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23rd April 2012
METAL DISCOVERY: So moving on from all the philosophical stuff, I read in a recent interview where you said, to quote you, you said “how musically redundant the ‘pagan metal’ scene is” after the recent Paganfest tour. What exactly did you mean by that?
ALAN: It’s mainly just shit! [laughs] With the best will in the world, we’re touring with these bands and I like the people but I really dislike the music. It’s very obvious that the Pagan Metal scene is more to do with the people who like it and pushed the bands who, musically, don’t really have any depth because that’s what the kids want. It might as well just be called Party Metal as opposed to Pagan Metal. It’s the equivalent of being into ‘Into the Pandemonium’ in 1987 and somebody trying to tell you that Tankard were a better band but we know that’s not true. If you wanna just jump around with a beer in your hand, okay, no problem.
(Alan Averill on what he currently regards to be a musically redundant Pagan Metal scene)
"It might as well just be called Party Metal as opposed to Pagan Metal. It’s the equivalent of being into ‘Into the Pandemonium’ in 1987 and somebody trying to tell you that Tankard were a better band but we know that’s not true."
Primordial - promo shot
Interview by Mark Holmes
Photograph copyright © 2011 Gareth Averill
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Imrama (1995)
A Journey's End (1998)
Albums & EPs
The Burning Season (1999)
Spirit The Earth Aflame (2000)
Thanks to Andy Turner for arranging the interview.
Storm Before Calm (2002)
The Gathering Wilderness (2005)
To The Nameless Dead (2007)
Redemption at the Puritan's Hand (2011)
So, yeah, the circumstances have just been thrown up that Primordial have been in that scene even if we know that a lot of our fans and we don’t really consider ourselves part of that scene. But, as I’ve said to people many, many times and defended things, the days of us playing in your club in your small town on a Tuesday to eighty people is just not gonna happen anymore. If you didn’t see us in 2000 doing it the chances are very unlikely it’s gonna happen, unless you’re lucky or something. It’s just the unfortunate, boring, dull and tedious machinations of everyday life that get in the way of us doing a forty five date tour where you could see a ninety minute set. Basically, if there was a festival tour we could be on that was Candlemass, Triptykon, Solitude Aeturnus and four other bands that I would love to play with every night, Rotting Christ and whoever, but it doesn’t work like that, generally. Or at least there hasn’t been one that has been offered us at the time where we can go, “actually, yes, I can do this; I can take a week off work”. They’re the things that people don’t think about.
But that’s beside the point. I don’t have to make excuses to anybody why we do or don’t do anything but it’s very obvious that the bands within that scene who do represent something a bit more cerebral and darker like Enslaved and even on the last tour with Sólstafir and Negura Bunget we played with, which is the reason why we did it, because of those bands, but you do see on these extended weekend days when there are fifteen hundred kids there, only a third of ‘em watch us, Sólstafir and Negura Bunget.
MD: Really?
ALAN: Yeah, yeah. In certain areas of Germany, mainly Bavaria and certain parts of Western Germany, I have to say an awful lot of kids are just idiots. Idiots is maybe a bit strong because they’re just products of what they’re given in a way but they’re the kind of kids you talk to at the merch stand and they go - “Why would I like Dio? Why would I even want to know who he is? I like Turisas.” Their opinion is, “well, we like the twenty bands we like who are the best bands in the world; why would we need to know anything from any other scene?” And it’s actually staggering. Not only do they have no interest in Black Sabbath or anything like this, they don’t care about Iron Maiden…what happens then is that fans of Sólstafir, Primordial and Negura Bunget feel like they’re under siege at a show and you can see one or two hundred people, or a few hundred people, leave as soon as we finish as an active protest. And you’re kind of thinking, what’s going on with this? We should really do our own tour with Sólstafir!
It’s not all across Europe. If you go to France or Holland, or the tour goes to Hungary or the Czech Republic, you know, lots of places, but it’s just certain places you see the bill and go, “oh no”, and no matter how much I ask the promoter, “hey, is there any chance we can have Absu or something like this?”; they say, “no, it’s going to be a band with accordions and furry boots and stuff”!
MD: Korpiklaani!
ALAN: The thing is, we get along great with Korpiklaani. The thing about Korpiklaani is that they’re really rock ‘n’ roll. Like the guys, they’re just rock ‘n’ roll guys. We’re sitting down drinking and Jonne [Järvelä] goes: “Alan, you know, Irish traditional music is melancholic and tragic and sad, and your history is tragic. Finnish folk music is mainly blackly humorous and it’s about animals doing strange deeds, like a metaphorical thing about humans, but it’s blackly humorous and it’s about drinking. That’s our stuff. Your stuff is different.” And he just said to me, “it’s like light and shade, like opposite sides of the coin.” That’s a perfectly valid description, you know. The thing is, I like Dropkick Murphys. It’s not such a stretch to Korpiklaani. It’s more a whole generation of German bands who came along and tried to rip off Finntroll without any of the sense of self-irony. You know, and you speak to these guys and you tear your hair out going, “you’ve never even heard of Bathory?!”
MD: Yeah, I know what you mean. So what about Eluveitie who were headlining the Paganfest tour?
ALAN: I don’t like the metal side of their music at all because it’s got this In Flames thing but they are what they are and the traditional parts of the songs…the guys and girls are very into discovering old, traditional music. I mean, I did a spoken word intro to their acoustic album so I think that speaks for itself. Behind Eluveitie is something that I would support. To be honest, if Eluveitie could be the gateway to kids wanting to discover something about their local history and folklore, or maybe a gateway to discovering early Bathory in the long run but, more specifically, something cultural then that’s got to be better than songs about fucking killing prostitutes or hacking up zombies!
I think in the UK, strangely enough, there’s a thriving scene there of Fen, Falloch, Wodensthrone, Winterfylleth and stuff who have eschewed nearly all the humpa lumpa tendencies of central Europe which I find fascinating.
MD: Yeah, that sort of thing’s gaining popularity over here the whole time.
ALAN: Yeah and, also, when I talk to people and say, “have you ever seen a Pagan Metal band on the bill of Hole in the Sky?” and people go, “no”, I say, “there’s probably a reason for that”! [laughs] At the same time, people have to understand there’s not a problem with liking Korpiklaani and Primordial and I’ve no problem playing with Korpiklaani.
The way I like to describe it sometime is I’m a football fan. I like Man United and I’ve liked them for twenty something years because they’re the first team I ever saw on the TV. But, as a football fan, I’m nothing compared to the guy who supports Cork City in the league of Ireland and travels to Eastern Europe to see them play in qualifiers of the Champions League, goes up and down on a bus in the pissing rain and stands on the terraces with no shelter at minus four in November on a Wednesday evening getting soaked to the bone and blah, blah, blah. I’m that person in heavy metal. So if somebody just supports Chelsea because they won the league goes, “well, this is my opinion about football” then you go, “you just shut the fuck up, you don’t know what you’re talking about.” So when I come across people like that…you just come across more people like that in this Pagan Metal scene and it can weaken you, as they say.
MD: I think because there are so many pockets of metal and subgenres, and subgenres of subgenres, people become very insular within a particular pocket and only listen to bands who sound like other bands within a subgenre and never delve into the history of how those bands even came to exist and wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for the likes of Maiden and whoever else.
ALAN: I think what’s more depressing is that many, many people in that scene, they don’t have an interest in going back. They actually don’t care. You know when you got into metal, you wanted to know where it came from. You wanted to know everything. You were curious. And despite the fact that every opportunity is available for people to delve back into the history because all it takes is YouTube for such and such a band, but an awful lot don’t care; they’re just not interested. My mind boggles at it, you know.
MD: Well, yeah, people have no excuse now, like you say, with so much music readily available at the click of a button. I’m 38 now and when I grew up and got into metal there was no internet but I delved back by other means because you make the effort to do that if you want to.
ALAN: I think what we can lay probably squarely to blame is MySpace and downloading; they’re to blame for people’s attitudes to this kind of thing. For a lot of kids, they can download everything, listen to thirty seconds of a song and go, “I don’t like that” and move it into the trash of their computer. That’s what music means. Music is something you take a tiny bit of, “I don’t like that” and then you move it into the trash. It’s just words on a screen. That’s all it is. You’re totally removing the human element from it, you know. And these things are all somehow connected.
MD: Definitely, I agree. The final thing I was going to ask is what would you want Primordial to be best remembered for in the annals of music history?
ALAN: [laughs]
MD: You know, like way into the future long after you’ve stopped making music.
ALAN: Well, I suppose the first thing would be for not compromising, for not following trends; for having our own sound and our own style. And hopefully for trying to speak our mind. One thing I am proud of is not the integrity but the fact that we’ve kept the energy of the band through all these years. Heavy metal is generally a young man’s game. They spurt their load with their first two or three albums so, in that sense, I’m glad that we’ve almost done the opposite. So, hopefully, for just somebody who didn’t give in but, by the same token, never made a living from it either! [laughs]
MD: Which is more admirable. I mean, there’s the integrity right there if nothing else.
ALAN: Yeah, is it integrity or stupidity?! It’s one or the other! [laughs]
MD: Okay, thank you so much for your time.
ALAN: No problem.
MD: I’ll be coming to the Manchester show so looking forward to hearing you sing this time!
ALAN: Yeah, I hope so too!
MD: And have a vocal mic ready for your drummer, just in case!
ALAN: Yeah, exactly! We won’t curse the gods by saying things like that!