Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes on mental health: “Just saying ‘Let’s talk’ isn’t enough, we need to create a safe environment”

"I think anxiety needs to be taught about more in schools"

Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes have spoken of the need to advance the conversation regarding being open about mental health, as well as the pressures and strains that face touring musicians.

Earlier this month, the band released their acclaimed third album ‘End Of Suffering‘. As well as peaking at Number Four in the UK charts, it is also the most open piece of work that Carter has ever released as he deals with depression, anxiety and his own demons.

“It’s very honest, it’s very intimate, it’s very personal,” Carter told NME before the band headlined the Fender Stage at The Great Escape 2019. “I’m certainly not the first person to have suffered some of these problems, and I won’t be the last. Turning my attention away from what other people were doing or how they were interacting with me and just focussing on myself and the war within me led me to ask a lot of questions that other people had been asking themselves.

“It’s not about finding the answers, always. There’s a safety in knowing that other people are suffering the same way that you are. It’s ultimately a hopeful record, but the trauma is still immediate to me in there.”

Having often encouraged others to be open about their mental health if they’re struggling, the former Gallows frontman said that “the taboo” that many still feel surrounds such issues needs to be removed from culture in order for everyone to feel like they’re truly in a “safe space”.

“People have got to be willing to talk. Just saying ‘Let’s talk’ is never enough,” Carter continued. “I was just talking to my friend whose had a tough week and just explained that I’m here for her, whenever she’s ready. That’s all you can do – to create a safe environment. What always trips us up, men particularly, is our ego, our pride and our embarrassment.

“We’re supposed to be strong, stoic warriors and I think we have patriarchal society to blame for that. There’s a much bigger conversation to be had, but I think that’s the first thing we’ve got to crush. Yes, it’s a taboo, but it’s a taboo with such a stigma around it that is guided by these things like ego, guilt and shame.”

The issue is tackled head-on in their recent single, and Carter has argued that more education is needed to know how to identify and deal with anxiety.

“I think anxiety needs to be taught about more in school,” he told NME. “If you hurt your mind or your soul, people often expect you to just keep on going. It’s not as easy as just jumping medication because that doesn’t work for everyone.

“I wanted to open up the conversation about anxiety. A lot of what people tell me at gigs, in the streets or in my DMs, is that I’m in their head. I think that’s because I found a way to go into myself and talk about this thing I was feeling.”

He went on: “A lot of bands talk around the problem or don’t even face it; they just want the good times. Life isn’t always good times, but it ain’t always doom and gloom either.”

Bandmate and guitarist Dean Richardson also spoke of the band’s recent collaboration with mental health charity CALM and how they’re working to remove the ‘us and them’ mentality of who does and doesn’t suffer.

“We’re all human,” Richardson told NME. “We were working with the CEO of CALM and he said that he wants us all to stop talking about it as if some people have health issues. He said that it needs to be understood in the sense that everyone gets ill. We don’t say, ‘Some people get colds,’ we all do. We need to accept that everyone suffers with their mental health to varying degrees at some point of their lives.

“People are being more open about it. I can think of more friends who have spoken out about it than haven’t.”

Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes live at The Great Escape 2019

The band also spoke of the strain and gruelling impact that touring life can have on an artist.

“A lot of rock bands are potentially quite emotionless,” said Richardson. “There was a period in rock where it didn’t feel like anyone was really saying much with much passion. Whatever emotion we’re putting out there, it’s always passionate. We can’t go with giving half a performance. There doesn’t need to be aggression, but we need to give it our all.”

Carter added: “I don’t think we’ve ever given a show where everyone hasn’t given 110%. I know I’ve played shows where I haven’t been able to do what I wanted to do. There was one where I was vomiting in between songs at this show in Brighton because I had tonsillitis and a fever. I was just retching in the back alley and in tears because I couldn’t do what I wanted to do. I kept saying sorry.

“When we started this band, giving everything to performance was always the gold standard. That’s why we struggle when we get ill or our mental health starts to struggle. The very nature and landscape of being a touring rock n’ roll band can be very detrimental to your health without you even realising it. When you start applying heavy factors like illness or sickness, you’ve got to check in on everyone every now and again.”

  • Check back at NME soon for more of our interview with Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes

Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes return to the UK to perform at Reading & Leeds Festival 2019 this August.

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