An Interview With Primordial's Alan Averill

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Alan Averill is the frontman of Ireland's Primordial, whose fantastic new album, Where Greater Men Have Fallen, is out today through Metal Blade Records.

In an e-mail interview, Averill talked to Empty Lighthouse about the hardships of touring the US, not caring about lazy journalism anymore and the trouble with illegal filesharing.

Read the full exchange below.
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Empty Lighthouse: Congratulations on the Where Greater Men Have Fallen. It sounds fantastic! How has Metal Blade been working out for Primordial? I've read that you've had quite a bit of label trouble in the past.

Alan Averill: We've been here for 4 albums now so it's all good. We have a solid working relationship with them - no pressure and we do what we can when we can. The past is really the past.

We went through it all 10-15 years ago. Shit happened, we took it, got back up and here we are.

I take more of a backseat than I used to. I used to take too much stuff to heart in the past, these days I have no heart :)

EL: I just read your Zero Tolerance column about energy drinks and touring on a shoestring.

Can you describe a little bit for our readers how difficult it is - physically and financially - for a band like Primordial to tour in the states?

AA: Haha, yeah energy drinks are the new drug of choice. I was also talking about amphetamine, but ok. Yeah, touring the States is so fucking hard. The difference is a promoter in Europe pays for your flights and there are no visa costs. I'll lay it out for you: visa costs for Primordial to enter the states are about 4000 Euro or so, 162 Euro non-refundable interview x 5. It takes ten minutes at least to call and arrange and this can also cost 25 Euro x 5, baggage charges, flights have gone up massively in the last couple of years, mercy printing and shipping; not to mention your dollar is weak against the Euro. Then add in the fact that venues want to take 10-30% (yes, 30.....) from your merch on some days, which is your only profit.

So playing to 109 people in West Virginia won't do anything but put us in the hole. Any show with less then 200 people is a loss for a European band and most shows in the USA are anecdotally 25-125 people outside of the main 6-10 cities. This is why European bands don't come....simple and plain.

We did two weeks or 12 days with While Heaven Wept leading to ProgPower and, you know....arrive in Cleveland and they didn't even know who we were....the posters weren't even opened. 60 people....breaks my heart to say it, man, but it's almost impossible at 40 years old - with kids, mortgages and bills to pay - to tour the US. Unless you can guarantee me 250 people a night, and no one can....Tour on a large tour - supporting a bigger band - and the merch concessions go up, but you will play for no fee. So take me back to 1987 touring America and perhaps it can work out!

EL: Speaking of economic woes, where does Primordial stand on the whole piracy issue? Is it beneficial to have people downloading the album for free and gaining fans that way or should people be paying for music?

AA: Well look the principle is this and without sounding like a grouchy old fuck.....We live in an age now where what people create, other people assume it is their's to own for free. This - in itself - is not right but we just have to deal with it. The stable door has been left open and the horse has bolted. So what do we do? It is a way of reaching more people without a doubt but when everything is free nothing really has any meaning anymore. A kid can download everything I've spent my life creating in about 45 seconds and if he doesn't like the opening 20 seconds, he can stop/drag and drop into the trash bin and think nothing of it. Art itself is being demeaned and losing meaning.

On a practical level though, it's hard to say. Bands need to try much harder to develop a close personal relationship with 500-2,000 people who give a shit and will support them. Bandcamp and the like is the only way to do this.

Offer them something worth owning.

Pundit and campaigns like that seem like the way forward, with rising airline costs and things like that. Being a musician for a living is certainly a harder place than it was even 5 years ago and will only get harder.

EL: Primordial has always sounded "epic" without relying on cheesy gimmicks like keyboards and female vocals. Is it annoying that Primordial tends to be lumped in with the "folk metal" movement when you really sound a lot different?

AA: Sure. It's just lazy journalism. Of course we have some fans in that scene and friends in bands in that scene.

Hell, we toured the USA with Korpiklaani. Personally, I don't care anymore. We were one of the original 'pagan/black' metal bands from the early 90s.

EL: There's an outspoken political edge to Primordial's lyrics and I read an interview where you talk about how the Irish flag no longer hangs from the band's amps on stage.

Could you tell our readers a little bit about that and your take on the state of Irish politics?

AA: Hmmmm, well it hasn't actually for a long, long time, well over ten years. Back then it was a kind of statement within the scene, we were fighting our corner for our country's scene.

But it's ceased to be important for me.

I used to say I was against the state and the church and for the people, but as the country's 20th Century history unravelled and I travelled more, I became against the people as well, against the fact they hid abusers in their midst, never spoke out about what the church or state did until the 90s, just took their medicine, sent their children off to die, venerated priests, banned books, took their austerity tough love, never views on nationalism have changed also as I've travelled the world.

I'm still proud to be Irish of course - don't get me wrong - but there's a lot to be angry and ashamed of also.....

EL: On Primordial's Facebook account, there's a column about "making yourself scarce" in the studio. Was adopting this attitude beneficial to the recording of Where Greater Men Have Fallen?

AA: Sure it was, i'm a fucking annoying cunt :) Nah, really we were in a studio where you could just do your own thing and not live in each other's ears. So i did just that. Also, I think it gave me some space to fully get to the point of the songs and make sure we still sounded vital. Worked out for the best in the end.

I don't really enjoy the studio, I get bored. I'd rather do 2 hours of hard vocal work and then fuck off. Songs in 1-3 takes is best.

EL: You guys have put Yeats to music back in 2002. I'm interested to know what books are popular within the band.

AA: He is a kind of personal hero in some ways, flawed for sure but inspiring. I don't know about the rest of the guys but I tend to read history books. At the moment, I'm reading about the beginnings of the First World War, starting at the end of the 1890's.

It's called Sleepwalkers by Niall Ferguson. Haven't really read any fiction for a long time. Maybe I should....

EL: Thanks so much for speaking with us! Is there anything else you would like to add?

AA: Nothing much...Take it easy.