“It’s like watching a trial run of your own obituary....” - Frank Turner opens up about his new documentary Get Better
He might be in the middle of another exhaustive UK tour in support of his sixth studio album Positive Songs For Negative People, but Frank Turner also has another project on the go, starring in a new film, a documentary about a particularly troubled year in his life.
Get Better: A Film About Frank Turner has been directed and filmed entirely by Turner’s close friend Ben Morse and follows Turner through a year of his life. Initially the film was expected to follow the singer as he made a record and took it out on tour, but quickly developed into something else when Turner and new label Polydor fell out over the direction of the album, leaving Turner feeling compromised for the first time in his career.
Speaking to hmv.com he talks making the film, how he navigated the fall out and his plans for his next studio album...
How did the idea to do the film come about?
“Ben is an old friend, he does all our music videos and he’s our tour photographer and he pitched to me the idea of doing a film, a kind of year in the life, a look at the guy who never stops working. Because he’s someone I trust enormously and always around, it made sense, so we said yes.”
Were there other rock documentaries you looked to for inspiration?
“I wasn’t interested in being part of a hagiography, a film that just kisses someone’s arse from beginning to end, those films are boring and I want to see something that’s real and explores all sides of someone’s characters. The best example to me is Dig!, the movie about the Brian Jonestown Massacre and the Dandy Warhols. Neither of those are bands are into musically, but that film gets right to the heart of who those people are.”
Were you careful to leave Ben alone and not ask too many questions along the way?
“I was, obviously I’m promoting the film, but this is very much Ben’s piece of art. There were a lot of moments along the way where we all genuinely forgot that he was filming, which is good, moments like that add a lot more truth.”
What was it like watching it for the first time?
“Agonising. It was strange too because the initial plot and concept we came up with, the idea of documenting the guy who never stops working, that fell away a month into it. I had a titanic argument with my record label and everything stopped, I went down this huge rabbit hole in my personal life and it all got very dark. All that is on film so when I watched it and he asked me if I wanted anything taken out because it made me uncomfortable I said no because the entire thing makes me uncomfortable! It’s like watching a trial run of your own obituary. People are talking about you in the third person the whole time, it’s very weird to watch that.”
How have you found opening up about your battle with Polydor? That wasn’t particularly talked about when the album came out…
“I do have to be careful with that side of things and it’s also worth saying that we have made our peace since then. There was a clash over the direction I was going in, it was the first time my career integrity has been called into question and I was being pushed in a direction that I really didn’t want to go in. I stood my ground and I’m very proud that I did, I got my happy ending and I made the record I wanted to make, but it was a very challenging moment.”
It was the second album you’ve done with Polydor after previously just being with Xtra Mile so all this must be quite new to you…
“I’m still on Xtra Mile but licensed to Polydor, which was a situation I went into with my eyes open, I was prepared for there to be issues with this kind of thing, but being prepared and the reality are quite different things.”
You’re on tour at the moment, is that the plan for the foreseeable future?
“The plan was to do two years of promotion for Positive Songs For Negative People and that’s what we’ll do so we’ll be touring until next summer. But before then I am hoping to get some studio time, I’ve been writing endlessly and I’ve got lots of material. Having gone through what we did with the last album I feel like I’m armed for the next one.”
You’ve made your last two records in America, would you like to stay in England this time?
“The main thing for me is the choice of producer and that’s still an open question. To make a record for me you need to have a personal connection with a producer and although I’ve got some ideas about the direction I want to go in, I haven’t met the producer to help me get there yet.”
Are there any of your previous collaborators who you might go back to?
“With Positive Songs For Negative People getting Butch Walker was the key that unlocked the whole situation, he was the right producer then, but I don’t think he’s the right person for this next one. So if I meet an American and they’re the right fit then we’ll go to America and if I don’t then we won’t.”
Finally, you’ve just announced your Lost Evenings run of shows at the Roundhouse in London, what can you tell us about them?
“It’s effectively my own festival. It’s going to be great, we’ve got a gazillion bands playing and loads of community involvement, it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Get Better: A Film About Frank Turner is released into cinemas for one night only on December 13th.