Interview: Primitive Ignorant on Fatherhood, Music and Racism

Primitive Ignorant (aka Sym Gharial of Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster) releases a new EP Infant Joy on Midnight Streets today on Something In Construction Records. Featuring eight tracks including collaborations with Le Junk, Bess Cavendish, Elias Johnson and Leonore Wheatley, it’s a fantastic follow-up to last year’s debut album Sikh Punk. John Clay caught up with Sym to find out more.

You keep returning to your collaboration with Le Junk. Can you identify what he brings to your music that makes the union so profitable?

He’s one of the most talented people I’ve ever met. I love him as a person too. I think being able to make music with another human is infinitely sacred. That chemistry should never be tampered with because you would essentially be interfering with the universe’s handiwork.

Have you borne witness to said tampering first hand then?

It happens all the time that’s why bands can’t last forever. The chemistry is so magical and mystical yet combustible and uncontrollable , you never know what’s gonna happen so it’s important to treasure it with your whole heart. I think it’s important to emphasise how sacred musical chemistry is, because that’s what ends up touching and transforming people’s lives forever. It’s an infinite power.

Can you demystify the chemistry between you and Le Junk then, even if just a little bit?

I’m not trying to avoid the question, I just feel that when you try and explain powers beyond our comprehension you can never truly articulate it and in the process the mystique becomes fractured. All I can say is he’s a truly wonderful man and I love working with him. I’m really enjoying making music at the moment. It feels really freeing but I’ll probably have to re enter the prison at some point ‘cos you don’t wanna get too comfortable.

This talk of re-entering the prison in regards to process bears investigation. Can you expand on that concept please?

I think it’s important to not feel too comfortable as an artist. The complacency will only breed mediocrity and vacuous drivel. I like that feeling of being up against it or staring at failure. Being skint, not being satisfied, trapped in a basement, losing your mechanism over what you are creating. These conditions often draw something raw and interesting out of me. This is just me though, I’m sure it’s not the same for everyone. I’m not glamourising suffering I’m just trying to swerve getting too comfortable. Too safe. There’s too much to do and not enough time to do it.

When did you realise and act upon this philosophy?

Probably since I’ve stopped being in a full band. I’ve felt a lot of pressure since starting Primitive Ignorant but I’m relishing it. I find most of my day goes into creating for this band. Ripping things up, starting again. You gotta live it otherwise there’s no point. I also try not to get too distracted by what other people are doing. I’ve got a very obsessive, compulsive, impulsive mind so I need to be careful. There’s a lot of great music around at the moment though isn’t there?

Tons, and we’ll have to pick your brain for three acts that you’ve discovered recently. First though, do tell us what inspired your latest release in terms of subject matter?

The EP conveys the unrelenting tension of a broken and divided London, on the verge of collapse after over a decade of vicious Tory rule, Brexit, the horror of Coronavirus, the unfathomably hostile response to BLM, and the contempt shown to the workers who hold the country together and to artists and anyone not fixated on wealth creation. Importantly though I’ve also tried to focus on the potential of a brighter future, so a contrary state is envisioned, where sunlight, freedom and joy prevail. We cannot concede that the darkness will be forever so we must manifest change through the power of art, community, education and constructive protest. ‘Last In The Riot’ was written in response to the young Sikh boy Vijay Singh who was attacked in Telford Last November, and talks of exuding pride in your identity no matter what and perseverance in the fight against racism.

Did the subject matter being as heavy as it is influence your thinking beyond the creation of the track?

I think the music is one important manifestation of my thinking around the subject matter but my concerns definitely go further. I feel quite a strong dislike towards London at the moment. British culture seems to be swamped in darkness too. The Government has divided the population. There’s so much confusion over seemingly basic issues such as racial equality. I think a lot of people are starting to realise how hard it is for artists to survive over here too.

Have your anxieties grown since your news of being a father to be?

I’m a pretty anxious person anyway. I find reality weird and stressful. I don’t think I’m wired to understand it. Music gives me the perfect escape but writing gives me so much anxiety too. It’s impossible to switch off from or to ever feel satisfied but I feel an unrelenting duty and compulsion to keep creating. I don’t think I could exist without making music, I’ve gone too far into the abyss. I’m really excited about becoming a dad. It’s gonna be an incredible trip…

I’m sure you’ll have so much to teach your kid once they arrive. For example, what new bands are likely to be playing in your household once you bring your child home? For the purposes of this interview, you can only pick three!

Ah thank you so much John. Ah new music I’m listening to a lot at the moment is Billy Nomates, Dry Cleaning and Bad Nerves. Lots of other great artists out there too. I’m looking forward to the Scud FM album by the way!

Primitive Ignorant’s new EP Infant Joy on Midnight Streets is available now on Bandcamp.
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Interview by John Clay:
Photograph by Name Bawany

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