Frank Turner returns to punk rock on FTHC
It’s common for artists to say these days they don’t care about genre, but Frank Turner really don’t care about gender. We’re not talking about going from indie to alternative or anything like that here, but a punk rocker (who often bridged folk, punk and other forms of English with an acoustic guitar ) which is releasing an electro-pop album followed by a “history podcast” album. Yes, his most recent album in the “before times” of 2019, No Man’s Landis based on famous women throughout history who have had to struggle against gender norms (“You can imagine how thrilled my record company was about that one”).
But now the man who used a logo saying FTHC for years is finally releasing probably the closest thing to a proper hardcore album he’ll ever make under his own name – aptly titled FTHCIt’s not exactly the punk rock you’d get from his side project, Möngöl Hörde (which Turner says will soon return in some form, perhaps with a different name), but it certainly leans more towards the punk side of things rather than the folk and pop sounds that Turner experimented with in the past.
Before the release of FTHC (released February 11 via Xtra Mile) TURN sitting on a Zoom video call with the hoodie-wearing veteran songwriter about his last work and his decade and a half in the industry.
TURN: It’s been almost three years since you released your last album — which is a long layoff for you — so what should people expect FTHC?
Frank Turner: Well, it’s my ninth album – which is ridiculous to say out loud – and every time I get to that point in the [album] cycle, I say “I think it’s the best job I’ve done.” The thing is, I’m aware that’s what I say every time. If I didn’t say that, I would still have to work on it right now in the studio. Sounds like a pretty confident statement to me. Anyway, the phrase “back to basics” is overused and a cliché, and it’s not strictly true in this case either because my early records didn’t sound like that. But this one is more a return to the sources of my musical tastes. For years I’ve been making music that’s arguably ‘punk rock with an adjective’, and I felt like dropping the adjective this time around. I was going to give free rein to my first musical instincts rather than trying to deflect my first impressions.
Since you’re sort of on the border between the punk and singer-songwriter worlds, did it feel different to make a “more” punk rock album this time around?
You know the title FTHC been floating around in my head for a while, and I’ve been using the “FTHC” logo for years. I’m sure a lot of Americans know what that refers to, but a lot of people don’t. They think it means “haute couture”, because I keep telling them that when it’s on a t-shirt. There was a moment when I thought maybe I should do a full hardcore punk record, but suddenly it felt a little too predetermined. I prefer to let my songs happen in a way of their choosing. I think we can say the needle is further to the left of the dial than usual for me, but there’s a range of things in there.
As a songwriter, how does it affect you to be able to dabble in whatever genre or style you feel for a particular song?
Well, it’s quite liberating, and I think it’s helped me survive for so long. To be frank, not many people manage to make a ninth album – and there are certainly no clichés about “the difficult ninth album” that I have to negotiate. It’s not like “Oh, the ninth classic!” other than Beethoven. But there’s also a release in the fact that it’s my name on the records, not a band name. If you were a particular kind of furious, anal, masculine, metal fa – and I say man on purpose – you could argue that if a band like Metallica changed their sound so drastically, maybe they should use a band name different. But to me, that’s my fucking name, gentlemen. This is me playing guitar, singing and writing. What the fuck are you gonna do about this? I used to write certain songs and then file them in my brain in the side project folder, but now I’m like, ‘why the fuck? I can do it myself. I know how to do it.” It’s fun to be so stylistically open and just enjoy it.
Your first album, Sleep is for the week, just turned 15 last month. Nine albums in your career, how does it feel to look back on that?
You know, one of the most annoying questions I get asked in interviews much worse than this is “What is the achievement you’re most proud of as a musician?” and I always answer this question with “That I always fuck here, gentlemen.” Slingshots and arrows were thrown at me, but I was also very lucky. As for the anniversary of the record, my first album has its first work. He makes a paper itinerary. It’s take out drinks in the back of the grocery store. I did an interview the other day with a student newspaper, and the interviewers started by telling me that they were 4 years old when it came out. I was like, ‘Why do you know who I am, gentlemen? Why don’t you care? But also, how beautiful what you’ve done.
It’s a strange thing. I quite consciously operate with a degree of insecurity – I think partly because my character tends that way. I’ve spent a lot of my life thinking that any minute the reality police are going to be knocking on the door to tell me there’s been a gross mistake and it’s all meant to be. happen to someone else. I started with a lot of musicians who are just as talented but couldn’t do that. There’s a degree of luck and luck involved, and I’m very aware of that. But I also think it’s not a terrible discipline to have a hint of insecurity in your character, because the alternative seems a bit crude to me.