Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes on embracing change and keeping music fun
Nothing tastes better than freedom. It’s something we can far better appreciate now after quarantine took away so much of what makes life joyous — being with friends, going out, attending gigs. It’s something Frank Carter and his Rattlesnakes compatriot Dean Richardson relate to. With COVID-19 restrictions disappearing, at long last, into the rearview mirror, the British duo are throwing themselves headfirst into living life as loudly and as boldly as possible. On their fourth album, Sticky, they’ve created the perfect soundtrack for releasing all the pent-up energy of quarantine into going wild and making up for lost time.
While the Rattlesnakes were more downtrodden and melancholy the last time we heard from them on 2019’s End Of Suffering, Sticky sees the band making the most fun songs of their career. The hedonistic “Bang Bang” and “Take It To The Brink” revel in the thrills and spills of nights out, without glossing over the dark side that can emerge within them, while “Cupid’s Arrow” and “Cobra Queen” are odes to the adrenaline and oxytocin cocktail that floods the bloodstream when you’re beginning to fall in love. However, they’ve certainly not lost their angry edge, as the venomous “Rat Race,” an attack on the politicians who have mishandled the COVID pandemic, and the feisty, feminist “Off With His Head” attest.
Tell us about the mindset you were in going into making Sticky.
FRANK CARTER: We were in the best position we’ve ever been. We’d just finished the biggest tour we’ve ever done. Then we decided to take a bit of a break. We went to a little cabin in the woods to just write. It was a good vibe, the music, but it had a definitive sound. But while we were there, we sensed that something weird was going on. Then literally weeks later, we were in full lockdown. We were all thinking, “It’ll be two weeks. It’ll be all right.” Then it just went on and on. I feel so lucky that we got to do that tour in February because if we hadn’t had that, we’d be in real trouble. It was not only a flag in the sand, but it filled our souls.
Frank, you recently opened your tattoo shop. How did you get that started?
CARTER: It was a fucking nightmare! I’ve wanted to open a tattoo shop for probably 20 years, and I’ve had a few fall through in the past. When this one came up, I was like, “I’ve got this,” and I bought a 15-year lease. That happened in March 2020. We were shut two weeks later. I remember sitting there looking around thinking, “I’ve done it again. I’ve pissed him off again. The big man in the sky is fuming.” Probably fucking karma from [Gallows’] Grey Britain or something.
DEAN RICHARDSON: So it’s all your fault, this whole pandemic?
CARTER: Can you imagine, though? Fucking hell! But as stressful as it was, there was no way of us touring. It was hard enough for me and Dean to get together and play. It gave me something to focus on. Honestly, it really helped me — it was really beneficial to my mental health, as stressful as it was. It was good to have a project to focus on, and the place is beautiful. We’ve got a good crew working in there now, and it takes care of itself. I don’t really have to worry too much.
Given that you’re now progressing to playing really big stages, do you feel like you’re heading toward breaking into the mainstream?
RICHARDSON: I don’t think the mainstream looks very fun. I think all the interesting people to me aren’t in the mainstream. I’m happy dancing near enough to it but never quite crossing the line.
CARTER: Basically, we treat it as a bonfire. Get close, stay warm off it, but don’t fucking get burnt.
RICHARDSON: That is the best analogy for it. There’s a lot of fun that happens around the bonfire.
Even if you are content with dancing around the bonfire, so to speak, have you still got things in mind that you want to do that you’ve not yet accomplished?
CARTER: Always. There’re always new songs to sing.
RICHARDSON: The growth that we’re aiming for is never statistical. Obviously, we want to sell more records than we did last time, and you want to feel that there’re people there enjoying what you make, but I couldn’t tell you how many streams the last song had. A lot of artists check that stuff daily, but we’re searching for something.
CARTER: I don’t think we’re even searching for anything. We’re just busy making. Everything is always open to us. The only people that can stop us are me and Dean, and we’re very good at encouraging each other to go beyond our comfort zone and into the realms of danger all the fucking time. We just go towards whatever feels most exciting for us, and that can be anything. We just go wherever the fun is, and I think that that’s all you can do in life. We’re just really lucky to have that opportunity.
How much do you think you have changed from the Blossom days up till now?
CARTER: We all [change], but we don’t realize it. If all you have is now, then you’re constantly in a state of flux. We’re always changing, and the hope is that you learn from your mistakes and you take what you’ve been doing, and you learn from that, and you take it forwards. But fucking hell, compared to where I was in 2015, writing Blossom, compared to now, six years later, it’s night and day. I’m a different human being. I’m much happier because of it.
RICHARDSON: I think it’s much healthier to realize that you are just forever going to be on a journey, and [you] will encounter changes in all different directions. It’s not always positive, but for the most part, I think we both are trying our best to further ourselves and better ourselves in our work and our personal lives. The band is just six years of our life, but the change keeps going and going. The band does impact it heavily, though, because it just means you encounter so many more people than normal. People just open your eyes to different ways of looking, and so the band has probably sped me up. Maybe it’s like dog years. Ten years of change in six or something like that.
This interview appeared in issue 400, available here.