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Gallows drummer Lee Barratt talks to Amie Mulderrig about the band’s new line-up
"Frank did overshadow the band.
"Don’t get me wrong, he was a great frontman, he was always in people’s faces at shows and he was very unique looking. I mean, come on, you don’t get a lot of skinny, very tattooed, ginger guys in a band, do you?
“He was Gallows’ mouthpiece, but as for the rest of us, we were in the background.“
I am speaking with Lee Barratt, drummer with Watford’s Gallows, from his Bricket Wood home, prior to their gig at the Reading festival. He’s just back from his job as a market research in Berkhamstead, something he’s doing for an extra bit of money.
It’s a notion that’s certainly at odds with the success the hardcore punk band has enjoyed in recent years.
This is, after all, the group that enjoyed runaway success with their debut album, Orchestra of Wolves, a record that crossed over from the bedrooms of discerning scenesters to the mainstream of angry teens.
Indeed, this was the band which was, at one point, signed to Warner Bros Records for a £1million album contract, enjoyed UK chart success, and was regularly featured in commercial music magazines. And if that wasn’t enough, critics were quick to hail them as being responsible for the revival of punk rock.
But serious in-fighting and musical differences within the group changed all that.
Come July 2011, lead singer Frank Carter had left, labelling them ‘a benign dictatorship’ and a ‘f****** mess’.
“I didn’t know Frank had said that,“ admits Lee. “But it’s typical of Frank to be harsh – whether that’s slagging off another band, or Gallows or Gallows’ fans, or whoever. He’s never exactly been a placid character. Being in a band is very much like being in a relationship, except there’s a lot more fighting. You’ve got to give that person time and space. And more often than not, you’ll drift apart.“
You’d be forgiven for thinking that would be it for Gallows, but they haven’t crumbled. Instead a speedy replacement for Frank followed, in the form of former Alexisonfire guitarist and singer Wade MacNeil.
Fast forward to 2013, and once again, the line-up has changed. Frank’s brother Steph (guitar, vocals) has left, with five now becoming four, and Lee admits the group feels a certain degree of pressure.
“There was always an aspect of us thinking that Steph would go. Ironically, it was Steph who wanted to carry on with Gallows after Frank left. But I think he missed his brother, he wanted to do something softer too.
“We’ve still got something to prove to people. We’re still being knocked because Frank left and we replaced him with someone who wasn’t British. We’re not blind to the comments on the internet, but you know, haven’t you got anything better to worry about than who sings in this band?
“Wade is a great frontman, he’s made the position his own, he brings a lot of presence. He’s different to Frank, but what’s the point of getting a blatant copy? He brings something extra and more powerful.
“Gallows still has the same voice, perhaps a little more hardcore, but with a different mouthpiece.“
Lee readily admits he doesn’t know what the future holds for the group, but their ethos is to continue to focus on the music.
“At heart we’re still punk rockers. When Gallows initially got together we didn’t care what people thought of us, we were kicking against that. That hasn’t changed. We’ve still got a solid fanbase, the people who like us now, love us more than ever.“
In fact, fans are expected to turn out in their droves next week as Gallows head to the Reading Festival for the sixth time.
“We’re old-timers,“ laughs Lee. “We’re not treated like punk royalty when we get there, our rider is pretty basic (water, beer, couple of bottles of wine, chocolate, bread), but we’re certainly veterans.
“We’re still talking about what we’ll be doing for the show, there will be a few surprises, we’ll be having a few friends come up on stage. We’ll be trying to do one or two things that’ll make the gig memorable.“
Any ideas that Frank and Steph might be those friends helping out are dashed when I ask Lee if a reunion would ever be on the cards.
“We’re not in contact with Frank anymore“ and “Steph – I’m sure in a few months, a couple of years maybe, we’ll all get together and forget about it.“
But there’s hope Gallows one day may play in their original hometown of Watford – “yeah, maybe we’ll do The Flag, we’ll have to see,“ he ponders.
Until Reading though, Lee’s back doing his day job. I can’t help wondering, do his co-workers know who he is?
“It’s very weird trying to explain what I do. They ask me if I play pubs quite a bit. I sort of say, erm, no, Australia, 10,000 people. A couple of them have said they’ll Google me. But maybe I’ll causally leave this week’s Watford Observer on the desk instead."