Features Interviews Frank Turner

Interviews: Frank Turner


Scene Point Blank: The last time we had the chance to talk we discussed your growing popularity. You're starting to reach the level of success in North America that you have in the UK. How does that feel?

Frank Turner: It's been very gratifying. I want to phrase this is a way that doesn't sound dickish, but we've been through this type of things before in the UK, so in a way it's kind of nostalgic. We went through playing this size of venue and this type of crowd in late 2009, but over there we're starting into our first arena shows, so it's kind of nice to come back to this. I don't want to sound patronizing but it's kind of a cool feeling. It's that type of moment where there's a real spark to it.

Scene Point Blank: As fans of your music it's been exciting. I really enjoyed seeing you on the Jimmy Kimmel show.

Frank Turner: The Jimmy Kimmel show was slightly weird. In the UK we get Lettermen and we get Conan, but prior to doing the show I had no idea who Jimmy Kimmel was. He's a terribly nice guy and lots of people seemed excited that we got to play his show but when that came in I was like…who pray tell is he?

Scene Point Blank: He got to do the harmonica solo for I Still Believe. In my experience that solo has always been reserved for a pretty girl.

Frank Turner: (laughs) In the music video for I Still Believe the girl who plays the harmonica solo is my cousin. I was talking to the director about it, and he suggested that we have a pretty girl play the solo, but suddenly I entered the mind field of who to ask. In the designated pretty girl plays the harmonica part, there are so many wrong choices I could make. I decide on a family member so no one would have me killed. That was a relief.

Scene Point Blank: You recently announced the Wembley Stadium show. How did that come about? Can you fill us in on the openers?

Frank Turner: It's funny. We've sold a five thousand seat venue, and the next jump is to thirteen thousand. There isn't really intermediate shows to do, unless we did multiple nights at the five thousand. We talked about that but we're kind of like, fuck it man, let's try it. It's awesome. I'm very proud of it. I'm very excited about it, but there is something inherently ridiculous about me headlining Wembley. It made me want to do it. Sure I want to play Wembley stadium. Then I want to call up all the people who laughed at me when I told them I was going to be a musician and be like kiss my ass you fucking dicks. Not that I have actually done that…or will.

Scene Point Blank: It might not be the classiest thing to do.

Frank Turner: (laughs) No. We're going to have two stages for the bill. One of them is going to a bandstand in the lobby, a venue with a lobby dear god, but one of them is going to be a bandstand with smaller bands. They'll be five bands playing the main stage. The line up makes me want to pinch myself. I'm actually not allowed to tell you who they are, which is a shame because I really want to tell you.

Scene Point Blank: Please.

Frank Turner: I can't. I've worked really hard but I'm really not going to make any money off of the show. I'm not going to loose any money obviously, but I wanted to make sure that it was the lowest ticket price possible so everyone could come. We're going to get like twelve thousand kids at an all day music festival. I think that's really cool and I think that's really important. My manager is extremely fucked off with me. He's like god damn it will you fucking make some money, please? But we'll do that later. I think it's going to be a really cool event.

Scene Point Blank: Speaking of events, I've seen some pretty amazing performance videos from this years Reading festival.

Frank Turner: Yeah. This is the fifth year I've played Reading. The "rules" are that you're not suppose to play it two years in a row, but the guy who books Reading is a really big fan. He's been so supportive of what I do. For the underground punk scene it's an easy target, but that guy has put his ass on the line to support what I do, so I'll defend him. It was so nice because when we came off stage there was a case of champagne in the dressing room. It put a little tear in my eye…then I drank the champagne, found Neil the booker, and told him next year if he gets me a hotel and a drinks budget I will play for free. He said yeah…and then my manager gave me a dirt look.

Scene Point Blank: We've talked before about whether a show goes well is more dependant on the atmosphere than the venue. How do you create atmosphere in a bigger audience?

Frank Turner: That is the million dollar question. If anyone could write down the answer than they'd be in the money. It's a funny one. Things like atmosphere and stage craft is an aspect of what I do that isn't involved with the punk rock community. The punk rock community survives in venues where it's less needed, because everyone in the room has spent ten years in a band, you know what I mean? If you're playing to thousands of people you have to make it so the person at the back is going to still enjoy it as much as the person in the front row. It's doable. I saw Springsteen play in front of sixty five thousand people and it felt like the most intimate show, but I've seen bands play in a thousand seat room and fall flat on their ass. I don't know how Wembley will be. I feel like we've succeed with the level we're at thus far, but one of the perverse things about rock and roll is you don't get practice runs. I guess we'll see. Maybe we'll get some pyrotechnics. I had this idea where I wanted to get wires, the invisible kind that lift you off the ground, and at a very quiet moment in the show I wanted to be lifted a couple of inches off the ground then go down again. There's only going to be about ten people in the front row who will notice and they'll spend the rest of their lives saying I saw that fucking show and I swear to god he lifted off the fucking ground and everyone else will be like of course he fucking did you crazy fucker.

Scene Point Blank: I read recently that the shows you did in China inspired "I still Believe". Would you mind sharing that story with us?

Frank Turner: I did some show in China that were, technically speaking, illegal shows. I had a tourist visa, but not a performance visa, but I figured the shows were small enough that they wouldn't bother the communist party. That should be a t shirt slogan. Not bothering the communist party since whenever…anyways. We live in a society where rock and roll is ubiquitous. Every single car ad that you watch has a rock and roll song in it. As an art form it's entirely mass culture, which is one thing that is really interesting about it. But it was just really exciting being in a society where the entirety of rock and roll, not just punk or whatever, but the entirety of rock and roll is a new phenomenon. You can see these kids who are losing their shit over the idea. They only just figured out that if you play that chord and than that chord and you do it fast than everyone starts punching each other in the head. Everyone has the eureka moment in high school, but an entire group of people, or however you'd like to put it, discovering it so simultaneously. There were these bands, that if you saw them play in Camden, you'd be like enh…but in the context they had so much vim and vigour. The other thing was the clothes these people are wearing. It was like someone had verbally explained how punks dress but they'd never seen any photos. It was awesome. It was like what the fuck are you wearing, but in a good way. It made me feel slightly ashamed that I'm so jaded about the music that I'm involved in and play. This is what I do all day every day. I think about and play rock and roll music. But standing there I was kind of like…fuck. These kids would give an arm and a leg to spend a month in Camden and I spend months in Camden feeling bored. It was very inspiring.

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Words by Graham Isador on Nov. 16, 2011, 7:15 a.m.

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Frank Turner

Posted by Graham Isador on Nov. 16, 2011, 7:15 a.m.

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