DATE OF INTERVIEW:
19th November 2011
When guitarist Paul Allender parted company with Cradle of Filth after their debut release, 'The Principle of Evil Made Flesh', he formed a band called Lilith around 1998. Amongst the musicians he recruited to join him in this new venture was one Mark Giltrow on guitar and vocals, known from the marginal metal scene as frontman of underground stalwarts Cenobyte. Changing their name to Primary Slave, and making waves in the underground scene themselves, they were on the verge of signing a contract when Allender was asked to rejoin Cradle, an offer which he, of course, accepted. Continuing with Primary Slave, Mark drafted in his fellow axeman from Cenobyte, Lee Dunham, to fill the gap left by Allender. A deal with Visible Noise shortly followed which spawned the band's debut album, 'Data Plague'. Receiving ubiquitous glowing reviews from the press, including high praise and commendation from the likes of Kerrang and Terrorizer (as well as substantial full-page features in said mags), it appeared as if the foundations had been laid for Primary Slave to be the next big thing to emerge from the UK metal scene, particularly with Kerrang's assertion that - "It's been a while since Britain produced a genuine metal band of world class quality". For whatever reason, the widespread success that seemed a certainty eluded the lads and Primary Slave disappeared off the radar for some years. Roll on to 2006 and the sad news emerged that Mark had tragically died in a motorcycle accident at the age of just 31. However, during the last two years of his life, he'd been working on a follow up to 'Data Plague' with the band's drummer, Graham Lyons (aka G), and through sheer persistence, obstinacy and an utter refusal to quit in the face of a whole gamut of technical hurdles (including a failed hard drive that almost resulted in the entire album being lost), the songs were completed as a true labour of love to honour Mark's own commitment to his art and innovative musicianship.
And so 'Another Mark is Drawn' has been recently unleashed, a mightily impressive collection of "futuristic metal" songs that are a breath of fresh air within a genre that has become saturated with pastiche and plagiarism. To coincide with the album's release, I was invited down to Hoddesdon in Hertfordshire to spend an evening with the surviving Primary Slavers to get the low-down on the new music, exactly why Primary Slave disappeared from the public eye for a few years after their critically acclaimed debut, and to reminisce in memories of the great man himself, Mark Giltrow. Beginning the night in a local pub, the following interview took place in-between a few beers before we all moved on to an Indian restaurant for some much needed fodder. Present for the interview were guitarist Lee Dunham, drummer G, guitarist and mixing engineer Neale Dunham, producer Horace Martin, and Chris Dunham who provided vital technical support during the whole process of transforming Mark's last recordings into what's become a fitting and final farewell to his musical genius...
METAL DISCOVERY: What happened with Primary Slave between ‘Data Plague’ coming out and Mark starting to work on the new album because it seemed like the band disappeared off the radar for a long time?
HORACE: It was a bit of a case that we didn’t really like some of the people at the record company… well, I didn’t. I was out in the Philippines when it went all weird, wobbly and wonky. It was all kicking off and everything was starting to get quite good just as it was coming out and then I nipped off to the Philippines. Then it all sort of went a bit weird and wobbly and I wasn’t even here.
(Lee Dunham on the changing nature of Primary Slave's music since their inception)
"Paul Allender from Cradle of Filth who started the band, I came in for him, and I think that when he left...me and Mark said, “okay, let’s change it”, and it did alter course."
The Primary Slave family in Hoddesdon, UK, 19th November 2011
Photograph copyright © 2011 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com
Interview & Photography by Mark Holmes
LEE: The main reason was, as with any band, when you gain a certain amount of presence, what happens is you sometimes have to take a leap of faith and jump in the deep end. You have to leave behind the things that you have worked your fucking arse for. So, with Mark, who was the main reason for it, he worked fucking hard for a business that he was running at the time and he wasn’t prepared to give that up for what the record company were offering back for the next album. So basically, we went into the studio, recorded the next album…
G: Five demo tracks…
LEE: We did five demo tracks, gave it back to the record company and they were interested, it was good. The five tracks that we gave them are actually on the album anyway.
G: Two aren’t on there because they were missing vocals weren’t they.
LEE: Yeah, okay, but the basis of it is on the album; the point being is the record company weren’t prepared to pay for the band’s upkeep of what we felt we needed to give up what we put into our own businesses for ourselves. The problem what happened then was the self-dissolve of trying to make your brain think in the way of – I’ve got to give this up for less.
G: Well, there were a few things. We had some legal issues but when we left it was find a new deal or not. So there were a few attempts to try and get a new deal and it fell on deaf ears largely.
HORACE: I was always fairly convinced that having a deal was a bad idea anyway because record company executives are generally skimming off all the cream and anything they can do we can do better.
G: At the time, even when we got the contract, after the solicitor had it, it was either sign it and do it or you don’t.
LEE: You say that but what I now understand from a record company is that they can make you or break you as in a name. And if you’ve got a name, you can go and play anywhere and have your name come with you whereas they’ll take the cream, like you say.
G: A lot of things went wrong though apart from a few legal issues. Everyone had personal issues as well. Horace was in the Philippines, Lee ended up doing a working band, I ended up doing other bands…
LEE: I hate to say but I probably finished Primary Slave… I had the last call on it because Mark had a business that he was running outside of the band and, when it came down to it, he was having a bit of a nervous breakdown if you like, trying to decide whether or not it was his business or the band. Unfortunately, when I said to him, “look, the only way to decide this is the fact that it’s gonna come down to whatever I decide”, and I turned around and said to him, “well okay, I’m gonna make the decision for you, I’m gonna leave”. And when I left he said, “that wasn’t the decision I wanted”.
G: You kind of had a bit of a falling out with him about it for a while…
LEE: Yeah, I did, yeah. Me and Mark were friends since we were five years old, a long, long time, but we had a big falling out about it. I said, “I can’t carry on listening to you that upset about it”. He was in a bad place… things were going really wrong because he wasn’t able to hold down the things that were important to him. When I said to him I was going to leave the band and everything else, just by me doing that, he suddenly realised the business that he had wasn’t what he wanted to do and it was the music all the way.
G: Which is always the problem, even with the bands I’ve done after Primary Slave – you get to a point where the band’s important but, when you stop doing it or you lose your record deal, you realise how painful that is. You realise how much you actually had and to get another record deal…
LEE: Basically, the record company wasn’t offering enough for Mark to give up what he’d already put in because his business was earning him money…
G: It wasn’t just the money thing. He said that we weren’t making a very nice bed to lie in because we’d upset them on several different things. If we were teenagers at the time… Lostprophets [also signed to Visible Noise at the same time as Primary Slave] were and they were happy to be moulded and pushed in a direction…
MD: And with less to lose.
G: Absolutely, they had nothing to lose.
LEE: And they’re still going now. Lostprophets, being younger, were moulded and everything else, but when you get to a certain point in time where you’ve actually got something else you’re doing, and Mark wasn’t one for being told what to do.
G: There were so many personalities in the band. Everyone had such a strong personality and a point of view and weren’t going to back down.
MD: How did it affect Mark when the band disbanded?
G: Well, it affected us all to be honest. Lee went off working, so did Horace, and I went off and tried to do it again with other bands! [laughs]
HORACE: When I came back after a year in the Philippines, Mark said, “this is what we did for the record company”, and played me a few tracks, and I thought they were absolutely fucking immense. I said, “well, regardless of what they want to do, you’ve got to do something with these because there’s no way you can just not have these out there”.
G: Well, this is the thing, that took ages didn’t it. I said the same thing; I wanted to record those songs because there were two or three on there that were really good and it took two or three years to actually get rid of all our pain of dealing with record companies and all the issues with the business to actually start enjoying the music again.
MD: More so now, there’s less reliance on actual labels for bands because labels are dying. Even some of the bigger labels are dying. So it’s easier to self-release your stuff with more modern means.
LEE: Thinking about it now, you don’t realise what you had. Back in 2000 when the album came out, I will say that the industry was so different; it’s almost impossible to fail now. Nowadays, everyone’s plastering everything everywhere, whereas back then…
G: … we didn’t have any of that did we. There was no website, there was no Facebook, no MySpace.
LEE: None of that existed. If you look at the original Primary Slave CD, it says inside, “if you want to join our mailing list” on a piece of card that you fill out. I mean, back then, fantastic. At the end of the day, the people that want to come and see you play are the people who bought your album and you’ve got them on a mailing list somewhere. It’s different now, everything’s changed.
HORACE: Also, we were a bit ahead of the curve as well because, if you remember, we tried putting out the really early Cenobyte stuff as an internet only release. And that was fucking years before anyone else had tried it. I sent off press releases to all the news people and didn’t hear a single thing back and then about three years later, they’re going, “this is CNN and we’ve got an interesting story about a brave young woman who’s decided to release her album just on the internet.” It was like, so fucking what, we did that three fucking years ago you twats!
G: If we had those tools available to us then, via the net, we probably would have carried on with a lot less pain.
MD: Primary Slave never really made it that big but you had a lot of coverage in Kerrang, a three page interview in Terrorizer…
G: Yeah, that was with Mark Greenway – Barney from Napalm Death.
MD: So you had all that coverage in all the big metal press, but you never really made it that big, so what happened or didn’t happen?
G: It was the touring stuff. At the time, Kill II This were big on the label and we didn’t actually make great friends with Mark Mynett from Kill II This either so we burnt a bridge there because we’d have been on tour with them.
LEE: I think it’s something slightly different to that. Paul Allender from Cradle of Filth who started the band, I came in for him, and I think that when he left, because it was his baby, when I came in and me and Mark said, “okay, let’s change it”, and it did alter course. We kept some of the songs – if you listen to ‘Lifeline’, that will give you an idea of Paul Allender’s work.
G: I’ve actually got versions of that which we recorded that were far more black metal with double bass drumming all through the verses.
MD: What about a track like ‘Spasm’, which was on a Kerrang or Terrorizer cover-mount CD wasn’t it?
LEE: The singles that came out were me and Mark.
G: The only ones that were written with Paul were ‘Re-wire’, ‘Silicone’, ‘Lifeline’ and ‘A Way to be Religious’ but they told us to go away from the black metal influences.
MD: Visible Noise told you that?
G: Yeah. They told us to get away from black metal because, obviously, our image was changing what Paul sold it to ‘em as. Even the suits, we were going to have all these latex suits with a skeleton on it and all that. I’ve got pictures of the artwork…
MD: Sounds like a fetish version of Akercocke!
G: But yeah, as Lee said, because those two wrote all the riffs, it ended up changing the music style as well.
LEE: Yeah, when I joined it changed completely. I think word had got round to the press that Paul Allender was doing this new thing called Lilith and then it changed to Primary Slave… the press already knew what was going on. The thing was, when they got the finished article and realised that he’d left, they didn’t realise there was probably only three songs left out of ten in the new era. In a way the album covered black metal and also this new era. So it covered a big basis. But you know what metal’s like, it’s almost if you can’t categorise it as that, then people don’t like it.
G: Barney called it “heavy metal Soundgarden”. He said it was "like Strapping Young Lad meets Soundgarden".
MD: So when you hacked into Mark’s recording PC after he’d died, were you already aware he’d recorded more or less a whole album?
CHRIS: When Mark died, we knew he’d done ninety per cent of an album and the first thing that went through our minds was we hoped he hadn’t put some sort of password on his recording computer. I remember we had a delivery one day of his equipment come through to the old house where many a jam would happen down in the basement… and I sent it to the basement and the dampness of the basement really messed with the electrics. It really fucked things. By the time we powered things up a few months later, we blew the soundcard straight away and that really fucked us. We couldn’t get another one. It was a nightmare trying to find what Mark used to record the album. It was probably well out of date by then but, regardless, Neale found us another one through eBay and we set about trying to get past his passwords. We finally got the system up and booted and we started recording, mixing… not so much recording, more mixing actually.
G: And retrieving – trying to find all the tracks.
CHRIS: We didn’t actually add anything, did we.
HORACE: We had to get rid of all the “fuck its” at the end!
LEE: There were a couple of times when Neale said, “you can add something to that album easily to make it better” but everything on that album was all Mark. As Neale said, “do you want to add stuff to it or do you want to take it away by adding more people to it?” I spoke to Mark’s wife and she said, “well, surely the point is that you make the album better by adding to it”, and both Neale and Chris said, “no, it’s his album so you just make it the best you can from how it was”. And I know for a fact that by saying it’s an unfinished album and everything else but if you listen to it, it’s so finished. My brothers have been so fantastic, both of ‘em - one of ‘em saving it and the other one mixing it. It took four years, you know.
MD: So there were a lot of different takes of the same riffs, and same parts, and you had to find the best ones?
NEALE: The way that Mark works…
LEE: …the mess he left behind… [laughs]
NEALE: …you maybe have an entire song in format across the platform. Then, within that, you have specific parts that were put down maybe as overdubs or perhaps bits that he might refer to later. My job, as the mixing engineer, is to try and decipher which of those parts are gonna be (a) usable and (c) … or (b) rather…
NEALE: No one cares about (b) so I went straight to (c)!
MD: Yeah, fuck (b), (c) is where it’s at!
NEALE: And then try to work out where all those pieces are gonna fit. So if you’ve got, let’s say a take of 64 channels, which we have had, missing out (b) you go straight to (c) and try to work out from all of those what’s gonna be kept. That was my job – I had to listen to each individual one. And what do you think is going to need to be used? And you think fuck me, that is a massive task to be able to think – what would that guy really want? What is he really gonna need on that take?
LEE: That’s even when my other brother has actually got back the takes from when the hard drive went down that were actually the takes that were supposed to be in the first place. So when you’ve actually recuperated and gone to recover.com and got the recovery versions, okay, here’s the recovery file you have to decide whether they’re supposed to be or whether or not the song was even applicable.
MD: That’s one reason I said in my review that it’s so amazing the journey you went through to get to the final product.
NEALE: It is. It took so long to be able to sit down and analyse each take.
MD: [To Lee and Neale] You two did some additional guitars, so how much of it is actually Mark and how much did you add?
NEALE: I’d say ninety nine per cent, if not near on a hundred per cent, Mark. We put little bits and pieces on there.
MD: The solo in ‘C.R.E.A.M.’, for example, is that Mark’s solo?
NEALE: Yeah. All those little bits that I’ve pushed up in the mix, you as a listener can go, “wow, that’s phenomenal”. All those little bits where, suddenly, your ear catches it, that is the essence of Mark Giltrow.