He was loved as the frontman of Gallows. He was hated for creating music with Pure Love. He kept moving forward. It could be the story of many successful (charts have nothing to do with success when you’re creating art) artists, but we’re here to talk about Frank Carter and the most recent album he released with his amazing band, the Rattlesnakes. Modern Ruin, the album, was just a pretty damn good excuse to talk with one of the most charismatic artists coming out of the contemporary punk scene. Spoiler alert: Carter is still busy with his life and art to give a damn about your hate.
Before talking about this new album I would like to talk about something I believe to be extremely connected. After you left Gallows you started Pure Love, a project that many people had and have a hard time accepting and digesting. Was that an important period to what you’ve been doing to this day?
Yeah, definitely. Without Pure Love, The Rattlesnakes wouldn’t exist. Because the important thing about Pure Love is, it taught me how to sing, it taught me how to be a better performer, and it taught me some humility. When I was in Gallows we were at the top of your game. We were playing to three or four thousand people at night and lots more festivals, and really, we didn’t have to work that hard. We just had this great setup and we’d been doing really, really well. When I started Pure Love all of that disappeared, literally overnight. And suddenly I had to kind of find my place in music again and convince people that I was an important performer and singer. Yeah, it definitely made me who I am. Pure Love had more of an effect on me than Gallows did, for sure.
Did it help you figure out your own artistic expression and its possible scope?
Yeah, it did. What it did to me, like I said… it gave me a real challenge. It made me trying to understand better who I was and what I was about. I think at that point in my life I had never really asked any of those questions. So, it was a really important time for me and I’m really glad that it happened. And in amongst all of that, I actually love that album. I think we wrote some really great songs.
It seems important for people to have the knowledge of what Pure Love is if they want to understand what you’re doing. Even if they don’t enjoy Pure Love, you need to pay attention to it to try comprehend a little bit better who’s the artist Frank Carter and what he’s doing.
Yeah, exactly. What Pure Love was doing towards the end, it was very much kind of where we picked up with Blossom. We just went a little bit more aggressive in the beginning but… you know what? It’s just the most authentic version of me. Very much this is who I am, the truest version. I feel very happy with it. It feels great. Modern Ruin is a different album, a different script.
Can you pinpoint a moment where Modern Ruin’s shape becomes more palpable and you start to realize its direction and scope?
It’s really difficult because in order to do that you are literally talking about weeks in time that were so close together with Blossom. People think that we’ve taken ages to write this album when in actual fact, the reality is that we wrote Blossom in February of 2015, and recorded it, and released it in August, and then we started writing Modern Ruin in September of 2015. Actually, Modern Ruin was finished recording in January of 2016. So, it’s been finished for almost a year now, and it will have been finished exactly a year when we release it. So, to talk about a time when we change direction is really difficult because we didn’t really. As far as I am concerned we didn’t really have a direction to change when we wrote Modern Ruin. We were still kind of trying to find who we were as a band and which kind of way we wanted to go. For us it very much feels like we’re just kind of just doing what we set out to do, which is just experience everything and see what feels right, you know what I mean?
Yeah, and I think it’s important to say that even though Modern Ruin is a different kind of album, there’s definitely a connection with Blossom. It’s not like Modern Ruin is an album from a completely different band.
No, exactly. It’s definitely all connected and the important thing is that for me this is the most important album of my career because not only does it connects what we’re doing with The Rattlesnakes but also links me to Gallows and to Pure Love, properly. I think that with this album you get the biggest kind of exposure of the spectrum of Frank Carter as the artist, that’s ever been. And the real exciting part is when we get into next year  when we start writing album three, because I’ve never released a third album in a band. [laughs] So, I can’t wait to do it. It will be great.
One thing that seems to me pivotal to understand what you’re doing now is the heavy usage of dynamics and contrasts. It feels there’s a concern to reach out to the other side – the soft and the quiet – and find a way to make both sides work in harmony. Is that even close to what you were actually looking for with Modern Ruin?
I think that with Modern Ruin I wasn’t looking for anything. It literally just happened. I’ve always wanted to challenge myself as a performer and as a singer. So, to me it was about challenging what I was capable of. And in that respect, that means finding new ways to sing, slowing music down, and having the focus be back on the vocals. More often than not… when you are screaming it’s quite easy to take the focus away from yourself. It comes more about the music and the dynamic of the music. Screaming is very in your face, it’s quite easy for people to not listen to what you are saying. So, with me, I wanted very much to be heard on this album. I wanted people to listen to what I was saying and for it to be heard loud and clear. So yeah, you’re right, to me… My favorite band of all time is Nirvana and I think they’ve just perfectly struck that balance of like raw live aggression and then real emotive quieter songs that have the same power, they have the same raw power as the heavy stuff. That to me is the true genius of music, when you have like a song that’s slow and quiet and it has the same amount of power as the fuckin’ punk rock furious song. That to me is good music.
How far in the writing process were you before entering the studio?
We had the whole album written, pretty much. I think we wrote one song while we were in the studio, which is the song “Real Life”… oh no, actually we wrote two songs. We wrote “Real Life” while we were in the studio and we wrote “Neon Rust” right before we went into the studio to record. Everything else was written beforehand and then we’re kind of feel the album in the studio because we had a new drummer at that point, who’s our drummer at the moment [Gareth Grover]. We needed some time to work with him to figure out how it was going to sound.
Was there a lot of experimentation while you were in the studio?
There was. There was a lot of experimentation. I’ve always liked to do things quite quickly. I like spontaneity and I don’t want really ever spend too much time on anything, but this is the album where I was there, in the studio, every day. I was there every day for a month listening to tones, listening to sounds, and really just working really hard. Make sure that everything we wanted it to be it was. And it is, for me is like the perfect record. I actually love this record.
You said, “I needed to surround myself with musicians that were, by my standard, much better than myself. That meant I felt completely out of my depth.” Were you looking to get uncomfortable sort of speak?
I’m always looking to get uncomfortable. I always want to put myself in a position where I don’t feel comfortable because that’s when the most exciting stuff happens. That’s when you give your best performances, when you have your back against the wall. Not completely trapped but feeling that you have to make something good happen. That’s what I was doing with this album. I was making something good happen.
“What’s sad about it to me is that actually the things that are finally happening here – the corruption, the greed, the violence – there are things that have been happening in our countries for years…”
Ok, we need to talk about your vocal performance on this album. I think would be fair to say that people can expect the most daring performance from you so far. How much focus was there in evolve as a singer for Modern Ruin?
I think that as well. Thank you. Anybody that has heard my previous work, I think is very simple for them, once they hear this album, to hear very clearly how far I’ve come as a singer and as a performer. Because I did things on this album that I’ve never been able to do before and I could only ever dream of doing in the past. It made me feel really powerful, I feel really strong. I listen back to this record and I love everything about it because as a singer I’ve achieved things that I just never thought it would be possible. “Neon Rust”, that’s a really indicator where we can see we going in the future. Really big, epic rock songs. It was one of the hardest for me to sing, and in the end we did that whole song in one take. I’m really excited to play it live.
How did it feel to make what I imagine to be a big stretch?
It actually felt like a massive release. To be honest, I was really excited to just kind of let loose, do some things with my voice that I’ve never done before and to me it just felt… the whole thing just felt really exciting. There was no real stress for me, I just was having fun.
What impressed me the most was noticing that you were trying a new thing with your voice in every single track on the album.
Thank you, man. That makes me really happy because that’s exactly what I wanted to do. I mean, the first song on the album [“Bluebelle”] is so weird because it happens so quickly and it’s gone before you’ve had a chance to digest it. But to me is one of the most important songs on there because I wrote the guitar, I played the guitar, I sang it, and I recorded the whole song. That’s the first song I’ve ever written, and recorded, and played on just me… That’s my very first solo song, and it’s all about my dog. [laughs] For me it’s a really important piece of music, but what it also did was, it presented this really vulnerable state to an album that just gets heavier, and heavier, and heavier throughout the listens. There’s a few moments where it slows in the middle, but that’s to really explode into a bigger end. I appreciate that. I’m glad you think that because that’s exactly what I was going for.
That’s so funny hearing you saying that. Here’s what I had for my next question: The opener “Bluebelle” feels very much like a strong statement, extremely filled with intent in setting up the listener to the eleven tracks that are coming. Would it be fair to say so?
There you go, man. You know more about my band than I do. Fucking hell. [laughs] I’m really glad that you like the album. For anyone that’s been a fan of me, I think that this album just does so much for me, and for the band, and I think it’s gonna be a really important year for us.
But I have to say that even though I very much enjoy the album now, I remember to enjoying it at first. I guess, from my experience, Modern Ruin is the kind of album that requires a little bit more from the listener. It’s like an album that you really need to pay attention in order to enjoy it.
Yeah, it does. Definitely. But all of the best ones do, you know? I’m not trying to write pop music. I’m trying to write classic rock music. The first time I listened to Led Zeppelin I didn’t like it, but now they are one of my favorite bands. I want to make sure that what we’re writing is challenging not just for me to make, but for the listener. Ultimately, once you come to it properly that’s when you get that real sense of satisfaction, like you’re into something that nobody can understand. And that’s when things get really exciting.
You stated that “Neon Rust” is the best song you’ve ever written. Obvious question: why?
It’s the most challenging to sing, it’s got the most depth to it, it has me at probably my most vulnerable, it’s got me at my most aggressive towards the end. I think is some of the most beautiful music I’ve ever written. It’s the first time we wrote in a way… The way the album works is like this: the album is about me, but it’s about this character who – and “Modern Ruin”, the song is really about the end of the world… If you imagine the album as a story, the world ends in “Modern Ruin” and “Neon Rust” is about the afterlife. It’s about our thoughts of heaven and hell, and what it happens ether and we just watch our whole world disappear. And it’s a letter from me to my daughter about how worried I am for her future, and how she is so beautiful, and she doesn’t belong in this shit world that we’ve made for her. I’m like desperate to find a way for her to exist in a better place. That’s what that song is about. For me it’s the best song I’ve ever written because it was the one I cared about the most, so far. And I care about every song I write, but that one I really wanted to get it right, and I think I did.
I know you were always a political and social conscious person and artist. “Neon Rust” is about your daughter having to grow up in this shit world. How do you feel about the current states of affairs?
I hate it. It’s hard not to be depressed by the things happening here, in the UK. What’s sad about it to me is that actually the things that are finally happening here – the corruption, the greed, the violence – there are things that have been happening in our countries for years, for decades, for hundreds of years. Being British, being from that side of western civilization, we’ve been able to kind of hide ourselves from those facts. And now it has arrived on our doorstep and the shock is too much for us to bear. For me, what I’m trying to do is make sure that I keep my head and I work as hard as I can on my own things, and I’m kind to the people around me, and I’m good to family… If I can do that, I’ll die a happy man.
The album was recorded by Thomas Mitchener, the band’s former touring bassist in his own Broadfields Studio. How was the experience to record in a studio of a friend in what I imagine to be the most intimate environment you can have?
It is the same studio we recorded Blossom in. How cool is that? And that was the whole point. The whole point of this record was to take a band that have such distinct sound, that was rooted in garage punk and sounded really aggressive and really heavy, go back to the same studio with the same people and record an album that sounded like it was made in a really big space, a really open place with just a lot more focus and consideration. You can hear a lot of elements of Blossom in there, but the album itself is sonically so different from Blossom that I’m also incredibly proud of that. Because it shows how versatile we are as players and that we are good musicians, but also shows how versatile Mitchener is as a producer. He is, in my mind, one of the best producers in the UK. He was the kingpin that really enabled us to explore and enjoy ourselves, and have a lot of fun with what we were doing.
Your music is extremely personal and was always influenced by your state of mind at the moment. Can we assume that Frank Carter in 2017 is a much more balanced and focused as a person and as an artist?
Definitely. [laughs] 100%.
I mean, listening to you talking and listening to the album, it seems that now you’re a person… I wouldn’t say a happy person but an individual that has learned how to deal with life. If you know what I mean.
Yeah, I do know what you mean. That’s kind of it. When I was young, when I was in Gallows, I didn’t know how to behave half of the time. I didn’t know if I was doing the right thing or the wrong thing, and more often than not I was doing the wrong thing. But now I have a better understanding of it all… I really enjoy my time while I’m making music. That’s something I’ve never been able to do before because I’ve been so stressed about what to say, and how to say it, and if it was going to piss anyone else. Now I just don’t care if I upset people. What I care about is the music that I’m making, and making sure it’s heard a lot.