There’s future in the past, and plenty of past in our future – but none of this nonsense seems to be slowing down The Future Primitives, a band driving forward at high-speed, without ever taking their eyes off the rear-view mirror.
On their recently released third album – and, it should be both noted and admired, their third album in just over a year’s time – The Future Primitives steer themselves directly “Into the Primitive,” and their take on “primitive” in this case is something we can use more of in our lives. For this trio of South African rock and roll lunatics, “primitive” means simply a focus on capturing a certain energy, a certain timeless approach, and less about having their vocals lost in the mix, or making sure the drums sound like pencils tapping on a phone book.
That energy – that primal, upbeat, adrenalized and fully realized perfection of rock and/or roll music – spills over the edges of “Into the Primitive,” and the result plays like evidence of someone planting some highly-caffeinated Seeds in Cape Town. A thirteen song, thirty-seven minute crash-course in speed, snarl and hook-after-hummable hook, “Into the Primitive” took the expressway to our heart. Case in point: the should-be hit single, “Every Night,” finding the band happily picking up where The Lemon Drops dropped off.
Few albums this year will strike us as immediately and urgently as “Into The Primitive,” and we couldn’t be more fortunate than to have the whole band answer our ridiculous questions below. Enjoy.
What does the notion of being “primitive” mean to you? What do you think the word means with regard to your approach to making music? What activity in your life do you wish could be perhaps more primitive? What activity do you wish could be less primitive?
Johnny: Being wild, free and barbaric. In music it’d be the freedom to do what you want, also to keep things simple – that’s the key. In life, for sure, there are times when you wanna just go live in the wild and get away from everything. It’s a strong word “primitive.”
Heino: I think it’s all about making use of what you have in order to reach a certain goal, like in the past people found stuff in their surroundings to help them make fires and hunt in order to survive. As a band, we focus on stripped down rock n roll using what is necessary to create a song – we don’t overdo or overthink it. With recording, The Future Primitives make use of old analogue gear, playing live to tape in order to create a certain sound. That’s pretty raw if you consider all the technological advances we have today – although it’s the only way that makes sense to us.
Warren: For me, Primitive is simplicity. When approaching music it makes sense to me that less would be more. There is something there that is far more tangible in music when stripped of everything; a song is only as great as it sounds in its most simplistic form – I’d really dig it if cell phones could only make calls and texts. Everything else is a drag. Driving is a bitch, so I’m amped on this teleportation thing whenever that’s happening.
Is there a single band, artist or album that has had an enduring influence on you personally, although one that you didn’t latch on to until some time after your initial introduction? Do you think of the inspiration you received from this music as perhaps ahead of its time – futuristic, even?
Johnny: I have a weird relationship with music. Lately I’m not really interested in hearing anything new. I’m quite happy to put on “Safe As Milk” and just disappear into the mind of Don Van Vliet. And yes, Don wasn’t just five years ahead of his time – he was way ahead! And still leads the way.
Heino: When I first heard “The Psychedelic Sounds Of The 13th Floor Elevators,” I was caught off guard by the jug in the background – I actually thought it was some weird effect on a very fast bassline or something. I was familiar with The Spades from garage comps though so I recognized “You’re Gonna Miss Me.” But since that first listen it’s one of the albums I could never stop listening to – definitely my personal favorite release them.
Are all of the members of The Future Primitives from South Africa originally? In what ways – if any – do you think your geographic locale has impacted the musical approach of The Future Primitives? What do you find most advantageous about your location? What is the most difficult, either personally or musically?
Johnny: Yes we are all from South Africa. We were actually asked a similar question recently – with the internet and stuff it doesn’t really matter where you are in the world because it has made the world really small and we have access to anything. But from a personal aspect there are downsides like when it comes to physical things – live music (not a lot of great bands come here), gear (it’s not as easy to find decent gear and old gems), same with records – I got all my gems when I was in London for a bit.
Heino: Like Johnny said, our location doesn’t have any affect on what music we like or the music we started making. Our approach to The Future Primitives would’ve been the same anywhere in the world, I guess. The most difficult thing about staying here is probably that isolation you feel when cool bands tour and play everywhere but here, what’s more is the lack of venues for local bands so getting bored playing the same places over and over again is not unheard of, and probably the worst, we don’t have a record press here.
Warren: Living in South Africa I think you have a choice, you could sit and listen to the radio and watch your MTVs and whatever else the Western culture wants to shove down your throat or you could get up off your ass and find your own niche with the help of the internet and local shows. Find that genre/song/artist/album that is personal to you. I think far too often people settle for what they’ve been given without too much thought. It’s sad, but I do believe it’s a choice.
Were there experiences with other musical projects that directly led to the formation of The Future Primitives? What do you think you’ve learned about each other from a musical perspective that it most surprising? What do you think you’ve learned about each other from a personal perspective that’s most surprising?
Johnny: Well, Heino and I had The Revelators before this – so that’s two out of three members the same. I’ve learned musically that when you jam with people long enough you almost become one unit and if you jam with other people then you suddenly realize just how strong that bond actually is. And from a personal aspect – things are just so chilled, we’re good friends and we never even have any issues – it’s almost weird how we never fight or have any shit.
Heino: Yeah, we learned a lot by playing together in The Revelators. We played a few shows, attempted our first live recording to a cassette machine and then stopped. And it does feel out of place jamming with other people. We knew we’d always do something new somewhere down the line, so after a while we started jamming again. After finding Warren, the few songs that came out of those initial jams lead to the release of “This Here’s The Future Primitives.”
Warren: I feel Johnny and Heino have changed the way I’m listening to music. There needs to be energy now, I need to feel that song that I’m listening to pound at my heart and move me. When I’m behind my kit and playing our songs, through each one, I have an emotional response. So when I listen to music I need to have that same reaction.
Not only are we rightfully in love with the music banged-out by The Future Primitives, but we’re in love with the pace with which you seem to be releasing that music. To what do you attribute your relatively accelerated album release schedule? Don’t you guys have anything better to do than play this demonic rock and/or roll nonsense?
Johnny: No, we just really like making albums. We are also very interested in recording, like the process. Warren and I are into sound and we record other bands too. But when you’ve got no one else to record, and you wanna record, then you got to make an album right?
Heino: It’s great to have both Johnny and Warren know what’s up with recording and all … I just play bass and I’m more than happy to write new material and record with these guys. Sure, sometimes it’s a bit strenuous but in the end it’s all worth it.
Warren: Johnny and I are both Sound Engineers, and Johnny having his own studio and gear is great, it definitely helps us in that we don’t have to find a studio and work up the cash to pay for everything as this can take time. I definitely don’t have anything better to do.
What can you tell us about the art direction on your two albums of original material? The covers for both “This Here’s The Future Primitives” and “Into the Primitive” are both very compelling in their efficient evocation of the music contained therein – just fantastic stuff. And where did you meet the young child who drew the cover for “Songs We Taught Ourselves”?
Johnny: Haha … wow … I’m actually the young child that drew the cover for “Songs We Taught Ourselves”! I’m left-handed – well, ambidextrous, but both my hands are useless when it comes to accuracy.
Heino: Hayden Phipps was the photographer for both album covers. He basically came up with both directions and it was really cool working with him. He’s got a website that you can check out over here. Haha … I love the cover of “Songs We Taught Ourselves.” It suits the concept of the whole album so well.
Would you care to comment on the rumor – the rumor that we are attempting to start right now – that the band will soon cut their hair, take to wearing collared shirts and neckties, and reform under the name “The Prim-and-Proper Lives”?
Johnny: It’s been a long time coming, but yes, we are working towards this. As soon as we can afford it – it’s happening.
Heino: That sounds like an amazing boy band name … Might have to take you up on that “rumor.” Also, Johnny is a great hairstylist – just look at my do.
Warren: Have you been reading my script?
What music have you been listening to lately? If push comes to shove, what’s your favorite song by The Sonics and why? Please show your work.
Johnny: I haven’t really been listening to music lately – I go through phases where I sometimes just don’t wanna listen to anything. Favorite Sonics song – probably “The Witch” because it was the first song I ever heard by them and its what got me hooked. I also like “Boss Hoss” a lot. But as you say – if push comes to shove. Everything they did was great. Except the “Jingle Bells” cover – I can’t handle that.
Heino: Lately, I’ve just been digging up and through a whole bunch of comps. But no matter when you ask, there will always be a little Thee Oh Sees, early Ty Segall and early Black Lips in the mix. The new Night Beats album is also really cool! When it comes to The Sonics, I’d have to say “The Witch” hands-down. As with all Sonics songs, the vocals and drums play a huge part. The guitar solo in “The Witch” is so raw, the lyrics are kinda creepy and that bassline is just so damn groovy.
Warren: Dead Ghosts, Los Dos Hermanos and some wild teen punk from Peru.
Winston Churchill – also a great fan of The Sonics, we’re certain – is quoted as having said the following:
“It is a mistake to try to look too far ahead. The chain of destiny can only be grasped one link at a time.”
Johnny: I think it’s very true. The present is the only thing that’s real, and the only time when things are created. You have to have some goals obviously, but a lot of people only have goals and never achieve them because they are too fixated on the final outcome that they can’t even begin. It’s really good to break things down – it brings us back to simplicity and why that’s important.
Heino: We don’t really look too far ahead anyway. When it comes to music, most of our influences are buried somewhere in the past. All we can do is draw from it and experiment with it in a way that is unique to us.
Warren: Yeah, I don’t know…
What’s next for The Future Primitives?
Johnny: European tour…
Heino: Yeah, we’re touring Europe in October and finally getting to meet our split release friends, Dusty Mush! After that, we’ll see what happens but something new is bound to come out sooner or later.
Warren: Band practice.
“Into the Primitive” is available now.