Frank Carter is with some ease the most iconic figure of the current UK punk scene. It’s really hard to think of anyone else who’s come close. Initially making a name for himself as the frontman of Gallows in the mid-noughties, Carter’s chaotic stage presence, sinister vocal delivery and lyrics addressing the state of the nation, helped elevate Gallows to be considered a Black Flag or a Sex Pistols for a new generation, a band that united misfits through punk. If you were a punk or hardcore kid around that time, chances are it was because of Gallows.
Carter however, went on to leave Gallows due to creative differences and formed the much more melodic Pure Love, whose shows would still feature antics from Carter. Surprisingly though, Carter had yet another crack at reinvention last year with his latest outfit Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes which saw Carter return to ferocious music akin to Gallows, but carry the rock scope of Pure Love and remain a live force to be reckoned with.
With their debut full length ‘Blossom’ going to no. 18 in the UK album charts, sophomore release ‘Modern Ruin’ on its way in January and most of his current tour being sold out, Frank Carter seems unstoppable at the moment. We were lucky enough to sit down with Carter before his show at The Key Club in Leeds, where he was happy to talk about his legendary shows, ‘Modern Ruin’ and why he feels stronger than ever.
Contact Music: Thanks for speaking with us. How’s the tour been so far?
Frank Carter: The tour has been amazing! We’re like one show away from selling it out and it’s just been phenomenal, everyone that’s come has been amazing, fans have been really respectful, I think we’re on form, we’re giving good shows, so it’s just an exciting time really.
CM: You’re renowned for going crazy when you perform, by stage diving a lot, getting in the pits, climbing the ceilings, etc. What brings this out in you?
FC: The music. I’m a performer, I was born to perform and I think we write energetic, exciting music so it just makes me feel that way. I guess there’s no big secret to it, I just get too excited then end up stage diving.
CM: Do you ever get scared when performing such chaotic shows?
FC: I try not to think about it. But also, now I’m a dad, I try not to jump off the really high stuff. On our first tour, I did a front flip off a speaker stack, which was really high up and I remember in mid-air thinking ‘you’ve got to stop doing this, this is madness, you’ve got a kid now.’ Then we had a show in Berlin, just this summer, where I landed funny from a jump and I thought I fractured a vertebra in my back, I came home in a wheelchair, we cancelled gigs, I couldn’t walk and that was really scary. I’m full bill of health now, didn’t fracture anything, no breaks, just tore some muscles. Now I’ve got a proper warm-up routine. I’m much more cautious now, I’ve got a lot to live for.
CM: Rattlesnakes is your first band since becoming a father, how has that impacted this band compared to Pure Love or Gallows?
FC: It’s impacted it in every way, for the better (pauses) and for the worst. I miss my family more than I ever have, I’m literally missing my daughter grow up right now. That’s always hard, but we have a real opportunity with this band for it to break in a big way and if I can make that happen, then I can have the career that I’ve always wanted which is to be a performer, to be a musician for the rest of my life, that’s what I’ve wanted my whole life. My wife knows that, I’m really lucky I have a very supportive family so I’m just trying to do my best by them and make them proud.
CM: It’s been ten years since Gallows’ ‘Orchestra Of Wolves’ came out, and you’ll have had people who were fans of you in the Gallows days, who’ve followed your work since. How does it feel to have had people grow with your career?
FC: Great! It’s everything I’ve always wanted. I’m really lucky in that I have dedicated fans, hardcore dedicated fans, that love the music that I make, but mostly they love the integrity and the fact that they know what they’re gonna get from me is exactly what I want to release at any given moment. It might not be what they wanna hear, unfortunately in some instances, but at least they know ‘okay this is what he’s doing now, this is what he wants to do’ and they’ll come and see it and they’ll see that I’m still as passionate, if not more passionate and more exciting live than I ever have been.
I think that right now what people are seeing is easily the best version of me that there’s ever been in music. I’m more confident, but less arrogant, less obnoxious, more focused, I’m a better performer, I’m a better singer, I’ve got a better scream in me, I have more stamina and somehow I’ve got more energy than I did when I was 21. I don’t really know how that’s happened, I think that’s my kid, that’s down to playing in the park all day long (laughs).
CM: What made you want to put your name on this band, with it being called Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes? Do you feel this band is more you compared to your previous bands?
FC: Definitely. With Rattlesnakes I didn’t want to hide behind a band anymore, I wanted to say ‘this is who I am and I like all sorts of music. I like hardcore, I like punk, I like rock, I like acoustic, I like blues.’ I just want to play whatever the f*ck I want to play, whenever I want to play it and I want everyone to be okay with that. That’s what we’re doing, that’s why our new album ‘Modern Ruin’ is not a huge change in direction, but it’s much more refined and more complicated.
It’s got way more depth than ‘Blossom’ and the sound is heavier and stronger and more melodic in a lot of ways. I wanted to challenge my fans again and I think that’s why they stay is because I do continually challenge them. If I had just given five albums of the same thing, sure some people would be happy, I certainly wouldn’t be and I think it’s easy for people to get bored by that. Too often or not now people are so concerned about style that they forgot about substance. Music to me has always been about substance over style. I will take substance and content over style and sound any day.
CM: ‘Blossom’ was a huge success, debuting in the top 20 of the UK album charts, despite being an aggressive record and the first record of this band, what do you think has made people connect with it on such a mass scale?
FC: I have, no idea. Genuinely I have no idea, I don’t know why that happened. I’m incredibly proud that it did and I’m excited by our fanbase because they were the people that made that happen. It resonated with them for some reason and what we did was we took a completely uncompromising record, that sounded like it was recorded in a garage in the f*cking early 90’s in Seattle and we put it at no. 18 in the charts and that was a big, big moment for me, it was a huge moment for me.
I don’t care about chart positions, I don’t give a sh*t, but for me it made a big difference because it instantly made everybody in the music industry pay attention. They were suddenly like ‘how did we miss this?!’ It’s their job as A&R’s to scout the bands, but the problem is I had been in bands for a long time and everybody already knows me and I think they had all kind of written me off and said ‘he had Gallows, he had Pure Love and it didn’t work, that’s it, it’s done.’ You know what? It doesn’t work like that (he grins). It’s not how big the dog in the fight is, it’s how big the fight in the dog is and there’s a lot of fight in me and I really want to make this work.
CM: The last time you played The Key Club, which was before ‘Blossom’ was released, everyone went mental despite not knowing the majority of the songs. How have the shows compared since ‘Blossom’ came out and people will have time to familiarise themselves with the music?
FC: Madness. Utter madness. We played Manchester the other day in like a 550-capacity club and the whole place exploded. We played Aberdeen and then we played Nottingham last night and it was just madness. Honestly, we’re playing Rescue Rooms, there’s 450 people in Nottingham on a Sunday night and the whole room just exploded! And then they sit in silence when while I play ‘Beautiful Death.’ You could hear a pin drop, literally and it’s a beautiful moment for me. So, for me it’s just been about enjoying it. I just try and enjoy it and not let it get past me too quickly. It’s been really special.
CM: With your shows, in any of your bands, being as wild as they are, they’ve probably made for quite a lot of people’s most memorable gig going experiences. I’m curious who have been some of the most impactful acts you’ve seen that have inspired you?
FC: Oh god! One of the first gigs I ever went to was System Of A Down and it blew my mind, literally blew my mind wide open. I was front stage I was just like (pulls wide-eyed, jaw dropped face) whole gig, ‘this is the best thing I’ve ever seen.’ I was 16 years old, it was just crazy. Nick Cave is my all-time favourite artist I think. I’ve seen him a few times now. We actually share management and he’s just a phenomenal performer, songwriter, singer, everything about him is pretty special. Those are two of my favourite artists, weirdly System Of A Down and Nick Cave.
I think people should expect nothing less than a band giving everything they’ve got and if they’re not, what’s the point? There’s too much safety in the world anyway, I want danger, I want excitement, I want to feel like we’re on the edge at all times because that’s what moved me when I was younger, that inspired me to play music.
CM: What’s the worst injury you’ve ever sustained from a show?
FC: Went home from Berlin in a wheelchair, that was pretty bad. Apart from that, I’ve knocked myself out a few times, I’ve had concussion for a week and a half before, that was really bad. People don’t think concussion is bad, but that was awful. It’s been pretty full on; I’ve had a few bad ones. But the wheelchair thing was the worst. I could barely walk, that was not fun. Being 32 years old and being a Dad and thinking ‘I’m going home in a wheelchair, this is scary shit’ so I try and real it in now.
CM: You’ve obviously played with quite a few musicians having been in numerous bands at this point. Which musician would be your dream to collaborate with?
FC: I don’t know if there’s really anyone I’m desperate to work with at the minute, because when you start collaborating with people it can get quite difficult. I’ve got a really good system with Dean [Richardson, Rattlesnakes guitarist]. We just understand each other and we’re very in-tune with what the other needs, so I think really I just wanna write more songs with him if that’s okay?
CM: Absolutely! ‘Modern Ruin’ comes out in January next year. What can people expect from this record?
FC: What can’t you expect? It’s got the most depth of any record I’ve ever released, it’s brilliantly vibrant, it’s maddeningly heavy, it’s got the hardest hardcore song I’ve ever written on there called ‘Modern Ruin.’ It starts with a one minute song which is just me singing and playing guitar, all about my dog. So, the album is eclectic, let’s put it that way. There’s a lot on there and it’s a very very different record from ‘Blossom’, but it gives a very good example of the directions that we want to go and I say directions because there is no one direction this band is going to go on in. We tried to make that clear on ‘Blossom’, we had rock songs on there, we had punk songs, we had hardcore songs and we had a blues song. With ‘Modern Ruin’ it’s the same, there’s a lot more rock songs on there than anything else, because that’s really the future of my band, I want to play rock music, because that’s what I grew up loving, you know? System Of A Down, Deftones, Rage Against The Machine, they’re some of my favourite bands of all time and I wanna write music that moves people the way those songs moved me, so that’s what people can expect.
CM: When you left Gallows and formed Pure Love you seemed pretty finished with heavy music, what brought back the urge to do something more aggressive again?
FC: Like most things in life, I’m quite a reactionary person. Pure Love was just a direct reaction to the situation I’d been in. I’d been playing music for six years, I was bored of it, I didn’t feel like I was good at it, it didn’t feel like a challenge and I didn’t feel like I had earned it either, I felt like a bit of a fraud. So, I wanted to sing and I wanted to do something vastly different and show to myself, prove to myself there was more to me than just aggression and there is. I mean ‘Blossom’ is an aggressive record, but it had to be because I was living in a time where I felt like I was losing control of everything in my life and I was desperately clawing to get it all back, so I’m not going to sing about that softly and watch it fall away, I’m gonna fight for that, so that record was a fight of a record.
With ‘Modern Ruin’ it’s a bit more complicated than that and I think I’d rather just let people listen to it to understand. I don’t feel I’ve moved away from aggression, I’ve just been clever with it and I’ve changed the way I’m writing now. So, it’s got some of the most aggressive lyrics I’ve ever written, but I’m singing them beautifully and that gives a whole different feel and atmosphere to the album and to the band. I think it’s all about being smart with your delivery and that’s something I’ve not really had an opportunity to do until now and I’m very excited about doing it now, so that’s a new level of excitement for me.
CM: What made you feel like a fraud when you were first playing aggressive music?
FC: I felt like I didn’t really know what had happened, one minute I was in a punk band and the next we were touring the world in a bus and had a fair amount of money kicking around and we were selling out shows left right and centre, but I just didn’t understand it so I didn’t appreciate it and I certainly didn’t respect it. I poured so much nihilism into the shows, like blood and violence, that people then came to expect that and so that made me sick as a person because I was just terrified of playing. I was like ‘I don’t want to go out and break my nose for these people’ because that felt to me like the only way the show was gonna be good was if they saw me bleeding or f*cking crying or some sh*t.
That’s what Rattlesnakes is about, it’s about regaining that, it’s about taking control of aggression and taking control of vulnerability and owning it all and saying ‘I’m a human being, I’m really complicated, there’s a lot of layers to me, I’m angry and I’m happy and I’m sad and I’m excited and I’m all of the things that a person can be, all the time, at different times.
I don’t feel like a fraud anymore, I feel like I’ve earned this, I feel like this is what I was born to do and I’m supposed to be in this band releasing these songs and playing them to as many people as I can, everyone that will listen.
So, for me, if you have the opportunity to see us, you should because I think (pauses) there’s a possibility it will be life changing for you and if it’s not life changing it’ll be f*cking entertaining. It seems mad to even say that ‘oh come see us, we’re a life changing band’ but I’m going on what people tell me. People aren’t shy to say to me ‘your music and seeing you perform changed my life’ and I hear that a lot and every single time it’s a really touching moment. I remember saying that to Chino Moreno [Deftones frontman] when I met him, I remember saying that to Cedric Bixler when I met him, from At The Drive-In. I’ve said that to people when I was younger, I’ve said that to Corey Taylor [Slipknot frontman] ‘your music changed my life’ and he was just like (adopts American accent) ‘thanks bud’ and that’s what I’m like now, I’m like ‘thank you, that means the world to me’ and it does.