Alex Turner (musician)

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Alex Turner
OutsideLandsSan Francisco.png
Turner performing in San Francisco in 2011
Born Alexander David Turner
(1986-01-06) 6 January 1986 (age 32)
High Green, Sheffield, England
Residence Los Angeles, California, USA
Occupation
  • Musician
  • singer
  • songwriter
  • record producer
Musical career
Genres
Instruments
  • Guitar
  • vocals
  • bass guitar
  • keyboards
  • piano
Years active 2003–present
Labels Domino
Associated acts

Alexander David Turner (born 6 January 1986) is an English musician, singer, songwriter and record producer. He is best known as the frontman of Arctic Monkeys. He has also recorded with his side project The Last Shadow Puppets and as a solo artist.

Early life[edit]

Turner grew up in High Green, a suburb of Sheffield, South Yorkshire. He is an only child.[1] His parents, Penny and David Turner, both worked at local secondary schools; his mother was a German teacher while his father taught physics and music.[2] Turner took piano lessons until the age of eight[3][4][5] and was exposed to "all sorts" of music at home,[6] including records by Frank Sinatra, The Carpenters, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, The Beach Boys, David Bowie and The Eagles.[4][6][7][8] His father was a "jazz-head",[9] had been a member of big bands, and played the saxophone, clarinet and piano.[6][10]

Turner was educated at Stocksbridge High School (1997–2002).[11] His English teacher, Simon Baker, was "encouraging"[9][12] and later remembered Turner as "quite reserved ... a little bit different, with a brightness and a cleverness that would serve him well."[13] He noted that Turner had an "incredibly laid-back", "lackadaisical" approach to school work, which worried his mother.[13][14] Turner then spent two years at Barnsley College (2002–2004),[15] where he studied for A-levels in music technology and media studies, and AS-levels in English, photography and psychology.[16] In his final year of college, Turner "half-heartedly" filled out university application forms and hoped to study in Manchester.[6][17] However, his parents reluctantly allowed him to defer university for one year to pursue his musical ambitions.[6]

Turner and Matt Helders became friends at the age of seven;[18][19][20] they were neighbours and attended the same primary school.[21][22] They met Andy Nicholson at secondary school[23] and the three friends bonded over their shared enjoyment of hip-hop artists such as Dr. Dre, Wu-Tang Clan, Outkast, Cypress Hill and Roots Manuva.[7][24][25] They spent their weekends "making crap hip-hop" beats using Turner's father's Cubase system.[6][26] Following the breakthrough of The Strokes in 2001, Turner and his friends were drawn to guitar bands including The Hives and The White Stripes.[5] That Christmas, when Turner was 15,[8] his parents bought him a guitar.[27][28] He attended his first gig in 2002, watching The Vines in Manchester.[29] In 2003, at the age of seventeen, he travelled to London with Helders and Nicholson to watch The Strokes play at Alexandra Palace; they met Pete Doherty of The Libertines in the audience.[26][30]

Musical career[edit]

Formation of Arctic Monkeys (2002–2004)[edit]

In mid-2002, Turner, Helders, Nicholson and another friend, Jamie Cook, decided to form a band, having watched friends including Milburn play at local pubs.[31] At first, the band's original songs featured nonsense words[31][32] but Turner gradually began to share his own lyrics with his bandmates.[33] He became the frontman after a number of schoolmates tried out.[28][31][33] Before playing a live show, the band rehearsed for a year in both Turner and Helders' garages and, later, at an unused warehouse in Wath.[34] According to Helders' mother, who drove the teenagers to and from their rehearsal space three times a week: "If they knew you were there, they would just stop so we had to sneak in."[21][7] Their first gig was on Friday, 13 June 2003, supporting The Sound at a local pub called The Grapes.[35] The set, which was partly recorded,[36] comprised both original songs and cover versions (including "Hotel Yorba" by The White Stripes, "Teenage Kicks" by The Undertones, "I'm Only Sleeping" by The Beatles, "The Rockafeller Skank" by Fatboy Slim and "Harmonic Generator" by The Datsuns).[37][38]

In the summer of 2003, Turner also played seven gigs in York and Liverpool as a rhythm guitarist and bongo player for the funk band Judan Suki, after meeting the lead singer Jon McClure on a bus.[39][40][41] In August 2003, Turner recorded a demo with Judan Suki at Sheffield's 2fly Studios and asked Alan Smyth if he would produce an Arctic Monkeys demo. Smyth obliged and "thought they definitely had something special going on. I told Alex off for singing in an American voice at that first session."[42][43][44][45] Smyth introduced the band to manager Geoff Barradale, who became their manager after their third gig. Barradale and his co-manager Ian McAndrew paid for the band to record numberous three-song demos from late August 2003 to November 2004.[46] Barradale drove the band around live venues in the north of England to establish their reputation, handing out copies of the demo CDs after each show.[47] Fans began sharing the unofficial Beneath the Boardwalk demo compilation online through message-boards and MySpace and, by the end of 2004, audiences knew the words to the songs.[42][48]

After finishing college in mid-2004, Turner began working as a bartender at the Sheffield music venue The Boardwalk. There, he met well-known musicians including Richard Hawley.[49][50] On 2 December 2004,[51] Turner was working when John Cooper Clarke appeared on stage as the opening act for The Fall.[34] The performance made a big impression on the eighteen-year-old: "He's talking 100 miles an hour, and he's really funny ... It just blew my mind."[52] After the show, Turner and his bandmates met the poet, who advised them to keep their unusual name[9] and recalled in 2011 that they were "shy kids, you know, looking at their feet, and shuffling about ... really sweet, sweet kids."[53][54] Turner has described Clarke as his "hero",[55] and was inspired by his use of a regional accent.[55][56] The early Arctic Monkeys song "From the Ritz to the Rubble" was a homage to Clarke's style ("my best shot at it, at least").[55]

Rise to fame (2005–2007)[edit]

Turner in Norwich, England, in October 2005

By 2005, Arctic Monkeys were receiving nationwide attention. They received their first mention in a national newspaper in April, with Joe Mott of the Daily Star describing them as "the most exciting band to emerge this year".[57] They self-released an EP, featuring the single "Fake Tales of San Francisco", in May[58][59] and began their first national tour soon afterwards.[60] Turner began dating London-based student Johanna Bennett.[61] In June, in the midst of a bidding war, Arctic Monkeys signed to the independent label Domino Records and began recording an album with producer Jim Abbiss.[62] In October, the single "I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor" debuted at number one on the UK Singles Chart.[63]

The album, Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not, was released in January 2006.[64] Turner's lyrics, chronicling teenage nightlife in Sheffield, were widely praised and, initially, there was even media speculation that the 20-year-old frontman, "inarticulate in interviews", might have had help from an anonymous co-writer.[65].[66] Kelefa Sanneh of The New York Times remarked: "Mr. Turner's lyrics are worth waiting for and often worth memorizing, too ... He has an uncanny way of evoking Northern English youth culture while neither romanticizing it nor sneering at it."[67] Alexis Petridis of The Guardian said he was "equipped with a brave, unflinching eye for detail [and] a spring-loaded wit."[68]

Turner in Newcastle, England in January 2006

The album, the fastest-selling debut in British music history, quickly became a cultural phenomenon.[69] The band responded by turning down many promotional opportunities[70] and quickly releasing new material - a five-track EP Who the Fuck Are Arctic Monkeys? in April, and a stand-alone single, "Leave Before the Lights Come On", in August. According to the producer James Ford, who later became a close Turner collaborator, the band developed a "gang" mentality and were "closed to all outsiders" during this period. That summer, the band made the decision to permanently replace Nicholson, who had taken a touring break due to "fatigue", with Nick O'Malley, another childhood friend.[71] As of 2015, Turner and Nicholson remain "close friends".[72][73]

Their second album, Favourite Worst Nightmare, was released in April 2007.[74][75] Turner and Bennett had ended their two-year relationship in January 2007; she was credited as a co-writer on "Fluorescent Adolescent".[76][77]

Turner began dating television presenter Alexa Chung in mid-2007.[78] After briefly sharing a Sheffield flat with Jon McClure,[79] Turner moved to London in early 2008.[80] Richard Ayoade filmed a concert at the Manchester Apollo, where Richard Hawley made a guest appearance.[81] They organised a mini-festival at Old Trafford Cricket Ground for 50,000 fans; support came from Amy Winehouse, Supergrass and the Coral. They played secret shows as Death Ramps shows alongside Hawley (who also featured on a Arctic Monkeys b-side) and Miles Kane, then the frontman of the Rascals.

The Last Shadow Puppets, film soundtrack, and continued success (2008–2012)[edit]

Turner during a Last Shadow Puppets performance in 2008

Turner formed a band, The Last Shadow Puppets, with Miles Kane,[82] James Ford,[83] and Owen Pallett. They were inspired by Scott Walker and Turner later said that was "when I started to want to sing."[84] The album, The Age of the Understatement, was released on 21 April 2008. It reached number one in its first week. Towards the end of 2008 they completed a small tour, backed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, starting at Portsmouth Guildhall on 19 August.[85] He credited Kane with helping him to "open up".[86]

In early 2008, he was named by The Guardian as one of the Great Lyricists, with Simon Armitage writing: "Of all those writing lyrics today, Turner is among the most poetic. His use of internal rhyme exists to be admired and envied."[87][88]

In October 2008, Turner made his debut as a short story writer, performing a spoken word track "A Choice of Three" on his bandmate's compilation Late Night Tales: Matt Helders. Turner worked with Dizzee Rascal on the song "Temptation Greets You Like Your Naughty Friend" from Arctic Monkeys' Brianstorm EP and "Temptation" from Rascal's album Maths and English. Turner also appears in the Reverend and the Makers song "The Machine" from their first album The State Of Things.

Turner performing at Lollapalooza in 2011

Arctic Monkeys' third album, Humbug, was released in August 2009. The record was produced by Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age, whom Arctic Monkeys played a show with in Houston in October 2007.[89] Turner has said: "We really wanted to tear up the rulebook and work with new people ... That was a massive turning point for the group. I think we needed to go there and freshen up our ideas. It was like if this band is going to continue you need to move forward."[90]

Turner was approached by director Richard Ayoade, a friend and director of various Arctic Monkeys and Last Shadow Puppets music videos, to provide an acoustic soundtrack for the coming-of-age feature film Submarine (2010).[91][92] In March 2011, he released the six-track Submarine EP as a solo project.[93] James Ford and Bill Ryder-Jones played on the record.[94][95][96]

Arctic Monkeys' fourth album, Suck It and See, was released in June 2011. The album was recorded at Sound City Studios in Los Angeles. They performed two homecoming performances at Sheffield's Don Valley Bowl. Support acts include Miles Kane, the Vaccines, Dead Sons, Anna Calvi and Mabel Love. A b-side, "You and I," is credited to Richard Hawley and the Death Ramps. In 2011, Turner also contributed by writing and co-writing six songs on Miles Kane's first album Colour of the Trap. He also co-wrote the song "First of My Kind" with Kane and Eugene McGuinness[97] for Record Store Day 2012 and played bass guitar[98] on "Get Right," a B-side to Kane's single, "Don't Forget Who You Are."

After four years together, Turner and Chung split in mid-2011.[99]In 2012, Arctic Monkeys performed "I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor" and a cover of "Come Together" by the Beatles at the opening ceremony of the London Summer Olympics.

AM and second Last Shadow Puppets album (2013–2017)[edit]

Turner performing in Zurich in 2013

AM was released in September 2013. Turner began writing songs for the band's fifth album (later titled AM) while touring the US with The Black Keys.[100] The album was written and recorded in Los Angeles: "It's all come back stronger since we've been there. I've been hanging around with Jamie a lot. It's the first time all four of us have been living in the same town for eight years."[101] Turner set a Cooper Clarke poem "I Wanna Be Yours" to music for the final track. (Turner was featured in Mojo in early 2007 and asked to interview Cooper Clarke;[9] Cooper Clarke's poem "Out Of Control Fairground" appeared on the inside cover of the Arctic Monkeys' "Fluorescent Adolescent" single.)[102].[103] Simon Harper of Clash magazine states, "Welding inspiration from hip-hop greats with rock's titans, 'AM' is built upon portentous beats that are dark and intimidating, yet wickedly thrilling." Tim Jonze of The Guardian noted that the album "manages to connect those different directions – the muscular riffs of Humbug and the wistful pop of Suck It and See – with the bristling energy and sense of fun that propelled their initial recordings."

Turner has also collaborated with Queens of the Stone Age on their sixth studio album ...Like Clockwork, (2013). In this album, Turner's vocals are featured in track four, "If I Had a Tail".[104] Turner was featured in Mini Mansions's song "Vertigo" in March 2015.[105]

The Last Shadow Puppets released their second album, Everything You've Come to Expect, on 1 April 2016. Singles included "Bad Habits",[106] Everything You've Come to Expect, "Aviation" and "Miracle Aligner". Laura Snapes of Pitchfork detected an air of "misanthropy" in the album. However, she acknowledged that Turner was "no less a gifted lyricist than ever" and described some songs as "totally gorgeous ... the structures fluid and surprising".[107] Alexis Petridis of The Guardian enjoyed Turner’s "characteristically sparkling use of language" and "melodic skill". However, he felt the pair's "in-joking" during interviews and Kane's "leery" encounter with a female Spin journalist cast "an uncomfortable pall" over the album.[108] From March until August 2016, they toured in Europe and North America.[109] In December 2016, they released "The Dream Synopsis", an EP which included covers of "Les Cactus" by Jacques Dutronc and "Is This What You Wanted" by Leonard Cohen.

Alexandra Savior's debut album, Belladonna of Sadness, co-written and co-produced by Turner, was released in April 2017. Columbia Records approached Turner about working with the then-unknown artist in 2014, and they wrote the album over an eighteen-month period in between Turner's touring commitments. Turner and James Ford co-produced the album in 2015, before work began on Everything You've Come to Expect.[110] Savior described the process as "pretty collaborative": "Alex has a really good work ethic ... He's much more organised [than me]."[111][112] In reviewing the album, Hilary Hughes of Pitchfork remarked: "Turner’s musical ticks are so distinct that they’re instantly recognizable when someone else tries to dress them up as their own."[113] Turner made a one-off stage appearance with Savior in 2016 and she supported The Last Shadow Puppets on their US tour.[114] Savior later said the press attention surrounding Turner's involvement was overwhelming: "I'm so grateful for him, but I'm also like, 'Alright, alright!'"[115]

Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino (2018)[edit]

Turner performing at the Royal Albert Hall in 2018

Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino, Arctic Monkeys' sixth album, was released on 11 May 2018.[116] After receiving a Steinway Vertegrand piano as a 30th birthday present from his manager, Ian McAndrew, Turner wrote the space-themed album from the perspective of "a lounge-y character".[117][118] Having written "the most straight-up love letters" of his career on Everything You've Come to Expect, he felt ready to explore social commentary.[119] He recorded demos at home, and shared them with Cook in early 2017. Cook was initially taken-aback by the change in direction: "It took a few listens to even begin to, like… But I don’t think any of us wanted to make an AM, Part Two, so I were very, very excited by what he’d come up with."[120] By mid-2017, the whole band was recording the project, produced by Turner and James Ford, in both Los Angeles and France.[121] They were joined by other musicians including Cam Avery, James Righton, Zach Dawes, Tyler Parkford, Tom Rowley and Loren Humphrey.[122]

Upon release, Jonah Weiner of Rolling Stone characterised Tranquility Base as "a captivatingly bizarre album about the role of entertainment – the desire to escape into it, and the desire to create it – during periods of societal upheaval and crisis."[123] Alexis Petridis of The Guardian found it "quietly impressive" that the band chose to release the "thrilling, smug, clever and oddly cold album" rather than more crowd-pleasing fare.[124] Jazz Monroe of Pitchfork declared it "a delirious and artful satire directed at the foundations of modern society."[125] The album became the eighth chart-topping album of Turner's career in the UK.[126] The band announced plans to tour the album from May to October 2018.[127]

Public image[edit]

Turner has a reputation as a reluctant interviewee. Upon the release of Arctic Monkeys' debut album, Turner and his bandmates became known for being uninterested in self-promotion and suspicion of the media, even abandoning a press event in Paris.[128] While Turner became known for his "cocky onstage bravado",[41] he was generally "quietly spoken" in interviews.[129] In a May 2006 interview, Dorian Lynskey noted that Turner was "harder to get a handle on [than his bandmates]. Fidgety and intense, he's the least talkative member of the group, chewing over his answers for so long that he ends up doubting his own words."[42]

Turner performing in Ventura, California in May 2013

By 2007, The Guardian remarked that Turner was more confident but "he still swallows the end of his sentences when the tape is running, as if suddenly convulsed by embarrassment at the sound of his own voice."[50] In the same year, a Mojo journalist at first found it "hard to reconcile the gentle, boyish, self-contained singer ("always the quiet one", according to his bandmates) with the person who writes so vivaciously about modern teenage life; but slowly his guard will drop a little."[9]

Q Magazine's Tom Doyle, in a 2009 interview, stated: "Q has encountered various Alex Turners over the past few years – the virtually mute teen of Arctic Monkeys' early days; the hesitant, self-conscious frontman of Favourite Worst Nightmare, the giggling, slightly cocky Last Shadow Puppet, drunk on his camaraderie with partner Miles Kane. Now 23, this year's model is artful and semi-detached, knowing and slightly spacey, as if constantly distracted by unspoken thoughts... Still, he is unusually courteous and polite, laughing wryly and often."[130]

By 2011, he was becoming more extroverted as a frontman[131] and by 2014, Q magazine noted that, where Turner once resembled a "schoolboy being made to read out announcements in front of morning assembly, he now confidently strides around the stage, combs his greaser hair at specific intervals and addresses the crowd clearly and concisely.":[132] " “You can’t get up onstage in front of any amount of people without putting on an act. Otherwise I wouldn’t be able to do it."[133] "It's a very unnatural environment to be in, up on a stage. So you put up defences to hide. Like being tightly wound and quite aggressive and uncooperative, as I used to do."[134] He remains, according to Pitchfork, "thoughtful and a little self-conscious" in interview settings.[7]

Personal life[edit]

Turner has lived in Los Angeles, California since 2011.[135] He dated American actress Arielle Vandenberg for two years from late 2011 to early 2014. Since early 2015, he has been in a relationship with American model Taylor Bagley.[136]

Along with his band mates Turner is a Sheffield Wednesday fan. He attended the championship playoff final at Wembley in 2016 and tends to visit Hillsborough to watch the Owls on odd occasions.

Discography[edit]

Solo

EP

Title Album details Peak chart positions
UK
[137]
FRA
[138]
IRL
[139]
SCO
[140]
Submarine
  • Released: 18 March 2011
  • Label: Domino
35 97 56 43

Other

Arctic Monkeys

The Last Shadow Puppets

Collaborations

References[edit]

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