Frank Turner has long held the standing of the voice of a generation.
His folk punk anthems have given his fans a home in his community, at his shows and with the pandemic, even in the comfort of his livestreams. His legendary status is so strongly established that it was even recognised by Fat Mike of NOFX, who approached him to ask to do a covers record. Mutual admiration between both artists led to what became West Coast Vs Wessex, where the So-Cal punk kings covered some of their faves from Turner’s back catalogue and vice versa. We caught up with Frank to chat about what he’s been up to since the record.
How is being a member of the music scene going for you right now?
It’s definitely a very strange and difficult year. I do a number of different things for a living, but what I do most of the time and what brings in most of my living, is being a travelling, performing musician. And what that means, is that my job is based around travel, and around gathering people together in confined spaces. And it turns out that neither of those things are particularly well advised during a global pandemic. So, I feel like the current situation has landed pretty heavily on my industry and my career and all the rest of it. I’ve been trying to sort of keep busy and keep sane and keep constructive, I guess would be a way of putting it. I did a whole series of campaigns for independent venues here in the UK. Like, doing fundraising shows myself and I did the first gig since lockdown started indoors which was a kind of government pilot show thing.
How did you get involved in doing a government pilot?
Well, it’s funny actually. Me and the band who did the show all laughed at the fact that we have our names on a poster that has government-endorsed written on it, which really isn’t a thing that any of us a would have thought would’ve happened in our lives. But basically, I’ve been working with a group called The Music Venue Trust over here. I guess as a thank you, because I raised about 200,000 pounds there for different venues, off my own back doing livestream shows, they asked me to be the person who did the gig.
NOFX re-recorded your song ‘Thatcher Fucked The Kids’ for this record, so I did think the government collab was a bit ironic! How did you work with NOFX on the actual process?
Well in a way, this is one of the coolest parts of it, is that once we had agreed to do this bit, and kind of laid out the terms, as it were, we then didn’t have any contact at all. The first I’d heard of anything I was starting to play with the finished mixes, and vice versa. First of all, it’s kind of, trust and confidence on both sides, that both Mike and I was confident that the other person would just handle it. Do you know what I mean? And would do it well. So yeah, it was just kind of like… In a way it was like, go and do your thing. Do your imprint. For me, I got to listen to NOFX’s side of the play, kind of. And as any other listener would do.
“At the moment, there are a lot of people making announcements and booking shows for next year. I think it’s slightly questionable, personally, because we have no idea when actually doing shows will be possible again.”
It sounds like you had a pretty good experience with NOFX. Have you had the opposite experience with bands that you’ve been fans of previously?
Not really. Not with bands that I absolutely love. First of all, if you bound up to somebody, as you’re a musician yourself, and you kind of go, you changed my life… You’d have to be a real dickhead to take that badly. But also, I do think that there is some mile of saying that to an extent, people who survive through long periods of time in the music industry, they’ve kind of got to be personable on some level. There’s obviously exceptions to this. And particularly I think at the top end of the pop world. But in my world, it’s a bit like, if you treat the people around you like shit, then you’re just not going to last that long, because word will get around, and people are just going to stop working with you, or trying to help or whatever, do you know what I mean?
That’s a really interesting answer. But then there are still some exceptions, of course.
Of course there are. I had a daft run in a few years ago with…Oh, I can’t even remember her name now. Nicki Minaj, that’s it. I had no idea who she was. I had no idea who she was, but she was at a festival being a little vigorous. The thing that really bugged me, was that her security team were aggressively harassing the local crew. And the whole situation was really shitty. I said something about it on Twitter, and I’d honestly never heard of her before, and wasn’t aware that she had 16 million followers on Twitter and then found myself in the middle of a hate storm. Because it turns out that her teenage fan group threw a tantrum for her, which I guess is fair enough. But she was acting like a fucking bitch. But that’s a slightly different world to the one that I operate in, do you know what I mean? It’s like, I didn’t grow up idolising or caring about pop music very much. It’s a different world.
That rings true. So what’s next for you from here?
Most of what I usually do is touring. I can’t really do that at the moment, but I’m hoping that that comes back again, sooner rather than later. At the moment, there are a lot of people making announcements and booking shows for next year. I think it’s slightly questionable, personally, because we have no idea when actually doing shows will be possible again. I think that it’s going to depend on a vaccine, personally. So, touring is kind of off. I’m sort of supposed to be making other records this year. Whether or not I’m actually going to get to do that is an interesting question, because I was supposed to be going to LA to make a record, and I can’t currently get there. So, a lot of my life is kind of on hold at the minute. One of the things that I’ve been doing during lockdown, is teaching myself how to mix and produce records properly. So, at the moment I’m mixing records for other people, and hopefully I can start recording records for other people quite soon.
They announced Download or something in the UK already and I thought the same thing. How are the international bands going to get there?
No, totally. I strongly agree. The thing is, I know some people who run that festival, they’re good people. They’re not trying to rip people off, or anything. I think they’re just being wildly optimistic. But at the same time, I had this exact same reaction. I saw the announcement, and I was like, how fuck are you going to promise to do that?