Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Primordial interview pt 3: "People ask, 'Why are you playing that vinyl?' Well, that's what it's for, not to be piled away on a shelf"

Primordial played Greece shortly before that country's economic collapse. Not suggesting there's a connection, but having been lucky enough to follow them on their 2008 tour, I recall (in retrospect) an atmosphere of something being about to give. A surprising but pleasant portent came in the form of a mass ride which passed by the band's hotel in Thessaloniki the first day of their two-date jaunt. Lots of dreadlocks, trashy bikes and good feeling stopped us from cross the road for a full minute at least, hot and bothered police following suspiciously behind. Though representing more walks of life than just the Hairies (see Jack Kirby's Fourth World) the abundance of facial hair per head amongst the protesters (riding to demonstrate their displeasure at a coastal route being modified to encourage motorvehicle traffic at a cost to all not just in the form of higher speed limits, but further, since nothing was being put toward promoting benign modes) was matched by the bands' - since Primordial were touring with the rather excellent Mael Mordha, who sport some pretty good beardage along with their musical chops - and waves and even pleasant words were exchanged between the groups as they passed. In any case, since then not only Greece but Ireland, where Primordial and Mael Mordha make their home, have suffered through economic collapse and are still trying to recover. The UK is back into recession, thanks to the Tories treating our collective national debt like some wayward offspring's credit card debt - Rory Bremner's burn on last weeks News Quiz about Cameron and co having managed to turn around falling unemployment and rising growth figures since they took office was beautiful. But one wonders if this will change the playing field for new bands and music in general. It's certainly changing people's spending habits. In metal at least, the live concert has become the way for bands to make money where the album used to be the way for bands to make money. Will even this be tricky as people feel the squeeze? Nemtheanga thinks so.

"Yeah, of course it's going to change everything. I mean, the less money around the less money people spend on things which are considered luxury items, like music. And we're also living in climate, in an age where young people assume[emphasis] that what is created by another person is their entitlement for free. Mix that with the fact that festival culture is actually kind of killing tours. Bands who are coming across and doing twenty, thirty day tours across Europe are bringing in less people because somebody's going, 'Well, am I going to drive to Bremen from Hamburg for two hours on a cold, rainy night on Tuesday, or shall I just wait and see all these bands at a festival in the sunshine?' But what they don't realise is that, with the exception of the top couple of percent of bands at festivals, most of everybody else is being screwed: most of their merchandise is being taken, a percentage of them taxed. You know, the counts of the festival cattlemarket season place the onus upon bands: you should be happy with your entitlement to play our festival in front of all these people. But you know, just because you play this festival in front of 10,000 people standing in a field watching you, doesn't mean that more than 100 people are going to come to your club show. It just doesn't work like that, you know?
"For younger bands who obviously don't have any history, it's very difficult. Bands in the future? I mean, I really don't know. You know, like I know a handful of bands who are being feted by the press; touring both sides of the Atlantic; playing every festival that you could imagine; have a quite a high profile: still[emphasis] haven't sold as much as five figures of CDs, you know? It's just not happening. And I think the underground is collapsing, very much like the mainstream did three or four years ago.

With the underground collapse, is there partly a fragmentation effect, because people can make things so much on their own and distribute them on their own?

"Possibly. Part of it is also there's too many bands, it's too easy to release music and there's no quality control anymore. There's just an awful lot of crap, you know, so something good? It does make it difficult to sell. Also of course this eBay/forum culture which is all about who has the most limited edition of whatever vinyl: nobody seems to really[emphasis] be talking about the music anymore. Something that's only been out for a year and a half can already go for 400 euro in a day. It's fuckin'... It's just retarded, you know? It's not[emphasis]. It's actually, to be honest, it's sort of symptomatic of the hipster culture which most metal people avoid[emphasis], you know? It's just hipster fucking liking something because it's cool, you know? And it's just everywhere. You know, people even ask, 'Why are you playing that vinyl?' Well, that's what it's for, not to be piled away on a shelf, and, you know, it's not an investment [said with sarcastic scorn - laughs]. But I think a lot of people look at it like that. Or they just don't, you know, they don't pay attention to the music anymore, so... I don't know. It's all going in a weird direction. If people aren't showing up to club shows, they aren't buying anything, if they aren't buying the shirts or... it's hard to know, you know?"

[Part 4 should be up tomorrow]
Primordial play in Manchester on Friday (4th May) and at London's Islington Academy Saturday (5th May). If tickets for either haven't sold out by the time you read this, you are strongly urged to secure your place. It will be incredible: you won't believe a mere band of men with instruments and vocal chords can transform the world around you into such an intense arena of sensory experience. Be there.