Turner's debut Love, Ire and Song is being re-released in North America by Epitaph Records. Meanwhile, its followup, Poetry of the Deed is due on the same label in September.
So, what do you think of Frank Turner-mania?
[Laughter] One of the things that I find really interesting and excellent about the differences between the punk scene in the UK and the punk scene in States [is that] the American punk scene is very familiar. Everybody knows everybody. You got punk bowling tournaments. The UK punk scene barely exists. It’s just really fucking bitchy. I’ve spent the last few years trying to distance myself from punk as a concept. But then it’s really nice for me to come to this country and punk over here is so much better, so much nicer. I’ve got no problem at all coming up in the punk scene in the States. You know, I’m doing that Gaslight Anthem tour in September and to do that tour I had to turn down Bouncing Souls and Flogging Molly. I cannot fucking believe I’m saying no to a Bouncing Souls tour!
Ouch, nor can I, but it seems like you and Gaslight are a good match. Aside from having toured together in the past, you’ve both risen to popularity relatively quick and mostly because you simply got better at songwriting. This is often frowned upon in punk rock, but, unknown to many, both yourself and the members of Gaslight have all toughed it out for years and years in other bands.
Okay, I had this revelation the other day. Punk rock is very, very much like Catholicism. It gets you when you’re young, you probably hate it at some point, but it never goes away. It still informs the way you see the world. And then when you die you’ll get blessed by a priest and… and I don’t know, Brett Gurewitz or something [Laughter]. One of my least favorite things about punk rock is that a healthy suspicion of authoritarian major label structure kind of things more often than not just blends into it a plain old fucking distaste for the notion of success. That’s bullshit. I mean, Gaslight, good example, they’ve had too many scene police haters coming out and shit. To my mind, it’s like what could be more fucking wonderful than a band who fucking done it right and who are from your part of the world being on [the] David Lettermen show or Conan O’Brien?
Both of ‘em.
Right, what could be more cool than that? That’s a fucking victory for our little corner of culture. There were a couple “umms” and “ahhs” about the fact that I was touring with The Offspring. It’s like, “You know what, man, I wanna play to more people. I just want to promote my music.” All of that aside, it’s like, “Fuck you, Pal, you didn’t suddenly at 13 years old walk into a record shop and pick up a Black Flag album. You fucking got into punk rock through The Offspring or Green Day or Sum 41 or Rancid,” you know, depending on which age group. I’ve got no fucking shame in saying that Rancid and The Offspring are basically the two bands that got me into punk rock. That kind of denial of the fact of the matter is kind of like, “Yeah, I woke up one morning and all of the sudden The Descendants were my favorite band.” It’s like, “Fuck you, that’s bullshit.” I’m rambling on…[Laughter]
You seem to have created a balance between ethics and universality in your music.
That’s the other thing about the whole sort of punk rock pretentiousness at the end of the day. I don’t want my sole audience to be angry white men. That’s fucking tedious to me. I often describe myself as parent-core. In the UK, not so much now, but a few years ago, I did this tour that had a really young audience and at those shows there’d be quite a lot of parents who, essentially, were just there to look after their kids and at the end of the night they would come over and just be like, “Hey, I wasn’t here to hear any music at all, I was just here to make sure that my kids didn’t get beaten up, high or laid and, fuck, I really enjoyed that kind of thing.” That was one of the big reasons why Million Dead (Turner’s old punk band) broke up. I was so tired of having to explain the parameters of what we were trying to do – “Yeah, I know it’s really loud and heavy, but we’re also trying to say this.” I still love heavy music, but 90% of my friends would just be kinda like, “I don’t like it, I don’t care anymore.”
Your bio says you were born in the Middle East. Please expand.
[Laughter] I put that in the bio. I just kept doing it as a joke actually. My Dad was banker and was on a posting in the Middle East for a year. Six months later I moved back to England. I’ll tell ya what, the main impact that that has on my life now is that my place of birth on my passport is Muharraq (Bahrain). [Laughter] Try getting into the USA with fucking Muharraq written on your fucking passport!
Moving on to your teen years, you were in a band called Kneejerk and your bio says you guys played with Boysetsfire. What was that band all about?
[Laughter] Basically, I was in Kneejerk from the ages of 16 to 19 when I was in school and we were totally DIY. I mean, we did a tour when I was 16 years old, which was a total disaster. Lost a fuck ton of money. The Boysetsfire. thing was just basically my generation of punk rock in the UK was based around a record label called Household Name records which kind of kicked off in about ’95. So, this guy Lil ran Household Name records and it was like the only hardcore thing in the UK and Boysetsfire. had just put out The Day The Sun Went Out, which is one of my lifetime favorite albums. Goddamn I love that record. Basically we had this band that we formed and we called up Lil and we said, “Lil, Lil! Can we get on the bill and open up the show?” And he said “no.” 24 hours later we called him and we said, “Lil, Lil! Can we get on the show?” This is like three months before the show. Basically, we called him everyday for about six weeks and eventually he was like, “Fuck off! You can play 20 fucking minutes, just never call me again!!!” In the even there was gonna be a four band bill with us up first and then the band that was supposed to be going straight on after us canceled so we got a half hour set. It was the worst fucking gig ever. Then I saw Boysetsfire. and just wept like a little child. They were so fucking good.
Like, real crying?
I don’t know, man, shit was pretty emo back in the day. [Laughter] That would be ’97. This was like pre-Taking Back Sunday. There was a time a long time ago when I used to tell people that I listened to emo [and] they wouldn’t have any idea what I was talking about. I remember photocopying lyric sheets to Mineral records and just giving [them out]. Mineral was one of my favorite bands. I was so obsessed with that band and the first Get Up Kids record. None of those bands ever toured the UK. I was in a friend of mine’s house in Phoenix, AZ last year and he’s one of those guys who’s got framed tour posters from decades all over his walls and there’s one the tour was like Mineral, Christie Front Drive, Get Up Kids and Jimmy Eat World. I was like, “Oh my God!,” if any one of those bands ever came to the UK I would have pissed my pants. Another one, there was a tour that was like fucking Converge, Botch and Cave In on the same bill. I think I’d actually pass out if I saw that.
Whoa. I want to touch on Million Dead for a minute. I know it’s probably a sore topic because of the “irreconcilable differences” I’ve read about, but a significant amount of your fans seem to be checking out MD at this point.
Million Dead was kind of like the band of my youth. It was when I was fucking young, pissed off, excited and new to the scene. All of that kind of stuff was channeled into that band. I remain, to this day, fighting proud of that band. I think we made two albums and I think they’re both fucking good and I maintain that at that time within the UK scene we were one of the best live bands around. The funny thing with this re-release is the live DVD with it. I hadn’t even thought about any of that shit for about four years or whatever. The DVD got sent through for me to watch and approve of and all this shit and I was like, “Fuck, if I was a kid going to this show I’d be beating the shit out of everyone in a 10 mile radius.” We wanted to be a cross between Black Flag, The Clash and Refused. We were like, “We’re going to be the end all punk band that’s ever fucking been. Obviously, we weren’t, but we tried and we put on a fucking show and we wrote some cool songs. So, yeah, that was the idea behind the re-release. I just felt like it should be out there if people want to hear it. I was so much more physically fit when I was in that band, man. I was basically jogging on the spot for an hour and half going, “Rah rah rah rah.” It’s just like, whooooooa. Back then it was fine. I was just doing my show, trying to fight the front row. Them days are gone.