Ever since Gallows first assaulted our senses with their Orchestra of Wolves album in 2006, Frank Carter has been one of the most thrilling live performers you'll find anywhere, regardless of whatever musical genre box you want to put him in. Imagine the reckless abandon of Iggy Pop and the intensity of Black Flag-era Henry Rollins and you'll be on the money.
Since leaving Gallows in 2011, Frank has kept moving forward, expanding his stylistic approach with Pure Love, a melodic rock project that found him joining forces with ex-The Hope Conspiracy and Suicide File guitarist Jim Carroll. After releasing one catchy motherfucker of an album in 2013 called Anthems, and the equally potent The Bunny EP the following year, Pure Love was no more.
That brings us to Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes, the vocalist's current band. Formed in 2015, the English quintet's sophomore album, Modern Ruin, arrived in stores earlier this year, and marries the hooks of Pure Love with the intensity of Gallows, albeit with a more controlled and tuneful vocal approach.
Also a sought-after tattoo artist and married father of a young daughter, Frank graciously took a few minutes out of his schedule to chat about his life and career.
Tell me a bit about your upbringing. Where did you grow up and what were your parents like?
I grew up in a small town called Hemel Hempstead in Hertfordshire, about 30 miles outside of London. It seems like a lifetime away from the city but actually it's two stops on the train. I get my kindness from my mum and my work ethic from my dad.
At what age did you begin to really listen to music? What kind of stuff did you gravitate towards at a young age?
I've been listening to music since I was born. It was always around in our house. My dad DJ'd for a bit when he was younger so we had a lot of music in the house. I listened to everything from pop to rock to indie. But I always liked rock the most.
What was your introduction to hardcore and punk music? Did you have a mentor showing you the ropes, or did you discover that world on your own?
There was a small group of people putting gigs on every week at a rugby club in the next town overs we would go there and watch whoever was playing. A lot of the people playing in bands at that time went on to have pretty strong careers in the rock world. Bands like Enter Shikari, Sikth, Gallows, etc. Fuck, I mean Vman [Alessandro Venturella] plays bass in Slipknot now and I used to see him shredding at the rugby club every week.
SEE MORE: The Graffiti and Hardcore Connection
Can you think back to an early gig you went to that knocked you off your feet?
The one that changed things for me was System of a Down at the Astoria in, hmm...1998, 1999? I left there and decided I wanted to be in a band.
The first band you played in that received widespread attention was Gallows in 2006. Why do you think the band resonated with so many people?
We were angry and honest, in a way that not many bands were at the time. We were also young and belligerent, and that made for easy press.
Were you emotionally prepared for the attention you were showered with as the frontman of Gallows? I remember finding your no-bullshit attitude in the press as refreshing, but some people didn’t take it that way.
No, I was utterly unprepared and I feel like I'm still dealing with the fallout of the enormous growth and implosion of the band now. Luckily for me, I've got an amazing support network around me. I have a beautiful family and brilliant friends who are strong enough to catch me every time I fly to close to the sun.
After you split with Gallows in 2011, you created Pure Love with Jim Carroll, an American musician who had played in The Hope Conspiracy and Suicide File. What drew you two together?
We lived in the same neighbourhood and were both bored with our situations and wanted something more. That and we kept bumping into each other in the same bars. Shout out to Saint Vitus!
The material on Pure Love’s Anthems album is really hook-heavy. I remember being surprised that you had such a melodic tone to your voice on that stuff.
Thanks. Yeah, the whole point of Pure Love was to do something totally different and challenge myself in ways that I had never been challenged. It was as terrifying as it was fulfilling.
Do you see yourself ever doing anything with Pure Love again in the future?
Never say never. Right now though, focus is strictly Rattlesnakes.
From a stylistic standpoint, what did you have in mind when you began plotting Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes?
Nothing really. We wanted the freedom to write whatever music came to us and we are still doing that. I think if you loosely brand us a rock band then probably no one will be too disappointed if they are a first time listener.
The first Rattlesnakes album, Blossom, had a sound rooted in hardcore and punk, where the new album, Modern Ruin, has a looser, more rock-based kind of thing going on. First off, do you agree with that idea, and if so, did the gelling of the band have anything to do with the feel of the material?
I disagree on the looser statement. I actually think Modern Ruin is a much tighter and well considered record in every way. But yes, if Blossom was a prison shank then Modern Ruin is a Glock 9mm.
My favorite song on Modern Ruin is “God Is My Friend,” a driving track with some interesting lyrics.
That one is all about questioning your relevance in the world and what would happen if you killed yourself. I write a lot of extended lyrics when I'm writing and this song particularly went deep into searching for answers about relevance and recognition. "Do I matter?" "Will I matter?" "Does it actually matter?" "Or am I just matter..."
I missed your most recent Los Angeles show, but I know a few people who were there and everyone raved about it, especially your performance. I definitely regret missing it. From a physical angle, how do you keep in shape when you’re out on tour?
I exercise as much as I can. The show is basically an hour of intense cardio and Pilates anyways. But the real key is trying to eat well and regularly. I fail a lot of the time and then I really pay for it.
Most people who follow your musical career know that you’re also a tattoo artist. When I’m getting tattooed, I usually keep quiet and let the artist get into a zone. Where do you stand on that?
You can come and get tattooed whenever you want. I find it hard when people are too chatty as I'm usually trying to concentrate. That said, I understand that when people meet me they usually have some questions lined up. I'm always happy to talk to fans. It means a lot to me to know that people really care about my band.
As a father of two young children, I know that I’ve had many restless nights worrying about their future. How do you handle that?
I try not to think about it. It's way too overwhelming and I keep just seeing the apocalypse scene from Terminator 2 flashing before my eyes. My daughter is perfect and happy and innocent. I'm going to try and protect those things in her as long as I can without hindering her experience in this world.
Outside of music and tattooing, what else is keeping you busy these days? Not that a young kid doesn’t take up enough time!
I paint a lot and I try and write whenever I can. But yeah, tattooing, painting, and playing music is plenty to be getting on with. I'm an incredibly lucky individual, but I'm equally as appreciative of my position.
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