Interview: Frank Turner

The Waterfront’s Gareth Matson sat down with punk-folk hero Frank Turner before his shows at Bristol’s Colston Hall.

Most important question first, what is MeatLoaf doing right now?

Haha ok, well a late night drinking mess around got well out of hand, before we knew it I was registering domain names and Nigel was writing up code whilst Ben Morse who does our photography done a layout for it and everything. We woke up the next day thinking, did we actually just do that? MeatLoaf has tweeted about it since!

You’re known for enjoying and singing about alcohol, but what’s it like being associated with alcohol?

It’s funny being a lyricist associated with alcohol, because you run the danger of coming off stage and there’ll be a queue of 16 people who have all bought a whisky for you and some nights you don’t feel like drinking, it bums some people out as well! But I’d definitely say I’m a lager kind of guy, no poncy craft beer though, gotta be a Budweiser.

You’ve often been compared flatteringly to Dylan and Springsteen, if you could respectively cover one of their songs, which would it be?

My favourite Dylan song is either Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright or Song to Woody, which are both just magisterial, I slightly lose interest in Dylan after Highway 66, he felt like a bit of a parody of himself and was swapping quality for quantity lyrically. Springsteen, well, I’m mildly obsessed with the whole of Born To Run and Nebraska, so those two albums!

So you’ve just released your 6th album, when you go back and listen to the albums, do you find them autobiographical throughout the years?

Yes very much so, more the recording than the songs if you see what I mean. Like we play Photosynthesis every night, that’s still a current song for me, the way we play it now sounds completely different to on the record, so when I listen to it now it’s like Jesus Christ that’s what it sounds like! Obviously the same words and melody but the feel is different. It’s like a time portal it takes me straight back to 2007 when we recorded that song.

Now you have so much material, do you struggle to find a balance in set lists?

I could bore for England talking about writing up set lists, it’s something I spend a huge amount of my time thinking about. You’ve got to tell a story and manage energy levels throughout the show, you want to start strong and get people involved straight away, but I don’t want a show which is just manic dance-a-thon the entire gig. But then once you bring people down you have to find a way to bring them back up again to finish the same. I don’t like doing two songs off the same album in a row, honestly though there’s just so much shit, it’s like whack-a-mole, soon as you move one song another problem pops up. I do enjoy changing up the set list though, though I don’t change it just for the sake of it or worried that it’s the same as the night before, if it works, it works.

Are the opening lyrics to ‘Get Better’ intentionally linked to ‘The Way I Tend To Be’ video?

Ha! No I hadn’t thought about that before, that’s a good spot. It’s funny there are people on some forums which have this grandiose conspiracy theory about these characters across my songs being the same person. Though your point is interesting and I’m going to start claiming it’s true. 

How important are support bands to you?

I always handpick them and it’s one of my favourite things to do, if people try to pick them for me they get their hands bitten very quickly! It’s a way of promoting bands that I think deserve more exposure, recently we’ve been taking Xtra Mile bands out on the road because I deeply love the label. Some of my favourites have been Larry and his Flask and on this tour Skinny Lister because they’re second on and do an incredible job of getting everyone on their feet. I have a list of about 100 bands I already want to take on tour on top of 30-40 new submissions every week of people wanting to support me, I don’t do that many shows!