by Sheldon Birnie
Frank Turner is a hard-traveling, hard-rocking English folk singer. His latest release, England Keep My Bones (Epitaph) is full of tunes about love, politics, and rock-n-roll. With another stop in Winnipeg on the horizon (Turner played to a packed crowd at the West End in October), Stylus caught up with the busy troubadour over the phone on a tour stop in Boston.
Stylus: I read recently that you’ve played over 1200 solo shows now. How do you keep going at that pace?
Frank Turner: I just kind of enjoy what I do. I feel like I’m incredibly privileged to do the thing I love: I play guitar and sing. The last full time job I had before becoming a full-time musician was doing telesales. I was actually selling phones over the phone, which is one of the most indescribably thankless tasks. So, basically, every time I feel like complaining about my life today, I just shut the fuck up.
Stylus: You’re a pretty prolific writer as well. Do you write while traveling, or how do you manage that with your touring schedule?
FT: It’s not something I really have to concentrate on too hard, the stuff just kind of arrives, if you know what I mean? Which is fortunate, I suppose. There are always new ideas bouncing around in my head, so I write stuff down while I’m on the road. Every now and again I’ll actually take some time to sit down and work out those fragments into finished songs or whatever. But for the most part it’s an ongoing process.
Stylus: Now that you’ve circled the world a few times now, what are some of your favourite places to play?
FT: I love playing on the left-hand-side of the Atlantic. I’m in the States right now with the Dropkick Murphys, which has been an amazing time. I mean, I know it’s going to sound cheesy right now, but I really do love playing Canada. I’ve always had a great time. Toronto has always been really kind to me. Australia has always been great, I love it down there.
Stylus: Could you talk a little about going from playing punk and hardcore music to your current folk sound?
FT: It was deliberately a kind of left-hand turn. I had been playing in noisy punk bands for a really long time and I just really needed to do something different. I felt I had said all the things I needed to say in the noisy hardcore format, if you like. I was also a band [Million Dead] that didn’t end well, the last band that I was in, and I just needed to clean my palate. So I tried something different. But you know, I grew up listening to heavy music, and it was only in my 20s that I discovered like early Dylan and Springsteen and anything like that. It was actually quite a revelation to me to find out you could be just as intense as some hardcore bands without having to take your shirt off and scream at people.
Stylus: Somewhat touching on that, you’ve always been an outspoken fan of both Propagandhi and the Weakerthans. Can you talk about their influence on you?
FT: When I was growing up and getting into punk, Propagandhi were a big influence, and that of course led me to the Weakerthans, who I would actually say right now are arguably my favourite band. I absolutely adore the Weakerthans. I’ve met them before, and hung out a few times and they’re incredible people. Actually, John K just released his solo record [Provincial], and he gave me a copy a little while ago. I got so overexcited about it that I ended up writing one of the press releases for the album. I’m just sort of in love with it as a record. I think he’s one of greatest poets around right now.
Stylus: What can we expect from your stop in Winnipeg? Last time you were through [in October] you were with a full band. This time you’re on your own…
FT: Yeah, this is a solo show this time, which is a different vibe obviously. I’m opening up for Joel Plaskett, which is great and a fantastic privilege. I’m really looking forward to playing with Joel. My solo shows are the same kind of songs coming up, but the vibe is quite different, a little more relaxed. I tend to ramble a lot more, and switch up my set lists and tell more drunken stories and that sort of thing. It’s fun for me to go from playing solo shows to band shows and back again, it keeps things fresh. I’m very excited to come back to Canada once again, I think it will be a really good time.
Stylus: What can we expect from Frank Turner in 2012?
FT: I’m going to be in the studio over the summer working on a new record, which will hopefully be out in January or February of next year. No rest for the wicked, you know. I’ll be keeping going on tour throughout the year, and keeping writing.
Frank Turner is playing with Joel Plaskett at the Garrick on April 21st.