Interview: Frank Turner @ 2000 Trees 2019

2000 Trees is somewhat of a heartland for Frank Turner fans. Characterised by his consistent appearances and the iconic ‘Camp Turner’ at the entrance to the main campsite, there’s a certain folk music undertone to the Gloucestershire heavy rock festival. Turner performed three sets in total this year – the announced main stage Thursday headline show with The Sleeping Souls, the Friday night Axiom headliner with hardcore side project Möngöl Hörde and a not-so-secret acoustic set at past midnight on Thursday under the moniker ‘Giant Fucking Wasp.’ In light of the announcement of and turbulent response to new concept record ‘No Man’s Land’ which focusses on overlooked influential women in history, I caught up with Frank for a quick chat about Trees and No Man’s Land.

2000 Trees – this is like your 11th show at the festival or something like that –

“Something like that yeah, I’ve stopped counting.”

What makes it special for you?

“It’s a lovely size, it’s a lovely vibe, they have great line-ups, it’s really well put together. James and Andy who run the festival are old friends – I played the first year here. More broadly, I generally tend to be quite cynical about the word ‘scene’ per se because it quite often turns out to be a thing that journalists think is happening and nobody else does – no offence. But at this point in 2019 I can say that for the last 10-15 years there is sort of a thing going on and it’s best summed up by things like Xtra Mile Recordings, Lost Evenings and then 2000 Trees – a sort of annual gathering for that tribe, and I’m very happy to be part of it.”

Sister Rosetta just came out, it’s more of a grounded folk-rock tune. You’ve said from now on you’re always going in different musical directions – what’ve you got up your sleeve?

“The new record No Man’s Land is coming out – this is the thing – I don’t think of myself like Brian Eno, I’m not reinventing the wheel, I just wanna make sure I’m not repeating myself. But with the new record there’s a jazz tune on there which took some doing, there’s a Byzantine Greek hymn, there’s a Christmas song –”

It’s not a reworked How the Communists Ruined Christmas then?

“No no no it’s not, it’s a slightly more normal Christmas song but it is about a mass grave of medieval prostitutes so there’s that.”

There’s been a mixed response to the whole No Man’s Land prospect – I haven’t read it because honestly it’s just depressing –

“I stopped reading social media a while back.”

Did you expect that kind of thing?

“You know what I did, and I’m gonna say that not all of it is dumb and there are interesting and intelligent points to be raised, and when people raise interesting and intelligent points it is behoven to me to answer them as best I can. I’ve obviously been thinking about it a lot in advance – I’m not an idiot I was aware that there’s a certain degree of controversy about me deciding to make this record. I’ve argued it through with myself, I’ve tried to present it in a way which I think is valid and respectful, but I’m prepared to have that conversation with people. I’m less interested in bad faith slagging matches in 140 characters – that seems kinda boring to me, but I actively want to have those conversations when they’re sensible and grown up. I’ve had like a million conversations about Sister Rosetta Tharpe in the last few weeks with people who’ve never heard of her before, and that in itself is what I was trying to achieve.”

You’ve at least got the conversation started.

“Exactly, and I’ve tried to come at the record and the podcast and everything I do as a student rather than a teacher. So I know what I know about Sister Rosetta Tharpe but for the podcast we went to the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame so they can tell me more and teach me more, and since putting the song out I’ve had loads of people send me information I had no idea about which I’m trying to share. That’s the idea, it’s all a learning process – we’re back at school!”

No Man’s Land comes out August 16th.