Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes
Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes have returned with their exhilarating new single My Town.
With an unmatched talent for writing songs that are both ferocious and poetic, vocalist Frank Carter and guitarist Dean Richardson have built The Rattlesnakes into a well-respected band that is exciting and daring. Although The Rattlesnakes only formed a short six years ago back in 2015, Frank and Dean have both spent their lives honing their musical skills by playing in numerous bands throughout the years. Yet The Rattlesnakes is a platform that lets the pair unleash their most boundary-pushing bodies of work. They are a band that not only puts on intense and thrilling live shows but they also use their music to comment on important topics in society.
A testament to how explosive Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes is the fact that they previously charted fourth in the UK album charts with their second LP, End of Suffering, as well as sell-out a headline show at the prestigious Alexandra Palace in London. It proves that the punk-rock band are an important part of the UK music scene as selling out Ally Pally is no easy feat. But now, the band is back with their comeback single My Town which features Joe Talbot from Idles, it’s The Rattlesnakes’s first musical release in over a year.
So with the return of Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes 1883 Magazine spoke to Frank and Dean all about My Town, the new era, what they have been up to in lockdown, societal issues and their huge show at Alexandra Palace last year.
Hello Frank and Dean, welcome back! Your new single My Town has just dropped. Can you tell us about how the collaboration with Joe Talbot from Idles came about?
Frank: We’ve been looking to do something with Joe for a long time. I love Idles, you know they are one of the few bands who I watch live and cry. I cried my eyes out on the side of stage at their Sziget Festival set, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. So naturally when we started getting into this track it had the kind of energy that I thought Joe could vibe on, you know. And when Dean was like “hey, My Town has got this bridge, what do you think about calling Joe?” I was like “man I can’t believe I didn’t think about that”.
So we called him and I had written some lyrics for it which were pretty aggressive and mean. I said to Joe “look, if you want to come down you can write your own thing or if you’re happy to sing these lyrics…” and Joe was like “I’m happy to sing anything you’ve written.” And then I said “cool, the first line is ‘You let your dog shit in the street’”. And he was like “okay…” Haha!
So Joe just came to the studio and stomped his way through it, it was a really beautiful moment for us because we wanted that song to feel aggressive but in a way that it was sort of impending, it wasn’t happening to you right now. It was like a tension thing and I think that is something that Joe does so well. I think the only direction we gave him just “more unhinged” ha!
My Town is also your second time collaborating with another artist (Tom Morello was the first!) and it’s your first ever self-produced track, Dean why was now the right time to start producing for the band?
Dean: Frank made me! That’s the honest answer haha. But it all came about very organically. Throughout this period of time that we’ve made this new music in, we’ve actually had more time than normal. We’ve always normally just kept it to guitar and vocals and purposefully avoided bringing in any level of production but I guess when we stopped the last record, we had just sold out Ally Pally and there is always this thing when you get to play the last show of an era, both myself and Frank are immediately like ‘target acquired, what’s next!’
This time round it felt like we just needed to be recording as we went, so initially it was kind of like “let’s get some demos going”, we went to a cabin in March last year to make some music, blissfully unaware of what was about to happen in the word around us. But yeah, suddenly before we knew it, we were just making tunes and making sounds. Some of that stuff from those sessions is on these tunes and the line between where we would finish and go and record, this song appeared, and it was actually quite freeing. But there definitely was a point where I was “no, I can’t really do this” and Frank was like “you are!” So there was a moment where we switched from having fun writing demos to actually we’ve started making new music.
Once I got over the nerves of it, it’s just been the most rewarding thing to realise the sound that we have in our head. And it’s really close to what’s in mine and Frank’s heads, which is always really weird, but getting the vision into a third person’s head is always a challenge. So for this track, it’s been really nice to channel our collective brains.
Frank: You have to understand that I’ve been trying to have this happen for five years and it’s difficult when you’ve got management, labels and other people involved. Regardless of how many times we say “we’re going to do this thing that we’ve never done before or we’re going to make this animated video…”, whatever we decide to do, we just do it and fully commit to it and no matter how many times you fucking blow these people out the water and you prove that you can do it, something about producing this new music, they still say ‘simmer down children’, they’re still a bit like ‘woah there’.
The reality of it is when you bring back demos that are better than anything you’ve ever made and it’s a fucking demo, when you bring back demo vocals which are the best performance that you’ve ever given, that’s when there is a value to it which is undeniable and you can no longer ignore it. I had the added power of saying “play the demo back again” and so they would listen to the demo again and be like “this sounds really fucking good”. And then I’m like “yeah, imagine that was in a cabin when I was in a fucking hot-tub, imagine what this music could be if we just had the right microphone and we weren’t using a sofa and a mattress as a vocal booth!”.
Dean: There was a moment where we had to buy some gear because if we’re producing our own music, we needed better than what we had! I literally had a microphone that was called ‘Generic’, it wasn’t even attempting to be a brand haha! It was a generic mic that I had bought when I was a kid, so we had to upgrade our gear a little bit at one point. But yeah, it was a little bit like a happy accident I think and then it became something, to me at least, that is really crucial to the sound of this next era.
We’re glad you were able to prove that you really wanted to self-produce the new music. Frank’s exactly right when he said that there can be too many parties involved sometimes. You guys have this particular vision, so you should be allowed to create something true to it, not something that is diluted by others. My Town is very impactful and it’s exciting to see what this new era will bring.
Dean: Over the years, you occasionally get a fan that will be drunk outside the venue that says: “why don’t you just sound as good as you do live on the records?” Haha, it’s only one of the comments that grates on me because I’m then like “why can’t we sound just as good on the records?”, I feel like this next stuff is 30bpm faster than anything we’ve done and we’ve had no one trying to maybe make it something more palatable than what me and Frank just are when we are unfiltered. It probably will never sound like what we do live as that is the beauty of live music but it’s close!
Frank: Exactly that, you nailed it Dean. I don’t want to say it’s unpasteurised Rattlesnakes but it’s pretty raw. This is as whole milk as you get.
Dean: We’ll put that on the back of the vinyl haha!
We want to talk about one of the most recent pivotal moments for the band, the sold-out headline show at Alexandra Palace back in February last year. You must have all been on cloud nine after the gig. How did you both cope with suddenly having to slow down the momentum with the lockdown coming into effect in March?
Frank: It was that cloud nine which kept us going. We didn’t slow down the momentum. I’ve spent my fucking life trying to get to that gig, it’s not just about playing that gig… It’s one thing to play Alexandra Palace, but it’s a different thing to sell-out the venue as a headline band after you’ve just sold-out a whole headline tour of big venues in the UK. And the knowledge that you know that you’ve got the world ahead of you, that’s the plateau you achieve before you take your breath and make the steps towards being a stadium band. I’ve been doing this since I was fucking nineteen and I’ve been grafting my whole life to get to that point.
When you do get to that point, you don’t sit down and say: ’we’ve made it,’ you just take your breath and prepare to climb Everest. Everyone around us was so upset you know, granted we are living in a fucking pandemic and it was a nightmare and I was terrified for the way it was being handled, but like for us we just had this undercurrent of energy. I’m still on cloud nine now, I’m still up there. I could have walked off stage at Alexandra Palace yesterday, nothing has happened between then which can take that away from me because I had it and I will have for the rest of my life, it’s now about what we do next.
This record, whilst it is serious, it is fun because we were desperately trying to find the fun in life and ultimately it’s got this massive hopeful undertone to it because we achieved something fucking gigantic that we’ve been trying to achieve our whole lives, in both of our other bands, and we finally got there together. It was really nice to get there in our most truest form. Rattlesnakes is just where Dean can be Dean, Frank can be Frank and we can just be ourselves and it’s fucking real. It’s cool and it sounds fun and it’s good and it gives people hope, our band is important. When you finish off a gig like that, it would have been an absolute tragedy for us to just walk away and ignore it forever. Honestly, I don’t think there is a day gone past where… you know what is really great? I tattoo people all the time now, I’ve got my shop open and so many people say to me “man, my last gig was Alexandra Palace and I just wanted to say thank you because honestly I don’t think I would have got through this year if I hadn’t had that gig to be my last gig.” And n I’m like “me fucking too!”.
That gig was spectacular. Did you know that someone nearly died at the gig? Three-minutes before the end of the fucking show. We had a break for five-minutes on stage where there was no music played whilst we tried to get security through the crowd to pick this kid up who had basically almost broke his back, he couldn’t move and they thankfully wheeled him out safely. And then we finished the show. No one talks about that! That’s a five/ten-minute pause on stage at a gig, no one talks about it because the vibe was there. Everyone was in that moment together and I think that is what helped us carry us through.
I guess this new music is what you make when you get given the kind of material, the emotional-soul-material of something like Alexandra Palace. It’s like everyone gives you that. We were given all that together and then they are like “go on then Rattlesnakes, let’s see what you do.” Then the universe decided to throw a pandemic onto all of us….
But you haven’t let it get in your way!
Frank: Not even close! If anything, this pandemic has given us the time to make the best Rattlesnakes. It’s the best work we’ve ever made. It’s non-comparable, if you can’t tell, I’m pumped!
It’s great to see that My Town delves into society’s collective mental health at the moment and it also sends a lovely message about the importance of unity and solidarity. My Town could be about anyone’s hometown, so it showcases that you need to help each other out. At the moment, it really feels like the world is on fire and a lot of things need to change. What words of wisdom would you give to your fans and anyone who is going through a tough time at the moment?
Dean: The thing that comes to mind first is probably the most useful thing, I always think if someone is going through a tough time, there is a thing in Buddhism about applying how you feel to the weather. And so, it’s important to remember that weather always passes. So if it’s raining, just remember that it won’t rain forever and whatever goes on in your mind will pass. You could be in a storm you might be in the eye of the storm or an absolute blizzard but there will be sunny days and there will probably be more blizzards but if you think of it as weather, it’s not permanent.
That always comes to mind whenever I hear someone is struggling because I’m not sure if anything else will help except for knowing that it won’t last forever.
Frank: The whole ‘everything is temporary’ mantra is something that we try to live by on a daily basis. Everything we have, as I look around my flat right now, as I know I’ve got a tattoo shop that is moving, as I know that I have got this band that people are listening to right now, it’s all borrowed. Granted that I’ve created a lot of it but it’s just mine to borrow whilst I’m here. And I think for anybody going through a tough time right now I would just say like remind yourself how impermanent this is. You get one shot at all of this.
I’ve lost a lot of friends this year, I’m leaving lockdown for sure with a few less people in the world who I loved. People that I really loved and cared about. They sadly didn’t make it through for whatever reason and I just wish I could have explained the impermanence to them because the one thing that is permanent is when you’re gone. There is no changing that and you don’t get to change that. So I’m trying to live my mantra now of living. And that’s what this new era is all about. It’s about living rather than focusing on the dying. We’ve had that too fucking much. I get it though, things are hard, life is complicated and difficult and problems come at you from all different angles. Sometimes it’s really hard to see the wood for the trees, so to speak.
I think we’ve just spent the last year running further into the forest, me and Dean, we’re like ‘let’s get closer to it and find whatever we can find in there’ to just give us a little spark.
Frank, I’m so sorry to hear about your friends and Dean that is such a lovely way of thinking about things, maybe we should all start relating tough times to the weather. Thank you for sharing that.
You’ve both been very busy whilst we’ve been in lockdown, last year Frank you opened a tattoo shop called Rose Of Mercy and Dean you run a creative company called Yuck! Yuck created the music video for My Town right? How are both ventures going and are there are any certain goals you would both like to achieve?
Frank: I just don’t want my shop to close haha, most businesses fail within the first year and that’s if you don’t add a global pandemic on and keep your business shut for months at a time. At this point, we’ve been closed longer than we have been open in our first year. So I would like to say thank you to everybody that comes and gets tattooed at Rose Of Mercy. The whole point of that place was to give my experience of tattooing and to be able to provide a platform for young tattoo artists that I think are really exciting talent and will go onto do really amazing things.
It would be a tragedy if that platform wasn’t able to develop for them but with that in mind I have fucking hustled harder than I have ever hustled to keep that roof over their heads. Every artist that is working there blows me away, so I think my current goal is just to be able to pay the rent haha. We’re doing ok! We’ve got a great landlord, The Hoxton Trust is our landlord and they are very patient and gentle with me.
Dean: I feel slightly guilty because YUCK is by its nature a very easy remote working company. There have been challenges, there are five of us here, so people working separately in what is a creative company which means that working together really matters. But we’ve managed to get through the pandemic a little bit easier than Frank’s shop. In brief, I’ve always been a graphic designer and a musician and there was a point where I realised that I just love where those two things meet. So we end up doing almost like everything Rattlesnakes obviously, So Frank and us can get things to feel right.
The most recent thing was the music video for My Town which definitely pushed us to our limits a little bit with 400-500 hours of rendering that we underestimated haha! It’s kind of just like a playground for Rattlesnakes to just be able to do much more compared to if we were limited to certain budgets or the kind of stuff we don’t have access to as an independent band.
In the last few years, it really feels like the alt-rock and punk genres have had a resurgence with the rise of bands like Idles, Fontaines D.C., Surfbort and Amyl & the Sniffers. Why do you think this resurgence is happening?
Frank: It’s happening because when you take the main threads of inspiration in music, it’s the same as fashion, It’s cyclical. These things swing around and around, in fashion it’s all gone very 90s inspired right now. If you equate that to what was happening in the music at the time, you had the biggest bands at the time, Oasis and Blur blasting out. So naturally it comes around and when something has been gone for a little while it kind of tends to fall back into fashion. I can appreciate and respect all those bands, I think they’re amazing. I fucking love Fontaines D.C., they just write fucking great songs.
I think you are going to see this play out forever and ever. But it is what those bands do when they have been given their platform for a few years that really decides which bands are going to stay and which bands are going to go. When you think all things are cyclical you can kind of see the pitfalls and traps coming, so one thing that The Rattlesnakes has been good at is dodging jabs. We don’t take any punches.
Dean: I find getting too hooked up in the ‘rock is dead’ or I remember when EDM was supposed to have killed all music and now EDM isn’t really the main thing now. I just think it’s so much more enjoyable to just seek out music that excites you and I think that is what younger people are doing now. You’re just as likely to listen to Brockhampton as you are The Rattlesnakes if you’re like seventeen. And that’s the world I like to live in. I’m really excited about Viagra Boys, Amyl & The Sniffers and loads of great punk-rock bands at the moment but I just think there is an obsession with what is failing rather than just what is good haha.
Right now there is loads of good punk-rock, let’s enjoy it and we don’t need to talk about what other genre might be suffering. It’s all a bit competitive in a world where young people have started to ignore that genre-based thing and I think that is an exciting world to be in.
Throughout your time in Gallows, Pure Love and with the Rattlesnakes, Frank, you’ve always spoken up about mental health, injustice, the patriarchy, right-wing politics and toxic masculinity which is incredibly inspiring. There obviously needs to be a continuous discussion but do you think we are slowly progressing on any of those things at all?
Frank: The complication here is that we make progress on all of those topics except one. And that one topic is the umbrella of all which is the fact that we live in a patriarchal society. So now my focus is shifting to talk less about the symptoms and more about the root cause. I think that I’m going to focus on dismantling the patriarchy for the rest of my life because I think that is the main problem. That’s where you get everything else: toxic masculinity is a byproduct of the patriarchy, inequality is a byproduct, bad mental health for everyone in the world, the fear of being a woman, and the inadequacies and insecurities of being a man that isn’t a fucking alpha male, incels, they’re all a byproduct of the fucking patriarchy.
For a long time I was like ‘oh man, why is this all happening?’ And it’s because I was fucking oblivious to the fact that I was part of the problem because I’m a white male and I live in a patriarchal society and I don’t have to deal with a lot of the problems that other members of our marginalised society do. So that is the focus now, it’s going to shift onto that at some point but I need more time to… I’ve been thinking about it every fucking day and I’m writing about it every day and trying to understand it the best I can. So I’ve been reading a lot of books by the author Bell Hooks. I read a lot about it all the time now. So I can try and better understand my position in it all and what I can do to help because I think unfortunately it’s one of those things where we need more people that are in on the inside of it to dismantle it. It’s all kind of crazy.
Finally, what are you able to tell us about the future, is there anything exciting in store?
Frank: I will tell you this, this new music is 30 bpm faster than anything we’ve written in the past and if you want one word to sum it up, that fucking word is: adrenaline.
Watch the music video for ‘My Town’ below. Follow Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes via @andtherattlesnakes
Interview by Cameron Poole