THE BIG INTERVIEW: Frank Carter Talks us Through Modern Ruin

This week, hardcore juggernaut Frank Carter & the Rattlesnakes will put their brash, honest and pummelling sophomore record, Modern Ruin. The record sees cult hero-cum-frontman Frank Carter put his heart on his sleeve in what is his most heartfelt musical output to date. We caught up with the man himself in October to go through each individual track on the record, with his musings ranging from musical influence all the way through to the underlying lyrical ideas.

Carter live in Amsterdam. (c) Jack Parker
Carter live in Amsterdam. (c) Jack Parker

It’s all about my dog, actually. The idea behind it was that we wanted something story-like with this record. It’s about a character and his life. I’ve had a very turbulent couple of years, and Modern Ruin is very autobiographical. There are some fictional elements too of course. Bluebelle is about the character’s dog, and his attachment to it. He’d never had a pet before in his life and he suddenly becomes very attached to this dog. It starts off in this dreamlike state, and it’s all about how terrified he is that his dog will one day die.

Bluebelle kind of fades out, and then we go into the second track – Lullaby. It’s mostly about sleep depravation and the delirium that happens when you’ve been deprived of sleep for months on end. I’d just had a baby and it was intense. I wasn’t expecting how brutal it can be to not sleep, so I have no idea how the fuck my wife did it. I was staying up through the nights with my daughter, and it was hard work! It’s really hard work, and after a while of not sleeping you start getting really weird visions and prolonged daydream nightmares. You can’t really work out if it’s reality or not, and that’s what this song is about.

After that you step into Snake Eyes, and one thing you have to understand about this story is that none of it’s chronological. It swings between different chapters of a book, and none of it’s in a particular order. It’s just moments throughout the character’s life, and with Snake Eyes we get this inherent confessional. It’s like he’s sat down and is trying to speak to someone about all of the pain, anguish and torture he’s hiding inside of him. The reality is that he’s just started drinking and is becoming a borderline alcoholic, and he’s punishing himself through that. It’s becoming pretty overwhelming and he has no real way out of that other than just to keep going through it. It’s all about how addiction can just be so unbelievably brutal and unapologetic. It’s completely non-discriminatory, and it affects everybody in some way or another. It’s like a disease which can do terrible things to you and the people around you. That’s what Snake Eyes is about – addiction, and feeling like you need a release. The question that we’re asking is if there will be someone there to help us and hold our hands when we need it.

Our protagonist is having an argument, and it’s about having an inflated sense of self and battling to find where you stand in the world. It’s also about our loved ones and how they can be left behind without us realizing. My job is amazing, and I’m incredibly lucky to have it. Sometimes, though, I don’t really realize the kind of pressure or effect that it can have on the people around me; the people that I love the most. Vampires is about my wife calling me an egomaniac in the middle of the night at one point, which is quite sobering but also true at that time. It took me by surprise, and the lyrics are supposed to be about that. At the time, I wasn’t being as fair to her as I was to other people. She was right, and it’s all about addressing yourself, your priorities and whatever else the fuck is going on.

(c) Jack Parker
(c) Jack Parker

I used to walk into venues and the whole place would just collapse around me, and I would just live with this knotted fear and anxiety in my stomach which I could never really cope with. I fought and fought with it for such a long time with my career in music. When I was in Gallows I felt like a bit of a faker, and it really is a hard thing to do. For me, it got to a point where I started questioning myself once I started out with the Rattlesnakes. I thought that there must be more than this, and I didn’t feel as though I could continue the way I was going. There was so much self-loathing and self-hatred; I knew I was good at it, but I really needed to tell myself that and make myself believe it. Wild Flowers is about walking out on that stage and hearing that rapturous applause, and not being scared of it.

All along, my music has just been a collection of manic ramblings, and with Acid Veins I think I found a real sense of strength and power. I really had a grip on everything, and now I’ve managed to tame the animal I used to be and can walk in and out of the cage. I can let it out when I need to, but for the most part it knows that I’m the boss. It was a very important time in my life, because for so long I knew I had this talent but I was terrified of it and didn’t know how to apply it properly. It meant that I became incredibly nihilistic, and would just beat the fuck out of myself every time I stepped out on that stage. I would leave all bloodied and broken, and then people started to expect that and become disappointed when it didn’t happen. I can’t live like that, though, no one can. Fact of the matter is that I can’t wake up, so this way is much healthier for everybody, particularly me.

Carter live at Jera on Air. (c) Dewi Mik
Carter live at Jera on Air. (c) Dewi Mik

God is My Friend is about the lowest part of our protagonist’s life, when he’s really questioning everything and trying to find strength. He’s trying to understand his importance in the world. When you read biographies of famous people, you discover that the most creative ones were always the most tortured, and it’s always those kind of people who are torturing themselves. We are our own worst enemy, and sometimes it can get a bit too much to bear. It’s about getting really close to the edge of the bridge and pondering what happens if you jump and what would happen afterwards. Would you matter to others, or are you just matter? It’s not something which I’ve given much thought to, as I’ve always been a fairly strong person. With this song, though, it became something profound. I can’t wait to play this song live, but we’re not going to do so until the album comes out. We’re holding off playing most of the album until it comes out.

This is one that we’ve actually been playing live for quite a while. The album was written across the last year, and it’s interspersed with a lot of the things that have been happening in society. The whole record is about human relationships, like with my partner, my child, my family and my friends. It’s also about the interactions I have with strangers, though; those people who I can see, but not talk to. When I was writing it I was witness to this relentless bombing that was happening in Syria, when a load of people like you and me were being turned away from our doors. That’s exactly what Jackals is about – what would happen if someone would relentlessly bomb the UK and Europe and where we’d go or how we’d deal with it. It’s about that situation and understanding the outrage we would feel if we were terrorized in the western world. If a dinghy full of people from the UK would show up on a border, would that be something we can bear to think about?

Jackals leads into Thunder. I wrote it one night when I was on the Internet and stumbled upon this video of a boat full of refugees capsizing and everyone on it drowning. It was really horrible to watch, and from that I just went from video to video and ended up doing that for a couple of hours. It was really the worst that humanity had to offer; the failings of mankind, basically. It was all a bit too much to bear, and I woke up in the middle of it and asked myself what the fuck I was doing. Every time I watch this, these numbers are increasing. I decided to write a song about all the things that I’d seen, and the whole record is about the end of humanity and human relationships. Life is a warzone, and Modern Ruin is about the closest relationships that we have which can feel like a warzone. People are taking the wars to our streets, and they’re even being killed inside music venues. There’s no way to feel safe anymore, and that can even include lying next to the people you love in your own bed.


Real Life is a tough song for me, because it’s about what happens when communication breaks down in a relationship. It’s all about trying to understand the other person’s point of view and being mindful about your behaviour in a relationship. It can be quite difficult when you’re in a relationship and in that moment. One of the hardest things to do is to take yourself out of that scenario and be kind to people. Sometimes that can be the hardest thing to do, and it’s all about understanding that it’s not over. No matter what damage has been done to a relationship it can always be salvaged; you can always do more, and you can always work harder to fix it.

This track is basically about the end of the world in a very local way. I wanted to write a story about the end of my world, my house, my bed, my hometown, my street and my life. I wanted to get bigger from there and expand so that I could see the long list of everything that I loved and did when I was younger. It’s about youth, growing old and realizing that the things you have are gone. There are memories which you cannot repeat, because when you try you know that they won’t be the same. That’s what Modern Ruin is to me; it’s a perfect description of human relationships at the moment. Everybody has this idea that we want to make these perfect temples and live peacefully, but we’re not. That’s what being a parent is really about to be honest; we work so hard to be perfect but, no matter how hard you try, our own parents also fucked us up. They try their hardest not to, but that’s what we do as parents and as people. Everyone is still growing and trying to learn, and I think that this track basically sums up our place and the world that we currently live in.

Neon Rust is all about my daughter. To me, the album ends with Modern Ruin. After that, though, there’s a little pause and then our protagonist sort of dies and the end of the world happens. Then you enter this ethereal mysterious dream state and we find the protagonist writing a sort of love letter to his daughter, telling her all the things that she would understand while he was still alive. He cares about her, and he talks about how scared he is of the world that she’s about to go into. A lot of it is a wasteland in his eyes, and she deserves better.

Modern Ruin is out this week Friday (20 January). Listen to Vampires below.