When Frank Carter left Gallows to form the blue-collar, starry-eyed punk-soul of Pure Love it was a surprise. He was a singer who had made his name as an outspoken, aggressive and fiery frontman. He was abandoning a band who had been signed to a major label (Warner Bros), and who had only recently released a record (2009’s Grey Britain) that he had once promised would shake the world.
Pure Love was a very different proposition: he was singing for starters. When the band released their debut—2013’s Anthems– he dismissed his past. He was done with screaming, he said. He had no time for the anger and violence that so marked his performances in Gallows. This was a new Frank Carter: a mature one looking for mainstream approval.
But Pure Love floundered. Though also signed to a major label, Carter felt they did not get the backing they needed nor go on to achieve the success he deserved. They broke up in the spring of 2014, and he thought he was done with music. He turned his back on music, concentrated on his side career in tattooing, settled down, got married and had a daughter. Music was finished. It seems, though, that the desire to create kept gnawing away at him. And after a year in which he says he and his family went through deep personal trauma, he is back with a new band, Frank Carter And The Rattlesnakes as well as new album, Blossom. And guess what? He’s furious, brutal and screaming again.
The Rattlesnakes are vicious, in-your-face punk band. You're back, it seems.
The Rattlesnakes are a punk-rock band. This is the most violently aggressive punk-rock band I’ve ever been in. It’s back to my hardcore roots.
Pure Love played their last show in May 2014. Why did that come to end?
With Pure Love, I felt like I had outstayed my welcome. It felt like everyone I knew in the industry was tired of me and I was tired of them. I got burned out. The band felt doomed from the beginning because we didn’t get the support we needed. I was at a real low ebb when I went out on Pure Love’s last tour; I had no plans for what would come after it. It felt like I was saying goodbye to music. A lot of the year after Pure Love ended was quite bleak for me.
Exactly how bad a year was it?
A lot of it is very personal to my family, so it's not something I want to talk about. It was really difficult. I thought I was over music, I thought I could just walk away and get on with the other aspects of my life. I focused on painting, writing and tattooing and I got better at all of them. I don’t think I was being fair to music; it’s always been really good to me and I always just assumed it was only an outlet.
So you spent a year in Hell, thinking you were done with music. At what point did you realize you were wrong?
It was at the end of the year. My wife and I had a daughter last year and I had told her that I was going to pack music in, work my arse off and get us some security. She told me she didn’t give a shit about security and she would rather I was happy. I laughed that off and said it was time for me to be an adult.
But I thought about what she said and I realized that I needed to start a new band. And she just said, “Yes, that’s what you need to do.” A weight was lifted from both of our shoulders. She knows me better than I know myself.
The Rattlesnakes are very different from Pure Love. Has your wife seen “Punk Frank” onstage before?
She didn't know me when I was in Gallows, so she hadn’t seen that side of me before. Then she saw some pictures of me covered in blood and doing 10-foot flips off amp stacks. She said, “Maybe we need to talk about what percentage of going off is going to happen every night with the new band…”
When did you start writing?
November last year. I used to write lyrics all day long [regardless of band status], but when I quit Pure Love, I stopped. But that week, I wrote 25 songs, lines here, words there. I took sentences from old notebooks and wrote new songs around them. I instantly became a better person: a better man, husband and father. I messaged a friend, [former Heights guitarist] Dean Richardson, and told him I had a load of lyrics I needed to do something with. He sent me a couple of songs and it was perfect; it was exactly what I had been missing. Then in February, we reached out to some good friends of ours—Thomas Mitchener, who played bass in Pure Love and Memby Jago on drums. We had hardly any rehearsal time, laid down a record and it’s filthy as a motherfucker.
So you've gone from not having a band at the start of the year, to having an album out. Was it a very instinctive process?
Everything has been totally natural. When you find someone who understands what you want to do, it’s very special. Dean and I have a very strong working relationship. I don’t even have to say what I need, he just gets it. Tom's got a studio at the end of his garden in an old garage and it’s the perfect place to play. It’s fucking noisy, it’s hot and you’re raging like you’re 16 again. You’ve got that fury like you’ve just heard “Bombtrack” for the first time and you want to go and punch someone. It was quite a dangerous place for me.
A lot of the songs on Blossom are about death. Is that something that was on your mind last year?
There’s a song on the album called “Rotten Blossoms” and it is about dying, how horrible it is, but also about how much a part of life it is. Everyone has to come to terms with the fact they’re going to die, either in that split second before you go or years beforehand. But it’s not the kind of thing you actually spend a lot of time thinking about. A lot of this album is about that, and about really trying to find some understanding there. Last year was mostly about loss for me. I also felt I’d lost my career, too.
It's a vicious, raw and angry record—exactly the sort of record you said you weren't interested in making anymore when you started Pure Love. What changed?
Maybe my opinion has changed on that: Maybe I do want to scream at people for the rest of my life. I’ve always been the sort of person who does whatever the fuck he wants; so that’s what I’m doing now. Yes, I’m playing heavy music and yes, I wrote some lines in the past as a reaction to things that had gone before. But this is, in some ways, another reaction to that. But I’ve never really cared what people think and I don’t plan on starting now. I feel really fucking good. So I don’t give a shit what you think.
Does this band feel like a true return to hardcore?
I’m back to claim my throne: the king has returned. When I pick a microphone and scream into it, I feel really good. I’ve never felt like I have so much purpose; I’ve never felt so hungry. I feel like I’ve got a licence to kill again. For the last year, I’ve felt like a blade that has been getting blunter and blunter. This band has got me sharp again. I feel like a weapon right now. I’m going to do a serious amount of damage.
Going back to a very negative approach to performing— screaming and shouting—was one of the most profound, positive experiences in my life. It was like a veil had lifted. You pick up the mic from the floor, and you’ve got the drums fucking thundering through you, it’s sweaty as fuck and I just disappear for a little while. I get complete peace in that carnage. Within that utter chaos, I feel complete calm. It’s really fucked up.
Do you look back on your time in Gallows and miss it? Do you keep an eye on them?
Not really. They’re doing their thing and I’ve been too focused on what I’m doing to worry about what they’re doing. I’ve always been my own man—that’s part of why I left. This is me: That’s why name is on the front of the band. This is about me as an artist.
Will the Rattlesnakes album be released in the US?
The record's available worldwide from us at the minute. I don't know when it will get a permanent physical release in America, but we'll ship it there now ourselves if someone orders it. I lived in America for five years and it's a second home to me; I've always felt a spiritual connection there. We're hoping to do South By Southwest next year, and I want to play a lot of the hardcore festivals out there. I'm excited to get back there with something new, a new feeling. I want to start from the ground up again.
You went into this record after a tough year. Has this been a healing process?
I'm in a much better place. Time helps, but the songs are like little time capsules: They're a moment perfectly caught and when I get onstage they remind me of that. It's positive though: I step right back into it, I feel everything I felt, but I'm onstage with other people connecting with it. That's what music should be. If I was still in the hole I was in, I don't think I would have been able to write at all. But right now, it just feels fucking good. alt