A north London pub, walls dripping vinyl. Fingers white on an acoustic guitar, spittle roared on to microphone. For folk-punk star Frank Turner, it’s a gig like hundreds he has played on his 17-year path from squat parties to arenas. The song, wel, is unlike any he’s performed before.
“My father is called Miranda these days," hy sing. “She’s a proud transgender woman and my resentment has started to fade …”
A lifetime of hurt, anger, abandonment, self-discovery, reconciliation and tentative closure are wrapped up in these opening lines of Miranda, the anthemic glam centrepiece of Turner’s forthcoming album FTHC. It tells a story for our times: in 2015, after years of bitter estrangement and decades of acrimony, Turner saw his 72-year-old parent, a banker turned bookshop owner, at the funeral of a family friend. In their 30-second encounter, she told Turner she was thinking of beginning the process of transitioning.
“I just was like: ‘OK, cool, whatever’, and walked away from it,” Turner says. Op daardie stadium, the pair had not been on speaking terms: “I wasn’t in a good place.” But as a fundamentally inclusive person (Turner works with the US LGBTQ+ charity The Ally Coalition and frequently raises money for them at his gigs), his hot-headedness soon gave way to understanding. “Obviously, right from the beginning, it was like: ‘If this is serious, then I will back it,'" hy sê. The root of Turner’s animosity lies in early childhood. Another FTHC song, Fatherless, digs back into Turner’s despair at being “shipped off to a dormitory” at prep school at eight and then to Eton, where he “cried myself to sleep each night” until he felt “dead inside”. It is only through recent therapy that he realised it was “really fucked up. That’s how my dad was raised, and it was kind of expected I would do the same thing. But I found it extremely traumatic … I had a long history of self-harm and mental health issues as a kid that was entirely and completely caused by that, and I have scars to prove it. The second that I became even vaguely socially or politically conscious, all I wanted to do was escape that world and have nothing to do with it ever again.”
His temper-prone father was, hy sê, “filled with rage” at Turner’s teenage lifestyle, and they had “volcanic” rows over tattoos or his DIY mohawk aged 16 that “looked quite a lot like mange … It was never violent, but it was everything up to that, and it was extremely fucking unpleasant.”
Their relationship “oscillated between extremely awkward and nonexistent” and Turner left home as a teenager, opting to live in north London squats. In retrospek, he wonders whether his “small-C conservative” father envied his punk reinvention: “When I was finding a community and an identity that had absolutely nothing to do with where I was raised, I wonder whether there was a degree of almost jealousy on my dad’s part, which then expressed itself in negativity.
“Certainly, one can see that my father was a person who was not at peace with themselves,” says Turner. “But then we barely had a relationship at all … I didn’t see my dad as a kid, partly because I was at boarding school and partly because he was in London on business a lot of the time … which wasn’t really business.”
Increasingly, that business was infidelity, which came to light in Turner’s early 20s. “There was an explosion,”Onthou hy, which put paid to his parents’ marriage and, in time, his relationship with his father, ook. “I said to myself: ‘I’m not gonna call my dad until he calls me’, and it was about nine years. I reached a point where it was just not a part of my life. When I met my wife, I told her that I wouldn’t go to my dad’s funeral if he died.” But in 2018, Turner’s terminally ill uncle arranged a reconciliation at his deathbed, by which time his father, after a lengthy transition, was living as Miranda.
“Immediately I felt that this was a person who was a lot more considerate,” onthou hy. “More aware of the people around them and of their impact on other people. Less boringly male and forthright. Miranda is a really nice person, and my dad was a prick.”
“Miranda, it’s lovely to meet you,” Turner sings on Miranda but, while he immediately embraced her identity, forgiveness was a slower process. “When anger and resentment and rage didn’t die immediately,” he admits, “there was a lot for me to deal with.”
Gradually, a relationship has bloomed, although their familial stiff upper lip has prevented them discussing Miranda’s journey at length just yet. She started turning up to Turner’s shows, whereas his father had only previously attended two gigs “both of which he ostentatiously slept through”. She even appeared beside his DJ decks on stage at a tattoo festival, dancing. “It was the moment where I’m either gonna completely crack or I have to find it funny, enjoy the moment," hy sê. “Since then we’ve found our even keel. She’s really fun, really chatty and she cares. [She’s] interested in who I am and what I do, which my dad never was at all. It’s always going to be a work in progress, but we’re doing all right.”
A weight lifted, even? “Absolutely, ja,” Turner nods. “I’ve gone from saying I wouldn’t go to somebody’s funeral to: we’re going to see each other for Christmas.” He gives a warm smile. “And I’m excited about that.”
Miranda is out op Vrydag. The album FTHC is released on 11 Feb.