Frank Turner: Music, Touring, Uni and Winchester

Posted on: 19/03/2009

By Justine Kharbanda

This month sees ‘The Buzz’s’ full feature length interview, with  Winchester’s own, Frank Turner.  After gaining much airplay on the likes of Radio 1, his single ‘Reasons to be an Idiot’ has become his biggest hit to date.  I caught up with him this month to talk to him about his music, university and Winchester!  If you have any comments on the interview feel free to leave them below!

You’ve been touring non-stop in Europe recently, what’s life on the road with ft like? What’s the craziest thing that’s happened to you on tour? 
Being on the road with me, like with anyone, involves a lot of travelling, waiting around, boredom… I’m not trying to knock what I do, it’s an amazing job, but that is the characteristic thing you spend 90% of your time doing. The shows are great and sometimes the parties are too. Crazy things happen a lot. I guess some of the shows out in Eastern Europe have to be up there on my list. Moscow is a strange, strange place. I once drank waaaay too much vodka and challenged 300 Russians to a fight. Oops. 

You recently announced that you were planning to record the third album as soon as this tour had ended, what can we expect from the upcoming release?
This time round I’m going into the studio with
my live band. In the past we’ve broken things down in the studio, been very meticulous, and I’ve played most everything apart from the drums. This time it’s going to be a rawer, more in-your-face affair. We’re rehearsing for a month before we go in, so it should be tight as hell.  I want to close the gap between my live shows and my records. 
Your previous style of music with the band ‘Million Dead’ was hugely different, what was it like making the transition from punk/post hardcore to folk? 
It made sense to me at the time, every step of the way, but looking back it does seem a bit odd, I’ll concede. I’m just trying to be honest with my music. 
It must be an odd thing to perceive that you have been on the road touring and releasing singles for the past few years but it is only now that you are getting recognised as a musician. Do you think this is due to the change in the music scene with folk becoming the new big thing with the likes of Fleet Foxes, Mumford and Sons and Laura Marling? 
With no disrespect to those bands (particularly Laura, who’s a friend), I don’t associate myself with them or any scene particularly, and I think the audiences we play to are far from homogenous. I think things have been going well for me of late because I’ve been working my arse off for the last four years and it’s cumulatively starting to pay off. People regularly point at “folk” (or any other number of genres) as being due for a “comeback” or whatever; I’ve never felt like any of that has really affected me or what I do. 
What was it like when you found out that ‘Reasons to be an idiot’ was single of the week on Itunes in January? Is it the kind of thing where you think, ‘yeah this is all finally happening now’? 
That was a weird one – I don’t personally use iTunes (or listen to the radio) so stuff in that field that comes through is a little bit abstract for me. Having said that, it obviously has made a big difference for me and I’m hugely grateful for it. I’m still not 100% sure how it came about, haha. For me, my personal measure of success is at live shows; when there’s more people there, more people singing along, that’s when it feels like things are picking up. 
Your lyrics are particularly interesting to listen to, in a storytelling way, what inspires them? 
Thank you. Things that happen, really. All the stories are true – not because I’m opposed to fiction, but because I’m no good at it. I’ve been trying to write lyrics for about 15 years now, so I guess practice helps! 
Your song ‘Long Live The Queen’ seems intensely personal – do you find it difficult to perform?
Yes and no. Basically, you have to exercise some degree of detachment when you perform any song with an emotional content (like most of mine), otherwise you’d be a gibbering wreck every single time you play it.  Having said that, obviously there are some nights which are harder than others. I think about Lex a lot when I’m playing the song out, and try to think if she’d be happy about it. I wager yes. 
You’re playing this years ‘SXSW’, what can we expect? Will you be playing new material?
My head is packed full of new stuff at the moment, so much so that it’s slightly driving me nuts. Yes, there’ll be new stuff at SXSW, also probably a very jet-lagged me. I’m also going to be playing with some American musicians (from Steve Soto’s band), which should be cool. 
Can we expect to see you at any other festivals this year? 
My festival season will be a busy one, as last year. I’m actually not sure which festivals I’m allowed to announce when, so I’ll play it safe and say “many”. 
If you could collaborate with any other artist, dead or alive who would it be? 
I’d be intrigued to work with Nick Cave, to see how he brings his material together, though I suspect I’d be too overawed to do anything contributory. I’ve actually thought quite hard about working with some glitch / electro people, like Andy Barlow (Lamb) or something like that. In the future sometime. 

So you studied History at the London School of Economics, loads of us will be going off to uni in September so do you have any tips on how to survive student life? Also what was the best and worst things about your uni days? 
Choose your housemates well, on the basis of how they live rather than whether they’re your friends. I fell out with a lot of people over their 
innate inability to do their washing up. It was a shame. I’d say work as hard as you can too; university is an amazing but very short-lived opportunity, don’t waste it being wrecked the whole time, you’ll regret it. 
When you were living in Winchester, where were your favourite places to hang out? Can you recommend any good pubs, or unknown gems? What do you think of the music scene in Hampshire? 
I still live in Winchester actually – I’m typing this at home. The Mash Tun used to be my hangout of choice, but alas it’s changed beyond recognition now. The Black Boy is a nice pub. Other than that… I used to go a-drinking in the Cathedral Grounds but it seems they’ve banned that too. I’m sure your readers are much hipper when it comes to Winchester these days. 

You can get his album ‘Love , Ire & Song’ with a bonus disc “The First Three Years” featuring a 23 track collection of b-sides and rarities!


1 Response to "Frank Turner: Music, Touring, Uni and Winchester"

erm…i’m pretty sure the single is called ‘Reasons Not to be an Idiot’. Maybe it’s just me?

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