The calm, traditional setting of Manchester’s Crown and Anchor suits the affable off-stage demeanour of Primitive Manvocalist Ethan McCarthy, and Sea Bastard guitarist Oli Irongiant. Strange for two men whose bands purvey some of the most brutal, Sludge-based horror around today. Before resuming their joint UK tour in the City, we spoke candidly about the tour itself and their forthcoming dual ‘split’.
How did the tour come about?
Oli: We became good friends last year when my other band, War Wolf, supported Primitive Man in Brighton. Ethan stayed at our house…
Ethan: After I returned home Oli sent me some Sea Bastard stuff. We really liked it, so we talked about doing a joint tour.
You both have a pulverising, malevolent sound. How does that translate to the live setting?
Oli: It’s always more visceral live, and it fits really low in the mix which I love. It’s like hearing somebody screaming in a hailstorm.
Ethan: ‘Visceral’ is the perfect word to describe it. You definitely feel it a lot more than you would on a recording. I guess I reach those vocal levels because I smoke a lot! I’m just trying to make it sound how I’m feeling.
Both bands are pretty prolific, and it’s Primitive Man’s second visit to the UK inside a year. How do you afford it financially, and do you have time for a private life?
Ethan: All three Primitive Man members have regular day jobs, so we’re just saving our money to help us do this thing we love. The experience of getting out there, meeting people, sharing our art…
Oli: None of us will come away from this tour with any money to spend, even on new equipment. We’re doing it because we love playing music. We’re ‘Lifers’ I guess. With such negative music, it’s cathartic for us as well as the audience: getting rid of horrible thoughts in this impulsive, intense setting. It’s the best feeling in the world. I’ve been working hard all year, and this is my holiday!
Ethan: I get rid of all my frustrations playing live. It does mess with your private life though. Sometimes your employer’s not OK with the extended time off work. It’s a tricky thing to balance, although my wife is very supportive. But I have to do it. I couldn’t live my life without knowing that I had something like this coming up.
Oli: I’d go crazy without it. A lot of the guys suffer from different kinds of depression, and there are demons we all need to get out. This is our release.
When can we look forward to your joint ‘split’ disc coming out?
Ethan: We recorded our two tracks the week before we came out here. I feel they’re the most pissed-off things we’ve ever done. Our other stuff is angry and dark, but these songs are super-fucking-mad. I feel they’re a little bit different to much of our other stuff. They’ll be mastered within the month, so then we’ll start talking to some labels.
Oli: I’ve just heard the unmastered versions and they’re so fucking heavy, I can’t imagine what it’s going to sound like with the bass turned up! We’re contributing one track, but it’s going to be the longest thing we’ve ever done, with some of our heaviest, fastest and slowest sections yet. I can’t wait.
You both write some pretty nasty stuff. Where does it come from?
Ethan: A lot of my stuff comes from the American Experience: the police, being disenfranchised in coming from the slums, and personal issues such as depression. So I’m writing about life experiences really.
Oli: We use nightmarish fantasy elements to deal with some heavy shit; metaphors for how we’re feeling. We all deal with depression on a daily basis, and our music is our catharsis. I’ve been through a lot of shit in my life; I feel that contributes to me liking the heavy side of things.
Ethan: Who can’t relate to beasts and evil characters, y’know?!
Amen to that. Those live shows were utterly monstrous, and the forthcoming ‘split’ promises to further both bands’ reputation as fearsome, crushing purveyors of real issues that we all deal with.
WORDS BY PAUL QUINN