Updated: Mar 7
As I am writing this piece it could very well drift into a list of all of the reasons I admire the band as well as Frank Carter himself, so I’ll try and keep some kind of narrative structure.
I saw a band called Gallows a long time ago, a hardcore punk bank fronted by a man with, at the time, a very intimidating reputation. The stories of Frank’s performance style and attitude were the stuff of legend: “DUDE! He came off stage into the pit, killed a man and said ‘This is my pit now!’ You HAVE to see them!” My friend Rachel and I walked into the Carling Academy in Newcastle to see Frank Carter hanging from the rigging above the stage, mic in hand, not missing a beat, almost orchestrating the chaos at his show. At the time punk wasn’t on my radar, but I was bowled over by this guy less than 1 year older than me OWNING this crowd. Really we were there to see a band called As I Lay Dying, but Frank left an impression in my cynical, discerning mind. However I went about my way and craved for heavier and heavier blunt force metal music.
Fast forward 10 years or so, my friend Rachel and her husband Alex have a tattoo shop. I went in one day and a buddy of mine (either Rich or Alex) literally as I walked through the door. “Rory! Remember that guy from Gallows?!” and played me some music. It was a song called “I Hate You”. In my younger years I don’t think my ears were ready to accept something so simple and mellow. Elegant in its simplicity and vitriol. It turned out that since I saw Gallows, Frank formed a band called Pure Love and then went on to form one of the most significant and deep-rooted bands in my life to this date, The Rattlesnakes.
Their debut album is called Blossom, I’m not a music critic so I’m not going to try and give you my “Marks and Spencer” description of the album, but it’s just effortlessly brilliant. Heavy where it needs to be, slick where it needs to be and introspective where it needs to be. This made its way into my heavy rotation and I genuinely think shaped my mind and ears for some of the other bands I listen to now. I’m not sure I would have been as into IDLES as much as I am if not for The Rattlesnakes.
Blossom became a mainstay in my rotation, I hammered it, man. Then a year later I think it was I saw them in one of the tent stages at Download festival. Their performance spoke for itself, visceral, connected, intimate, everything that would come to define their shows for me. But one moment stood out more than any other during their set, probably the entire festival to be honest. Frank took a camera out, turned his back to the audience and started talking into it, so that the viewer of the footage would see him and the crowd at his back. He spoke directly to his daughter through the lens; “Mercy, I love you. No-one is ever going to hurt you because we’ll make sure it never happens.” At that moment all however many hundred or thousand people there roared, and I mean roared. I’m paraphrasing of course but the sentiment remains the same. I’m totally prone to hero worship but what he did in that moment made us part of his family and in turn, he became part of ours. Again, this is a sentiment that would come to define the band.
A year or 2 again after that the band would release their second album, Modern Ruin. In the run up to it and at the time of recording they documented their process, thoughts, visual reference points, pictures of family, text messages, you name it. Then at the time of release they compiled all of this into a book and released it along side the music. I saw them tour this album, a little venue in Newcastle called The Riverside, and this is where it gets interesting. In 2015 I had a quite catastrophic knee injury and had to have a bunch of reconstructive surgeries. I always loved pitting at gigs, it was cathartic for me to get in there, not so much in the “hurt and be hurt” sense but the overall chaos of it. Getting soaked in the music. For years it was one of the only activities I could take part in which forced my primal side to take over, meaning I couldn’t think consciously. It was important to me.
After my injury I couldn’t do it, it honestly changed me as a person, I felt like I’d lost a little piece of myself. I’m not one of these “pit monsters” who prides themselves in wreaking havoc, I just enjoyed the chaos. In the couple of years since my injury I’d tried to ease back in and failed. Anyway, I digress. I saw them at The Riverside, and it was OK seeing them from a safe distance, but half way through the first song I hit the “fuck it” button and got to the sweet spot in the middle of the crowd near the front, you know the one.
I didn’t have my surgical brace on so didn’t expect to last long, but I got shoved and jostled and my knee was OK, it really was. I went a little harder and a little harder until I was doing it full speed. This immense wave of elation and intoxication washed over me. I was so into it, dude. I saw that there was a small group of women on the side of the pit who had lost their boyfriends to it, so I let them all queue up and one by one hit me in the face, try and get them involved.
I don’t believe in fate, I don’t believe that things are “meant” to be, I just feel like we’re all on a ride. But forever more to me that band will be an inexorable part of my personal history, they were the band who soundtrack'd me getting a piece of myself back again.
There are half a dozen more moments around the band that are important to me. Giving a friend, Chad, a ticket to one of their gigs in Newcastle, he became a huge fan, made a silver necklace inspired by the band, gave Frank one who wore it on stage and it made his YEAR. I think he’d been struggling with his mental health and it was a huge boost.
In late 2017 I won a meet and greet with the band at Brixton academy, there I met a guy called Ivo. A huge fan like myself and now a good friend.
I could go on.
Recently came the most important moment, aside from when first heard them of course. They were doing a meet and greet in Hoxton ahead of their biggest show to date in Ally Pally. I went into the shop and he was there talking to some fans. I waited back, it was only fair. I spoke to him a little later on, I was supposed to be going to Ally Pally, but my family was struggling at the time and I wanted to be back home with them. I told him this, asked him to sign my ribs for a tattoo, and left.
I was walking to meet a friend, got a couple minutes down the road, and I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was Frank, he was walking that way and caught up with me, he tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I was OK. We got talking, not long, 5 minutes tops, but for that 5 minutes it wasn’t hero and worshiper, we were just men talking. I spoke to him about my mental health, he spoke to me a little about his, he spoke to me a little about the band but mostly my welfare. I had to go so went to shake his hand, at that point he gave me a big hug, told me to take care of my family and we went our separate ways.
I met my friend, we went to get a coffee in a shop that he had recommended, we got talking to a couple girls in there who I’d seen in the shop speaking to Frank. He’d bought them coffee, of course.
I ran off, got the tube, fought through the Kings Cross chaos and sat on the train. Once I was sure no-one would come and claim the pre-booked seat that wasn’t pre-booked by me, I settled down and relaxed. At that point I started thinking about my day, and something dawned on me, that I’d like to confirm with Frank at some point. It occurred to me that to him, his fans really are like his family. That cathartically he needs all of us as much as me, my girlfriend, Ivo, Chad, all of them need him, his band and their music. And due to that family dynamic, he cares.
I’m getting tattooed by him at the start of July, I very much look forward to getting clarification when I speak to him again.