"I've done a tonne of writing, but I'm not in a hurry to make another record, I don't need to be" – hmv.com talks to Frank Turner
Three years ago if you'd said to Frank Turner that he'd been getting ready for his first full UK arena tour, he'd probably have laughed, but, after a successful sell-out show at Wembley Arena in 2012 he's taking the plunge for real this time, playing a full arena tour that includes a stop at London's O2 Arena.
We sat down with him to talk about touring, his plans for the follow-up to last year's Tape Deck Heart and how, after years of relentless touring, it was 2013 that finally really tired him out…
You're about to head out on your biggest UK tour to date, how are you feeling ahead of it?
"The short answer to that is good. It's a big, strange undertaking for me, playing shows of this size, but I'm excited to get my teeth into it and go outside of my comfort zone."
You played Wembley Arena back in 2012, did that give you a taste for arenas?
"For me, that show proved that me and my crew and my band could pull off a show in that context. There's a lot of people who seem to think that there's a direct correlation between the size of the show and the intimacy of the show and how good the show is."
"I don't think it's that simple, I've seen Bruce Springsteen be intimate in front of 60,000 people and I've seen a lot of bands be aloof in same rooms. There's no direct line. It's harder to be intimate for sure, but I feel strongly that I'd like everyone who wants to come should be able to come, so I'm happy to do bigger rooms."
The other option is doing lots of shows at the same venue, you didn't fancy that?
"That idea has always seemed slightly bogus to me. When I was a kid I always felt like I was never on the right mailing lists and I'd miss out on stuff and I didn't want that for my own career. We could do three shows at Brixton Academy rather than one show at the O2, we could also do 365 shows at the Barfly, but there are time constraints…"
So does this kind of tour mean a much bigger production?
"It means a bigger crew, my crew are great anyway, they work far harder than I do! I feel like you do have to paint in broader strokes, but I've always been quite inspired by Bruce and The E Street Band, they don't do costume changes, they don't do pyrotechnics, no revolving stages, none of that shit, they're just a good rock n'roll, that's always much more interesting to be than having giant inflatables."
How hard is it to pick the set list now?
"It's harder now, I've always felt like it's been a fine art, I spend a lot of my day thinking about it. I hate going to see bands when they just play the new record and no old stuff, but at the same time, I don't want to constantly do the same thing over and over. I aim for the middle ground.
Tape Deck Heart came out in April last year, have you made a start on the follow-up?
"I've done a tonne of writing, but I'm not in a hurry to make another record and I don't need to be. I could and, at one point, the plan was to go back into the studio in April this year, but we've decided to take another month or so to let songs and ideas breathe. My next album will be my sixth, I'm in no hurry to make my sixth album, I want to and I will, but it doesn't need to be right now."
You came to arrangement with major label Interscope for the release of Tape Deck Heart, how did that go? Did it make a big difference to the campaign?
"In America certainly, we had more success there. Also, I used to think I knew what hard work was, but I now know that was plainly untrue, Interscope's schedule for the last album cycle was mind-blowingly intense."
Would you like to do it again for the next record?
"We are doing it again for the next one yeah. I was in two minds about it, some aspects of it are good, some are problematic. I like to think I've done a reasonable job of maintaining my integrity."
You recorded the last album in Los Angeles, would you like to record back in the UK next time?
"I'm not precious about nationality when it comes to recording anymore, though I certainly used to be. It always depends on the songwriting and the direction I want to go in."
You've had the same line-up in your backing band for a long time now, does it feel a bit more like you're in a band rather than a singer?
"It's a funny, delicate thing actually. On the one hand I don't want it to be me plus a bunch of random hired hands who no-one knows anything about, but I also don't want to be in a band, because otherwise I would be. The guys in the Sleeping Souls are phenomenal musicians, but I think we've got the balance right."
You launched a hardcore side-project Mongol Horde back in 2012, how's that going?
"We're very slowly working on the album, but it's been done in-between things. The album's finished and is being mixed, it's going be out later this year and we'll do a tour. It's a fun thing, I'm putting a lot of effort into it, but I'm not taking it too seriously, it's a side project. It's a letting off steam kind of vibe, hopefully we'll get to do some shows this summer too."
So after you finish the UK tour what does the rest of 2014 look like?
"We've got lots lined-up. But, I have to say, 2013 was the most intense working year of my life and it definitely took it out of me. 2014 will be a bit more restrained, especially as we want to hit 2015 with a new record. But that's restrained by my standards, there'll be lots of touring and festivals."
What made it so intense? It's not like you're not used to touring hard?
"The work schedule was considerably over and above anything I've done before. I'm not complaining, I want to work hard and be successful, but when I actually finish touring last year and I actually thought 'Wow, I need a break', which is a bit of a new thing."
Finally, what albums did you love last year?
"The main one was this guy called Will Varley, I stumbled across him by accident and he's mind-numbingly brilliant."