Frank Turner avoids political tunes 

click to enlarge Folk-punk: Billy Bragg-soundalike Frank Turner claims he’s not a protest singer. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • courtesy photo
  • Folk-punk: Billy Bragg-soundalike Frank Turner claims he’s not a protest singer.

Feisty folk-punker Frank Turner may strum a mean acoustic guitar and sing in a streetwise British accent on his reflective new Epitaph outing, “England Take My Bones.” But don’t mistake him for the similar-sounding, more politically minded Billy Bragg, he asks. He’s not a protest singer. “I dipped my toe into that early on in my career, and I really hated it,” says the former anchor of hardcore outfit Million Dead, whose crowds then consisted of “people who would show up and wait for me to say something they agreed with so they could applaud robustly — the music suddenly became secondary.”

Haven’t you just formed a new punk side project with an album you were recording this January? You know, we didn’t finish the record completely. We got three-fourths of the way through it, and unfortunately my tour schedule took over. Which is really irritating, because now I’m not entirely sure when I’ll get back to it again. But I’m really excited about the music we made — it’s sounding pretty great.

And the band’s name? That’s the one thing that we haven’t quite settled on yet. It’s funny, because as a solo artist, I’ve been really used to getting my own way, so going back to a democratic band situation again has been a culture shock. But it’s a tough thing naming a band. I was in a band called Million Dead — a terrible name — so it’s not something that I have an excellent chart record with.

Are you actually headlining London’s Wembley Stadium in April? Yeah! The idea came up because I’d basically sold out the next-biggest venue in the U.K., the Hammersmith Apollo, so it naturally reared its head. But I’ve tried to find ways of making it cool and not exclusionary — the tickets are as cheap as we can make them, we’ve got a great lineup with Billy Bragg, and we’re going to have a merch fire sale, with old T-shirts going for five quid.

You and Bragg know each other, right? Yeah. But it’s a shame that his songwriting is overshadowed by politics — it would be better if people said “Billy Bragg the incredible songwriter” instead of “Billy Bragg the politician.” Or at least that’s how I feel about the relationship between music and politics.

You recently played some underground punk shows in China. How did you get in? I walked across the border with my guitar case and told them I was a tourist. That’s another great thing about being a solo artist — there’s only one of me. Five guys with guitars show up at a border? They go, “Right. You’re a band!”

If you go

Frank Turner

Opening for Social Distortion

Where: Fox Theater, 1807 Telegraph Ave., Oakland

When: 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday

Tickets: $32.50

Contact: (800) 745-3000,

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Tom Lanham

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