PRIMORDIAL - Nemtheanga

I admit I was a little bit anxious about this interview because Alan from Primordial (a.k.a. Nemtheanga) always gave me the impression of having a strong, direct and sharp sense of humor. As direct and sharp as his Irish comrades seem to be. Well, I wasn’t wrong about that and combined with a truly sensational uncompromised spirit, the vocalist of Primordial took the time to answer some of our questions for Metalzone. About their new album "TO THE NAMELESS DEAD" soon to be released by Metal Blade, why they chose to record in an analog desk this time, their statement against modern world, why he couldn’t by no means define himself and the band as jolly folk metalheads, what it means to be Irish and many more. This was more than an interesting interview with a deep thinking person, although my damn recorder failed me shamelessly just before the end so the last answers are only by memory and I didn’t do a pretty good job there. So, as an Irish would say. FOOK!!!!
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\r\nMetalzone: Hi Alan and thank you very much for this interview. In a few days your new album "TO THE NAMELESS DEAD" will be released. I already had the pleasure to hear it but how would you describe it to all those who are going to listen to your new album a few days from now?
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\r\nAlan: Well, it’s not that different from the Primordial that’s been before, you know. There’s a few settle changes and maybe the production is better but it still you can hear the same Primordial of course. But it takes us two or three years between albums, so I think the people who like the band they know by now to trust us that there will be some quality control on what we’re doing, you know.
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\r\nMetalzone: So it does sound, you say,typical Primordial stuff.
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\r\nAlan: Well, I don’t think Primordial is really typical at all anyway. But you can hear, you know, it’s a good companion to "The Gathering Wilderness" but no it’s a very strong album, it has a lot of energy, perhaps a bit more epic, a bit more metal qualities than the last one. Like I said the production is maybe a bit fouler, a bit better, you know it remains to be seen. The press is going kind of crazy about the album but it remains to be seen I think if people buy the thing but, you know the market is a little bit strange these days.
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\r\nMetalzone: Is there any feedback already about the new album from the press?
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\r\nAlan: Yeah the press is gone pretty crazy, it’s got, I don’t know ten or fifteen album of the month or something from all the big magazines and the three big ones in Germany Legacy, Rock Hard and Metal Hammer we won the soundcheck in all of them and I think the only band to do that was the last Iron Maiden album or something. Strange but yeah, I mean Primordial has always been one of those bands that got good reviews, we always had that.
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\r\nMetalzone: So you are happy so far?
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\r\nAlan: Yeah, I mean, you know, the label has been good to us and you know we’ve made the best album to our ability at the time. We can’t really ask for more than that, it looks like how I wanted it to look, you know, and 2008 hopefully we’ll be able to go out and play some more gigs for it, reach some countries we’ve never been to before and come back to someones we have and, you know it’s an interesting time.\r\n

\r\nMetalzone: My next question was about Metal Blade. This is your second album with this label and since you’ve had many problems in the past with your previous labels, I get the feeling that for the last years everything seems pretty good for the band in that section, am I right?
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\r\nAlan: Yeah, you know, half of the people that work at Metal Blade are also in other bands so they understand what it means to be like in a band and once they understood that you are not gonna get an album every year from Primordial, you are not going to get three months of touring out of us and we do things on our terms, you know. They understood that and yes it’s easily the best relationship we’ve ever had with a label. They put less pressure on us than the smaller labels and supposedly more independent labels did. So no we can’t complain, I mean we create the songs, we organize where to record and we organize the production and I organize the way it looks and after that it’s up to them but the relationship is pretty good to be honest.
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\r\nMetalzone: You recorded your new album in an analogic way. Do you believe that the final result came out exactly as you imagined it in the first place? And is this something that you will continue to do in the future?
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\r\nAlan: Its predominant, it was recorded to an analog desk, you know, I mean you still have to use computers for some things but we tried to stay as clear from all of it as possible. We did everything recording and mixing in thirteen days and if Black Sabbath could make the first Black Sabbath album in two then we are not doing too bad. I don’t like things in the studio, I find it boring so thirteen days you get in, you get out, long hard days. You know we are not looking for perfection, we’re just looking for the right atmosphere and the right feeling surrounding it. And I hate modern metal productions genuinely with their clicky fook and computerized based drums and compressed frequency range and stuff. I’m not just interested in something like that so you know it’s just the way we play. We play together and try to keep it as much live as possible the way an old school metal band would record but make the album sound somewhat modern you know.
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\r\nMetalzone: So you will do it in the future again?
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\r\nAlan: I don’t know. It’s very hard to plan anything with this band because it takes so long to happen. Who knows.
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\r\nMetalzone: You also recorded the album during summertime but things didn’t go exactly as you were hoping. I would suggest you Greece next time but I don’t know if the studios here will be what you are looking for.
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\r\nAlan: (laugh) Well, yeah it rained this summer for 63 days in a row in Ireland. I mean not obviously all day every day but it rained least once a day for 63 days in a row. We recorded every other album in a city or in an urban environment so it was really nice to get out into the countryside away from everything, away from distractions and people in chaos and stuff but yeah the weather was fucking shit.
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\r\nMetalzone: I think you hoped for some sunshine but it didn’t happen.
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\r\nAlan: (laugh) Yeah, I think you got it all in Greece this summer yes.
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\r\nMetalzone: Yeah, it’s just sunshine here.Ok. There are many songs from your new album that I really really liked and although most people refer to you as a pagan metal band yet I find that your sound is built up by many different elements like for example there are some doom metal touches, folk elements of course, an epic feeling, even a majestic aura at some points and always your black metal foundings. Would you say that all these are what make your sound so unique?
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\r\nAlan: Yeah, I guess so. I mean the bands that influenced us to begin playing, well you know, Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden and Lizzy, Judas Priest then Bathory, Venom, Celtic Frost, early Metallica, you know stuff like that. And then the whole second wave of black and death underground metal and doom metal as well. You know Candlemass is very important and Trouble and Pentagram and things like these you mentioned. Yes there’s all elements of these, these things that did inspired us and then we certain mixed into some traditional music but, you know, probably very similar to this Greek sound that began in late ‘80s early ‘90s. We kind of felt isolated from the European mainland and the main center of the scene so we sort of involved on our own and on our own terms so we have this little Irish kind of sound. But yeah, maybe we mix all those things together but we don’t really think about when we’re writing songs, oh this is the beat that sounds like such and such. To us it just sounds like Primordial, we have a particular style that I don’t really think anyone else has.
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\r\nMetalzone: In addition most pagan bands are connected mostly with happy celebrating melodies but you are more into the tragic, melancholic side of things.
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\r\nAlan: Sure, yeah, I’m not into this happy folk stuff at all. To me it’s only one step away from power metal really, you know, which I don’t like either. Well, I mean I like the old eighties, you know, Sanctuary and Omen and Hellstar and stuff, I don’t know if such count as power metal anymore. But yeah, I’m not into this happy stuff, I’m not into happy sounding music. I mean I listen to Ramones or something and it’s different (laugh)
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\r\nMetalzone: It’s totally different!
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\r\nAlan: Yeah, I think that we’re trying to… I don’t know whether if we really, you know, we get put into this pagan scene and that’s something people need to put us somewhere. You know I understand the band is kind of difficult to categorize but personally I’d rather listen to Revenge or Funeral Mist or something like this than Finntroll, you know. I don’t have any interest in that kind of music what so ever. Nice guys but I don’t have any interest in the music, it’s too happy and jolly and I think that there is a terrible disease at the moment in the metal scene and that people are very short attention span, you know. Everything seems to have to be, it doesn’t work in a field in Germany for a thousand of people who are drunk and it doesn’t work. But it’s not just the way Primordial works, you know. Not to say that you can’t have a drink in the beer tend and the festival go fuck, and that’s a good riff, you know, that’s not a problem either but yeah I don’t really feel very what’s a part of that kind of stuff at all, bit too happy for me.
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\r\nMetalzone: You’ve also made a statement about the album and its opposition to the modern world. Is it just a statement against today’s world or is it also some kind of your own catharsis by expressing those dark feelings?
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\r\nAlan: Well, I suppose that in a sense creating music is an act of catharsis I mean you are releasing something that’s inside of you. You know, I mean I don’t view Primordial as entertainment at least for me it’s art and the very nature of art is that you are trying to communicate something to someone and you move people emotionally and that’s the point of Primordial and certain I couldn’t stand on stage and sing about fucking fast cars or jobbies, I just couldn’t do that, it has to be this connection to culture and an apology in history and stuff, you know. Mainly what I’m saying is that Primordial not only in the metal scene but also in the wider, we fight that we’re living at large as people and individuals we stand oppose to this three minute fast shoot popular culture where, you know everything has to be asound by it, where everything is for sale, you know the United States and Europe this modern pop quick fixed politics. We stand oppose to this sort of multinational corporate ethics of greed that I think are prevalent in most of society now you know. I think we are kind of outsiders in that respect, you know.
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\r\nMetalzone: Do you have any interest in politics at all?
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\r\nAlan: Yeah, I’m very interested in politics, is one of the things I study but it’s very important to make the difference in that. Primordial isn’t my soapbox for my politics. Sometimes if I have the questions I don’t necessarily have the answers. It’s the questions that I ask. There are elements of course of politics in primordial’s lyrics and in imagery and stuff but generally I don’t put, how can I say, I think that sometimes people assume because they buy a cd of a band that they are entitle to know everything about the people that make it so I generally I tend not to get to into my own politics, we are not into it but yeah I’m interested in politics, I mean there’s elements of my attitude towards politics in everything from South America to the Middle East to Europe in Primordial lyrics.
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\r\nMetalzone: Would you tell me some things about the lyrics of this album?
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\r\nAlan: You know, not all the lyrics are attached or about the same thing but the general concept is one of nationhood, it’s about what makes the certain people to live a land as theirs, it’s about the sacrifices that your ancestors made, the sacrifices that people make to be able to live and breathe where you are from, it’s about the selling of cultures, the re-writing of histories, about alienation and martyrdom, it’s about feeling on the outside when you are on the inside, it’s about standing oppose to all the things I said before, it’s about going against the grain, about embracing your outsider statures, it’s about embracing the rebellion side of your instincts, it’s about lots of things really, you know. For The Nameless Dead are the people who are remembered only really in statistics, who gave their lives and sacrificed things for what they thought was the greater good. These cultures are universal from Peru to Palestine, Poland to fucking Paraguay wherever you want. Where ever you are from you see yourself or you will be able to see yourself in this. It’s not about being specifically Irish or specifically European or it’s not about being where I’m from, it’s about things in a broader context.
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\r\nMetalzone: Do you find that in nowadays people are still concerned with their ancestral inheritance or their traditional culture?
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\r\nAlan: In one hand I see more and more people moving towards that as a reaction against the white society has gone and on the other hand I see people moving further away from it. You know you only have to turn on the TV or open a newspaper or walk down a street to see the sad fact that people are more obsessed with reality TV and living their lives through celebrities than they are about their own history or having any respect for the sense of community that goes with that history. The power of their fears seeking to make a soul one big consuming mass of people that all think and all look the same. Fear through consumption and many people can’t recognize that, they can’t see why there’s anything wrong in being more interested in what David Beckam and post-Spice are doing and then what’s happening in their local politics that’s something you know, because they are being I guess conditioned.
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\r\nMetalzone: Is this the same way that exists in your homeland, Ireland of today?
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\r\nAlan: I mean sure there are still people because we are in Ireland, you know, people who do still have a sense of what being Irish means and they must be living outside of the cities I think but yeah traditionally Ireland was a very poor country so most of what people know of Ireland is from tourism so therefore they get the Hollywood version of what being Irish means. But yeah there are still people like me and the guys in Primordial alive and there is always some kind of hope that people will have some certive positive connection to their heritage and their culture and their history and there are people like that, thankfully, you know, they haven’t been all killed off by the multinationals just yet, you know.
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\r\nMetalzone: Going back to the album, I think the cover of the album is as great as The Gathering Wilderness’ cover was. Would you tell me what is the meaning behind the concept of the artwork and its connection with the lyrics?
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\r\nAlan: Well, you know, as you can see it’s the lower half of a statue of a woman, the statue where it is and what it is, it’s not really that important but you can see the flag being lower. I just wanted something iconic, something symbolic, something that was very different to the usual metal covers, something quite inspired by the neofolk industrial kind of bands because they take a lot of care and attention to the aesthetic of the album. So yeah I think it fits into the title "The Nameless Dead" quite well, it’s good because it polarizes opinion, some people love it and some people hate it which is great. There is nothing worse than indifference, you know.
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\r\nMetalzone: I have the impression in general that you find that very challenging, some people love me, some people hate me.
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\r\nAlan: Yeah, it’s the only way to be (laugh). You know, I mean apathy is… you know someone comes up to me and says, you know, I fucking hate your band, you act like a fucking idiot on stage and I think it’s boring and bla bla bla. Well, I rather you said that than said, it’s ok. I mean you are still a fucking idiot but I’m glad you said that rather than ok. I rather people feel like that, obviously it’s better if they like it but you can’t please everyone.
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\r\nMetalzone: About your vocals how hard is for you to reach all these different kinds of styles?\r\n

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\r\nAlan: Well, it’s hard but it’s not that hard cause I can do it. I don’t know, I don’t think of myself as a great singer and I’m not a bad singer. I just make the best with what I have and I think that I have a good understanding of what you need with vocals to add something to the song, you know to take it to another level. And you know the same thing when you mean what you say and you say what you mean and the lyrics and stuff mean something to you then it shouldn’t be hard to sound passionate, you know. Like I said I probably couldn’t sing the same way about something it didn’t matter to me. I don’t know sometimes people kinda been saying things … oh it’s like black metal Bruce Dickinson (laugh) or something which is quite a compliment so, I don’t know. I usually do what I feel is the best thing to do at the time.
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\r\nMetalzone: Since you mentioned passion, you exist from 1992 and still you sound very passionate. What is the main reason that still keeps you going?
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\r\nAlan: Well, we never compromised, we don’t do anything because anyone else tells us to, we do it because we want to do it. We do what we do when the time feels right. No one is going to dictate to us, well, you gonna have to make an album now and because we never made any money from the band really, we were never compromised, we never had to make an album or go on tour to make any money. We did things when we wanted to, and also we don’t rehearse very often, we don’t really socialize together. We never got tired of each other, you know. There were always new things to learn about each other but when we came together we were kind of like a gang, you know, it was like us against everyone and that’s our kind of mentality. And also because Irish people, you know, there are no rock stars in this band because you wouldn’t fucking last. Because Irish people don’t put up with that shit. They are very straight forward, down to earth, quite aggressive and very blunt, you know. So no one ever got ideas be on their station because they wouldn’t last a fucking minute in this band, like that, you know. And also just the will power to not give in, to not quit, you know, unlike some other bands we never had our peak, you know. While other bands they peaked in ninety of that second wave, they peaked in ’96, in ’97, in ’98, they came down and now they are maybe a little back up and stuff but we are slowly get bigger and bigger, slowly rose, you know. But we never killed anyone, we never had a black and white cd in 1994, we never burnt a church, we don’t wear blue paint and fur and come from Finland. We were always the outsiders, we never were the media darlings, we always had this at least rebel statures and that completely surpass, you know, as Irish people and as Primordial.
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\r\nMetalzone: So you don’t tour much, you are not stressed out about your next release, I mean haven’t you ever consider the possibility of maybe actually living by your music if you did things differently?
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\r\nAlan: It’s probably impossible, I mean to live by your music means you’ve got to do what Amon Amarth do or Vader or something. You’ve got to tour two or three months of the year, you’ve got to be willing to make huge sacrifices to try and built your band and you also need luck, you know Amon Amarth grew from selling 8000, 9000 to now 17000 or whatever. I don’t really think that you can honestly make that much money from a band until you reach about 20-25000 copies sales. Unless you are from either a mediterenean or eastern European country where it’s cost of living is lower. Ireland is very, very expensive, so we would have to make a lot of fucking money to be able to live but in that respect I’m glad that we don’t in some ways. I mean ok it’s cool when we get some money, it’s like a surprise. Well, fuck, we’ve got some money, cool. And if the band gets a bit bigger the next time well I don’t need to ask for this more money and you get. To me it’s only just that you get a little bit more considering that we play for nothing for fifteen years. And all those thousands of euros or fucking pounds I put, we all put into the band in 1992 or 93 or something. But you know we are just too old to be honest. We are all between thirty and thirty-five, everyone has families and houses and mortgages and all those things that happen in your life. You know we are not 21 anymore, we are not like Tyr or something who can seemingly tour for two or three or four months of the year. You can’t do that, unless you have the most understanding family in the world. I think for "The Gathering Wilderness" we played maybe 45 gigs around the world for that which is not bad but it’s not that many either. So I think people will have to accept that Primordial gigs are going to be something special. If you live in Germany or something you are not gonna see Primordial three times a year in your area. You will see us in Germany more than any around sure, of course but that’s the way things are. But we’re not Vader or something you know, we can’t constantly tour.
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\r\nMetalzone: So you all have dayjobs.
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\r\nAlan: Well, I’m a student personally but everyone works, yeah, but what we do it doesn’t matter actually. I never answer what we do because didn’t you want to know what Quorthon did in 1989, well I didn’t. So, it’s not important. But yeah when we do make a little bit of money great but that’s not the reason why we started the band and it’s not the reason why the band still exists. We don’t have to release an album, to go on tour to make a bit of money to play festivals to bla bla bla or else you’ll probably get a couple of quite poor albums, you know, but instead because we do things on our own terms you get all generally strong albums. We all never know if the next album will be the last. It just never seems like that, it comes around again, we don’t question it, we don’t second guess it. It’s just the way it is. There’s no grand plan about Primordial. We never sat down in the pub one night and think about, right the first album is like this, the second album is gonna be about this and then we’re going on tour here and all these plans. We never plan anything. It’s not very Irish to make plans like that.
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\r\nMetalzone: I surely understood that. Well, you were on the works with a project named Plagued. You were to release a split with Trimonium. What’s happening with this release?
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\r\nAlan: Hey, it’s out! There is a box of the cd in this very room (laugh). Well, I’ve been writing my own songs over the years and I found a chance to put some stuff together. Michael from Primordial helped me a few years ago recording two of them on an old 4 track, and Einheit productions from germany heard one of them and released it as a split with Trimonium. It’s just raw and primitive old school Epic Black Metal with some old Immortal and some old Rotting Christ in there and maybe I’ll do an album someday, who knows.
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\r\nMetalzone: All right, what about your upcoming gigs?
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\r\nAlan: We’ve got already some confirmed dates and we’ll do some festivals and we’re discussing about some more at the moment, you know, we shall see. And we’re planning to come to Greece next year.
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\r\nMetalzone: You’ve been to Greece twice in the past.
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\r\nAlan: Yeah, well, I think it was back in 2003 and..
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\r\nMetalzone: 2005
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\r\nAlan: Yeah, 2005. We had a great time, Greek hospitality is amazing so we’re coming back next year.
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\r\nMetalzone: Ok, that were my questions, Alan, do you have any last comment or something to add and I didn’t ask you?
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\r\nAlan: No compromise. Some bands do stand for something and do mean something. The choice is yours.\r\n

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\r\nVaso Prassa
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