So, after a hectic weekend of wall to wall gigs, it was Monday, the start of a new week, my schedule was full to brimming and I had two interviews booked in this very afternoon. At 2pm, I was chatting to the one and only Frank Turner and afterwards, I had some face time with a remarkably talented young lady called Esme Patterson and I was late, not late as in the time had passed, just later than I normally feel comfortable with.
Arriving at The Great Hall which is part of the vast complex making up Exeter University, I felt old, very old, knowing that these clever kids were at least 25 years my junior, I reflected back at the times that I had attended this very venue for shows dating from the late 80’s, that made me feel marginally better but not that much…..
After calling Frank’s (super nice and very efficient) tour manager, Meg and I were met and ushered through a maze of rooms behind the main stage area and settled in what could easily have doubled as a broom cupboard, there were some beers and snacks on the table, clearly not for me and Meg so we left them well alone!
After a couple of moments, Frank was ushered in and we got straight down to it….
How are you sir?
Good thanks, just getting my day underway, well, I’ve been up for a bit, it’s strange as you get into this weird hibernation mode when you’re on tour, you just move as little as possible until about ten minutes before showtime and the you go FUUUUUCCCCKKKKK! And everything starts kicking in!
Good stuff, at least you’re awake! (at this point I asked if we were okay to take some shots whilst we were chatting and Frank said 'no' as he hadn’t done his hair, then the biggest grin broke out and he said that he was joking….these mega stars, sometimes you just can’t tell!)
(I presented Frank with a bottle of local Cornish ale, it would have been from a Devon brewery but Cornwall was the nearest I managed to get)
Wow, thanks, I’ll drink this AFTER the show if that’s okay? We call today ‘Roadie Friday’ which basically means we have a day off tomorrow so they will all be celebrating this evening (along with me….) They’re a really hard working bunch and to be honest, they don’t get that much time to be able to sit and drink, they normally finish work at about 1am and then start again at 9am so a long day and at 1am they’re normally so tired, they just go to bed but tonight, it will be different!
You’ve got a film coming out on December 13th, how did it come about?
Well, my friend Ben Morse who is the director of the film, he is an old friend and has made a few music videos for me. He was on tour with us a while back acting as the tour photographer, he’s always wanted to get more into film making and he pitched this idea to me about making this film and because he’s such a good friend and part of the crew, it sounded like a great idea.
He was always there and it was as if we just forgot that he was even filming at times, the thing that’s weird is that his original pitch was to make a film about a band that never stops working, he came on board and a month into the project, we stopped working! I had a massive fight with my record label about the way, the method and the producer that we had for the latest album ‘Positive Songs for Negative People’, that coincided/caused some kind of hiccup in my personal life…..I deal with confrontation and stress very badly and I got into quite a dark place over that and Ben was getting a bit fed up as the pitch was that the film was about the band who never stopped working but he kept on filming and in the end, the film ended up being about a year of crisis if you like.
I’m not giving anything away by saying there’s a happy ending (we’re here now so obviously nothing crazy happened!) It ended up being a much more emotionally charged movie than Ben was originally planning.
He sent me a rough draft of the movie through and asked me to decide on which parts I wanted to cut out as it may have made me feel uncomfortable, I said that I wasn’t going to ask him to take anything out as that would compromise the movie but I did tell him that the whole thing made me feel uncomfortable as the ENTIRE thing is about me! There’s one scene where my Mum was talking about me in the third person on a massive screen, it’s just weird! That’s just NOT normal is it? I honestly do think that it’s a great film and I hope people like it!
We’ll soon let you know as we’re both off to watch it on the 13th December when it plays in most VUE cinemas up and down the country! though we were a little miffed that it’s NOT playing in Exeter, only Plymouth!
Really? Well for once in my life, I can happily hold my hands up and say that this is NOTHING to do with me at all as to WHERE it’s playing but that’s a shame…..
You chose Rock City to host your 2000th show, Jay (Beans on Toast) and The Tailors are playing alongside you on the night, is it true that these guys are reforming for one night only?
The Tailors for me is really exciting because when I moved into a bar in 2004 in my Million Dead days, they used to have this Country/Folk night on a Sunday, the night was called ‘Sensible Sundays’ which was run by Jay (Beans on Toast) and The Tailors used to play there, a lot. I met Adam (Killip) who IS The Tailors and they were my absolute favourite band and they were the ones who introduced me to Gram Parsons, Merl Haggard and Warren Zevon, basically they just got me into country music and I really love them for that. He asked me to join The Tailors around 2006 which was right at the time when stuff was starting to happen in my career and I had to decline, had he asked me 6 months earlier, I’d probably have accepted the offer. So, I called him up and asked if they’d look to get the band back together for the show and he said yes, I’m actually playing in the band as their guitar player has gone home to Canada and I’m standing in for him.
Ahhhh, that was what you meant on Twitter when you said about the lanky guy playing guitar in the band for the show!
Exactly! The thing about that is that Chad (the original guitarist) is WAY better than me so every day in soundcheck, I’m practising furiously thinking FUUUUCCCCCKKKKK but you know... so it’s going to be fun. We’re documenting the show, we’re going to film it and as a result of that I’m not sure we’re going to do much out of the ordinary because I want us to play ‘Set Meal A’, something that will please everyone. The last time we documented a live show was 4 years ago and I watched some of the Wembley DVD recently and thought to myself that this is a great DVD but fuck me, we’re such a better band than we were back then and I’m really keen to document what we do, so rather than doing something that we DON’T normally do, I kind of wanted to record what we DO do so that it’s captured, on the record. Within that, I guess I will have free reign to play some more obscure stuff but you know, I think it’s going to be a rousing, crowd pleasing set that everyone will enjoy!
Have you considered a venue for your 3000th show yet?
At the current rate, that’s another five and a half years of touring down the road….
Wow, you’ll be 26 years old by then!
(Laughter from Frank) Hmmm we’ll see, we’ll see….. People always ask me how many shows I’ll do in total and that’s such a morbid question, I just don’t know how to respond…..I guess the interesting question is “will I ever reach 5 figures”, I’d have to be touring VERY hard for that to happen in my lifetime so I don’t know!
When you were growing up, did you get grief from your folks for being in a band and not going out and getting a 'proper' job?
They did and one thing is that I’m old enough now to not have resentment about that, my parents are very ‘small C’ conservative, my mothers father was a priest, my father worked in the city and I don’t think that either of them had ever listened to any music that featured drums. I recall one night watching the Freddie Mercury tribute concert live on the TV and both of us just sat there staring thinking FUUUUCCCKKKK because prior to that, we’d only ever really listened to church music.
I think they (parents) regarded Million Dead as a youthful dalliance and when I started doing solo material, my mum was really concerned about me, not least because I wasn’t getting a normal office job but more so because I was regularly playing squat shows and taking a lot of drugs, I used to play a set, sleep on a couch and then just roll around on the train a lot generally being wasted and I can see now why they were concerned but she is now completely on board with what I do so that’s good.
I’m estranged from my dad now and that hasn’t really been an issue but my mum has a poster of me in her downstairs loo, me playing at the Olympics in 2012 certainly helped! She was at the Salisbury show recently and we got her a seat on the balcony and I appointed her the judge of the crowd competition and she was loving that! It’s still not her world at all but saying that she IS musical, she plays piano, she’s reached grade 8 in the flute and she sings in choirs, it’s really interesting talking to her about music as she’s a musician from a completely different world and with that, I can see things from many different angles, she often gives me feedback on my material, saying that song A sounds too much like song B and I have to agree (because she’s right!)
Million Dead split in 2005, do you think that the folk punk that you play now is more widely acceptable than hardcore punk?
We're touching here on quite a touchy issue, one of my bugbears in life is that there are people who were not into what I did in the early days and that’s fine, they don’t have to be, there were people who say that I stopped playing hardcore because I wanted to go on and sell records and that really boils my piss because when Million Dead broke up, I could have easily formed another hardcore band and actually received a number of offers to join established hardcore bands and I would have had a MUCH easier ride with that.
The last Million Dead tour, we were playing regularly to 500-800 capacity crowds which is respectable and my first solo show AFTER we broke up, there were 3 people there! NOBODY GAVE A FUCK....AT ALL, I think this went on for a good 18 months, nobody cared. I remember doing a tour with Gabby Young in 2006 and on a GOOD night we might have had 20 people in the room, why did I do it? I guess it was because I was following my art! I won't name names but someone who I’d worked with a LOT in the Million Dead days behind the scenes who I went to expecting to work with again, she just laughed at me and kicked me out of her office, telling me to go fuck myself. Hilariously enough, the next time I crossed paths with her was minutes before we took to the main stage at Reading Festival, at least she had the decency to admit that she was the dickhead!
So, back to your question, I guess one could argue that the music I make nowadays IS more acceptable, another way of phrasing that is that I don’t make music for anybody apart from myself, I really couldn’t give a fuck, but one of the frustrating things I found about playing in a hardcore band was that the demographic that I was communicating with was very narrow, we’re talking 18-25 year old folk with skinny black jeans and ‘Against Me’ t-shirts and that’s who I was too so I’m not having a go at that demographic at all, I just wasn’t sure WHO I was communicating with and one of the things I’m proudest about now is that I have one of the broadest demographics out there. Promoters know this and as a result, you get 19 year old kids turning up with Mohawks standing next to 60 year old folks with their little notepads and there are people who bring their grandparents to my shows and that’s what it’s all about, I’m really proud of that!
I saw a post on your Twitter page that some youngster had posted saying that his 59 year old mum had dragged him into a pit at one of your shows…
Absolutely, how fucking cool is that? If you scratch the surface of a cynic you’ll uncover a broken hearted idealist and I’m DEFINITELY a broken hearted idealist, my friend pointed out to me a while ago that essentially what I’m trying to do is build the thing that I wanted the punk scene to be but it isn’t and to help prove that it’s a welcoming space that everybody can enjoy. Music breeds solidarity and that’s what I was trying to create, basically all the things that punk promised to be after turning into a bitchy backstabbing scene! So yes, I’m definitely on some kind of tilting at windmills mission to try and rescue the platonic idea that never really existed!
I read your book The Road Beneath My Feet recently, it's a fascinating insight into life on the road and I strongly recommend it to anyone. You spend a LOT of time on the road, what do you do in order to stay sane when on tour?
The thing for me is and the film documents this quite well, is I start to go crazy when I'm NOT on tour! I did my first tour when I was 16 years old and I’ve been touring pretty much constantly since I was about 20, I’ve actually been touring now for longer than I haven’t been and for a good 9 years I didn’t have my own place when I wasn’t on tour and I’d just sleep on sofas! Touring to me is normal, it’s the mode of existence that I’m used to and one of the problems I had and the film goes into this in more detail is when I came off the road because of this huge disaster with my record label, the last time I spent any amount of time living in a house (I have my own place now), I was 18 years old and therefore, I now have the living skills of an 18 year old! I’m pleased to say that now, I have an apartment and I have a girlfriend who is slowly domesticating me so the thing I struggle with is NOT touring….
(Time was running out, so I rolled out the big question)
Have you been a good boy this year Frank and if so, what's on your Christmas list?
(Laughter) I THINK I’ve been a good boy, I try my best. I think that this is going to be a more philosophical answer than what you were hoping for….. I feel very strongly that I live a very privileged life, I mean, I get to travel and play music for a living! I mean come on, what the fuck have I got to complain about? So within that, I’m always trying to do something to give something back, a guy contacted me and his kid is autistic and he doubted that he’d be able to handle the show so I arranged for him to come down and watch the soundcheck instead, we always support charities and I guess I spend a lot of time just sorting stuff out for people. Some say that it’s really altruistic and I don’t think it is, I think that it's more me re-paying a karmic debt, I feel that I get to do this amazing fucking job and so in return I need to be nice to other people, so in answer to your question, I DO think I’ve been good this year!
I’m the HARDEST person to buy presents for, I’m a huge fan of internet shopping, I think of a book or a DVD that I want to read or watch and 'ping', before you know it, it’s on its way and every time I get home from tour there’s this massive pile of stuff that I’ve ordered whilst on the road! I was chatting to my sister recently and the next time I see her it’ll be Christmas and she admits that she has no fucking idea what to get me because everything I want, I just order when I’m on tour! To be honest, I don’t have particularly expensive tastes, I really don’t care about stuff all that much, the only thing that people have figured out what to buy me is antique maps of London, I started collecting them a while back so that always works! I am an asshole to buy for, I really am!
On that note, I thank you for your time Frank and wish you all the best for the show tonight, the rest of the tour, your movie and everything else that you do in the future!
Thanks so much for coming along guys, see you at the show later!
Frank was more than happy to pose for a couple of pictures, we left and wasn't surprised at all to see a queue of people waiting to chat to him outside of his dressing room, that's the life of a true rock n' roll star for you!