Primitive Man: Band Of The Day

By on 10 October 2013


For a genre that’s supposed to typify feelings of hatred, isolation and despair, there are a lot of modern sludge bands that just sound like a bunch of likely lads drunkenly riffing on the Eyehategod songbook. Not that’s anything wrong with that at all, of course, but it’s always refreshing when you unearth one of those sludge bands that sound truly pissed, that rare breed that sound like they’re embarking on bile soaked, feedback laden dirges because it’s their one final means of respite from a bleak, unforgiving world, rather than another excuse to get bladdered and sing about bong huffin’ wizards.

Enter Primitive Man, a trio that are currently making some of the most harrowing, gut wrenchingly heavy sludge under the sun. Their debut LP ‘Scorn’ has recently been reissued through Relapse Records, and it’s an imposing monolith of a record that feels like watching yourself get beaten up in a dark alley in stomach churning slow motion. The band’s thick, oppressive sound just seems to pull you in deeper and deeper, like an ominous aural black hole that slowly envelopes you. Combined with vocalist and guitarist Ethan Lee McCarthy’s distinctive guttural roar, this makes for a truly terrifying proposition indeed.

The three-piece are no strangers to the more extreme side of the metal spectrum, with bassist Jonathan Campos currently doing in time with Wyoming hardcore bruisers Reporacher, whilst Ethan fronts the sorely underrated grindcore outfit Clinging To The Threes Of A Forest Fire. Given that he’s also just joined Atlanta’s black/death brigade Withered, it’s a wonder that these guys found the time to unleash ‘Scorn’ upon us in the first place, but as we discovered when chatting to Ethan recently, Primitive Man is very much a priority for these guys right now…

WORDS: Kez Whelan

WHO ARE THEY:  Primitive Man
WHERE ARE THEY FROM: Denver, Colorado, USA
FOR FANS OF:  Corrupted, Coffinworm, Goatsblood
LATEST RELEASE: ‘Scorn’ (Relapse Records)

How did Primitive Man get started, where did you form, how did you meet and when did you begin?
Ethan Lee McCarthy (vocals): “The bass player plays in a band called Reproacher, who we’re actually on tour with right now, and his band had done a few tours with a band I was in called Clinging To The Trees Of A Forest Fire, and he’s from Denver, but he was living in Spain at the time. We started talking about starting a doom band, and we did! The drummer we started with at the time was just kind of a dude who lived in Denver.”

Did you have a specific idea of how you wanted to sound when you started the band? Given that you all play in other, less sludgy, bands, did you decide from the start that this was going to be a doom band, or did it just happen naturally?
Ethan: “I just wanted to do a band with crushing riff after crushing riff. I also didn’t really wanna, like, play… like, I was trying not to do grindcore, because I’d played in bands with a doom influence, but it always like a bunch of grind, so I was trying to do something a little bit different, and more dark and eerie, I guess.”

What kind of stuff would you say has influenced Primitive Man?
Ethan: “I’m really into the band Winter, and Unearthly Trance… Corrupted has always been one of my favourite bands, so I was kinda influenced by them. Off the top of my head, Neurosis, and Crowbar also, more of a sludge vibe, you know.”

So you’re in the middle of a US tour with Reproacher at the moment, how’s that been going?
Ethan: “The tour’s been amazing, especially for it being our first tour, you know what I mean? All of us have toured a bunch in other bands, and have a long string of other failed projects [laughs] and so when we all set out on this tour, it’s just been one of the best tours that any of us have ever done. The response has been amazing, like I just can’t really believe how good it’s been, it’s unreal. There’s only been one night, out of the 28 days we’ve been out so far, that there’s been nobody. So, I consider that an accomplishment, being a DIY tour!”

Seeing as you guys all have commitments with other bands, how likely is it that you’ll be touring regularly? Is this going to be a kind of one-off?
Ethan: “This is everyone’s number one focus right now. And like, as far as juggling with other bands, I play in a black metal band called Withered, which I’ve just started doing, so as far as scheduling with that goes, we’re really just try to plan everything far in advance, so that I know. And our drummer, he does live sound for venues, so he has a pretty flexible schedule. I’m a school teacher, so I only work like 180 days a year, and the school I work at is really good at letting me get off work and stuff… so you know, other bands and jobs are kind of easy for us to work around, so we have it made in that department.”

Does that mean there’s a possibility we could be seeing Primitive Man in Europe pretty soon?
Ethan: “Yeah man, I really want to do that, we’ve been talking to this band called Exit about coming over there, maybe in the Spring. We’re gonna have to see how things work out, but it is definitely our goal to be there in 2014, we really want to be. It’s happening!”


Is it true that ‘Scorn’ was recorded in just 4 days? That must have been quite an intense few days!
Ethan: “Yeah man, we recorded it with Dave Otero (Cephalic Carnage, Cobalt) in like 4 days, and I’d recorded all the CTTTOAFF stuff with him, so I have a really good working relationship with Dave. He’s an amazing engineer man! We just got in there, and played our stuff straight through, and he pulled it all together and mixed it really fast, he’s just great. It was a really cool process, because we were just trying to get this record out as fast as possible, and this was actually before anybody had shown any interest in it. It was originally released by Mordgrimm and Throatruiner Records, and so I kinda talked to Matthew from Throatruiner a little bit about it, and then you know, we didn’t really say anything else about it for a while, so we were kinda in a rush to get it done and then sent it to him. We were definitely not interested in writing songs and then sitting on our ass and taking forever to record! We really wanted to get this stuff out.”

Was most of it already written before you entered the studio?
Ethan: “I’d written stuff that was too slow for the bands I was playing in, and the other songs we wrote really fast before we went in [to record]. We had like 20 minutes worth of material or something, and I decided that no-one gives a shit about EPs and we needed to do a full-length.”

The ‘P//M’ demo you put up online has a much noisier feel to it. Is this an aspect of your sound you’ll be developing more in the future?
Ethan: “Well, we definitely wanna incorporate the noise into our stuff, I’ve always done harsh noise and things like that, experimental soundscapes and stuff, and so we definitely want to do more of that in the future, in kind of a different way. We released those songs just to kind of give something out for free, to show our appreciation for everybody who’s supported us. We just wanted to put something out that was fucked up and dark! We’re still going to be a doom band, we’re not turning into a noise band or anything, but we’re definitely going to blend the elements together, you know.”

That Portishead cover is really interesting too, what was the idea behind that? Are you guys big fans?
Ethan: “I’ve loved Portishead since I was young, and ‘Western Eyes’ is one of my favourite songs, and I thought it would be cool to cover it, all fucked up. [laughs] It’s a pretty dark song, like a lot of the lyrics and stuff in Portishead songs are super dark, and so I dunno, it just made sense!”


What’s been your best moment as a band?
Ethan: “Probably this tour, I mean the whole experience has been really good. I’ve been playing with CTTTOAFF for 10 years, and we never received this kind of response! We toured our asses off, put out several records and splits, did all this shit, and the response was cool, but it was just not like this. People are really into this band, and they’ve shown a tremendous amount of support, and I don’t really know what it is, but I feel really thankful for it. The whole time I’ve been in this band, it’s never ceased to amaze me how nice people have been, and how much they’ve been into it and appreciate what we’re doing, and it’s just something that I’ve never ever had before.”

And on the flipside, what’s been the worst thing to happen to you since starting Primitive Man?
Ethan: “We broke down on this tour, and we had a thousand dollars in repairs! We had a little bit of money saved up for emergency, but not that much. We put something out on the internet, and just asked if anyone could donate any amount, and we raised all the money for repair in like a fuckin’ day, which is awesome!  The tour could have ended, that could have been it, you know what I mean?”

What’s next for you guys?  What are your ambitions for Primitive Man?
Ethan: “We wanna tour and put out records, we wanna tour all over the world, over to your side of the pond. I’d really like to go to Australia and Japan and all these places. Just, be a band, man, just do as much as we can!”

About Kez Whelan

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