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Frank Turner has been busy since Million Dead broke up.
Frank Turner has been busy since Million Dead broke up.

Everything is coming up Frank Turner

English punk-tuned-folkie Frank Turner didn't trade in his punk attitude when he took up the acoutic guitar

By Scott Thomson

Frank Turner has had a string of great fortune, all the result of hard work, since his old band Million Dead broke up in 2005.  Over the past three and a half years, the English singer-songwriter, who is currently on a U.S tour with veteran celtic-punks Flogging Molly, has released three full-length records, one EP, various seven inches, toured the world countless times, and in 2009, signed to the iconic independent punk label Epitaph Records. It's a pace he is not sure he will be able to maintain.

“I have done an album a year, for the last three years, and I don’t think I am going to be able to keep that up.” he said, while ordering a  burger in a local Toronto joint.  “I am going to make up for that by releasing two next year.”

Tired from a night of drinking and performing at Toronto’s legendary Horseshoe Tavern, Turner provided some insight towards how 2011’s plans are shaping up. “I want to do an album (of his personal material) and I have an idea of doing an album of traditional English (folk) songs.  No unlike what Springsteen did with the Seeger Sessions.”

My mom still thinks that the day I got into Iron Maiden was the beginning of the end.

“There is a lot of traditional English music, most people don’t know anything about it at all.” he said.  “It is one of the lesser known brands of folk music and it is my cultural heritage, so I am interested in it.”

Outside of his extensive touring, he will spend part of 2010 working on a dvd, which should be released later in the year.

Turner, a self professed lover of history, grew up in a house without the influence of rock and roll, or even folk music, which may seem strange based on the style of music he plays now.

“My parents are into classical music and are of the general opinion that music ended around the 1820’s.” he said. Eventually, however, Turner’s expose to modern music started to change.  “I grew up with metal. I got into Iron Maiden and then everything went downhill from there.”

“My mom still thinks that the day I got into Iron Maiden was the beginning of the end.”

Frank Turner
Ali says having her band behind her relaxes her.

He said his love of folk was something that just developed.

 “I just started listening to a lot of more acoustic and folky, county, singer-songwriter type stuff.” he said “I am intrigued by the history angle to it (folk music) because history is my other passion in life. I was a late comer to everything. Stuff like Dylan, for example.  I didn’t have that status in popular music of the 20th century growing up. I came at everything from the wrong angle.”

Eventually, Turner’s exposure to Iron Maiden led him to punk rock, where he fell in love with Black Flag, going as far as tattooing their iconic four-bar symbol on his wrist.

After playing with the post-hardcore band Million Dead for around five years, he started writing what has since become a rather large collection of solo material, and while the music may not be as aggressive as his former band, he is hardly shying away from his connection to punk.

“Punk rock is like Catholicism.” he says. “If you are brought up in it then you will never escape it. Even at those times when you are totally un-punk, you are still defined by punk.

Turner says he doesn’t “have any problem with that.”

“At the end of the day, I have a lot of love for it and what it stand for. It taught me how to play, how to tour and how to live.”

Yet, there are days when he tires of the genre and the culture that surrounds it.

“There are days when I get bored of it.” he said. “Particularly the message boards, or certain message boards, that shall remain nameless. They get fucking tiresome after a while.”

“The thing that I dislike about punk the most is punk rock guilt.” he goes on to say. “As much as it wasn’t supposed to be this, in origin, and everyone says it isn’t, there is a degree where punk rock makes you feel guilty for being successful. I really hate that because I want to be successful and I am fucking proud of being successful.”

Turner has toured the last few years almost exclusively in the punk rock circuit, acting as an opener for many bands, and has seen some of this backlash from fans firsthand.

““When Gaslight (Anthem) played with Springsteen people were flaming them about it and I thought, what the fuck is wrong with you people? My response to it was that someone from our corner, our little scene is on stage with Bruce Fucking Springsteen. Let’s throw a party.”

His response to those fans: “Just fuck off. Call me back when you don’t live in your parent’s basement.”

Yet even with this discontent he still has many positive things about the genre.

“I am slightly wearing of saying this because I don’t want to be so chauvinistic about my musical origins, but, the friends of mine who grew up with indie rock, now have a lot of records and a lot of work.” Turner said. “The kids who grew up with punk rock have a lot of records, but they also have an ethos about how the world should be. I think that is really really cool.”

He said he first picked up a guitar at the request of his sister, who wanted him to learn songs so she could sing along with.

“In 1993, when August and Everything After by The Counting Crows came out, which I still think is one of the best albums ever done. My sister really liked it, and wanted to sing along to it, so she made me learn it.” He said.  “It is basically how I learned how to play guitar, playing along to that record. I definitely would say the feeling I got doing that is the feeling I want to create now.”

Co-operative music and crowd interaction is a big part of Turner’s live show. At the Toronto gig the evening before, Turner did not have his backing band with him. Instead he pulled a member of the audience on stage to assist with the harmonica playing, while he got the remainder of the audience to sing along to the words.

“I liked being the person with the guitar, because it was like I was the facilitator. It was leading the congregation in a way, which to me is a cool way to look at music. It is a thing that you can experience. When I play a show, I don’t want it to be ‘everyone shut up and fucking listen,’ ” he said.

When people sing along and connect with the music, he said “it becomes transcendent. Then it becomes interesting. It is not a monologue. Monologues are boring.”

He does admit that his music can turn some people off. “I am not complaining but I seem to be somebody who people are either fucking into or they are not,” Turner says. “People don’t seem to be so-so.”

Turner, who has spent a large portion of the last few years on the road, has plans to do much of the same in 2010.

““My (current) tour schedule runs to middle May. The most exciting part about that for me is going to Australia”  He said. He is on the Revival Tour, which is a semi-annual tour featuring a variety of solo acts by members of punk bands. The Australian tour will feature Hot Water Music’s Chuck Ragan, Avail singer Tim Barry, Lucero’s Ben Nichols, as well as Turner.  “Everyone says that Australia is the promised land of touring. Once you tour there you never want to tour anywhere else.”

As for his current tour, with Flogging Molly, he will have his backing band with him on the road, which is the first time he has ever done that. Turner said the band played a large part in making his 2009 record Poetry Of The Deed.

“I always feel like there is two approaches with backing bands.” He said. “There is the Dylan and Neil Young approach, which is really ramshackle, and whatever, whenever and then there is the E Street band. It is a set lineup that is totally drilled, with mercury precision type of band. I am much more the Springsteen type and so the guys I play with are amazing musicians. They are almost better then me!”

He says that playing solo, him and his guitar, is “the skeleton” of what he does. “It will be nice to have them (the backing band) around.”

When asked if fans can expect a different style of show when the full band is on stage, Turner said they “don’t wear matching costumes and do pyro. Yet”

Turner said that he “loves touring” and looks at the old American blues musicians, who would spend 300 days a year on the road, for inspiration.

“I just had three weeks off, which was the most amount of time I have had off in six years and the first week was great.” he said.  “After that, it was like ‘Agghh, get me the fuck out of here’. It can be stressful and it means that you cannot have a normal love life but it is also indescribably awesome as well.”

Touring, he said  “is like being a pirate. You travel from place to place reaping and pillaging.”

 

On the Billy Bragg Comparison:

“I don’t like seeing myself as just being a sound alike for an artist. I must say, Neil Young, and After The Gold Rush, plays a much bigger part in my sound then Billy Bragg does. As much as I love Billy Bragg, and I really do, we stand pretty far away from each other, politically speaking.”

““My point is, Billy Bragg is an influence on me, and he is also great, and I am happy people say Billy Bragg rather then going around the world having James Blunt put as a reference. I am not really going to complain about it too hard.”

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