As the continuing success story that is Mr Frank Turner (he played the Olympics, you know!) releases his fifth studio album, Clash gets an assortment of quick-fire questions answered, and its bowling ball buffed…
- - -
Hello Frank! So a lot more people are going to be interested in checking out ‘Tape Deck Heart’ than might've been the case without Certain Achievements in 2012... Do you think the album serves as a good 'point of entry' for your material, as well as an evolution of what's come before?
“I hope it's an evolution from what's come before. I want to keep moving forward, growing and developing as a songwriter. Whether or not it's a good point of entry, well, I don't really think about things in that way – I just try to make good records. There are lots of new people coming on board, which is great, though I'm hoping they also look back through what I've done before as well.”
Thematically, what's been going through your creative mindset during the genesis of ‘Tape Deck Heart’? Will listeners be able to unpick core narrative strands?
“With the proviso that I don't write towards themes, and don't make concept records – yet, haha – it’s kind of a record about change, about growing up, and within that it's a break-up record of sorts. I suppose it's not the cheeriest record I've ever written. Sorry.”
You've something of a powerhouse producer on board for this album in the shape of Rich Costey. Your solo music's got an acoustic angle to it; Rich has a speciality in shaping pop-rock cuts. How'd that dynamic manifest in the studio, and was it an easy partnership to get rolling?
“Working with Rich was awesome; I've long been a fan of his work, and he's a very versatile producer. He's worked with everyone from Johnny Cash to Springsteen to Weezer to Foo Fighters. He was very intense in the studio and made me and my band, the Sleeping Souls, dig really deep for the performances, which was great... If not always easy, as such.”
‘Tape Deck Heart’’s got a major label behind it stateside, Interscope. Is that indicative of a real US push with this material? Is the stateside market one you'd like to be as successful for you as the UK and Europe?
“I'm not really fussy about where I'm successful, though I do like the idea of being successful per se. I am also greatly enamoured of America as a place, incidentally. Working with Interscope is interesting: they're a big label, and I can feel the impact already. I guess I'd say I'm more curious to see how far things can go, as opposed to frothingly ambitious.”
Coming from a punk background as you do, how do you juggle the requirements of working your music in the bright public spotlight – accessibility, radio presence and so on – with maintaining a degree of autonomy with regard to your compositional nous and the way you want your music represented? Have compromises been made these past few years? And is it fair to say that the only way for a musician in your position to make this their career is to occasionally go against what might be a personal ethical grain?
“I don't think so actually. I don't feel that I've had to compromise anything really in the last few years. I understand that part of what I do is a business and there's work to be done that comes along with that. Having said that, on the creative side, I've not had anyone telling me what to do, no suits in the studio or whatever – the idea's actually pretty funny to me, and I find it hard to imagine anyone I work with daring to try, haha. The context of what I do has changed and is changing in the sense that there's more people paying attention, and as a result I have to work harder to make sure I'm paying attention to my core ethics – which are basically punk rock – but it's not impossible by any means.”
Do you think the appeal of folk's fundamental elements – a man with a story to tell, a guitar in hand, a song in his throat – will ever wane? People like to think of there being a folk resurgence right now – but, really, the genre has never gone away, has it? And is folk something that really stands are representative of Britain's musical heritage?
“Folk music is the great democratic art form. Historically, it's the music of the people rather than the aristocracy. In more recent times, the guitar is a democratic instrument – easy to play, portable, and full enough to accompany a voice to make a song on its own. That paradigm, of one person with a guitar, is pretty strong, and I can't see it going away any time soon. I am a very small part of that tradition, that vibe, and I feel good about that.”
This writer can remember bowling with you a while ago now... at Rowan's in Finsbury Park... and you had a very unorthodox way of releasing the ball. Been working on that? Fancy a rematch for Clash?
“Haha, Christ, them were the days, eh? I haven't been back to Finsbury Park bowling alley in a while. There are stories to tell. A rematch? Sure, though I reserve the right to lose atrociously and then get drunk.”
- - -
‘Tape Deck Heart’ is released on April 22nd. Watch the video for Frank’s latest single, ‘Recovery’, below.
- - -
Get the best of Clash on your iPhone - download the app here