Alex Turner (musician)

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Alex Turner
Alex Turner (musician) 2011.jpg
Turner performing in San Francisco in 2011
Background information
Birth name Alexander David Turner
Born (1986-01-06) 6 January 1986 (age 30)
High Green, Sheffield, England
Genres Indie rock[1]
Occupation(s)
Instruments
  • Vocals
  • guitar
  • keyboards
  • bass
Years active 2002–present
Labels Domino
Associated acts

Alexander David "Alex" Turner (born 6 January 1986) is an English musician. He is the lead vocalist, guitarist, and principal songwriter of the English rock band Arctic Monkeys.[2][3] The only child of two teachers, Turner was raised in the Sheffield suburb of High Green. Turner has also recorded with his side-project The Last Shadow Puppets and as a solo artist for the Submarine (2010) movie soundtrack.

Early life[edit]

Turner was born in Sheffield to Penny and David Turner. He is an only child[4] and was raised in High Green, a suburb of Sheffield. His mother is from Amersham and his father grew up in Sheffield.[5] Both parents worked at local secondary schools; his mother was a German teacher and his father taught physics and music.[6] Turner took piano lessons until the age of eight[7][8][9] and was exposed to "all sorts" of music at home,[10] including records by Frank Sinatra, The Carpenters, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, The Beach Boys, David Bowie and The Eagles.[8][10][11][12] His father was a "jazz-head",[5] had been a member of big bands, and played the saxophone, clarinet and piano.[10]

Turner was educated at Stocksbridge High School (1997–2002). His form teacher, Mark Coleman, remembers him as a well-liked student who excelled at sports, particularly basketball.[13] His English teacher, Steve Baker, described him as "quite reserved ... a little bit different, with a brightness and a cleverness that would serve him well."[14] Baker noted that Turner had an "incredibly laid-back", "lackadaisical" approach to school work, which worried his mother.[14][15] While Turner did not write poetry in school, his English teacher was "encouraging" and he was first introduced to John Cooper Clarke's poetry in Baker's class.[5][16] Turner then spent two years at Barnsley College (2002–2004),[17] where he studied English, psychology (for the first year), music technology and media.[10] After college, Turner's parents reluctantly agreed to let him defer university for one year to pursue his musical ambitions. During this time, he worked as a barman at the Sheffield venue The Boardwalk.[18] Before Arctic Monkeys signed a record deal, Turner was "half-heartedly" filling out university application forms and hoped to study in Manchester.[10][19]

Turner and Matt Helders became friends at the age of seven;[20][21][22] they were neighbours and attended the same primary school.[23][24] They performed Oasis's "Morning Glory" together in their final primary school assembly.[25] They met Andy Nicholson at secondary school[26] and, for most of their teenage years, the three friends listened to rap artists such as Dr. Dre, Wu-Tang Clan, Outkast, Cypress Hill and Roots Manuva.[11][27][28] They spent their weekends "making crap hip-hop" beats using Turner's father's Cubase system.[10][29] Following the breakthrough of The Strokes,[12] Turner was drawn to guitar bands including The Hives and The White Stripes.[9] Jamie Cook, a neighbour, introduced him to Queens of the Stone Age and The Coral[27] and he first listened to The Libertines on Nick O'Malley's Walkman during a bus ride from High Green to Barnsley College.[30][31][32] Turner attended his first gig in 2002, watching The Vines in Manchester.[33] In 2003, at the age of sixteen, he travelled to London with Helders and Nicholson to watch The Strokes play at Alexandra Palace; they met Pete Doherty in the audience.[29][34]

Musical career[edit]

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

Turner in Norwich, England, in October 2005

Turner's parents bought him a guitar for Christmas 2001.[35][36] In mid-2002, Turner, Cook, Nicholson and Helders decided to form a band, having watched friends including Milburn play at local pubs.[37] The name Arctic Monkeys was conceived by Cook. Turner initially did not want to be the singer; a number of schoolmates including Glyn Jones tried out before he became the frontman.[36][37][38] All four were beginners on their instruments; they practised in both Turner and Helders' garages and, later, at an unused warehouse in Wath. 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 ... Half the time, though, they were playing table tennis."[39][40] At first, the band's original songs featured nonsense words[37][41] but Turner eventually began to share his own lyrics with his bandmates: "I had this sense of dread that the others would laugh me out of the room. Mickey-taking is a useful quality control."[38] They practised for a year before playing a live show: "A lot of people have an idea of the music they wanna make and then they go make it, but we started the band to have something to do and then figured all that stuff out."[42] "I’m quite easily influenced. I could have ended up anywhere with a little push from whoever. So it was important that it was us four.”[43] Their first gig was on Friday, 13 June 2003, supporting The Sound at a local pub called The Grapes. Their eight-song set comprised three covers and five self-composed songs.[44]

Turner in Newcastle, England in January 2006

Also in the summer of 2003, Turner played seven gigs in York and Liverpool as a rhythm guitarist for the funk band Judan Suki, after meeting the lead singer Jon McClure on a bus. The experience made him "more confident. John is a very confident character."[45][46] In August 2003, Turner recorded a demo with Judan Suki at Sheffield's 2fly Studios and asked Alan Smyth if he would produce his other band. Smyth obliged: “They were giddy. They weren’t the tightest of bands by any stretch of the imagination, but I thought they definitely had something special going on. I told Alex off for singing in an American voice at that first session.”[43][47][48][49] Smyth introduced the band to Geoff Barradale, with whom he had once played in a band called Seafruit. Barradale became their manager after their third gig (at The Boardwalk) and paid for them to record four more three-song demos from late August 2003 to November 2004. Barradale drove the band around venues in the north of England to establish their reputation, handing out copies of the demo CDs after each show.[50] Fans began sharing the unofficial Beneath the Boardwalk demo compilation online and, by the end of 2004, audiences knew the words to the songs.[43]

After finishing college in mid-2004, Turner worked as a barman at Sheffield music venue The Boardwalk and met well-known musicians including Richard Hawley.[51][52] On 2 December 2004,[53] Turner was working when John Cooper Clarke appeared on stage as the opening act for The Fall.[42] 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."[18] Turner and his bandmates requested to meet the poet after the show, with Clarke recalling in 2011 that they were "shy kids, you know, looking at their feet, and shuffling about ... really sweet, sweet kids."[54][55] Clarke advised the band to keep their unusual name.[5] Turner has described Clarke as his "hero".[56] He was inspired by Clarke's use of a regional accent and the number of words in his poems.[56] "I love the way he articulates – the little words he uses and the way he delivers them."[57] 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").[56]

Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not and Favourite Worst Nightmare (2005–2007)[edit]

In May 2005, they self-released their first EP, Five Minutes with Arctic Monkeys.[43] Arctic Monkeys signed to the independent label Domino Records after a bidding war in 2005. Their first album Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not (WPSIATWIN), released in January 2006, became the fastest-selling debut album in British music history.[58] Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not, which is often considered to be a concept album, centered around nightlife in the UK.[59]

In 2013, Turner questioned the assumption that the album featured social commentary: "If that's what it was, then what was I actually saying? It was just pointing at things. I was looking at something going on, I'd be in the corner of the pub, but eventually you run out of things to point at. Eventually you turn inward."[60]

Their second album, Favourite Worst Nightmare, was released in April 2007. They filmed a concert at the Manchester Apollo, where Richard Hawley made a guest appearance.[61] Turner was featured in Mojo in early 2007 and asked to interview Cooper Clarke;[5] Cooper Clarke's poem Out Of Control Fairground appeared on the inside cover of the Arctic Monkeys' Fluorescent Adolescent single.[62]

The Age of the Understatement (2007–2008)[edit]

Turner during a Last Shadow Puppets performance in 2008

Turner recorded an album with Miles Kane, James Ford,[63] and Owen Pallett. They named the band The Last Shadow Puppets and 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.[64]

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.

Humbug, Submarine, Suck It and See (2009–2012)[edit]

Turner at Lollapalooza in 2009

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.[65] 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."[66]

Turner then wrote and performed all six tracks for the soundtrack for Submarine, the first feature film by Richard Ayoade, a friend and director of various Arctic Monkeys music videos. The soundtrack was released on 18 March 2011 in the UK and US.[67] Bill Ryder-Jones[68][69][70] and James Ford played on the record

He was named by The Guardian as one of the Great Lyricists, with Turner responding: "They spelt me name wrong as well. On the front, they missed the first r out of Turner, so unfortunately I was Alex Tuner, which is significant, as it really was a bit premature to induct me into that company."[71]

Turner performing at Lollapalooza in 2011

Arctic Monkeys' fourth album, Suck It and See, was released in June 2011.

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[72] for Record Store Day 2012 and played bass guitar[73] on "Get Right," a B-side to Kane's single, "Don't Forget Who You Are."

Turner performing in Dallas, Texas in 2012

AM (2013–2015)[edit]

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.[74] 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."[60] Turner set a Cooper Clarke poem "I Wanna Be Yours" to music for the final track.[75]

At Metacritic, which assigns a normalised rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics; the album received an average score of 81, based on 34 reviews. 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." Time Out said of the album, "One of Britain’s greatest bands just got greater in an unexpected but hugely welcome way. Single men, I urge you: put down FHM and pick up AM." In their 10/10 review, NME wrote that AM is "absolutely and unarguably the greatest record of their career." 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, which was released on 4 June 2013. In this album, Turner's vocals are featured in track four, "If I Had a Tail", and he provided inspiration to the writing of the album's sixth track "Kalopsia," by mentioning the name to Josh Homme during one of their conversations.[76] Turner was featured in Mini Mansions's song "Vertigo" in March 2015.[77]

Everything You've Come To Expect (2015–present)[edit]

After mooted rumours of a new album with Miles Kane in Turner's other band The Last Shadow Puppets. On 19 October 2015, Owen Pallett, who contributed the string arrangements on The Age of the Understatement, confirmed work on a second The Last Shadow Puppets album.[78] In November 2015, producer James Ford confirmed that work on the second album had been completed.[79]

On 10 January 2016, the band released their first single since 2008.[80] The song, "Bad Habits", was accompanied with a music video[81] filmed in the same style as the first two teaser trailers. On 21 January 2016, the band announced that their second album would be entitled Everything You've Come to Expect, and would feature the return of all three previous band members, as well as the addition of bass player Zach Dawes. The title track (Everything You've Come to Expect) was released as a single on 10 March 2016. It was followed by the release of "Aviation" on 16 March 2016 and the release of "Miracle Aligner" on 28 March 2016. The album was released on 1 April 2016. From March until 26 August 2016 they will be touring.

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 disinterest in self-promotion and suspicion of the media, even abandoning a press event in Paris.[82] While Turner became known for "cocky onstage bravado",[46] he was generally "quietly spoken" in interviews.[83] 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."[43]

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."[84] 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 band-mates) with the person who writes so vivaciously about modern teenage life; but slowly his guard will drop a little."[5]

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."[85]

By 2011, he was becoming more extroverted as a frontman[86] 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.":[87] "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."[88] He remains, according to Pitchfork, "thoughtful and a little self-conscious" in interview settings.[11]

Discography[edit]

Solo

EP

Title Album details Peak chart positions
UK
[89]
FRA
[90]
IRL
[91]
Submarine
  • Released: 18 March 2011
  • Label: Domino
35 97 56

Other

Arctic Monkeys

The Last Shadow Puppets

Collaborations

Equipment[edit]

Electric guitars
Acoustic guitars
Keyboards

References[edit]

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External links[edit]