Interview: Frank Carter of Gallows
Tue, 22 Jan 2008 08:54:13
Gallows play punk the way it's meant to be played: fast, heavy, angry and dripping with integrity. Their live show is an eruption of rage, complete with intense delivery and the requisite blood, sweat and tears. The band's debut Orchestra of Wolves remains a cacophonous expulsion of anger. It combines the gritty honesty of The Sex Pistols with a dirty musical violence a la Slayer. Their affable and friendly frontman Frank Carter took some time out of slaying audiences to talk to ARTISTdirect about why this orchestra won't stop playing.
Everything feels so primal and aggressive. Where does your songwriting process start?
It's hard to say. It basically begins with the riffs and the musical ideas. I'm sort of the last piece of the puzzle. It's hard to say, because we wrote this record a good three years ago. When it came around to recording, I had actually quit the band. When I went in to re-join and record, there were five songs I had never heard before. Plus there were five songs I knew, and I'd been playing my whole life. It was really quick; it was a fast process, because we were on a deadline. I'd have to say we went and smashed it all out. There's nothing complex about it.
What struck me is that you guys have that real, natural energy reminiscent of early punk.
That's easy because that's where we come from. Even if we didn't get to see all of those bands, we have always been a part of that scene in some way, shape or form. So it's just natural to us. We like punk at its roots. We like it at its earliest stages—not re-trotted, re-worked and re-written. We're not taking inspiration from any modern music. That's how the people our age are doing their thing. We wanted to come on and set something a light. We strive to do our own thing, and I think we are doing that quite well.
It feels like there's a live aggression on the record, especially on songs like "In the Belly Of A Shark" and "Six Years."
Cool, thank you. Those are important songs to me. We don't play that song ["Six Years"] often anymore. On our last tour, I said that it was the last time I was going to play that song. I was over it, but we can actually play it as a song beyond the literal meaning of what it's about for me. It's very easy just to play it for what it is, which is just a fucking great song.
The whole record has a real punch to it.
We're a very vicious young band. When we sought it out, we didn't fit into any scene. We were sort of the outcasts. It meant that when we played songs we had to impress the crowd—not wow them. We had to impress ourselves on them, by whatever means possible. Many times people would go home hating us, and that to me, was just as valuable as people who liked our band. I couldn't care less about people liking our band. In the beginning, I wanted people to hate our band so that I knew where we were going. I've made enemies all my life.
You want to leave an impression, regardless. They're going to remember you whether they like it or not, which is more important.
Exactly. All publicity is good publicity, you know? It doesn't matter how you look at it. It'll work.
How has it been touring the U.S.?
I think we've done alright. We've done a few tours already. We did SXSW last year in March, and then we did Warped tour for two months. Then we came back and did a tour with Bad Religion, which was brilliant. We're back for our own tour. We'll just see how it goes. You never know how it's going to be, but you just hope for the best. I haven't looked at our pre-sales, and I kind of don't want to, because I don't think it gives you a good understanding of what you're going to do. You know, we've got some really strong bands on the bill. We're real excited to be here, and it's going to be fun.
One of the things that struck me about that was that I could hear not only punk influences, but definitely early hardcore influences as well.
Yeah, well I grew up with punk influence like Black Flag as well as bands like Deftones. We have inspirations from all bands, all genres and all times. We just love good music: good, original music. It's all definitely in there. I think that's why people can appreciate it. It's quite metallic. We took the inspiration from bands that we genuinely love. And what we tried to do was create an original record that was true to us more than anything. I don't think you can get any kind of respect from any authority, if you make a record that sounds just like one of them. In my opinion, that is detrimental to your band and your reputation as a musician. We were very careful, because we didn't want to step on anyone's toes. In the writing, we just wanted to make music for ourselves. When we came out, and we had a record finished, we realized that we managed to say something. It's so easy to comfortably fall into being just another band in this genre. There are so many parodies running around, you know. Look at any summer festival, there is bound to be four or five of them on the same stage. It's so embarrassing. They all have the same message. They all have the same MySpace page. They all have the same haircut. They all have the same songs. It doesn't make any sense to me.
The thing is that people are actually going to remember you. However, the problem is anybody can have a MySpace page and put music on it.
A lot of them are young as well. They have no real understanding of music. Granted, a lot of these kids can play, but they're very young. They don't really have much life experience or any understanding of the value of money, let alone the value of life or the value of good music. I'm not trying to knock anyone for being young and writing good songs. However, a lot of kids think it's an easy way out. And it's not easy; it's a hard job. Anyone who says otherwise is a prick. I don't drink, I don't smoke, I don't do drugs and I've got a girlfriend who I'm very happy with. And for me, I've been in a band, and it's hard work. You can't just drop some pills to make yourself feel better.
You don't drink or do any drugs, but you're still able to channel that aggression.
It's got a lot to do with aggression directed towards all those people. The songs are about a lot of emotions. One is about my parents' divorce, and another is about my hatred for going to the dentist. There is a song about going to a party and having a fucking good time. It's all songs about a year in the life of Gallows and the people that make up this gang. That's what the first record is about. It's called Orchestra of Wolves, because each of us had shit jobs, but still we had the passion and the persistence to change our lives. We worked hard and what is more dedicated than an "Orchestra of Wolves"? That is exactly Gallows. We play with more passion than any band we know. We dedicate our lives to torturing ourselves and living a hard life. We've been given the money to do this as a job. If anything, this has become more intense. There isn't one member of my band who isn't hurt at the end of a show. The music is angry, but we've got a very important message. The message will always be important.
Night after night, every show is important. There isn't one show you should look back on and say, "I didn't do everything I could."
If you're doing this job, playing for different people every night and you're playing the same songs, the message is still important. The people that come to each show are all different.
Given the visceral nature of the songs, you could even tour with Slayer, Hatebreed or Slipknot.
We could! I think that some of the live show antics have overshadowed that we wrote a really good record. So when the second one comes around, there's actually more pressure than any band's second record, because this is where we cut the weak out. We have to come up with a follow-up that's 10 times more brilliant than the first one; because the live show is actually in our blood. That's how we play, and that's how we've always played. In our old bands as individuals, we were the only ones that were kicking that hard. The live show is never going to change; it's always going to be that intense and dramatic. But the records now, we have to find an equal amount of anger. There's been a lot of talk about it in the band, because we've got a pretty fuckin good life now. What have I got to be angry about? We've got a good tour bus, good management and good people around us. But if you think about it, the first record was never about that. There are parts in there that are deep, but it's pretty much a surface record. It's about life. It's about how urgent life is. I can paint a good picture with lyrics. I'm looking forward to seeing what my band does so we can make a good record together. We like all good music, and a lot of pop music is good, because of the hooks. If you ask me our record is a fucking pop record, and I'm proud of that fact. I'm proud we took inspiration from that. That shit blows my mind, man. I want to be the band that is turning people toward good music.