INTERVIEW: Frank Turner

Frank Turner started his professional musical career as the vocalist of post-hardcore band Million Dead, who had some success in the early noughts with their albums A Song To Ruin and Harmony No Harmony. But ‘irreconcilable differences’ emerged and the band called it a day in 2005, not long after releasing their second album. Since then Turner has gone on to establish a successful career as an acoustic-based singer/songwriter, releasing four studio albums, two rarities compilations and four EPs. He even had the honour of performing at the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics. He’s visited Australia before, but a new release titled Last Minutes & Lost Evenings (Epitaph) has been compiled to give audiences outside the UK (including here in Australia) a proper introduction to his music. It features fifteen tracks – a mixture of standards and rarities – as well as a full DVD of his Wembley show with accompaniment from his folk-punk backing band, The Sleeping Souls.

“I’m a really big fan of Australia,” Turner says. “Before I came over there for the first time a friend of mine who I’d toured with a lot, Chuck Ragan from Hot Water Music, had been telling me for a long time that Australia was really the promised land of touring, and it reached the point where I wanted to kind of call him on his bullshit, y’know what I mean? So the first time we came over in 2010, he brought me over with him and it turns out he’s right.” So what’s it like to go to another country to try and start again, after already doing that hard work in your homeland? Turner says in a way it’s kinda cool: in London for example, when he was still figuring out what it was he wanted to do as a solo artist, there was a lot of pressure to essentially grow up in public. “It’s nice to arrive with a fully worked out package,” he says. “You’ve already figured out who you are, what you want to do and what you want to say. And it’s a nice position to be in.”

In that sense, Last Minutes & Lost Evenings is really the same idea, just pressed onto CD and encoded as zeroes and ones. “It’s for the ex-UK market. The last record I did in Britain has been the most successful record I’ve ever done, so what we’ve decided to do outside the UK is get together a kind of ‘cliff notes,’ if you like, a primer of the records that came before. Obviously if people want to go back and get all the early records they are more than welcome to do that. But if you just want to write the headlines, then this is the record for that. And it also includes a DVD of the Wembley show as well. That was crazy: 12,000 people all hanging out and drinking beer. It was an awful lot of work to make it happen – not just playing the actual show, but it felt like the culmination of seven years of work, in a way. And it was a really amazing, special evening.”

Guitar-wise, Turner’s setup is pretty simple: he uses guitars by Patrick James Eggle, the famous British luthier who is also behind the Faith line. “He used to build for lots of people in the 70s and 80s. Now he just hand-builds acoustics. And it’s very bespoke, and he builds my guitars for me. He’s built me five in total. The first few had some English walnut in them that was taken from a tree that grew in the village where I was raised in England, which is pretty amazing. Beyond that I’m not really one for too many effects. It’s an acoustic instrument, and it’s a challenge to make an acoustic instrument sound like an acoustic instrument over a PA. But I feel I’ve got that one down now.”

Australian audiences can acquaint themselves with Turner’s music over the summer in anticipation of his co-headlining tour with Dropkick Murphys and his slot on Bluesfest in Byron Bay. “We’re going to be back down under, me and my band, and we’re very excited about it!” Turner says.

 

Australia Tour dates:

Saturday, 30th March: Bluesfest, Byron Bay

Sunday, 31st March: Panthers, Newcastle

Monday, 1st April: Big Top Luna Park, Sydney

Tuesday, 2nd April: Festival Hall, Melbourne

Wednesday, 3rd April: Thebarton Theatre, Adelaide