For decades, punk rock has been a way for countless people to cope with the world they live in. The music takes us to our favorite place in the back of our minds where we can be enraged, smile, laugh or cry. Bands like the Damned, Sex Pistols, Ramones, and Social Distortion have been on the frontline of our punk rock soundtracks of life. There is one other band that is part of the pantheon of coolness and craziness and who are the epitome of the modern punk rock scene: Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes.
Already a punk legend after causing chaos on stage with Gallows, Frank Carter went solo via a one-album career with Pure Love (listen to their amazing album “Anthems”). In January 2015 he met up with former Heights guitarist Dean Richardson and formed Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes. Eight months later debut album “Blossom” hit the brick and mortars, and from that point the world has been spoiled with fiery live performances.
Three records into their career, the band have progressed from a chaotic hardcore outfit to a controlled rock explosion. The combination of Carter’s wordy fictions, delivered either as urgent barks or plain emotional singing and Richardson’s furious yet richly dynamic guitar skills makes the duo one of the most arresting punk rock statements of the 2010s.
When Carter and Richardson set off to play Deichbrand Festival in Cuxhaven in the German north, we sat down with the lads for an interview and chat about how the band have developed over the course of three records, their latest album “End of Suffering” and injuries caused by furious live shows.
But the interview starts in an important topic: becoming role models and leaning people how to behave at shows.
On being role models
When you started play in a band I’m sure you had role models that got you into music. Now, after more than 15 years on stage, you’re a role model for many young musicians who want to be the new Frank Carter. How do feel about being a role model for young people today?
Frank: I have thought about that a lot, but I never wanted to be one, it was never my intention to become a role model for people. I just wanted to be on stage and do what we do, and have fun.
But can you feel that it comes with some sort of responsibility where you need to think about how you act or behave?
Frank: I thought a lot of both, I’ve done a lot worrying about what everyone thinks. The reality is that when I’m focused on being the best version of me, then I make healthy choices and don’t really have to worry about what I’m doing, and naturally I worry less about what people think because I’m just making the right decisions.
I’ve been quite focused on trying to make that change this year. You know, you go through waves in life, you have good periods and bad period but it’s always learning. That’s all there is, just constant learning. In the minute you stop learning, you’re in trouble (laugh).
You often take a stand and address people from the stage, like putting out a message to people on how to behave. Is it different today than how it was when you started that you feel you have to address people how to behave at gigs, for instance concerning sexual harassment in the crowd?
Frank: No, it hasn’t changed at all. I’d like to say it has but it hasn’t, but it’s still very early. We will continue to press every angle that we can to create that change, to create a safe space at our shows, because if we don’t we’re failing people immediately. The more people we encourage, hopefully the more bands will get involved, and that’s how you change an entire landscape.
I think we’re probably a decade away from understanding any actual change, I’m fine with that. I got at least twenty years left in me (laugh).
Sweden, where I’m from, started an only for women and LGBTQ persons which obviously tells us that something is wrong in the crowd at gigs.
Frank: It’s sad that that is happening in 2019, but it’s also empowering that we take those steps to create safe spaces for women. But the problem is not with women, the problem is with men.
Dean: That’s great for giving women a place to enjoy music and festivals; that actually solves the wider problem have.
Frank: Which is that men don’t know how to behave because they’ve not been educated properly.
Dean: But I think the younger generations are far more aware of this stuff. I have faith in young men today and that they have started to think about this already when they’re fourteen and not when they’re forty, and that will help a lot. We will get to a place where you never need to have a female only festival.
Five albums, then arena shows?
From the hardcore influenced debut “Blossom” Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes have evolved into an explosive rock act where they tackle more sophisticated emotions such as struggles with mental health at their latest album “End of Suffering”, a record that debuted at number four on the Official Albums Chart thus marking their strongest chart performance yet.
Much has changed since their debut album in 2015. Frank’s hardcore barking is gone and the fiery frontman demonstrates an amazing vocal range as a rock singer. And the band have levelled on the scene, from playing smaller clubs to headline big festivals. The question is if arenas and stadiums are the next goal to reach out for.
Let’s talk your latest album a bit. From hardcore punk and Gallows influences on “Blossom” to punk rock on “Modern Ruin” and now you’ve done a rock album with “End of suffering”. Where will it end?
Frank: Nobody knows. Hopefully some sort of dance fused with classical muisc (laugh). I don’t really know where we’ll go.
We explore whatever we want to explore, we love to challenge ourselves as artists, as writers and as musicians. I don’t feel that we’re too worried about how we’re perceived, we just want to have fun, constantly have fun (laugh).
Dean: The word rock will probably be in there anyway no matter which ways it goes, but rock is such a huge varied genre. It’s best though to describe what we do even though there’s a lot subgenres that probably fit better.
But in the beginning, was it that you didn’t know in which direction or where you wanted to go? I mean, you put out two albums within a year that sound completely different.
Dean: We’ve always written whatever got us excited while writing. Neither of us like music theory and that stuff, we don’t enjoy like laboring over it. If it’s not coming naturally and we don’t get the feeling “I wanna play these songs live”, we just move on to the next one.
It has definitely been a move into rock but it’s not like “What did we do on the last album? Let’s change and do this”, it just happens. But we got better in writing songs and just more well-rounded, like Frank’s voice has changed drastically from the first one. Just from being on tour for five years and writing new songs you also have a lot of new impressions to put in there.
I was going to come to that – much has changed since the first album. Frank’s song as you say, the music and you don’t go on stage in jeans and t-shirts anymore, you’re into fashion.
Frank: I’ve always dressed in brands even in Gallows, and definitely in Pure Love. Our first kind of weeks in “Blossom” was just chaos, and then, the first festival we played, I wore Gucci.
Dean: Everything about the first album happened very quickly. I think a lot people in bands have been together for a while and had time to think about what to wear and how it’s going to sound like. We met up to write music in January and the album came out in August and we played shows even before that, so people very much witnessed the birth of the band and us figuring things out and we kind of were changing and growing with people. I always think that’s how it should happen.
You also kind of quickly leveled up from smaller clubs to play bigger venues and headline big festivals. Are you ready to take the step to arena shows or isn’t that the ambition with the Rattlesnakes?
Frank: That is always dependent on the audience. We’re ready whenever you are (laugh), we’re not scared about that at all. Unless you have a major hit on your first album or your second album, then it takes you four or five albums to have enough time to get to that level.
But that’s what we want, a hundred percent. We want arenas and stadiums and to be the biggest rock band in the world. We have the energy, we have the songs for it. But we’re talking about really important situations that people are shying away from because they don’t know have to handle it.
I think that at some point the universe has the responsibility to give us that platform to see what kind of change we can enact (laugh).
Won’t quit their day jobs
A British music magazine did a coverage of UK bands that still had day jobs a few years ago, bands you would think were full-time musicians considering that many bands have released several albums and even been awarded for their music.
The music industry of the 2010s is quite different from the 1990s. A band like Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes with an album charting at number four would have sold hundred thousands of albums, maybe even millions, just two decades ago. Essentially, entering and surviving in the artistic climate of the 2010s requires you to erase any preconceived notions of what it is to be a “rock star”.
Touring has the potential to yield some cash, but as any touring band will tell you, you would have to be on the road relentlessly to do more than break even. The one reliable alternative? Be a normal human.
I know you have worked hard to reach where you are at this point, but is it still a struggle as a musician to keep the whole machinery around the band going? I know that you Frank work or have worked as a tattooer but have you reached the point now where you can put all your efforts on the Rattlesnakes and don’t need day jobs anymore?
Frank: It’s tough, that’s really tough but I don’t think we would ever quit our day jobs because our day jobs keep us grounded. We have navigated our way through life doing jobs that we love, we’ve worked really hard both us to get to a point very early in our lives to lock in a career in whatever field we love.
Dean’s a designer, he loves designing; I’m a tattooer, I love tattooing, and we both love music. It all happened naturally and have worked really well.
Dean: It’s been one of the things that helps us out, especially when we started the band because we didn’t have to sign to a big label because we didn’t need funding, we had our own jobs.
There is something in you that you gain more control over your career if you don’t need to go to sign for a label purely for money, and I think it’s important we have our own things going on outside of music as well, it gives us more freedom to do what we want.
You’ve also reach quite far in a very short time and it takes a lot of hard work to stand out in the crowd of bands, especially if you’re from the UK which is very competitive in terms of getting gigs and air time. How do you do to stand out in the crowd of bands on the scene? Is it all about live shows for you?
Frank: Yeah, but it’s not about quantity, it’s all about quality. In the rock world there’s an enormous amount of privilege. People believe that if you reach a certain level you earned that privilege, there’s an expectation there. You don’t earn a shit in this life until you actually worked hard for it.
What’s different with us is that there’s no privilege between us. We both had levels of success in music already and we’ve had it taken away from us, and the reality now is that we know how hard it is to work at the graft. That’s what we got in us, it’s just the energy to go and do that.
I watch a lot of bands and I see the kind of bands that walk out on stage, and they’re very calm, they play their songs and it’s quite lackluster. All of this is entertainment and if there’s no entertainment what the fuck are you doing out there. If you’re not going to be entertaining you better be interesting, at least be challenging. But I think even that is lost, it’s lost in a lot of people. Luckily for everyone in the world we do both (laugh).
But to get to this position you’re at, you probably had lots of help playing as support for many bands. Do you feel a responsibility to help new bands on stage as well? I know for instance that you worked with a band we like very much, Strange Bones.
Dean: We pick every band that support us purely based on if they’re a good band. Every now and then there’s this discussion over “This band is doing this and is very exciting” but we don’t’ care about that. For us it’s like “Who’s the best band” for whatever reason, that we can offer tours. We’ve helped a bunch of bands now.
We’ve had Foo Fighters doing it to us, Biffy Clyro helped us out a couple of years ago as well, and we equally have to pay it forward.
Frank: Yeah, for sure. Bands like Strange Bones they will go on to do so much in life, they’re just incredible musicians, incredibly creative. We took them on a tour as early as we could for them.
One of our problems is that we try to give those bands the leg-up, but usually we find them so early that it’s almost impossible to nurture that for years, we can only be of so much help. We definitely helped them [Strange Bones] because people go to their shows now and they fucking love them. Maybe we should go back and help them again?
You think Bobby [frontman of Strange Bones] will know who you are this time? He told us that he didn’t believe you first.
Frank: (laugh) Yeah, I texted him and then phoned but he hung up on me. I called him back and he was like “No”. I even sent him a picture of me going “You fucking bastard” (laugh). And they’re chaos on stage.
We encourage everyone that comes and play our shows just to be themselves, there’s no limitations. Do you want to dive in crowd, dive in the crowd, just don’t hurt anyone. Part from that you can do what you fucking want.
Dean: We’ve never stopped the support bands to do their thing. Some bands are really strict but I don’t think any band would have offered us tours if they’re going to have those restrictions, and we don’t have that. But you hear loads of stories from other bands.
Live shows: “I went home from Berlin in a wheelchair”
You’re quite famous for your insane live shows and I got a few punches myself at your shows through the years. But it must come with a lot of injuries? Have you calmed down a bit over the years?
Frank: I have calmed down this year but only because I injured myself in March and it’s not healed.
Last summer I went home from Berlin in a wheelchair because I broke my back, and that was not fun. I recovered from that and I was feeling a lot better, then you [Dean] went home from Berlin because you snapped your ankle, and then this one in March where I tore my rotator cuff [the shoulder].
Dean: You’ve started to think about it more, haven’t you? We still play the shows if it’s not too bad, but we talk about how we can apply the same intensity but in different ways, and then we try to stay as fit as we can off tour, that’s the thing.
Does it mean yoga exercises and stretching before gigs today then?
Dean: There’s a lot of stretching for us (laugh).
Frank: Yeah, we have a playlist on, I do some stretching and some yoga and we just try to chill.
The performance is an explosion and before that you don’t want to do too much. We just get ourselves in the right place and light the fuse and then go on stage.
Photographer: ©Katrin Arfmann
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