Scene Point Blank: You said once that you think art is empathy. Can you explain a little more of what you meant by that?
Frank Turner: The reason why I’m interested in, and why I use the term, Folk around what I do – which is kind of contentious in a way because it’s nearly as argument inducing as the word punk, and sometimes use the two together which becomes a bottomless attic of genre discussion – is, to make a broad and sweeping statement, life is an essentially painful, awful, and sad condition and the point of art is to alleviate that through empathy and through people realizing that we’re not alone in this. That’s a broad statement but I think music is at its best when it becomes transcendent. When it ceases to be something as boring as a white kid with a guitar playing some shitty songs he wrote to a bunch of people who are drinking beer and not paying attention, when it rises above that it becomes not so much about the performer or the audience. It becomes an act of distinction and that is when I get excited. The easiest way to do that, and the most powerful way, is to get people to sing a long at a show. It’s great to step away from the mic and step into the crowd. I was never comfortable with art being higher class and talking down to a lower class. I just don’t care. I don’t care about David Bowie. Wopdie- shit. He’s a space alien. It’s just not interesting to me. That whole royally thing where people are pained to take time out of their day to entertain the proles… it’s like fuck that shit. It’s empathetically important to me that when I’m not playing on the stage that I’m no different from anyone else. The only different when I am on stage is that it’s my turn. I’m more interested in leading a congregation than singing at anyone.
Scene Point Blank: We’ll at least have the choruses down for you this evening. I think the lack of division comes from growing up with punk rock.
Frank Turner: Definitely. I remember I was fourteen and I had just started getting into punk. It was my first hardcore show with Agnostic Front and Vision. The first band finished and they packed up their shit and leaped over the barricade and hung out. Then the guy who was standing next to me went to set up. It turned out that he was the bass player for the next band. That meant that the guys in the band were also in the crowd. I realized that it wasn’t about me waiting for the airbrushed to come play for a bit and fuck off. That was the first time I ever saw anyone stage dive too. My mind fell apart. The singer from Vision was right up with us and it was like ‘fuck’.
Scene Point Blank: There a couple of things I want to get down before we finish up. There is a quote of yours I really like that says “people who grew up on indie rock get a taste in music, people who grew up on punk rock get a taste in music and an ethos.”
Frank Turner: I’m weary about saying that because I don’t mean to be elitist about where I come from, but I’ve got a lot of friends and Blur was the big band for them. What they’ve taken away from that is they like a band called Blur. I think if you grew up liking Black Flag than you like a band called Black Flag but you also have certain ideas about how music should be done, and that extends to other things. No matter how far away I grow from punk rock I’m proud and I’m happy that I did grow up on it. If people are vaguely in that ball park, or know who Henry Rollins is or something, I think that’s fucking great.
Scene Point Blank: Could we see some Frank Turner talking dates then?
Frank Turner: You know what? Somebody asked me to do one the other day! Not yet dude. Rollins can pull it off because he has such a gravitas of who he is and what he’s done. I wouldn’t for a millisecond put myself at that level. Also because he’s the only person who’s done it everyone will think you’re ripping him off.
Scene Point Blank: Well I’m sure you could top the ‘Long hair is a state of mind’ stuff from the early days. Not to disrespect him.
Frank Turner: Probably the best show I’ve ever been to was in support of the West Memphis Three where Rollins Band played Black Flag. When the show was announced, because I’m a fucking purist asshole, I thought that I wasn’t going to that. Then I bought tickets and I thought I have tickets but I’m still not going. Then I was in the venue and I thought I’m here but I’m not going to the front. Then I was at the barricade and I thought.. shit. They opened with Nervous Breakdown and my best friend broke two of his ribs. The thing that was hilarious about that was it was old people moshing. Down in the front everyone went crazy for the first two songs, and then there was a collective ‘fucking hell, I am too old for this shit.’ They plated every song you ever wanted to hear and it was just so fucking good.
Scene Point Blank: Is it true that you learned how to play guitar to August and Everything After by the Counting Crows?
Frank Turner: Yeah. That’s the only album I mention because it’s the only one I still like, but it wasn’t the only one from that era. My sister also made me learn how to play Jagged Little Pill by Alanis Morissette and I still know way too many of those songs.
Scene Point Blank: There was an underwear incident last time you were here?
Frank Turner: Oh, Jesus. I had forgotten about that. I bought some Y-fronts as well call them. It was like a little man cupping my balls. That period of my life is over. I’m kind of glad that I’m back in Canada doing shows where I can introduce myself to the city.
Scene Point Blank: Just to finish up, what will be going on with you in the future?
Frank Turner: Well I fell in love with Jim Ward of Sparta and At the Drive In during the Revival tour. We had a total bromance and he gave me a pair of shoes. We were talking about doing a band: have Ben from Million Dead play drums, Jim to play bass, have me on vocals and guitar, and Jim Adkins from Jimmy Eat World fill out the line up. We were all hanging out and drinking and came up with the idea. We’re going to call it ‘Hammer Ziet’ which is German for Hammer Time. Basically the idea is to sound just like Hot Snakes because they are the best punk band to have ever existed. If anyone disagrees with that they are factually incorrect. We’re more or less going to do an entire cover album of Automatic Midnight. The only thing stopping it is the timing. I’m having this massive side project kick. This summer I’m going to go live with Jon from Drag the River for a couple of weeks. We’re going to try to write and record an album. I have also been talking to Beardyman. We are going to try and do a dance record together.
Scene Point Blank: I look forward to it. Thanks a lot, Frank.
Frank Turner: Thank you. This has been enjoyable.