Frank Turner

Frank Turner

Monday 9th August, 2010 12:30PM

UK punk/folk troubadour Frank Turner is forever touring, but he is making his first trip to NZ in May. Under the Radar caught up with Frank just as he touched down in Australia and had a chat about why he enjoys being on the road so much, what he expects to encounter in New Zealand and why you canít let episodes of Battlestar Galactica distract you from writing new songs.

So youíve just flown into Australia, where have you come from?

I flew in from the West Coast [of the U.S.] overnight, although itís weird because we took of Monday and we landed on Wednesday and Iíve taken the executive decision not to think too hard about that because I think it might make my brain hurt.

You obviously didnít have any problems with volcanic ash?

No, thankfully. Although my backing band were with me on the west coast and they were supposed to be heading home but they are currently stranded in Los Angeles, which sucks for them. Although it was quite funny because I was like ďman, thatís really bad... okay, Iím going to Australia now [laughs]Ē. So I think they were a little peeved at me, but hey.

So are you playing the Australian and New Zealand shows on your own then?

Kind of. The shows in Australia are part of the Revival Tour which Chuck Regan from Hot Water Music organised and itís basically just four singer songwriters. Thereís me and Chuck, Ben Nichols from Lucero and Tim Barry from Avail and itís just sort of a collaborative thing, so everyone has their own set at the start and when the evening finished weíre all on the stage sharing songs together.

Then with the New Zealand shows I kind of got as far as booking the Australian Revival Tour and then I looked a map of the world and pointed excitedly at New Zealand and I said letís got there. So yes, Iíll be coming through solo. But Iíve never been to New Zealand before, so Iím very excited.

Do you have any expectations of what youíre experience will be like over here?

I try hard not to have expectation about places before I go there because they inevitably prove to be wrong and/or mildly offensive when I get there, you know what I mean [laughs]? I do have a very close friend of mine who I grew up with who moved to Auckland a year ago or so, and I havenít seen him since, so Iím really looking forward to hanging out with him. But basically what I want to do is turn up and not spend the entire time talking about Flight of the Concords.

Do you think youíll have much time to look around when you get here?

I donít know to be honest. Iím not sure Iím going to get masses of time, such is the nature of touring, but then itís kind of a clichť that you travel around the world and just see car parks and dressing rooms. It is true to a degree but at the same time you also get to meet and hang out with people from all over the world and that to me is more than enough to balance the situation out if you know what I mean. I like chatting to people about how life is in other parts of the world and I find it quite illuminating. So even if I donít get to roam around New Zealand Iíll hopefully spend some time drinking beer with some people from New Zealand who can tell me a bit about life there.

Your last show was at Coachella, is that right?

Yes, thatís right. It was fun. Iíve never been to Coachella before. We had a great show. My only gripe with Coachella is that it was way too clean and tidy for my liking. As somebody who grew up going to Glastonbury and Reading and festivals like that in the UK, which are effectively characterised by complete and utter abject chaos, it was quite weird wondering around this really neat and trim festival where there was no rubbish on the ground. I set about trying to turn my little corner of Coachella into chaos for the weekend, which I succeeded in doing and for which I am still suffering.

Youíre also heading to Bonaroo and Lullapalooza?

Yes, thatís right. Again, neither of which Iíve been to, but itís exciting times for me to be back and forth to the U.S. at the moment. For young parochial English boys, mush the same as it is in New Zealand I suppose actually, the idea of going out and touring America is a kind of rock n roll dream for any young lad, myself included. So to be actually doing that with my life these days is immensely gratifying.

Was it reinvigorating for you as a musician to have that whole new market open up to you?

Yes, it was. I like the fact that thereís a lot of it, so thereís lots of touring to be done and touring is my favourite thing in the world. Itís quite nice as well to have started going to territories for the first time and being judged on what Iím doing now. Iíve been in a number of touring punk and hardcore bands in the UK and as much as I love the UK, itís kind of like thereís a degree to which the things I do there are contextualised by a lot of history. Which is sometimes fine and great and dandy, but sometimes it gets boring when people ask me why my old band broke up and will we ever do a reunion tour. So itís quite nice to go to new places and be judged as me and not that guy who used to be in that band. And I like travelling to new places, itís always gratifying.

Is that the catalyst for why youíre heading to China after New Zealand?

Well, thatís an interesting one actually because basically my manager, who is one of my best friends and weíve worked together for years, but heís always kind of somebody whoís tried to put the brake on my manic desire to tour everywhere. And the balance between the two has historically resulted in a pretty good situation. I tour an awful lot but I donít kill myself. But he pretty much sprung the Chinese dates on me as a birthday present because he knows I like going to new places. But itís really far out. Iíve never been to China before; I have no idea if anyone there speaks English or knows who I am.

I am excited though. I kind of have no expectations. Like I said, Iíve never been to Australia before, but from talking to my Australian record label talking to other people I can kind of put together a reasonably accurate picture of what it might be like. The same applies to most westernised countries that one might tour. Whereas I donít really know anyone whoís toured in China before, I donít have a record label out there. Itís going to be interesting.

?Did you read about Bob Dylan cancelling his tour there?

Yeah, itís kind of funny. I had a few people emailing me who were saying I should be stomping up and down about human rights and all of that kind of thing. I mean, I do think as a concerned political libertarian I think that communism is dreadful and awful. But I also believe in not passing judgement on a place and a culture before youíve been there and experienced it yourself. So itís entirely likely that Iíll come back from China jumping up and down about human rights and that kind of thing, but I think it would be slightly presumptuous of me to do that before I even go there.

With your extensive touring, do you still learn anything on the road?

Yeah, definitely. Iím not sure how many more lessons I have to learn about the actual business of touring, if you see what I mean. I can make a pillow out of my shoes and my jacket and how to fall asleep in most places. But learning new things about different parts of the world is always fun and exciting, and as I say making new friends and meeting new people is always good too.

Whatís the greatest lesson youíve learnt?

Iím not sure this could be summed up as a lesson exactly, but the thing that I have gained the most from touring and that I value the most is self reliance and self dependency. Itís really interesting, sometimes I go home and hang out with friends, like the other day I was hanging out with a mate and he had to make a claim on his car insurance and he kind of spent half the day putting it off by finding other things to do. I can remember taking that approach in life too, but thereís something about the nature of touring in different places every day, being with different people far away from home that if shit needs to get done, you just do it. You canít fuck around, you canít wait for somebody else to do it, youíve just got to do it yourself. Itís that kind of hands on approach that is the thing I enjoy the most about touring.

Does that carry over to why you are now a solo musician as opposed to being in a band?

I think there are elements of that to it. There are a million different reasons why I wanted to be a solo artist [laughs]. The last band I was in, Million Dead, we were a radically democratic band, which was kind of cool in its own way. But it meant that everything was tortuously slow and I still, even though itís been five years or more since I was in that band, I still find it quite liberating thinking to myself that I can decide how I want a song to go and I donít have to argue with my drummer about it for four fucking days. So the element of control is very important to me.

Do you have to write on the road?

Pretty much, just out of necessity. I just spent some time knocking around some new ideas this morning. One has to have the self discipline to make sure that you actually do it if you know what I mean, rather than spending your entire life watching Battlestar Galactica on your laptop. Itís not something I find overly challenging. Or at least any more challenging that song writing in general.

Gareth Meade


Thatís all we had time for unfortunately but luckily you can catch Mr. Turner in the flesh next week...

Tue 04 May Kings Arms Tavern, Auckland
Wed, 05 May Bodega, Wellington

Click here for more info about the tour and to buy tickets.

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