WORDS: OTTO BALFOUR | PHOTOS: GEORGIA RAWSON
Visual art and music have always been tightly intertwined. As an independent band, for Frank and Dean of Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes, the connection has always been very interconnected. The duo have their roots in the realm of the visual for a significantly longer time period than they have musically for Rattlesnakes. “I would consider ourselves as Artists before musicians,” Frank openly states “so everything we do is Art.” Throughout his career, Frank has been a renowned tattoo artist and painter. “Dean has his background primarily in a digital realm,” in reference to his Graphic Design Company, ‘Yuck’. Discovered sat down with the pair to discuss the relationship between their art and music.
“One of us is the fire, and one of us is the ice.”
“It is inevitable. Graphic Design and specifically illustration have gone hand in hand with the Punk Rock world for decades in everything, from zines, to flyers and DIY t shirts.” Harking back to the 70’s, with the dawning of the Punk Rock movement, it is apparent as to how integral creativity has been for the sake of expression. All you have to do is wander up Camden High Street and the influences stare you in the face. Patches sewn onto denim jackets, safety pins holding ragged t shirts together and customised Doc Martens laces all are a statement about who you are as an individual.
“With us, Dean is from a world that is fully digital, and I am from a world that is not. We have to find a happy medium between us, like we do with our music. That’s where things get really interesting. How can we take paintings and drawings and be able to find the magic in them.” The pair reminisce over the creation of the artwork for their phenomenal second album, ‘Modern Ruin’. “I set Dean the challenge of finding the magic in this photo I had taken on my phone. He converted that image file to a text file, went in and hacked it, then converted it back to an image. It displaced all of these layers of colour, and what you got was this glitched out, fractured picture of my dog, really.” That is when the art in a simple idea became apparent. “It is abstraction, but in the matrix.” Frank laughed.
“If I haven’t broken the ceiling of a venue, did I really play it?”
From playing their first show as Rattlesnakes in Sang Bleu Tattoo Parlour (Frank’s tattoo studio) with zero production and maybe one strobe light, to playing the legendary Alexandra Palace with hundreds of lights and an entire production behind them, the ethos of their live shows has never waivered. “If I haven’t broken the ceiling of a venue, did I really play it?” Frank laughed.
Expanding into their merchandise, Dean noted “the books [as part of the deluxe merch packages] are a great example of that, you know with paint over the front and cool scans of stuff in them.” Each book is, much like a print, an individual part of a series. “But what is confusing for me is that not every artist does this stuff… If you’re going to create music, it’s weird for me that people just stop there. I just love to keep going with it.” While allowing their creative minds to flourish in other arenas outside of the sonics of Rattlesnakes, it is fascinating to note that in terms of emotional release, it is not nearly as cathartic as the creation of their music. “It’s absolutely not. Joan Miro said ‘the works must be conceived with a fire in the soul, but executed with a clinical coolness’.” Frank continued, “I have always loved this idea that there is a burning fire inside you of hope and potential, but you need to execute it with a profound efficiency that you don’t have, that you can’t have while you’re burning up… That goes hand in hand with us. One of us is the fire, and one of us is the ice.”
“Most of what we do in the band, I would consider to be art…”
Dean followed on, “with the music side, we both have a desire to not understand it too much, whereas with our work outside of that, I want to understand as much as I can. I’m interested in the technical side. With music we rely on our instincts.” As Picasso once said, “It took me a lifetime to learn how to paint like a child.” The uninhibited, instinctive freedom a child has to create holds a beautiful place in creation, and the almost animalistic artistic value of human nature itself.
Taking inspiration from such raw places as “Death. Love. Sex… Family. The inspiration for this band has always been about relationships.” Frank explained, “The relationships we have when they’re alive, when we lose them. The people we love, and the people we don’t. Understanding those deep, complex emotions is what this band has been about lyrically for me.”
“This is something I’ve started to realise as the band has gone on. I used to see art as just paintings on a wall,” Dean added, “but it is an all encompassing thing for creative output. Most of what we do in the band, I would consider to be Art.” Frank concluded, “As soon as we finish a song, I feel better. But at that point, the song doesn’t belong to me anymore. Whatever I’ve gone through, I wasn’t the first and I certainly won’t be the last so, the songs belong to everyone else experiencing those emotions. It’s merely our duty to play them.”
Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes play Alexandra Palace this weekend – Saturday 15th February. You can check out other tour dates below.