Calling the music made by Primitive Man bleak and heavy is as big an understatement as we could come up with. However, as we realized upon talking to Ethan after their explosive performance at this year’s Roadburn, you’d be hard-pressed to find a nicer dude anywhere. Not only is the music great, they have some pretty interesting stuff to say, either on how to combine a band as active as Primitive Man with teaching, very concrete plans for further records, including a new full length coming soon!
You just played your first Roadburn show. How was it?
It was all right man. We were having some technical difficulties, so it was a little rough for us, but we had fun, we are thankful for being able to play and thankful to be here.
What do you think of the festival so far?
The festival is fucking awesome, a killer festival for sure. We’ve had a blast, the bands I’ve seen sounded pretty good and it’s cool to see so many friends that we know from the US. It has been cool.
You had a pretty full room seeing you…
That was awesome! It was wonderful, I’m really blessed to have that many people watch us and be able to do that, it was perfect. Just great!
It’s your second European tour, right? Do you feel any difference this time around?
Yeah, the crowds have been bigger and people know our songs and shit. That’s pretty cool and it’s different from the first time.
Is it that much different for you to play here and back home in the US?
Well, everything is different here in a lot of ways. In the US, you drive for eight hours, play in someone’s basement, they won’t feed you and you might possibly get 100 dollars. Then it’s «bye, fuck off». That’s not every place but it’s a common theme, so it’s a completely different thing touring over here than it is in the US. Some of the squats we have played are similar to places in the US, but squats here, and venues in general, are way more organized and put together and just have more to offer bands. It’s just a different thing man, you know? But I would say that the crowd sizes are similar this time, because it’s our second time here and we have toured the US a bunch.
What about the reactions?
Yeah, everyone just starts headbangs and shit. [laughs] Sometimes we get moshpits in Europe.
Not back home?
Not really, there are more circle pits here.
Although you only have one full length, you have released quite a lot of splits. Do you personally pick the bands to do them with?
We chose the bands. We did one with Hexis, one with Fister, one with Xaphan and a split with Hessian last year, with Hypertension[Records, as part of The Abyss Stares Back series]. That one I didn’t speak with Hessian, they arranged it. That’s one case where it’s a little different, they asked us to be a part of that whole series and so we contributed, it was a cool thing. All the other splits, we met these dudes on the road or talked to them over the internet or whatever and then we just arranged it on or own.
So they were all bands you respected?
With Xaphan, the bass player and I are old friends so that was how that happened, Hexis I was talking to Philip over the internet for like a year, we just decided to do a split, and Fister we met through touring and this kind of shit.
You mentioned the split you did for “The Abyss Stares Back” series. I found it quite interesting that while you and Hessian don’t play exactly the same type of stuff, both approaches seemed to converge for that release and it ended up working quite well.
Yeah, I liked it, thought it was cool. I really like their side, I think they are a really good band. I’m kind of an asshole, I should probably reach out to them, specially because we came here again. I just didn’t do it. I do want to meet them, I do want to play with them because I really like their music. I mean, I obviously checked them out when we were asked about it, I think they’re really good. Something we’ll work on in the future.
How do you compare playing live with recording and writing in terms of atmosphere? It seems that the former has an impact on what you end up doing with the latter.
Playing live has the best atmosphere, we like it the most, it’s like the most charged atmosphere. We like recording and the creative process, but it feels like work. Playing live is just fun. [laughs] I mean, we like to go there and get our ideas down, but it’s a higher stress situation than live, you know?
Going a bit back in time, how did Primitive Man start?
I don’t know man, I played grindcore for a really long time and… well, the honest reason is that I was playing in a doom band at the time and things were going real fucked up and bad and I felt like the guys I was playing with didn’t know what the fuck they were doing so I was like «I’m going to start a doom band on my own on the side as a fun thing to do». I was going to leave Colorado and live somewhere else, uproot my life and all these things, so I ended up starting Primitive Man with John, the bass player, just as something fun to do. We just had a really good time doing it, I ended up never leaving and now we are here, so it was kind of an accident. It was supposed to be just something for me to do before I left Colorado and then it turned into this full-time band. [laughs]
We do a lot of stuff, man.
But I guess all of you still have jobs on the side.
Yeah, of course. As full time as you can be playing this kind of shit, know what I mean? We are going on tour three months a year, sometimes more, like four months a year. For me that’s fucking full time, in between practicing, recording and all that shit.
With Primitive Man taking that much time, how does it work to balance it with your job? If I’m not wrong you’re also a full-time teacher, right?
Yeah, a full-time job teaching kids also. It’s a double life. Because I can express my anger and frustration playing music I feel like I can be better to my children, more patient and level-headed, and effective to them as an educator, because I can release those tensions. A lot of people I work with come to work with their personal problems and shit, and sometimes will take it out on the kids. That’s not something I ever want to do or ever want to be. I feel like because I have this outlet, it prevents that, while to a lot of people who don’t have that, teaching is everything for them, so that creates some burned-out people and I don’t want to be that.
Interesting, and not exactly something you think about when teaching grown-ups.
It’s different, my kids are between four and five years old, they’re very tiny. With older kids you can be a dick, because fuck older kids. [laughs] But with younger kids you gotta be tender. Every interaction you have with them, they are going to take forever at that age. If you’re rude to an eighteen-year-old they’ll be fine in an hour, not a four-year-old, that will fuck up their day and I don’t wanna do that.
When you mentioned the release of tension, is that something you try to do through the lyrics or the music? Can you tell us a bit of how you go about doing the former?
Everything. Sometimes, the lyrics and the songs are written separately because I write constantly. I discuss it with them when we’re building the songs and shit, but I’m definitely writing what I feel on the side on my own and then bringing it to rehearsing. Those guys have a say and an input in what I’m doing to a certain degree.
And you feel you’re all on the same page?
Yeah, definitely. I think those guys believe in what the lyrics are about and we relate to each other on a lot of levels because we are great friends, so that’s kind of how that works out.
Regarding themes, are they based on what you see around you?
Yeah. The experiences I’m going through, anything that moves me. Anything from personal stuff to political stuff, shit I’ve seen in my job with my kids.
You write pretty heavy shit, does that come from trying to achieve a particular sound or to make it fitting to an idea you have in mind?
I kind of look at it on both levels. The lyrics are the base idea of what I’m trying to express and then the music reflects that. I’m always trying to write dark shit and heavy shit because that’s how I feel. I’m trying to write music that sounds like what’s in my mind.
How does it work our when you’re all together?
I’ll come with a general idea and then those guys will kind of help me build on that, we’ll move shit around and they’ll have input like that. Does that make sense? We always want to write something which is heavier than the last set of songs.
A sentence which will probably make each one of your fans smile. [laughs]
We just recorded like five songs and they are the heaviest shit I’ve done in my life and we want to keep doing that. If one day we sit down and decide «oh, we’re good at this level of heavy» or something, then we’ll do that, we’ll do what we feel. But we definitely always feel like writing heavier shit. I want to be heavy all the time forever. [laughs]
Good to hear that!
I don’t wanna soften up Primitive Man. If I want to do something softer I probably start a new band. It would really fucking bum me out if Incantation wrote a nu-metal record. [laughs] You know what I mean
Yeah, that makes sense. You mentioned five songs, can you tell us a bit about them?
One is a split with Northless, from Milwaukee, the other for a split with Bastard Feast from Portland and the other one for a split withSea Bastard from the UK, and then we recorded a song which we wanted to put out for free.
I guess these upcoming splits follow the same logic we discussed before.
Yeah. I’ve been a fan of Northless for a long time, they are the most fucking underrated American sludge band I ever met.
Grief style sludge?
Crowbarish. Like what we are to Grief, is what Northless is toCrowbar, does that make sense? We are a little harsher overall butNorthless is fucking heavy, don’t get me wrong, just in a different way. The vocals sound like Infest and shit, they are really good musicians and its still doom, check them out. There’s a record called “Clandestine Abuse”, that’s the one I would recommend to start with. So, Northless I’ve known for a long time, reached out to them to do the split, played with them and they are amazing live, we are actually doing a tour with them and a split. Then Bastard FeastI’ve known those dudes for like a decade and Sea Bastard we met last time we were in the UK and we just got done doing a tour with them last week, that’s how that came together.
Do you record those songs for splits already with a target in mind or how does that work?
Both times we’ve recorded for splits we just did a bunch of songs at once, so what we do is to write them not knowing where they’re gonna go after we record them and then pick and chose for where we think it’s gonna be best. With Northless, they have four songs on our split and we have only one long song, we try to do shit like that so that we’re not both doing the same thing. We don’t always have the advantage of hearing the other side first, so some times it’s pretty random.
With all of that already recorder, do you have any plans for stuff to be recorded in the future?
We’ve written some songs for another full length record but we’re gonna finish touring. We have touring plans all the way until September and then I go out, I play in this grindcore band now called Vermin Womb and we’re gonna do an European tour from September to October. Then I come back, finish writing the record with Primitive Man and then record. We probably won’t tour until it comes out, it’s a long term plan but we always plan things well in advance, so I know what it is.
A full-length seems to be a rare event in your discography, are you looking forward to recording it, given the number of splits thus far recorded?
Splits are cool because they are like a celebration of friendship, mutual respect from one another’s art, a way to kind of cross promote one another and I just really like the process. You usually do a tour together, you make fast friends and it’s fucking awesome, like life-long friends. I do definitely like to do them, but we’ve done so many of them this last year, we’re gonna do so many of them this coming year, that I’m pretty fucking sick of it. I wanna write a really solid heavy full-length record – we haven’t had a full-length since “Scorn”. The thing is “Home Is Where The Hatred Is” is an EP but it’s just as long as “Scorn”, so I feel like «eh, well».
You seem to not only write a shitload of music but also be quite into the scene surrounding you. Are there some underground names you could share with us that you feel deserve some more recognition over here?
Northless and Sea Of Bones come to mind because those guys have been doing this shit for a long time and I feel like more people should be into what they’re doing, those two bands are fucking great. I mean, Sea Bastard that we just did that tour with, Opium Lord is another one but they are UK bands. Our friends in Bastard Feast, there’s also Of Feather And Bone and Reproacher. Call Of The Void, but they are a Relapse band so I don’t know if that counts. Hive Lords from Philadelphia are cool, Wake from Canada are amazing, they’re one of the greatest grindcore bands I’ve seen.
Didn’t you have some shows with them and Weekend Nachos last time you were in Europe?
Yeah, that was cool! Who else, man? Shit. There’s a band calledTower And Stone from San Diego, we haven’t played with them yet but their music is crazy fucked up and we’re going to play with them in August, I know that. There’s a band from Denver calledSpectral Voice, they’re death doom, it’s a really really good band if you like that kind of shit, like Disembowelment.