Depending on which side of the Atlantic you live on, you may know Frank Turner as “that British dude from the Revival Tour” or you may know him as “the local skinny bloke who sold out Wembley Arena”. We called the U.N. and it turns out both are acceptable. On top of that, Frank is a thoroughly nice and humble guy so we’re devoting our very first interview segment to poking fun at him. We recently talked with Frank about his recent spat with Nicki Minaj, touring with The Offspring, the popularity of Dave Matthews Band, and of course, man-boobs.
Frank, you’re one of those crossover guys. You were in post-hardcore band Million Dead for years and now you’re doing the folk punk/solo acoustic thing. Comparatively, which do you find the ladies are more interested in?
Definitely what I’m doing now, haha. Million Dead shows, bless em, were dominated by angry late adolescent males in black jeans (I should know, I was one myself). I mean that with no disrespect, and a lot of love; but my shows now have a wider demographic for sure. Beyond that, it would be ungentlemanly of me to comment. I did take my shirt off more at MD shows though. Read into that what you will.
Speaking of ladies, you were in Million Dead with Julia Ruzicka who is absolutely destroying on bass now in Future of the Left. I’ve heard that back in your Million Dead days, you’d chastise audience members for shouting things like “Show your tits”. Did that sort of thing happen often? And is there any chance they were directing that at you?
I am a skinny fucker - not only do I not have tits, it’s an assertion of the guys I play with now (The Sleeping Souls) that I also have no arse. I am a letch’s worst nightmare. So no, I don’t think they were shouting at me.
That stuff didn’t really happen at our own shows - I like to think our audience was more intelligent than that - but at support shows or whatever, it happened occasionally. Without getting overly militant-PC about it, it’s pretty fucking lame, and mader lamer by its crushing predictability. I mean seriously, if you’re going to heckle, you could at least try.
One female musician you were not impressed with is Nicki Minaj. You recently took to Twitter to call out her behavior at the Scottish music festival, T In The Park.
What exactly did you see backstage that was so awful?
I don’t really want to get stuck into relating tales of backstage antics particularly, it seems a little gossipy / TMZ somehow. Plus there are plenty of other people running their mouths about the whole thing.
She seemed to get her comeuppance and was reportedly booed on stage. But Nicki’s Twitter army still proceeded to barrage you. How’d that go over?
Twitter got pretty intense for a moment or two, I was getting something like 300 replies a minute or something. Not masses of coherent spelling in there and some pretty warped value systems in effect, but being old enough to grow facial hair, I can’t say it bothered me much.
Speaking of facial hair, you’ve often been called the “Chuck Ragan of the UK” which is bullshit for two reasons. 1. His beard is obviously way gnarlier than yours and 2. You’ve sold out Wembley Arena, a 12k seat venue. All due respect to Chuck and his beard, I doubt he could do the equivalent of that here in the US. Is there more of an audience for this sort of music in the UK? Or are there just fewer live shows going on? Why does it seem to be more popular there?
Haha, well, if it’s ever meant as a compliment (and why wouldn’t it be?) I’ll take it. But it’s true, Chuck’s beard is way better than mine. I’m not sure I’d say there’s more of an audience in the UK as such - I’m not really associated with any particular scene in the UK, aside from Xtra Mile Recordings and the bands there, many of whom are my friends. I’m not as associated with punk rock - in fact, a lot of punkers in the UK enjoy hating on me (haha); I made a decision not to be too involved with that scene early on, not least because I didn’t want to perennially be “the guy who used to be in that band”.
But yeah. What I do over here is this slightly weird thing, it kind of stands alone. Punk in the US is a bigger (and in my opinion generally better) scene. The Wembley thing was a unique event, the culmination of a shit-ton of work on the live circuit here over the years.
Speaking of cultural differences, in the US, a guy breaking out an acoustic guitar and playing Dave Matthews songs is pretty much the biggest asshole move one can do. Is there a British equivalent of that or is that universal?
Haha, there are equivalents; Dave Matthews is less well known over here. Growing up, I remember that some dick would always start playing “Under The Bridge” by the Red Hot Chilli Fuckheads sooner or later. I remain pretty painfully aware of that stereotype and keen to distance myself from it, heh. I suppose the other song would be Oasis’ “Wonderwall”. Ugh.
Tim Barry will be joining you on your UK tour in November. Tell the world something they already know: Why is Tim Barry the most real dude in punk right now?
Right now? I’d be more expansive. Tim doesn’t really need to explain or justify himself to anyone (or have it done for him), he’s just a straight up, hard-travelling guy. And he’d totally beat you in a fight as well. Hi Tim.
What have you learned from your American tourmates in general?
I mean what I’m about to say with no vitriol or disrespect to my British touring brethren, but I’d say I learned how to not be a pussy. Touring the USA is just a much, much bigger and more difficult undertaking, there’s no fucking around, you have to be strong to deal with it; the UK is too small for that kind of culture. When I was a kid, we had our little UKHC scene, and I loved it, but the whole time American HC bands would come over and wipe the fucking floor with all of us, just because they’d played 300 shows in the last year, as opposed to 30. When I started touring the USA I had a very steep learning curve; by comparison, most other stuff is easy. Well done America.
You’ve also toured with The Offspring. I guess my first question is: Why? But then my second question is also: Why?
Oh lord. Because they asked me nicely, and it was a big tour. And, let’s be honest, “Smash” was a massive deal for me when I was first getting into punk rock. I’m not going to be too hipster to admit that. They’re nice fellas too. Beyond that, no comment.
Have you seen their new video?
Nope, I’ve been, uh, washing my hair.
You’re also playing Strummer of Love this summer. Any memories of Joe Strummer to share? First album you bought? Ever meet him?
I never met Joe myself, though I know his family now and do a lot of stuff with the Strummerville crew. To me, the original punk thing in the late 1970s had a number of different strains to it, and the one represented by the Clash is miles and away the most powerful and important. I remember getting the first Clash album shortly after I got “Nevermind The Bollocks”. It was no contest for me really.
Agreed. So aside from the tours, you’ve got a new album out and you’re working on a DVD of the Wembley show. Anything else you’d care to shamelessly promote?
I’m working on a new album right now, yup, got way too many songs and I’m trying to lock down where, when and how to record it. In the past the records I’ve made have been done pretty quickly, kind of as an adjunct to the live shows; this time I want to concentrate on the record itself a little more. That’s not to say I’m making a fucking concept album or some shit, just that I can afford to take a little more time this time around. Beyond that, more touring please.
interview by Dan Ozzi