Existentialism & Popcorn

Fuck newspapers.

Carried in the Arms of Cheerleaders: A Conversation with Frank Turner

Trace: So, you’ve got a bit of a sideproject under way, yes?

Frank: Yeah, it’s called Möngöl Hörde. It’s kind of like noise rock, noisecore. So the idea is to be over the top and kind of in your face. It’s something that’s been planned for ages. The drummer involved in it was in Million Dead, the band I was in back in the day and, indeed, other bands I was in before that, as well. We did 4 shows and it was loads of fun! The problem with it is that it has to be on downtime from what I do usually and I’m pretty busy, as it is.

Trace: Are you guys planning a tour?

Frank: Yeah, yeah. I don’t really know when. I mean, I’m hoping that we’ll get a record out next year, hopefully kind of summer of next year. Maybe!

Trace: Through a label?

Frank: Probably through Xtra Mile. I mean, they’re kind of like family for me. I kind of raised the idea with them of just giving the album away - because: fuck it, man! - but people at the label were not overly stoked for that idea, surprisingly enough! I guess we’ll see.

Trace: So, the Olympics. Crazy, right?

Frank: Yeah! My manager got a phonecall saying that Danny Boyle wanted to have a meeting. I just thought…about what? (But) they wouldn’t tell us anything about it over the phone. So, we had to go to this place for this meeting and it was just a bit weird because, obviously, your mind races and you’re wondering what on earth he might want to talk about and then eventually, yeah, he asked me to play at the Opening Ceremonies because he said he thought that what I do kind of fit in with his vision of what he was trying to say about the UK, which is a very flattering thing to be told, particularly by someone like Danny Boyle.

Trace: Yeah, especially to pretty much represent a whole country!

Frank: Yeah, totally. I mean, I’m really not like a nationalist or a patriot or anything like that, but my kind of blackened, cynical soul was touched a little by it. I mean, it’s the only Olympic games in my country in my lifetime. Success in life is fleeting, so when I’ve been forgotten by history, I’ll still have that, you know what I mean? I can take that one home with me.

Trace: Do you give a lot of thought to your legacy?

Frank: I think that’s a waste of time. The thing, for me, is to concentrate on writing good songs, playing good shows, and to present what I do in a kind of - I’m weary of using this word - but in an ethical kind of way, you know what I mean? Beyond that, it’s kind of like: people can just decide what they think about me in the longterm.

Trace: And it’s out of your hands, anyway.

Frank: Exactly. And, also, I think that…anybody who spends their time trying to manage legacy or whatever is sort of…a twat, you know? I do have a certain amount of “live in the present” philosophy going on.

Trace: So, what have you been listening to lately? What’s your favorite album right now?

Frank: Right now, to be honest, the main thing i’ve been listening to is the Jesus Lizard remasters that have just come out. Well, I say just come out, (but) I think they came out last year (and) I’ve just gotten around to it. Jesus Lizard has always been one of my favorite heavy bands. Michael Azerrad described David Yow as sounding like a kidnap victim singing through duct tape. Fucking great. really love that band. Other than that, there’s a guy called Jim Lockey, from the UK, who is - I don’t wanna say that he’s my protege because it sounds a tiny bit up my own ass, but I sort of discovered him at a festival a few years ago and he’s amazing. I’m taking him on tour in November, in the UK, and ideally, I would absolutely fucking love to bring him to the States at some point. You know, he’s a fucking genius. His record is out, at the moment, and everyone should listen to it!

Trace: How’s it different in the states as opposed to touring at home in the UK?

Frank: Well, there’s some differences. I think I’m more kind of associated with the punk scene in this country, you know? Which, I mean, I can outline the reasons why, you know? It has to do with Epitaph and the bands I tour with over here, and, also, in the UK, I kind of - not in a sort of aggressive way - but I sort of slightly took a step away from the punk scene when I started playing this stuff, because I spent years working in it and I felt kind of trapped. But I don’t really care, at the end of the day, whether people think that I’m part of the punk scene or not.

Trace: Yeah, I mean, it doesn’t really matter!

Frank: Yeah. I mean, I personally feel that my entire outlook on music is based in punk rock but, I mean, if all the time and energy that people have spent arguing about punk could have been used towards, like, researching a cure for cancer or something, the world would be a better place. So, I’m not…I don’t want to contribute to that sort of “shitfest” any further. So, there’s that.

And, I mean, people travel further in this country. In the UK, if you don’t play within 20 minutes of someone’s front door, they go “Oh, you’re not fucking playing where I live!” and it’s just sort of like “Really? You twats!”

You know, I’ve toured in Russia, Israel, and China and places like that, and with that kind of perspective, I sort of feel like, you know, America, Canada, UK, Germany, Australia…it’s all kind of…it’s not that different. I mean, everyone speaks English! German people speak better English than I do!

Trace: If you look at the charts at all, there is currently an obvious fixation on electronic music. Coming from rock music, how does this make you feel? Do you feel those two worlds (electronic and rock) are at odds now more than ever?

Frank: Well, maybe. I think I’m going to answer the question in an oblique way. One of the good things about the internet…the internet is a fact. So, I think it’s sort of like getting overexcited about downloading being a terrible thing. It’s just a waste of time, because it just is. So, you deal with it, you know what I mean? But one of the interesting things about music is that I think music is a lot less monolithic. Prior to the internet being around, I can remember from when I was a kid, basically in the UK, if you got Radio One and NME on your side, you’re huge. That’s it. And I remember when I was a kid, I used to get like No Idea records catalogs and Initial Records catalogs and I would buy records blind from it, because there was no way of hearing anything on it. So, you know, you read the little descriptions. I used to do that thing with cross-referencing thanks lists in albums. If a band was mentioned in, like, 3 albums I had, it was like - okay! I guess I’ll buy something from them. The thing now is that, you know, if I said a band name - Jim Lockey, for example - if you’ve got internet connection on your phone, you can hear what he sounds like in 30 seconds.

And the cool thing about that is that it means, I think, that basically there’s enough space now in the music world for people to get on with whatever the fuck they want to get on with. Do you know what I mean? I’m not really into, like, drum & bass, just to pick a random genre, (but) some of my friends are. I went last year to some parties with some friends of mine in London and there’s fucking tons of people there! It’s just like “Huh? Who the fuck are these people?”

Trace: Everything has found or is finding its audience, yeah.

Frank: Exactly! And so, on a similar level, I mean, particularly in the UK, like we did Wembley which is like 12,000 - but it’s still, I mean, I’m still not, by any stretch of the imagination, a household name in the UK. The reaction a lot of people have to what I do is: people come up to me after shows and go “Fuck! Where did this come from? What the fuck?” And, in a way, I think that’s kind of cool. So, I mean, if the kind of “tastemakers” or whatever the fuck they want to call themselves this week, like the magazines or radio are into electronic music right now, that’s cool. That’s fine! Good luck to you! Carry on! I mean, it’s not massively to my tastes, personally. I mean, I went through a massive electro phase when I was younger, but I don’t really keep up with it now. I just feel like I don’t really need to care. The people who want to listen to the kind of music I make exist and can find it and that’s that. That was a long answer!

Trace: Any more personal recommendations?

Frank: You know, I’m so behind the curve on this, but I just discovered The National.

Trace: Fucking amazing!

Frank: Yeah! Fucking incredible. It was one of those things where I actually, the first time around, when they first sort of got successful, they sort of passed me by a bit, but when I was having a long e-mail conversation with a friend of mine, and she started sending me National lyrics…like the one that’s like “I haven’t changed, you’ve just raised your standards.” I thought “Fuck! That’s a knockout lyric right there.” And what’s the other one? “I used to be carried in the arms of cheerleaders.” That fucker! I want to get inside his brain and steal a bit of it if he comes up with that kind of shit. So, yeah, I mean - there’s always cool stuff. I’ve got the new Off With Their Heads record…

Trace: I love it, man.

Frank: Yeah, I mean there’s a degree of egoism in me saying that because Ryan’s a good friend of mine, but it’s good.

Trace: Anything else you want to say to Atlanta, Georgia?

Yeah! The problem with the statement I’m about to make is it’s going to sound like I say this wherever I go and there is no way of me getting out of that, but I really love the south of this country.

Actually, fuck it! Let’s get a bit more philosophical about this!

In Europe, in the UK, there is this thing which is this really kind of lazy armchair kind of Anti-Americanism a lot of people have. A lot of it’s kind of, you know, people read Chomsky books and then go “Fuck Americans!” And I was completely guilty of that myself when I was a kid, basically before I’d been to America. Now, I’ve been here a fair amount. I’m hugely into America and American culture. You know, Stephen Fry said “Any statement you could make about America, the exact opposite is also true.” And that’s an excellent way of looking at it. And, particularly the south, you know, there’s a lot of…kind of like…people watch Deliverance or whatever and I remember the first time I came through the South on tour. Actually, in particular: Birmingham, Alabama.

Trace: The Bottletree, right?

Frank: Yeah, but before that. I played at like a rehearsal space or like a warehouse, kinda, with Fake Problems years and years ago. And, everyone’s just really fucking nice! And it’s just a beautiful part of the world where everyone is really cool and everyone’s really enthusiastic about music. It’s kind of an eyeopener.

Trace: People are just instantly amazed by anything, so they really support it here.

Yeah, really. I remember the first time I stayed in Birmingham and a guy, who’s now a friend of mine, he - I had never met him before - but he was putting me up on tour, and he went and slept in his truck, because he lived in a one room house, and he wanted me to have my own room. I was like “Are you fucking joking?” Everyone is really, really cool. I remember when I did the Bonnaroo festival in 2010 and, actually, that guy and another friend of mine, the 3 of us just got a motel near Bonnaroo and we ended up not really going to the festival at all. We were just driving around Tennessee and having a great fucking time, stopping at diners and all. So, yeah. It’s really nice to be here and it’s pleasant to find out that, actually, some place is really fucking cool and that the stereotypes are bullshit, basically. So, yes. Hooray for the south!

For more on Frank Turner:


Special thanks to Julie Skinner for recording this interview.

(Source: tracewilliamcowen.com)

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