1Which pop star did your record label want to sing on your 2015 song ‘Silent Key’?
“Technically speaking, it was my idea originally but it was a joke related to be fact we were making a record with Butch Walker [who produced Swift’s ‘Red’]. But they took it seriously and started making enquiries, which I found strange. I’m a big Taylor Swift fan, but I thought it was extremely likely that I’d be told to get stuffed. Which, as far as I’m aware, is what happened! (Laughs)”
2You won Celebrity Mastermind in 2014 answering questions on your specialist subject of Iron Maiden. Which three celebrities did you beat?
“Fucking hell! One was John Cooper Clarke, who’s a god amongst men. There was the late Roy Hudd who was really interesting and was talking about Dan Leno and music hall which is something I’m quite interested in. The third guy was a children’s TV presenter. I’m not sure I ever caught his name.”
WRONG. He’s Ben Faulks, aka CBeebies’ singing allotment-botherer Mr Bloom.
“When I arrived at the studio, there was a package waiting for me containing a vintage 1981 Iron Maiden T-shirt and a card [from the band] saying good luck. Shortly after, I interviewed Bruce Dickinson for The Guardian and I spent a long time prepping for it, sat down and asked him my first question – about the relationship between Iron Maiden and punk rock – and he talked at me for an hour and that was the end of the interview. They were my first-love band.”
3What does it say on NOFX frontman Fat Mike’s T-shirt on the artwork to your 2020 split-album ‘West Coast vs. Wessex’?
“Fuck! I’ve got one in my house but I’m in the studio right now. The short answer is I don’t know!”
WRONG. It’s Duff – the beer brand from The Simpsons.
“In 2019, we shared a festival bill together and he came and watched my set. Afterwards, he said he’d been thinking of doing another mutual covers split and would I be interested? Externally, I said yeah, that sounds cool, but internally, I shit myself and was blown away. They’re one of my favourite bands. The Rancid/NOFX split was a huge moment in punk history, and if you’d told me when I bought it on the day it came out in 2002 that the next time NOFX did one, it would be with me, I would have thought you were smoking crack!”
4Which actor did Russian sex workers once mistake you for?
“(Laughs) Edward Norton.”
“I did a bunch of super-DIY touring in Russia, sleeping on the floors of squats. The day after my final show there, we were having a drink in a bar and two women came over and started talking to my friend in Russian and pointing at me fluttering their eyelids. I was initially quite pleased about this development but was then told by my tour guide I shouldn’t be! There’s a part of me that misses those early days when touring was chaos – when we’d jump into a car and drive to a hippy festival in the middle of Lithuania and hit a deer on route after getting extorted by border guards.”
Do you think Edward Norton’s ever been confused for you?
“I seriously doubt it! And I’m not going to sit here and say I see the resemblance! But I’m a big fan of his work.”
Weirdly, you ended up featuring on a 2013 track by Russian punk band Tarakany! called ‘Рыжий и длинный’ (‘Ginger and High’)…
“They were friends of NOFX and got in touch asking if I wanted to sing on their record. Then of course they wanted me to sing in Russian! (Laughs) So I had to learn it syllable by syllable and thanks to modern technology, was able to record it line by line – it took me for-fucking-ever.”
5Which wrestler reportedly wanted to duet with you in 2013?
“Wanted to duet with me?! I don’t know!”
WRONG. It’s former WWE star Daniel Bryan.
“Daniel’s a lovely guy and fan and he’s come to a few shows. I tried to rope him in for the music video to ‘The Next Storm’, but it didn’t work out because he had a neck injury. We ended up making the video with CM Punk instead which was terrifying because he’s a formidable human! Whilst he was incredibly gentle with me, professional wrestling is still a seriously athletic undertaking and I’m not a seriously athletic man! But I don’t even know if Daniel Bryan has a good singing voice.” (Laughs).
Who’s been the most unexpected person that’s turned out to be a fan of your music?
“The actor who played Pinhead in Hellraiser is a fan, and Daniel Radcliffe used to come to my shows a long time ago. Russell Crowe has often talked about my second record ‘Love Ire & Song’ being a favourite of his…”
Maybe he’s blasted it backstage preparing for a role…
“You never know! Speaking of such things, Jason Isbell is a friend and he played on my single ‘The Gathering’ recently. He’s currently starring in a Scorsese movie [Killers of the Flower Moon]. Many years ago, Jason was in a music video I made on my iPhone for ‘Love Forty Down’, which is an extended tennis metaphor. He told Martin Scorsese that his entire acting experience prior to the job was starring as a baddie tennis player in my very silly music video and played him it, so Martin Scorsese is now aware of my work!”
6Who released the song ‘Ft. Frank Turner’ in 2019?
“That would be The Armed – the cheeky little so-and-sos. And very funny the whole thing was too!”
CORRECT. At the time, you said the Detroit hardcore collective had stolen your archival vocal takes. Were you in on it?
“No comment! But I was beforehand a fan of The Armed and I remain a fan afterwards. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.”
For a bonus half-point, who did the band pretend to confuse you with in a press statement about the track?
CORRECT. The band said: “It saddens us to hear that he’s upset about the song. We’ve been big fans of Gallows for a long time. He also features on the cover.
“That joke was more to do with the fact that more than once NME has printed pictures of me with Frank’s name underneath and vice-versa. Not intentionally as far as I’m aware – but Frank and I find it very funny!”
Frank Turner performing one of Gallows’ most beloved songs
7Your 2015 book, The Road Beneath My Feet, documents all of your gigs. Where was gig number 463 played?
“Probably the UK given that, from memory, I wasn’t touring much outside the UK at that point. But I don’t know!”
WRONG. It was at Eton, your old school.
“I was extremely reluctant to do it and still have mixed feelings over whether it was a good idea. I found the experience of being there as a kid very traumatic so going back there was not something I ever wanted to do. One of the kids there sold me on the idea by saying they were also having a terrible time and it would be helpful for them to speak to somebody who had similar feelings and had at least tried to escape the stigma.”
You were regularly beaten by up by hardcore punks who found out you went to that independent school and have weathered a number of social media storms over the years. Have you ever come close to quitting?
“Regularly. All the fucking time. I love what I do and get to be creative for a living, but there are days when you’re on the receiving end of the latest hate-storm and you can sit there and tell yourself everybody will move on in 48 hours to hating on somebody else, but it doesn’t stop it being deeply traumatic. I’ve had many occasions where I’ve felt completely terrified to leave the house because of the way total strangers are interacting with me on social media – days when I’ve been scared to play my own shows because I’ve convinced myself in my anxiety that everybody hated me.”
8Complete the following lyrics: “Think about it / He can’t be killed / He will not die.”
“Er…’Keith Richards is the T-1000′.”
CORRECT. From your band Möngöl Hörde’s track ‘Hey Judas’.
“I’ve not heard from Paul McCartney or Keith Richards about that (Laughs). It’s a demented song by design and the band is weird and strange and confrontational. That song came out of smoking too much weed, to be blunt!”
9In 2011, you were nominated for two NME Awards – for Best Solo Artist and Best Blog or Twitter. Name either of the acts that beat you.
“I’ve not enough superlatives to describe how great she is. It was a creative time and what made it magic was none of us had achieved anything or thought we would. Laura was a kid playing guitar in the corner; I’d just left a medium-successful hardcore band [Million Dead] and started playing acoustic guitar and everyone had thought I’d gone mental. Justin from The Vaccines and Jamie T were there; the Mumford boys were peripheral to it. People were running the central London indie night Frog, and playing after-shows at Nambucca and we were all in our early twenties, wasted most of the time. It was un-self-conscious and if it had been self-conscious it would have been shit.”
10In 2014, what unlikely competition did you judge in Winchester?
“A dog competition.”
“It was a fundraiser to save a local recreation ground. It was in a place where teenagers from Winchester take acid, and I had the extremely weird experience of standing in a circle of around 100 dogs walking around me in a ring and trying to have opinions on dogs while not offending any of the owners!”
You’ve just released a new single ‘The Gathering’ featuring Jason Isbell and Muse drummer Dom Howard. How did they get involved?
“I’ve still not met Dom. We were making the record with Rich Costey, who’s Muse’s in-house producer, and I parted ways with my longterm drummer last year and Rich said to me: ‘I could ask Dom’. So Rich sent him the demo and Dom just replied back the finished drums four hours later in a Dropbox link without saying a word (Laughs). And they’re really good! For the rest of the album, we’ve got Ilan Rubin from Nine Inch Nails playing drums. I’m friends with Jason and we’ve toured together many times and dropped him a text in the depths of the lockdown and sent me the files for the solo the following day.”
Is ‘The Gathering’ indicative of the sound of the forthcoming album?
“The next record is sonically the most aggressive thing I’ve done as a solo album. ‘The Gathering’ probably sits in the middle of the intensity-meter of the new record. It’s quite a lot more pissed off than anything I’ve done in a while. There’s a lot of stuff about my childhood. In the last few years, I’ve been thinking about my mental health with cognitive behavioural therapy and there’s a lot of shit from my childhood that I’m now prepared to talk about in a way I never have been beforehand and it’s not a particularly fairy-tale story, so there’s a fair amount of rage going on.”
Have you had to consult with your family before putting it out?
“Very much so. Under orders of the label, I’m not allowed to talk about one song specifically, but yes, it has involved major levels of clearance from my mum and my sisters.”
The verdict: 6/10
“Six out of 10 is how I rate myself in life anyway!”