Frank Turner: Talking about his love of The Wildhearts, and answering questions from the ‘Frank Turner Army’ Facebook group
I caught up with Frank Turner before his Oxford gig on the ‘Be More Kind’ tour. With Frank being a huge Wildhearts fan and friend of their singer Ginger Wildheart, I asked a few Wildhearts related questions as well as that of his own work.
What does it feel like to be back in Oxford?
FT: It feels great! I spend more time here than I publicise, as three members of the band are from Oxford; they were in the band Dive Dive. We’ve got a rehearsal room just outside Oxford so whenever we’re working on new material or rehearsing for a tour, or whatever, it’s all Oxford based. But yeah, it feels good man, it’s been a while since we’ve done a headlining show in Oxford so it’s nice to be back.
I love the ‘Little Changes’ video. Was it as fun to make as it was to watch? I like the bit where it goes to your legs that are blatantly not your legs.
FT: Ha, ha, ha, ha! I don’t know what you’re talking about, they’re definitely my legs. My Sister called me up in tears of laughter when that video came out, she thought it was as funny as shit. Actually though it was really hard work to do, it was way out of my comfort zone… I don’t do dancing. I was in the room with this guy called Supple Nam who was the top choreographer guy who works with the top dancers and everything. He was cool and he really helped me and everything, but that was hard fucking work that video. There was a moment towards the end where I was like, ‘Fuck this, I can’t do another take, I wanna shoot myself now.’
This is a random question from my friend Barry’s four year old son Daniel, who’s a Frank Turner fan. Have you ever been to Banbury and if so did you like it? Also, what can you say to Daniel regarding him loving your music at four years old?
FT: Ok, awesome. I have been to Banbury once or twice in my life and had a nice time as far as I can remember. What I’d say to Daniel is that he’s very lucky that he’s got parents who are getting him into music as this age, so give them a high five and I’ll see him at many shows.
So, onto you and Ginger. When and how did you meet?
FT: When I was a kid I was bang into The Wildhearts, 3 Colours Red, Honeycrack, all that kinda business. Chris McCormack from 3 Colours Red now promotes Camden Rocks Festival and club nights in Camden and that kinda thing, and most of my social circle in this point of my life are people who run and own bars in Camden.
It must have been six or seven years now, on a night out with Dave Danger (who, in fact is here tonight tour managing the Arkells) and we were all sat around a table in a pub and Chris was sitting on the other side of the table. I said to Dave, “Is that fucking Chris McCormack!?” He went “Yeah, Chris who runs all the club nights and stuff”. I went, “Fuck the club nights, that’s Chris from 3 Colours Red!” And Dave was like, “Oh yeah, he was in a band once.” I was like, ‘Fuck you man, he was in fucking 3 Colours Red!’ So I went over and it transpired that Chris’ wife Jane was into my music and he was like, ‘Oh yeah, I think I’ve heard some of your tunes through my missus’. Then we just started hanging out and I now consider Chris to be one of my best friends.
Chris invited me down to Ginger’s birthday in 2013. First of all, as I’m sure you know, there’s a big family vibe around that band and Ginger, and it’s lovely to walk into that, not just as an outsider and be welcomed, but suddenly I find myself in a room with like ten musicians that I had posters of on my wall when I was a kid. Straight away I’m just like, ‘Oh my god’. Hanging out with Danny, Ginger, CJ but also the guys from Backyard Babies hanging around and Toshi and all the rest of it. I was just kinda like, ‘Oh my god’ and everyone’s just super nice. So yeah, me and Ginger became friends back then.
Can’t tell you how much I love this clip of my favourite solo artist Frank Turner fronting my favourite band in the world: The Wildhearts. Thanks a million Iain McNicol for capturing this wonderful moment.
Ginger said he’d love to work with you but your schedules haven’t allowed it. What do you think you might come up with?
FT: I’d be very interested to see. The first thing I’d have to say is I haven’t done like masses of co-writes in my time, but that’s not because I don’t want to, it’s just that time hasn’t worked out like that. I still think that Ginger’s one of the most inventive and original songwriters that I’ve ever heard, particularity in terms of his sense of melody, key changing and that sort of thing. So many Wildhearts songs are the type of songs that have four separate choruses in, and there’s a bit that’s the bridge; I’m thinking, if I wrote that it would be the chorus off the lead single of my album and for Ginger it’s just a two second throwaway bit. I don’t know what would happen if we sat in a room and tried to work together. I imagine it’d be a blast and it is something we’ll do at some point.
A question from Kerry (Ten Pin) Bowler: Do you like The Wildhearts’ album ‘Endless Nameless?’
FT: I’m not super familiar if I’m honest with you…
You need to be Frank, fucking ’ell. Get on it!
FT: Come on. Ya know, yeah sorry, ha, ha, ha, ha!
For any Frank Turner fans not familiar with ‘EN’ or indeed The Wildhearts, ‘EN’ polarised opinion in The Wildhearts community being that it was a departure of sorts, being drenched in feedback and lacking the melodic tendencies of any of their past work. However, if you dig deep and scrape the layer of filth from the surface you’ll find tunes in abundance. A fucking glorious bastard of a racket it is!
I know Frank believes that the people who make music shouldn’t be removed from their audience, so with that in mind I asked the Frank Turner Army Facebook group if they had any questions: they didn’t disappoint. Thanks to everyone who contributed.
Cat Swift: ‘There She Is’ is lyrically fantastic. Is there anyway you could do a neutral version for those of us who need a perfect song for our wedding renewal? This song depicts exactly how I feel about my hubby. x
FT: The first thing to be said about that is, prior to ‘There She Is’ coming out people sometimes say to me, ‘We had your song at our wedding’ and obviously I’m like, ‘That’s amazing thank you so much’, but prior to ‘There She Is’ coming out it was a bit like, which one? From my point of view all of the love songs written before that one were unhappy in some form or another. People are like, ‘We had ‘The Way I Tend To Be’ at our wedding’ and I’m like cool, that song I wrote about crying my eyes out at a fucking airport because I’d ruined the best thing in my life. I hate to say this, but first of all rerecording songs like that is technically challenging to be honest. Also I’ve had people ask me to replace names in a song and that kind of thing…
It’s quite personal to you surely?
FT: …that’s the thing. The reason I find that difficult is that I try to put my guts into a song and it’s quite difficult for me to sidestep from there; to sing ‘There he is’ in a song would be odd to me. Not because I have any issue with anything particularly but it’s not what is coming out of my heart. So I’m really sorry but I’m not going to be able to pull that one of.
Si Easton: A standing lamp appeared at your Beautiful Days set last year. Is this the most bizarre thing you’ve ever see from the stage and what other inanimate objects would you like to see?
FT: I don’t know, I mean the standing lamp was quite odd. The one that always blows my mind and you see it at festivals every now and again is people in Power Ranger style single body stocking type things. I’m just like, there are hygiene issues here, I mean what the fuck man! We’ve seen all manner of weird and wonderful stuff coming along. Last night it was funny actually: it was a low ceiling venue so some of the lights are not super high and there was this girl on her boyfriend’s shoulders having a whale of a time; she had this little sign and was waving it around putting it in front of the lights. I was cracking up as beyond her I could see my lighting guy going, ‘Get out of the fucking way!’ She wasn’t doing it on purpose but he was like, ‘Move! Move!’ She couldn’t hear him because we were playing. I enjoyed that.
Stuart Cole: What do you think of your ‘cult’ following? #itsnotacultipromise
FT: Point one: there are a lot of people who are very into what I do and I appreciate that, it’s a compliment. Point two: I really like the idea of people forming communities around music and I think that’s cool as fuck. The fact that there are groups like the Frank Turner Army who help people get into gigs and meet gig buddies and that kinda thing, I think that’s really cool.
The Internet’s really changed things a lot in that sense hasn’t it?
FT: Yeah you’re right and I think that’s really good. There are moments when people get a little overbearing with it and I think the thing that I have to remind both myself and other people is that I make art for my own best judgment; when I put it out into the world I hope people like it I really do. The day I start writing songs to try and please the fans, my girlfriend, the Frank Turner Army, whatever, is the day I lost the plot. So I love it that people are into what I do but I’m not sucking up to anybody, do you know what I mean.
Do you think this musical change in direction was a brave move?
FT: The thing about it is, I try really hard not to think about things in those terms when I’m writing. Obviously after the event you can look at it, but when I’m writing it’s just what feels good, what sounds good. Of course once we were done there was a moment when I was playing some of the new stuff to some friends and they were like, ‘fucking hell this is out there’ but I wasn’t thinking like that when I was writing it, it was just, does this feel cool, does this feel fine. It was, so: the end.
Kristen Elizabeth: As a music fan, I’ve noticed other fans who don’t seem to understand that artists mature, change their style, attitude etc. What would you say to those listeners if you had the chance?
FT: There are two angles on it: on the one hand it’s entirely legitimate for people to say, ‘I really like ‘Love Ire & Song’ and I don’t like ‘Be More Kind’ and everyone’s entitled to their opinion. The thing is, my reaction to that is I’m grateful they like anything that I’ve done, I’m not taking ‘Love Ire & Song’ out of the collection and we still play quite a lot of material of that live, so it’s all good. There are moments where people get a bit sorta possessive and try and sort of dictate what I do, which is the point where I’m like, step off, do you know what I mean? The way I made ‘Love Ire & Song’ was I tried to make a record that sounded good to me and I maintain the same methodology.
There is a degree of conservatism among some music fans who are just kinda like, I want it to be the same as it was back when I first found it. I’m like, I’m sorry time is passing you’re not twenty one forever. I work really hard to make sure there’s material from all of the records I’ve done in setlists and I play the old stuff, therefore to include everyone.
Simone Laurent: As an American that is very involved in local politics I’m so excited to see you making politics, and specifically American politics such a blatant theme of the new album. What was your biggest motivating factor in making that switch and how do you hope it will be received?
FT: To answer that in reverse order, I try hard not to have expectations about how things are received because you just put it out there. I hope people take the nuances of what I’m saying but also it’s the internet age so some people won’t. I think that basically the Flogging Molly tour we did in August 2016 was quite eye opening for me because that was when the Trump Clinton clash was really picking up steam. I was in Columbus Ohio with my friend Vanessa Gene Specman and we were walking through like a student area of the city and there were Trump flags fucking everywhere. I was just like, really, students are gonna vote for Trump? That seems a bit fucked to me. That was the moment where I thought, ‘This is not as in the bag as some people think it is’. If there are students that are gonna vote for Trump then we have a bigger problem. We need to stop feeding the beast. I think Donald Trump’s great super power is prodding social media into outraged reaction. I don’t follow him on Twitter and I try not to read his tweets because I think what he’s trying to do is get a fucking rise out of people. We all know people like that in our day to day life and what we’ve got to do is just not fucking give it to them: he’s the fucking President of America for Christ sake!
Jennifer Smith: What’s the most exciting part of an album release? Tour, videos, signings, or release of new music?
FT: Just having the new songs out there, because they’re been bubbling along in my brain and in the studio so it’s really nice to set them free. The other thing is you do all this press in the lead up to the release where you’re talking about songs that people haven’t heard and it’s just a bit weird.
With that we wrapped up proceedings as the next reviewer was waiting outside to have their time with the ever affable Frank Turner. Before I left he kindly signed a CD for Daniel (the four year old Frank fan mentioned at the start of the interview) before I showed him a tattoo of the ‘Tape Deck Heart’ album artwork I had done recently with the date of the gig/interview underneath. He then gave his unequivocal approval with, “Fuck, yeah man that’s cool as shit” before picking up my book and tapping the cover, before saying, “Thanks very much for this, by the way, I’m excited to read it.” What a fucking honour, such a gifted poet and lyricist reading my words. Upon leaving I mentioned that I was reviewing the gig for Oxford’s music magazine Nightshift: “Fuck yeah, I love Nightshift, wicked thanks man!” was his immediate response.
As I was lead out of the building by his press person, Anthea, she told me of Frank’s busy schedule and the fact that he’d been answering emails all morning from countless fans. Frank Turner, still tirelessly keeping that all important communication between artist and audience.
This most memorable of days was topped off by a superlative Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls performance and music lovers congregating for an experience forever to be recalled.
The latest issue of Nightshift magazine can be downloaded here.