The Metal Rules UK team recently met up with Guy Miller and Srdjan Bilić from London-based, heavy metal band Primitai, just moments before they took to the stage at the Black Heart in Camden.
Currently riding a wave of activity, the band have recently signed to Dissonance Productions, been playing some prestigious shows and have just released a brand new album – The Calling.
We spoke to them about all their recent activities and more…
Metal Rules: To kick things off, let’s just look back over what appears to have been a fairly active year for Primitai. For example, you’ve written and recorded a new album – Tell us your thoughts about 2018.
Srdj: Yeah, It’s been a great year. It’s the year that we announced our first ever record deal. We released our latest album which is called The Calling. It’s the most accomplished, best produced, best-executed album we’ve done. It’s beautiful. We’ve been out to Europe again, we’ve been to Belgium and Croatia. We launched our album at The Underworld which felt like a milestone and we’ve played with some cool bands, like Riot and now Cauldron, who we’ve been fans of for years.
Guy: That sums it up pretty well – but the year’s not over yet. We’ve got quite a few gigs up to the end of the year and we’re looking into getting some tours for early next year as well.
Metal Rules: Plenty of plans in place then! – You mentioned the album; talk us through that experience. How does it all work for you guys? – Is it a long process or do you work quite rapidly? – How do you write, etc?
Srdj: Every time we do an album, we figure out the ins and outs and we manage to do it in less time. We pack it all in and do it more efficiently.
Guy: I would say it’s become a very well oiled machine now and certainly while the line up has changed a bit over time, this current line up has been cemented. I’m very happy with the way it is now. We’ve got the writing process down to a fine art. This time around, the recording process was a complex, logistical operation of recording in different studios, different instruments, and then we had it mixed and mastered over in Germany.
Metal Rules: Is there a core group of songwriters or do you all just get in a room and jam on ideas?
Guy: There’s kind of a core group, with the three guitar players, Srdjan, Sergio and Scott equally sharing the writing amongst them.
Srdj: Yeah, it’s quite an even split. Sergio writes some songs, I write song songs and Scott… It’s the first time he’s been in a metal band and he’s written some of the best songs on the album!
Metal Rules: How did you guys come by Scott? – Knowing he hadn’t played metal before, what made you think, “he’s the guy for us?!”
Guy: Well, funnily enough, he’s my brother. Haha! Srdj is right to say he’s not been in an actual metal band before, but me and him have played in bands in the past and we grew up on rock and metal. Our first band together was a heavy rock band, so he’s no stranger to the metal scene but he’s been playing professionally in a lot of other (non-metal) bands in an interim period, but now he’s come back to the metal world!
Metal Rules: What was it that prompted the relatively recent lineup changes?
Guy: Our old bassist and drummer had been in the band for a long time. They were fantastic guys, great players and I think they had just done their time really and decided they wanted to move on to other things. That left us with a bit of a gaping hole in about 2016, but we managed to crack on. We put out an album anyway – just after they’d left – and then we got Jonny and Scott to join, who had both recently left the band they were in before – and it’s been great since.
Srdj: The right people at the right time – On paper, it might have seemed dramatic, y’know, but it was all very smooth and there’s a really good chemistry in the band now.
Metal Rules: You’ve definitely captured that chemistry on tape. The new album sounds great! What has the general feedback been like? – Have you had any surprising reactions to it?
Guy: I’ve been overwhelmed by the response, to be honest. The positive reviews have blown me away. I can’t complain about how good the reviews have been so far. There’s been one recently that was featured on Encyclopaedia Metallum – The Metal Archives which really got me. To get a really strong review on there is brilliant!
Srdj: It was 88% (on The Metal Archives). It’s gone up to 91% now (smiles). The good reviews have been coming in from all over the world – Interestingly, the only exceptions have been the ones where people seem annoyed that they can’t pigeon-hole us. It’s like, “what’s this?!! – It’s heavy metal, but it’s got power metal….” They just want to put a stamp on it.
Metal Rules: And how would you describe yourselves?
Guy: It’s difficult. Even as an insider, it’s difficult to pigeon-hole us. I like to just say it’s straight up heavy metal with a bit of modern production.
Metal Rules: I wanted to ask you about the album’s cover art. I really love that image of the car racing towards a column of energy that appears to be coming from a UFO. How did you come up with that concept? – What’s the story behind it?
Srdj: We started with a mood board of things we wanted to include on the cover and we had a list of artists we wanted to work with. Then we messaged them all to see who was available, who wanted to do it and how much they cost. Our number one choice was Claudio Bergamin who’s been doing album covers for a while…
Metal Rules: Including the new Judas Priest album, right?
Srdj: Yeah! And we were really lucky that he was up for the job. We gave him the brief. and a bit of a storyline to go by. We wanted a lot of energy and light but also a barren landscape. He just ran away with it. I think he’s really into his Sci-Fi and UFOs as well, so he gave it that massive mothership in the background.
Guy: Yeah, I think it does represent the album title – The Calling – It’s just that huge force beckoning you.
Metal Rules: And to go back to the Judas Priest connection – You guys have had Richie Faulkner guest on one of your previous albums…
Metal Rules: … And, looking back over your career, that seems to be one of many highlights. You’ve played some big gigs, big festivals and shared the stage with some really established bands – What has been the best and worst of the last ten years? – The personal highlights and the biggest challenges?
Srdj: We seem to have a couple of highlights every year. Last year, it was playing Birmingham O2 Academy and playing with bands like Hell and Sodom… and Saxon, which I would never have dreamed would happen. All of these cool festivals over the years have been popping up.
Guy: And touring with the likes of Sepultura was definitely a highlight and a real range of different bands. Grand Magus, Warbringer, White Wizzard.
Srdj: We’ve played with everyone from Glam bands to Death and Thrash
Metal Rules: That’s the beauty of being in a band that can’t be pigeon-holed
Guy: Yeah, and I think we can win over any crowd that doesn’t exactly love our genre, which is brilliant. But there’s been some struggles too – Just being in a band, especially trying to make a go of it in a more niche scene – It’s tough.
Srdj: But around about the time of our previous album we went into a difficult period, having just lost our drummer and bassist, but getting new guys in and just building it back and enjoying from the bottom up; rediscovering what it’s like to be in a band. Writing songs and rehearsing. We went away for a bit, but relaunched ourselves, We did it here actually, at The Black Heart, which was really packed. It was a challenging time but it was really rewarding. It was probably one of my favourite gigs actually – doing that comeback and just getting an amazing reception.
Metal Rules: As a band, it sounds like you’ve already ticked a lot of boxes. What’s left on your agenda? – What boxes are left to tick?
Guy: I definitely want to get over to Europe – play more shows in Europe. Just keep playing more gigs really.
Metal Rules: What would be the dream scenario for you? – Any bands you would love to play with?
Srdj: Any of the old gods like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden – even Accept and Saxon who are great bands who play smaller shows.
Guy: I’d be happy with that!
Metal Rules: Thank for talking to us, guys. Any final words for our readers?
Srdj: It’s just great to still be going. We’ve been doing this for a while now and even to still be here feels like an achievement and makes us value the success and appreciate everything.
Guy: Yeah, just thanks. Thanks to everyone who’s come to the shows, bought our albums, bought our merch’. That means everything to us, it’s really appreciated.
Srdj: And thanks to all the new people as well. It’s cool to be meeting new fans and promoters. We’ve actually just been booked to play a guy’s local club in Belgium just off the back of him liking us… We get treated really nicely. It’s great.
Metal Rules: That sounds excellent. Thank you both – and have a great show tonight!