Psi – Basso
Ljosalfur – Chitarra, Voce, Tastiere
Dokkalfur – Voce, Chitarra
Lord Blast – Batteria
The British band Primitive Graven Image in 2012 has been on our website with their third album “Psychedelic Episodes (Observation Of Death And Deathlessness)”, and before that we already met them with “Celebrating Impending Chaos”.
Welcome on Aristocrazia Webzine, how are you doing?
Luke: Great thanks! Things have been pretty exciting recently for PGI. Played a few gigs and met some great people! It’s what it’s all about!
Let’s tell our readers who are Primitive Graven Image, so how was the band born, why did you choose this name and please tell us anything you want to know you better.
We are a black metal band based near London, UK. In 2006, my brother and I were in a progressive metal band, trying to write complicated, long songs. We were getting into black metal quite heavily at the time and Rob wrote a thrashy/black song inspired my Immortal, Darkthrone and all the obvious BM bands that we were loving at the time. The song became “None Shall Stand” which we still play live today. We liked it so much that we decided to form a band. Back then it was more of a “project” than a band, I suppose. I came up with the name quite quickly, just because it sounded cool. It is stolen from lyrics in a Nile song. In retrospect, the name, for me at least, has come to represent the all powerful Universe / God / Collective consciousness that may or may not be behind everything. The Primitive Graven Image is the God before all Gods, before religion etc… It’s not an important idea because, as I said, I had no idea about this when I came up with the name. But it fits!
Your Black Metal is inspired by the Scandinavian scene of the Nineties, but you tried to ad something in each album and today we can hear something inspired by Pink Floyd. Did something change in the composition process or in your listenings, anything that brought you to add non-Black Metal parts?
The process hasn’t changed much. We like to be spontaneous, usually writing and recording at the same time. So we don’t have riffs sitting around for ages, gathering dust and becoming boring. This is quite a magical way of recording. A riff take that made it on to the final cut could be a riff that was written half an hour before. Very fresh! The reason why our sound has evolved is because we have become more “serious” about the band each time we come to writing an album. Our first demo and first album was the product of Rob and I wanting to emulate classic black metal. I like to think that we still added some other things, but we were very much just having a blast writing cool riffs. When it came time to write a second album, Primitive Graven Image had become a very important thing and we felt that it needed more put into it. We love bands like Pink Floyd, and epic Death Metal bands like Nile and we wanted to include all those influences. Naturally, the third album has progressed even more. One thing we like to do is keep the black metal framework at the core of our sound.
You are a solid band, your line-up didn’t change that much, do you think you achieved that you wanted when you wanted it, or are you still trying to find your way and maybe you’ll add something else in the new work?
An interesting one! I’m pretty sure we are very happy with the line-up we have these days. I’m messing around with keyboard sounds a bit more these days. We won’t ever become Dimmu Borgir, but the Seventies analogue sound is something that I love and would certainly like to bring to the table a lot more.
2012 was the year of the so-called “Apocalypse”, that “Armaggedon” which was announced but never happened. The title of your third album says “Observations On Death And Deathlessness”, does mankind still want to be immortal? Would it be an advantage to have the chance of watching the other things dying while you can’t?
I suppose, when people think of being immortal, they assume that everything else will be immortal as well and everyone will be dancing in the fields with flowers and unicorns. Hey, it might be the case, but it seems doubtful. Certainly, wanting a life like this life in this world to last forever is quite absurd. I mean, I’m having an alright time, but I only have to turn on the news to realize how insane everything is. With regards to the “Deathlessness” in the title of the album, I suppose it isn’t really talking about Deathlessness in the sense of not dying in this life, or even going on to some other similar afterlife. It’s influenced by Buddhist ideas more than anything, the idea that consciousness is deathless, or perhaps the NOW is deathless. Experience, etc… And I’m starting to think that’s all there is. It’s that idea of nothing being everything. It’s quite mindblowing if you think about it for long enough. Living for eternity is almost the same as focusing in on the present moment. In eternity, there can’t be any passing of time, you could meditate for fifty hundred million years and you wouldn’t have wasted any time. If there is no “end” or “deadline” is there even time at all? It’s an interesting thought. I suppose a lot of people just want to escape. I can understand that. To address the last point, the idea of living forever while everyone else is still dying is a kind of nightmare, I don’t think anyone is in the market for that.
I really appreciated “The Killer, The Philosopher And The Holy Man”, final track of that album, is there a guideline in the evolution of the lyrics? I feel that this song is like the peak of a degenerating situation, am I right? And what do the three figures mentioned in the lyrics represent?
I really love this question. I feel pleased that lyrics have jumped out and mean something to you and hopefully other people. The lyrics are certainly a peak in terms of the album concept, albeit, a very loose concept that was almost worked in after a lot of the lyrics were written! I wrote the lyrics with the film “American Psycho” in mind along with a novel called ‘The Dice Man’. There is a central character in there who has built up an outer shell. He is a normal, every day person on the outside but inside he is a crazed animal – that is American Psycho and a whole host of other films, of course. The Dice Man takes it further. The main character leaves his life to chance, rolling dice at every opportunity. It all gets quite philosophical, asking questions about whether there is an actual personality anymore because there is no pattern to behaviour, or thought put into actions etc… I liked that idea, again it goes into the ideas about losing “the self” but in quite a different way to how we are used to hearing about in Eastern philosophy. So, the Killer, the Philosopher and the Holy Man are three different personalities that one person might be capable of “acting out” or “being”. If the idea of a collective consciousness is true, these are all just different ways that the Universe is choosing to experience itself. There is a lot of room for interpretation of course. A similar topic is in the lyrics of “Ten Thousand Armageddons”. What if we reach a point where we are just a presence in infinite space and we can choose to come back as whatever we want? Living different lives and experiencing every possible experience. Including Ten Thousand Armageddons, of course!
The world lives in a constant instability both in the economic and religious fields, the standards of “normality” are becoming uncertain, especially in Europe where the situation is not really good, do you think that this may be a beginning for a new wave of bands and a new alternative scene or did music already say everything it could?
As you can see by my previous answers, I spend a lot of time up in the clouds (or is that deep inside myself?) when it comes to thinking about things. I have probably neglected worldly politics, to be honest. I’m ignorant when it comes to that. Of course, it is very apparent that things are going pretty wrong! I definitely don’t think that music has already said everything it can. Music is a great way to speak out about everything and I do not doubt that it will be used as a mouthpiece for all sorts of things in the future. I think you are right – the more there is to think about, fight for, fight against, the more music will be used as a tool.
Sometimes people who have been following the scene for many years complain about the fact that everyone mix anything with Black Metal is now, do you believe that it was possible to avoid the contamination of this genre with elements that often made it more accessible and easy listening?
Luke: Black Metal is a very interesting genre and I love all the discussion surrounding it. I can see that people would have a problem with Primitive Graven Image so openly embracing the label but then straying from it, in their eyes. On the other hand, there are bands out there that reject the label but that I think are incredibly Black Metal. My definition is certainly broader than most. And I don’t think it is a case of being right or wrong about this. It’s a very personal thing. For me Black Metal is a genre that can SO EASILY be mixed with other elements, so it is its own worst enemy in that respect. Because it has so much to do with the atmosphere, the feeling, the aesthetics rather than technique etc… Making it more accessible and “easy listening” is where it becomes more of a problem, but at the same time, there is a romantic, beautiful side to Black Metal. I know some people will completely hate me for that kind of talk, but I believe it. For me, a so called “post Black Metal” band like Alcest has every right to name check the genre. Saying all this, I do believe in a “pure” or “true” Black Metal. It is great and is where the atmosphere and feeling will always come across the strongest. The funny thing is that I’m realising more and more that it is strongest in bands like Bathory. Even the second wave bands can’t capture that purity. The thing is, people don’t like it when bands mix Black Metal with other genres and at the same time they don’t like it when people try to create “pure” Black Metal. There’s no pleasing some people!
What is Black Metal today and which are (or should be) its main points?
I wouldn’t want to say what I think it should be. I am pleased that there are bands trying to stick to a traditional form and I’m pleased that other bands are pushing the boundaries. To steal parts of something I wrote a while ago – Black Metal is the embodiment of all that is opposed to mediocrity, normalcy and the notion that we must swim with the tide. It is nihilistic and hopeless but at the same time unifying and purposeful. It is the feeling of belonging to a whole, of something more than the sum of it’s crude, ugly parts. Ultimately, it captures all that it is to be human INTO ONE FEELING. Wow, I like that. It’s certainly a fascinating topic and one that I would love to write more about one day.
Many of the old bands from the Nineties totally changed now, what do you think of Darkthrone’s evolution-involution? What do you think of the critics people make about them?
Haha, Darkthrone are a great example of what I’ve just been talking about and also a great case study into “what is Black Metal”. Again, they would now reject the label. To me “The Underground Reistance” is an incredible album and has THAT feeling running all the way through it. I haven’t been into much of their newer stuff to be honest, but this new album I LOVE. But those guys’ attitudes are spot on, in my opinion. They represent what it is to BE Black Metal… Scratch that… METAL. People hate the “fun”, I think. But fun should be one element of the journey. Of course it should be. If you can’t laugh, you don’t have much to live for. Fun IS part of the human condition and so the Black Metal feeling has to encapsulate it. (wow?)
Which are the old bands that you still follow? And did you find anything interesting among the new ones?
Darkthone, I still follow massively and since this last album, even more so. I’m loving Bathory recently as well. I REALLY enjoyed the latest Mayhem album “Ordo Ad Chao”. Another great example of an album dripping in Black Metal but also very experimental. That is an INCREDIBLE and UNIQUE album. Newer bands – I’m a big fan of what Anaal Nathrakh are doing and also The Axis Of Perdition. Incredibly powerful stuff. The new Sigh album is wonderful! But they are an old band, damn it.
If you had the chance of making a split album, with which band would you like to do it?
The Axis Of Perdition, please! We’ve played with a few great bands over the past few years. Old Corpse Road and Ningharsag. I’d do a split with those guys!
Bandcamp, Soundcloud, Spotify, Reverbnation and many other sites made music accessible to everyone, do you think this is good or bad? Are these sites useful?
I think they are ultimately good things. Although, I’m sure they make it harder to get heard in some ways, because there are SO MANY bands around because of how easy it all is now. I know that we owe the Internet a lot. I’m to young to know, but I do feel like the “tape trading” days must have been an incredible time and it certainly isn’t like that anymore. Reading a book like “Choosing Death” about the beginnings of Death Metal, it must have been so exciting to be discovering this crazy sound by getting your hands on tapes and mailing off your own tapes etc… Now it’s just… NO I WON’T LISTEN TO YOUR ONE MAN BLACK METAL SIDE SIDE PROJECT!
How do you prepare your live shows? Do you have a gig that you consider unforgettable?
We try and get quite a bit of practise in until we all feel happy and confident, that’s all in terms of preparation really. It’s frowned upon these days, but I like corpse paint and the ritual of putting it on before a gig is quite a powerful thing for me. I like becoming “that” character. People will moan and say, “oh but you should be GRIM and TRUE at all times”. No thanks. We are on this planet though no fault of our own and I’m gonna have a laugh while I’m here. I love to think about the dark side of life and Primitive Graven Image is a vehicle for that. It means I don’t have to go around being a dick the rest of the time. Unforgettable gigs? We have had a lot of cool experiences. That’s the magic of it. Even if there isn’t a good turn out, there is always something that makes it cool and worth it. We played a great show with Alcest a couple of years ago, one of those all day indoor things. It was a great turn out and had a great vibe. We’ve met some great people along the way. Annoyingly and embarrassingly, I did not play when we played at Bloodstock which is probably our most important gig! Hopefully we will return!
How was “Psychedelic Episodes” received by your fans when you played its tracks on stage? Has 2012 been a good year about live shows?
2012 was actually pretty bad for live stuff. We didn’t play any gigs after “Psychedelic” for various reasons. It’s recently picked up again this year and we have played a few really good gigs. We hope it will continue! The new songs are amazing to play live and they seem to be going down well.
Is still possible to live with your own music today?
I’m not sure what you are getting at with this question. If you mean in terms of making a living, the answer is NO! I think you have to get to a very high level for that. And it’s very hard work once you are there to sustain it. Endless touring etc… I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it, but sometimes I feel like the magic might get lost when you end up HAVING to play a gig to make money. We’ll see what happens.
Which are your interests outside the music world?
I’m into computer gaming, reading about anything I can that will further my knowledge of this interesting place that I have found myself upon. I would like to get into web design a lot more. Getting into films quite a lot these days. LYNCH!
What would you like to achieve in 2013? Any news for the future?
We need to get playing live a bit more. It would be very nice to play some bigger gigs, perhaps some festivals. Getting out into Europe would be excellent for us, I think. We are re releasing our first album later on this year, so that should be quite nice. It’s hard to get at the moment and it’ll be nice to have a new package with the demo included as well. I’m very proud of that album and demo, it was a very special time!
The interview ends here, you can leave one last message for our readers.
Thanks for reading what has turned out to be an absolute joy to be a part of! Thanks for supporting Primitive Graven Image, we appreciate it! STAY BLACK!