eFestivals got the chance to interview festival headliner Frank Turner before his Big Gin appearance.
How are you? Do you have many festivals left this Summer?
Yeah, but not in the UK. Hold on, we're doing one called On Blackheath in London in September, that's our last UK festival this Summer. We're doing a bunch in Germany and Holland. We're doing Pukkelpop, Highfield, er a bunch, I forget what they are called, I'm gonna get on the bus and it will take me to the right place.
I've been to Pukkelpop twice, it's a great festival.
Two years ago we were booked to play Pukkelpop and it was cancelled and they had that freak storm that killed a bunch of people, one year ago we were booked and I couldn't go because I broke my back, so this time is third time lucky, we're actually gonna go fingers crossed, if nothing happens in the next two weeks.
What is your favourite festival memory?
Probably, and I'm shooting from the hip, and I reserve the right to change... Reading 2010 I think it was, we had a really great set on the NME stage and then I got asked to play guitar for NOFX for a song.
The Decline. I grew up with NOFX, and that was the first time I had met them; we are actually quite good friends now. I got an invite came through would I like to play guitar on their next song and I was like, erm, yes I can play every single song in their set actually! That was a really big deal, I don't wanna be blasé about it, I mean, NOFX asked me to play with them, fucking ay!
Is there a festival you want to play but haven't yet?
Yeah, a few... Roskilde I'd love to do. There's a couple of American ones I would like to do; Burning Man maybe, or Sasquatch. I mean I probably will do them at some point but yeah, there's some ones I would like to try.
You are headlining the Beautiful Days festival (again), I read you are a huge fan of the Levellers, did they ask you to play?
Well basically I grew up with the Levellers, from a distance obviously, not literally [laughs]. I toured with them in 2008 and it was a really great thing for me at the time, and they were really great and supportive. I played Beautiful Days festival and I just did a reworking of 'Julie' with them.
I was going to ask about that, I've heard it, it's a nice cover of it...
Thank you. I love that song, I've always loved that song, it was such a uniquely cool thing to be able to do; to rearrange their song with them, kind of thing. They were so cool about it, they were like "You can do anything you want and we'll go with it" and I went "ok" and thought about it for a couple of weeks and came up with that idea.
For someone who tours as much as you do, how do you cope with that?
It's normality for me now; do you know what I mean? In all honesty I find it more difficult to be off the road, cos I slightly don't know what to do with myself. The funny things about a life on tour is that; on the one hand there's the kind of like the clichéd thing about the road being this sort of freedom, which it is in some ways but I also live a highly regimented life. Tre [tour manager] tells me when to get up and what to do. We have a famous anecdote in our touring party... we just got back from five months on the road, and Graham, my sound guy, went home and came down for breakfast and without thinking about it asked his wife were catering was! That obviously did not go down particularly well... I tour much more than I don't tour so it's just what I'm kinda used to now.
You've supported some great punk bands, Green Day, Offspring. Obviously headlining yourself is great, but is there any band you would like to support?
Yeah definitely. Supporting someone is a different kind of challenge, ya know. One of the tours where we, me and The Sleeping Souls, really cut our teeth in 2010 was when we did two American tours with Flogging Molly and Social D, and they were so great because nobody knew who we were. Every night we had half an hour... Both bands are famously meant to have really difficult audiences, and we cleaned up on both tours even though I do say myself! We just had the best time; it's really fun to walk out to a "Who the fuck are you?" kinda thing and then you give it everything for half an hour and you walk off with people kind of really giving a shit. I'd love to play with the Foos [Foo Fighters], I mean who wouldn't?! It would be nice to do more stuff with Green Day, and we have actually talked about it, because they're an incredible band and they're really nice people, so that would be cool too. I mean, I guess we'll see.
How did you find the transition from being in A Million Dead to being a solo artist? You took off a lot quicker as a solo artist than in the band?
Yeah, well kind of... the first two years after Million Dead broke up were pretty dry. I was on the train on my own for two years and right at the beginning there was fuck all; nobody at the shows, and obviously it built up over time which was a rewarding thing. It was a really steep learning curve, I didn't grow up with acoustic music or country or folk or whatever, it was definitely an interest that I was developing, and it felt like I was in the right place, but I feel like those first two years taught me pretty much everything I know, about songwriting, about performing, about travelling and self-reliance, whatever. It's a funny thing because it was such an intense period of time; there are days when it feels like it happened to somebody else, do you know what I mean?
The other thing that is funny about it is that at the time all of my friends thought I had lost my mind, and I thought I had a plan, in retrospective all of my friends must have thought I had a plan, and I look back at it and think "Man, I was fucking nuts!" I'm actually working on a book of tour diary stuff at the moment, and I'm going through all those old shows. There are moments when it really does feel like... I watch back footage from shows from 2006 and it doesn't feel like I'm watching myself, it's weird.
You've just played a series of small shows to a few hundred people to support the release of 'Möngöl Hörde' last month, and now have announced a tour with The Sleeping Souls playing unlikely venues, like my local Unity Works in Wakefield. How did that come about?
Well the Möngöl Hörde thing is a separate concern for me, like I love it, it's really fun, but it's something that I don't have massive time to do. It was just a question of finding two weeks I could take off from my, this is the wrong term but 'day job', do you know what I mean? It was really good fun but... in many ways the whole point of everything we do with Möngöl Hörde is that it just has to be good fun, I don't wanna do anything that's a hassle or a drag for that band because there's no point, ya know.
You're not moving back towards a band dynamic then?
Not with that. I mean the Sleeping Souls are integral to what we do, amongst other stuff. I always wanted to have a band like the E Street band, I feel that is the kind of relationship, I mean it's my songs and my name on the masters tape but they are the show, kind of thing, and I think they're the band in the fucking world thank you very much!
The September tour, cos we did the big arena tour, I really enjoyed it and we had a good time, but I think with the UK tours we've always A B'd between doing an A market tour, like Manchester, Glasgow, Bristol, whatever, and then the next time round trying to go further afield. It's fun for us and I think people appreciate it. We're doing Hull, we're doing Hartlepool, we're doing Yeovil, it's just lovely when you get emails from people saying "I don't think anyone has ever come to my town in my lifetime before." and it's kinda rewarding.
The other thing is that we are working on new material on that tour, cos the songs are written but we are going to be playing a lot of the new songs in the set because the idea is to roll straight off the tour into the studio to make an album.
You said on Twitter that you are "Collating the 3rd Three Years"; can you give a hint of what's on the release?
Yeah, it will be out at the end of the year. This time around, because we've obviously done two before, I actually had people hassling me saying "Erm, November is when it needs to come out!" and I was like "Oh really? I hadn't thought about this!" I really like the third, I like it cos it's kind of like low maintenance; we don't do a ton of press around it, it's not like a release to promote, it's just there if you want it. It's fun for me to go back and dig out stuff, and it's cool, I've just finished doing the track listing and it's gonna have twenty songs on it, half of which are previously unreleased, it's just things I've done in the studio, things I've done with my friends or whatever you know, and put all in the one place. It's nice cos I feel like even the most diehard fans generally get it and find a couple of things they didn't have. I like putting music out!
My favourite is the 'Sally' cover by Kerbdog...
Yeah, I got asked to cover that for a Kerbdog tribute studio album, it was a really cool thing.
Kerbdog are touring in November, can you talk Kerbdog into supporting you at the Wakefield show?! If you don't ask...
[Laughs] They are... I'm trying to make the London show. We have support sorted for that September show actually, a band called Koo Koo Kanga Roo, the best live band in the whole world! I will stand by that! We did a tour with them in the States last year, we did fifty two shows with them and on that tour I watched them fifty four times because I went to see them at two of their own shows as well. I have their logo tattooed on me [shows eFestivals the kangaroo on his leg] and I honestly think they are brilliant.
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