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AA Nemtheanga (Primordial): vital amongst the ruins

AA Nemtheanga (Primordial): vital amongst the ruins
BANDS : Primordial

Irish extreme metallers Primordial have been around for three decades (give or take a few years) but are still going strong today. Whether they are playing live on stage - they visited Romania last November - or releasing "primordial metal" albums - a new one, Exile amongst the Ruins, will be out next March - the band is far from being a nostalgia act, vocalist AA Neamtheanga assured us. He has also shared a few (and we really mean "a few") insights on music, explaining how he still succeeds to sound vital even while singing about the end of the western civilisation.

Metalfan: Hello and welcome to! How are you guys doing these days? This being the Primordial’s first interview for, we are going to start with a few questions about the band’s biography. First off, when and how was your first contact with music that you can remember of?

AA Nemtheanga: I guess sometime around 1983 or 1984 with ZZ Top ‘Eliminator’ or AC/DC ‘For Those [about to Rock]’

Metalfan: According to Wikipedia, the band went by the name Forsaken for a short period of time, before being known as Primordial. Both words could be actually used when describing the band's music, but why did you think Primordial was better? What does it mean to you?

AA Nemtheanga: For a very short time. We were young. There was also a band called Forsaken from Malta.

Metalfan: The band was started by Pól (bass) and Ciarán (guitar) in 1987 and you joined a few years later. What have you been doing before that?
AA Nemtheanga: This is not entirely true. Pól and Ciarán started playing together as very young teenagers at the end of 87. I joined in 91. The band really as we know it starts then. Before that we did not know each other.

Metalfan: You joined after seeing an advertisement in a music store. Looking for members for your band was a totally different thing back then wasn't it? Do you remember the first time you met and the moment when it was obvious that you were the right man for the job?
AA Nemtheanga: I think I was the only person who answered the add so they didn’t really have much choice.

Metalfan: An interesting release in your discography is the 1996 split 10" EP with Katatonia. It was available only on purple vinyl format and that was before the vinyl revival. What is the story behind this EP, how did it come to be? And why was it limited to 777 copies?
AA Nemtheanga: We didn’t choose the pressing amount. No real story. Anders [Nyström – Katatonia guitarist] and I used to write a lot and we had the idea to make a split release. Somehow it ended up a reality… It’s a cool collector’s item.

Metalfan: Primordial has been around for more than two decades, maintaining a stable line-up. Such a long career must have ups and downs. What kept you going? What do you like the most about being in the band and what is the more difficult thing to manage in order to keep it going?

AA Nemtheanga: Stubborness? Stupidity? Who knows. the band is like an institution in all our lives. We still have some things to say and need this outlet from our regular lives. The most difficult thing really is to get in a room together to create songs the more complicated our lives become.

Metalfan: Obviously the way people relate to music and the way they use it has changed a lot since the 80's when you started this band. How have your fans changed along the way and what is your relationship with your fans?
AA Nemtheanga: We had no fans in the 80s and not many in the 90s. We only started really touring and play abroad in 97/98 period. I have no idea really, you better ask them. I am thankful though we are not a nostalgia band, only playing our debut album.

Metalfan: Taking the previous question even further, what are your thoughts about the changes that the musical environment has gone through since the 80's? What's completely different now and what stayed the same?
AA Nemtheanga: It’s entirely different. I don’t think you need me to say it. The internet and file sharing changed everything, good and bad. One thing is for sure, music is less important to people than it once was. We have other distractions.

Metalfan: It’s been more than three years now since the release of Where Greater Men Have Fallen, how do you see it today, what place does it hold in the band's catalogue?
AA Nemtheanga: It’s a strong album. Epic and powerful. Number 8 in the catalogue. Maybe we didn’t get the best out of some of the songs live I don’t know.

Metalfan: Where Greater Men Have Fallen was released by Metal Blade records, just like the previous three albums, continuing a partnership that has been going on for more than 12 years. Considering that Alan has worked for Metal Blade at some point how would the relationship between the band and the label be best described? Is it just business or are you friends?

AA Nemtheanga: Sure. We know them. They are friends. You develop a relationship over years. I do work for them but try and keep the two things separate.

Metalfan: You have recently announced the release of a new album in March. As stated before, more than three years have passed since the previous release. Why do you take such long breaks between albums?
AA Nemtheanga: We are not a professional band. People have their lives to get on with. Time passes. We don’t write 4 minute verse/chorus songs. Quality not quantity, right?

Metalfan: The album will be called Exile Amongst the Ruins. What is the concept behind the lyrics and how did you come up with the title? Any song titles that you can share at the moment?
AA Nemtheanga: There is no real concept. But some of the songs deal with the end of the west spiritually and intellectually.

Metalfan: What can you share about the writing sessions for the new album and about the actual recordings?
AA Nemtheanga: Does anyone care about that stuff? Really? The album was functional and practical. No frills studio, just outside of Dublin. We record as much live as we can. No file trading.

Metalfan: Did you approach this new album in a different way compared to the previous ones? Is it going to sound significantly different from what you have done until now?
AA Nemtheanga: No not really. Just maybe a little more direct and raw. Nothing more.

Metalfan: Following the album’s release, the band will embark on a European tour the Heathen Crusade 2018 that you will be co-headline with Moonsorrow, marking 12 years since Primordial and Moonsorrow played together their first American show at the Heathen Crusade festival in Minnesota. What memories you keep from that show and how do you think this tour will compare?
AA Nemtheanga: It was one show. We were young. This is a tour. We are older. I have good memories. It was freezing cold, deep in snow. A really impractical destination, all things considered. Lots of crazy things happening in the hotel and massive whiskey hangovers. Thyrfing were also there!

Metalfan: Speaking of touring, we read Alan’s tour tales published by Zero Tolerance Magazine. Primordial has played two live shows in Romania last year in November. We wonder if Alan has any tales to share about those two shows.

AA Nemtheanga: It’s nice that Romania has become a very strong destination for Primordial over the last few years. Great to spend some time there and see more of the country.

Metalfan: During your live shows Alan typically wears corpse paint and a special outfit, is it safe to say that you consider visuals being an important part of your art?
AA Nemtheanga: I guess it is safe to say that. I’ve always been drawn to the more theatrical and dramatic. I was never a “jeans and t-shirt” kinda band guy.
Metalfan: Speaking about image, let’s take the example of music videos: most of the time they do not present the vision of the band, but that of the director, yet they shape the way the band is being perceived by the viewers. How much control do usually the band have when it comes to doing music videos?
AA Nemtheanga: We maybe have the vision but someone else edits it. So you have control to a point.

Metalfan: To what degree should an artist feel responsible for the way his art is being perceived by the fans? Should he try to influence that perception after the moment when his work is made public?
AA Nemtheanga: In no way whatsoever. I mean it’s great when people do appreciate what you do, but you shouldn’t create with this in mind. I try not to read forums, reviews, comments etc. Just try and sound vital and committed.

Metalfan: As you mentioned before, Primordial is not a professional band, you do not make your living playing music. While this is not very rewarding on a financial level, it obviously allows you artistic freedom. Do you prefer things to stay this way? If you could go professional with Primordial, would you?

AA Nemtheanga: No, not really. I would much prefer to make a good living now at this age from music and also have artistic freedom. They are not mutually exclusive. I don’t think Primordial is suddenly going to become commercial or vastly popular on album no. 9. But not worrying about the rent would be a nice side effect.

Metalfan: What are your day jobs? Do your day jobs constrain the band activity or is it the other way around? Is this what you wanted to be when you grew up, as a kid?
AA Nemtheanga I dont think this matters. Why would or should people know about this. Of course it would be great to make a living from music. Haha I wanted to be a footballer…!

Metalfan: Looking back on 2017, what are your favorite albums released last year? Any new bands that you can recommend?
AA Nemtheanga: Yeah some cool albums last year without a doubt, Depeche Mode, Immolation, Sorer Dolorosa, Drudkh, Havukruunu, Pagan Altar, Procession, Dolce, Hallas, Cult of Eibon
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