"I wanted to put my head on the block this time..." - hmv.com talks to Frank Carter
No one has been as strident or as consistenly interesting in the last 10 years as Frank Carter. He first emerged into public consciousness in 2005 as frontman of Gallows, the brutal Watford hardcore punks. His witty, but painfully direct lyrics punctured the band's searing hardcore and his riotous stage presence made every Gallows show an event. The band released two albums with Carter, the gnarly Orchestra Of Wolves and the epic, but just as snarling Grey Britain, they became one of Britain's most-talked about bands and Carter was even named as top of the NME cool list at the height of the band's power.
After departing Gallows in the summer of 2011 due to musical differences, Carter formed Pure Love with friend Jim Carroll and the pair recorded an album that owed more to The Gaslight Anthem and AC/DC than hardcore punk and despite numerous sold out shows and a well-received debut album, the pair called it quits last year. After more than a year away Carter's back with a brand new album Blossom, recorded with his band The Rattlesnakes, which consists of guitarist Dean Richardson, bassist Thomas Mitchener and drummer Memby Jago.
We sat down with Carter to talk about his return to music, how the band's debut album came together in a matter of months and why he's still as hungry as ever to make a difference...
Your debut album Blossom is out today, you've put a few records out before with Gallows and Pure Love, so do you still get nervous before albums drop?
"You never really get over being nervous before a record comes out, you always feel a bit like that. But I'm more excited, I'm really keen to find out what people think of it."
Does it feel different this time? Obviously your name is on it for the first time in your career?
"I wanted to put my head on the block this time. I don't think I've ever hidden behind band names, but I've had that safety blanket. This time I wanted to make something was definitively me, this is everything that's made me, I think the album has a lot of diversity and shows people there's a future there too. It feels weird though, having your name on the front, they started sending me merchandise designs through and I freaked out a bit, it's weird as f**k."
When did you figure out what sound is definitively you? It was a big jump from Gallows to Pure Love and this feels like a big jump again, it's both Gallows and Pure Love and then not either one of them at the same time...
"I don't think it's similar to either one at all. There are points of reference to both, I grew a lot in Pure Love, it really made me stretch myself as a performer and that band was a lot harder to be in. I went from selling out big venues to struggling to sell out tiny rooms and I work a lot harder. I've never tried to define myself, I just made the music I wanted to and I realised that this was the moment to really put my stake in the ground."
Did you get much down time after Pure Love?
"Pure Love disbanded in November of 2013 and we did our final tour about six months later, we'd already well broken up by then. It wasn't until December 2014 that I reached out to people and said I wanted to start a new band and then we only started working together in February of this year, so it's been fast, really fast, I'm still reeling a bit from how fast it's been and how we've managed to pull it all together. The timeline has been nuts, no major label, I've paid for everything myself. That's probably why actually, we've not got a major label f***ing things up left, right and centre."
When did you realise you were working towards an album?
"I've always been about spontaneity and capturing moments in time. When we got together in February and we started writing songs I'd just had a baby and it'd be once a week and it was great, we'd just get in there and hammer out songs. The first day we were together we wrote three or four songs, next week it was three, week after that it was four more, so we went and did an EP. We kept writing and when we got to about 15 we decided to do an album, it's been super fast but it does exactly what I wanted it to do. It's a perfect explosion of punk rock mayhem, no chance to overthink things or second guess anything, the record isn't perfect, it's discordant, it's out of tune, it's raw as f**k, but to me, that's a perfect record."
Must make a nice change because the Pure Love album got delayed and delayed...
"That's just major labels. They pick a day in the year, for whatever f**king reason and then decide when to do it. It's all f***ing nonsense, loads of people who've never been in a band telling you how to sell yours, it pisses me off. This time round I sacked almost everybody, we got new management and I said "Right, I want it out this summer, what do we have to do?" and he said: "Well that's not possible" and I was like "I'll see you later then" and he turned round and went "No, no, no, we can do it, but it's going to be nuts". Literally the next day he got us a meeting with the label services company, nothing signed and I told them what I wanted and we sat down straight away for a production meeting. It's nice, everybody's under pressure, but in a good way, if you're good and you've got conviction then you can pull it off."
Has it been stressful getting everything together in time?
"Not really. I've had a few late nights, but I've got an eight-month old, so every night is a late night. If you asked my management or the label they might tell you differently! I think I took the team I had around for granted in my old bands, I just feel quite lucky I've got this opportunity, it's really exciting."
So tell us about The Rattlesnakes, how did you get them together?
"The main man is this guy called Dean Richardson, I've written with him for years and years, but it's never been our time, we got it together this time. We've got a really good partnership, on all levels, he's on guitar, playing bass is Thomas Mitchener, he produced and engineered the album in his studio and then on drums we've got Memby Jago, he used to be in Ghost Of A Thousand, I've known him for years. Both Thomas and Mem actually played with me on the last Pure Love tour and that was great so I wanted to keep playing with them. They were the first people I asked and they all said yes."
Did you ever consider asking Steph (Carter, Frank was in Gallows with his brother Steph) if he wanted to join?
"Yeah I did, I mean I love my brother, but I know he's trying to carve his own path and he's got this band called Ghost Riders that he's got going on. I didn't want him to leave that and he probably would have told me to go f**k myself anyway. It's nice just to be brothers for a while, we were business partners for such a long time and that puts a lot of strain on you. It's nice to be able to talk about each other's business for a change."
So what kind of record is this lyrically? All the stuff in the press seems to say it's back to being angry...
"It's not that straightforward. It's about a year I had, 2014, it's about relationships, death and life, how we struggle with them and everything in between. It's about how we try and understand and deal with our relationships with everybody."
Do you think you'll tour as hard as you ever did?
"We did a tour in June and I was really nervous. I'd done one show before that and it was really hard work, so I got a trainer and eating better and I got myself in shape. I feel like I'm the healthiest and strongest version of me there's ever been, there's a hunger there that's unparalled and on that tour I went harder than I've ever gone. I'm here to prove a moment. This band is f***ing important, it's crucial, kids are being fed the same s**t and no one's calling anyone on it. I'm here to do that."
Do you feel as hungry for it as you did when you were starting out? It must be hard not to be a bit weary, starting out for a third time...
"I'm not weary at all. I was way wearier in my old bands, I don't know what my problem was, just an entitled little p***k, I've got so much more appreciation for it this time round. The fire is definitely still raging."