He came to fame as a member of post-hardcore band Million Dead, but since breaking away from the band in 2005, Frank Turner has carved out a hugely successful solo career as a kind of modern-day Billy Brag (albeit much posher and with politics that veer more to the right than the left). Having spent most of lockdown streaming live performances from his living room, he’s now gearing up to hit the road again as part of his “never-ending tour of everywhere and nowhere.” Find out more about the singer with these 10 things you didn’t know about Frank Turner the hardcore rock and roll musician.
1. He was schoolmates with Prince William
Punk artists, even the folky kind, have a certain reputation, a reputation that rarely involves being study buddies with future kings. Turner breaks the mold. Born in Bahrain but raised in a manor house in Winchester, Turner is the son of Sir Mark Turner, a former chairman of high street retailer Bhs, and Jane, a bishop’s daughter turned primary school headmistress. After winning a scholarship, he got packed off to Eton to complete his education alongside Prince William. Not that he relished the opportunity – he’s since described the Prince as “rather dull,” the rest of his classmates as “pathetic,” and himself as “despised.”
2. Bruce Springsteen made him quit Million Dead
In 2001, Turner joined post-hardcore band Million Dead. Over the next four years, they released two albums, enjoyed limited commercial success, and plenty of critical acclaim. Then, in 2005, they called it a day, citing “irreconcilable differences within the band.” The differences, it turned out, had a lot to do with Bruce Springsteen, or rather, his album Nebraska, which Turner heard, liked, and decided to emulate by ditching hardcore punk for folk.
3. His father inspired him to hit the road
Growing up, Turner’s father presented himself as a staid, solid, upright family man. It couldn’t have been further from the truth. In the early 2000s, his mother rumbled that he’d been having a long-term relationship with another woman for years. The news ripped the family apart. “For most of my life, I’d had a father who had been lying through his teeth. I felt angry and let down. None of us could even look at him,” he later told the Evening Standard. His mother’s response was to file for a divorce. Turner’s response was to hit the road and never leave it. “To be duped by my own father was traumatic. Not only did I have to re-evaluate him, but also my whole childhood. And the only way I could do that was to hit the road. My never-ending tour of everywhere and nowhere began in October 2005. And it hasn’t stopped since,” he’s said.
4. He’s married
All the while Turner was laboring under the allusion his parents were happily married, he saw marriage as an evil institution that he wanted nothing to do with. Then they split, and suddenly, he started seeing it as something to be treasured rather than despised. Which is probably just as well for his wife, actress and musician Jessica Guise, who he married on 30 August 2019 after a year-long engagement.
5 He’s made a documentary
As Wikipedia says, Turner was straight edge (i.e. part of the hardcore punk subculture whose adherents avoid alcohol, tobacco, recreational drugs, and sometimes even caffeine and prescription drugs) for five years. But sticking to the straight edge is difficult. In his 2016 documentary, ‘Get Better – A Film About Frank Turner,’ director Ben Morse followed Turner and his band The Sleeping Souls for a year on the road, during which time he came off the rails in a spectacular fashion before heading back into recovery.
6. He got death threats for being rightwing
In 2012, Turner suddenly found himself Enemy No.1 after the Guardian published an article that drew together numerous quotes he’d made over the years, all of which seemed to paint him as staunchly right-wing in his political persuasions. “I consider myself to be pretty rightwing”; “The BNP is a hard left party”; “I think socialism’s retarded”; and “Leftist politics lead to the misery of many, the crushing of the little guy”… for his left-leaning audience, it was a slap in the face, and one that led to him receiving over 100 death threats a day. Speaking to the Guardian a year after the experience, he described it as “horrible” but a learning curve. “My skin has thickened. I’ve got much better at weathering internet storms – and they pass very quickly,” he said.
7. He’s played at the Olympics
In 2012, the Olympics came to Britain, and organizer Danny Boyle, a long time fan of Turner, extended the singer a personal invitation to perform at the opening ceremony. Considering the commercial nature of the event, his choice of song, I Still Believe, seemed a strange one. When he let rip with the line “Come ye, come ye, to soulless corporate circus tops,” you had to wonder just how many sponsors were experiencing a collective shudder.
8. He’s launched his own beer
These days, barely a week goes by without another band releasing their own signature beer. Everyone from AC/DC to Pig Destroyer have got in on the game, and Turner’s no exception, In 2012, he teamed up with Signature Brew to release Believe, a 4.8% beverage described as a “modern twist on the traditional wheat beer encompassing citrus and orange flavours.”
9. He’s started his own festival
In 2017, Turner decided that the world just didn’t have enough festivals. So he started his own. Billed as a 4-day festival celebrating live music and community, Lost Evenings subsequently went on to win the Best Independent Festival Award from the Association of Independent Music at the AIM Independent Music Awards. It’s been running each year ever since, although like most festivals and live shows, last’s year event got canceled because of COVID.
10. He’s a patron for Dignity in Dying
In 2013, Turner was announced as the new patron of the assisted dying campaign group, Dignity in Dying. Three years later, he also began serving as the patron of Humanists UK which, like Dignity in Dying, campaigns for assisted dying and various other ethical causes.