Perhaps a fan on Youtube said it best: “Frank Turner is the best friend you never had.” Indeed, the folk/punk troubadour remains one of the most down-to-earth men in music and an artist whose honest and uncompromising songwriting has resonated with people from all walks of life.
Ahead of his special 1000th gig at Strummerville Spring Sessions, we caught up with him for a chat.
Reaching 1000 gigs in no mean feat by anyone’s standards, let alone by someone still in their 20s. Rewind the clock and tell us about the first one.
“The first solo show I did, I was still in Million Dead. The guys at Small Town America Records were putting on a charity all-dayer at 93 Feet East and asked me if I wanted to play a solo slot, and I said yes. I remember being nervous as hell, and the set was mostly covers because I hadn’t written too many songs of my own then (and wasn’t really planning to). It’s funny to think that it’s now become my livelihood, in a way.”
Has there been one gig that stands out over the 998 others?
“Ha! It’d be impossible to choose one! I’m lucky to say there have been many awesome shows. Things like playing Wembley Stadium stick out in the mind, obviously, but then some of my favourite shows have been in bedrooms and small bars.”
How did you first become involved with Strummerville?
“Through friends, really. Jay (Beans On Toast) is an old compadre, and was actually pretty instrumental in persuading me to pursue this course in music after my band broke up. Hanging with him and the Nambucca crew back in the day, I just crossed paths with the Strummerville camp and made friends.”
Did you ever meet Joe Strummer?
“I did not, alas, which is a shame. I’m a fan, of course.”
Who are you looking forward to checking out at Spring Sessions?
“There are a whole load of bands playing, and I’m not sure I’ve seen any of them live before (tour takes me away from the scene these days, haha). I’ve heard great things about the Barker Band.”
You could probably count the Eton College educated punk musicians on one hand. What was the tipping point for you in the early days? Did you ever feel at odds with your surroundings during your school years?
“Very much so. I was there on an academic scholarship, which meant that socially I was kind of a fish out of water right from the get-go. When I encountered punk rock, aged about 13 or 14 or so, it made a massive amount of sense to me — the rage, the defiance, the rebelliousness, it gave me a lot of help in dealing with the conflicts of my surroundings.”
‘England Keep My Bones’ is due to drop on June 6. Tell us about the album’s creation: how did the writing process go this time around? What was inspiring or affecting you that fuelled the project?
“The album was written on the road, as ever, although this time around I was generally out with the guys in my band, which was great — we had time to really work on the arrangements for the songs this time round, rather than just throwing everything together! We also got to demo the record in El Paso with my friend Jim Ward, which helped a lot. The record is kind of about England, and also about death and what to do about it — but I don’t think of themes and write towards them, they just become apparent after I’m done.”
You’ll be supporting the LP release with an 18-date UK tour throughout May. What’s on the horizon for the second half of 2011?
“I’m playing every goddamn festival in Europe (it feels like!) and then I’ll be in the USA for a while, but at the end of the year I’ll be back for a massive UK and European tour, with some very special guests as well, I can’t wait to announce it!”
New album ‘England Keep My Bones’ out 6th June on Xtra Mile Recordings
Download Frank Turner’s track ‘I Am Disappeared’ from here