You have never heard of Frank Turner before? Well today is your lucky day, because now you did! And anyway, sooner or later you would have come across this name if you are interested in music (what you are, if not, you would not be reading Rock The Cam). To get more information about his (musician) life, just check out his Wikipedia profile or his webpage.
I met Frank in Munich at the Backstage and was able to do an interview with him. My impression was that he is a nice guy, knowing what he is up to and doing his musician job not just as a job, but as a passion.
Fuck this, I wanna go home
RTC: You are touring a lot and you have songs like “Living The Dream” or “The Road”, is it always what you wanted to do? And when bad times hit you, how do you motivate yourself?
FT: I guess it is what I was always wanted to do. When I was about 10 years old I just liked music and I wanted to play it myself as well. My dreams about what it would be like being a musician kind of changed as I get older, but it was always that I wanted to be a musician and being able to move around and to play shows – it’s a great feeling.
Bad times, hmmm, everybody has bad days, in any walk of life everybody has a day when it is like “fuck this; I wanna go home!” I remember one time I was in Tallahassee / Florida and I was very sick, I’ve been on tour for a really long time, was totally on my own, nobody around; and then I was starting to look up flights to go home, because I was just like: fuck, I won’t get back in the van again. But you know in the end of the day I know first of all, this is what I wanted to do, I do it to/for myself and I can’t really complain about it, because if it is so terrible I could go home and do something else. But again: I’m lucky to do this and I can do it. There are lots of people who would like to do it but it does not work out for them.
That means even when I have the worst day ever, I still remember it’s a lucky situation to be in.
RTC: What else would you do if it wouldn’t have come out like this?
The tattooed teacher?
FT: I would probably be a teacher, I recon – something like this, but I think now I have too many tattoos to be a teacher, so that one is fucked as well (Smiles)
RTC: Do you do any sports? Do you have time for that on tour?
FT: Not really, I started doing sit ups and pushups, because now I am 29 and when I started with touring it was with 16 and when you are young, let’s say with 21, you can get drunk every night and it doesn’t really matter and it is fine. While you get older however, you just have to –yeah- eat more fruit, do more exercises and maybe not get drunk every night (laughs out)
RTC: Now you almost ruined my next one: How do you keep yourself and your voice in form?
I spent a really depressingly large amount of time thinking about my voice
FT: With special tea for my throat because the main thing for me to look after it’s my voice. I sing every day and when I do, I sing loud and really hard. I spend a really depressingly large amount of time thinking about my voice every day. It is funny, the first time I met Murrey from the Xcerts our very first conversation we had was what kind of things you do to look after your voice. I think anytime two singers meet you always have that conversation cause singers spend the whole life thinking how to make sure that the voice is OK.
Music, Mom and Iron Maiden
RTC: How does your mother describes your music to her neighbors?
FT: (starts laughing) I don’t know (keeps on laughing – it seems that Rock The Cam came up with a funny question…). I should ask her myself. My Mom and Dad were not very stoked about me being a musician for a long time. Well my Mom, she came last Sunday, we played The Hammersmith Apollo in London which was the biggest headline show I have done yet. There is a balcony in the venue and I reserved some seats right in the middle for her and I could see her over the crowd. At the end of the set I was telling that my Mom is there and she stood up and was like Yeahhhhh – which is pretty cool.
Anyway, to get back to your question; I don’t know how she describes my music, but she is proud of it (smiles)
RTC: What made you start with music? You said you started touring with 16?
FT: Yes, this was when I did my first tour; however I started playing in bands when I was about 12.
RTC: How is that, did you see someone or something and you thought, oh cool I wanna do this as well?
FT: My parents were into classical music and so I did not know any Rock ‘n’ Roll music. When I was about 10 years old I was at a friend’s house and his older brother had an Iron Maiden poster on the wall, for me it was like ugghhh, fucking cool! He told me more about this band and I got the album “Killers“; I loved it. Straight away I was bugging my parents to get me a guitar for x-mas or birthday, whatever. I don’t know why but it was in the minute I heard it, I liked it and if I like something I want to try it to do it myself.
The Sleeping Souls
RTC: What are the differences between performing solo and being with a band? First time I saw you, you played solo on the tour with the Gaslight Anthem and 10 months later you came around with the band.
FT: I always wanted to have a band when I started doing this, but at the same time it is under my name and the core of it is me and my acoustic guitar which is a strong backbone to it, so it is kind of a balance act. To me it is a nice thing to do both kinds of shows because if I’ve been doing one kind of show for a long time, it is always kind of cool to do the other thing and it keeps it fresh for me. (Smiles)
When I play solo it is cool casue I can change the setlist at seconds, I don’t have to tell nobody else and I generally talk a lot more. But with the band the range of sounds is much wider, there is more dynamic, more drive. At the end it is limited what you can do with an acoustic guitar and a voice, but with a drummer, a keyboard player, a bass player, there is more of interaction and it is more of a rock show – and I like rock music (smiles).
RTC: How much influences can the band take or are you the only decision maker?
FT: In terms of the music, generally speaking like the core of the song, the melody, the structure it is my thing, but in times of how we arrange it for the whole band, that is something we all work on together. The guys I am playing with and I am not saying this because some of them are here, are all very talented musicians and great guys as well, so everybody puts ideas on the table although at the end of the day I have kind of a veto. If I don’t want to do it, then it is not going to happen.
Xtra Mile and Epitaph
RTC: How did the contract with Epitaph Records happen? In my opinion your music does not exactly fit to the Epitaph roster but being on Epitaph is kind of an accolade.
FT: (looks like he still can’t believe it himself) Well in 2009 things were going pretty well in UK but outside I hadn’t started doing anything. We were talking to record labels and one of the problems was that all labels we were looking at –including some majors labels- wanted to sign me for everywhere, but the record label I am on in the UK –Xtra Mile Recordings- is kind of my family.
RTC: and you wanted to stay with them in the UK.
FT: Exactly, this was the reason we were having trouble, nobody wanted to do a deal like that with us. In the time Epitaph got in touch with us –I think this has something to do with Chuck Ragan playing my records to someone at Epitaph- and they were into my music. When we explained the whole thing about staying with Xtra Mile in the UK, Brett was like “hey I totally understand, happens with Epitaph a lot of times as well that someone tries to steal bands away”. He also runs Anti Records having Tom Waits, Nick Cave and it is the sister company from Epitaph, means more or less different sticker on the CD but same company. The negotiations were with Anti and when the deal was almost closed, Brett decided to bring out my stuff on Epitaph and for me it was like Fuck, that’s fine for me (big smile). We still work together and it is great.
RTC: Can you make a living from your music?
FT: Yes, the most of it comes from playing shows and I don’t have time to do another job with 200+ shows a year.
This is part one, take this link and read part two of the Frank Turner interview to get all the answers!