STAR INTERVIEW: After the O2 and Wembley, it’s time for the Roadmender

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Where do you go after playing Wembley Stadium, London’s O2 Arena and during part of the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympics?

Well, if you’re folk punk singer songwriter Frank Turner you knuckle down and carry on – while somehow also finding time to ‘scratch a hardcore itch’, work on your first book and win Celebrity Mastermind.

One of the UK’s hardest touring performers, Turner has lofty ambitions, explaining “I want to make a record as good as Born to Run”.

WOW caught up with Turner ahead of his return to Northampton’s Roadmender this month with his band The Sleeping Souls.

“There’s a couple of different targets we’re trying to hit with the tour,” he explains.

“I say this with the up-most respect for the people of Northampton - but we’re deliberately trying to go to some of the less well known towns of the UK.

“Bands will just play Birmingham, London and Manchester, Glasgow and Bristol at a push. It’s boring.

“We did it in February and we want to do something different this time. We want to bring the show to people.

“The guy who plays keys in my band rejoices at telling me he saw Faith No More at the Roadmender and tortures me with this information.”

Turner will head back into the studio in October to begin recording the follow up to his fifth album Tape Deck Heart and on will be road-testing new material on this tour.

“We’ve got about 20 new songs and the plan is to whittle it down as we go” he explains.

“I think we’ll play a good five to seven new songs as part of a 25 song set so there will be good mix of new and old stuff.”

The release of TDH saw Turner’s career continue on an upward trajectory, taking the former Million Dead singer across the world again.

Looking back on the album, he admits it was good to tackle what he describes as a difficult album.

“With the proviso I can never be objective about the music I make or about my career and with the benefit of hindsight, it feels like a record I needed to make and get out of my system,” he explains.

“It was quite a dark record and about a difficult time in my life.

“On a creative and personal level, it was quite liberating to say that chapter in my life has closed and I can write about more upbeat subjects.”

He admits while the success of the album saw his band embark on their first area tour, he still doesn’t feel like an established arena act.

“When I’m writing, I try not to think about other parts of my career,” he says.

“The onus is on me to justify why anyone should give a damn because a band releasing its sixth album is usually not a massively exciting event.

“I’m quite driven to find a new creative position and make a bold creative statement and do something which is worthwhile – something which is not me just treading water.

“I ticked off most bucket list things a long time ago. That doesn’t mean I’m jaded or bored, it just means that I can take everything with a pinch of salt.

“If I end up headlining stadiums great - but if I’m back playing 500 capacity clubs I’ll do that too.”

Turner explains some of the material which may make it onto the new record is “more direct” and more “punk rock at heart”, in comparison to its predecessor which he describes as “dense and layered in places.”

“The songs are quite positive and the general vibe is more about dusting yourself down after a fight and carrying on with your life,” he says.

“There’s a degree of being the survivor of a ship wreck and making it to land but then saying ‘What now’. It has an element of hope to it which Tape Deck Heart didn’t have.”

Between albums with The Sleeping Souls, Turner formed Mongol Horde – a hardcore trio sharing more in common with his days in Million Dead than his current output.

“It was a lot of fun and scratched a creative itch,” he admits, “It was the chance to do something I can’t do with my day job.

“There was something about using part of my music palate which wasn’t being used and I also wanted to play in a band again with my friend Ben from Million Dead. I missed him personally and musically and it was great fun.

“There’s something great about coming off stage dripping in sweat on your knees and panting. It’s been quiet liberating in a way.”

While the trio recorded and released an album and played a short tour, the band is on a hiatus while Turner returns to his ‘day job’.

If Turner isn’t already busy enough with a UK tour and a new album to record, he’s also in the process of writing a book.

Despite initially rebutting the idea when a publisher got in touch, after writing about a dozen pages and consulting friends, he agreed to do it.

“I’ve read a lot of Henry Rollins’ tour diaries which were really inspirational to me, I used to read Get In The Van religiously as a kid,” he explains.

“One thing I will say – writing is hard! A lot is mentally stored. I can’t read or write music so ideas need to be good enough to stick in my brain and it’s the same with words.

“It starts with the last Million Dead show and will probably wrap up with the show we did at Wembley which was two years ago but it’s a decent end point for a narrative arc. It also means I can write part two if this part doesn’t kill me.”

Earlier this year, Turner joined poet John Cooper Clarke, Ben Faulks from CBeebies and entertainer Roy Hudd on Celebrity Mastermind.

Representing the charity Shelter, Turner won the show and remains proud of is appearance.

“It’s one of the favourite things I’ve done,” he admits. “I was a geek as a kid, and we used to talk about Mastermind quite a lot.

“I’ve always wanted to be on it and all my old friends knew that Iron Maiden was going to be my specialist subject.

“I was definitely way more bothered about winning than anyone else was.

“It raised money for people who really need it and I got a little glass trophy which is on my mantelpiece at home.

“I could maybe have chosen a subject like Black Flag, Balkan history in the 1930s or I could probably have had a go at the Russian revolution - but music was always more of my obsession than history.”

Returning to the present, Frank Turner’s follow up to Tape Deck Heart is likely to be released in the early part of next year.

Pushed on what he’s wants to achieve, his answer is simple – he’ll keep going until he’s made a record he believes is a good as Springsteen’s 1975 masterpiece.

Frank Turner plays Northampton’s Roadmender on Thursday, April 18.

Visit http://bit.ly/1u0uBg4 for ticket details