Frank Carter on Modern Ruin and life with the Rattlesnakes
The story of Frank Carter is quite an exciting, and perhaps unusual, one. He was thrust into our existence, nearly ten years ago, as the eccentric, fiery frontman of Gallows and with his threatening vocals he became the foundation of songs like ‘Abandon Ship’ and ‘In the Belly of a Shark’.
Fast forward two albums to 2011 and Frank left to form Pure Love, a shift from hardcore punk to classy, alternative rock, catering to Frank’s developing musical appetite. In February 2014 however after their debut release ‘Anthems’ (and a slot at Belfast’s very own Belsonic Festival), the band announced an indefinite hiatus, releasing their final three tracks they recorded to the public.
Now, as the Rattlesnakes reach their second birthday, Frank Carter prepares for the second round and with new album ‘Modern Ruin’ soon to hit the public, this year could be his best yet.
GNI: So one album down, ‘Modern Ruin’ to come, multiple tours and festival appearances – it’s been a great start for the Rattlesnakes. How do you feel your journey has been so far?
Frank: “It’s been amazing. Super busy, the way I’d want it to be. Everyone seems to be liking what we are putting out and we are just trying not to lose momentum now, keep going as fast as we can.”
GNI: Your new album ‘Modern Ruin’ is due for release on 20th January. What can fans expect from this?
Frank: “They can expect to have their minds blown completely open [laughs].”
GNI: Should they be expecting a mix of music – some heavier material, some mellow material?
Frank: “That would be ruining the surprise, wouldn’t it? [laughs] For us, we want to grow as a band, always. This album is definitely the departure from Blossom but there are still elements of Blossom in there. We just released a song [Modern Ruin] and anyone who heard the title track can tell we have by no means slowed down but it’s a much more diverse, complex record. It has a lot more depth than Blossom. I think that’s when you start to get some really special records so hopefully we’ve made a really special record!”
Now ‘Devil Inside Me’ – that music video – how long did it actually take you to come up with it and then develop it?
Frank: “It didn’t take long to actually come up with the ideas as I was actually making it as I went. It took ages, almost an entire month. I actually made it while I was in the studio recording ‘Modern Ruin’.
And looking back, do you regret starting it knowing how much work would it be?
Frank: “No, god no. I’m actually really fond of it. It’s one of my favourite music videos we’ve released but it definitely was a lot of work and I probably wouldn’t take that on again [laughs]. It was awesome to learn. I think we are very lucky that we’ve the opportunity to learn always. For me, it was great fun and I loved every minute of it. I watch it back now and I honestly can’t believe that I’ve made it so that’s always a win when you surprise yourself.”
Your live shows are fantastic. Every time I’ve seen you, it has been intense. Full-throttle performances, crowd-surfing, standing in (or on) the crowd performing – is this important to you for the fans to experience that?
Frank: “I think it’s important to me that the fans have a good time and feel like they’ve seen something that was not only worth their money but has left an impression on them. I don’t ever set out and say ‘in the third song…’, I just play. I just think it’s important nowadays than ever that people really enjoy what they’re seeing. They pay a lot of money for these tickets.
“There is so many bands out there now, they could go out and see any number of acts so I feel lucky that people come and see my band. Performances are what I’m best at, it’s always been what I’ve been best at. I just get on stage and do what I do. Luckily for me, no-one seems to have any major complaints yet and people seem pretty stoked when they leave.”
There was a rumour on social media that you would only perform in venues without a barrier, is this true?
Frank: “No, it’s not right. I will definitely perform in a venue with a barrier. What happened was we had a show booked at a venue in Camden called Dingwalls and it was quite early in our career. They said it was fine for us to play without a barrier and then they changed their mind at the last minute, thinking we wouldn’t be able to find a replacement venue and we would have to agree their terms begrudgingly.
“Luckily for me, I know every venue so I just called a different one down the road called the Underworld. Of course, they were very happy to accommodate us. Dingwalls actually lost out as it was a sold out show so it was crazy for me that they would do that when I had seen a barrier-free show there two weeks before. It seemed silly and I still don’t understand why it happened but I’m glad because we played in the Underworld and it was fucking awesome.”
As a fan going to live shows yourself, would you expect that same full-throttle performance?
Frank: “The stage thing is whatever. It doesn’t really matter. All I want to see is people giving everything they’ve got. I just want to see you perform like your life depends on it because if you’re not, why are you here? It doesn’t mean that you should be jumping off the speaker. I just want to see people playing passionately.
“There’s nothing worse than going to a gig and seeing someone phone it in. I think it’s incredibly disrespectful to fans. I think it’s disrespectful to music and I think it’s disrespectful to the legacy of every great performance that has gone before you. If you want to be a musician as a career, then you owe to the people that pay to see that and give them everything on that day.
“And you know, I’ve played some shows where I struggle. I’ve played shows where I have been sick but I have finished those shows. I have played shows where I have gashed my head open but I made sure I got to the end before I went to the A&E because people are there to see music. That’s just the way it goes. Normally I would much rather cancel a gig if I’m in a really bad way and I’m not able to give truly my best, my 100%. I would much rather people didn’t see me than if they saw me and I was not on form.
“I know that that can be quite frustrating for our fans but it’s a very rare occurrence now. I am really looking after myself. I just changed everything about myself. I’ve got a much better diet now, a better relationship with alcohol [laughs], and I’m a lot healthier and I’m working out more. I’m stretching and practicing. Basically everything I was not as a young adult in music. I’ve changed it all as I appreciate how much it means to me and I want to do it for a very long time.”
Now, you as a person – what are your inspirations and driving force for the music?
Frank: “I want to make classic music. I want to be up there in the hall of fame with the musicians I love like Iggy Pop, David Bowie – I want to leave a legacy of music that is as complex and diverse as all those acts. I would like at some point to have some cultural relevance. I’m an artist. I can barely play an instrument but I know how I want my music to sound and say. I’m just going to keep doing that until I die.”
You’ve obviously changed styles going from Gallows, forming Pure Love then returning with Blossom in the Rattlesnakes. Was the music of Pure Love a period you felt you had to go through to progress as an artist?
Frank: “Of course. I’m quite a reactionary person – for good or for bad. But what I needed to do was something completely different to do what I done before. I needed to understand the true ceiling that had been placed on me and understand myself as an artist and the only way to do that is to do the opposite of what you’re known for and getting acclaim for.
“For me, it taught me how to sing. It taught me incredible humility. It gave me a level of tenacity that I was seriously lacking in my life. Like now, I have a huge amount of respect for what I do. I never had that before. I have a huge amount of respect for my fans, that I didn’t have when I was younger. I took all of it for granted when I was young. That doesn’t happen anymore. I feel very lucky to have the job that I have. I feel very lucky when I wake up and get to do what I do everyday.”
I’ve seen fan videos from your shows in mainland Europe – how do you feel when you go to countries far away and see fans going mental to your music?
Frank: “It’s insane. It’s really exciting and entirely overwhelming. It’s just really special. Last year, our final four shows were in Australia. Every show sold out. The last show we played was in Sydney and there was 450 people in this room and for me to be playing an almost 500 capacity show on the other side of the world, it was a big moment for us. We weren’t even two years old at that point.”
And you’re coming back to Belfast this March – out of interest, do you remember Gallows’ show in Belfast, around 2009, when you hung from the ceiling after pouring yourself a drink?
Frank: “I do remember that! At the Limelight! I remember my entire core hurting the next day! [laughs]”
Do you have any particular memories that stand out whilst in Ireland?
Frank: “That show [Gallows, Limelight 2009] stuck in my head for a long time, actually. We played the Voodoo Lounge in Dublin – it was fucking madness. Every time we come over, we have great shows. Some of my favourite shows are the most recent ones. The little venue [Voodoo] then The Kerrang! tour in Dublin. My entire family on my mum’s side is from Ireland so it’s always nice to go back and play rock n’ roll in the home state [laughs].”
Are there any long-term goals for Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes – is there anything you feel you’d like to conquer?
Frank: “Yeah, I’d like to headline Reading! Fuck it, I want to headline Wembley. I think this is the band to do that with. I know that probably sounds a bit brazen, but fuck it. If you don’t have that hope and aspriation then why am I doing this? We are selling out tours four months early now. I think there’s less than 50 tickets left in Belfast – the same in Dublin. We’ve sold out four or five shows in the UK already and the tour doesn’t start until March. And we’ve got a new album coming out before then.”
What has been your personal highlight from the history of the Rattlesnakes so far?
Frank: “To this point in time right now, my favourite thing that ever happened was playing on stage at Reading Festival the first year we did it because my daughter was there. She sat on my shoulders and I sang a song. It was a really special moment for me.
“A year before that, I knew we were having a baby but I didn’t have a band. So I just felt that music was over for me and I thought she might never get to see me perform and it was an important part of my life. Luckily for me, that’s changed and she’s seen it all. She actually quite likes my music, it’s awesome!”