Primordial – An Interview with Alan Averill
Questions – Ann Sulaiman/Ashlinn Nash
If you ask me, Primordial are one of the most solid bands out there, having their roots in the black metal scene before evolving into what they are today. However, they’re even better known for their frontman/lyricist, the infamously opinionated and charismatic Alan “Nemtheanga” Averill. So when they came to play the O2 Islington in February, who was I to skip a chance to chat to him in person?
Take a seat, as Metal-Rules.com catches up with Alan to talk music scenes, free speech and Green Day – yes, you read that right!
I understand that this is your second show with Primordial at the O2 venue…
I suppose it is the second time we’ve played here! The first was about three or four years ago, and I guess the first time we played in London was about twenty one years ago.
This is also the second time you have Winterfylleth with you on support.
Well, it’s because they’re so damn handsome!
Actually, I like the whole theme of the English pagan metal scene, with Wodensthrone, Winterfylleth, Fen and Falloch – which is quite interesting with those guys, and you know, there’s a booking agent in there as well. It made sense to play with them.
Any thoughts on the city and its (metal) scene, from your experiences?
SHIT HOLE! Hahaha!
What, compared to Dublin??
Dublin is alright! Well, we used to come to London years ago for shows… before the invention of Ryanair, we used to get the night ferry across from Dun Leary to Wales, then get the morning train over here to see Dissection or whoever was playing (in the early ’90’s).
The London scene, I don’t know much about, but as a city, it’s okay. It’s a bit big sometimes… maybe a bit too big for me.
What about the Irish metal scene?
Well, there are lots of bands out there: you’ve got your Mael Mordhas and your Mourning Beloveths, Malthusian and Zom… there are many bands and only about one or two record labels in Ireland, but you know, Malthusian are signed to Invictus Productions, as an example.
Traditionally, we never really had much of a rock culture, despite having Thin Lizzy and Rory Galler, so I don’t know if that’s what you mean. But there are no undiscovered gems from the ’80’s, like Master’s Hammer… I just think we’re too busy getting pissed, to be honest!
There isn’t even an Irish Joy Division or an Irish “post-wave/new wave” goth punk thing to talk about, especially considering that we were beside the country where all of this was happening.
If I understood some of your online rants correctly, there also isn’t a strong scene in Dublin right now?
I don’t know, really! I’m not twenty-two or twenty-three (years old) and I don’t really socialise…
Maybe there is, if you’re that age, since there are a lot of young bands out there. I don’t really pay that much attention anymore!
You’ve actually got a bit of a reputation with some of them as a grumpy, old man!
I am a grumpy, old man! Though you get to a certain stage, where you just don’t care anymore. I don’t give a shit, and I don’t mind my P’s and Q’s about offending somebody from another band or whatever.
I think that Metal just became way too tolerant; it lost its teeth and was emasculated by a slew of pseudo-punk idealism. Also, if you look back at the ’80’s, heavy metal was full of characters whether it was Blackie Lawless or Dave Mustaine, who were very outspoken and just didn’t care.
If people call Primordial out on what it is, I don’t care – I don’t give a shit!
People are really touchy, but it’s not important to me. I think that they assume that it’s their right to not be offended, but since when is it an offence to not offend someone? Some are also just looking for things to offence from, in what you say, so I take a sort of perverse pride in being able to respond with, “Okay, here you go – have this one!”
Let’s talk about Primordial’s latest record, “Where Greater Men Have Fallen”. When I listen to it, the album sounds much louder and more aggressive to me than your previous work, “Redemption At The Puritan’s Hand”.
Knowing that you’re currently involved with Twilight of The Gods and Dread Sovereign, how would you say that being in these two bands influenced what came out on “Greater Men…”?
Maybe the production on the Dread Sovereign album influenced a little bit of my thinking for the new Primordial album, at least when it came to tones and the bass end.
But no, these bands are three pretty different things. The production was intended to sound more live, and that it seems a bit more aggressive and darker is just whatever headspace we may have been in.
You always say that Primordial is about the “here and now”, and you always look to history for your lyrics.
Well, yes and no. I mean, it’s not fantasy or escapism, and the lyrics are all rooted in fact rather than fiction; I’m not interested in writing about mythical warriors who did epic deeds during a mythical time which never existed.
If there are any references to mythology, then they’re usually done in an allegorical sense, since I’m not interested in writing fantasy.
Knowing that you also tend to keep one eye on history, and another on the news, how would you say that recent world events have influenced the new album?
Well, they have, definitely. In the last five years, the world seems a much darker place…
Yeah, like the rise of religious extremism, and even (more recently) the Charlie Hebdo murders in Paris and discussion about freedom.
It’s all headed somewhere very dangerous. You have a certain facet of the traditional libertarian section of Western society championing free speech, yet looking for offense in everything that people post online or say, on behalf of supposed minorities that they have no real understanding of or relationship to.
Someone will champion free speech in that context, but not be able to take a joke about something which they misconstrue as sexist or homophobic. It seems to me that people are actually “window dressing” the wrong principles, this way.
I think that the way Charlie Hebdo is used… that magazine was born from the student summer of ’68 when there were strikes and protests, so it came from (at least to me) a sort of “hippy mindset” at the time. It was like their release, though it’s helped to usher in a new age of intolerance. This whole “Je suis Charlie” thing, it’s pathetic, really. As if sharing some sort of gif on a social networking site is going to change anything!
I only view things getting worse and worse, and it’s going to take one Anders Brevik-type character to take revenge on a mosque to kill a few dozen people, and then you’re going to have war on the streets!
That’s the future.
Anyway!… it’s Saturday night! Referring back to our album, “Where Greater Men Have Fallen”; the title is saying that no matter who you are, someone else has already failed whatever it is that you’re trying to achieve. So the tone is very dark, but if you look at the 1990’s, which was a relative era of prosperity; the European Union model then collapsed, which led to a recession and then a rise in the Left and the Right trying to make gains for themselves.
I think that the best thing to do is just to head for the hills with a shotgun and build yourself a little gated community!
Sounds like something from the new album…
‘Seed of Tyrants’ is a good example, as that song was intended to be a kind of fist in the face of this naïve section of Western society, who viewed the Arab Spring revolutions (2011) as the start of democracy. But if you take the head off of one tyrant like Syria’s Assad, then twelve take his place.
It’s all cheery stuff! Hahaha!
Ashlinn – A bit of pop music at the end, eh?
Yeah, and Blink 182… I saw Green Day, back in 1989 play to twenty five people. It was only two quid!
You want that on record? “Nemtheanga saw Green Day”?
It was 1989, don’t forget! And I did like Bad Religion at the time!