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Are Turn the hardest working band in Ireland?

Throughout their five year career Turn have suffered numerous setbacks, from dodgy deals with record companies and earlier this year their bassist leaving to join Idlewild, but they’ve always bounced back, their reason ……
for the love of music.

In a pop landscape brimming over with non-entities and a rock/alternative scene where musicians would rather move backward then create progressive music, Turn are the real deal. Turn first formed the band with Kells man Ollie Cole on vocals and lead guitar, Gavin Fox as bassist and the one who is affectionately known as Iano (Ian Melady), on drums in 1998 and haven’t stopped touring since, but is it paying off?

Ollie certainly thinks so, “Yeah, you can see it everywhere we go like tonight (The Spirit Store, Dundalk) was amazing. You can see the crowd are different, you can see they’re getting more…into us and tonight I could see that the maybe 80% of the crowd was a lot of young people, so that’s kinda cool. Like last night in Sligo they went nuts, Limerick was amazing and Galway too. We used to have to ask people to stand up at the front of the stage but now when we get on stage everyone is already up the front, waiting. When we played Whelan’s 2 years ago we had to ask people to come and watch us, when we play Whelan’s now you wouldn’t get a ticket for love or money!”

“I think the Irish market is much easier than a lot of other markets, to be honest. You know an awful lot of people don’t bother with Ireland, like record companies and artists; they tend to try and make it in America or England and then if you do it sort of bleeds into Ireland, only because we have MTV and we read American or English newspapers. I think we’re lucky to live in a country where we’re not actually competing with every new band on earth. If you’re in America or London you’re competing with every single new band, Ireland is a bit calmer.”

Getting started was the easy part for Turn, as Ollie outlines “It was too easy, we got our first record deal after 3 weeks with Infectious.” Too easy being the key words here. Soon after Infectious abandoned Turn without any warning signs, as Ollie puts it, “When we got dropped by Infectious, we were fucked! Our fan base really pulled us through.” At this stage Turn had sold over 2,000 records in Ireland. They were too young and took it badly. But it was far from the end for Turn.

Next on the agenda was a tour of England, with close friends of the band, Idlewild. The tour went particularly well and left Turn on a high. They immediately began writing and writing and by the end of February 2002 had 6 new songs, which they realised on a mini-album “In-Position” on their own label ‘Nurture’. Turn did all this under their own management.

"all I will say about NME is that it might as well be called “Smash Hits for fucking kids with fucking depression problems!”"

Things were getting better and better in the Turn camp. Next in the pipeline was a stint with The Frames on The Heineken Rollercoaster Tour, an important tour for showcasing Irish acts. At this stage Turn were working on their highly anticipated follow-up album Forward. English record company Mercury had given them money to finish Forward. All signals pointed to Turn being signed up by Mercury and hopes were high. Gavin was asked to join Idlewild but declined the offer as things were finally looking positive for Turn.

In another horrible twist, the deal with Mercury fell through and Gavin considered his options and finally decided his future lay with Idlewild. This was a double blow for Turn, who found it hard to grasp the fact that their bandmate and foremost, friend had left them after 5 years. It was one of the most talked about events on the Dublin music scene last year, but since any feelings of animosity have been smoothed over.

Turn haven’t been completely on their own, the Dublin singer/songwriter explosion of recent years has given great confidence to Irish acts and a strong scene has emerged where before there had been a void. Ollie tells us about his favourites “When I think of Dublin singer/songwriters, I think about Damien Dempsey straight away. I mean I love Damien Dempsey, I think he’s the fucking real deal! Damien Rice is up there too and Paddy Casey, Glen Hansard, The Frames, Nina Hynes. And they’re all people we know and have a genuine comadry to all those people and we always wish the best for everybody who does that. “

Another helping hand for the band and indeed all Irish bands, have been radio presenters, such as Dave Fanning, Cormac Battle, Dan Hegarty and Tom Dunne.
“Dave Fanning’s actually getting better and Tom Dunne has always been good. In general what I think is that Irish radio could be a bit more open. You know there are an awful lot of people not getting played who should be. It’s ridiculous that you have become famous in another country to become really big in Ireland, before radio and press will suddenly recognise you. For example look at The Frames, they were selling out 7 nights in a row in Vicar Street in a row and radio still wouldn’t play them during the day! Eventually now The Frames have a single out (‘Fake’), it’s not the best single they ever had but everyone in radio is like Jesus Christ, we better fucking play this, it’s gone mad! People should be getting in and supporting acts when they need it. Okay, well that’s my only thing about Irish radio, but all those people you named are the best!”

People are hailing today as the best time in music in years with bands like Kings of Leon, The Darkness, Jet, etc fronting the so called ‘New Rock Revolution’ and the revival of all things retro and rock, so what do Turn think? “You can never pay any attention to that stuff,” spouts Ollie “there’s revolution s for the sake of revolutions. They don’t even fucking name them! A lot of people claim NME is great; saying they’re really helping new bands. They’re a massive part of the problem. Like by taking a band New Zealand like The Datsons and putting them on the cover and telling everyone they’re the best band ever, now excuse me but The Datsons are far from the best band ever! They’re not intelligent and they don’t think progressively. Things like Radioheads new album, now that’s fucking interesting music, that’s people pushing the envelope all the time. Anyway all I will say about NME is that it might as well be called “Smash Hits for fucking kids with fucking depression problems!”

Turn have shared labels with Ash and Wilt, who are friends of the band. So how do the band about lazy comparisons to Wilt? “I love Wilt but they’re not the same type of band we are.” remarked Ollie. Ian feels” The comparisons always start in the bar because we have a great time out with them and have a lot in common and we’re from down the country, so people naturally compare us. Even press and radio people who don’t even go to our gigs associate Turn with Wilt.”

Anyone else would call this a struggle to recognition but Ollie Cole has a very optimistic outlook on their career to date. “I wouldn’t call it a struggle because it’s great craic, but yes it does take a long time. The first time we played here, (The Spirit Store, Dundalk) was about 2 years ago and 11 people came to the gig! So from then to date we’ve played here around 10 or 11 times and everyone knows us and sings along. We’re making steady progress.”
Ian interjects “It’s great to have a number one album and a number one single but most people that become famous overnight, you know they lose the run of themselves and we lost the run of ourselves and we weren’t even in the top 100! We weren’t even in the top 10,000!" “So it does take a long time, I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s a hard road, because it’s enjoyable, but it is a long road.”

So after so many gigs up and down the country where do Turn enjoy playing the most?
“Well right now you’d have to say here (The Spirit Store, Dundalk). No, messing it’s been the best gig on this tour! “beams Ollie” Witnness, Witnness was amazing and our tent was heaving.”

“Our fanbase is very important to us. The people who come to our gigs and whatever are the ones who pay for all our albums. Like when we were dropped by Infectious, we were fucked and our fanbase really kinda helped us, a lot.”

Today Turn are as strong and together as ever with Alan Lee, formerly of Skindive, filling the bassists’ shoes and launched “Forward” in May 2003 with a sold out gig in Vicar Street and a no.6 chart position, with an air of defiance.

- Tia Clarke