Lovers Lane
Copernicus Center

Caught In A Mosh: May 2009

| May 4, 2009

Ooze & Angst
Alan A. Nemtheanga‘s Irish eyes aren’t smiling. “Hope I didn’t sound too grumpy,” the Primordial frontman signed off after answering my list of e-mail questions. Truth is, Nemtheanga, who has fronted the Irish band since it truly became Primordial in the early ’90s, simply sounds honest. Grumpy or not, that’s refreshing.

Appearing: May 7th as part of Powerfest at the Pearl Room in Mokena.

As is the fact the group is finally touring the United States. Though it’s only a few years short of two-decades old, Primordial has never done a full-fledged North American tour. A few weeks after Metal Blade reissued his band’s 1995 full-length debut, Inrama, and a few weeks before he, guitarists Ciáran MacUilam and Michael O’Floinn, bassist Pól MacAmlaigh, and drummer Simon O’Laoghaire joined Moonsorrow, Korpiklaani, Blackguard, and Swashbuckle for Paganfest 2 (which, on May 7th, kicks off Powerfest weekend at the Pearl Room in Mokena) Nemtheanga connected with “Mosh” via the Internet and talked shady record labels, sinking economies, and shitty metal.

Mosh: Was the Inrama reissue a band decision? Label decision? Both? It was reissued in 2001, too, so what — besides the bonus tracks — are the differences between the two?
Alan A. Nemtheanga: The answer is simple: We finally managed to get back the rights to all our old releases, so no more liars and thieves could make money from us. We don’t ask people to buy them if they have the old ones. We just needed these albums to be available once more and, for our own piece of mind, to look as we meant. There is a bonus DVD from 1994. It’s rough-as-fuck, but that’s the way things were then.

M: What memories came back while you guys were remastering the album and compiling the extras?
AAN: Just remembering how hard it was, how naive we were, but also how determination, bloody mindedness, and raw talent can hold out over all. We had nothing given or handed to us. We made our own luck and we made our own scene. And here, 15 years later, I am doing an interview about it. This is testament to our staying power.

M: What about the actual recording of the album? The mid ’90s were hardly the Stone Age, but I’m sure it was far different than recording today.
AAN: The recording was a nightmare. We hired a couple of thousand pounds’ worth of poor equipment into a front-room studio and recorded it all over 12 nights onto half-inch reel tape: no outboard effects and no drop-ins. We were learning just like the engineer, but, despite all the fuck-ups and mistakes, we made it. Personally, I’m not into this modern computerized Protools sound.

M: Ireland’s economic situation is even more dire than the United States’. How do economic factors affect Primordial’s decision to take or decline tours like Paganfest? What is the reaction of the Irish people, as a whole?
AAN: Ireland is fucked. Completely. We are possibly one of the worst-prepared countries in the world, definitely in the Eurozone, to deal with this. When we had money we squandered it. We modeled ourselves on the U.K. and U.S. banking structures and relied heavily on unskilled foreign investment. We put all our faith in property developers and over 30 percent of our industry into that market, to the detriment of the rest of the country — didn’t build schools, hospitals, or basic infrastructure. Complete political croneyism, nepotism, and jobs for the boys is what rules Ireland. Now we are going to pay for many years. People feel betrayed and there is massive anger and disillusionment, and there ain’t anywhere to emigrate, either.

M: Speaking of Paganfest, I’ve read a few interviews lately with the band, and it doesn’t seem you are too fond of “Pagan metal.”
AAN: Yep. Completely. Ninety-odd percent of it, possibly even more, is rubbish. One small step up in retardation from power metal. Happy, jokey, jolly, frivolous, meaningless dross for gaming nerds. There are some worthy bands of course . . . Moonsorrow, Temnozor, Drudkh, Negura Bunget, Vrani Volosa, Ereb Altor off the top of my head. Most of these new pirate/beer-drinking/ muscle-bound mythical-warrior/troll bands have more to do with Hammerfall than Bathory, for example. Of course, I have many friends who play in these bands, and they respect and find my stance amusing, but Primordial has really nothing to do with this scene despite obviously having some parallels and helping to forge it. If people want escapism, romanticism, and five-minute festival workouts to clash ale horns to, then fair enough, but that boat left me well behind, thankfully. Primordial exists hand-in-hand with our relationship to our culture. We are making a stand for something, trying to say something about the world we live in. Sure enough, I can drink and have a good time, but you know what? My drinking music is Rose Tattoo, AC/DC, and Thin Lizzy. Sure as hell no one is going to be drinking to any of this Pagan metal fluff in 20-years’ time.

M: So what about doing a tour called Paganfest?
AAN: Look, I’m realistic about these things. Of course I would rather tour with Solitude Aeternus, Axis Of Advance, Neu-rosis, Candlemass, Destroyer 666, Reverend Bizarre, or Angelcorpse, but you deal with what you are given. To me, the Paganfest is a vehicle for us — an experience. If people hate us or love us it’s all fine for me. We need to tour North America after all these years. I just hope that perhaps people will scratch the surface and realize there is a serious message to some of the bands. That said, if you want to rock out to “Empire Falls” . . . fine. We’ll see what happens. It’s a challenge.

M: What about “folk metal?” That’s another catch-all phrase that has become trendy.
AAN: I think I hate this term even more than Pagan metal. This brings to mind cringe-worthingly bad bands from Italy, Germany, or Spain singing about Vikings using the same tired boring chords and notations we’ve all heard a million times before. Just because you put an accordion in there and wear old shirts you bought from the medieval market doesn’t make it interesting, and doesn’t mean you can get away with thudding along on the same barre chord underneath while you drop in variations on the opening notes of [Finntroll’s] “Trollhammeren” over the top. Get a life, find out about your own area, your own culture, your own indigenous instruments and songs. Stop stealing things from Scandinavia. Listen to Hammerheart by Bathory, and learn from the master.

MORE POWER: It will be interesting, to say the least, to see how the Powerfest crowd responds to this year’s lineup. Last year, “Rebel Radio”‘s Scott Davidson was booed for mentioning Drowning Pool in a rundown of upcoming Pearl Room shows. That doesn’t bode well for Dope or Soil, which play Friday and Saturday, respectively.

Tougher to predict is how the audience will treat Friday’s headliner, Black Label Society. Zakk Wylde is Ozzy-fucking-Osbourne’s guitarist, so he’ll always hold some status with metalheads, but, on the other hand, BLS just finished a tour with Dope and Sevendust. I won’t vouch for any studio material past 2004’s Hangover Music Vol. VI, but, personally, I’m a fan. And I will vouch for Skullage, released last month by Eagle Vision. The best-of CD isn’t as beefy as 2005’s Kings Of Damnation, but it’s more comprehensive, ranging from 1994’s Pride & Glory (interestingly, not a BLS album) to 2006’s Shot To Hell. Fans will already have most the live DVD material, as three of four songs come from Boozed, Broozed & Broken-Boned, but the “Welcome To The Compound” interview segment, where Wylde picks up dog shit, shows off his doll collection, and works out while swilling Beck’s, is worth the price by itself.

Trevor Fisher

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