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Primordial - Interview

Interview with: Alan "Nemtheanga" Averill
Conducted by: T.V.  

Primordial are certainly one of the highest rated bands by critics and one of most influential bands from second wave of metal bands that started in 90's. Band started its musical path back in 1987, that time under the name Forsaken, but changed it into Primordial in 1991 when one of the most charismatic frontmans in extreme metal, Alan "Nemtheanga" Averill joined them. Their first album entitled Imrama was released in 1995 and the rest is history. Albums like The Gathering Wilderness and To The Nameless Dead become undead classics and the band moved away from typical black metal sound and became one of the kind with their own distinctive style that reunites epic song structures, extreme black metal, typical heavy metal, celtic nostalgia and traditional Irish folklore into one amazing soundscape, surprisingly without usage of keyboards and female vocals of any kind. With inteligent, often seriously critical lyrics and one of a kind live shows Primordial gained a cult status and have one of the most loyal fan base. Their line up since 2005 is: frontman Alan "Nemtheanga" Averill, guitarist Ciáran MacUiliam, guitarist Michael O'Floinn, bassist Pól MacAmlaigh and drummer Simon "Sol Dubh" O'Laoghaire. We catched up after their show on MetalDays Festival 2013 in Tolmin (Slovenia) with very talkative and sharp-tongued vocalist Alan "Nemtheanga" Averill, who is also a member of all-star metal band Twilight Of The Gods, doom metallers Dread Sovereign, Blood Revolt, ex-Void Of Silence, but took also part as a guest on releases by Marduk, Rotting Christ, Desaster and much more. Read this extensive interview below.

T.R.: Hi Alan! First of all congratulations for a really great performance today! After two years you are back in Slovenia. How it was for you playing today on MetalDays?
Alan: Yeah, great! I really liked it! To came here we did a lot of traveling, we were up from two or three in the morning, being in Frankfurt around five in the morning, then from Frankfurt in Venice, again being there for two or three hours. So, everything took us around thirteen or fourteen hours to came here.
T.R.: Will you go back to Ireland immediately or will you stay for a few days?
Alan: Tomorrow we are going back, but it's ok, that's the way it is.
T.R.: I believe that fans of yours are wondering if there are any news about your next album...
Alan: I don't know, you know,... it will happen eventually, I think next year. We started to make some riffs for last two months or something.
T.R.: Do you have any songs done already?
Alan: No, I have titles, then I have things in my head, but it wouldn't be right from me to say more. It's just in the stage where we should move ahead and start the real job.
T.R.: Just my curiosity... How were you satisfied with your last album Redemption At The Puritan's Hand?
Alan: Yeah, it's good for me! It is what it is, it was a complicated time when we were releasing it, but it seems ok. Some people were disappointed because it wasn't so straight forward as To The Nameless Dead, it is a bit more darker, a bit more complicated, but you know, I mean, Primordial is not like any other band with seven or eight albums and it is like it is.
T.R.: That's interesting. I find that album more straight as it was To The Nameless Dead or The Gathering Wilderness...
Alan: Some people think that, yes. Anyway, it's just a continuation in the Primordial style and the Primordial vein, which is going on for more than twenty odd years now.
T.R.: So, your next step will be following the musical approach on Redemption or...
Alan: No idea, no idea... There are some titles and some riffs, some movements, there are some songs, but for Primordial it takes around six to eight months for things to move from a point when you hear something that it's ok and then move forward and form a song with a structure. It's just a way that it takes some time, simple as that and if you are a fan of Primordial you are not going to get an album every year or even every two years, it simply doesn't work like that. We live in this time out of time, at home everyone has his hunting to do and eventually we move together and create some music. It's not that complicated, but it just takes a long time.
T.R.: Last time it took you four years.
Alan: Yeah, well ok, it took us two years and ten months to record, but then three years and eight months to release it. You know, time moves slow, it's just the way it is, I mean if there's a Primordial album every year that would probaly suck. So, what you want... an album every year and watch us play in your local club twice a year,... nobody wants that, it's not the way Primordial works. Primordial is more a special band, it's not like many others where people say "oh, its another album from that band and blah, blah, blah,..." It's hard to make people interested in you all the time, but we don't think about that and just take our time.
T.R.: Do you preffer to play gigs on big stages like today or in smaller clubs?
Alan: It's all the same for me. I like the small ones where you are more close to people and you get to play for two or even three hours with a lots of songs, but I also like the stadium thing, the big thing, it's ok for me.
T.R.: But I believe it's easier to give that energy on a smaller set?
Alan: Well, fuck man... today it was like 35°C or 36°C. It was hard, but I don't mind it, it's just different, it's heavy metal. Two months ago we played a club show, for lets say, three hours, played twenty or something songs, every now and then we do that. It's different from playing fourty minutes on festival, it's what it is and we are not big enough band to dictate the rules. So, if you see us on a festival for one hour like today, that's ok, because often we travel to festivals for fifteen hours just to play a fourty minutes set, that's four or five songs and what can you do? That's how the world works. Primordial is not King Diamond, we can't play last and dictate to everyone how long we would like to play. If the world would be fair than Slough Feg would be headlining Wacken and not Sabaton, but you know, that's the way the world works and Primordial is somewhere in between, and then you see a band after us, Powerwolf, playing one hour and fifteen minutes and nothing you can do... So, we don't go to Wacken or any similar festival to watch Slough Feg, but we have to watch and listen to shit.
T.R.: You were the best band for us today!
Alan: Today,... well ok, that's cool! I wanted to see also Unleashed, Aura Noir and lots of other good bands, still all that mainstream on main stage doesn't really interests me, but what can we do, we are in the minority. The world has changed, the biggest heavy metal band in the world today is probably Sabaton, it's a fucking terrible band, though, they are nice guys and they work very hard, but it's fucking terrible. You know, I grew up with Iron Maiden and Judas Priest and back then good bands were popular. Now, I don't know, kids like Five Finger Death Punch, Pendulum and Bring Me The Horizon,...
T.R.: Today people like simple things...
Alan: Shit things mostly! But that's ok, like I said that's how the world works and we are in the middle. We are fighting our corner, we will never be one of the biggest bands, but we don't care.
T.R.: You are on Metal Blade Records for quite some time now. What's your opinion about this label and will you remain loyal to them?
Alan: I like Metal Blade! Metal Blade is alright, you know, we could sign to Nuclear Blast Records and try to be bigger and fail. Metal Blade is good for us, good people are working there. Look, when you are in a band on a certain level, the difference between one or two thousand sales means nothing to you, because difference between selling 22000 or 24000 still doesn't make you any more money. Like for a band you don't make anything anyway, so it doesn't really make any difference. The people who want to hear it will hear it anyway. So, I like it beign here,... we could be a smaller fish in a bigger pond, maybe it's better to be a middle sized fish in a middle sized item. We would probably sell 22000 or 25000 albums anyway on any label, because our fans are hard dedicated and we will probably not get any bigger, because, world is strange and for example, Alestorm is bigger band than Primordial, hey listen, Alestorm is even bigger than Candlemass and regarding this billing is even bigger than Enslaved. I have nothing against Alestorm guys, they are cool guys, but really, that's what kids want though. So, you know, what can you do...
T.R.: One more personal question. Do you earn enough for normal living with the music you do?
Alan: It's fucking hard! And I do, but only because I have no kids, no mortgage, no debts, what is really strange because most of people have massive debts, but I have no debts and so I'm doing ok only because I'm playing in four or five bands, working with loads of labels, I'm doing a dozen of different things just to make one shitty income. You know, we live in an age where people think that everything you make should be there for free and it seems that would never change.
T.R.: It's evident that in times like this things become harder for musicians...
Alan: Yeah, not just harder but impossible. Ok, unless you are King Diamond who can charge 150000 € for a show and hasn't made a good album for about 26 years. The point is that the entire metal scene is based on festival nostalgia. Everything is about nostalgia and all this crappy bands, not really crappy, you know, some of them say, ok, look, we released an album in 1983 and sold two million copies in a week that it came out, so we want to get paid 200000 €. Whereas Rotting Christ for example, who make great albums now, the last three are great, don't get rewarded for making good music, but get penalized. A good example are Immortal, 30000 € - 40000 € for a show, and for what, that's what you get paid for making one album in last twelve years. That's crap! Rotting Christ on the other side can only dream of such amounts. The point is that you don't get rewarded for making new good music, but you get rewarded for nostalgia. There are bands who released a crap album in 1994 and sold 40000 copies of it, so they want to be paid 15000 € when there comes a festival... shit, I shouldn't be telling you... but you know, people are actually not paying money to you but to an ex band. Hey, you know Blind Guardian get paid 200000 € for a show, really?! That could work for Manowar, Def Leppard, Whitesnake, blah, blah, you know.
T.R.: Ok, I see, but please, tell me something about your new band Twilight Of The Gods. From Bathory cover band you became a band per se, with an album to be released soon.
Alan: The album is done! It will be released on 12th of September. It's just heavy metal, it's not Ordo Ad Chao, it's not To The Nameless Dead, it's not anything like that.
T.R.: I was quite surprised when I've heard the song you published as I expected more Bathory sound in it...
Alan: It's not even like that, it's more like Dio, Accept, Manowar,... it's just heavy metal and if you want to listen to Mayhem's Ordo Ad Chao than listen to that, and if you are kind of fan sitter or armchair critic, I don't care, well, you know, fuck you! It's just very straight old-school heavy metal, although it doesn't sound like thirty years ago, it's quite modern. So, you know, it's alright, listen, I've been singing for 23 years now and I'm 37 years old and I hope to sing for another 23-25 years, long enough when all those armchair critics are gone. I don't take criticism from people who never created anything in their life. If you never created anything then shut up, nobody asked your opinion, stay and do what you are doing, I don't came in your house and say "put the cocoa pods beside the cereals".
T.R.: If you'll have the possibility to change the past, would you do anything different?
Alan: I don't know anything different. If I was clever I would probably do lots of different things... Maybe I would be a politician now.
T.R.: I've read lots of things that you've written...
Alan: Oh, ok, I'm a clever motherfucker, but that doesn't mean that I've learned how to make any money out of that.
T.R.: You were often criticizing the political system in Ireland. What's the situation now?
Alan: That's a pretty huge question. We're fucked... We went from number one most productive economy in European Union to position 27 in just two years! Ireland is witnessing the most dramatic fall from grace since the start of recesion in 2008. So, we went from being the country into which people were moving, to beign now the country from which people are moving away again, that has always been the tradition of Ireland. It's very complicated reality.
T.R.: Not only Ireland is in this downward path, but almost whole Europe. And where do you think that all this leads?
Alan: Complete de-evolution, absolute chaos. Europe is descending into a maelstrom, an absolute violent maelstrom of complete decadent, secular, ireligious white western people versus the religious imigrants. It has nothing to do with being on right or left, I don't care about that shit. Europe is like an experimental petri dish. It's like nowhere else in the world, the people are moving here, following the almighty dollar and I don't blame people for doing that, but like in Ireland, as an example, we took in more than 400000 Polish people in six years, that's elevent percent of population, that's more than entire UK took emigrants in last 40 years. It's an observation, it's just statistics, I don't care from where you are, but you can't argue with statistics. Statistics are the cold hearted factor of the world where we live and we are on the de-evolutionary scale and any future that I've seen two years ago is even more dim that it was then.
T.R.: Do you think that those sane remaining people will have enough courage to resist this process and de-evolution?
Alan: I don't think so. The future may be the law of the claw. We have an economic system which allows people who are at the bottom to rise through a form of primitive capitalism and if this is removed then the law of the claw - the strong will always suppress the weak, you know, like if you take away this form of moderate, unfettered, unregulated capitalism, which is ruining us, but regulated capitalism is different, so, if you take that away and allow, for example anarchy, you'll be always beaten, if I'm stronger than you then I'll take what you have - this is the law of nature, so, for me the future is only dark, there's no way of seeing it any other way. Like I said on the stage, the only law is violence, the only religion in this world is blood, I believe that. We had in Dublin the "Occupy movement", a bounch of hippies in the main square banging bongos... I told a guy, I said: "Listen, why don't you all bang your money together, hire a hit-man and shoot the politicians kid"? No one listens to you until you don't kill their kids, that's the way the world is. Everything else is a fuck, it's bullshit. Nobody gives a fuck about you when you're banging bongos, fuck off - kill their kids. Shit, I could be arrested for what I'm saying right now, but nobody listens to anything rather than violence. That's the only language this world understands. Unfortunately I'm so far gone beyond the point of thinking that there's a moderate response to anything.
T.R.: The problem is also that the people are so divided. Like here in Slovenia, the biggest political problem is who was on which side in the second world war and right after it. We are arguing about things that happened 60-70 years ago...
Alan: You should explain me more about that later, even though I know some things about your past..., but the truth is that the greatest death of the 20th Century is communism. I have nothing but an absolute hatred towards the middle class and pseudo-intellectual Irish, you know, those people who have kind of romantic-idealistic view of communism or Marxism, but have never been to eastern Europe. I mean, unless you've been in Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria or even Lithuania, maybe also Slovenia and seen what this regime did to people..., so you have this intellectual Marxism which is in my opinion an absolute enemy of the 20th century intellect, especially in the western countries. You know... they say, "yeah well, that even wasn't the real communism, blah, blah...", that's bullshit. I mean, every country, at least in the generations that are still alive, has people from second world war and those will always control the agenda in the countries like this. It's very difficult to break free from that, but economically I don't know how you guys could be freed from it, unless you are Italy... Italy had 64-65 governments in 63 years, I mean that your politics cannot be worst than Italian ones. Sorry, but what about Laibach though?
T.R.: What do you mean?
Alan: Laibach helped to form some foundations of the political state, weren't they... I'm a huge fan of Laibach.
T.R.: Yeah, they were important with their ideas that were in big contrast with the political and social views of that past time when we were still a part of Yugoslavia, but I don't know if they bother with those things so much anymore.
Alan: Eight years ago I was attending kind of art and intellectual week in Dublin which ended with Laibach show. Anyway, I followed some of Slovenian history.
T.R.: So you know how fucked up is it...
Alan: Hey men, I'm from Ireland, what more fucked than that you want, haha.
T.R.: It seems that "green" countries have a lot of similarities...
Alan: Strong armed by other countries. Still, both countries gained their independence in the right place. Ireland is the one country that defeated an empire. They defeated the English empire in 1916 or something, because the English were fighting the first world war and if they weren't fighting that war Ireland would never defeat them. So, they choosen the right moment and independence is here. We achieved what Canada, India, Australia and some other countries never achieved. It's so fucking incredible that Irish people achieved political independence from British empire back then.
T.R.: Ok, let's move away from this political stuff... Do you still draw paintings and covers for albums?
Alan: Yeah, yes I still do, I'm still painting, but I'm not having much time for that. I did much more writing lately, some colums and political stuff, but I still do some drawings.
T.R.: I've searched for some new columns of yours, but found only old ones on Primordial official website...
Alan: Oh, I do a column every month for Zero Tolerance magazine, which is posted in German language, but I always post it also in English on Primordial facebook site. If some were not there is because I forgot to do that. I have done around 30-40 columns over the last couple of years and I'm thinking to release them as a book or something. It's kind of liberal totalitarism.
T.R.: Regarding the music you do, I suppose that Bathory must be your biggest influence.
Alan: Yeah, that's right, Bathory, but also Venom, Mercyful Fate,...
T.R.: Which is the last album that you bought?
Alan: The last album I bought? Huh, that's a good point! I think it was the new Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds album Push The Sky Away. I love it, it's amazing. I lost my way for Nick Cave for last few years, but this album is amazing.
T.R.: Which was for you Nicks best album?
Alan: I used to love Henry's Dream, it's a weird choice, but for me that one spoke the most. Also The Good Son, Tender Prey, but I lost my way over 2000's, but the last album..., I guess I bought it on CD and a week ago I bought it also on vinyl. It's a beautiful album! It's Nick Cave, man... I went to see him live last year and that level of intensity when he plays is something I could only wish to achive with Primordial.
T.R.: Why do you think that the vinyl become so popular again?
Alan: I don't know. I'm buying vinyl editions again. I actually spent most of my money on new very expensive vinyl player, because I have houndreds of vinyls from the 80s. Now I'm just looking to get the mp3 and if I like the stuff I buy the vinyl, even if it's new Enforcer, Tank, Bullet, but specially if it's stuff like Dead Can Dance, Nick Cave,...
T.R.: Of course I must ask you what do you think about Fields Of The Nephilim?
Alan: I traveled to see them play in Stockholm and Oslo around three months ago. They have always been one of my favourite bands and I finally went to see them and then traveled with them for two or three shows. It was really good, but at the same time is disappointing that Carl won't play anything from Elizium. Only stuff from Dawnrazor, Mourning Sun, but anyway it was a great show!
T.R.: But you must admit that Mourning Sun is a great album.
Alan: It's a good album, especially live, but while listening to it evokes the soul on top of that crapy drum machine. Fields Of The Nephilim had a proper drummer in 80s and 90s, later on became like The Sisters Of Mercy about that matter. The Sisters... they were shit for years, but last year in Dublin, briliant! They've had their 30th anniversary show with a proper band, it was really briliant, also Andrew Eldritch who was terrible for many years was amazing.
T.R.: When will we see Twilight Of The Gods touring?
Alan: With Rotting Christ in October!
T.R.: Will you come to Slovenia?
Alan: I hope so!
T.R.: Will you play any Bathory song?
Alan: Aaaah, I don't know. We might play one or two songs. You won't hear any Mayhem or any Primordial. We might play "Under The Runes" maybe, but we'll see. We did a tour for Bathory stuff, but now we'll concetrate on our stuff and just maybe play one or two songs.
T.R.: If you come to Slovenia please play "One Road To Asa Bay".
Alan: Haha, I have a word, I have a word...
T.R.: Ok, I have your word to! Talking to you like this is like seeing a totally different person than on the stage. Do you have any kind of ritual before going on stage?
Alan: Yeah,... Jeklly and Hyde, that's ok. Of course, I have... for me the painting on the face is one of the things that I've been doing for twenty odd years, which is one of the original black metal things. It's a form of ritualization of music when you paint your face and become this other, but it's not a different person, it's what you are, it's Jekyll and Hyde thing, just releasing this energy, this thing that you become. You know, it's the same person, it's not theatre, it's not a pantomime, I don't pretend to be heavy metal, it's just an absolute realization of this other person-thing inside you. For me this always takes a form of ritual. There's no other answer for it. I don't give a shit if someone thinks is pretentious or pseudo artistic, it always takes a form of some kind of a ritual. I can't stand on the stage and not try to undergo some form of a movement away from what we are into this other thing through which I speak to the world.
T.R.: Which song from Primordial discography you prefer to play live?
: "The Coffin Ships" is the one that moves everyone, then I like "Empire Falls", I like "As Rome Burns", actually I like all of them, I'm not one of those guys who say "I hate the first album, I hate the second album, it's crap, we were kids,...". We were kids to, but it was great and when we play songs from our first album I get that same feeling again. The day when I won't get that feeling again, that pure adreline, pure heavy metal thing, this feeling from absolute gut that moves you, so when this thing won't move me anymore then I'll quit. You know, we can apply to other forms of intelectualism, or other forms of ritualism, or other forms of all this, but the bottom line is what is in your gut and that pushes you and moves you. When we won't have it, we'll just quit. I hope I'll do that then and become a politician. 
T.R.: Ok, you'll have my vote if I ever move to Ireland. Many thanks for all those extensive answers and do you have any last words?
: Join in strenght. The only two things in this world that you can try and depend upon, anything else is bullshit.

Primordial links: Official website, Facebook

Twilight Of The Gods links: Official website, Facebook

Live photos taken on MetalDays Festival 2013 by T.V.

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