Frank Carter Goes Back To His Hardcore Roots

It was around Christmas time that the former Gallows and Pure Love singer Frank Carter finally did something about an itch that had been slowly bothering him. He had spent the year leading up that moment assiduously avoiding music. Pure Love had broken up around Easter time and he had more or less decided that he was done with songs. Instead, he bought a house and moved into it with his pregnant wife, and then he concentrated on his tattoo business and his art.

But something was nagging at him. It nagged at him throughout what he describes as a very difficult, empty year. It nagged at him as his family went through a number of problems and it nagged at him whenever he felt he needed an outlet - an outlet that painting just could not provide. And so on Boxing Day he called up an old friend, Dean Richardson, the former guitarist with Heights. He was someone Frank had written with in the past and someone he wanted to work with again. He called him up and told him he had lyrics he needed to do something with so Dean sent him some music to put them to. Which is when Frank realised something: “it was exactly what I had been missing”.

“After Pure Love broke up, it was really difficult,” says Frank. “It was a lot more difficult than I thought it would be. I thought I was over music, I thought I could just walk away and get on with the other aspects of my life. I did that – I focused on painting, writing and tattooing and I got better at all of them. But I don’t think I was being fair to music; it’s always been really good to me but I always just assumed it was only an outlet. “When I reached out to Dean and asked if he was sitting on anything, he sent a few songs over and it was like a lightning bolt. We went into the practice room and it just worked. I knew it was what I was meant to be doing with my life. It felt so necessary, it really lifted me up.”

Pure Love, he says, came to an end because the band did not get enough backing from their record label. “I got burned out by the industry,” says Frank. “The band felt doomed from the beginning because we didn’t get the support we needed. We were left playing small shows to the cult fans.” He describes the period that followed the split – or “indefinite hiatus”, as they called it – as tough. “That year was quite bleak for me and some pretty terrible things happened,” he says. As things got on top of him, Frank realised that not having a band was making it harder for him to process the problems. Working with Dean changed that and, after just three months of writing together, they have 18 songs. Eight of them are recorded already – laid down with the former Pure Love bassist Thomas Mitchener and the ex-Ghost Of A Thousand drummer Memby Jago – and the remaining 10 will be finished by the end of April. The plan is to have an album out by August. Much of it will be about Frank’s difficult year.

“The songs are all about 2014, pretty much,” he says. “The majority of the record is trying to come to terms with life and death, living, breathing and not breathing. There are a lot of things on there that affected me personally, and which affected my family personally. And there are some things in there that affect everyone. I think there are things that can resonate with a lot of people.” The sound is a return to the hardcore of Frank’s past in Gallows. “We’re a punk rock band,” he says. “This is the most violently aggressive punk rock band I’ve ever been in. It’s back to my hardcore roots, but there are a few curve balls on the album because I love music. This is 100% instinct. Musically, this is all instinct and I love it.” But back when he started Pure Love, Frank deliberately wanted to move away from punk and, specifically, hardcore. It’s why that band had a more soulful, accessible sound. Frank said then that he didn’t want to scream in people’s faces forever. “Maybe my opinion has changed on that,” he says now. “Maybe I do want to scream at people for the rest of my life. I’ve always been the sort of person who does whatever the fuck he wants – so that’s what I’m doing now.” And this is very much doing what Frank wants – this is a band he wants complete control over. It’s why his name is right up front: Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes. It’s why, too, when he wanted to make aggressive music again he did not consider a return to Gallows. “I’ve always been my own man – that’s part of why I left [them],” he says. “They’re doing their thing, they’ve got their new album coming out and they seem to be happy and I’m happy for them. But this is me – that’s why my name is on the front of the band. This is about me as an artist.” It’s why the plan is to release the music himself too. His last two bands were both on major labels – Pure Love were on Mercury and, famously, Gallows were signed to Warners for a reported £1m. Has he been burned by those experiences or would he take another million, and a return to that corporate world, if offered? “I wish someone would offer me that again – I’d know what to do with it this time,” he says. “I certainly wouldn’t buy 100 pairs of Nikes this time. The problem [with major labels] is that you have no control over what happens in the company – and the company can fall apart. Essentially, that’s happened to me twice. People probably don’t want to work with me now because I’m a curse. I seem to be good at taking out CEOs.” There is another reason for wanting to do it himself: he feels like this might be his last chance and he doesn’t want to put that decision in someone else’s hands. “I’m smarter and older and I have a bit more to lose now,” he says. “I’ve got a daughter, I’m married now and I have a mortgage. I don’t want to be the guy who’s constantly forcing himself on people – I’m aware that you can’t be swinging the axe forever, this feels like it could be my last shot.” It will be interesting to see where this third incarnation takes him – but for now he is on a high. The songs are coming out in quickfire succession, his life is stable and happy and his young baby has changed his perspective. He’s positive, optimistic and excited about his year ahead. In fact, there’s only one worry at the moment. “I was sitting there the other day, looking at my baby,” he says. “I was thinking ‘How the fuck am I going to explain Orchestra Of Wolves to you?’ It’s going to be a fucking nightmare…”

Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes will play London’s Sang Bleu on May 14. For more information, click here.

Tom Bryant

Tom Bryant is The Guardian's deputy digital editor. The author of The True Lives Of My Chemical Romance: The Definitive Biography, he has written for Kerrang!, Q, MOJO, The Guardian, the Daily Mail, The Mirror, the BBC, Huck magazine, the londonpaper and Debrett's - during the course of which he has been attacked by the Red Hot Chili Peppers' bass player and accused of starting a riot with The Prodigy. Though not when writing for Debrett's.