Interview: Frank Turner On His Upcoming Album, Mental Health Awareness And His Rock City Tattoo

Alex Tearle

Just before exams, Alex Tearle was lucky enough to catch Frank Turner to chat about his upcoming album ‘FTHC’, mental health and why Rock City is the greatest venue on Earth.

Turner opened the interview by showing me his cat Boudi (short for Boudicat), a great introduction if you ask me. We moved on to chat about his weekly lockdown livestreams, which Turner used to support small venues and his crew. He described these sessions as going, “remarkably well”, a very modest reaction considering the colossal £200,000 raised over the course of these livestreams. Turner explained that “2020 and 2021 sucked pretty hard, these people were struggling… I built my career in small venues… I found my life there!”, showing his dedication to these venues that many of us call home.

Even over a Zoom interview, Turner’s desire to be back on stage and performing live was palpable

Turner’s music taste reflects his love of these venues, “I spent a lot of time in the UK hardcore scene… I’ll go and see anybody!”, a refreshing attitude acknowledging so much talent making a name for themselves in independent venues, a feeling Turner echoed, “You might see the next ‘insert big bad here’!”. This love of live music can absolutely be seen in his upcoming album. Turner says that it is “designed to be experienced live” and the tracks absolutely reflect this, with soaring anthems and strong guitars backing his signature vocals. Even over a Zoom interview, Turner’s desire to be back on stage and performing live was palpable.

When I asked Turner about writing the album, he said that it’s impossible to pin ‘FTHC’ into just one genre. “I’m probably the wrong person to ask, I don’t think about genre when I’m writing. I think it would be slightly forced to do that”. The album definitely has punk and hardcore influences though, as Turner says: “I played in a post-hardcore band… many people refer to the music I make now as folk-punk”, a combination of genres I think most people would have never expected, but that works exceptionally well on ‘FTHC’. “For a long time, my music has been punk rock with an adjective,” Frank explains, “[punk] feels like home and I started writing in that style”. Lockdown had a big impression on the album. Tracks like The Gathering reflect a want to be back performing live music, and it’s clear lockdown was important in the writing process: “The album has four drummers and I haven’t met them!” Turner explained, “It’s a record that stylistically and intentionally is meant to be played in a room with bodies flying”.

Lockdown was a very difficult time for many, and we spoke about mental health, specifically in relation to the beautiful single A Wave Across a Bay, a song dedicated to the late Scott Hutchison. “We used to compare notes a lot, it was a unique situation but we were good friends! Scott took his own life in 2018, he was very public about mental health… I was completely heartbroken. I react to things that happen in my life through the medium of songs, this is what I do”. It’s songs like this that are pivotal in bringing up mental health in the music industry, especially with such rigorous deadlines and unimaginable stress forced upon artists of all levels. He adds that “Scott would probably be quite embarrassed about the whole kerfuffle”, an endearing thought.

“It’s infinitesimally small, my contribution, but if I talk about mental health publicly and that I’ve had a rough ride over the last few years that can perhaps legitimise other people talking about it as well”

I asked Turner about what the music industry should (in his opinion) do to promote better mental health for artists. “Internally, there is more that can be done… In fairness, more is being done and there is progress in the fact that it is now on the agenda. There have been groups set up to support artists and crew with their mental health and I think the big wigs have found there is not much value in an artist who is broken.” This poignant insight exposes the changing attitudes within music at the minute, a discussion that I think is pivotal in ensuring mental health is taken seriously for both artists and concert goers. Outside of the industry, Turner explained, “I think one of the few practical uses of what I do for a living [is that] people in the arts can normalise these discussions. It’s infinitesimally small, my contribution, but if I talk about mental health publicly and that I’ve had a rough ride over the last few years that can perhaps legitimise other people talking about it as well”.

Mental health as a theme is present throughout the album, but is focused on with the track Miranda, a song about Turner’s father, who came out as transgender. “One of the few conciliations of getting older is that you are more secure in yourself as a person. I had a terrible relationship with my dad growing up, there’s a few songs in the record that touch on that, Fatherless and My Bad. About five or six years ago my father came out as transgender and she is now called Miranda… That was a shock to me, it’s not something I saw coming.” Turner has worked extensively with LGBTQ+ charities including York LGBT Forum, an important cause that has clearly inspired this track. “It’s a thing I’m behind conceptually anyway so let’s apply that theory to this practice. Miranda is actually quite a nice person, which is not something I could have said about my dad before. She’s coming to stay tomorrow… it’s a turnaround for the books, but a positive one”. ‘FTHC’ is full of songs that discuss complex themes like this, and I’m sure they’ll promote the healthy discussions Turner is looking for.

To finish the interview, I asked Turner about Rock City (the greatest venue on earth), and he gleefully pulled up his sleeve to show me his Rock City tattoo – the only acceptable response to this question. “Best venue in the world mate!” Turner exclaimed, as if echoing my feelings exactly. “I’ve played most places and it really is my favourite venue in the world… I don’t have any other venue names written on me. I now have two postponed shows at Rock City, which is starting to grate… I love Rock City to pieces. You can fit 1800 people in, and everyone is 30-40ft from the stage. It’s run by good people for the right reasons, it’s very familial. I’m from the south but even I knew the importance of the venue. If I had to pick one venue to play residency at, like Vegas style, I’d choose Rock City.”

It was an absolute pleasure to chat with Frank Turner, whose album ‘FTHC’ is released on the 18th February. Keep your eyes peeled for my review of the album on the Impact website, and in the meantime listen to the excellent singles Non Serviam and A Wave Across a Bay. You won’t be disappointed.

Alex Tearle

Featured image courtesy of Chuff Media. Permission to use granted to Impact. No changes made to this image.

In-article images courtesy of @frankturner via instagram.com. No changes made to these images.

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