Before his Southampton Guildhall show The EDGE’s Hayley Taulbut got talking to Frank Turner
So, you’re about halfway through the tour. How has it been so far?
It’s good, it feels like I’ve had a really great year, and then I built up loads of bad luck, like we had the snow which was a pain in the ass, and now I’ve got a bit of a sore throat at the moment, which is an extra level of stress. To be honest though, these are all just gripes from me – the shows have been great. We have just done seven weeks as the support act on the bill, and it’s so nice coming back and being a headliner, it’s like getting into a warm bath after being out in the cold.
You mentioned that it’s been a pretty good year, what with the string of festival appearances, praises and what have you. What would you say has been a personal highlight?
There are many to choose from – Green Day at Wembley was pretty special, but more for my CV than anything else [laughs]. It’s hard to choose because there have been a lot of great shows this year.
How do big shows, like festivals and the support slot we just spoke about, compare to a headlining show like tonight in terms of performance?
In the grand scheme of things I’m not sure I’d be so forthright in saying I prefer headline shows – for me it’s just about atmosphere, and there is no science to that really, and if there is it’s beyond me. It’s about that intangible thing of a connection with the audience, and that can come anywhere, whether it’s small sweaty venues or massive ones.
At festivals, you obviously get to reach an audience that you would not usually – at Glastonbury for example. Following your show there I heard a woman who looked close to 60 saying how fantastic your performance was. Would that surprise you to know you have such wide reaching appeal?
One of my great joys in life is thinking that there are people who counter each other at my shows, which makes me feel really good about what I do, because I don’t want to just make music for angry 16- 30 year olds. I mean one of my favourite people I met recently was in Derby. This guy came up to me and said “my name’s Reg and I haven’t to a gig since 1971” and I was like “Right…” [laughs]. He was a cabdriver who had heard me on a late night show and was like “Fuck it, I’m going to go to a gig” and he came down and said he had a great time.
When you are writing music, do you have people like Reg in mind?
To me, the words ‘selling out’ – which a pretentious term that people should stop using because it surpasses meaning very quickly – but if it means anything, it means creating art for someone other than yourself. I write to make what I think is a good song, and everything else is by the by. Thankfully, the effect on audiences is to my liking [laughs]. I think anybody who writes for anyone but themselves – whether that be radio playlists, girlfriends, record labels – are dishonest.
I’m probably going to use another pretentious term that you don’t like here, but do you ever see yourself as having ‘made it’?
I puzzle over that term… I’m not really sure what it means. But being on the cover of Kerrang! was pretty cool, because I used to buy that magazine when I was a kid, and that was probably the only time I have ever felt like that. When I first starting playing in a band I was about 11 years old . My best friend lived nearby, and my mum would drop me over his house and we’d practice ‘cuz he had a drumkit , and he had an uncle who lived on the other side of town who had a guitar amp that had two inputs, so we could play both guitar and bass. So me and him used to walk across town to his uncle’s house, pick up this amp, we’d lug it all the way across town, have band practice, then turn round and lug it back again. My friend’s uncle used to watch us carrying this amp down the street and he said then “You know you’ve made it in Rock n’ Roll when you stop carrying things around.”
Do you think it affects how you perform at all, this being a homecoming show?
I might swear a little bit less between songs, as my mum is here… But it does influence my music. For me, one of the things I like about Folk music is that it has a sense of place, and one of the reasons I love Springsteen is because he sings about where he is from with such a passion and emotion. I’m toying with the idea of calling my next record ‘Wessex’ because I feel very routed in this part of the world, and I’m very interested in local history, folklore that kind of thing.
Ok, we talked a little bit about the Rock n’ Roll EP just released. What was the idea behind that, as I have this perception of an EP being a beginning of career phenomenon?
I’m in the studio in January to record the next album, which means the new album wont be out until Summer. That’s two years between records, and for me, that’s a very long time. I had a lot of new songs too, so I was like “Fuck it, let’s do the EP” and we did it in three days. Also, I’m really excited about the new record I really think it could be the best album we’ve ever done, and it was just nice to be in the studio again.
And just to round off, what can we expect in the future, aside from ‘the best record you’ve ever done’?[laughs]Well, it’s kinda hard to talk about. It’s refreshing, every album I’ve done I have had certain things I have been thinking about, and this time I don’t, I’m just thinking about my songs, and that either means I’ve disappeared up my own ass, or it means I have got better at knowing what exactly it is that I do. I’ve got more comfortable in my own skin as a songwriter, and I’d like to think that it’s the latter of the two [laughs].