(Wil Cifer brings us an interview with Primordial’s main man, Nemtheanga.)
I had the honor of recently getting the chance to catch up with Primordial’s lead singer Alan Averill and talk about the success of the new album (Where Greater Men Have Fallen), the pitfalls of touring in America, and the state of black metal. It went a little something like this.
Wil– So this is your 8th album. How has the songwriting process changed from the first album to the eighth?
Alan – In no way. The same thing. The only difference is there is not an old school tape machine in the middle of the room. We write in our rehearsal room. We do send files to each other over the internet and tell each other what to do. We do what we do. We do it when it feels right. Not when we need an advance from the record company.
Wil– You changed producers this go around and recorded out in the Grouse Lodge; how was that different from how you have done things in the past ?
Alan- It is more of fact that every two albums you need to change producers and change studios. You need to change the routine. Routine is death. It is very important to step out of your comfort zone to create.
Wil- The new album hit three different sections of the Billboard charts, which unusual is this day and age where conventional album sales have shifted. What do you think sets your fan base apart in this regard?
Alan- I don’t know. The thing about Primordial and how it connects with our fans is that they take it very seriously. There is a certain feeling that you have to own the product, since we have been standing with them for over twenty years. We are up any where from ten to thirty percent, where with other bands it’s the opposite.
Wil– War and religion are common themes for you guys. This time there is a darker and grittier take on those subjects. What brought that about and what are the lyrical themes running through the album this time?
Alan- We are living in a darker world. Last album dealt more with the structures we place around ourselves. This time there isn’t a theme. Most defiantly more aggressive and some resignation as well.
Wil– Over the years your sound has become like the parable of the blind men and the elephant, where one part might be folk metal, one part power metal , the other black metal, yet melding in an organic manner. How has this translated with your fan base over the years? Did you retain the black metal audience? What type of crowd are you drawing?
Alan- I don’t know how it happened, but we can play at the Bang Your Head Festival in between Y&T and W.A.S.P and then we can play with extreme bands at the Under the Black Sun festival. We can go everywhere and play to anyone, from the denim vest crowd to the goth and black metal crowds.We paid our dues.The underground people don’t have an issue with us because they know we have been around and we still mean it.
Wil-I know you guys are playing the Maryland Deathfest and then doing the European Festival circuit over the summer. Are there any plans to do a US tour afterward, and what challenges do you face playing the States?
Alan-Where do we begin to talk about the shit sandwich you have to eat to play in the States? You are treated like a criminal not only by the Government, but by Immigration. It’s 1000 Euros just to get in the door of the U.S. Embassy. European bands trade horror stories, they are like”We played to 79 people in Portland.” “Oh Man, we played to 81 in West Virginia.” You really have to have at least 250 people at every show to not just earn minimum wage.
I love playing in the States, it’s a fascinating place. In New York we had 250, in Chicago we had 350, but it’s like a black hole otherwise. Going out and playing two or three weeks, to 93 people in Orange County, you are losing money. The Government needs to change the way they treat bands, and the venues need to stop taking advantage of bands, taking up to 30 percent of merchandise.
Wil– Yeah, even mid-level bands like Neurosis no longer tour, but do a few dates here and there every four months. So the past ten years have seen another resurgence of black metal, how do you feel about the state of black metal today?
Alan-I think there are some really good bands. I like Deathspell Omega. Then old guys like Marduk, still doing it. Black Metal is only Black Metal. No post hardcore vegan black metal, that’s something just for magazines. I gave a lecture on black metal last year. If you weren’t there in the early 90’s, then you don’t know. This pseudo-punk thing they place over it is to normalize it, to pull it’s teeth out. It’s a punch in the face, all levels of extremity and apologize for nothing. No feminism, or politics they want to push on it. That is not orthodox black metal. It’s not something we agree to disagree on, it’s one thing and one thing only.
Wil– Over the years your vocals have really stepped up. You are now up in the top tiers of metal singers like Dickinson and Dio. How did that come about and what to you do to prepare yourself to push like that in the studio?
Alan- I always wanted to sing, even in the early days. I took inspiration from Candlemass, Christian Death, Fields of the Nephillim. I ceased to be a hobbyist. Put it in application. Trying to embrace danger recklessly. Mean what you say, say what you mean. Putting that into the delivery.