Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Politics, dancing, and heavy metal — an interview with Frank Turner

 “If we’re stuck on this ship and it’s sinking, then we might as well have a parade.”

Frank Turner plays Hoyt Sherman Place on May 4 with
Shovels and Rope co-headlining. Tickets are available no

This line from Love, Ire, & Song pretty much defines Frank Turner for me — or at least the emotion his music and lyrics inspire.

On first pass, Turner might seem to be another protest singer angered with the state of politics and politicians and shouting for revolution. Some of his work fits that that category for sure, but there's also a much more personal and actionable bent to his music.  

So while the revolution is (still) just a T-shirt away (apologies to Billy Bragg), Turner’s version is a bit different than others we’ve been sold.

It's more fun, for starters. The world may be fucked and all of us riding it into oblivion right along with it, but there’s still reason to be kind and loving; to embrace life and music and laughter and friendship, and do what we can to make things better in the remaining time we have.

Rather than raging against the machine and selling revolution, Turner's words and music encourage us to look inward; to fight our own personal revolutions in whatever form they exist.  

Maybe he’s right. Maybe, if we all worked on our own shit rather than cataloging every damn thing that sucks and telling others how to fix themselves, we could make our own worlds a little less horrible. Maybe things could get better. And if they don’t, well, at least we fucking tried, right?

Turner has tried, again and again through his career, to strike the right balance between the personal and the political. And he’s always managed to take this task on with an energy, enthusiasm, and a punk-rock attitude that is contagious, inspiring, catchy, and fun as hell.

Frank Turner, riding the crowd, "borrowed" from Instagram
His latest release, Be More Kind, is a perfect example. Maybe we can’t individually stop global warming or put Donald Trump behind bars, but we can all be more forgiving, communicative, and nicer to each other. And that can go a long way.

This idea is also not just words for Turner. He lives the philosophy as much as he can. His personal blog currently details a trip he made in January to Sierra Leone where he worked with WayOut Arts, a music charity that works with street youth and disadvantaged young people to encourage creative expression and teach skills that will help them succeed. Many of those they assist were combatants during the 10-year conflict in that country.

We won’t go into detail about his experience, but you should definitely have a look at his blog and read the amazing stories he shares there.

Since returning from Sierra Leone, Turner has been prepping for a U.S. tour that kicks off later this month. He’ll be stopping in Des Moines on May 4th at Hoyt Sherman Place, for a show he’ll co-headline with Shovels and Rope. Frank Turner in a venue like Hoyt Sherman is a show you really don’t want to miss.

Despite his busy schedule, Turner agreed to take some time for The Bigfoot Diaries and answer a few questions.

We’ve heard that you're a bit of a metalhead? Who are your favorites? 

“Basically, yes. My first love was Iron Maiden, and for a few years I was buried in metal, particularly thrash. Punk rock took over in my affections after a while, but I still listen to a lot of metal (though I'd hesitate to claim I was an out and out metalhead). Really heavy music scratches an itch for me - Converge are one of my all-time favorites. I love Pantera, Cannibal Corpse, Sabbath, etc.”
Check out Turner's "I Still Believe" here

Your latest album, Be More Kind, seems to focus on change and discovery on a personal level, rather than pointless fighting against a mad world. Was that an intentional progression or natural evolution?
“I was aiming to do something new with this record. I mean, I do that every time, I'm not interested in repeating myself, but this one especially was planned as a departure, both sonically and lyrically. I felt compelled to say something about the world as it currently is, in particular about the collapse in standards in our political discourse, and how worrying I think that is. We need to find ways of having reasonable discussions with people we disagree with, it's vital.”

Along those lines: Mixing pop and politics. What's the use?
“Haha, touché. I think art can be a vehicle for discussion (or anything else you want it to be). This was my two cents for now, I suspect I'll be discussing other things in future.”

Can we expect to see the dance moves you showed in the Little Changes video? Have you gotten any better since then?
“For the record, I was about 10% better at that dance routine than I am in the video, but the director said I needed to be a bit worse to make the gag work. That said, the whole point of the video is that dancing is not, truth be told, my forte. I shake about a bit onstage, but it's not exactly Nureyev.”

Deja Vu — Psychic phenomena or just a glitch in the matrix?
“It's a pretty well-documented mental phenomenon, is it not? Different spheres of the brain working at imperceptibly different speeds.”

What do like most (and least) about touring/traveling in the U.S.?
“I love touring the U.S. I learn so much. It's a huge country that constantly defies expectations and stereotypes in the most wonderful ways. The food that's available in between major cities could use some work, haha.”
Turner in Sierra Leone with WayOut Arts.

How did the trip to Sierra Leone and your work with WayOut Arts come about?"I got involved with WayOut Arts through the Joe Strummer Foundation, who I work with a lot. They've been funding WayOut for years, and a while back they asked me if I wanted to visit Sierra Leone to see what their money was going towards. I said yes, of course, it's a part of the world I'd never been to and knew nothing about. My first visit (which I wrote up extensively on my blog) was an incredible, educational experience. I've been back once since, and hope to go again before long. It's a wonderful place, and there is so much to do there in terms of helping people, so it feels like a very worthwhile use of my time."

We've seen you get tattooed backstage at Wembley and in the Losing Days video. Any interest in getting a new piece in Des Moines? We might know a guy...
“Uh, maybe. I'm getting a little more judicious with my choices on ink right now as I am starting to run out of space (!). But then I can usually be talked into something small and cool.”

Tickets for Frank Turner and the Bouncing Souls, co-headlining with Shovels and Rope are available now at the Hoyt Sherman Box office (1501 Woodland Ave. Des Moines) and at ticketbastard.