Frank Carter and The Rattlesnakes are certainly not hanging about. Their current tour is the fourth UK outing for début album Blossom and they’re already on the cusp of releasing their second album, Modern Ruin. All that and the band isn’t two years old yet! Birmingham Live! got the chance to catch up with Frank in Wolverhampton before the last night of their sold-out UK tour.
BL: Congratulations, a fully sold out UK tour! Wolves kept you waiting on those last tickets though?
FC: Thank you! Saved the best ‘til last, I love this venue. I’ve played here a lot of times and the crowd has always been amazing. I think for tonight to do 550 tickets on a Tuesday night in Wolverhampton that says a lot. We’re really putting our stake in the ground and saying ‘We’re here, we ain’t going anywhere!’
BL: Being with Birmingham Live, I have to mention that Brum was sad not to have you this tour, but I guess we are only just down the road.
FC: Of course, I have this conversation a lot. The difficulty is, you can play A-town tours all the time and it’s great, you build those markets, then the minute you do a B tour no one comes. The UK is one of the only places in the world where people just don’t travel to shows. It’s so rare to get people to leave their city, because they’re spoiled, they’ve got great venues in each town, each city and great bands rolling through pretty much every week. With us, this is more than just one town, this is about every town, every town in every country and it’s about growing it locally. It’s about taking it to people that have never had the chance to see it in their town so they feel the same ownership that Birmingham does. Birmingham we’ve already played three times.
BL: For the first shows, you chose The Rainbow, one of the smaller venues. Is that part of growing things like you mentioned?
FC: Yeah, yeah, yeah, absolutely. It’s crazy to me that it was only last year and we played there twice. We did the June tour then another around now [November] then we went on the Kerrang! tour and that was when things kind of lifted a bit and here we are now. We’re going back to Birmingham in March. We’ve got a big tour announcing tomorrow and it’s going on sale on Friday. With that we’ll be lifting the rooms again, basically any town that we missed on this run we’ll be going back to in March and I’m sure there will still be a few people that are disappointed [laughs]. Just be thankful that you’re not in America, all I get on my Instagram is ‘When are you coming to the US?! You’ve had this band for almost two years!’ and I’m like, look we’ll get there one day but for now it’s about building it in a place that we know and this is my home.
BL: So, this tour is still part of the tour cycle for Blossom?
FC: Yeah, very much. This, and the last shows we’ve got coming up in Spain and Australia are kind of the end of Blossom. I mean, look, there are songs on that record that we’ll play forever ‘cause it’s a great record, but when we go into the new year and we’ve got a new album our focus is very much going to be on that because I am desperate to play new music. I just want to, and I actually think they’re better songs. A lot of consideration went into the writing of the new album, a lot of time and a lot of blood and sweat, so for us I want those songs to have the reaction that Fangs and Juggernaut are getting. What’s crazy is that we play Lullaby and that’s been out for like a month and a bit and it gets the same reaction as songs like Fangs or Juggernaut. So, it’s definitely building in the right way. Like I said, it’s always about growth and putting it out there in front of new people and also giving old fans something new as well. It’s important.
BL: We’re loving the new sound from the first two Modern Ruin tracks, was that a conscious change in direction or was it more organic?
FC: Thanks, it was very organic. We wrote Blossom in February of 2015 and we released it in August of 2015 and we started writing Modern Ruin in September of 2015. So, literally the month we released the album we started the new one and it just so happened that it was like, ‘that’s the way it’s supposed to be’, we just wrote and wrote and wrote and it just built and built and built then all of a sudden we had an album in the bag. We took it to the studio in January, we recorded it and then we sat on it for a little while, so I’ve been listening to it for a year. It was finished in January and mixed and mastered in March/April so we’ve had a whole Summer listening to it and learning it. We play the songs in sound check and stuff, just to get a better grip of the songs live and they’ve even changed a little bit from the record already! I wish that we could have an album’s worth of songs and then tour them and record it afterwards because I think you’d get a much better version.
BL: So they’d have that ‘lived-in’ feel?
FC: Yeah exactly. Part of touring a new record is getting to grips with the songs, and we’ve had a little bit of time with them now so we have a better understanding.
BL: You mentioned Lullaby earlier, which I believe you wrote about sleepless nights with your daughter. How are you finding it being a dad and being out of the road?
FC: It’s really tough, it’s the hardest part of being a musician. Leaving my daughter and not being there for her on a daily basis, we FaceTime all the time but that isn’t really a solution, and if she’s ‘busy’ she’s like ‘Hi, bye’, because she’s 2 and of course she’s got other shit on her mind! You know, there’s the dog, there’s dolls that need putting to bed [laughs]. It’s definitely the hardest part of my life and not only that it’s difficult for my wife as well. As an example, we did a three-week tour of Europe, which was just intense, and Sarah held it down, she did an amazing job. I got home and she got food poisoning, literally the day before I came home she didn’t feel well, I got home and she was throwing up for a couple of days. I was home for four days and I was basically nurse and dad and everything and then I went on tour the next day. The day after that she calls me up to tell me Mercy [daughter] has chicken pox! I’ve managed to get home a couple of times but it’s been really full on. Tonight is going to be a real celebration, I just can’t wait to get home, I’m desperate to see my girls.
BL: Do you get a break after tonight?
FC: Yeah we get two weeks off and then we’ve got two shows in Spain, I love Spain, and then we’re off to Australia. We’ve only got four shows there but a lot of press and meeting people, I think that’ll be a nice way to round out the year.
BL: Do you think that being a parent has changed you?
FC: 100%, I think it changes everyone, but as a performer it’s definitely changed me.
BL: Do you think that’s come through in your music and other art?
FC: I mean, as an example, my writing now… the first song on the album is about my dog, the last song on the album is about my daughter and everything in between is about me and my wife pretty much and also some of the situations that were happening in the world at the time. What happened with Modern Ruin was that while I was writing it I was watching a lot of the news and there was this incessant bombing of innocent civilians and then when they were turning to those countries for refuge they were being denied access, I saw so many parallels in that with my behaviour with my family. I was being a bit of a tyrant and ‘bombing’ the people that I loved and then when they came for help I was turning them away. So, the whole album is about this weird mangled, twisted way that love and life can be very much like a war zone without us realising it.
It’s definitely changed me as a performer, I used to be very nihilistic and quite reckless, so much so that it would really fucking damage me, I got to a much better place with it when I started touring wearing the suit because it changed my idea of who I was…
BL: Is the suit like a persona you assume when you perform now?
FC: Yeah, I became this sort of character, who always existed but was melded far too closely with the real me, off-stage me, there was no real difference. I wasn’t able to separate them in my head a lot of the time. Now, I put the suit on and I feel like I’m wearing armour, I go out and it gets me straight in the mood to play and from that point on I’m able to go and give the best performance I can give. Also, I don’t forget about the things that are going on at home, when I’m playing I think about my wife and my daughter. Those thoughts are going through my head when I look at a speaker stack, I used to look at speaker stack and think about the fastest way up it.
BL: So, now you’re a father you think ‘what if I fell’?
FC: No, I don’t even think about it, I look at them and I think, ‘man, that’s doing a good job, I’m going to stay right here, that thing is fine!’ [laughs] and to be honest I don’t think our shows are any less incendiary, if you watch us now, there’s just a control that we’ve never had. It was like chaos, but now it’s about delivering, we deliver the songs and the chaos happens in front of us, we still get in and out of it and we’re still very much among it. It used to be at the point where I’d sing an entire set from the crowd, which is fine when there is a hundred people, I could take a hundred people I reckon [laughs], but five hundred? The odds are against me! It’s weird, people don’t see you as human, they seem to see you as this fucking icon and so when you get in there among them and the spirits are high and there’s a shit load of adrenalin and probably quite a lot of alcohol and people’s inhibitions are down it can be quite a dangerous situation. I’ve had a few moments on this tour when I’ve realised, ok, at some point soon I’m going to have to stop putting myself in this situation, it’s not right for someone to just come at you in that way, and I have to understand what’s going on in that person’s head when they see me doing front flips off speaker stacks, they see me screaming in their face and spitting, and they see me just exploding over the stage, they assume that when I get close they can go nuclear as well, and that is just not acceptable, because I’m still a human being.
BL: Do you think that the ‘removal’ that we talked about earlier, people seeing you as some sort of icon, as just a performer, not a human added to that situation?
FC: I think it definitely does contribute to the way people behave around me, people find it easy to think that I’m not a person. People come and they tell me that they’ve been listening to my records for ten years and they get all shaky, and I’m like ‘Look, I shit, I go to the toilet every day just like you do, think about that for ten seconds!’ [laughs] I’m just like you, like your mom, your dad, your sister, we’re all the fucking same, the only difference is that I had the confidence to write a bunch of songs and get up and sing and perform, but I’m still just a human being. I think I deserve the respect that goes with that. This is where the complication comes, you get back what you give out, what you model and a lot of the time what I give out when I’m performing is pure aggression, carnage, ferocity and sometimes in the past I feel there has been a lack of respect there, so that’s now what I’m dishing out in spades. I have a huge appreciation and a level of respect for our fans than I’ve never had before, they have given me the life I’ve always wanted. So, in doing that, in showing that respect, I’m trying to say thank you for the life you’ve given me.
What’s happening now is I’ve seen a big change on this tour, we’ve seen more girls at our shows, down the front rows and we’ve got a song now that I dedicate to women only for crowd surfing and stage diving in a safe environment. More often than not I think it must be fucking scary to be a girl at a show, to stage dive, because you’re completely out of control, you don’t know if you’re going to get groped or touched inappropriately, I refuse to have that at my gigs because that’s not what this is about, this is punk rock, this is about all of us, regardless of colour, race, gender, religion, sexual preference, we are all the outcasts, we came to punk rock because we needed something tangible to hold onto and breathe life into. So, that’s one of the biggest things we’ve been doing is changing the way we think.
BL: That reminds of a moment during that first gig at the Rainbow in Birmingham, where you ended up on your knees unable to finish Beautiful Death. It was a real reminder for me of how much music does still matter.
FC: It was very immediate that moment, it was at a time when that whole event was very recent.
BL: Now that the catharsis of writing and performing those songs has hopefully helped you to deal with some of those experiences, does it ever feel that when you’re performing them that you’re picking at healed wounds?
FC: No, it doesn’t, no. Every time I perform I get stronger, I feel like I have a better understanding. It becomes something very different for me. I wrote those songs because I needed strength in that situation and what I get from performing them is strength, I’ve made peace with all of that stuff and usually I’ve made peace with it by the time I’ve finished writing the song. Then when we start performing it, it becomes a very different animal in itself and there’s a freedom in performing them. Like I said it’s all about strength, it’s about ownership.
BL: You mention ownership, was that a conscious decision with the naming of the band, making it personal?
FC: 100%. There was Gallows and there was Pure Love and I think that if you were to speak to anyone in the last ten years about those bands, in the top three things they think of when they think of those bands, my name is there. If I’m not number one, I’m really close to it. The problem that I have, is I always felt like I was hiding behind it, Gallows specifically, I was a big force in there but it was hidden behind a name. With Pure Love, I was a more exuberant force but the name was tripping people up, with this it’s very much about claiming what I think is mine. A lot of people tell me that what I do is important, I believe it is as well, and I want to take some ownership of that, me, as an artist. It is about my choices, my path, my decisions and I hope that in putting my name on it and making the decisions that I have, to play the venues that we’re playing, to put the music videos out that we have, to release the kind of music that we’re releasing people will say, this guy’s an artist, and hopefully they feel some ownership over me as well.
BL: We’d certainly agree that you’re an artist and love the way it all seems to tie together through your music, painting and tattooing.
FC: Thank you, there’s not a huge amount of people that are flying the flag for British Rock anymore and I think I can, I think I’ve got the shoulders to hold it.
BL: We think so too.
Interviewer – Steve Kilmister