Interview mit Alan „Nemtheanga“ Averill von Dread Sovereign & Primordial

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Alan „Nemtheanga“ Averill is known as a critical thinker and freedom-loving person. So it’s hardly surprising that the Irishman is not only financially but also emotionally affected by the lockdown. A conversation full of gloomy prognoses and raised middle fingers – but also characterised by the will to persevere and, of course, that kickass old school metal attitude that is in every note on his latest DREAD SOVEREIGN album „Alchemical Warfare“.

Hi and thanks a lot for taking time for this interview! In the Corona pandemic, this introductory question takes on a completely different weight: Are you well?
I survive. Trying to stay sane, a lot of running and working on my podcast. That’s about it for now. „Well“ is a complex question. If you mean quality of life, then no, not really, if you mean physically fit, then yeah.

Apart from the health risks, musicians are of course also affected directly economically by the crisis. How hard does the loss of all performance opportunities hit you personally?
Massively. It is not only economically, but I’ve been poor before, I can handle that. It’s human agency, process, movement, creativity, travel, identity, experience, adventure, emotionally connecting with other people… the simple joy of a shared communal emotional experience, all removed. Not to mention in reality PRIMORDIAL is also the small business we built and carefully curated over 30 years more or less destroyed in several weeks. It is what it is for now, but no one should hide from the fact that for musicians, travelling musicians etc., this is more or less a ground zero, and if it does not come back, it’s the end for many, many bands.

How long can a band like PRIMORDIAL, can you as a musician sit out such a concert-free period – and do you have other jobs, if necessary, to finance a living until the bands can go back on stage?
We all have jobs, or had jobs or work, PRIMORDIAL has never been our main „job“, but the income was essential to living and not just surviving. It certainly is not replaced by streaming, which is worth little to us. People talk about endless merch drops, this doesn’t work either. The reality is, I guess, we will make one more PRIMORDIAL album, we had started work on new songs before we were not allowed to meet to rehearse… and then after that we have to see. Without gigs, travel, touring for me personally I see no reason to release any more metal. Brutal truth.

Alan Averill als Sänger von Primordial

And what do you think: How long will live culture in general be able to withstand this crisis – when will things be irretrievably lost – and how can this be counteracted?
It can be counteracted by societies moving back towards opening, learning to live and cope with pandemics without shutting society down and returning to level 0. Because let’s be real: We won’t have shows as we knew until we go back to level 0. However, I am one of those people who do not believe this will happen, I can see level 2/3 being the new normal and society just having to live with these new rules/restrictions and levels of digitally intrusive authoritarianism. What is benign and what is malign remains to be seen. But can you see 200 people being allowed back into a small bar, spontaneously to mingle, hang out, rage to a band like they used to? I see zero percent this year, a small percentage next year but in reality is that really likely? There will be people who will never go back to live shows, there are people who enjoy being locked down and won’t return to socialising. What has really struck me is how compliant people are. We have seen how little art means in this scenario. My view of the future is not positive, but I am happy to be wrong about my pessimism, very happy. I speak in projections and hypotheticals but I think even the most positive person who places blind faith in the state/media can see something else is happening to society other than a health crisis.

Even apart from the pandemic, it’s not getting any easier – it’s getting harder and harder for musicians to get work visas for the USA, and with Brexit it might also become harder to play in the UK. Doesn’t that make you lose interest?
Nothing makes me lose interest – this is my life! I would tour and play for nothing and fill out endless forms… whatever it takes. The US has always been an expensive process to tour, I’m sure it will be if we are allowed to do so again. Brexit… ? I am only concerned with touring and playing live coming back, then we can work out the other details.

More and more bands are shifting to live streams, also old school bands like Asphyx. As far as I know, you’re more of an „old school guy“ yourself and not a fan of digital ways of working etc. – so not keen on this format either, I guess? As a music listener yourself, would you rather miss out on shows altogether than watch a streamed show?
I won’t take part in one and I won’t watch one. I have no interest in taking part in this level of anti-humanism, we are being corralled into an anti-human future and I personally don’t want to beg to be allowed to stream a show to no one, we are from the democratic first world, we have inalienable rights, never forget that. We cannot in the future beg to be allowed to be human together. So… nope, not ever.

The cancelled shows will probably free up a lot of time – will there be a new PRIMORDIAL album sooner because of that, or is everything also at a standstill because of Corona?
We cannot right now meet to rehearse so we are stuck again. I refuse to trade files or write online with anything I do musically generally, so nothing will happen until we are able to stand in a room together. Plain and simple.

DREAD SOVEREIGN has established itself as a permanent band of yours alongside PRIMORDIAL. Was that the plan back then when you started the band – that it should be a long term thing – and would you have expected to get three albums and a big deal?
I will say this: I am relentless and pursue my goals. I told Bones and the others when we started this band that this is what we will do, release albums, tour, grow… and here we are. PRIMORDIAL is my life work, this is like a sidebar for my alter ego, but I never approach anything really thinking it won’t work out, you have to bend things to your will.

DREAD SOVEREIGN are now signed to Metal Blade. Did it take two albums with Ván to convince them of your qualities or did you deliberately want to sign DREAD SOVEREIGN somewhere else first?
In the beginning yeah, we made our first EP on Road Burn Records. It wasn’t my intention to convince anyone of anything, that’s just the path we travelled.

Compared to Ván, Metal Blade are more or less a major label. That brings attention, of course – was that the reason why you signed with Metal Blade?
No huge reason, I love Ván and have total respect for Sven and all he does, this is the home of artists, no doubt. Yet the new DREAD SOVEREIGN was more straight heavy metal, more rock ’n’ roll, and I just thought maybe it needs a new vehicle to see if we can take a step up into the mainstream a little more, tours/festivals etc. So it made sense. They’re both great labels and great people, just looking at things from a slightly different angle.

Ván is a label that focuses on dark doomy music – which of the (former) label colleagues do you find particularly exciting musically?
Oh, too many. Sven is an awesome guy, the label has a vision and there are endless albums they have released of such high quality, what can we say! From The Devils Blood to The Ruins Of Beverast, Urfaust… too many. But you know, the new DREAD SOVEREIGN is more uptempo, kinda Motörhead, Venom, Tank, and I just thought maybe it needed a new road to travel on.

After „For Doom The Bell Tolls“ now „Alchemical Warfare“. Last time it was partly Hemingway, partly Metallica – now it’s just Slayer, isn’t it? Is there a reason for that or was it just for the gag?
Ah, it amuses me… that’s sort of about it. And it sounds fucking cool. And I guess on some level it’s a reference to the attempt by functions of modern society to tame the instinct of man to reach his own godhood. Which we wage war with…

What fascinates you about alchemy, what is the album about?
Well, in the artwork the three characters are lab assistants to Isaac Newton, who of course was obsessed with the secret of alchemy. So the title is a loose poke in the eye of modern culture that seeks to wage war on our personal process of overcoming and actualisation… in a magical sense! Or maybe it is us who needs to wage war with our personal magic? Either/or… I am very interested in these post-enlightenment hermetical occult orders who sought the secret of alchemy base to precious metals. But the philosophers‘ stone represents the process towards a form of self-godhood.

Your first album was 70 minutes long, your last one only 30 – the new one is in between with 50 minutes. Is that the ideal album length now?
No big deal, quality over quantity.

Alan Averill als Bassist von Dread Sovereign The album has a bit more clean vocals, it’s a bit more heavy than doom. Does that have to do with musical influences, or how come?
Well, all I knew was I wanted to up the tempo a bit, make things a little less obscure doom and have a bit more of this NWOBHM style kick in the ass… Venom, Tank and Motörhead. Sure, it’s still doom with some of the old old school black metal, but it has some more get up and go. One of the reasons? I got a bit better at playing, we had a great energy between us, understand songwriting and dynamics more. I don’t care personally about DREAD SOVEREIGN being original or progressing, I just want it to have this pure, old school, vital energy… reckless and wild, like metal used to be.

You recorded the last album live – is that also true for this one, and what does it mean? I assume that lead guitars and vocals were recorded later, weren’t they?
Well, yeah, I mean live within reason – you add leads, vocals and add extra guitar, fix some really bum notes etc., but we all play in the room together, live, in the old school way.

The material contains a lot of feedback, the production is very dirty. Is that also a statement? Is there too much post-processing, too many clean productions in metal today for your taste?
Absolutely it is. I want it to have – as I said – this wild reckless energy, the sound of three humans alive in a room together making music, a white knuckle ride far removed from the safe concerns of most modern metal and most modern society. So I plugged in my old 1979 Rico BC Rich into a nasty old guitar head, found the best Lemmy tone, adopted the stance, took a shot, did a line and raised my middle finger to the world. This is DREAD SOVEREIGN.

On the album you covered another song, this time from Bathory. Why this song in particular?
Again no real reason. It seemed to be a cool way to end the album. We were jamming it in rehearsal so we thought: Fuck it, let’s put it on there. It seemed a really fine way to raise a middle finger to everything, to end the album on something wild, reckless and free.

Are there too few covers done nowadays? Do you think it’s important that bands pay tribute to others through covers – and how would you like it if other bands covered your songs?
It doesn’t really bother me either way. We have talked about doing something like a covers album with PRIMORDIAL, songs that inspired us from the 1980s, some obscure choices, a bit like Napalm Death did … but we never agreed on it or got around to it. There have been some covers of our songs here and there, it’s quite flattering on one level but I don’t have strong opinions either way really.

Is TWILIGHT OF THE GODS still around, will there be something new to listen to?
Who knows. We talk, there is an agreement to try and see, but again: We cannot travel to meet to rehearse, so for now it has to stay on the shelf.

Thank you very much for the interview. Let’s wrap it up with our traditional brainstorming – what is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of the following terms?
Black Sabbath: Probably the greatest band in history! And I love all the mid-80s albums hardly anyone likes! I listened to „Seventh Star“ only yesterday.
Your favorite album from 2020: „Uinuos Syömein Sota“ by Havukruunu from Finland
Brexit: Complex… I believe in the sovereignty of individual nation states and the ability to make their own decisions independent from an unelected cabal of European technocrats/IMF/WEF etc. But at the same time I understand its economic implications. Very complex… but the fact that the public was asked one question in a referendum over something so complex was a dramatic failing on some level of the political system.
Bathory: Biggest influence musically in my life!!
A food that always makes you happy: I love cooking! Anything savoury… I’m too sweet already (laughs).
Craft Beer: Hit and miss… sometimes you just want an old fashioned Guinness, you can’t beat that.
Your hope for 2021: Simple: End lockdown, get back to life and living, and not have our lives micro-managed and controlled by a new structure of digital authoritarianism at the behest of a technocratic state apparatus.
DREAD SOVEREIGN in 10 years:
Who knows. I hope to still be kicking against the pricks somehow.

Once again thanks for your time. The last words are yours – is there anything left you want to tell our readers?
I will say this: These are difficult and dark times and of course my natural state of mind is something pessimistic, this is who I am, but my negative assessment of the situation does not mean that I am without hope, nor do I wish to be right. I wish very much to be incorrect and things to return to normal and hey… you can mock me at the bar at a show somewhere and buy me a beer and tell me I went a bit crazy, because I certainly did! Until then I say, stay sane, stay fit, stay in the game… it won’t be helpful to let „them“ win by taking your spirit. Remember why you got into metal in the first place! Over and out! Die hard!

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