Latitude Preview: Frank Turner

The punk-folk maverick waxes lyrical about Henry Rollins, stoned festival goers and why Lady Gaga represents a whole new level of pointlessness

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For someone whose music sounds so quintessentially British, Frank Turner has great taste in American punk: two of his favourite bands are Dead Kennedys and Black Flag and he once covered a delicately titled song by Bad Brains called ‘Pay To Cum’. Even though his music doesn’t sound much like that from the American underground 80s punk scene, there is a definite influence from it. His music is a strange mix of folk and punk, written from his heart that is honest, political and full of humour. Having played for years with British punk band Million Dead, he went solo for good in 2006. His third solo album Poetry Of The Deed is out now and is set to play Latitude this Saturday night.

Dazed Digital: Who has inspired you the most in your life?
Frank Turner: Henry Rollins. Black Flag were kinda funny, as I get older his writings and what he’s done seem more or less important, but he’s a huge inspiration to me… and in joint first place is Bruce Springsteen 'cause I just think he’s the most incredible songwriter and performer.

DD: Do you think you need to be troubled to be a songwriter?
Frank Turner: (Laughs) that’s a good question! I don’t know, I think its hard to exist and be an intelligent adult in the world and not find some things troubling, so on that level, yeah. I don’t think that means you need to be a completely psychotic, messed up weirdo, but some degree of looking at the world through that kind of lens probably gives you some kind of spark.

DD: If you had a time machine where would you go?
Frank Turner: I think I’d probably go to some time in the 19th century, just because the Victorian age was kind of insane, so much changed at that time. That period probably witnessed the fastest rate of change you know in human history, I think it would be a really exciting time to be alive.

DD: How do you feel about festivals?
Frank Turner: Yeah, festivals are great. The only thing I don’t enjoy about them is sometimes the English festivals are not particularly well organised in the grand scheme of things, sometimes it can be a real headache when you’re trying to organise a band of people being in the right place at the right time for a show and everybody who works there is stoned. Then it’s kind of a car crash. But I love going to festivals, I love it when they’re kind of chaotic, when you're just not entirely sure what the hell is going on. What band is playing and what field you’re in, I like that kind of feeling. Also, musically you can make a lot of new friends. A lot of people kind of swing by and give you chance who haven’t paid to come to the show.

DD: Do you think modern lyrics are as involved in politics as they used to be?
Frank Turner: There’s people out there writing political songs, at least Billy Bragg’s still writing songs. I think pop music, as in the Top 40 stuff is not quite what it once was, If you look at pop music today, I think the quality of what people refer to as pop music has gone down in the last 15 years. Lady Gaga is I think a new level of pointlessness, and it’s become a lot more karaoke than it used to be. I was watching TV the other day and Jedward came on and a friend of mine pointed out they were lip-syncing to a cover of a cover.

DD: If you could be an animal, what animal would you be?
Frank Turner: I would quite like to be a dog, like a springer spaniel or something like that. I grew up with a lot of dogs and I always thought it was like, 'man, you guys got the life!' Get up, eat roll around a bit, sleep. As long as you got a family that looks after a dog properly I reckon that’s me sorted, I’d be pretty happy with that.

DD: What scares you?
Frank Turner: Running out of time scares me, I spend a lot of time waking up in the middle of the night thinking, 'Fucking hell we’re all gonna die!' I’m getting older and there’s so many things to do, places to go, people to meet, things to experience... that kind of puts a fear in me. But it’s kind of a healthy fear. It makes me want to get up and do stuff.

DD: What do you think of the X Factor?
Frank Turner: The thing I always think about that is one of my favourite singers is Neil Young, and he’s got the fucking weirdest voice. He would probably be on the comedy reel, like the kind of people who didn’t make it, yet he’s one of the greatest singers in the world. The thing about X Factor is that a lot of people, including me, spend a lot of energy getting angry about that kind of thing and actually, as I get older I think that’s a waste of time, what they’re making is entertainment, it's not music, it's like all round entertainment: all-singing all-dancing. There's always been that kind of stuff, and there’s always going to be that kinda of stuff. It's much healthier to just ignore it. I just think there are better ways to spend my time than spending my whole life going 'aargh!' at Simon Cowell. Although having said that, the one thing I cannot fucking understand is that he, with all of the money that he’s got in his life, can’t afford a decent haircut, he’s got fucking corners in his haircut, it's ridiculous. It pisses me off it really does.

DD: Is there any thing you’d tried to write a song about but couldn’t?
Frank Turner: Yeah, a few things actually, there’s stuff that I haven’t finished. I've been trying to write a song about my grandmother for quite along time but I’ve never quite got it right, I’m actually in the middle of having another go at the moment, but it’s something that I’ve gotta get exactly right to be happy with it.

DD: What was so cool about your grandma?
Frank Turner: She was like a crazy old lady but she was just awesome, she didn’t give a shit. She introduced all of her grandchildren to drinking and smoking at a ridiculously young age. When I was like, 11, we were playing cards and she asked me if I had ever tried whisky and I said, 'No' I’m 11,' and she was like, 'Well, you should,' and gave me the best shot of whisky ever. I was fucked. She just didn’t care about what people thought of her and just kept on having a really good time until she was like 85.

DD: Who are you going to see at Latitude?
Frank Turner: You know what I’m not actually 100 per cent sure who’s playing at Latitude. But I think Laura Marling is playing so I’ll go and see her 'cause she’s an old friend and I haven’t seen her in ages, and she’s amazing. But it’s a great festival so I’ll probably just wonder round and see what I find.

Latitude is on from 15 July to 18 July at Henham Park, Southwold, Sunrise Coast, Suffolk
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