INTERVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN
In the second part of my interview with singer-songwriter Frank Turner – conducted prior to his recent set headlining the Karnage Festival at Keele University – he spoke about such things as performing at the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics, other standout moments of his career up to now, and a little about his eagerly-anticipated eighth album, due for release later this year.
In 2012, you performed at the opening ceremony of the London Olympics. How did that come about?
That was mad, the whole experience was mad, which was incidentally why I did it. There were a few internet punks who said that I shouldn’t have done it, but I told them to fuck off, as it was something you will only really experience once in your lifetime, and me propping up the bar as an old man, telling people about the time I didn’t play the Olympics, is boring, and the other thing about it is that Danny Boyle asked me – and he is somebody I genuinely respect as an artist.
I got a call one day from his management, asking me to have a meeting with him, and I remember knowing at the time that he was doing the opening ceremony of the Olympics, and me thinking that it couldn’t possibly be about that, as it would have been totally ridiculous, so I thought he was going to ask me about the possibility of doing a song for his next film, which would still have been really fucking cool, but when I got to the meeting, Danny just came out and said, “Would you like to play at the opening ceremony? You don’t have to answer now, you can go away and think about it for a couple of weeks if you have to“, and me and my manager were both like, “No, I think we can answer this now, and it’s going to be a yes from us.”
That must have been a truly amazing experience.
It was very odd, very surreal, as it didn’t feel real at all, and one of the weirdest parts about it was just how used to everything being insane you got, because I don’t know if you can remember, but they had Harry Potter bad guys on stilts, real sheep, and people dressed as shepherds, and everybody who was a part of it would be outside after rehearsals smoking cigarettes, and backstage, there was this village, and after a couple of weeks of that, you stopped blinking at the fact that you were smoking a cigarette and chatting normally to a guy on stilts who was dressed as a Harry Potter bad guy. It was just really, really odd.
That’s just one of the many things that you have done over the years. What would you say have been your other standout moments?
Well, I always kind of dodge the question by what I said earlier – which I do mean – which is about the fact that I’m still standing, but obviously, we’ve played a lot of big gigs, and that has been amazing, and also, it has been a huge privilege to be able to travel across the world and visit new countries, just because I play music.
Actually, I was in Portugal for the first time about a month ago – how cool is that? – but I would say beyond that, probably my favourite thing is when people who I grew up listening to musically acknowledge me, so I know Mike Burkett (vocalist/bassist of Californian punk legends NOFX), and he’s now a good friend of mine, but I don’t want to go, “Fat Mike’s my mate, and this isn’t the biggest fucking deal in the world!”
However, it’s amazing when someone whose songs I idolised as a kid turns around and tells you that they like your songs.
Going back to when you first started out – and you’ve probably mentioned this already – did you ever think that you would achieve what you have?
I think the thing about that is that there’s a difference between aspiration and realistic expectation. I think I would have liked to have done all of this, you know, but I think I would have been quite surprised if you had told me when I was, say, 19, that it was actually going to fucking happen, you know, pleasantly surprised, I should add.
And is there anything you haven’t done yet that you would like to?
Yeah, I think that it’s really important for me to justify what it is that I do, and what I mean by that, is that every time I make another record, I go, “Do I need to make this? Does the world really need another fucking Frank Turner record?”
I’ve just finished recording album number eight, which will be coming out later this year, and I am really pleased to be able to say that I think this will be a radical departure for me, as it’s going to break new ground, and I always want to keep things interesting, so to accompany the record will be a podcast.
Writing the books were a big deal, but I want to keep going to new places, there will soon be another side project of mine, which is honestly the most fucked up thing that I’ve ever done, but I can’t say anything more than that about it at the moment, and I just want to keep things exciting and interesting for me, as well as the audience.
How far are you into your next album currently?
It’s been recorded, but it hasn’t been mixed yet. The album should be out around August, but it’ll be very, very different, I think. Other people will be able to better judge that than me, but it certainly does feel different.
If your career as a musician hadn’t taken off, what do you think you would have done in regards to a profession?
I mean, I was in academia when I was younger, I went to uni, which I enjoyed, and I got offered to do a master’s and stuff, so I might have gone down that road, but over the years, when I’ve been asked that question, I’ve slightly flippantly gone, “My mum was a teacher, so I probably would have done that“, but I don’t want it to sound like I think it’s an easy thing to do, because teaching is actually fucking hard, and it’s something I certainly couldn’t do now, but I suspect I would have done something in that world.
And finally, what advice would you give to any emerging bands/artists out there?
You know, on some levels, that’s a question you and I could talk about for fucking hours! (laughs) However, I feel like we’re now in an era where power in the music industry has kind of collapsed, but in a way that has been really healthy, because when I started out – even more so around ten years before – the music industry was a very authoritarian place, as there would be people in the middle making the majority of the decisions, and as a band, you just had to kind of hope that you would come onto the radar of someone who worked in A&R at some record label, or ran a radio station, or was a journalist for a music magazine, whatever, but nowadays, with the internet being what it is, it’s so much easier to make your own luck.
Obviously, you’ve still got to be good, but you can build up a fan base, put out music, pretty much by yourself, and just be fucking busy all the time, as there are 26 hours worth of stuff a day you could do to promote your music, so just fucking get on with it, do you know what I mean?
‘TRY THIS AT HOME: MY ADVENTURES IN SONGWRITING’ IS AVAILABLE NOW FROM ALL GOOD BOOK RETAILERS, AND THE EIGHTH STUDIO ALBUM FROM FRANK TURNER WILL BE RELEASED LATER THIS YEAR.
FURTHER INFO ON FRANK CAN BE FOUND THROUGH THE FOLLOWING SITES: