Frank Turner, an English punk and folk singer songwriter chats with Kevin Cooper about his fundraising for independent music venues during the lockdown, his warmth for Rock City, his latest album FTHC and his 2022 tour of the UK.

Frank Turner is an English punk and folk singer songwriter from Hampshire. He began his career as the vocalist of post-hardcore band, Million Dead. He then embarked upon a primarily acoustic based solo career following the bands split in 2005.

He discovered his love for music through seeing an Iron Maiden poster and he convinced his parents to buy him a copy of the album, Killers, and later a guitar.

Since going solo, in the studio and during live performances he is accompanied by his backing band, The Sleeping Souls.

He has released nine solo albums, four rarities compilation albums, one retrospective ‘best of’ album, one split album and five EP’s. Turner’s ninth and most recent studio album, FTHC, was released on 11th February 2022 and reached number one in the UK albums chart in the week following its release.

During the pandemic of 2020, he performed a weekly show from home on his Facebook and YouTube channels to raise money for independent grass root music venues that were forced to temporarily close due to the pandemic.

Whilst busy preparing for his forthcoming tour of the UK he took some time out to have a chat with Kevin Cooper and this is what he had to say.


Good morning Frank, how are you?

I’m alright Kevin thank you for asking. The sun is shining, and I am drinking coffee in my own house so all in all things could be worse. More to the point just how are you today?

At this moment in time things are all good thank you.

That’s always good to hear.

Indeed it is (laughter) and before we move on let me firstly thank you for taking the time to speak to me today.

It’s always a pleasure whenever you and I get to chat so thank you.

And just how is life treating you at this moment in time?

I would have to say that life at this moment in time is not too shabby. Having said that the past two years have not been the best of times to be a touring musician, but we are now, at least on an upward gradient. I have been able to do some touring this year overseas and I am about to embark on my first UK tour since 2020 and let me tell you I am extremely excited about that (laughter). So yes, all in all it could be worse.

We have to mention lockdown. Just how did you manage to keep your spirits up during that bleak period?

Well, I am so pleased that you have asked me that because there were a couple of things that I managed to get myself involved with. Firstly, I got involved with trying to teach myself how to be an audio and recording engineer successfully to the point where I have my own recording studio now. That went really well and although it involved a lot of work, I have to say that it really was fun. I also found myself doing a hell of a lot of fundraising for independent music venues during the lockdown time which kept me occupied and it also managed to keep twenty-one venues open which I am extremely proud of, so that was cool. I also moved house which as I am sure that you know can be extremely time consuming and stressful, but I eventually did find myself living in a new place (laughter).

Did all go well with the move, or will we be seeing you in the divorce courts anytime soon? (laughter)

Well, I have to be totally honest with you and say that it really was a big undertaking, but fingers crossed there are currently no actions on that front (laughter).

The Covid-19 virus appears to be here with us to stay so taking that on board; do you agree that the insurance companies need to change their approach towards gigs, tours and artists?

Yes, I do and that was a large part of the campaign that the Music Venues Trust was running back in 2021 when the Government in their quote, unquote wisdom asked the music industry exactly what it needed, and we said that we wanted an insurance scheme similar to the one that the Government had given to the film industry, to which they categorically replied “no”. And I just thought ‘cool, well thanks for that’. But in answer to your question, yes, I do feel that there needs to be a change in the general attitude towards insurance as a general concept. I personally am largely operating without it at the moment which is not ideal shall we say judging on past experiences. As you quite rightly say, the virus is here to stay, and we all need to move forward together and begin to live with it.

I spoke to Steve Hogarth from Marillion, and he told me that they had crowd funded the cost of the tour just in case anything untoward happened whilst they were out on the road. Fortunately, all went well, and they refunded the fans money. Is that something that you would be prepared to look into and work with?

In theory, yes of course. I’m sure that you know that Marillion have got incredible form on the crowd funding side of things. They have been absolute pioneers of that for decades now actually, and more power to them. I am preparing to head out on tour here in the UK and the economics of it are currently functional; I am going to get to pay my crew and possibly even pay my rent at the end of it, but it is slightly intimidating going back out on the road without a backing insurer.

Moving on to your latest album FTHC, which we now know stands for Frank Turner Hardcore and I have to say that I love it.

Thank you, that is always so nice to hear when someone appreciates just what it is that you are trying to do so thank you.

I have to say that the album certainly does just what it says on the label, it really is hardcore (laughter).

Thank you, and I am really so glad that you say that. In a way it was kind of interesting and youthful for me because I actually was prepared to talk about the record that I was writing, whilst writing it, which in a way was quite cool because I kept telling everyone that I was writing a Punk Rock record when I suddenly realised that I now had to walk the walk (laughter). I had done the whole talking the talk thing so now I had to walk the walk. The last thing that I wanted to do was do all of these interviews telling everyone that I was going to make a Punk Rock record and then simply bring out more of the same sort of thing. So, I literally found myself backed into a corner at work (laughter).

Taking all of that on board were you happy with just how well the album was received?

Yes, I was, most definitely. FTHC was my ninth record, and I am no spring chicken by anyone’s definition or anyone’s standards (laughter). I operate very much on the understanding that the ninth album by any artist is not a particularly exciting thing (laughter). It is up to me to make it interesting, and it is up to me to make it exciting. So, for me to put out a ninth record whilst making it, recording it and writing it, I had to feel as though I had as much to say about it as I have ever had to say. But then again also to have it as my very first number one album; it got great reviews, it was well received by my audience, was pretty gratifying at this point in my life and also in my career.

From writing to recording, just how long did it take you?

This album took longer than previous records because of the lockdown, and as much as the pandemic together with the lockdown has been a nightmare from most angles it has probably meant for a better record actually. In the past I have often made a record during a pit stop between tour dates, simply because I tour hard, both out of choice and in order to make a living. However, this time around rather than just jumping off tour for a couple of weeks in order to smash out a record I found myself having much more time to write, to demo, and then indeed to record and then mix it. And I have to say that I think that led to a better record actually in the final analysis. Some of the songs on the album stretch back some four or five years whilst others were written the week before we finished recording. So, taking all of that on board I would have to say a couple of years.

I currently have three go to tracks on the album. They are Punches, The Gathering and Miranda. I think that those three tracks are super.

Thank you, fine choices all (laughter).

Did writing and recording Miranda help you with the acceptance of your father’s transition or were you on board with it prior to writing the song?

That is a really good question and what I would say is that it certainly helped to move things in a good direction and indeed the whole situation is an ongoing process and always will be in the sense that my relationship with my dad is always going to be an ongoing thing. I had to be in a place of some acceptance to even consider writing a song about it. But at the same time, in the process of first of all working on the song then playing it to Miranda and then playing it to my mum and my sisters, and then playing it live at shows, it has most definitely been cathartic for me. It has moved my feeling about the whole situation most definitely in a healthy direction.

A lot of fans are saying that it is your best work to date. Would you agree with that?

(Laughter) I would have to agree with them at this juncture otherwise if I didn’t, I would still be working on it if you see what I mean. However, ask me that same question again in ten years’ time and I will give you a proper answer.

Were you faced with any problems with getting the vinyl pressed?

No other than the fact that I was aware that there is a gigantic backlog at the moment so, we were very much planning the vinyl copies with that very much in mind. Hopefully the vinyl situation is being addressed all be it slowly as it’s been a complete nightmare over the past couple of years. We have been faced with a six-month delay for a couple of years now.

You are about to head off to Germany to play some dates; are you looking forward to that?

Very much so; not least because as with so many things at the moment it feels like we are finally setting things right. I was supposed to play at the Berlin Festival back in May 2020 but for obvious reasons that simply didn’t happen. Last year we played a number of shows at the London Contemporary simply because the travel situation meant that it was ridiculous to try to do it anywhere else. And finally, we are getting to take the show over to Berlin and I am very excited about that.

You play Rock City here in Nottingham on Tuesday 27th September. Your warmth towards the venue is well documented so I have to ask just what makes it so special to you?

Well, it is the only venue in the world whose name I have tattooed on my arm (laughter) but that is me putting the cart before the horse. Rock City is a great venue as in physically in that it is well laid out, it has got a great PA, it has a great technical side to things, it is a really cool place to play a gig in, the Main Hall, the Rescue Rooms and also the Basement. They are all great rooms. Having said that it is not just the physical layout, it is also down to the people who run Rock City; it is the aptitude behind the whole operation. They are totally honest and are doing it for the right reasons. Every touring band from around the world, not just those from the UK, knows that Rock City is almost like an oasis in the desert whenever you arrive there on tour. It has good people doing it for the right reasons and you know that you are going to be treated right, and for me it is always a pleasure.

As we have mentioned you have now released album number nine. Does having a large back catalogue present you with problems when it comes to putting together a set list for the tour?

What can I say, it can be a help and it can also be a hindrance. I have to admit that I spend an inordinately amount of my time thinking about and writing out set lists. That really does take up an enormous amount of my time during the day. I like to try to represent my entire catalogue; I like to switch it up between shows and so on and so forth. Having a broad catalogue makes the switching up part easy but pleasing everybody, that is more of a challenge. You are never going to please everybody, and to a degree, part of the set list should be about leading your audience rather than following it. None the less, there is a lot to choose from and getting it right is certainly a challenge.

What can we expect when you get to Rock City?

A participation event (laughter). I like to think that my shows are dialogues rather than monologues. I want everyone at the show to be a part of the show. I’m not really interested in just blasting volume at passive receivers if you know what I mean. For me the audience is as much a part of the show as any of the musicians. It is really important to me that there is that conversational element to the show. All of this is a really fancy and highfaluting way of saying that I love a sing-along (laughter) and I want the audience to be a part of the show.

We have spoken about your warmth towards the venue; what do you think of Nottingham the City?

I have been to Nottingham many, many times in my life and I have always had a blast there. In fact, there was a time in my life when I actually considered the merits of moving to Nottingham. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen but please forgive me that (laughter). Nottingham is great; it is such a cool city; it has great venues obviously, great record shops and great, great people. It is a really cool place to hang out.

Have the thoughts turned to a new album as yet?

(Laughter) well on some levels they have already, and I have been writing in a slightly kind of gentle unfocused way. On the one hand I am keen to move forward and to make more music, whilst on the other end of the spectrum if you like, FTHC was a record that was written to be played live; I don’t want it to just fall by the wayside, I really do want to tour this record properly, both here in the UK and internationally. I intend to be doing that for a while, but at the same time, if songs come into my head, then they come in. We will just have to see how that goes.

You have been active now in the music business for some twenty-one years; are you enjoying the ride so far?

(Laughter) so far, yes. In fact, I almost feel as though I am getting into the swing of it now (laughter).

Putting you on the spot, what would you say has been the highlight of you career so far?

This is going to sound like a dodge of an answer, but I promise you that it’s not. The highlight of my career is that I still have one. When I was a kid, I used to tell everyone that I was going to be in a band and people laughed. I then formed a band and I said that we were going to play shows and people laughed. Then when we had the beginnings of a career, and we did some touring and I said that I was going to be doing that for the rest of my life and people simply rolled their eyes. Then, when I started playing solo folk shows everyone thought that it was a joke. However, here I am forty years old, a number one album, I am still doing this for a living and let me tell you, I am extremely proud of that.

In twenty-one years of touring what changes have you seen to life on the road?

I honestly think that there has been a degree of professionalism about touring during the last twenty years. Touring has most definitely become a thing that is less chaotic and far more regimented which is not a change; it is merely better. Security at venues has got much better, the production side of things has got more focused; all in all it is a much better fix with the artists, and I feel that is a much better thing. There are a lot more people now who make a respectable and honest living, in a long-term way in touring than there used to be. Up until 2020 I think that shows were continually expanding which is really cool. Having said that as you know that has changed over the last couple of years, but I personally feel that things have got better over the past twenty years, I really do.

What was the first record that you bought?

The very first record that I bought was Number Of The Beast by Iron Maiden.

Who did you first see performing live?

The first band that I saw live was a band called Snug. Snug featured Ed Harcourt on guitar and they were a British Punk band in the early to mid-nineties who have been largely forgotten, which is a shame. I saw them at The Joiners Arms back in 1995.

What was the last song or piece of music that made you cry?

The last piece of music that made me cry was written by one of my very favourite songwriters, a guy called David Bazan who makes music under the name of Pedro The Lion. I am just a complete and utter sucker for his song writing generally. Every time that he puts out a new record my wife just rolls her eyes, which usually means ‘Jesus Christ, I will leave you to it for a month of two’ (laughter). I always have a solid cry whenever I listen to any of David’s music.

On that note Frank, let me once again thank you for taking the time to speak to me today, it has been delightful.

Thank you for your time, I really do appreciate it.

I will see you when you get to Rock City, as I will be photographing and reviewing the gig.

(Laughter) in that case I had better make sure that I bring my A game and indeed do my hair. Thanks very much Kevin, you look after yourself and I will see you at Rock City.