Self-love and circle pits: Inside FRANK CARTER & THE RATTLESNAKES' 'Dark Rainbow' | Revolver

Self-love and circle pits: Inside FRANK CARTER & THE RATTLESNAKES' 'Dark Rainbow'

U.K. rockers discuss life after the afterparty, return to the U.S. and more
Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes PROMO 2024, Brian Rankin
photograph by Brian Rankin

It'd been five long years since Frank Carter and the rest of his charged-up rock combo the Rattlesnakes made their way onto a U.S. concert stage, but they finally came back this past weekend for a rip-roaring performance at Florida's Welcome to Rockville festival. And what a goddamned sight it was!

Carter — a hardcore-raised frontman-turned-crooner known for flinging himself onto audiences, and even performing the odd core-strengthening headstand atop the crowd — went flat-out ballistic during the set, rushing out onto a grassy field to scream his head off as hundreds of heavy-music fans circle-pitted and two-stepped their way around him. Simply magical.

About a day earlier, as Carter and longtime guitarist Dean "Deano" Richardson were catching up with Revolver from a Jacksonville Marriott Bonvoy, the singer explains he'd encountered another beautiful sight, specifically during a pre-tour road trip to his friend Chad Koeplinger's Adventure Tattoo shop in Nashville, Tennessee.

"I went to his shop and just got completely and utterly overwhelmed. I said to reception, 'This is easily the best tattoo shop I've ever been in,'" says Carter, himself a professional tattoo artist. He adds self-effacingly, "That's really frustrating because I own one, so I was gutted. Heartbroken."

When asked if he was tempted to get some ink done to commemorate the visit, Carter quips: "I don't really get tattooed anymore. I hate the pain. I hate choosing. I hate paying for it. That's probably why I do them."

Pain, you could argue, still remains part of the Rattlesnakes' latest album, Dark Rainbow. While an anthemic, pop-guitar swerve courses through the majority of the release, the creation of Dark Rainbow likewise reflects Carter's recent turn to sobriety, a serious analyzation of the self, and working through various stages of "mourning." But he and Richardson also report that it's a "life-affirming" album about accepting yourself, and learning how to trust the power of friendship. The catharsis brought on by the album might have put the Rattlesnakes onto brighter days.

On the topic of pain, you've had a career of menacing stages with hardcore bands, and you're obviously still doing punishing performances with the Rattlesnakes, but you revealed on Instagram recently that yawning took you out with a dislocated jaw a couple weeks ago. What happened there?
[Laughs] Straight into the personal! This is betrayal. Yeah, I woke up on my 40th birthday and I don't think I'd ever felt older. It was quite brutal, to be honest. I still, to this moment, don't really know what happened, but I couldn't close my jaw, [and] couldn't clench it. Then [I] had a load of painkillers and it just eased off. All you can do is pain management — massage and physio and stuff.

It's interesting… I've developed a few kinds of illnesses throughout the years. [The doctors] said to me this is going to happen more and more frequently. Even if that's a fact, you just shouldn't tell people that. This was a harrowing experience! It's my fucking life, just cut me some slack, mate. Do you know what I mean?

DEAN RICHARDSON It's almost like 20 years of touring and jumping off stages might have taken its toll.

CARTER Funny coincidence happening here, isn't there?

If this ended up being the case, TMJ can crop up from something as easy as biting into a carrot the wrong way, or even by the way you hold stress in your jaw. Would you say you're a stressed individual, or are you chill?
No, I'm incredibly stressed at all times. Always and forever, amen. It turned out it was TMJ, I think. And someone told me that I need Botox. I can get Botox injections…

RICHARDSON Oh wait, no… don't give me this. If you want Botox, just get Botox.

CARTER Don't you dare fucking start with me. [Laughs] For fuck's sake, mate…

RICHARDSON "Turns out I've got to get Botox and I've got to get this." I love it.

CARTER …And they said a hair transplant really helps, as well. And fillers work wonders. [Laughs]

Somewhat on topic, since there's a song called "Self Love" on Dark Rainbow, how did the idea of taking care of oneself impact this record?
That song is about recognizing the people in your life who are good for you, but also acknowledging that you're not ready for that. And there's a reason why you keep running away from them. Ultimately, you come to the [realization]: If I'm going love, let me love myself so that I can be open to this.

Loving yourself is a radical act of kindness. It's a radical act of love towards yourself, and that's something that I've just never ever really been familiar with in my lifetime. I was much more comfortable in hating myself and exercising punishment or savagery on my person because that's what felt normal. It isn't normal, and it is sad. [There was] a lot of abuse exacted out [on] myself purely just because I couldn't really get an understanding of who I was and what was going on.

This record it not for everyone, but it is definitively for anyone who is struggling with their sense of self, their sense of identity, and [who are] trying to make sense out of all of that in this fucked-up world that we live in that. The last five years have been about fracturing us out into single cell organisms. All sense of community has been fucking destroyed. And that's what this record is about: waking up in that cell and doing everything in your power to get out of it, [to] go towards the people that have shown you love. And to do everything in your power to make them realize that are, here now, you're ready to learn. It's a painful process.

Getting really internal on that sense of community, are the Rattlesnakes in a healthier position, now that you're processing those kinds of thoughts?
We are always in a relatively good state of health, I would say. Mentally, physically and spiritually we are quite aligned.

RICHARDSON The thing is, when we are off tour, we don't spend a lot of time together as a group. We've all got our lives and families, and so on. So, there's quite a slow process as the album campaign starts where you're just figuring out where is everyone at. [But] everyone turns up and it's all exciting. Surely, we're at the point of the campaign now where I think we all know where everyone's at, what they're dealing with, what they need, what they don't need, and just you settle into this real thing.

And the beautiful thing about a band is that because there's five of you, there's [always] someone within our little group that will be there for you. It's a little ecosystem, [and] it's a really special thing when you get it right. There's a reason we've had the same band for going on seven years now. [When] you find the people that work, you don't fuck with that.

This is the first time you've been back in the U.S. in a while. Since there's a song on Dark Rainbow called "American Spirit," what exactly is that spirit — and how different is that from your own English sensibility?
"American Spirit" is not necessarily about the life of the party, but about the life of the after party. It's the post-excess, and it's all things big and great and momentous. It's essentially the energy of making memories. It's the unhinged moment where the person who has been the most chill in your life has drunk too much, and as you're dancing on the table you suddenly see all of that character overflowing out of them in a way that cannot be contained. And you see them in a new light. It's a beautiful moment when life spills out.

But for me personally, the song was [also] a dawning moment where I'd felt like I'd stayed at the afters just a little too long. Probably seven or eight months too long. It was time to go home, basically.

You'd revealed before that sobriety is a big part of this album. Is that what you're speaking to?
Yeah. I think you learn a lot about yourself when you get sober, and you learn a lot about your problems, as well. I carried the torch of sobriety for many, many years when I was younger, but I didn't really know why [at the time]. I think when I was younger, I was sober out of fear of the unknown. Now I'm sober because of exactly what I know.

I just feel really grateful. I've been sober for almost 20 months, and it feels second nature now. Absolutely, this is my life and this is how I want to live it. I don't feel anything's missing. I've gained so, so much. But I didn't feel like that when I first got sober. I really missed it. I wanted to lean back into it, but I thought against it and kept myself on the straight and narrow. I just think you're getting the best version of me that there's ever been, and at 40, that's a great gift for me. I'm glad I didn't become another statistic. I didn't want to be a sad story in rock & roll. I would like to do this for many years. I've got a lot more to give.

Leaving the after party behind means focusing on the full-fledged party that is these Rattlesnakes shows. How has it been to play this latest group of songs in a live setting?
It's bliss. They're life-affirming songs, and they were written as a celebration of living. To play them, there's no conflict in myself. In the past — in some of my old bands — some of those songs were quite difficult to manage once they gained speed. They were about violence. It feels really nice to be playing songs that are about living, and being happy to live. [I've still] found ways to sing about problems, but not in a way that feels punishing or performative.

Being onstage is what I was meant to do in my life, and I really believe that. And to have a group of songs that mean so much to me, that's the ultimate gift. I know I keep coming back to that word, but I do know I just feel so grateful to be where I'm at right now. It's just lovely.

If you've been dealing with those problems in a more positive fashion, could what you find at the end of the "dark rainbow" end up being brighter than what title insinuates?
What you get at the end of it [is] the full spectrum of the experience that you've just been through. A rainbow, in its very nature, is a circle. It just has a beginning and an end because of the earth. If you see that shit in the sky, it's a full halo.

It's not necessarily about it being brighter or darker, it's that you are exactly where you're supposed to be [with yourself] and you can tolerate the darker parts. You can embrace the darkness and embrace the brightness. You have accepted the totality of it all, and in doing so, you've accepted yourself.

RICHARDSON I think I took your question as "Could it be brighter at the end of the rainbow than we think is?" I think it often is.

I think we're quite conditioned to be scared of going towards things that are difficult, but I do think it's often brighter than we ever imagined. Yet knowing that doesn't necessarily make me want to race towards all the difficult things in my life! So yeah, I think things are often brighter on the other end, but the challenge is in getting there. [The journey is] where all the real learning happens.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.