British troubadour – and former hardcore hero with Million Dead – Frank Turner has just announced he will play Wembley Arena next, staging a show as Frank Turner’s Friday The Thirteenth as his biggest headline date ever takes place on 13 April 2012. To mark the occasion, Q caught up with the singer-songwriter to quiz him about his below-the-radar growing fanbase, recent album England Keep My Bones, his Eton school days and stealing a teabag from Anthony Kiedis of Red Hot Chili Peppers. Plus we have an exclusive presale for the Wembley show thanks to our sister site. Just head to Aloud.com/tickets/frank-turner tomorrow (13 October) from 9am (BST) for your chance to order tickets to the show 24 hours before anyone else.
Hello Frank, how the devil are you?
“I’m good man, not too bad. You’ve caught me on a pretty quiet day so I’m taking it easy today.”
You’ve gone from playing with alternative rock band Million Dead to booking a show at Wembley Arena as a solo artist next year, how did you manage that?
“I think that I’ve always been an ambitious person and I’m happy with the way things have gone – I’m not going to have a Kurt Cobain moment. When I first started doing this after Million Dead, no one cared. We’d achieved what I guess you might diplomatically call a respectable level of underground success but that just didn’t carry over when I started playing alone. I went down to playing shows to less than double figures – not even ten people. There were moments when I and no doubt people around me must have thought I had made a tremendous mistake in going it alone and was being an idiot about the whole thing. I just had to keep my fingers crossed it’d work out alright in the end. I have worked for it but I am constantly surprised at my fortune in life and I’m waiting all day every day for the reality police to turn up and tap me on the shoulder and say, Off you go, back to playing pubs to four people where you belong.”
Your latest album, England Keep My Bones, seems to have really chimed with your audience, hence the big shows next year, do you think there’s a theme it taps into that people are responding to?
“I don’t really write to theme – that seems a little bit prog to me, you know? But there’s definitely little lyrical bugbears which crop up throughout the record, namely England and death hence the title. I think English national identity is a big part of this record. Not in a flag-waving, finger-jabbing patriotic way – I’m not trying to tell anyone England is better than anywhere else because obviously it’s not – but the older I get and the more time I spent travelling the more I feel conscious that I understand the rules of cricket and no one else does! It’s something prays on my mind. The idea of mortality always seems to always be playing on mind. I’m not sure why, I’m in good health.”
You have been criticised for attending Eton. Does this focus on your school days frustrate you?
“It does frustrate me. I’m not trying to come across as a martyr because the education I got means I had a great start in life and I’m appreciative of that. At the same time I feel there’s a lot of people who wouldn’t discriminate against anyone because of their gender or race but are happy to despise someone for their social background and their parents. It’s the last resort of their legitimised irrational hatred. People come up to me at festivals and spit at me and call me a cunt or call me worthless purely based on my parents. My parents didn’t pay for me to go – I won a scholarship, I was the token not-insanely-rich kid there. But for a lot of people that’s reason enough to dismiss everything I do. I don’t care about people not liking me and I have no interest in trying to please everyone. But at least hate me for something I have chosen to do rather than for facts about my background which I have no control over. To me, it’s laughably ridiculous. I’ve got better things to do with my life, so fuck ’em.”
Stil, it didn’t go to waste. As keen reader – Frank recently rated authors attempts to make up band names in novels for Q – Have you ever considered writing a book of your own?
“I’m actually working on one at the minute. A publishing company came to me and asked me if I’d be interested in doing a book. My initial reaction was, No fucking way! as I don’t write fiction and I didn’t want to do something even remotely approaching some sort of bullshit premature autobiography business. But Henry Rollins is one my guiding lights in life and he wrote a book called Get In the Van that was very important to me growing up, learning about touring and all that. So the suggestion got thrown up that I write up a selection of tour diaries, with a slight overview to it being a guide to life on the road. I rushed off a few drafts, sent them to friends. I was worried it was terribly boring, but they told me it was great.”
So when’s it going to be published?
“Well, the thing is I am my own worst nemesis. Once I decided to do it I thought it’d be really easy and I’d knock it out in a couple of weeks. Turns out writing books is really hard! Now it’s a year and a half later and I still haven’t finished the damn thing. I think the problem is I’m someone who works quite well against a deadline otherwise my self-discipline collapses. So it’s going to be published when I finish it basically – but unfortunately because there’s not a definite date stamped on it that gives me plenty of time to procrastinate!”
You’ve been compared to Q’s columnist Billy Bragg a fair bit over the years. Are you gunning for his job?
“It’s funny, the first time I met Billy Bragg he came up to me and said: I hear you’re the new me! There’s nothing wrong with the old me. Then he goes: Relax, I’m fucking with you! He’s amazing songwriter and I certainly count him as an influence. I would say I’m more influenced by Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young though. Million Dead spent our entire career being compared to bands we hated so if I have to have a comparison to someone, it’s better that it’s someone I do actually like. I take it as a compliment. I think generally speaking people can kind of look into what I do and see it’s not a carbon copy. It’s amazing how people call me a political singer when I’ve written over 60 songs in the last five years and two of which have been political. Somehow I’m a protest singer.”
Tell us a secret you haven’t told anyone before.
“When we were in Million Dead we did a showcase in America at a rehearsal studio that happened to be where Red Hot Chili Peppers kept their touring equipment. Well, I stole a teabag from Anthony Kiedis. They have a medicine cabinet they take on tour and could see into it that he had Throat Coat, which is this amazing tea for singers’ voices. I snuck in and stole one tea bag! And yes, I have felt guilty about it ever since. To my knowledge, he’s never found out about it. I don’t whether he’s spent the last ten years wondering: Which motherfucker stole my tea bag!? If he has, I will find a way of apologising and I will buy him a box of Throat Coat to say sorry.”
Pre order your tickets for Frank’s Friday The Thirteenth 24 hours early by heading to Aloud.com/tickets/frank-turner from 9am (BST) on13 October.