Frank Turner Gear Breakdown

by | Feb 8, 2019 | Band Gear Breakdowns |

I managed to catch up with Frank Turner on the Cardiff leg of his current tour to talk all about the equipment he uses for his shows and some of his favourite guitars that he leaves at home.

Described as an ‘English Folk and Punk singer-songwriter’, Frank came to prominence as the lead singer of post-hardcore band Million Dead. 

He has since carved out a successful solo career with hits such as ‘I still believe’ picking up 2.2m hits on Youtube.

Frank was only too happy to discuss band gear, it’s always great to have a chat with someone who genuinely loves the subject…

So, Frank can you tell us what guitars you use on tour?

Yes. So I mainly play acoustics, but in recent years not exclusivelyI have gone through the phonebook as far as acoustic guitars go. And the problem I have is that I’m unlike most people who play acoustic guitar, in that I play my guitar and what is effectively a punk band.

And not only that but I also play guitar hard. I hammer the crap out of my guitars, both in terms of my actual technique and the fact that I jump around and into and on top of stuff and all the rest of it. Over the years I’ve had some incredible guitars that couldn’t take the beating.

In the last couple of years I have finally settled down with some Martin D-90’s which are beautiful guitars to play. 

For strings, I use medium gauge Ernie Balls

They take a bashing then?

Yeah they do. Actually a funny thing I have had for a long time is, I had a real problem with breaking strings and over a long period we experimented with different things to stop that from happening, because obviously you don’t want that during a gig.

And weirdly it was actually going thinner rather than thicker made a difference. And also about the pick that I use, because if you use really thick strings it kind of instinctively just made me hit the strings harder which doesn’t help. So I came down a gauge, I was using heavy strings.

Is it a psychological thing do you think?

Yeah I think so, and also I use 88 metal nylon picks, I need the nylon thing to get a grip on them.

The grey ones?

The black ones actually, but again I was using thicker ones, the one mil ones. I was using those. And by coming down a gauge of my picks that actually helped a lot with not breaking strings all the time. But, you know I don’t always hammer the guitar, like there’s finger picking moments and you know I use Kyser capo‘s because they’re best capo’s unquestionably, in my opinion. And yeah so, that’s the guitar part as far as acoustics go.

So how do you amplify the acoustic on stage?

So in terms of how we can plug that into an amplifier, because obviously you want a guitar that sounds nice in and of itself, but in a room like tonight no-one’s going to hear the acoustic sound of the guitar, you know. So the Fishman pickups are a big part of that they’re great.

And we use Fishman Aura Spectrum DI’s, which are bloody great. And again I’ve been through a lot of different types of DI’s over the years and they are the ones that I have definitively settled with, and actually funnily enough, the Aura Spectrum DI’s have, well there’s a whole load of controls on them and you can do the guitar modelling thing.

Over the years I tend to use less of the modelling sound than I used to because the actual DI inside them is so good, you know particularly if you’ve got a good guitar plugged in on the other end.

So you don’t use a specific acoustic amp on stage?

No not for my acoustics. They go straight into that and then that’s my acoustic side. And then generally speaking I have a couple of acoustics that use wireless packs. The wireless things are kind of interesting.

We use Sennheiser gear for all the wireless stuff and there’s a little bit of tone leaching that goes on, so you get a better tone out when you’re plugged in with a direct lead, but unfortunately I also want to run around everywhere, but we’ve got the best wireless system that they do and that sounds good.

So, electric guitars?

Yes, so electrics. I am a Gibson man and when it comes to my electric guitars. A few years ago Gibson were trialling a new guitar which was the Les Paul LE series which are hollow body Les Paul’s, and that was really interesting to me because I like the sound of a Les Paul but Les Paul’s are so heavy. I mean in and of itself that’s a problem but I also have back issues and I just can’t do a show with a regular Les Paul.

So they had this hollow body Les Paul and not only that but I have a real thing about white guitars. I love white guitars, and then Gibson called me up and told me they had this white hollow body Les Paul and would I like to try it. 

And I was just like Holy shit. Yes. And then I tried it and completely fell in love and then they gave it to me which was a wonderful thing.

Yeah, It’s not a bad position to be in. So that’s my main electric. I have a backup, I have my favourite electric guitar, other than that one, Les Paul Junior’s. I love a junior, partly because it’s a more manageable piece of wood than a regular Les Paul and partly because, you know, Johnny Ramone played one.

Is that with a single humbucker?

We’ve actually got P-90’s in that, but, I mean you know it feels like a really solid punk rock guitar to me a Les Paul Junior. You know, you can just kind of like buzz saw hammer it. And I I tend to play rhythm effectively, like I’m not a lead player so it just really holds down that kind of meat in the sonic sandwich.

What amps do you use with the electrics?

If I had to pick an amp that I love most I would pick orange amps. I love orange amps they’re great.

My guitar player uses Marshall amps and loves them and swears by them, but actually these days we use Kemper modelling amps, which have a lot of advantages.

            ‘First of all, like the whole thing that modelling technology has now finally reached a point where they sound good. There was a long period of time where I think that wasn’t the case, the Line Six pods and that kind of thing. It was a good idea, but the sound quality wasn’t up to scratch in my opinion.’

I feel like, particularly in a room this size (Cardiff Motorpoint Arena), the control that a Kemper gives my sound guy. He is over the moon that I use a Kemper these days because of his control of my tone. As is my guitar tech because there’s a huge world of kind of messing around with the tone that you can do, but it’s just it’s effectively an electric DI that sounds good.

And the other thing that’s great about Kempers is that when we tour internationally, which we do, we have a separate backline in the USA that we use when we’re over there and we just literally take a USB stick with us and that has all my settings. Easy.

(2 Kemper Amps just off-stage)

So who controls the Kemper? Is it from the desk?

No that’s my guitar tech that does all that. So if there’s tweaks to be made, it’s just off stage. I have to say that my guitar tech is somebody who is considerably better versed in the world of gear and amps and all that kind of thing that I am.

He was playing with Jetplane Landing and bands like this and had a great tone himself and I trust him fully. So if he occasionally makes a little tweak to the tone then that’s fine with me.

               ‘Even my bass player started going through a Kemper now as well and it’s a funny thing. I mean I guess that kind of an analog purist in me wants to be a bit more suspicious of them than I actually am but they just work really well.’

The only thing about a Kemper which I find annoying is that there’s no possibility of generating feedback because there’s no speaker that you can put your guitar up against