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Young People No Longer Want Freedom


Архив интервью | Русская версия

To tell you the truth, I rarely read interviews myself — it's sad to see musicians being so much smaller than their work. Well, this is definitely not the case with Alan Averill of Primordial. On March 30, the Irish pagan black metallers released their 9th album, "Exile Amongst the Ruins", which turned out to be almost heartbreaking in its tragedy, intensity and unutterable beauty. Whereas the motif of civilizations crumbling into dust runs through all of Primordial’s albums, musically, there are quite a few unexpected twists to their new release. The more valuable it became for us to talk to Alan directly and learn first-hand about all the things, which are inevitably left beyond the limits of music. Even though my own part was somewhat clumsy, it looks like I managed to achieve the main goal of every interviewer — not to stand in the way and let the man actually speak. I didn’t ask him even half of the questions I had initially planned to. Besides, every Alan’s remark seems to unleash a whole new generation of questions (I had plenty of those swarming in my head for sure, but bothering everyone — including Alan himself — with my anal-retentive approach didn’t seem like an extremely good idea). Anyway, shouldn’t there always be something untold left after every conversation with an actual artist?..

Your new album, "Exile Amongst the Ruins", was released exactly on March 30, and you had two releases shows in Germany to support the album. As far as I am concerned, the initial plan was to play the album in full and to see people react to it. Are you happy with the reception?

Yeah, for the most part. I mean, Berlin was a little bit slow but it’s the first gig we played in five months, so it can happen that we seem a little bit rusty and also maybe people are just too used to seeing us in Berlin. Sometimes you need a bit of a break from a city. Cologne is more of a B-market and it means that people are often a bit more excited to see you because they don’t usually get to see you. So, Cologne was way better than Berlin but Berlin was still OK.

Maybe it was also because of the support bands. They were quite different…

No, not really. The support bands don’t have anything to do with it. (Well, of course, they don't, as "normal" people don’t even come in time to see support bands and I would never suggest such a ridiculous idea. But Ketzer is actually a pretty solid band and it did make me a little bit more excited about the gig in Cologne — ed.) I mean it’s nice to have a good support band, sure, but these are release shows and I think we could have probably done them with no support but that’s just the way it is, it doesn’t really make a difference.

So, you didn’t have a say in choosing those support bands? (if only you had seen him headbanging enthusiastically to Bastard Royalty...)

Well, I did but it doesn’t matter about the reception to the Primordial gate, you know.

You didn’t play the whole album, though. There was no "Last Call", for example, although I saw it on your set-lists with a question mark. Is it challenging to play it live or what is the real reason for ignoring it?   

No, it's just clubs and their shitty curfews, and their double bookings. We just ran out of time, no particular reason. It’s 11 minutes long and… I mean, you know, the same thing happens in Ireland  which didn’t use to happen in Germany but now happens all the time. Which is every venue has realized that they can have two bookings on the same night, two sets of people drinking etc. They have the gig and they want you out by 10:30 or 11:00 ‘cos they have like hip-hop club or a dance club, or a Cuban salsa club or some other stuff. That’s the real boring reason, it’s that club owners are super strict about getting everyone out of there for their stupid fucking club. So, that’s the reason, really. Nothing about the song being challenging or not challenging. I think we just underestimated the length of our set, that’s all.  

There is some hope to hear it live, then… at summer festivals, maybe?

No, I doubt it, because the problem is, at a summer festivals, if you get 40 or 50 minutes, to play 11 minutes of that with one song is unlikely. That’s the problem with such long songs. When you take a quarter of your set with one song, it can be counter-productive.    

Before your fans had a chance to enjoy the album, you released three videos, and each of them is a masterpiece, I think. But I remember you saying that you didn’t particularly enjoy shooting your previous video, "Babel’s Tower", for example, because you hate doing one and the same thing over and over again. How did it go this time?

This time was a bit better. "Babel’s Tower" was made maybe in two days and it was freezing cold and… repetition is the definition of insanity. Not really my thing. This time round we had to be very quick, we really moved quickly with everything and that suits me. So, I enjoyed "Exile Amongst the Ruins" a lot more because of the uniforms and the historical context and a little bit of acting and stuff. I didn’t really enjoy "To Hell or the Hangman", it was standing and miming along to the same song 30 times. But you know, it is what it is. I mean, it would be nicer if YouTube were not quite a bunch of cunts that they are and they’d pay people for viewing their videos which would feel like you’re actually got paid for 40 hours of work, but you know, it is what it is.  

Hating repetition so much, why do you bother saying anything in between the songs, then? It’s just that I couldn’t help but notice that all the songs in Berlin and Cologne were introduced in exactly the same way…     

At times, yeah. It depends, really. I mean, in between songs stuff is mainly just nonsense to give everyone a chance to tune up. I wouldn’t put too much emphasis on whatever I’m saying in between the songs. Yeah, some songs are introduced the same way. Sometimes I’ll say something different. But that’s just two days. To sing "To Hell or the Hangman" for 50 times — that’s repetition over and over and over again. What’s said in between songs is not something I would put a great weight on.   

By the way, about "To Hell or the Hangman" — how did you come across this story? I don’t think it’s something that just anyone would know.

The thing about it is that no one in the band is particularly comfortable with lyrics that are, shall we say, a bit gothic, a bit romantic, a bit… you know, that have a sort of… gothic, romantic touch to them, you know, which is not really our style. So, when I heard the song, I knew that I wanted to make it about unrequited love and that has this sort of romantic, dark, tragic and quite violent story-line to it, so I had to find a historical context. And then it just came to me that I should… that this would be the perfect back-bone for the story and then to write it in the first person as if I was one of the characters, which is much more difficult to do and much more challenging. I mean, I don’t profess to be particularly good at that. That’s a skill that belongs to Nick Cave and Leonard Cohen and people like this, but I tried to write it in that style.   

As for "Stolen Years", if I’m not mistaken, this song was meant to be instrumental at first and you even had some sort of an argument over it, as it was completely your idea to make it into a fully-fledged song. It made me wonder if things like that are common, like you write lyrics for a song and the other guys go like, “No way, Alan, no politics on this one, come up with something else”. 

Yes and no. Not really the lyrics itself. We have arguments all the time but this was more of an argument about structure, it was not about what I was singing — it was that I was singing. Ciarán (McUiliam, guitarist) meant the song as instrumental and I think he really had his head set on it being an instrumental but as soon as I heard it, I knew — “No, it has to have singing on it” and that was the conflict. When you hear a song like that, you have to realize, “Ah, this will make people cry” and you have to take this opportunity to literally lay the emotional foundation so heavy and thick, that it really affects people. Not to do that would have been just a missed opportunity for me as a singer or whatever, you know. And so we have a compromise — on the bonus disc you can find an instrumental version.    

You’re going on tour with Moonsorrow and Der Weg einer Freiheit quite soon and then you have a bunch of summer festivals ahead of you. Are you satisfied with the amount of touring or would you prefer to play more shows?

No, I’m not satisfied. I would rather do way, way more. I mean, realistically, I’d rather just do it for a living. But you know, there are compromises in life and one of them is that we are not a professional band and so that means for guys with kids and family responsibilities we can’t just make an Iron Maiden on it. We can’t be like Vader, or Rotting Christ, or Marduk or something. That’s the compromise. I don’t want 3 or 4 weeks off in the middle of summer. I want to play every weekend. I don’t want 5 months off which we just had. But it’s a compromise, a bit of give and take, you know. It’s complicated because you’re in a sort of purgatory, a complicated position which means you can earn something but not enough. But to earn enough means you would need to give up all your normal jobs which is a rather daring thing to do in your forties if you have a family which I understand.

And what does it mean to be a professional band in the proper sense of the word?

It means that you’re free to just be creative on your own terms and it pays the rent. A band like Vader or Rotting Christ are professional but they tour relentlessly and they also live in countries where the cost of living is not that expensive. Ireland is a very expensive place to live. Mortgages, rent bills, electricity, all these things. So, the money that we earn is probably worth two or three times less than what Rotting Christ would earn for the same money. And of course we have tours, flights and all that kind of stuff, what does it mean — it’s complicated, I mean a band like Enslaved who on the face of it wouldn’t appear much bigger than we are fundamentally, they are supported by the Arts Council of the Norwegian state, so they are a professional band, they don’t have to worry about losing money on tour because they get a fee from the state. It’s very complicated. Most bands you see as professional now are the bands with a history of at least 15-20-25 years. They can tell a festival booking agent, “Hey, we have a classic album from 1996 that sold 150,000, we're gonna play it, you're gonna pay us 35,000 euros for doing it". For new bands, that isn’t open for them, of course. So, really, to make any money you have to play live. But of course, as I’ve just said, if you’re not a professional band and have a regular job, than you’re in a bit of a situation. And also of course to make it worth-while you have to have a fee, which most modern younger bands don’t have. So, you see, it’s kinda like being stuck between two stools. It’s not that bad or anything but… I will give you a good example. You know the band Vreid? Yeah, I mean, they toured the USA with Trypticon and the Norwegian state, as far as I understand, gave them 35,000 euros just so that they don’t lose money from their jobs. But having said that, I’ve been to gigs in Mexico and Honduras, Belarus and, you know, Russia and stuff, so I’ve seen the other side of it all. So, Ireland is not the worst place to be, of course, but… being a professional band is fucking hard. It’s really difficult. I mean, you have to look at things like digital streaming and stuff and everything’s set up for an artist, one person making electronic music in the basement to make any money from streaming. It’s not set up for bands.        

But don’t you think that so called professional bands lack something in terms of creativity? Many "professional" bands just keep releasing mediocre albums and can’t quite realize this, as they acquire some sort of tunnel vision.  

It depends. I have two points of view on it. The first one is no, it would be great to be a professional band. No worrying about paying the rent. And the second one is more of an object, it’s more of an abstract point of view. How do we judge creativity? You feel better about what I create if you know that I don’t make any money from it? Or that I somehow suffer through stocking shelves to be able to go home and play acoustic guitar at night? Or how does it change things? I think it’s a selfish attitude on behalf of people who consume music to want their artists to be poor because they think it somehow validates their listening experience. I mean I understand it (Alan was speaking with such emphasis that I was horrified thinking that when he said "you" he meant directly me. I rushed to note that "a hungry artist" had long become an international cliche, but I wasn't given an opportunity to dwell on it - ed.).
I’m not finished making my point yet. My point is, I’m sitting here looking at Townes van Zandt CD. I like Townes van Zandt, and, let’s be honest, a part of the mythology around Townes van Zandt is that he was a crazy rambling alcoholic who more or less drank himself to death. That’s what informs the experience of his creativity in the way that modern country western is missing. Like I told you, I understand that. There is a line in a balance somewhere which is quite difficult to comprehend. Of course, we want our artists to be real and, as you say, to be hungry etc. but that doesn’t mean at the same time that someone like me who has 12 albums on Spotify should get 5 euro every month from them. I think Primordial would sound the same regardless if it paid my rent or not. But I understand what you mean. There are bands out there who are in a cycle and it’s like a corporation. They need to release something in order to go on tour, to do the festivals and it goes round and round and round and if you have to do that, then it can affect your creativity but it’s also because certain bands are now on albums 9, 10, 11, 12. I mean isn’t it natural if you have 11 albums, some are going to be weaker then others? When it comes to something like this, I can sort of see several different points of view. But at the same time I do come across it very often from people who consume music. They don’t like the idea that you might be able to make a living from it because they think that’s not work, for example. It somehow makes their listening experience better if they know that you still have to work a shitty job and all this kind of stuff. I think it’s a bit selfish but then, again, it’s a combination of things, it’s difficult to exactly say … I kinda see all points of view, you know.   

I didn’t mean to imply in any way that musicians shouldn’t make a living from music. I only asked you this question because I recall Satyricon’s recent show in Moscow, for example, which proved loud and clear that they now exist in some fairy-land of theirs imagining being daring and creative whereas we can only see stagnation…

Satyricon is a very good example, in a way. They’re from a country where struggling isn’t really part of their social vocabulary. They do make a living from that, I imagine. They’re kinda insular and it’s very sterile and programmed, if you ask me. It’s lacking some heart and soul, without a doubt. They’re a good example of the opposite of what I’m talking about. A sterile band that seems to lack heart and is able to make a living from music but they can rely on being Norwegian. Norwegian black metal still brings people out 20 years after the mythology and they also have albums in the 90s that sold 52,000 copies, so, you know, they still have a name. I mean, it’s complicated, isn’t it?   

Since we are on the subject of touring and live performances, I would really like to discuss this particular aspect. You don’t seem to favor the very idea of escapism, yet you use some alienating practices like wearing paint, chains, your outfit is far from being a regular T-shirt and jeans. What’s that all for, exactly?      

It’s been going for 27 years. It’s tradition. I was always attracted to bands like Bathory and Celtic Frost, Mercyful Fate, not Sacred Reich and Nuclear Assault. So, I’ve always done this kind of thing, so for me it’s tradition. It’s part of this particular heavy metal tradition. And also I like it because it takes on some kind of a ritualistic form, I’m gonna go on about that kind of stuff but it’s a good focus for your energy and what you’re about to do and it also creates distance and separation from the audience which for me is very important — that you can take on this Jekyll and Hyde kind of character, two sides of the same person.       

How is it not escapism then?

Well, it depends, when I talk about words like escapism I mean certain themes. And talking about the aesthetic and talking about the lyrics and talking about the fact that most heavy metal is about fantastical alienation and so, Primordial is very much not about that. However, a live show is a little bit different, you’re injected with a certain amount of drama, pathos and black metal theatre and heritage. I don’t consider it escapism. I’m not going to step upon stage in the same clothes I stand in my kitchen, I’m just not gonna do that. So, I think what you’re doing is conflating two different issues.    

So, is real you that different from stage you?

No, not particularly. Can be sometimes. I just like the separation, the distance from people, I like, as I said, being this Jekyll and Hyde character. It’s not a creation, it’s not pure theatre, but it definitely adds this other-ness to the live performance. I’m not interested in jeans and T-shirts and a discharged T-shirt, it’s not really my style. If people want that, they can see a punk-thrash band or whatever. As far as playing in a thrash band it would be studs and nails and spikes and bullets. It’s just that I’ve always been attracted to bands that had this otherness, so, for me it’s also part of the tradition. The more other people want to get away from it, the more I want to do it, even more so. And I understand it’s a contradiction for some people, they hear "Stolen Years" and they don’t imagine I would look like that singing that but I enjoy that contradiction. I enjoy that Orthodox purist people dislike the fact that I do it, I enjoy the fact that they think I shouldn’t do that despite the fact that I’ve been doing that longer than they’ve probably been alive. It’s part of who I am, so I enjoy it on lots of levels and the more people tell me not to do that, the more likely I’m to do it on an even bigger, more irritating scale. (chuckles)

I actually like the way you look on stage, it’s just that I remember seeing you for the first time and I was surprised that you were the only person in the band doing this kind of stuff.

Yeah, I mean, it wouldn’t work for the other guys to do that because it wouldn’t be all of them, it would be just two of them, or three. It just doesn’t work. To me, it’s like Mercyful Fate and also if I was playing an instrument, it would be weird. It only works on those terms, I think.   

Is that why you wear just regular clothes when you play with Dread Sovereign — because you also have to play the bass?

Well, yeah, but it’s also a different band. I’m not gonna stand on the stage with the same Primordial clothes as I do in Dread Sovereign, it would just look ridiculous. And, you know, the whole point of Dread Sovereign was to do something else which was based around playing an instrument. So, they’re two different things, really.

Now, let us discuss your new album, "Exile Amongst the Ruins" in more detail. In your own words, the album partly deals with the sickness of Western society moving away from the values of the enlightenment. When do you think it all started?   

Well, when did it all start? We could say - after the Second World War, as part of 1960s counter-culture revolution. Well, we can definitely see that something has changed over the last 3 or 4 years. And that social networking and everything it represents is becoming a malign influence in society, it’s bringing out the absolute worst in people and it’s technology that’s running out of control. It ceases to be a technology that people use — it uses people, and I think it’s brining out the absolute worst in society. There are several pivotal moments but for sure in the last 5 years things have accelerated, in my opinion. If that’s what you mean.

Well, it’s not about what I mean, it’s about what you meant describing the modern world as being in ruins. That’s what I’m really trying to understand here.

What I think is that within the heart of Western society — culturally, morally, intellectually — there is a sort of dishonesty but also especially a conceited, a narcissistic selfish urge of self-destruction that is embodied by a lack of understanding of original structures of the West but also an inability to stand up for any bit of values. Those two words — the West — have just become pejorative and negative even for people who live in the West and enjoy the fruits of its history and enjoy its freedoms. I think it’s a combination of postmodernists’ ideals which have infiltrated academia, which influenced a certain generation to want to just tear down everything so that nothing has any meaning anymore. They see no reason for nations, boundaries, borders, states, genders — nothing. Nothing seems to have any meaning and I think they are playing with fire because we are living in a very very precarious time where technology is outstripping us and it could very well bring us to a new kind of civil destruction. That’s how I look at it. And it’s not from a left or right political perspective. Of course, people on the left would like to say that I was on the right and I’m sure vice versa but it’s not like that at all, it’s an observation because I’m very interested in history and studied history. I see the modern society in a very strange position where it’s having to deal with new technology and it’s finding that it doesn’t know how — very much like Gutenberg and the printing press — that sort of years after people first could read the Bible for themselves not having it told to them. It changed the society’s morality, it changed the society’s mythology, it changed the society’s relation to its own folklore because all of a sudden people could read these words. And I think that now we are living through a supposed social networking society, post-Internet society that doesn’t know what to do with quite so much information. And most of it, I think, is destructive.        

Are you trying to say that technology is the root of all evil?

No, people are the root of all evil. I have a very base and blunt view of humanity. Once you strip it down through all those things — our history is murder. Notions of equality, equity, altruism — they are notions. They are states of mind, they are not corporeal structures, they’re within the mind. I mean, look, the population of the world has increased threefold in 80 to 90 years. You really think, the next 50 years are going to bring equality? Of course not. And there are so many other factors. Changing climate, the movement of deserts. Equality… it’s just a nice sound-bite. But I can only see the future being even more murderous and destructive. You can disagree with me, if you want, whoever wants to — that’s fine. Start your own band, sing about whatever you want. It’s a commentary. I’m not adopting a political standpoint on most of it, it’s just what we observe, what I observe. All of these kind of intellectual notions don’t seem to have much street-to-street value… Well, I am rambling, I don’t know what the question was.

Maybe that’s because now people can’t just burn other people down in the street but they still need to channel their energy somehow and everyone is now trying to impose their very personal worldview on pretty much everyone around them.

This is, again, the fucking ridiculous notion by people in the West. Look at the map, look at how small we are, look at how small Europe is. They think that our morals, that our values, that all the rest of the world needs us to adopt our sense of democracy and everything will be fixed. The world doesn’t work like that. Our sense of sort of selfish narcissistic social network-driven morality is not what drives the rest of the world. And to say that the cruelty of the medieval times is now taking place online — I mean yeah, but don’t forget someone drove a truck and killed 81 people in Nice last summer. This abounded cruelty still happens and will still happen. It’s not just moved online.

Of course, there is still a lot of violence, and a lot of blood is being shed but it’s hard to deny that newer generation is so overly soft and sensitive to everything. Their very discourse seems extremely infantile. Yet, this preoccupation with childishness is similar in a way to the aesthetics of the counter-culture of the 60s. 

No, I don’t think so. I mean, 1960s counter-culture, for example, was a very important part of the evolution of the 20th century and what it did was challenging the old structures, the old post-second war institutions and it really was about the birth of the teenagers, so to speak, the birth of young people, it was about the process of the free market eclipsing communism, it was about people’s aspirations to ownership, about marketing, kinda all those kind of things. The difference is that if you look at, say, the second wave feminism, they wanted emancipation on the social level but also they wanted independence from the institutions of the state whether it was with their own body or their own decision-making processes or academic institutions. The difference being now with young people and, say, for example, the 1960s, is that now young people are asking the state to intervene, they ask the state, “Segregate us once again. No platform for this person”. They’re demanding the government, the colleges intervene and they are playing into all of these institutions' hands. Young people no longer want freedom — I think they are asking for slavery. And those are two very different things and it may seem as overstating the mark but there is a very big difference. Even when I was a teenager, you didn’t give a shit about fitting in. It wasn’t about fitting in, it was about, I think, exploring your own identity before "identity" became a negative word. But now fitting in is what’s important, conformism on such a mass level. Every counter-culture is subsumed by this conformist mainstream ideal which believes it’s selling but it’s not. The old social structures, the old socialist structures are dying and replaced by identity politics, and identity politics is cancer. All it does is reinforce segregation, reinforces the things that make us different. Doesn’t make the world a more equitable place. That’s the difference, I think. But, unfortunately, these kids… like, if you’re a millennial, if you’re like 20 years old, you spend your whole life being online. In fact, you could probably go back to being a baby online by your parents, your whole life is being spent in pursuit of validation on social networking. I think it’s literally changing not just people’s mindset but the very neural networking, so to call it, how they process information and I don’t think we’ll ever be able to cope with all of this. And it seems to me that the only solution to any of this would be switching off, getting off a grid, leaving the city, going back to a different kind of life because all of this is underpinned by an incredible unhappiness and alienation. None of this technology seems to make anybody happier. And I can say that for myself as well, as someone who has to deal with it.

So, do you suffer each time when you post something new on Instagram?

(laughs) The reason I post on Instagram… see, look. I’m in a band and there is a very definite chain of circumstance which is that I know that I have to play the game, partly. If I just lived on a farm in rural Ireland and had nothing to do with any of this, the chances are I might be happier than I might be now but then again, I might not be playing whatever festival or be able to pay the rent from playing music. There is an unfortunate and rather evil compromise, which is that you do have to play the game a bit. It’s just about balance, it’s about trying to use the tools for what you want and not being used by them but I think it’s almost impossible. I mean, I post on Instagram because… Instagram is strange, it’s less nasty, because it’s pictures, it’s visual. It seems to be less about trying to tear everyone down. Twitter is a terrible environment. I concede. I concede to the algorithm, I know that it’s altered a part of me, I know that someone sends me an article that I disagree with and it makes me fucking furious and angry and then I think about it, and then I write something about it and you may wake up in the middle of the night thinking about it. And I think to myself — this isn’t good. It all started from one stupid article that ultimately makes no difference to my life if I read it or not, but — what can we do? And as much as I say that — trying to disengage and find a balance is the only real thing for us to do. But I’m looking from my window now and I can see 3 out of 5 people walking by the window looking at their phones. I don’t think people are going to be able to give these things up, because it’s one of the things that I recognize in teenagers or in millennials when they’re in college, they wanna no platform for somebody. It’s more brutal in a sense but activism is an opiate. That same dopamine hit you get when someone likes your picture or when somebody sends you a text. Community is now online amongst young people. So, the same dopamine hit they get is the same one when they manage to online no platform for a band, no platform for a speaker or something like this. When I talked about the enlightenment earlier, some of the things — and this is where it all ties in — elements of the enlightenment were rational debate, empiricism, the separation of church and state and the separation of science and magic which is also very important. And one of those is rational debate. I don’t know whether you’ve ever met anyone who you’d totally disagree with anymore and stood and argued with them in a bar or wherever. It’s very rare these days. Most people only ever hear from, see and talk to people they agree with and that’s why we are so polarized all the time.  

You mentioned slavery and the modern urge to fit in, but I kinda have a feeling that everyone now has their own picture of the world and the very categories they use are radically different. Is there a universal system that we are now being forced to fit in?

Most people, they have a genetic predisposition to reproduce and try and look after their kids, foster their kids. Even that’s being challenged, even that is being portrayed as negative. Somehow everything that represents normality or normalcy from the past is now being challenged as a negative stereotype. I don’t know if there really is. I think everyone fundamentally just wants to a better life, don’t they? And they try to provide a better life for their kids, I suppose. That’s one varying theme throughout all of this. It just depends on how to find that. Or if you’re willing to understand that, I suppose.        

Given the current climate, do you think that the concept of nation is still something topical?

Yeah, I mean, ask someone who lives in Kosovo, ask someone who lives in Palestine, if it’s important. On a very very basic level, the concept that certain people lay claim to another piece of dirt — it is an absurd notion. On a very very basic level. But let’s intellectually move past that very basic level. The concept of national identity, of nationalism itself is something that they’ve been trying to deconstruct for 50 or 60 years in post-WWII Europe and it can take on many many forms but at the end of the day… I hate that cliché but in Ireland we are bound by the laws of our state, the laws of our nation. And we live in a Western democracy with free speech, as we understand it. And I think that many people in the West don’t see these things anymore, they don’t really realize how well they have it, they don’t realize the historical structures upon which their society is built. You hear now from kids in America that they don’t think the First Amendment matters anymore because they don’t want to hear from people they disagree with. It was 1776 when they wrote the Declaration of Independence and all this kind of stuff if you ever read this document, it’s quite an incredible document, it still holds up today. Sometimes we have to trust that more educated people that learnt better than we did have been able to lay out the framework and these things are constantly evolving. But when I speak to people who say they want no flags, no nations, no states, nothing like this, I say, "How do we trade? How do we have an economic structure?" They don’t want that either. So what, do we just go to barter goods in that Mad Max style, hinterland of absolute movement? They more or less say "yeah". I say, "Are you willing to give up your iPhone, to give up all the things that you plan your revolution with, that the free market provided for you, are you willing not to fly anywhere anymore, not to take any holidays? Are you willing to go back to that basic feudal system?" People don’t really think about it, like I said, they just want to tear everything down. What do you build back up after you tear everything down? The West, the idea of the West — it’s not a perfect idea, it’s not a perfect system by any means, we can see that, but it is the best system that we have. And I think the people demanding the destruction of it from within it… I would say to them — try and do this in China, try and do this in South America or Mexico, in Asia, try and do this in Africa, try and do this in these other continents and see how far you can take this idea of destroying a system from within a system. As I said to you before, the systems of equality and equity are notions that might work intellectually to some degree, once you place human being in charge or at the handle of them, I fail to see how they can work. I mean, even an anarchic system will submit to the law of the claw eventually. People say to me like, "Oh, we don’t need this banking system, we don’t need this, we don’t need that". You know, Sumerians created writing and originally — why did people create monetary systems and mathematics? It was to keep track of debts but also if you look at those early systems of accountancy in what’s now modern day Turkey and this kind of thing, it was designed in order  so that the little guy with a farm could keep track of what he was owed and that debt can be enforced by a body of law. So, they weren’t just created to oppress people. Fundamentally, they were also created to help, so to speak, the little guy against people who would seek not to pay those debts. There are always presumptions by people, especially people on the new left who want to destroy everything about the origins of all these things and they are just people who’ve never looked at history, you know.

Speaking of history — to what extend can our past be relevant to us? As I remember you saying in several interviews that you’re uninterested in Celtic stuff…

I’m not uninterested. I am interested. But I don’t wish it to necessarily be part of Primordial. I don’t like the description "Celtic folk metal", "Celtic metal" for metal, I don’t like it being used in terms of the musical description of Primordial. But the concept of the Celtic race — I’m fascinated by that and very interested, of course. But I’ve made it quite clear to try and place us… ‘cos people who use "Celtic metal" to describe us have no reason to listen to us ‘cos they just think it’s an easy sound-bite. So, I’ve deliberately tried to make it difficult to use a simple word which musically has no meaning to me. Celtic metal — does it mean anything? So, I’m deliberately difficult about that word but if you want to talk the Celtic civilization or Celtic race or whatever it represents, I’m interested in that, of course.

I see. Sorry for dragging you in that overly philosophical direction (here I got a reassuring "that’s alright"). Yet, there is one more somewhat philosophical question I wanted to ask you. You often use religious imagery even though you’re not religious yourself. Where does it all come from?

Well, I think, the foundation, folklore, mythology is part of our genetic makeup by now. If you look at early homo sapiens society — whatever 10, or 12, or 14 thousand years ago — our society grew and became more interdependent on each other, they had to develop a sense of mythology, their own heroism, their own folklore to give praise to the forest for there is a god in the forest etc. It was a methodology of interaction for primitive cultures and I think it has moved through our genetic structure. It’s kinda complicated. I don’t believe there is a destination but I think that the journey is kinda an integral part of the human experience. I’m not a religious person in that sense but the structure of religion I find fascinating and I find it inspiring and I’ve also come to realize how important this is for people. But, at the same time, like I said, I don’t believe there is a destination, that’s different. This process [of spiritual search and self-exploration] is very important to the human condition, that attempt to understand our place within the world, the universe can seem overwhelming, so, the ability to lay that on this process can seem at time comforting, or daunting — all sort of things. I’ve come to value this process more than I did maybe 10 years ago.   

And what do you think of metal’s current state? The metal community has obviously changed — maybe not for the worst but there are clearly a lot of complaints and whimpering. Also, more and more bands are now censoring themselves and all that kinds of stuff…

There is a lot of questions in what you’ve just said. There are still lots of great heavy metal bands, they’re just all underground or they’re all small. The mainstream heavy metal bands are generally — apart from the old bands from the 70s and the 80s — all fucking horrible. The most popular stuff of the last 15 years or this millennia is nearly always the worst stuff. And for whatever reason, I feel sorry for kids who grew up on liking Bullet For My Valentine or Trivium or something, because I had Megadeth, I had Judas Priest, I had Voivod — I had proper bands. There are still proper bands, of course, they are just not the most popular which isn’t entitlement of people’s bad taste. The old bands, the stadium-filling old school metal bands — you know, the Iron Maidens, the Judas Priests — they aren’t going to be around for much longer and I don’t think there’s anyone to take their place. And if you’re talking about bands censoring themselves, then yeah, we are living in a very strange climate where everyone is looking to bring everyone down all the time. Bands really have to watch what they are saying. Well, you asked me about six different questions, so I don’t know which one to…  In depends. To be honest with you, I’m not as into all the underground stuff as I was 10 years ago. I mean, like last year I found it very easy to pick 20 albums that I liked. But some of these bands are going from 5, 10, 15 years. As for the brand brand new bands, of course, there are some. I’m not one of those guys who always want to hear only the old stuff. I can’t tell you how and why every time, you know.

Can you recommend any new bands worth listening to?

Yeah, like Eternal Champion from the States is the band that comes to mind. They are a great heavy metal band, I love them.

Now, if I may, I would like to ask you about one specific song. A colleague of mine is struggling to decipher "Bloodied Yet Unbowed". Could you give some clarifications?

It’s not that difficult to understand. It’s just about making mistakes, trying to redeem yourself. It’s just about impulses, it’s about whether it’s too much drink, too much drugs, whatever. It’s written in a style of like a redemption song, like a country & western style where you’re trying to redeem yourself for your bad habits. It’s also some kind of acknowledging but apologizing for this behavior. There is no deep dark mystery to it.

Not so long ago you started a cover band, Metal Salvage which surprised me a little bit. To play in a cover band, one has to be either a teenager or a hopeless old loser. And since you’re neither of that, how come you’re now playing in a cover band?

Fun. And also, on a very simple level — Primordial doesn’t rehearse much, Dread Sovereign doesn’t rehearse much and you need to keep singing, your voice is a muscle, you need to flex that muscle, you need to work it out. So, doing this with my friends from Gama Bomb don’t get to rehearse either, so, again, there is no deep dark mystery to it. It’s fun, it’s practice.            

What about Dread Sovereign, then? I only saw you in the In Flammen lineup by pure chance. Are there any other festivals or shows you’re going to play this year?

No, there is nothing happening. Our guitarist lives in Belgium, our drummer plays for Conan. So, we’ve done absolutely nothing for a while, that’s why… We’ve made 2 albums and an EP and it’s cool. I get to be in charge of making most of the music but again it was started really because Primordial wasn’t rehearsing much but now we don’t rehearse much with this, so... Yeah, I don’t know, there is no real story to tell, really. I think our two albums are great, I’m really proud of them. I think they look great, they sound great, I think the songs are fucking cool, I enjoy playing the bass but I don’t really get to do it anymore, so…

…are you sounding sad or just tired?

Well, you know, It’s been going on for an hour now and I gotta go…  

Right, sorry. I just lost track of time. I actually hoped for your usual 15 minutes at best. I don’t intend to keep you any longer. Thanks for taking your time to speak to us.

Take it easy, bye.

Primordial on the Internet: https://www.primordialofficial.com

Interview by Lena Pashko
Photos by Roman Patrashov, Katerina Sorokopudova
April 6, 2018
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