Itunes.

    Seeing him acoustic tonight and hoping to hear some other new stuff to get a sense of his next direction.
    JimmyIymmiJ likes this.
  17. JimmyIymmiJ

    Music, a steady riot in my soul. Prestigious

    You going to the bar show? He's been doing those a lot lately and I'm so jealous!
  18. abw123


    Yes, saw the bar show in Fort Worth. He played 18 songs, happy to post the list if anyone is interested.

    Of note -
    1) He said he's in Fort Worth recording his new album. Said he finished part of it just now (headed home today) and he'll "come back to finish the rest later in the year"

    2) Played 2 new songs - Sand in the Gears plus another song that he said he has only played for an audience once - didn't get the title but included the line "Take My Money....."

    Unbelievable experience. 250 or so people singing along to every word. He's the best. Such a truly genuine guy who just likes playing music for people.
    JimmyIymmiJ likes this.
  19. JimmyIymmiJ

    Music, a steady riot in my soul. Prestigious

    I'd love to see the list.
  20. abw123


    Sure. These are not at all in order but all of these songs were played. Pretty sure this was all of them. Pretty awesome for a FREE show announced the same day! Had so much fun.

    1) Somebody To Love (Queen)
    2) Pancho and Lefty (Van Zandt)
    3) Sand in the Gears
    4) New song "Take My Money" maybe
    5) Tattoos
    6) Josephine
    7) Love 40 Down
    8) Get Better
    9) Next Storm
    10) Recovery
    11) The Way I Tend To Be
    12) Four Simple Words
    13) Wessex Boy
    14) I am Disappeared
    15) I Still Believe
    16) Love Ire and Song
    17) The Road
    18) Nashville Tennessee
    dvdjmskng and JimmyIymmiJ like this.
  21. SamLevi11

    Trusted Prestigious

  22. MexicanGuitars

    Chorus’ Expert on OTIP Track #8 Supporter

    Yeah not gonna lie I don't wanna listen to songs from the perspective of a "militant centrist" lol. I know Frank's always been a libertarian though.
  23. SamLevi11

    Trusted Prestigious

    More on about him doing electronic music. I don't need to hear a 9/10 English folk/punk artist become a 4/10 electronic artist.
  24. abw123 Jun 19, 2017
    (Last edited: Jun 22, 2017)


    Saw him in Ft Worth again last night, he just finished the album, here are the songs played and comments about the new music. Played a little more unique set than the show in March.

    Not in order

    Sand In the Gears
    1933 (new, awesome)
    Goin' Nowhere (new, also great)
    Be More Kind (title track to album most likely)
    Don't Think Twice It's Alright (Dylan)
    Heartless Bastard MF
    Father's Day
    Back In The Day
    Ballad Of Me and My Friends
    Fastest Way Back Home
    The Road
    I Am Disappeared
    Wessex Boy
    If Ever I Stray
    I Still Believe
    Peggy Sang
    Way I Tend To Be
    Plain Sailing Weather
    Love Forty Down
    Get Better
    Next Storm

    New album notes:
    Said album is half stuff that sounds like normal Frank Turner music and half "weird and electro" - whatever the hell that means. Didn't play any of the "weird" ones so cannot comment on those. Also, "half political" and "half about his girlfriend". Joked that they thought about naming the album "Donald and Jess". Inferred it will be out end of year.

    Between this show and the one in March he has played 5 new songs - I really really dig 3 of the 5. 33 will be a huge crowd pleaser - think you can hear it on Youtube.

    As always, the dude is just the most positive and infectious frontman. He gets the guy in the very back who got dragged there and turns him into a fan. Just could not love this guy more.
    cubsml34 likes this.
  25. Sean Murphy

    Prestigious Supporter

    has anyone seen the documentary? want to watch it but don't know if it's worth buying the DVD for $20 since it's likely something i'll only watch once. i missed out on the weekend rental for $5 he did a few weeks ago.
    JRGComedy likes this.