Primitive Man


by R.S. Frost

Formed in 2012, Colorado’s slow-build powerhouse PRIMITIVE MAN has not stopped to take a breath - not for a second. Boasting almost two dozen releases across six years including eight splits, two demos, an EP, a handful of singles and two full-length albums, the trio will be pulverising Australian audiences in April thanks to, in large, the efforts of IMPURE SOUNDS. I made contact with vocalist and guitarist Ethan McCarthy to gain some insight into the drive behind Primitive Man and their upcoming Australian debut.

On the last day of January 2013, ‘Scorn’ was released, quickly followed by the ‘P//M’ demo release… an output of 18 songs in just over a month. What is the process of putting material together for you guys?

- Usually, I’ll come up with an idea or riff and then we will jam on it, see how it feels, and then everyone kind of throws their two cents in there. Sometimes we will come down and just smoke weed and start working on ideas on the spot, but most of our songs start with an initial idea I came up with and then we go from there. We recorded ‘Scorn’ in 2012. That demo you’re talking about was early noise material I had recorded that ended up being on the ‘P//M’ noise 2 x LP.

I’ve been playing music since I was eight years old and it’s really been my saving grace and what probably kept me out of prison/dead/living a life of crime or anything like that. Music has taken us all over the world and has opened doors to things that would be unavailable to people in our income bracket. The band was formed out of the ashes of my grindcore bands breaking up and Jon and I wanting to play something “heavier than every band we have ever been in.”  We came up with the idea while on a grindcore tour together and stuck with it. It’s a way to channel my pain and frustration somewhere.

Over the next two years, the band would let-loose a barrage of splits with the likes of HESSIAN, XAPHAN, HEXIS and FISTER until the 2015 EP release ‘Home Is Where The Hatred Is’.

Not unlike yourselves, these bands all have a large number of split releases under their belts. What is it about this format that appeals to you and what do you think it has to offer?

- It’s a fun way to showcase two bands on the same release and have something for tour.  

I’m guessing you were able to amp up the touring after this release with some label backing behind you?

- We’ve been touring constantly since we started. Before RELAPSE even put us out. Relapse has zero to do with our booking, tour schedule or financing in regards to touring.

It was a just over 12 months until we would hear from Primitive Man again. A further two split releases, this time with NORTHLESS and SEA BASTARD, another demo, and then the seemingly cumulative effort for the band to date, 2017’s full-length ‘Caustic’.

‘Caustic’ saw a massive amount of attention coming your way. Did you anticipate this level of exposure?

- It wasn’t expected and I can tell you that it was sure as hell a lot better of an experience than when we put out ‘Home Is Where The Hatred Is’.

Not the best response to that release then?

- Mostly no one other than die-hard fans seemed to give a shit about that record and only wanted copies of ‘Scorn’. It’s sold out now, but even then I rarely hear things about it. ‘Caustic’ and ‘Scorn’ have all but completely eclipsed its existence in terms of fan song requests and mentions. It was a dark period for the band, and I think the music reflects the creative struggle we were experiencing within the band at the time. It’s kind of a weird album when put up against the rest of our catalogue. It would have ended up being the final Primitive Man release if we hadn’t found a permanent drummer with Joe.

We’ve come to that part of the conversation where I simply have to enquire into the film clip for ‘Victim’. This almost eight-minute foray into substance abuse, sex, depravity and violence is not for your average music fan. Nor is it something that we see all that often, even in the far corners of extreme metal. Pair this visual nightmare with the song itself, which one could compare to the audible equivalent of drowning, and you have quite a compelling piece of art in your arsenal.

- We wanted to make a statement about how human beings like to watch each other suffer. It was a positive experience filming it because we have worked with that crew of people before. The reaction was pretty positive but my Mom got mad about it.  

What were your own reactions to seeing it for the first time?

- We were pretty blown away. We were lucky to have a good crew of people and awesome actors and actresses.

More recently you have released the third demo, ‘Steel Casket’, as well as a further two splits - the most recent being alongside HELL in February of this year.

Image credit - Philip Laing

Misanthropy is something that has soaked a number of branches of the extreme metal tree for some time now. But the contempt and utter disgust towards society one can find in your lyrics is uniquely…urban? I can’t imagine a frozen forested mountain setting for these musings. I’m more inclined to envisage a bleak, filthy, dreary, and rain-soaked city full of unpleasant goings-on and vile truths pertaining to the current state of things.

What drives the music and the bleak and dire lyrics behind Primitive Man?

- Everyday life mostly. Personal problems, societal issues etc… A lot of it is just my worldview and my life experiences. I’m heavily influenced by shit that I experience in the city, as you mentioned, and what I see as the current political climate in America. Sprinkle in songs about depression, being working class, vengeance on my enemies, existential crisis, etc. I have also written about things I experience as a public school teacher. If you want to see the worst shit humanity can offer, work in a school. 

For clarification, I would like to add that I think kids are wonderful, and I’m thankful that I have been able to help so many of them. But the ways in which the world around them can serve to damage them at such a young age is the real heartbreaking part. I mostly work with kids with developmental disabilities, so there is a lot there.

You guys are hitting Australian shores as part of the ‘Transcontinental Extinction Tour’, which starts early April and continues on until the end of June. How are you feeling in the lead-up to this massive undertaking?

- Good! Excited to see some of these places we haven’t been to. Australia and New Zealand are brand new places for us. When we’re on the road we try to eat good food and visit cool places when there is time. We also love getting tattooed. Anything we can do to keep it light amongst the harsh living. Mostly just a lot of smoking grass.

What are your expectations of the tour, and of yourselves?

- No real expectations other than keeping the will to maintain. Hopefully, stay as stoned as possible.  

Any feelings regarding the Australian leg of the tour specifically?