Frank Turner, singer-songwriter chats with Kevin Cooper about being in a wrestling ring with CM Punk, his fondness for Rock City, his new album Positive Songs For Negative People and his forthcoming UK tour.
Frank Turner is an English folk singer-songwriter from Hampshire. Initially the vocalist of post hard-core band Million Dead, Turner embarked upon a primarily acoustic-based solo career following the band’s split in 2005. Both in the studio and during live performances, Turner is now accompanied by his backing band, The Sleeping Souls.
Whilst preparing for the release of his new album, and his forthcoming UK tour, he took time out to have a chat with Kevin Cooper and this is what he had to say.
Frank how are you?
I’m good thanks Kevin, how are you?
I’m very well thank you and let me just say thank you for taking the time to speak to me.
It’s my pleasure.
And how is life treating you?
It’s pretty good Kevin. I have got a busy morning taking to journalists about the new album but I am excited about the new album coming out so that’s ok. It’s been a pretty long build-up as it always is as there is that in-built delay within the music industry about finishing something creatively and unleashing it onto the world. So I am feeling quite good about the fact that the album is finally being released.
On the subject of the new album Positive Songs For Negative People I have been playing it for the past few days and I have to say that I think that it’s great.
Thanks very much Kevin, I’m glad that you like it.
The stand out track for me is Get Better. I think that it’s fantastic.
Thank you. That particular track is a kind of overview of what the album is all about both sonically and lyrically. It almost says look this is what we are talking about here.
So I have to ask, in general which are you, positive or negative?
(Laughter) well probably a little bit of both. God bless the Germans I love them but they do take things very, very seriously. In quite a lot of the interviews I have done with German journalists they kept asking me if I think that my fans are negative people (laughter). The title is supposed to have at least a little bit of a wink and a nod to all of the fans out there. I think that part of it is just the fact that when I was a kid I always preferred listening to Radiohead than The Fratellis (laughter).
In the video for The Next Storm we see you in a wrestling ring going toe to toe with Phillip Jack ‘Phil’ Brooks, better known by his ring name CM Punk, who just so happens to be the longest-reigning WWE Champion of the ‘modern era’. Whose idea was that?
Well Kevin I have to say that I honestly don’t know that much about wrestling but the guy who directs my music videos is a guy called Ben and his is a really big fan. He got wind of the fact that CM Punk is a fan of the band and that he is a friend of a friend and so we got hold of his email address and I sent him what can only be described as a Hail Mary email (laughter) and he said why not, let’s do it. And now as you have seen, we have a video on our hands (laughter).
What was it like working with producer Butch Walker on the album over in Nashville?
Working with Butch is fantastic Kevin but it was very intensive. We were over in Nashville for ten days and we recorded the album in nine; so it was a very intensive experience. I think that Butch really got the best out of me and the band and he really brought the album together.
I have to say that I do like your old school approach to the business; write, record, tour and start again. Has that always been your outlook to the business?
People endlessly go on about the changes within the music industry and just how touring is more important and all that kind of thing. I am fortunate in the sense that I would probably be doing it this way anyway despite the fact that it is supposedly not the way that one is supposed to do it nowadays. I fucking love touring; it’s great, it’s much better than sitting around at home twiddling your thumbs. For me I have had quite a lot of time off the road and I am really excited about getting back out there. I feel like I know what I am doing when I am out on the road (laughter). It is the one thing in life that I am good at so I would rather go and concentrate on it Kevin.
Which venue would you prefer to perform in, Wembley Arena or Rock City?
That’s easy Kevin, Rock City most definitely. Rock City is my favourite venue here in the UK. I know that you will probably think that I am just saying that because I am speaking to you and you are from Nottingham but honest to god it’s true. I think that if every venue in the world was like Rock City then the world would be an infinitely better place.
Everyone who I speak to who has played there all say the same thing; that it has got a certain vibe to it.
Let me tell you something about Rock City Kevin. Last summer I did a tour with my side project band, Möngöl Hörde and we did a gig in the basement at Rock City. Usually when it is a basement show they don’t have the in-house catering, the chefs and that kind of thing, so we weren’t expecting them to be there. Me and my tour manager Graham have worked together for many years and have been in and out of Rock City many times over the years. So when we arrived at the venue we noticed that the catering was all set up. I said that it was a very nice gesture and the guys at the venue were like, are you fucking kidding man it’s you and Graham. You guys are on our team (laughter). Of course we are going to prepare you some food so fucking shut up and eat (laughter).
The people behind Rock City really do care; they don’t just think about the money. And yes there really is a good vibe about the place and I love it.
You are playing two dates back to back here at Rock City. Why not step up to a slightly larger venue and do it all on the one night?
We did try that the last time around but it is me always trying to do things differently Kevin (laughter). And also trying to keep things interesting for both me and the fans. I get a lot of fans who say that they don’t want to see me playing the larger venues and in particular the arena shows and I kind of get that; playing the smaller venues has that kind of underground feel to it. But at the same time I have to say that the arena shows which I have played have been fucking brilliant. But in the final analysis I think that our sweet spot is a little more Rock City sized and I think that it will be a better show for everybody.
In 2008 you suffered from gastroenteritis whilst playing here in Nottingham. You haven’t let that put you off playing here in the City have you?
(Hysterical laughter) no not at all Kevin in fact it’s made me feel very keen to keep on coming back. Certainly the first couple of times that I came back I felt that I had a demon to exorcise and to apologise to the fans for cutting the show short and running off the stage at The Rescue Rooms.
On the subject of playing at smaller venues, you are playing at The Rough Trade record store here in Nottingham in August.
Yes I am Kevin. Basically that is the week of the release of the record so I am running around and playing in-stores for a couple of weeks and I am trying to let people know about the album really. What I will tell you is that it is going to be a busy time.
And fortunately there are still some record stores left for you to play in.
I know what you are saying Kevin. I have been involved in the annual Record Store Day quite a lot and that is my thing. I am very much pro record stores. I truly believe that record stores still do have a very large role to play in this modern world which we live in.
I have to ask you, what is currently happening with your own brand of beer, Believe?
Well originally Kevin it was to run for a period of six months but in the end it actually ran for twelve. We are not running it right now because Signature Breweries have recently been expanding but the hope is that it will run again once everything has settled.
So just how much input did you have regarding the taste and presentation of the beer?
Well Kevin I have to be honest and say that being asked to design a beer was totally new to me. I don’t know masses about brewing beer, other than the fact that I like drinking it a whole lot. We had a day where I went and sat down with a Master Brewer who presented me with a number of beers in pairs. I would have to tell him which beer I liked out of the two and then he would tell me about the beer which I had chosen. I was honestly paying attention for about the first five pairs and then I was pissed (laughter). But I had a good time and by the end I had learned quite a lot. I had a fantastic evening getting very pissed, and surprisingly ended up with a beer with my name on the label, which is pretty amazing wouldn’t you say (laughter).
In 2010 you contributed to Centrepoint’s charity covers album, 1969 Key To Change, with your version of The Foundations Build Me Up Buttercup. Why that particular song?
Well that was partly down to the fact that the deal with Centrepoint was that it had to be a song that was released in 1969. This is one of the most beautiful songs that I know so I thought that I would give it a stab. It is a masterpiece of a pop song Kevin.
What next for Frank Turner?
Well Kevin there will be lots of touring with the new record which is the main thing now as I am looking down the barrel (laughter) but we will see. I am hoping to do some more stuff with Möngöl Hörde as I have got some ideas regarding that. I may write another book, I don’t know. I have got the time to think about it which is a nice luxury to have for once in my life.
On that note may I say thank you for taking the time to speak to me.
Thanks Kevin, it’s been great talking to you and I hope to see you sometime in Nottingham. You take care Kevin. Bye for now.