THERE aren’t many musicians who can discuss anarchist philosophers with ease, but then Frank Turner isn’t any old musician.
The enigmatic title of his latest album, Poetry of the Deed, comes from something he heard that was once said by the philosopher Mikhail Bakunin.
“Bakunin talked about the ‘propaganda of the deed’,” he said. “He thought that instead of writing pamphlets you should go and actually do something, you should live by example.
“I was quite into all that anarchist stuff when I was young, so that appealed to me. ‘Poetry of the deed’ means that instead of wistfully sitting around reading Kerouac and Ginsberg and wishing you could be a writer you actually get up and do something about it.”
Formerly the singer with post-hardcore band Million Dead, Turner knows a thing or two about anarchy. After they split up, he turned his hand to a solo career, forging a name for himself in America’s burgeoning anti-folk scene, and although “scene” is a word he doesn’t particularly like he recognises that sometimes it has its uses.
“English folk needs a kick up the backside,” he said passionately. “There are a lot more people doing it now than when I first started, but at the same time that worries me a little bit. There’s more of a ‘scene’ than there used to be. I’m deeply distrustful of scenes.”
With sold out tour dates and a rapturous reception at festivals, Frank measures his success in terms of the live venues he is filling. Part of the attraction is his forward-thinking take on a long-established musical tradition.
And while he says that folk songs dating back hundreds of years should be preserved, he is also critical of English musicans’ over-reverent attitude towards their musical past. “Folk’s a lot more of a living concern in the States, but the English folk tradition is much older, it’s become much more interested in protecting a legacy rather than allowing it to move forward,” he said.
“If the folk scene in this country becomes nothing more than essentially a bunch of librarians tending a catalogue then it’s lost something of the point.”
l Frank Turner plays Manchester Academy 2, tonight. Sold out. Poetry of the Deed is out now.