A Brief Chat with Primitive Man’s Ethan Lee McCarthy
Primitive Man play a vile brand of sludge/doom with atmosphere and noise to scare the living hell out of you, luckily vocalist/guitarist Ethan McCarthy is just a regular joe who writes frightening music. I caught up with him and talked about their new album Caustic, their upcoming tour with Bell Witch, the Denver Music scene and the making of their “Victim” music video.
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With release day coming soon, what has the response been like for Caustic vs. your EP or even Scorn? Most of what I have seen has been pretty positive.
Well I don’t know yet, I haven’t gotten to the feedback yet, since we only put it out to live stream yesterday, and I’m getting ready to leave for tour with Vermin Womb. But what I can tell you is that when we put out the first record, people were pretty savage on the Internet.
I can’t imagine many people had heard a record like Scorn before. You can’t honestly be bothered by these basement dweller types, who have nothing better to do than stir up a bunch of shit for no reason.
*Laughs* — I really try to avoid that kind of thing.
I’m hoping that what you guys have introduced the audience to with “My Will,” “Commerce” and the most recent video for “Victim,” it seems like you have been getting press and relatively positive press at that. What would you say makes Caustic different than some of the other things you have been doing as Primitive Man?
It feels a lot more like a body of work than just a bunch of songs. It is our heaviest and our most well-written material so far. We tried some things we had done in the past and refined what we were trying to do, since it has been five years since the first album. Those years really helped us to get better at being Primitive Man.
Caustic really is an all encompassing record, the only way to describe it appropriately is calling it Primitive Man, because after hearing the band before this, there is a scariness and uniqueness to it, a level of uncomfortable, a record this heavy and just a frightening album to listen to.
Thank you man, I really appreciate that.
Yeah, if anyone reading this viewed that as anything other than a compliment, I don’t know what band you’ve been listening to.
I know what music we’re playing *laughs* — these sorts of things I definitely take as a compliment. If you had said that it was a pretty easy listen, pretty songs.
Well you know you could play this back to back with Steely Dan and it would be fine. Seeing as the video for “Victim” is a relatively new thing, I can certainly say that it is one of the scariest things I have seen in a long time. Take me into how that video came to be.
So the guys that filmed and helped direct it had worked with us in the past, and the bassist John and I came up with the ideas… and what we wanted to do here was to convey a sense of dread through horror and humanity’s willingness to watch others suffer for their own entertainment, and that’s what this video is. With the concepts together we just hired some Craigslist actors and about two days putting this video together and here we are.
Was the naked guy from Craigslist too?
He sure was. His name was Mike, and he was awesome to work with.
I would have to imagine he would have to be pretty comfortable doing what he had to do.
He was such a good sport, and it was just too perfect. We were like, “Do you wanna come down here, take off all your clothes and terrorize some people?”
The scene plays out with him killing someone while nude and people getting off to it.
You haven’t lived until you’ve had to explain that situation to someone.
So looking into your upcoming tour, how did Bell Witch come to be a part of it?
We have been friends with them for a long time, even before Primitive Man and Bell Witch were even bands. We just so happened to have records coming out around the same time so, and we thought it would be really fun.
Do you think their set will be Mirror Reaper front to back?
We will probably do our 45-minute set. They can do what they want.
The Denver scene in general seems to be getting some really great press with Khemmis, Blood Incantation, and Spectral Voice. How has this helped Primitive Man and the scene as a whole?
I’m from here, and I have been doing this for a long time, pre-marijuana. We put out Scorn before it was legalized and Denver as a music scene has been going through some changes. Ten years ago, we didn’t have much, but now we are more than a cow town, and people are paying attention.
Relapse is not a small deal for Primitive Man, since they have a lot of pull and opens you up to a wider audience and that’s great for you, even though your music isn’t for everybody and that’s obviously by design.
We’re lucky in that regard and are really stoked that Relapse loved our record because of how we sound. It’s awesome that they believe in us and we keep pushing it heavier and heavier and they think that’s great.
What are the plans for Primitive Man for the rest of 2017?
We don’t really have much planned after this tour until next year. We’ll start writing more music and then go on tour to continue supporting Caustic.