Frank Turner, singer songwriter, chats with Kevin Cooper about playing Reading Festival for the tenth time, his latest album Positive Songs For Negative People, his current Get Better Tour of the UK and his 2000th show at Rock City Nottingham.
Frank Turner is an English folk singer songwriter. He began his career as the vocalist of post-hardcore band Million Dead, and then embarked upon a primarily acoustic-based solo career following the band’s split in 2005. When touring he is accompanied by his backing band, The Sleeping Souls, which consists of Ben Lloyd on guitar and mandolin, Tarrant Anderson on bass, keyboardist Matt Nasir and Nigel Powell on drums.
To date, Turner has released six solo albums, three rarities compilation albums, one split album and five EPs. Turner’s sixth studio album, Positive Songs For Negative People was released in August 2015.
Whilst busy preparing for his current tour of the UK, he took some time out to have a chat with Kevin Cooper, and this is what he had to say.
Hi Frank, how are you today?
I’m good thanks Kevin how are you?
Actually I’m full of cold so you will have to bear with me if that’s okay?
Okay that’s no problem (laughter).
Let me firstly thank you for taking the time to speak to me.
It’s my pleasure.
And how is life treating you?
Life is good thanks. I recently managed to have a couple of weeks off from touring which was great and I am currently toying with a few ideas for a new record at the minute. It’s very early days but I am currently writing and have in fact been speaking to a couple of producers, that kind of thing. So everything is great. It has meant that I have been able to catch up with my social life, I even managed to get to see Skinny Lister play and they were excellent, so yes, all is very well thank you.
We last spoke in August 2015 when you were touring with your Positive Songs For Negative People album. How did it go?
I have to say that it went really well although technically speaking I am still touring that album until May next year so there is a long road to cover yet (laughter). It has been great. I have spent an awful lot of time in the States which is a growing place for me and which is really exciting. However, I am excited more so about the forthcoming UK tour which is coming up later this year.
Were you happy with how well Positive Songs For Negative People was received?
I was yes. I mean it’s funny, hindsight is a curious thing and creatively speaking I have a habit of always reacting against the thing that I did last. So when I was writing Positive Songs For Negative People and making that record, most of my focus was on what had annoyed me about the previous album or what I thought wasn’t right about the previous record (laughter). Now with that in my head I am working on some new stuff,
I am getting to that stage where I am starting to pick holes in Positive Songs For Negative People which I don’t want to spend too much time doing, at least not in public, because I am extremely proud of the record and it was everything that I wanted it to be.
So within the bounds of hindsight that record feels a little bit like blowing off steam to me. There was a lot of madness; a lot of pressure going on around the preceding record The Third Three Years so I wanted to get it completed as fast as I could so we actually cut the record in nine days. Having said all of that I have to say that I think that it achieved exactly what it set out to achieve.
We don’t seem to see you touring the UK as much as we used to. Why is that?
It’s funny in the fact that in the early days I toured the UK more than anywhere else. However, these days I don’t play the UK as much as I play America for example. That is partly to do with geography and partly to do with the different stages that my career is currently at in different places around the world. But being honest with you, it is always wonderful for me to get out there on a UK tour, it feels as if I am coming home.
You have mentioned that you are currently getting ready to get back out on the road with your Get Better Tour. What can we expect?
Well , what can I say, it’s a UK tour (Laughter). I have got myself into this habit in recent years where whenever I release a new album I attempt to do two UK tours on the back of it. There is always one where we do, for want of a better term, the major cities, London, Glasgow, Manchester and places like that and then we do another tour where we try and play in less well known cities, smaller cities.
What is the rationale behind that?
(Hysterical laughter) well I grew up in Winchester and believe you me, no bands, not even the smallest of bands ever came to play in Winchester (laughter). So I quite like the idea that I try to make the time to get out to the places that a lot of other bands won’t go to. So I always make sure that we are playing places like Doncaster, Scunthorpe, Falmouth, and it is more interesting for me and my crew and I think that hopefully it comes across as me being respectful to my audiences as well because I am aware that not everyone lives in Manchester or London.
For the forthcoming tour you have teamed up with Plus 1 and War Child which I have to say is a fantastic gesture on your behalf.
Thank you, but all the kudos has to go to War Child. In respect to my charity work I do what I can like everybody, I tend to focus on one group at a time so I did some work with Shelter for a couple of years and that was great and then I did some work with the Teenage Cancer Trust which was fantastic. The people from War Child came to one of my gigs last year and after the show they sat me down and spoke to me telling me exactly what it is that they do. And boy did they sell it to me. It is an amazing charity in that they do vital and important work despite being grossly underfunded. What we are currently doing is great because it makes it so easy for me and for them to be able to make a difference. They have a great system in place. I said yes, and suddenly we had a whole load of money raised for charity.
You will be playing Rock City here in Nottingham twice this year. Firstly on Friday 9th December where you will have Esme Patterson opening for you. Did you have any say it that?
Oh yes, very much so. I always chose the opening acts for my tours. It is something that I am really militant about. That is partly because I feel responsible for the entire evening’s entertainment. I don’t want anyone to come and see me and have to sit through two crap bands who bought their way onto the tour or something like that (laughter). But also, the way that I came up in this game was by opening for other people and trying to win over their crowds. I think that it is old fashioned but that to me is just how the world should work, as far as the music industry goes. A year ago I was on tour with The Offspring over in the States and towards the end of the tour I said to Noodles their guitarist that it had been an amazing experience for me and asked him how I could ever repay them.
He replied by telling me that I could repay them by taking out bands that I liked when I had made it big. And so that is what I do and I indeed pass on those words of wisdom to the bands that I take out on tour with me. So back to the question in hand (laughter). Esme Patterson hails from Colorado and she is absolutely amazing. She actually sang the backing vocals on Silent Key on Positive Songs For Negative People. She has such a stunning voice and she is just a great songwriter. We also have Felix Hagen And The Family who are currently my new favourite band (laughter). They are this completely mad Vaudevillian, almost a sort of musical theatre type of thing that has to be seen to be believed. And I am really excited to have them out on tour with me as well.
When I saw that Esme Patterson would be supporting you I got hold of her album We Were Wild and I have to say that it is fantastic.
That is excellent and I am very glad to hear that. Like I say that is how the world should work and go around. I have recently had a bit of a moment myself actually. As I said earlier I have recently been to see Skinny Lister who I have taken out on tour with me almost everywhere in the world with the exception of Australia now. Not only was it wonderful to see them headlining their own show but they had a band called Holy Moly And The Crackers opening for them, who I had never heard of and they were totally excellent. And like I say that is exactly how the music business should work.
You have chosen Rock City as the venue where you will play your 2000th show. Why Rock City?
Well, to be honest I chose Rock City for two reasons really. The first reason is that we didn’t want to do something in London and beyond that Rock City is my favourite venue in all the world. To me it just seemed the obvious place for me to play my 2000th show. I know that it is a little weird that we are going to be there a few days before hand and then coming back again. I think that my crew are a little annoyed with me because they are going to have to load in and load out at Rock City twice (laughter). But it is just a wonderful place and once the idea was suggested it just felt to do it at Rock City. For me it was a done deal. It really will be a special evening and I am taking a camera crew down there with me in order to film the whole evening which I really do think will be something quite magical.
I have seen a proof of the limited edition poster that you are doing for the gig and that looks wonderful.
That has been designed by a guy called Geoff who does a lot of show posters for me over in the States. It’s an interesting thing actually; generally people here in the UK will not buy show posters as much as they do over in America. We do lots of them in the States but not so many over here. However, Rock City is a special occasion so I have asked Geoff to do a run of those and I think that they are brilliant.
You played Glastonbury this year. How was it despite the weather?
It was good, it was a good time and lots of fun.
You also played the Reading Festival which was your tenth consecutive year. How did that feel?
To be honest that is the big one for me with all due respect to Glastonbury. When I was growing up I was always a Reading kid rather than a Glastonbury kid if you know what I mean. There is something at Reading that makes it just feel like my tribe when I am there. My first big live musical experience as a kid was going to Reading in 1985. Growing up in a small town, I was the only person that I knew who wore band T-shirts (laughter). And then I got to Reading, walked through the gate and every single person was wearing a band T-shirt and I remember thinking ‘ah my people I’ve found you’ (laughter).
So I love Reading, I love being there, and I love being associated with it. It was wonderful for me to celebrate playing there ten years in a row. It was a nice occasion to mark. I have always felt that kids who go to Glastonbury go because they might find a band that they like once they are there. Whereas the kids who go to Reading are going to see the following bands, at the following times, on the following stages in the following order. I feel that Reading is much more focused on the music which is the thing that I care about.
You have briefly mentioned thoughts on a new album. If you do get your teeth into that what sort of release date will you be looking at?
That will probably be towards the end of next year. I have got a tour schedule that runs through until May of next year and I am not entirely sure at this stage as to who I will be recording the album with or in fact where. I have written a whole pile of new songs and I am now in the process of editing them, trying to put them together, and figure out just who I am going to go to as a producer. So its early days and I have done this a few times now so I know that it is going to be a while before anything gets released. But the good news is that I am really excited about the songs that I have been writing and I am still feeling that there might be time for a bit of a stylistic left hand turn so that is possible. That is something that might just happen but I really can’t say anymore until the record gets made (laughter).
On that note Frank let me once again thank you for taking the time to speak to me. As always it’s been a pleasure.
My pleasure Kevin. You take care and I will see you later. Bye for now.