INTERVIEW: Frank Turner ready to rock Hartlepool

Frank Turner. Picture by Guitierrez
Frank Turner. Picture by Guitierrez
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READING a list of Frank Turner’s live dates (and giving up count), you begin to wonder if the singer-songwriter ever takes a day off.

China, Finland, America, Australia, Vietnam - the list of countries, never mind venues, played in the last 18 month is mindboggling. And for Turner, there’s nowhere else he’d rather be but on the stage.

“If people ask me what I do, I say I’m a professional entertainer. I’m all about making sure people have a great time,” said Turner.

“I love playing live music, it’s the favourite thing that I do. Studio recording is something I find more of a struggle. It’s great to be in front of a crowd.”

The past ten years have seen folk rocker edge his way up from playing pub gigs to performing at the Olympic opening ceremony and selling out Wembley Arena.

His latest UK tour sees him returning to more slightly more humble surroundings in venues usually left out of big act’s touring circuit, including a date at Hartlepool’s Borough Hall on September 24.

“I last played Hartlepool in 2006 to about 20 people in a pub, so to be coming back and playing Borough Hall represents incredible progress for me,” he said.

“Over the last five years I’ve tried to alternate with UK tours; one time the A-list venues: Manchester, Birmingham; and next time do smaller places.

“I’m from Winchester, which is not on the usual touring circuit, so when a band played there it was the best thing ever. I’d get really excited.

“It’s about having respect for your audience.”

No gig seems too small for the folk rocker, who even took his talents to the streets last year with legendary left-wing singer-songwriter Billy Bragg in a busking session to raise funds for homelessness charity Shelter.

“That was really great. I did a bunch of stuff for Shelter last year and that was a great experience. Bill’s a lovely guy. He’s one of the greatest songwriters ever and he really supports new people coming up,” he said.

Not that Turner himself seems in any need of support. Album success, performances at some of the world’s top venues, and even even winning Celebrity Mastermind with his specialist subject of Iron Maiden are just a few of his career highlights.

Yet the musician admits he is often at a loss as to the ever-increasing popularity of his boisterous brand of punky folk rock.

“It’s just such a relief and a pleasure to me that people like the songs that I write. There are some days that I have a downer and can’t figure out why (they like them), but it’s great that they do,” he said.

But Turner’s career has often seem him thrown brickbats as well as bouquets. Outspoken remarks and what he calls his “unfashionable” libertarian views have left him no stranger to social media storms.

The musician said he experienced 100 death threats a day after an erroneous article in The Guardian stated he was right wing in his political views.

He also faced accusations he was mocking the disabled when he appeared at Reading Festival in a wheelchair. Turner was reenacting Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain’s 1992 stunt at the same festival, as well as making light of a back injury which had seen him miss out on earlier gigs.

“That really p****d me off,” said Turner. “The internet has done many wonderful things, but unfortunately it’s also given everybody the opportunity to be a complete d**khead to somebody else.

“Using twitter or whatever it only takes five seconds to be incredibly offensive to somebody.”

He added: “First of all, I was referencing something Kurt Cobain did in 1992. Secondly, I genuinely did have a back injury.”

Turner promises he’s now back in full stage fitness after slipping two discs at the same time, and the injury hasn’t calmed down his stage routine.

“I have learned to come back down a bit better from a jump in a way that’s easier on my back, but yeah, I’m back in action now,” he said.

•Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls perform at Hartlepool’s Borough Hall on Wednesday September 24. His latest album Tape Deck Heart is on sale now.