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Interview: Primitive Man Talk Politics, DIY and Negativity

Interview: Primitive Man Talk Politics, DIY and Negativity

Fluffy / Wednesday 10th April, 2019 12:13PM

Like a Darwinian creature clawing itself from the depths of the primordial ooze, Primitive Man emerged from the pits of Denver, Colorado slinging aural mud and shaking their combined fists in deep-seated existential rage. The trio began their fury-fueled collective existence by pummelling cathartic rage into the noisey doom metal of 2013’s cult-classic Scorn and quickly laid their path as one of the most captivating bands in the “low and slow” sphere of heavy metal with a series of splits with boundary-pushing acts such as Xaphan, Hexis, Hessian and Fister.

Their latest split offering with the aptly-titled Hell is already shaping up to be one of 2019’s most punishing releases - a fitting envoy for their imminent tour of Aotearoa, alongside some of our own most crushing crews such as Auckland’s Bridge Burner and Hamilton’s Spiteful Urinator. In anticipation of Primitive Man’s bone-aching live brutality, UTR’s roving reporter Fluffy caught up with guitarist / vocalist Ethan Lee McCarthy to yarn about Sweet Leaf, gentrification and negative vibes...

Primitive Man

Wednesday 24th April - The Crown Hotel, Dunedin
Thursday 25th April - darkroom, Christchurch
Friday 26th April - Valhalla, Wellington
Saturday 27th April - The Thirsty Dog, Auckland

Tickets available HERE via UTR 

You guys have a vast quantity of split releases under your belt, with heaps of them being released in 2014. Was there anything that drew you to that format in that stage of your creative life?

We all come from a hardcore punk and grindcore background so splits are a big part of that world. I think we just wanted to keep doing that, especially at the beginning of our career, it was a way to showcase yourself with a crowd that may not have heard of you at the time. Now we just do it for fun because we like to create. It’s a good way to get shit out there. It’s also nice because we like to have splits and releases for when we go on tour and because we tour so much its a way to get a release out [beforehand].

The bands that you do splits with, are you usually friends with them? Is it a display of musical comradery as well?

Now it's usually with friends, people we know or bands that we really like. I’d have to go down the list of splits that we’ve done, but I can say for the most part now we only do them with people who’s music we really love or people we are already friends with. In the past we did a split with that band Hexis but we didn’t really know them at the time. We did a tour with them and met them and everything but now we would never do a split with anyone we’ve never met prior.

I wanted to mention that in 2017 you signed to heavy metal giants Relapse and I wanted to ask how your band experience varied since then, as opposed to earlier times?

We’ve been with Relapse since the second pressing of Scorn and we’ve released a tonne of shit on smaller labels the entire time. Relapse is like a giant label to a degree but it’s really run like people like you and me, it’s not like Sony or Warner Brothers or something. I always laugh when people are like “oh, you’re on a major label”. Man, Relapse is not fuckin’ Sony Arista, like I don’t know what you think this shit is like. People think you’re on Relapse and they’re sending you like bucket loads of cash for you to do all this shit and it’s just not at all what it is. So our life is the same because we still pay for everything, we need to go on tour. I still book our tours. The only difference is they’ll help us with recording costs and things like that that say a smaller label might not necessarily have the budget to do with. But we still work with smaller labels all the time. 

I’m a bit of gear nerd to be honest with you. Have you got an obscure or workhorse highlights of your instruments or pedal boards or amps? Anything left-of-field, do you indulge in DIY electronics or is it more standard, like Russian Big Muff fodder?

For the noise stuff we do, there’s all sorts of weird shit in there like synths and telephones and homemade noise makers. I have a chiptune keyboard for kids that I’ve used and stuff like that, but as far as the normal doom songs of Primitive Man, we’re just using your standard stuff. We use Earthquaker devices and Orange amps and Dean Costello amps, Worshipper cabs but nothing too out of the realm of a regular rock band set up when it comes to that stuff.

I understand you’re also a visual artist, providing a bunch of art for your releases. I just wanted to ask if that was a chicken or an egg scenario - did you get into art through making music or vice versa?

The art thing happened because I had an injury in my knee so I couldn't do shit for several months. I was high on painkillers and pot and I was like “I’ve always wanted to learn how to do this” so I just got into it. After being in bands and stuff like that, I was tired of paying artists and dealing with that whole thing, so I thought “well, if I can decent enough at it, maybe I can avoid all the pitfalls that come with that” and here we are. A lot of the stuff I’ve [made] for Primitive Man in the beginning was some of the first things I’ve ever done. The art for Scorn is probably like the fourth thing I’ve ever put together.

I read a wee interview with you mentioning your staunch DIY ethos and you were talking about Denver becoming more and more gentrified and we’re experiencing a similar wave here in Auckland. Do you have any tips for fighting against gentrification or maybe for circumnavigating it?

That’s a hard question. I think that it’s really hard for the common person to do shit about that. You’re going up against people with money, the police. You‘re not really in a scenario where you can do too much about it other then try and thrive in the environment that is given to you. I was born and raised in Denver so the more that it changes, I just have to find ways to adapt and survive and do what I can to continue to be here. I know a lot of people who have left the state and that sort of thing, but I'm just not in a position to do that. I guess the best advice I can give is just keep trying to thrive, don’t give up, you gotta see it though. What else are you gonna do?

This is true. How is the DIY scene in Denver at the moment?

There’s some stuff, some secret underground stuff that happens from time to time but it’s still pretty fucked. We just got got back a venue that was shut down a few years ago and they haven't really started doing shows yet, so things are kinda where they were a few years ago. I would say even worse because even when I did that interview, we still had a couple of underground venues then. Back in the day when I was a kid, there was like three fuckin' warehouse spots and a bunch of houses and you were never out of options. If you didn’t want to deal with the bars, you didn’t have to. Now you are dealing with the bars, there’s nowhere else.

This is leading me to wonder about your wider political ideologies. Do you subscribe to Socialism or anything like that?

I’m a mixed bag of stuff. I think that America loves to spend money on killing other people so it would be nice if we could reallocate some of that money to keeping the people that live here alive with healthcare and shit, that’d be sick. America loves to let the less fortunate just die in the fucking street. I’ve been to Scandinavia, you don’t see that shit there.

They actually take care of their people, huh?

Yeah, a lot better then we do here. Here it’s just like you’re shit outta luck. They’ve got programs for the homeless and they have stuff like Medicare or whatever, but as someone’s who’s been in a rough situation, any help that the government provides in terms of medical assistance, like Medicare, which is like social healthcare for people that don't have money but you can get it if you make like nothing at all. Even if you’re lower middle class, you probably don’t qualify for it. What they’ll do is they’ll give you this healthcare but you’ll have to jump through a tonne of hoops to get what you want. It’s really abusive to the people that are a part of it.  I was caught up in that system for a large portion of my adult life and you don’t get disrespected anywhere worse then when you go to the doctor and you’re on Medicare or government healthcare. Whereas if everybody had that you wouldn’t get looked at like a fuckin’ subhuman for it y’know?

That sounds rough dude.

Yeah, that’s the US, that’s how it is. When I talk to somebody that lives somewhere where it’s not like that it’s interesting to hear their reaction, everyone’s always super horrified. It’s like “this is what I’ve been living with my whole life” and I’ve had asthma since I was born so I’ve had to deal with that shit too. It’s been extra interesting for someone who has a thing where you could die from it if you don’t have what you need.

It must be pretty handy playing music in the stoner / doom umbrella and living in one of the first US states to have legalised the devil’s lettuce. Do you find substances to be a vehicle to inspiration and insight or are they simply a way to wind down and veer into escapism?

I mean, I’ve been smoking weed since I was like fifteen years old, so y’know… I’ve been playing metal and listening to it longer then that so the two compliment each other for sure.

You find it seeps into your music?

I mean, we're not really like a weed metal band, we all smoke it, but Primitive Man’s subject matter has nothing to do with weed, unless I'm talking about how weed is not enough to keep me from being miserable. That’s the only time that I ever mention it. I talk about my life a lot so I’ll just mention that I’m smoking but it’s more of an afterthought. We’re not Bongzilla. I love Bongzilla, they're fuckin’ awesome but that’s just not our thing. We’re a little more negative then that.

I wanted to close with the fact that you’re coming to New Zealand soon. Have you guys ever been here before?

No, this is our first time, I’m so excited to come over there. We’re thrilled, cannot wait. We just really need people to bring us fuckin’ weed because we’re gonna be out here for like a month dry, with no pot. So we’re really relying on people to hook up the weed, so please print that.


We really need it.

You can catch Primitive Man on tour throughout Aotearoa in April. Head over here for more details and to score tickets via UTR.


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