After their barnstorming 2006 debut, Orchestra of Wolves, Gallows are predicting the end of the world as we know it on the utterly brilliant Grey Britain. Axeman Steph carter gave the skinny to James Cotterell.
Gallows are a band whose reputation precedes them. Known for his hostility towards the press, it was inevitable that front man Frank Carter would be unavailable, having been relieved of his much hated press dues already. Instead his brother, guitarist Steph Carter, stepped in and proved just as passionate and wired during our conversation – his wit, street smarts and braggadocio all too apparent.
A band like Gallows are something too big to swallow for most, let alone stomach. Confrontation, darkness, grimace and menace are all the things Gallows thrive on, and ultimately live as a band each day. Grey Britain forewarns a dark forecast of the band’s home, England, as well as the world at large. From opening track ‘The Riverbank’, the epic darkness that is the reality of the modern world is thrust upon the listener. Sinister tidings and strings enforce this before the band launches into its signature form of assault and battery. As to the generational struggle (or lack of) the band proclaims, Steph says the situation is clear, but answers are not.
“People just aren’t proud of where there from anymore – back in the old days people would just work as hard as they could to be the best they could be. But now the generation gap is getting smaller – people would rather just sit at home and get on the dole – receiving money from the government instead of working and being proud of where they’re from and being they best they could be… These people go and get their forty four pounds a week, go and buy drugs with that forty four pounds, then sell those drugs for a hundred pounds. It’s just pointless – kids just get money to become drug dealers. I don’t know why people would want to live that way”.
Before ultra-nationalist accusations are flung the band’s way, Steph is quick to highlight it is people’s lack of motivation and utter apathy to the world around them that has lead them here. “Some serious change is needed, because we are so close to hitting rock bottom, we’ll need to hit rock bottom to start again. That’s the only way out of this. On the record we try to point it out, but as a band we personally have not got the answer – we as people make more fuckups than anybody we know.”
Far from philosophers, the band’s middle class attitudes and upbringing have had a large influence on their point of view. Even the band’s new press photos – showing them as nifty ‘mods’ – doesn’t hide the fact that they could (and would) kick the shit out of you at any point if you bumped into them in the street with a scowl.
Grey Britain offers evolutionary leaps and bounds from their previous album Orchestra of Wolves. The band entered the studio with the careening momentum, creating an a bold statement of an album, reeking with attitude, energy, and perhaps even an ideological movement – either fuck or get fucked.
Garth Richardson’s production (Rage Against the Machine, Biffy Clyro, Rise Against) provides the album with maximum impact – sonically as well as the attitude and fiery energy it creates – and is reminiscent of Guns ‘n’ Roses’ debut Appetite for Destruction – this is just one of those records that could change the face of music, whether the punters like it or not. Steph concurs Richardson was an important part of that, yet his meddling seemed minimal. “When he first came into our rehearsal space, he sat us down, and said ‘Let’s talk about changes to the music’ and we thought ‘fuck this’. Then all he said was ‘in this one song let’s just add the chorus once more – the rest is fine’. We just all thought, fuck, one of the world’s best super producers just told us our music is ‘fine’ and we don’t need to change a thing! We all just thought ‘We’re fucking golden!’”
Grey Britain has changed the game – aggressive street punk bands can use strings, pianos, and even acoustic guitars (the highlight being ‘The Vulture’), without turning into gutless whiners. It is the amalgamated sound of each great hard rock record of the last twenty years – not a flash in the pan, but a kick in the balls.
A point of amusement has often been the band’s three album, 1 million pounds Warner Brothers deal. . “I don’t think they really understood Gallows at the time, I really don’t. They claimed they got us – as with all labels, they wanted to be the first label that gets that new thing that’s exciting. Warner expected us to be the next Green Day or something, and when all five of us were like ‘they’ve given us a million pounds’, we knew they could never get that back. I don’t think Warner Brothers as a label know what we’re about.” The equivalent of this would be strolling into your local scummy off license looking for a packet of gum, but leaving with a packet of cigarettes – the band’s toxicity is that high.
The band’s passion for their music, and more importantly their live show, has meant pushing themselves to the point of mental and physical burnout. One story is particularly stark. Steph’s repeated phrase, “I put my body through fucking hell every night” might seem like a recurring theme, but get a hold of this: “The other day we played in Leeds, and twenty minutes before we were to go on I was in our dressing room having an ECG scan with four paramedics because they thought my heart had caved in. I’ve nearly killed myself every song we’ve ever played on stage, in fact I hope I do kill myself one show!” Bands might say their hearts are in it, but it’s hard to deny a man who is actually willing to lose his for the sake of the music.
Grey Britain is out now on Warner Brothers.