BIG INTERVIEW Frank Turner: 'No-one comes to a Frank Turner gig to be "seen" or to be "cool"'

Frank Turner at Victorious Festival, 2017. Picture by Paul Windsor.
Frank Turner at Victorious Festival, 2017. Picture by Paul Windsor.
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Punk frontman-turned-troubador Frank Turner is releasing his seventh solo album Be More Kind a week today and he couldn’t be more excited.

'I’m feeling great, it feels good to have endured this long in the music industry,' and to release what he says is one of the best records he has made in his career.

'It’s exciting and surprising to be releasing a seventh album.'

And the Meonstoke-born artist can’t wait to get back out on the road with the new material

Be More Kind represents a thematic and sonic line in the sand for the 36-year-old. It’s a record that combines universal anthems with raw emotion and the political and the personal, with the intricate folk and punk roar trademarks of Turner’s sound imbued with new bold experimental shades. Where his two previous albums – 2015’s Positive Songs For Negative People and 2013’s Tape Deck Heart – were, as Frank puts it, about 'affairs of the heart', Be More Kind is a record about his reaction to the outside world.

'I feel like the world is becoming a less easily understandable place and a much more terrifying place. It’s a record about how we, collectively and individually as humans, react to a scarier and more hostile world.'

Be More Kind get its name from a Clive James poem entitled Leçons Des Ténèbres in which the terminally ill writer and raconteur (one of Frank’s favourites) talks about the end of his life: ‘I should have been more kind. It is my fate. To find this out, but find it out too late.’

And to Frank, it is more than just an album title: 'It’s a gentle piece of advice.'

Although he is well aware that 'being more kind won’t solve all the problems in the world but it's not a bad start.

'If there is any finger pointing or message delivering on the album, I hope it is clear that it is directed at myself as much as anybody else,' says Frank. 'I very much had to take my own advice.'

Frank Turner and The Sleeping Souls live.

Frank Turner and The Sleeping Souls live.

With the album exploring new directions for Frank, he is looking forward to hearing the reaction from his fans: 'Hopefully people will react positively, but we’ll see.'

Frank admits that stepping out of his comfort zone to create the album has been a difficult one.

'It’s an important thing for artists to do, and I decided to do it more on this one than on previous records. I just like messing around with different technology, loops and synthesizers and so on.

'With this record, and with every other, if other people hear it and enjoy it I’ll be extremely grateful and flattered. But if they don’t, that won’t change my opinion of the album. My aim was to satisfy my own creative urges and make what I think is the best record I’ve ever made.'

Frank has achieved a lot in his career. He has played sold-out arena tours, had a brace of number two charting records, written a book and even released a movie. However, one of the most intriguing developments was when he was asked by Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle to start the London 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony. 'Being asked to do something like that was totally surreal. It was flattering to be asked by Danny Boyle himself.'

Frank was concerned about the reaction from his fans to this potentially massive career-boosting opportunity.

'I thought an influx of people checking out what I do might in some way swamp the people who’ve been supporting me for a long time, but it didn’t work out that way. There was definitely an uplift of people interested in who I am and what I do but it was just a nice boost of what had already happened.'

And he is acutely aware of the curious space he occupies: 'I’m not underground, but I’m not overground either. I guess maybe that means I’m "cult". I’m definitely not a mainstream artist.'

Frank has sold out Wembley Arena, Alexandra Palace and four consecutive nights at the Roundhouse in Camden but can still walk down the road largely untroubled.

He recounts how often he sees pop stars come and go, but he has managed to stick around. 'In a way that doesn’t sound cruel, I’ve got used to the hoards of "hangers on" and photographers freely passing me in one direction with somebody, and I’ve got no idea who they are – and I know that six months later they’ll be gone.'

'And an awful lot of people have no idea who I am and don’t know my name. I’m fine with that. And it does tend to mean that the people that are into my music have purer motives. No-one as of yet has come to a Frank Turner gig to be "seen" or to be "cool", do you know what I mean? And I think that’s awesome. I’d like to maintain that If I could.'

So with all these milestones ticked off the bucket list, what's left?

'Well a number one album is quite high up my list. I’m hoping we pull it off this time, we’ve had two number twos”. While the first was 'completely unexpected', the second 'was extremely frustrating,' as Frank was heading for number one before the surprise release of Compton, rap giant Dr Dre’s first album in 16 years.

'I’m hoping that no more hip-hop megastars have unexpected albums up their sleeves this time around…'

Frank Turner and The Sleeping Souls play the O2 Guildhall in Southampton on Tuesday, doors 7pm. Tickets £32.05. Go to frank-turner.com/live-gigs.

SIMON NEAL