Currently on a seemingly never ending tour of the world and elsewhere Frank Turner continues to bring his own brand of folk to new audiences, quite frankly the man's on a mission! Room Thirteen took Mr.Turner for a stroll in the park before his gig at the Retro Bar in Manchester.

R13: Right let's get the plug in early, tell us about the new EP
F: The Ep's coming out on the 15th May on Xtra Mile, who obviously I know from Million Dead days. I'm not sure if it's going to be a long term association or not, we haven't decided yet, we just thought we'd get something out there. I recorded it with Dive Dive, who I rate as one of the best bands in the UK if not the best band in the UK!
R13: Really?
F:Yeah, I think they're absolutely unbelievably brilliant! The perfect mix of Fugazi and Idlewild, maybe a bit of XTC as well and a bit of Placebo maybe, although they'll probably stab me for saying that! They're friends of mine and they have a studio in their house and I wanted to use a band on some of the tunes so they arranged all that. I'm really pleased with it and I think it's great and unlike the demos I've been selling I think it accurately reflects what I'm trying to do right now, it sounds right to me.

R13: Do you have plans to take a band on tour because you're doing this tour on your own aren't you?
F:Yeah I am, I do but I want to maintain flexibility because especially when it comes to going overseas or for a support tour, it's quite attractive to be able to tour on your own and one of my requirements for a song is that it can be played solo, as much as I might dream up extra parts for it. I quite firmly believe that a song exists in abstract as a series of root notes on a bass and vocals, or at least should do unless you're talking about metal, so when I get time to organise it and a little bit more backing I'd love to tour with a band. I've got various dream teams in my head of people to call up and kidnap their children and twist their arm into touring with me but hopefully before the end of the year I'll do a UK tour with a band, not a massive thing, probably just a bass player, drummer and maybe a piano player but a few extra people on stage would be nice!

R13: Are you planning on doing an album this year?
F:I haven't really figured it out, I'm trying to establish exactly what's happening label wise so in terms of releasing I'm not sure. I'd like to get an album out this year but everything takes fucking ages in this industry.
R13: Would that be with a band?
F:Well probably the same as the EP, half and half again, there are some tunes I write that don't need anything else and it would be overkill to start dumping instruments on them but then there are some that do benefit from them. There are albums that I envisage that doing in terms of instrumentation kind of stuff like 'After the Goldrush' by Neil Young, where half the songs are just one instrument and vocals and then with a bit of harmonies and choirs, I'm a big fan of choirs! I like playing around, it's fun using different kinds of instruments, on the EP I used a Hammond and this instrument that we couldn't identify so we called it an Uzbekistan, as that seemed like a good name. Basically it was a mandolin except it wasn't! In terms of writing, discounting the songs that are on this EP, which I wouldn't want to re release, if I finish every song that I've started writing at the moment I've got about 20, of which about 10 are finished and I'm writing new stuff all the time. I really like being in that position because with Million Dead it was very much a case of we released what we wrote because we wrote pretty fucking slowly.

R13: You've said you're happy with it but on your message board there's been some criticism from people that have heard it
F:Well you can't please all the people all the time, one of the things that some people were saying, and I guess it's one of the hazards of the way I've been doing things, is it's not how they thought it was going to sound having heard the songs live. That's always the way it sounded in my head though and I'm the one writing the fucking songs so they can piss off! If people prefer the live versions there are plenty of live recordings circulating on the internet so download them and listen to that instead! I think they sound great personally so they can all get fucked!
R13: I think the criticism was that it's lost some of the rawness having the band, that it sounds a bit more polished, which I think is true but that doesn't necessarily make it worse.
F:Well exactly! Also I have fantasies about this whole idea of there being a core element of a song that can then be presented, I'm quite a big fan of messing around with arrangements. I was jamming the other day with a piano player and a double bass player and I really like the idea of maybe doing a tour with that one day where I just pick a bunch of songs that I think could be arranged for that line up and tour them. It would be the same songs with different arrangements and different instrument playing the same melodies.
R13: That's very Donovan
F:I'd have preferred Neil Young or Billy Bragg but we can go with Donovan! But yeah I think that's a fun idea and I always loved the way Counting Crows are reconstituting their songs and I remember going to see Tori Amos when I was a kid and she did this amazing, bassy kind of hip-hop version of 'Horses' which was unbelievable.

R13: You're planning to do a split record with Jonah Matranga, how did that come about?
F:Well that was one of the most productive afternoons of my live and I'm pleased to say that I was in my pants for the duration! I was at home chilling out and drinking tea and enjoying a day off and I got an email from Jonah that was entitled 'hardcore singers gone soft unite!' because I obviously met him through playing with Million Dead, he said he was doing a UK tour and did I want to do the dates and I'm now doing those that I can and over the course of a series of emails it was well how about doing a split 7" doing covers, which has now turned into a split 12" between his American label and my label so it's coming out in the States as well. Now there's talk of putting my EP out in the States and a possibility of going out and touring with Jonah in September and all of this happened in the space of two and a half hours!
R13: In your pants
F: In my pants! Haha, which was great. Being from the musical background that I'm from Jonah is at the very least a well respected musician if not living legend so to play with him at all is cool and to do a split is a pleasure and also I've heard the songs he's done for it and they sound fucking great!

R13: Your current tour is pretty non stop, are you still enjoying it or are you looking at the schedule and wishing half the dates would conveniently drop off?
F:Ah this is where I have to employ my failing diplomacy, there's been a few hitches on this tour with the organisation of it, well more with the promotion of it. The thing is I wasn't involved in booking this tour I was offered it and I'm never going to say no to a big tour and there've been a couple of dates where there have been mix ups in terms of the organisation and that's made it a bit stressful as I'm quite meticulous about how I plan my tours and I don't want to sound arrogant but it's shit that I wouldn't have let happen had I been organising it but you know a shows a show and 99% of the shows have been great and it's nice to tour with the same group of people every day. Last year I did a good four months touring on my own and one of the things I discovered that's shit about that is that it gets really draining not being around the same people for more than 24 hours because it means every single time you have to repeat how the tour's going and what's going on every single day for four months and it gets really tiring after a while.
R13: Constantly having to make an effort?
F: Well if you don't have anyone else to lean on, I mean with Million Dead, Jamie who's one of my best friends used to do a lot for me in terms of giving me moral support and he can tell when I'm getting stressed like that and he immediately drags me off to the pub and starts pouring alcohol into me and I miss that level of support but fuck it you know, I could be working in an office job! The guys are all lovely people though so it's been fun.

R13: Have you any expectation about how far you can take this solo stuff and the style you've been doing?
F: Yes and no, as a rule it's wise in this industry to not have too many expectations as it never turns out the way you think it's going to. What I'm doing now is immediately palatable to more people, you can use the dreaded 'c' word commercial but I don't really give a fuck whether it is or isn't, it just so happens that it is and I guess I do have a popular streak in me that I want to write songs that are about everyman kind of shit that everyone can relate to, well everyone that's from a vaguely similar background to me and the way I define my ambition for what I'm doing now is that as a kid I used to go down to Cornwall on holiday every year and you always end up sitting around a camp fire, on a beach in the middle of the night smoking crap weed and drinking cans of beer and someone's always got a guitar! There's a couple of songs that everybody knows, like if you crack out a Counting Crows song or 'Under the Bridge' by the Chili Peppers it's a tune that everyone would know and sing a long and that to me encapsulates a lot of what's good about music, when you can have a bunch of people that don't know each other, who've got no other connection than the fact that they all know and enjoy a song, if one of my songs could ever reach that level, that a bunch of kids who I don't know and will never meet will play one of my songs badly then that would make me a very happy man! God I'm easy to interview, I keep talking!
R13: I know!
F:Ha, one of the guiding things in what I'm trying to do at the moment is an almost puritanical hatred of dishonesty and pretension. All the anecdotal stuff in my lyrics is a 100% true and I wouldn't want to sing anything that wasn't and it's important to me that there's no dividing line between who I am and how I play music. That's why I didn't want to come up with a name to go under, that's bullshit, my name is Frank Turner and that's how it is. I seem to have been relatively successful in that, people can recognise it for what it is and see that it's just one guy talking about shit pause which doesn't have much to do with the original question!
R13: I can't even remember what it was!
F: I mean the same answer applies to when I was in Million Dead, I want to keep doing this and not have another job and I want to take it further afield than I did with Million Dead, I mean my show rate's pretty impressive, I've already played a third of the shows that Million Dead did in their whole career! So haha, I will overtake soon! As draining as it can be I really love being on tour and being in control of my own music.

R13: Your lyrics in Million Dead always came under quite a lot of scrutiny and comment but now they're even more exposed has that made you more conscious of what you write or have you never really been bothered how other people interpret them?
F: It has, I always said with Million Dead that I was never going to write about personal stuff, like girls and the reason for that was that I didn't feel confident in my ability to say anything vaguely worthwhile. Partly because I was on some trip about lyrics needing to say something extremely profound and earth shaking so it's been a very different approach both in terms of subject matter and in terms of style, it's a lot more songy and I like rhyming couplets. I certainly wouldn't be doing what I'm doing now if I hadn't been in Million Dead, it was like an apprenticeship, I learnt all the skills that I need to do what I'm doing at the moment both in terms of how to write a song, write lyrics to touring and how to survive out on the road. In terms of lyrical subject I have the confidence now to talk about things that are a little more personal, plus it's a hard thing to do to talk about politics all the time or social commentary. The thing that made me want to go down this route after Million Dead was friends of mine and I hate categorising things but the London folk scene, I just happened to be friends with a couple of guys who started playing shows on their own and it was amazing for me to see people who are the same age as me get up and sing shatteringly sad songs about their life.

R13: Have there been a significant number of people that have followed you from your Million Dead days into your solo career?
F: Yeah, I'd say at this stage the majority of people who are into what I do know me from Million Dead, which is absolutely fine! Promoters keep asking me if I'm alright having ex-Million Dead under my name on flyers and shit and of course I am, I'm proud of that and I don't see any reason to be ashamed of it and to hide it in any way. It's starting to reach the stage now where apparently Steve Lamacq thinks I'm the dogs bollocks and has started playing my stuff, which is fantastic and it means more and more people are starting to come down to my shows that don't know Million Dead and that's cool too. At the same too though there are people who were really into Million Dead that really fucking hate what I do know!
R13: I was going to say, I would imagine that for some of them hearing your solo material is their first exposure to the folk side of things?
F: Ahh now you've hit on my mission! I feel like a crusader on occasions, I mean that's very true, the word 'folk' is very much abused, not least by the conservative, cardigan clad, pipe smoking, bastard establishment of folkies in this country who run the folk festivals! To me they represent the complete antithesis of what folk music is supposed to be, the reason I was attracted to folk music is because it seems to be putting back the principals that punks talk about the whole time but never actually do. It's supposed to be very vibrant and constantly relevant music, people being honest and communicating to their peer group about shit that matters to them and you've got these old bastards that won't let you on at their festival unless you've got at least one song about market fairs or something! It's great because I'm bringing the kids to folk, I'm leading them to water and making them fucking drink!
I have different types of shows, those that are more post hardcore, where all the kids have fringes and studded belts and shit, I make a point of getting up and saying "who here knows who Leonard Cohen is?" and it's shocking the number of people who don't put their hands up. I think it was Sunderland where I did that and two people put their hands up and then I said "and put it down if you only know him from that Nirvana lyric" and one of them put his hand down. So I played 'Chelsea Hotel', which I think is one of the best songs ever written. I've had a few emails from kids saying they've been checking out Leonard Cohen and Neil Young, Billy Bragg and stuff and fuck, wow! It's not all Scarborough Fair and that's great, it's part of my mission, to widen the kids minds.

R13: Now that you're out on your own and the only focus of attention, does that make you want to step back at all from the very open relationship you always had with fans in Million Dead? Do you find they almost get too close to you now?
F: There was one guy who's house I crashed at the other day who seemed to be under the impression he was going to watch me fall asleep! He gave me his bed and then proceeded to sit down on the chair next to it whilst I lay down and it's like hmm, fuck off now mate! To be honest though it's not massively different, with Million Dead (and this is no disrespect to anyone else in that band) I was probably more au fait with talking to people who came to the shows than anyone else anyway. It's kind of cool, I fill gaps in my tours with house parties, they're kind of fun although it can be a little weird social situation at a house party where most people are 18 and I'm 24 and they're all slightly treading on eggshells at the start of the night, it's a bit odd but fuck it, you can usually talk people into chilling out and working on a level. For the most part with Million Dead everyone else would be sat in the back of the fan anyway so it's not that different!

R13: Whilst we're on the subject of Million Dead, any news on the DVD?
F: Yeah, people ask about this incessantly but that's fair enough! It's pretty much been finished, the actual content, I've seen some of it and it looks fucking great. The problem is that record labels are hard to get to do anything anyway and trying to get them to do something for a band that doesn't exist is harder. I can't really go into the details but a different label put in an offer to release it and that's being looked on quite favourably by everybody because it clears the log jam a little bit. We're all really intent on it coming out and if it really came to it we could do it mail order and do it ourselves. I just think it would be a nice document to get released, especially for people overseas who never got to see us play. Like I said the footage I have seen looks fucking great if not mildly embarrassing as there is some backstage footage, the vast majority of which is me and/or Ben pissed out of our brains talking bollocks! I want it to come out but I'm starting to reach the stage where I'm getting a bit of distance on that now.
R13: I was going to ask that actually, considering how busy you've been with your solo stuff is Million Dead starting to seem like a distant memory?
F: I wouldn't say a distant memory, there are moments like when you're watching back DVD stuff or whatever when you think 'oh fuck yeah we used to do that!', which is interesting and the other day I sat down and listened to both our albums for the first time since we broke up and I felt for the first time ever that I could listen to them with some kind of outside perspective and that was quite interesting to hear the difference between the two albums, I think I have some idea now! This is going to sound fantastically emo but it's starting to hurt a bit less as well. I wasn't very pleased about how that band broke up.
R13: Has time mellowed your opinion of the split? Do you look on it differently now?
F:I'm not sure I have a different opinion of how things went, I think I'd probably act in the same way if that happened again now. I just think that one of the best pieces of advice anyone ever gave me was that holding a grudge demeans you more than the person you're holding the grudge against and life's too short for that kind of shit. It's a real fucking shame and the one thing I'll always maintain until the day I fucking die is that it wasn't my fault as such. I've heard rumours going around that one of the reasons that Million Dead broke up was because I wanted to do this and that fucks me off because it's a point of extreme pride for me that I drove myself to the point of fucking madness trying to keep that band together & keep it going and it didn't work. That's always going to smart a little but but it's in the past now and I enjoyed it, I had fun, I learned a lot and it enabled me to do what I do now.

R13: No chance of a reunion then?
F: Not a fucking chance in hell! Simply because if there was any kind of reprieve like that we would simply have gone on hiatus, we did talk about that at one point, just giving it a year or something like that. It's not going to happen. There've been whisperings about me and Ben doing something together maybe, we keep talking about it when we're pissed and it sounds like it's going to be the best thing ever! Whether it actually happens or not we'll see. I want to do something to balance out my new found hippyness and we've talking about doing something along the lines of Pig Destroyer or Converged, just like ultra brutal, maybe Lightning Bolt kind of stuff as well with more screaming and just make it horrible, nasty brutality. Do one tour, play for 20 minutes and destroy everything on stage every night!
R13: That's very NailBomb!
F:Yeah totally! Yeah, fuck it. It would be fun to do something like that just to get it out of the system. To be honest we spend more time discussing band names than anything else, we've had some great band names but me and Ben can't agree on anything so suggestions such as 'Fucking Idiot' ... 'Gunt' was another suggestion ... 'Baby Sex'!
R13: Hmm
F: Well the reason we thought Baby Sex was a good name was because I suggested it to him in a pub and everybody else in the pub stopped talking and turned round! So we thought that's a good band name that can silence a pub. Anyway, Million Dead won't do anything again, certainly not with me involved.

R13: Well let's get back to you then! You're doing a few festivals this summer, have you got any of the big ones lined up?
F: I'm quite good friends with Mike Davies and I keep trying to get him drunk so he'll put me on his stage, unfortunately he keeps drinking me under the table so the plan keeps failing! I got asked to do Truck Fest but I'm doing a tour of Poland, Latvia, Estonia and Finland and that's booking up quite a lot of the festival time which on some levels is bad but fuck it, I play in the UK the whole time and on the day of Truck Fest I'm playing a festival in a forest in Lithuania so it's not bad.
R13: No chance of Download then?
F: Haha I'm not sure that Download would have me! I think I'm probably a tiny bit off their radar.
R13: Ah but having said that you're playing the Wasted Festival in Morecambe.
F: Yeah that's going to be hilarious! They actually emailed ages ago to ask if Million Dead would do it last year and it didn't work out but then the organisers sent another email saying 'well how about you then?'
R13: And you were like 'Have you heard my solo stuff?'!
F:Well apparently they've got a few other people of that ilk, I'm sure Ed Tudorpole is doing one of his acoustic sets. Capdown are doing the festival as well so I'm sure it'll be a laugh.

R13: You're doing Collision Course as well?
F:Yeah, that's going to be fun, Bridgend and Yeovil Ski Lodge! How much skiing is there in Yeovil?! I kind of need to make amends to Yeovil as last time I played there I hadn't been to sleep for about 3 days and I played apparrently but I don't really recall it so I need to go and apologise in song to the people of Yeovil!
R13: Reuben are on as well of course so can we expect another guest appearance?
F:Well maybe, Jamie keeps implying that he's written a song for their third album which has a guest spot for me on it! They're really good friends of mine and thoroughly excellent as well and I've been toying with the idea of covering a song by them actually. Do you know 'Best Enemies'?
R13: Yeah
F:I reckon I could folk the fuck out of that one! I guess we'll just play it by ear on the day.

R13: You're playing more European dates this year, is the word spreading over there or is it very much an unknown thing at this stage?
F: It's an unknown thing, I mean Million Dead didn't tour Europe that extensively but we're one of those bands that people who are total musos over there are often the kind of people that book tours as well so for example I'm doing this three and a half week tour of France and Belgium in May that's been booked by this guy called Daniel and Million Dead never made it France but basically he reckons he'll get a lot of people in because he's been selling my stuff to zines and radio stations and he's a pro promoter so I'll trust his opinion on it. Quite a few key players seem to know about Million Dead so that comes in handy!