1. Aos. Hello Frank Turner – Welcome to ‘Architect of Sound’. Congratulations on your eighth studio album titled ‘No Man’s land’ which was released August 2019. ‘No Man’s Land‘ features thirteen songs about Woman – twelve songs about historical woman and one song about your Mum. It is an incredible album and one I believe you and everyone behind the record can be really proud off.
Frank Turner: Thank you. It’s a project and an idea that I’ve been working on for a long time. I think it came together really well, I’m proud of it, for sure.
2. Aos. After listening to ‘No Man’s Land‘ for the first time my thoughts were in disbelief to how different it was and a real change of direction to your previous record ‘Be More Kind‘ which we had talked about in an earlier Interview (Click here for interview link). What a record! How did this fascinating album come about? What inspired you to tell these stories?
Frank Turner: The initial inspiration for the record was to try to write songs from a perspective other than my own. I’ve been writing in an autobiographical, confessional style for a long while, and I wanted to try and come at it from a different angle. That’s a major change for me as a writer, and one that immediately put me in a challenging, but ultimately inspiring place. I always try to push myself a little with each record I do, and this felt like a big change to me. Musically, well, again, I wanted to try new things, new stylistic approaches – and in many cases, the subject matter of the songs suggested the musical direction, which was really fun.
3. Aos. The record must have been a dream for you to make in terms of putting two of your favourite things together – History & Music. Did you do a lot of historical research in regards to the twelve woman characters you picked to share stories about & why did you choose these particular characters?
Frank Turner: Bringing history and music together was a big angle on the record for me, as well as just being a story-teller. In the beginning, there was no gender angle, I just wanted to tell historical stories that I thought were interesting, important, under-represented or all three. About half-way through the writing process I realised I was writing exclusively about historical women, and that seemed interesting to me, so I followed that road. I did as much amateur research as I could (though I didn’t hit the archives or anything). In many cases there’s not masses to know about these people, which was kind of the point.
4. Aos. Lyrically, Musically & Production wise it is very different than your previous records. What changes did you make on your approach to ‘No Man’s Land‘? I understand you worked with a host of new musicians on this record, How was this experience for you personally?
Frank Turner: It was great. I have, to date, always worked with different producers on each record. This time around I was keen to work with a woman at the helm (for obvious reasons) and found myself working with the great Catherine Marks, who is a stone-cold genius. Once that decision was made, it struck me as interesting to work with different musicians in the studio as well. Most of them were friends already, but I stuck with the all-female angle and ended up working with people like Holly Madge, who’s just excellent. So it was a lot of fun, and musically excellent.
5. Aos. ‘Tales from ‘No Man’s Land’ – The Podcast is a great idea man. I especially liked the episode in relation to ‘The Hymm of Kassiana‘ where you chatted to the Professor Liz Jones from the University of Sussex. It was superb listening to you both talk about history, educational for all your listeners including myself.
Was creating a Podcast a new and rewarding challenge for you? Did you discover a whole new world of knowledge by researching deeper into these historic woman?
Also I heard your Mum was a Primary School Teacher and taught you the recorder. Was this the first instrument you learnt?
Frank Turner: We made the podcast because I felt like the people I was writing about could stand a bit more attention than just a 3 minute song – and also, a fair few of the lyrics require some Cliff Notes. I’ve been on a thousand podcasts as a guest in the past, but being in the driving seat was a whole new thing, a new challenge, and one I enjoyed immensely. I learned an awful lot chatting to the guests we had, they were great (Liz especially). My mum was a primary school teacher, yes, and I suppose the recorder would, technically, be my first instrument – not that I can remember any of that now.
6. Aos. I am sure it’s quite difficult to pick but do you have a favourite character you researched? Do you have a favourite podcast?
Frank Turner: Picking is difficult, yes, but learning about Huda Sha’arawi was wonderful for me, really eye-opening and perception-challenging. Given our current geopolitical climate, I think it’s important to recognise and celebrate feminists in the Arab world, and to understand their thinking, motivation and theology. And then getting to talk to her granddaughter Sania was a real honour.
7. Aos. Production wise the album sounds totally different than your other records Frank. It was produced by Catherine Marks. How was her influence on the record and what did Catherine do differently to say other producers you have worked with in the past?
Frank Turner: Well every producer is different; Catherine brought her own thinking to the project, though of course we worked closely together. She has a different sonic palette to me, and we ended up using some new sounds on the songs, which was fun. I think the main thing she brought was a focus on the story-telling part of the album, the vocal performances. She pushed me hard to make sure I was delivering the performances in the most engaging way possible.
8. Aos. ‘Sister Rosetta‘ is the single released from the album. It’s a great Rock / Pop tribute to Sister Rosetta Tharpe. Did ‘Sister Rosetta’ ever make it into the Rock and Roll hall of Fame and if she didn’t do you believe she deserves to be in there?
I also seen ‘Silent Kay’ features on ‘No Man’s Land’ which was a track that was on ‘Positive songs for Negative People’. Why did you choose to be put this track out there again? What is the song about and where did the song title come from?
Frank Turner: Rosetta Tharpe is now in the Hall Of Fame, yes, though she wasn’t when I first wrote the song – I had to change the lyrics! But it’s great she’s being recognised more these days. “Silent Key” – towards the end of the writing process I realised I already had a song which fit the bill for this album, so I revisited it. The version on “Positive Songs” actually ended up being pretty different from how I wrote it in the first place, so there was scope to re-record it in a different way. The song is about Christa McAuliffe, the primary school teacher and astronaut who died in the Challenger Space Shuttle disaster in 1986. A ‘silent key’ is a term from the world of HAM radio, it refers to an operator who ceases to communicate for unknown reasons.
9. Aos. There are also some terrific ballads on the record for example ‘Rescue Annie’ & your final track ‘Rosemary Jane’ which is about your mother respectively. I am sure your family has seen a real change of your music from touring days of ‘Million Dead‘ to ‘No Man’s Land‘. Did they enjoy the recent concept album?
Frank Turner: My mum is certainly a lot more into what I do now than she was Million Dead (or Mongol Horde for that matter). I think she did enjoy the album, yes. The song for her is quite a heavy one, subject-matter-wise, but she gave it her blessing.
10. Aos. Your one of the hardest touring & working musicians in the modern day music world. Your constantly touring around the world playing shows. How has the new record ‘No Man’s Land‘ been perceived by Frank Turner fans around the globe so far?
Frank Turner: The tour we’re doing now is structured in a slightly different way – I’m actually playing two sets a night, the first of which is entirely material from No Man’s Land. It’s fun, we get to consider the new material in and of itself before diving into the old stuff, and I get to share some of the stories. People seem to be into it! Tour stretches ever on, we’re in the USA right now, back to the UK next month.
11. Aos. Where did the album title ‘No Man’s Land‘ come from?
Frank Turner: It’s from the lyrics to the song “The Death Of Dora Hand”. It just seemed to fit.
Aos. Thank you & much respect to the fantastic Frank Turner & a wonderful string of musicians.
This was an online Interview with the musician Frank Turner about his brand new album ‘No Man’s Land’ featuring thirteen story telling tracks produced by Catherine Marks. If you get a chance check the album out.
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