FRANK TURNER interview – Runner’s World, Oct 2021 issue

I started running about four years ago. For a long time, doing no exercise was fine because the shows I do are incredibly physical, so they kept me in reasonable shape. My tour schedule used to be demented but has calmed down a bit as I’ve got older, so I needed something else to keep me going.

I was still a smoker when I started. I was doing the Couch to 5k app, coming home from my run and puffing on a cigarette before I had a shower, which was ridiculous. It was like I was pursuing two conflicting goals – not that smoking is a goal.

I convinced myself I was a part-time smoker. I come from a family of smokers, so I’ve smoked on and off since I was about 10. I have battled substance abuse issues in the past few years as well, which I’m pleased to say are in the past now.

Many ex-addicts I know are runners. A lot of ex-heroin addicts are very into running and weights and that kind of business, because that physicality gives you an endorphin rush that fills a hole. I don’t have direct experience of this, but one of the terrible things about heroin is it makes a hole in you that never quite goes away.

I bought a running machine just before lockdown kicked in. I wanted something to focus on fitness-wise, and found this Conqueror app with all these virtual challenges. I picked the Grand Canyon because it’s a nice place – they show you where you are on Street View – and it seemed like a reasonable length to run. It took me five months to do the 450km, and they sent me this chunky medal, which I’m pretty proud of.

The nice thing about having a treadmill is you can’t make excuses about the weather. I quite often just run in my underwear, because you can. I tend to wake up before my wife, get on the treadmill immediately, do five or six km before breakfast, and then I feel really zingy and ready for my day.

I find that running is a really focused way of listening to music. We live in this terribly distracted age where, if you try and listen to something at home, you find yourself checking your Facebook and reading an article and dealing with emails. When you’re running, there’s nothing else to do. I’m enjoying listening to albums a lot more.

Listening to very extreme music gets me running. It feels a little bit like you’re being chased. I’ll play a lot of death metal and grindcore. Cannibal Corpse are a big feature of my running playlists. I also really love ambient post-rock – bands like Godspeed You! Black Emperor. If you can crest a hill at the same time one of their tracks climaxes, that’s pretty cool.

When I was at school [at Eton], there were the sporty kids, which was most people, and then there were the punks. It was part of our group identity that we didn’t engage with sport in a serious fashion. But I started touring when I was 16 and that was always very physical.

I saw a physio for a back problem, who told me I was an athlete, arguably. He watched some footage of me playing live, found out I had no stretching regime, and said, “If you’re doing this for 90 minutes to two hours 200 times a year, it’s no wonder you’ve injured your back you idiot.”

A lot of musicians tend to have issues with moderation. There are a lot of addictive personalities in this corner of existence. I have enjoyed the challenge of running from that point of view. It’s better than most of my other addictions, I’ll say that.

Frank Turner’s ninth album, FTHC, is released early next year. His fourth Lost Evenings festival takes place at the Roundhouse in London from 16-19 September.