Interview: Primordial’s Alan Averill (A.A. Nemtheanga)
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Primordial exist in a constant state of struggle. For years they struggled to find a label that wouldn’t fuck them over and could hold their operation together long enough to properly release an album. But stubborn perseverance was enough to pull the band through the shit, and they now reside on Metal Blade. They’ve also struggled to venture forth into the world with any kind of successful tour. And yet . . . they’re still alive, ready to give it another go as they embark on their first ever headlining tour of the United States in over 20 years as a band. Stefan Raduta recently poked and prodded Primordial vocalist and bandleader Alan Averill (aka A. A. Nemtheanga) via email to discuss the hardships of touring, his often-maligned side-project Blood Revolt, and the state of Primordial in 2012.
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Alan, how are you doing these days? How’s life in Dublin between the never-ending rain, junkies that keep pissing you off and DJing in Bruxelles?
The rock rolls ever on. Same shit different day. Junkies don't like rain too much by the way.
Redemption was received very well worldwide by both fans and critics alike, and you guys have played a lot of major festivals since. Primordial seems to have a base of loyal fans that will come see you anywhere you play, they know your music and lyrics by heart . . . are you satisfied with where things are at the moment for the band? Could we say Primordial is finally where it was meant to be?
It's hard to say really. We could be bigger than we are, we also might never have made it past the first demo. Primordial sometimes doesn't function like other bands people refer to as professional or what have you so things are a bit more difficult to quantify.
You still haven't done a very extensive European tour, you made it clear that you're past that age and also most of you in the band have jobs/family and that's somewhat impossible. Has this format of flying in and out for a festival working out for the band so far?
Not really true. We did 17 dates as part of the Paganfest with Solstafir and Negura Bunget among others. Well, we can all see that festivals are killing touring, unless it's a festival bill. Younger people now are used to seeing bands in the summer in a field with a warm beer in their hand. Cold nights in February where you drive 2 hours to see 2 bands play longer sets in a small club are dwindling, so often we have no choice but to play festivals. A necessary evil. However Primordial is not professional, and the chances of being so and doing relentless touring are impossible. There’s no pension plan being a musician.
You've had quite a few attempts to tour the US after your last trek with the Paganfest, and they all failed. Finally, now you're doing this club - mini tour in September with Cormorant and While Heaven Wept. How did the tour come about? Was it built around Prog Power?
Yeah it was built around Prog Power, with a lot of pushing and shoving and rattling cages. It's no secret it's damn hard to tour the US as a European. If you go through the right channels you are down about $10,000 without playing a show.
The tour is put together by Nathan Carson of Nanotear/Witch Mountain. How did things evolve and what made you say yes? You've said no to bigger names/packages . . .
After the last tour we did, we have been offered about 5 bigger tours which were either too long, or offered us absolutely nothing financially. When you have kids at home and bills and mortgages it's irresponsible to head off to America for a month hoping to sell enough merch to feed the kids when you get home. Every risk in American touring sits on the band’s shoulders. I could bore you with specifics but most people on chat forums aren't interested in the harsh realities of economics and would rather bitch about European bands not playing in their hometown. Let's just say the current American administration makes it very hard for us to get over there and put some money into your economy by playing (bar staff/hotels/beer/lighting/sound staff/bouncers etc.), yet American bands can simply get off the plane and play Europe.
Your Paganfest tour in 2009 with Korpiklaani and Moonsorrow felt like a compromise to me at the time, and it still does. Besides Moonsorrow, I didn't care for the other names on the bill too much, and neither did those who came to see you. Was it worth it? Was it a success for Primordial?
Of course it was a huge success for us. Sure, it was a compromise of sorts but it was still Primordial playing 26 dates across Unites States. We have to be realistic about these things. It was a platform which we had to take and use for ourselves. It's typical of the spoilt modern attitude that things are never good enough. Why aren’t you playing in my hometown bar with bands I love so I can sit on my special seat at the bar etc.? And can you play all the songs I want from your 7 album career in an hour etc.?
Sure it would have been amazing to be on tour with Triptykon and Candlemass for arguments sake, but how many people showed up in America to the last Triptykon tour? I doubt there was 400 in Montreal? Ideally we could play a two and half hour set in front of packed houses, travel comfortably and arrive back home with some money and have understanding employers but this is not how the world works.
What are some of your most favorite moments/gigs from that tour? Any difference between the two coasts? How did New York City compare to California or Montreal? How did it feel to finally come in contact with fans that have waited many years to see you?
It was great. I loved it. Every state was like a different country with a new set of rules and challenges. Everywhere we went we were met with good will and positivity from people who were just thrilled we were in the building. Kentucky was very different from Calgary, believe me!
You'll be playing lots of small venues on this tour, which will most likely be packed to the gills. I hope so, anyway. It's gonna be a very different atmosphere from your usual European gigs on large stages, in front of thousands . . . the shows will definitely have a much more underground feel to them. Why is America so important to you?
Well we do play club shows in Europe as well ,don’t forget. It's fine for me, I like being in people's faces. Why is it important? Why is anywhere important. You just do what you can.
Are these small venue gigs meant to test the waters before a major tour in the near future? What are your plans?
We don't know. I hope so, but we have to see what happens and what we get offered, and again, how the economics can work and time off work and other mundane shit.
If you were to tour the US as a part of a major package, what would be a dream line-up for you? I'm talking bands that are alive and active right now.
How about a touring package of Black Sabbath, Neurosis and Slough Feg? Actually just Slough Feg would do.
Are you guys writing a new record, rehearsing new songs?
Not yet. Only mentally. We've talked and thought about it but nothing concrete so far.
Signing with Metal Blade gave Primordial much-needed support after years of failure with so many labels. How is this marriage working out so far? What could be improved on?
The only thing that could be improved upon is that people go out and start buying records again. That’s all.
You're generally a guy who has his finger on the pulse when it comes to new bands coming to light. Recommend us some new names to check out, something that stands out . . . metal and not only.
I haven’t heard much this year that's blown me away actually. I’ve become a little tired of the trends, the '70s occult rock with kooky female vocals, NWOBHM hipster revivalists or average kvlt death metal with the right Morbid Angel references, legless insipid thrash or hipster animal rights black metal movements. Feeling kinda old with things right now . . . but maybe you should check out Black Trip from Sweden.
Your devotion for the band Woven Hand is pretty well known. How does a pagan like yourself end up admiring a man so religious like David Eugene Edwards? How does a band like Marduk pay him tribute? What's so alluring?
I just admire someone who plays with passion and conviction. Whether I happen to disagree or agree with their politics is irrelevant; we could say the same about Erik from Watain for example, even if we share far more common ground. Passion is passion.
Reading Primordial's lyrics or the column you have in Zero Tolerance (still doing that?) one could draw the conclusion that you're a very serious guy, conservative, pragmatic, opinionated, often pessimistic about the state of pretty much everything. Then one gets to meet you, and usually it’s one extreme or the other . . . you either come out as a completely relaxed guy who cracks jokes and is very sarcastic, or a bit of an elitist with a rockstar attitude, even a jerk . . . so who is Alan Averill? Because we’ve met quite a few times in plenty of places, and I’ve seen it all . . . still, I find it hard to believe you were always this controversial.
Well. I guess it really depends on which mood you catch me. I don't think I have a rock star attitude, personally. Hard one to have being Irish, as someone is always ready to cut you down to size with a quip. Don’t mistake confidence for arrogance, even though we need a smack of that also. One could draw many conclusions, some people think I’m conservative, others find things I say very liberal in their own way. Without a doubt you are right that I am sarcastic, and a born pessimist dwells a lot on the darker side of human nature--but having said that, I’m ready to poke fun at it with the next sentence.
Blood Revolt was not met with enthusiasm by everyone. Are you irritated by the fact that most people didn't get it? While recognizing that it had some interesting ideas, many also found it annoying or pretentious. That had to piss you off . . . or perhaps you enjoyed the not-so-positive reactions? Will there be a second album?
I couldn’t give a fuck. That album is truly original and groundbreaking, and sure, maybe for some people who expect cartoon goats on the cover and all of us to have hoods and sunglasses for the promo shots it was disappointing, but who cares? They can always pretend to be listening to Conqueror anyway, right? It was meant to provoke. If you read the subject matter, this is a truly dark album without compromise. Some people balked at the mix of grinding chaos and vocals, but so what? This is metal, right? Were we meant to toe the party line and not question the parameters of our own creativity? Of course we were. Personally I’m as glad if someone hates what I do or loves it.
What are the news from the Twilight Of The Gods camp? You played lots of major festivals and from what I hear it went well. Was it a success, was it everything you hoped for?
Yeah, we’re tracking an album right now. It’s going to be stomping killer old-school metal and why not? Life is short, grab it by the horns. We took a chance and grasped the nettle and things worked out. Carpe diem and all that.
Some thoughts for your American fans who will be coming to see Primordial on stage in a few days?
It can't come soon enough. We are looking forward to playing a much longer show, right up close and personal. Oh, and if you are a cute girl with a hot shower and a copy of Destructor‘s Maximum Destruction on vinyl, shout me out! We have nowhere to stay :-)
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Remaining Tour Dates (with Cormorant and While Heaven Wept unless noted)
Brooklyn, New York
Kung Fu Necktie
West Springfield, Virginia
Tremont Music Hall
Charlotte, North Carolina
Prog Power USA
Atlanta, Georgia (with Epica, Symphony X, and many more)
All photos were taken by Stefan Raduta, and are protected by copyright.