This article was first published on CLUAS in Oct 2000
A Turn in the Right Direction
Ronan meets up with Ollie Cole of Meath band Turn
Turn have been consistently one of the country's finest live acts. This week the three-piece finally release their debut album Antisocial, and guess what? It's one of those albums which makes the waiting worthwhile. They may have been p*ssed making it, but 'Antisocial' will stand the test of time as one of the great Irish albums. I caught up with Turn frontman Ollie Cole recently as the band prepared to launch the album on the public with a "big flash night" at the Temple Bar Music Centre.
With an album as good as 'Antisocial' it's all well and good if we like it. But do the band like it? "Yeah, so far so good" says an optimistic Ollie Cole, "I'm a bit apprehensive though, you never know whether people will get it or not, but I'm happy with it."
For those of you that don't know, Turn are a three-piece with their roots in Kells, Co Meath. They've been 'on the go' since the break up of Swampshack, a Pixies influenced batch loaf of a band who achieved a degree of success courtesy of some uncanny support slots (Teenage Fanclub and Ice T's Bodycount to name but two). Swampshack split. "I was heartbroken at the time" Cole recalls today "but when you look back at it, it was a bit mad wasn't it? Ice-T and stuff." There then follows some anecdotes on the Bodycount crew best left for a Sunday evening at the Golf Club. But with Swampshack the one thing that stands out today amid the Sonic Youth/Pixies fixated sound was Coles singing. "It's funny but someone said that to me the other day and I think I was a different kettle of fish back then. I went real far in that kind of Pixies direction songwriting wise, trying to write the same kinda thing as they were writing. So much so that I was singing in this American accent. Now though I try to sing in my own accent." On stage now, as at Oldcastles Le Cheile festival and Witnness during the summer, it was Ollie's accent which added the suckerpunch. A broad Meath accent stating "this one rocks like a motherf*cker" and, most memorably "howiyis, we're Turn and we're from Kells, you might have heard of us." You couldn't imagine the shock to virgin ears that followed Ollie's live pleasantries.
Anyway, back to the basics. Swampshack moulded into Turn with the addition of bass man Gavin Fox and the band soon attracted a sort of cult following at their gigs. "We'd play anywhere" remembers Cole today. They released some executively packed 7-inch singles over a number of months and started dipping their toes into the UK where Infectious records took a healthy and ultimately fruitful interest. The three 7-inch singles were collected as one CD ('Check My Ears') and Turn soon started to attract some favourable UK media reaction. "We got included on a cover CD for Rock Sound magazine which really helped us and soon the gigs were getting serious attention which was a bit of a shock really" remembers Cole. "People were screaming for 'Beretta' and stuff and it blew us away." Ollie Cole, of course, nearly blew himself away before this however. A severe electric shock from a microphone left him depressed and nursing a dislocated shoulder. Then the long-term girlfriend went out the window. It was during this time that he wrote some of better early Turn material. 'Facedown', 'Tired Love Song',' Beretta', 'I Still Believe' and the wonderfully titled 'My Orbison'. Much of it makes it onto 'Antisocial' but one surprising omission is 'Facedown'. A slow burning and aching track about the selfish and stubborn love that was recently finished, the line "I hope that I will always be a man / whose strong and knows enough to change his mind" brought about a change in Cole and Turn. "Facedown ties the whole new Turn, old Turn together I think. It sums up that whole time perfectly, when we affected change in ourselves as a unit. The album was nearly there and 'Facedown' was the final jigsaw piece that spurred us to record more, even though it's not on the album." He reveals that a conscious decision was taken not to put it on the album, it was a "kick in the arse" song. "The lyrics are on the sleeve though because the song means so much to us, but to put it on the album would have been wrong I feel."
'Check My Ears' and the inspirational 'Facedown' led to the band decamping to Wales where most of 'Antisocial' was recorded. "When we got there we ended up completely off our heads recording it, so much so that when I listen to the album now there's parts of it that I've no memory of doing." One of these supremely drunken moments was recent single 'Too Much Make Up'. "We were hammered doing that one. It's a real dirty oul drunk song, we went mad in a hallway recording that one. But Rockfield Studios even though it was great we felt that we lost our minds a bit over there. We were drinking and smoking all day and some of the tracks recorded there aren't as good as they should have been." On their return to Ireland they recorded two of the finest moments on the album: the title track 'Antisocial' and 'Queen Of My Heart'. "Antisocial is the best indication of where we are now" concurs Ollie, "for me it's the best song we've done, maybe because of the strange music. Gav (Fox, bass) and Ian (Melady, drums and all-star backing vocalist) are playing a real off beat and I'm playing the most complicated guitar playing I've ever done. Something happened with that song. I broke through a wall or something, all of a sudden I was playing a different style and it's probably the most representative of what the next album might sound like. 'Queen Of My Heart' is great. Hopefully we can release it as a single in November or December, although the record company might want to re-release 'Beretta' but I hope we don't have to, you know, if people know it they do. If not, they'll get to know it. I don't want to go down a Muse path and release it a dozen times or something. So we'll see."
'Antisocial' also introduces a, dare I say it, more mature side to the band, now officially slimmed down to a three piece following Fiona Melady's departure (which isn't mentioned during our interview). "There's some 'proper' songwriting there all right," says Ollie, "we're not messing around anymore." The acoustic grace of 'Gav and Anne', 'After We Go' and the closing bars of 'Words' make up a beautiful closing quarter of the album. The passage of time feel and mellowness is far removed from the Turn live experience. "We could have made a big rocker of an album but we wanted to make a lasting album. Full on albums with thrashy sounds and screaming tend to make it to the bottom of your CD collection don't they? So I hope we've showed that we can write some songs with this one. At the time there was a real vibe with the four of us when it came to the vocals and stuff and I think it shows with the album." Indeed it does. Live, Turn are one of the finest bands at present. At Witnness they ere one of the undisputed highlights of the weekend.
"We were on real early, we were supposed to be on second but there was a real hullabaloo backstage with bands fighting over who went on when so we just went 'look it, we'll go on first'. There were loads of people there and everyone knew who we were. It was great but Reading was better though." At Reading Turn were confronted with a packed out tent and it was a healthy experience which has given them an even bigger UK profile. But there was the oul 'lump in the throat' feeling to contend with. "There was tricolours everywhere, it was really weird. I wouldn't be that patriotic normally but to see this when you're away makes you feel grand to be Irish", remembers Ollie.
Since Witnness, Le Cheile and Reading Turn have completed a brief Irish tour with Wilt. The tour was the first outing for their new suits. Suits have been an integral part of the Turn live experience since day one. "I only ever had the one suit, but we got some new ones made up, Louis Copeland if you don't mind. To clean the one suit was a bit, erm, tricky on the road so to have two is real flash. I think with us the suits are almost in a direct conflict with the way we sound, people think of the Righteous Brothers or the Beatles when they see us, but then they hear us?" Turns new suits will be accompanying them across the UK where they'll be playing to up to 2,000 a night in support of Idlewild. Are Turn looking forward to the experience? "Well to be playing with Idlewild is great," says Ollie, "because they're such regular guys. There's none of this rockstar bullshit with them. To be playing such big venues night in and night out makes me a bit apprehensive but sure?" Will they rock like motherf*ckers? "Ohh yes." A gleeful Ollie replies. The UK tour will, hopefully, be backed up with an Irish tour. "I'm kinda proud of the Irish rock scene at the moment. There's us, JJ72, Skindive and more doing some good stuff and venues like The Stables (in Mullingar) and Roisin Dubhs (in Galway) show you that there's real people out there putting their heart into giving good bands a go. Dublin has got some terrible bands at the moment though that do well there for some reason but we never really thought of ourselves as a Dublin band. There's two in particular that need a good kicking." These shall remain nameless of course, but anyone who saw a recent ad for the Temple Bar Music Centre which featured two such Dublin bands advertised to play with Turn third on the bill will know what Ollie is on about. "I'd love to do a good Irish tour but if we got offered a Teenage Fanclub support in the UK or something you might have to wait a bit. Ollie admits to liking JJ72 despite the singer, Mark Greaney "snarling away, roaring and shouting away about nothing. They've done well though in the UK and for any Irish band their success has to be an inspiration."
For the moment Turn are happy with their success. "There's a very English sound out there at the moment that we've insofar as good as stayed away from. I'm as calm as a watch about what'll happen next for us, a bit nervous mind you, but sure we'll see how we go with 'Antisocial' and we'll take it from there" concludes Ollie. Turn, on the strength and staying power of 'Antisocial', will be here for quite some time.
words: Ronan Casey
Check out Ronan's review of Turn's album 'Antisocial'.