Lost and Disenfranchised – The Primevals interview

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The word ‘primeval’ has a number of different meanings and connotations (writes Andy Wood), some of which can be applied to the Glasgow band, The Primevals. They hark back to an earlier age of rock ‘n’ roll with their garage-punk, bluesy inflected songs and solid rhythms but they are anything but primitive, nostalgic or unthinking.

Since forming in 1983 they have released a series of great records that can be pummelling and tinged with a sense of violence but that are also expansive, beautifully melodic and lyrically razor-sharp. The last album, 2012’s Heavy War, was a brooding and reflective paean to their hometown of Glasgow, both physically and psychologically, highlighting not only the changes in the city but in the musicians themselves over time.

Both live and on record, The Primevals possess a raw energy that is exhilarating and uplifting. The sound can shift from dark and brooding, full of ominous threat to joyous and beautiful. As one friend and musician said after seeing them for the first time a few years ago, they are the band that taught us to rock. There is definitely a swagger to The Primevals’ music but an utter lack of empty bluster. They are, to put it simply, an absolute piledriver of a band. Filth, fury and raw power but also beauty and dignity.

They have a new album due out in the coming months. Having had the privilege of a sneak preview, I can confirm that they are on fire. Dislocation is an absolute blinder of a record. The mood of the twelve songs is varied but the quality is always on the money.

Right from the opener, ‘Fever Zone’ on, it’s a jubilant ride from start to finish and I’ve been listening to it non-stop. As they used to say, it’s all killer, no filler. Every time The Primevals come back with a new record it seems to feel as fresh as a debut but also full of maturity, of lessons learned and applied or ignored accordingly.

Ahead of The Primevals return to The Cool Cat Club, Michael Rooney kindly answered a few questions regarding Dislocation along with what they’d been up to since declaring a heavy war is coming.

I think there is an element of always being outsiders

You released your last album, Heavy War, in 2012 and gigged a fair bit around the release of that. What have you been up to since then?

Well there has been other stuff in between. We released another record end of 2014 on Closer records from France ’Tales Of Endless Bliss’ also we recorded a song for record store day, a split 45 with Keith Morris (ex-Black Flag) and his friends in 2014. It was a Jeffery Lee Pierce unreleased song ‘Girl It’s Me’. Our first 2 LP’s got expanded release on CD on LTM records 2015 and I released a side project mini LP by Hi-Alerts  also.

Also John Honeyman left the band 2014 and Ady Gillespie now plays bass although John has returned to play organ with us on the new LP and also some live shows.

We also have gigged in France and Italy over the past few years.

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The Primevals have a new album due out soon. Can you tell me bit about that?

Well the songs were coming and we all usually record what we have, so it seemed the right thing to do for us. We took a little longer with this record, maybe recorded and mixed over 6 months, which is a long period for us. We used some keyboards and even had some cool trumpet from Robert Henderson. It is more of a record perhaps as the last one was basically a live set. The recordings are mainly live with a few overdubs. We work well with Sandy Jones at FML Motherwell, who knows our sound and wastes no time

Heavy War was previously described as your Glasgow album. Is there a theme behind the songs on the new album?

Well there are some reflective songs as you get older that seems common, there is a sense of being lost and disenfranchised I suppose, real fun stuff eh? Also still our immediate surroundings and communities are still a big part.

Why did you chose Dislocation as a title? It seems to suggest a sense of feeling out of place or out of time.

Well it is a bit but also positive as dislocation can mean empowerment as the art work shows a sort out wigged out female being wild. Also it has humour as so much stuff now is so dark and po-faced. I think there is an element of always being outsiders as we have been ignored, at times we don’t seem to tick the right box for a lot of things. But it is pointless complaining about that – we just instinctively do it. That’s it.

All of the band have other commitments outwith The Primevals – work, music, family. How difficult is it to find time to do The Primevals and what motivates you to keep on doing it?

We make time – it is important – there is a bond for this type of thing – as we have been around for a long time. It works for us as individuals and as a collective. Also, we have fun. We still believe we are pretty good.

What are your feelings on the current music scene?

Don’t know really – don’t have much interest, don’t really like the constant reliance on nostalgia either – all the adulation for dead pop stars makes me quite nauseous. I tend to buy soul records myself. I think we also had a bit of soul in our music. We can swing!!

What advice, if any, would you give to young bands starting out now?

I prefer the Tony Hatch comment about trying to make it in the pop-scene when he said in his book ‘don’t chew gum!!’.

What plans do The Primevals have for 2017?

Getting our record out. We are doing this one on our own label ‘triple wide’ – we did not want to go with previous label-so we hope to have it in our hands in a couple of months. We have a few shows locally over next few months, then London later in the year and maybe some European shows.

What question would you most like to be asked?

Shaken or stirred?

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The Primevals play Beat Generator Live! in Dundee on Saturday (28th January) as part of Independent Venue Week.

Support comes from Benedictus and Thee Rag’n’Bone Man. Tickets from Groucho’s in Dundee or online here. More info here.

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