"We really put everything we had into trying to push ourselves, to find not a new sound, but a natural evolution of Rattlesnakes and myself as an artist."
As one of the most outspoken and iconic vocalists in punk music today, Frank Carter is typically loud, pissed-off, and a force of nature to be reckoned with at your own peril. And while he might be best known for his devastating, incendiary stage presence and bitter, misanthropic lyricism, there's certainly more to The Rattlesnakes frontman than meets the eye. In an engaging and insightful conversation, Killyourstereo.com spoke with an amiable Carter about his prolific career as a performer, the upcoming second album from himself and The Rattlesnakes, his creative output, and of course, world domination.
G’day Frank! How are you doing mate?
Yeah, I’m alright man. I’ve got a bit of a cold. It’s unfortunate it’s not summer here. I can’t wait to get some fucking sun on my bones, I tell ya.
(Laughs.) Yeah, your publicist did mention that you’re a bit crook at the moment, so I appreciate you taking some time out for us.
No worries mate. Thanks for fitting me in.
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No problem. On the subject of sun, though, you’re finally bringing the Rattlesnakes Down Under over the next few weeks. How excited are you for that?
Mate, I can’t fucking explain to you in words how excited I am. I’ve been waiting to get back there for, fuck… at least six years. It’s been a long time since I’ve been to Australia, so I’m very excited man, and it feels like the right time, you know? I wish it could’ve been sooner, but we were busy kind of building things over here and now it’s at a good place. I think a lot of people are excited to see us play there, so yeah, it’s gonna be good.
Yeah man, that’s awesome. I saw you last time you were over here playing with Gallows, just after ‘Grey Britain’ came out, and it was a really cool show with heaps of energy. I wanted to ask you, what can fans expect from The Rattlesnakes live show this time around? What do you have planned to make it special for us?
I’m gonna give you the same show I give everybody: just an absolute outpouring of passion and fire and fury; pretty much like every ounce of soul and spirit that I have, just gets bled out of me onto the stage. I mean, that’s literally… I play every show like it’s gonna be my last, because you never know what’s gonna happen in this life and that’s the one time I get my chance to really kind of put my flag in the sand and say, ‘This is who I am.’
It’s strange me for me because I have no idea what I’m doing in life, you know? (Laughs). I’m a fucking… I’m a husband, I’m a dad; I have no idea how I’m holding my family together. I make mistakes all the fucking time, but with music, it’s the one thing that I do understand. It’s the one thing that I know, and I know that I’m good at it, so for me, playing is like... that’s my time to really show who I am, you know? It’s the time that I understand myself the best. That’s what people can expect.
That makes a lot of sense Frank. Do you think that sense of genuine passion that comes through in your music, which comes through in the Rattlesnakes, makes it so relatable and tangible for people? Is that why fans are latching on to you and not letting go?
Yeah, I think people have been waiting for me to do… Here’s the thing, right. With Gallows, everybody saw that there was, like, something special in the music and in the performance but also in me, you know? But they could tell that it was probably, a little unrefined (laughs). And with Pure Love, to be honest, it was just so much of a change, people just didn’t really know what to do. But that’s what happens when you take something, and you apply a massive amount of force to something, it changes drastically and the transition is not always easy, you know, for anybody involved. It’s difficult. And then, what you get... Let’s look at this way, yeah? You take a bit of coal yeah? You fucking crush it under an enormous amount of pressure and you get a diamond.
So, how ‘bout that? (Laughs.)
(Laughs.) I like that. That’s a good metaphor. I wanted to talk about the second album that’s coming out next year, ‘Modern Ruin’. You guys have been teasing some new material off that record. I want to know how it will be different from ‘Blossom’, it terms of tone, theme, sound: what are you guys doing differently this time around?
Literally, we’ve changed the whole thing. We set ourselves the real challenge of… we wanted to write a much more considered record. We wanted it to have a lot more depth, a lot more layers, and we also set ourselves the challenge of recording it in the same studio as we made ‘Blossom’ with the same producer. So, we went in with Mitch and we had a little bit more time this time around, and you know, we spent a bit more time crafting these songs. We really put everything we had into trying to push ourselves, to find not a new sound, but a natural evolution of Rattlesnakes and myself as an artist. And I think what you’ve got with ‘Modern Ruin’ is like the definitive album for me as a performer, you know?
If I was gonna give anyone, that hadn’t heard me on record, and say ‘If you listen to this, you’ll get a really good understanding of every single part of me.’ Whereas, if I gave them ‘Orchestra of Wolves’, or if I gave them ‘Anthems’, they’re only gonna get one side of me, you know? Human beings are incredibly multi-faceted; we’ve got a lot of different sides to us. And the thing about ‘Modern Ruin’ that’s so special, is that this record almost encapsulates all of those sides. It’s a very difficult thing to do, but this is the closest I’ve got to kind of shining a light on all of those faces at one time, do you know what I mean?
Yeah man, absolutely!
I've really flexed my muscles on this one (laughs). Every single angle I’m trying to cover. It’s got like one of the hardest fucking hardcore songs I’ve ever written on there, with one of the most brutal deliveries. It’s got easily the greatest singing that I’ve ever done. My voice has come along leaps and bounds, and it feels stronger and I’m constantly trying to push it. It’s got, I think, the catchiest and easily the poppiest songs I’ve ever written, but I don’t want that to deter people because I’m never gonna make pop music. They need to just listen to it, you know, to understand what I mean about that. This is not… let’s get one thing clear: this is not a pop record.
I just managed to find hooks that like… I play these songs, and I can’t get them out of my fucking head. I play them for my friends or my family, and two weeks later they text me like ‘God dammit, I’ve still got this fucking hook in my head.’ I think the thing about ‘Modern Ruin’ that’s different from ‘Blossom’ is just that we grew a lot in one year. We grew a whole lot. And the most exciting thing about ‘Modern Ruin’ is the platform it gives us to build for album #3 (laughs). This is just where the fun begins now, you know? We’re just getting started.
That’s awesome Frank. Now I’ve been following your musical career for many, many years – close to a decade now – and I’ve been a fan of every group that you’ve been a part of, and all those different facets of your career as a performer.
You’re welcome dude. When I first heard ‘Blossom’, I was totally hooked. I really love that record, and I think it was just such a vitriolic explosion of anger and emotion and feeling. But I’ve been listening to these new songs from ‘Modern Ruin’, and that same kind of emotional honesty is there, but to me, it seems deeper this time. Whereas ‘Blossom’ might have been ‘surface anger’, this seems like it comes from a deeper or darker place. Are you doing a lot of introspection, and maybe even some soul-searching on this record, Frank?
The whole record is about that. The entire record is about going as far deep into the abyss that is my mind, as has ever been humanly possible. So yeah, this record is all about heart and soul. It’s the most wonderful, terrifying parts of life you can ever try and explore, you know?
Yeah, that’s interesting. I find that the videos from The Rattlesnakes have always been very complimentary to your music and the aesthetic that you guys have as a band. In particular, the most recent one for ‘Lullaby’ I found to be quite dark and confronting visually. Is there any kind of a personal story behind that, in terms of sleep or sensory deprivation? There’s definitely some unique imagery going on there.
Yeah, thank you. Basically, what’s happened with the videos now is that we’ve taken it in-house. We’ve taken the control back and we’re actually making them ourselves. Like Dean and I are directing, we’re producing and we’re even filming them. The ‘Lullaby’ video we shot entirely ourselves. We did edit one of them, and then we ran out of time, so we had to get someone else to finish the editing for us, but we’re basically just taking it right back. I think it’s so important now, that if you’ve got a musical output… if you’re a musician or an artist, you’re creative, yeah?
So, it’s like, why would you then have to try and find the right creative to make your videos for you? The next video we’ve got is the one I’m most excited about because it’s the first time since we started this album campaign that we’ve outsourced a video to someone else. ‘Snake Eyes’ was my idea, and we had my friend Ross Cairns who directed it, but it was entirely my vision. We shot the whole thing in one take. ‘Lullaby’ was all my vision again, like I directed with Dean and we shot it. With ‘Wild Flowers’, the song that’s coming out next week, I gave the entire budget and the song to my friend Jake Chapman, who’s an artist. He’s quite a prolific; quite an interesting, chaotic mind. And I just said ‘Look, I want you to make a video for us, can you do it?’ And he said ‘Yeah, he’d love to,’ and I don’t even know what he’s gonna do yet. And Jake’s a fucking madman. You think I’m mad? This guy’s nuts (laughs).
I’m just really excited, because I just said ‘Look, here’s the money, here’s the song, and I need it by the ninth of December,’ and he’s like ‘Yeah, no worries.’ So, I have no idea what he’s doing, but I’m terrified.
That’s crazy. I’m so glad to hear that you guys have that control over your creative vision, Frank. It’s so easy to jump on YouTube now and see a whole bunch of shitty videos for all sorts of music, but I can remember distinctly seeing the video for ‘Snake Eyes’, and its ending, and just being completely floored with it. I had to sit there and analyse it; go back over it and figure out how I felt about it. I like that it challenged me in that way and I thought it was fantastic.
Good, I’m glad. I mean, that was the whole point. I think the funny thing with that is like I sent it to a lot of my friends, and they sent me a text message back saying ‘That’s cool man, who’s the chick?’ (Laughs.) And I’m like, ‘Watch the fucking video again, dickhead. Watch it all the way to the end this time.’ A few people just skipped out on it, and they saw it and they were like ‘This is this,’ and think they’ve got it. And they think because we pushed it for so long, there were no reveals, there were no cuts; it was one shot, you know, there’s literally no escaping what it is as long as you watch it to the very end. And if you don’t, it just seems like a very moody, very stark video.
But once you get to the end, then it flips… Not like everything on its head but what it does… What it did the best for me, I think everybody that watched it to the end suddenly felt very different about how they felt about me. If they had an idea of me in the past, it had just been eradicated by that video. And they were just like ‘Ok, I don’t really know…’ A lot of people put me in a box. Like, ‘I know this guy and he’s best when he’s angry.’ But here’s me doing something completely different and doing it well. Well enough to at least play the part convincingly for three minutes.
And it just meant that people were able to see me in a very different light, and it opens a door and it says to people, ‘Ok, well if he can do this, what else can he do?’ And that’s what we needed for ‘Modern Ruin’ – from the start of this campaign – was to start challenging people’s perception of me. Because I’m very keen to wipe the slate and to present this new me, which is incredibly well-rounded, much more focused, much more considered and, I think, ten times deadlier than I was before.
That’s awesome. To wrap up our time today Frank, The Rattlesnakes have accomplished so much, in such a short amount of time, and there’s really no sign that you’re slowing down anytime soon either. Where does that sense of momentum come from, and what do you ultimately hope to achieve with The Rattlesnakes?
I want to play arenas. I want to play Wembley. I want to be the biggest fucking band in the whole world because I think that we deserve that. I think I deserve that. I think, you know, nobody starts a band to stay small. You want to make music for a living, you want to play it to as many people as you can, you want to tour the world and you want to make new friends and have new experiences. I wanna play my music to everybody, you know, and everybody that wants to hear it. So yeah, my intention with this band is to not fuck it up and to make it the biggest fucking thing it can be.
That’s a noble goal, Frank.
And that just means, you know, putting my foot on the pedal, turning up the gas and let’s just do the fucking thing.
Fuck yeah! Alright, Frank, well thank you very much for taking time out with me today, I really appreciate it and I can't wait to see you guys play.
Thank you, you’re very welcome mate.
Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes will release their forthcoming album ‘Modern Ruin’ on January 27th through International Death Cult. The band are also set to tour Australia this month, presented by DAL, Chugg, & Bombshellzine, with tickets available through Destroy All Lines. Do not sleep on this shit! Dates below:
Thursday, December 8th - The Reverence Hotel Melbourne (18+) SOLD OUT
Friday, December 9th – The Reverence Hotel, Melbourne (18+) SOLD OUT
Saturday, December 10th – The Brightside, Brisbane (18+)
Sunday, December 11th – Bald Faced Stag, Sydney (Lic/AA)
Photo credit: Lee Allen Photography