Chris Kniker talks about industrial supergroup Primitive Race
By Bob Gourley | Published on August 6, 2015
First announced back in 2013, industrial supergroup Primitive Race has finally put out their highly anticipated self-titled debut album. The project was founded by Chris Kniker (Lords of Acid, RevCo) and includes participants such as Graham Crabb (Pop Will Eat Itself), Erie Loch (Luxt, Dream In Red), Tommy Victor (Prong, Danzig) and Dave “Rave” Ogilvie (Skinny Puppy, Jackalope). In an email interview, Kniker discussed the formation of the group, its mysterious unveiling, and more.
Could you discuss how the line-up of Primitive Race came together?
I wanted to try and make a record with friends I’ve made over the years. I started reaching out to people and the response was great. As things went along more people came on. It started to feel like this collective and I loved the idea of all these great minds collaborating.
Who were the people first to get involved?
That’s a hard question to answer. Guys were expressing interest and then over the course of time schedules and other commitments things turned out different than I had planned. The first song to be completed was Long In The Tooth. I sent the bass part to Erie and he wrote some music around it. Then we sent the parts to Raymond and he wrote this great synth part over the bass groove and scratched out the vocals. I guess that was the first song. Right around the same time Crabbi, Erie, and I were working on what would become Follow The Leader and Cage Rattler.
Was it all people you knew, or did you also seek out people you admired?
I admire everyone on the record. I grew up listening to Prong, Skinny Puppy, Pop Will Eat Itself, Foreskin 500, Tricky and so many others. It’s insane getting to work on records with all these people that I’m a fan of. They’re all great talents but they’re really good friends too. I had worked with almost all of them on different things in the past. I knew everyone except for Andi Sexgang. Mark Thwaite brought Andi into the mix. That was quite a thrill because Sex Gang Children have made a huge influence on Goth rock. Andi really is brilliant.
Did anyone particularly take you by surprise in terms of what they contributed?
Josh Bradford’s vocals for Below Zero were incredible. I loved them so much we literally scrapped the music we had three days before going to mastering. I thought Erie was going to kill me. I called him and told him I had a new bass part and some new synths and noise I was sending him. Mark Thwaite, Erie, and I pulled that song off at the last possible moment. Kourtney Klein’s synth programming on DJFH was amazing. Erie wrote this song called “Taking Things Back” and to hear him and Tommy Victor together was a lot of fun. It was really cool to hear Tommy on a more electronic song. He’s associated with metal and hardcore so much that to hear him in a completely different way really was an example of why projects like this are cool.
What was the overall timeframe of starting the project and making the album?
We literally started working on the record at the same time as I was starting to talk about it on social media. I wanted to try to give a real-time look into the entire process. As time went it became clearer that a lot of people just don’t have the attention span or patience for that in this day and age.
They just want to hear the music. There were so many starts and stops. I remember talking to Tommy about it backstage at The Ogden in Denver after a Danzig show two years ago. He was in. But, between Danzig and Prong it literally took a year and a half before he could track his vocals. He was on tour non-stop. It was the same for Mark Thwaite. He was writing and working on stuff between tours with Peter Murphy and Gary Numan.
How clear of a sense did you have as to the musical identity you were going for? Are there any particular ways it’s changed over the course of the project?
At first there was this sense of…there’s all these guys that have been doing “Industrial” for 20-30 years…so let’s make this loud, obnoxious, noisy record. At the same time Primitive Race is this new project and there were no rules so we could do anything we wanted. That gave us a lot of freedom and it just let the record become its own thing. It absolutely changed. It became what it was meant to on its own. I don’t know what genre to call the record. It doesn’t feel “Industrial” to me but I love the way it turned out. Everyone put a lot of effort into it and I think we ended up with something that’s a fun listen.
Did you have a general approach in terms of process? For example, did you create the initial basis for all the songs/tracks and then bring contributors? Or was it more a collaboration from that start? Did it differ by track?
I guess on seven or eight of the songs they pretty much started with me banging out some sort of bass groove or riff. From there a lot of the “heavy lifting” as I like to say was done by Mark Thwaite, Erie, and Crabbi. Dave Ogilvie did a ton of synth programming on the songs he was part of. Some songs were a back and forth collaboration.
On others, I had a clear idea of what I wanted. Acceptance of Reality is a good example. I bashed out this Melvins like bass part and Erie and Mark Thwaite added to it. It was something that I knew Tommy Victor had to sing on from the start.
Did you think about what other ‘supergroups’ had been like in the past, in terms of either inspiration or things NOT to do? Not at all. I don’t even think of this like a supergroup.
This started out as something to do for fun with some really cool people. There’s no ego or expectations. I just wanted to write some songs and am lucky enough to have a great group of friends to do it with. I think it’s better to keep it simple like that.
Will you be performing live at all as Primitive Race? If so, would it be the type of thing where you have a core line-up and are joined by others where/when available?
I hope so. I’ve talked about it with some of the guys. I know Tommy would like to play these songs. So do Erie, Crabbi, Mark Brooks, and Mark Thwaite. I think it’s going to be a challenge but if the right opportunity came along you never know. I don’t see us touring but one off shows would likely work. The scheduling and logistics of doing Primitive Race live will take some work.
What was the reason for releasing the Pig Vs. Primitive Race EP prior to the album? Was “Long In The Tooth” ever in consideration to be on the album?
Initially Long In The Tooth was going to be on the album. As Raymond and I were working on things it became clear that PIG and KMFDM fans really wanted to hear new PIG. It’s been over a decade and his fans are rabid to hear him. There’s also the element that anything Raymond Watts is involved in is him without question. It’s really a special talent that great frontmen have. In the end it just felt right to give the fans what they wanted and make it a versus EP.
There was a somewhat slow and mysterious unveiling of the project. Could you explain this approach a bit? To what degree might you have been gauging interest among potential fans and/or contributors? Was crowdfunding an important part of getting the album made?
Like I mentioned before it was really an experiment of unveiling the project as it happened. I thought it would be fun to let fans have that up close view of a band being created. I’m a huge music fan and I feel like there’s a real sense of community between a band and fans. A lot of people don’t realize it but things were happening in real time. One afternoon Rave and I were messaging on twitter and I asked him if he wanted to get in on this. He said yes and that was how Dave Ogilvie came on board. It was moments like that when it worked.
How much of a focus is Primitive Race? Do you see the group having regular releases, or as something that will just come together occasionally as people have the time?
For me it’s my baby so it’s something I’m very focused on. I just delivered the Follow The Leader EP to Metropolis so that should be out this fall. I think the rest of the lineup will be open. I hope a lot of the same guys come back but that will depend on their schedules. Some of the guys and I have talked about the next record already. There could be new guests too.
For more info on Primitive Race, visit their website at primitiverace.com. Also, check back soon for a new interview with Graham Crabb about Pop Will Eat Itself as well as his involvement with Primitive Race!See all interviews →