In his day to day life, Frank Turner is ardent about not dwelling on what came before. He prefers to look to the future, refusing to allow any of his mistakes or pitfalls define the man he is now.
However, such sore subjects make for great songs and passionate live shows and are essentially the foundation which the former hardcore punk has built his current career on. We spoke to the English singer-songwriter ahead of his concert at Revolution Live.
The day we speak over the phone, Turner is readying to play show number 1,900. He vaguely has an idea of what he’d like to do to celebrate his two-thousandth show, but it’s so far down the line, he prefers to focus on the here and now.
Nonetheless, we discuss how it is he arrived at composing his latest album, Positive Songs for Negative People, and yes, that includes looking backward for just a bit.
New Times: Last time you were down here in 2013, your back was a mess. How are you feeling these days?
Frank Turner: Very kind of you to ask. I’m doing okay. I’m back to playing guitar again, and I’m sort of jumping around and jumping off things and into crowds and that sort of thing. Just a tiny bit more consideration than I used to, but I still have to do a fair amount of stretching before the show.
You love being on tour a great deal and you’re even currently tracking the number of concerts. What is it about touring that you seem almost obsessed with?
It’s what I do for a living. I don’t want to tone down that I love it, but at the same time this is my job, it’s how I earn a living. If you compare the number of shows to the number of days a normal person goes into the office, they probably do more of that. That means I’m lucky because I get to do something that I care about. It’s normal to me.
Any fun or weird stories from your travels through Florida?
One of my first years on tour in Florida was with a band from Naples called Fake Problems who are longstanding friends of mine. I did a sort of squat house tour with them back in, I want to say, 2007 or 2008, and then we did the Fest in Gainesville and drove around the state, playing in people’s front rooms. We had a really good time.
Speaking of stories, although you do spend a lot of time on your own personal history, you don’t necessarily seem to be someone who lingers in the past. Would that be true?
I’m very attached to moving forward. For example, a lot of people in the UK like to ask the question whether my old band I was in before are getting back together and the answer is no. Not because I have any issues with that band, I’m very proud of the music we made, but we made it. That was 11 or 12 years ago now. I’m as nostalgic and reflective as the next person, but…
Positive Songs for Negative People feels like you pushing forward, and the record before that, Tape Deck Heart, was you atoning for your past. Do you think they could be viewed as bookends?
You know, they weren’t planned as such, but I think that’s probably right. The further in time I get from those songs, the more they seem like a companion piece to Tape Deck Heart. I think it’s a two-sides-of-a-coin kind of thing. I like that in a way. The other thing is, in terms of what I do next, I feel like that chapter, in a good way, is closed.
So the catharsis of Tape Deck Heart is complete?
That’s one way of putting it; another way of saying it is that I feel like I’ve written enough songs about that topic for the time being [laughs.] On a personal level as well, but also as an artist, it’s important to push forward and try and do new things and not repeat yourself. The next record I write will not be about affairs of the heart.
After that Guardian article in 2012 where your politics caused some controversy, do you find that you're keeping those kind of opinions closer to the vest or just the opposite?
That was sort of traumatic for me, but it’s a closed chapter as far as I’m concerned, you know what I mean? One of the things I’m proud about is that I didn’t issue retractions or back down from what I said. I didn’t sheepishly grovel and I’m quite pleased about that. It gave me a distaste for the tone of public political debate.
I feel like that whole thing was categorized by a lot of people, deliberately or otherwise, getting the wrong end of the stick of what I was trying to say. And you know, the internet is full of people sitting around waiting for someone or something to be pissed off at. I don’t think that’s a healthy method of discourse. I’ve got better things to do than be shouted at by idiots.
Through six records, you’ve built quite a fanbase across the UK, Europe, and the US. What sort of differences have noticed between American fans and those back home?
Well, you know, I think there are some obvious differences, like obviously I’m more of an outsider here. That plays to my strengths because Americans have a strain of Anglophilia that I wasn’t aware of until I got here. You guys love the Buzzcocks and the Clash more than people in England, which is weird, and Leatherface as well; Americans adore Leatherface, much to our shame, I should think.
I think I’ve been more closely associated with the punk scene over here. In the UK I was in a punk band and it wasn’t quite that I was trying to distance myself from the punk scene, I just didn’t want to be the token acoustic guy on the punk scene in the UK. I was quite keen to get the ex-Million Dead tag taken off. Not because I’m embarrassed and ashamed of that, I just don’t want to live in the shadow of my past.
With Gogol Bordello. 7:30 p.m. Friday, June 10, at Revolution Live, 100 SW Third Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Tickets cost $29.50 plus fees via ticketmaster.com.
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