Frank Carter might be the frontman of a punk rock band and have a tough exterior — his upper body almost completely covered in tattoos — but he is also a person who’s had more than his fair share of struggles with mental health.
“For me, it’s been there since I was 7 but over the years had got to the point where it was unmanageable,” Carter says.
What he’s talking about, is anxiety — an ever-present elephant in the room. And together with his band The Rattlesnakes, the UK punk rocker tackled this elephant head-on with their third album, the aptly titled End of Suffering, which is out today.
To boot, Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes are touring the world and sharing their positive message through an online mental health campaign called, #ABetterPlaceForYouAndMe.
While they were on our shores supporting Bring Me The Horizon, Carter and bandmate Dean Richardson topok some time to chat with Music Feeds about the new album, mental health and spreading a message for change through open conversation.
Music Feeds: Let’s talk about the new record. It’s definitely high-octane, honest, raw and ultimately very catchy music. And most of all it sounds great. How much of this do you attribute to working with big industry guys like (legendary mixer) Cam Blackwood and Alan Moulder?
Frank Carter: Yeh, obviously nothing happens without good songs. But the reality is we care a lot about our sound and our output. We’ve been looking forward to working with those guys our whole lives. Alan is a legendary mix-engineer/producer, Cam is a legendary producer in his own-right. So we were always desperate to work with them. So you have to attribute the final product to them. It was a group effort. We all had a vision and we were very lucky that our vision was matched, in this case.
MF: I can definitely hear the QOTSA influence in songs like Crowbar (obviously Cam and Ross Cairns have worked with the famous stoner rock band). How much would you say you’ve been influenced by the people and the environment that you’ve been working in?
FC: We’re really luck cause I’ve known Ross for a long, long time. He worked with me back when I was in a band called Gallows, 10 years ago. We’re really lucky that we get to work with people that work with bands of the same calibre as Queens of the Stone Age. We can never consider ourselves a band on that level. But to know that’s the company that we keep with the people who work on all of our projects is a beautiful thing.
MF: Take me through the writing process. You took 6 months to record and write the album. What drove you both to write such an affecting and ultimately very honest record?
FC: Lyrically, the whole album is about the last 2 years of my life, pieced together over those 6 months of snippets of lyrics from here and there. It’s a weird one because we always wanna be the most honest we can be. We wanna write brutally raw, honest music because I think a lot of the time, people don’t write like that. They’re always shrouding everything in mystery and painting a lot of happy pictures when they’re not.
With this record I needed to be more honest than I ever had been, because I had to do that for myself. Musically, the writing process is the same as it’s always been.
Dean Richardson: It’s still the same as what we did with the first album. It’s just me and Frank with a cup of tea and a guitar. The only thing that’s changed is that we have a better understanding every time we make another record of each other and our abilities. It’s felt easier so far for us to piece together songwriting-wise. It’s felt really natural this time around.
MF: The name of the album, End of Suffering, is named after the Buddhist term for enlightenment. Can you take me through the idea behind calling your album that?
FC: We were looking for something that sounded quite final. When you hear the term, End of Suffering it’s got these words that have such a finality about them. They’re all emotionally-charged words. The reality is it’s also a hopeful phrase. It’s about achieving a state of enlightenment where you’re entirely happy within yourself and your pain ends. And that’s what the record’s about, it sums it up perfectly. You’ve got this record that’s all about the last 2 years of my life where there was a lot of suffering, there was a lot of torment but there was also some celebration. There was light along the way. There were also moments that were quite painful. That was a prime example how you life can be cruel and kind at the same time.
It felt like the perfect collection of words to sum up what we needed. It just made sense.
MF: Let’s talk about your latest single ‘Anxiety’ and the #ABetterPlaceForYouAndMe campaign. Is it partly a result of your own personal battles with anxiety and also partly a symptom of the sort of exposure mental health has been getting in the last few years?
FC: Yeh exactly that. No one was talking about it. The only people that were talking about it online were perpetuating a negative mental attitude towards anxiety. They were almost validated by their mental illnesses. The problem with that is there’s no opportunity for growth or progress, to healthily overcome those obstacles.
The first job was to talk about it, open the conversation up. People respect me, they trust me and they see me as strong. I was able to use my platform where people would listen to me. And when they actually listened they realised that it’s ok to be weak, to be vulnerable. You don’t have to be a fucking warrior all the time. It makes a lot of sense to understand your vulnerabilities because those are your weak points and that’s how you get stronger, ultimately.
The second part was to talk about it all the time and open it up to people in a way where we can start a platform, a loop in the digital realm, that was entirely made of people going out and showing us what they were doing. Talk is fine but action is better. Here you’ve got a group of people who are recording their actions, that are talking about how they overcome their anxiety, depression or struggles. It’s been the birth of this amazing support network. People are now taking it upon themselves to look after each other, which is a really lovely thing to see.
MF: You launched #ABetterPlaceForYouAndMe as an online campaign with CALM (which stands for Campaign Against Living Miserably). Tell me a bit about this and what it aims to achieve.
DR: For now, the focus is on using social media in a positive way for positive posts. To reduce the use of the word, ‘anxiety’ because even the word itself is enough to trigger people. Anxiety is still the elephant in the room. We just thought, a nice way to get around it is, if everyone’s finding it hard to talk about, then let’s share the things we do that aren’t celebrated, ever. The things we do to reset our minds, to step out of that and regain control of ourselves.
FC: We’ve started working with CALM in the UK which are an amazing charity. They do a lot of work on the frontlines of keeping people alive when they have nowhere else to turn. We don’t have a background in therapy but we have a platform and as an artist, we have a responsibility to use that platform for good. It made real sense for us, particularly because it’s something that’s affected both Dean and myself so deeply. The minute I realise it actually wasn’t going to go anywhere, I thought I had to share that with people.
MF: I’m also really curious to hear about how you dedicate one song at each show to women, inviting them to stage dive in a safe space that maybe otherwise wouldn’t have been in the past. Who came up with that idea and what was the thinking behind that?
FC: We both came up with the idea. Personally, I feel quite guilty that I didn’t do something sooner, to make women feel safer at our gigs. There’s a lot of testosterone, a lot of adrenaline, a lot of alcohol and it’s a charged situation at our gigs. As a white, middle class male, I was ignorant to a lot of the things that women suffer on a daily basis. When I finally realised what was happening and when my eyes were opened, courtesy of some really strong women that weren’t intimidated by me and were happy to share their experiences with me and tell me what I could do to make their lives better.
DR: That enabled us to create this space where we dedicate one song, every gig, for girls to crowdsurf on their own. We speak to all the men in the crowd and we say this is their chance to support women in a safe and respectful way. This gives women a good first experience in crowd surfing and that empowers them when they leave and reduces the fear. Every gig they go to afterwards, they have no fear.
Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes’ third record ‘End of Suffering’ today, out via International Death Cult. Listen here.