IT MAY HAVE TAKEN A DECADE BUT FRANK CARTER HAS FINALLY GROWN INTO THE MUSICIAN HE’S ALWAYS WANTED TO BE, AND HE’S NEVER BEEN SO EXCITED.
WORDS: SARAH JAMIESON. PHOTOS: PHIL SHARP.
“I think…” begins Frank Carter, searching for the right words. “I’ve not been as excited about anything musically that I’ve done, as I am about this. It just feels like the right thing.” He pauses again. “It feels… I can’t explain it!” he laughs, shaking his head. “I can’t put it into words. I just have this feeling as I’m walking around at the minute that something good is going on. I’ve not had that for a long, long time.”
Frank’s sat in the midst of a noisy East London food market, fresh from having completed his first full headline tour under his new guise Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes. His newest project first reared its head a little over three months prior, but judging from his excitement, it’s something he’s been working towards for a lot longer than that.
“It was one of those things…” he starts, revisiting his previous incarnations. “With Gallows, I was dealt the best hand but I didn’t know how to play the cards. Then with Pure Love, I was super keen to play the game and I got the shittest cards. This time, it feels like I’ve got a winning hand and I’m a really fucking good player. It feels like I understand what I need to do and I’ve been dealt the perfect hand to do it. I’ve handpicked everybody around me. I fired everybody and made sure to be out of all those fucking contracts and reached out to people that I’ve trusted. Now, I’ve got this really good team that really care about me and the music and my sort of vision for it, so excitement is abound right now. It’s kinda nuts. I keep calling Deano – he’s the guy who I’m writing the music with – and I keep needing him to give me a bit of a reality check.”
It’s been a decade since Frank first made his mark. All fiery red hair and stark tattoos, his role as the savage frontman of Gallows soon allowed him to become an icon. Yet after two albums he called it quits, leaving his maniacal image forever seared into the minds of fans everywhere. Next, he decided to explore his own limitations by teaming up with The Hope Conspiracy’s Jim Carroll for Pure Love, before the duo – as he says himself – were dealt “the shittest cards.”
“I think when I left Gallows, it was because I was really unhappy,” he thinks back. “I just didn’t like the direction they wanted to go in musically. I always promised myself, ‘The minute it feels forced or I’m not enjoying the music, peace out’. So I did, and then Pure Love was a reaction to that. It was an experiment in finding my limitations, of which I found none really. I went and learned to sing and played the same shows that I’ve always played. When that ended, that’s when I felt really bad. That’s when I felt truly lost and I didn’t really know what the next step was.”
It was then that Frank decided to walk away. Having already established himself as a sought-after tattooist, he decided it was about time to settle down and gain some stability, for both his wife and newborn daughter. “I really tried my hardest to cut music out of my life,” he admits. “It became like, ‘Get rid of this, it’s not working. Be a dad, be a husband. Be a good adult’, and I felt the weakest version of me. I was miserable, I was mean. I was a grumpy arsehole to be around and my wife was like, ‘Please start a fucking band!’” he laughs. “She knew it before I did. When I told her, ‘Look, I’m gonna quit music and focus on tattooing’ I thought she’d be stoked to lock ourselves in and get some security, but she was so nervous. I didn’t understand that at all. It was security and a future. The one thing she kept saying to me was, ‘You can always go back’. Before Christmas last year, we’d had a really rough year with lots of ups and downs and it was just before our daughter was born. I was like, ‘I think I wanna start a new band’ and her first reaction wasn’t, ‘Are you fucking kidding me? We’re going to have a baby in a month!’ Her first reaction was a big fucking smile and she was so happy. Then we had a lot of talking to do, but she’s been so supportive. It was as though she knew what I needed before I knew what I needed.”
After the decision was finally made, things seemed to come together effortlessly. Recruiting longtime friend Dean Richardson to get involved in the writing process, the pair would meet up once a week to write together, and from that point on, everything fell into place. “When we got into the studio – the studio being my fucking back garden – we wanted to make something that we loved,” he reaffirms. “Not for anyone else, but for me and him. We’ve been writing together for years – he was supposed to be in Pure Love but it didn’t work out – and we got to this point where we were like, ‘This is our time, this is our moment. What do we want to do?’ The songs came together. Day one, we wrote three songs. Next week, he came and we wrote another three songs. Before we knew it, we had eight songs in the bag so we went to Mitch’s and recorded them.”
Completed across a handful of sessions – the first of which saw their ‘Rotten’ EP come to life – Frank’s debut album is a brutally honest offering, which harnesses all amount of energy and aggression, while still feeling balanced. “The album is a fair amount more diverse than the EP might first suggest,” he admits, “but we alluded to that with the secret track. I didn’t want it to just be people thinking I was rehashing an old version of me. This is very much who I am now. A lot of people are like, ‘How does it feel to be going back to what you were doing?’ but I haven’t; I’m going forward. This is my hat trick. This is the third version of me musically and the best as far as I’m concerned.”
It’s not just the music that he’s confident in. “Lyrically, this is hands down my best work.” It’s also some of his most unadulterated. Whether the self-assuring taunts of the album’s opener ‘Juggernaut’, the haunting sentiments of ‘Loss’ or the to-the-bone cutting remarks made in ‘I Hate You’, there’s very little that the frontman’s holding back this time around. “I still read them and I’m proud of them and more importantly, they still challenge me. When I read the lyrics, there are still new questions and answers that I find in there. It’s really nice to think that, at this point, while I was feeling at my lowest, I was able to make something that was so undeniably life-affirming and career-affirming. I listened to the record on the way here, and I really love it.”
With his return to music now a living, breathing reality, Frank can’t contain himself. While he may well be having to act as husband, dad and musician, it seems to be a balancing act he’s comfortable with, especially now that he’s back out on the road. “The tour was nuts,” he says, referring to the run the band just completed. He almost still sounds in denial. “It was so crazy. I had to keep reminding myself that we only had three songs; we’d get on the stage, we’d play a couple of songs and there’d be a reaction that was palpable. You could feel it in there. It was hot as fuck and sweaty so that helped, but you could really feel an incendiary, really volatile excitement in people. It was like they wanted to explode. They were brand new songs at that point, but when we played ‘Fangs’, the whole room, every night, it fucking lit up. I remember thinking, ‘This is what it’s about.’ Music’s been important to me for a long time – always – but I’ve never really cared for the interviews, the photoshoots. I just love playing. I really enjoy writing music, I really do, but I enjoy it because I get to perform it.” He stops and smiles, knowing that he’s found the right place to be in the world. “You can see that when you see me play.”