C60 In Conversation: Primitive Ignorant 29 April 2021

C60 in Conversation: Primitive Ignorant

As part of the C60 Club, we here at austerity will be catching up with some of our favourite artists of the underground music scene. This month, we had a chat with the man responsible for the raw power & passion of Primitive Ignorant – Ladbroke Grove’s own Mr. Symren Gharial…

Hey Sym, welcome to the C60 Club!

S: Hey! Thank you so much for having me, it's a real honour.

Prior to Primitive Ignorant, you established your name in the UK music scene by playing in such influential bands as Piano Wire & the acclaimed psych-rock outfit The 80’s Matchbox B-Line Disaster. Please take us through your musical journey up to now & how the transition to solo artist came to be.

Yeah, it's been an intense journey! Even though I regret getting so messed up in Eighties’ Matchbox, I look back on that band with a lot of pride. We were running on an unfathomable energy at the time. It was blistering, uncontainable & extreme in every way. We did exactly what we set out to do. In Piano Wire, it was a real privilege to work so closely with Andy Huxley. We wrote so many songs together in that band & I learnt so much from a master. However, although I've been playing for a bit, I don't think I can be classified as a musician in the traditional sense. I'm not technical or conventional. I like punk & the freedom, change & individuality that it stimulates. It's really important to me to evolve & surprise people. I don't think anyone expected me to come out with a record like this. “Sandinista!” by The Clash was my inspiration. They were completely unbounded on that album, refusing to stick to one genre & did whatever they wanted.

PI is obviously a very personal project & “Sikh Punk” is inspired by your troubles as a young Sikh growing up on Ladbroke Grove & struggling to fit in. How does this record link to your past & do you see it as a sort of cleansing of some unpleasant memories?

Growing up as a Sikh in West London, I had so much shame in who I was & where I was from. It was such a struggle enduring the day-to-day bullying & I'd cracked by the time I was 15. That's when I cut my hair & got into rock 'n' roll, drugs & self-harm in an attempt to run from my ethnicity. The story of a South Asian immigrant's struggle to integrate into British society has rarely been told in popular culture so it felt really important to share the intimate details of my past & help to emancipate the voice of the South Asian diaspora. Since getting sober nine-and-a-half years ago, I've found a new pride in my ethnicity so although there is a lot of pain & suffering in the album, really it's about victory, justice & renaissance.

The LP touches on the unwelcome return of overt racism to the UK, largely fuelled by the current post-Brexit landscape. As a musician & performer who has seen first-hand just how damaging this can be, do you feel Primitive Ignorant can influence a new generation of young alternative types to take a stand, much like the punk music of years past inspired you?

I think music is an extremely powerful medium, one that's immeasurably special. I feel a responsibility with Primitive Ignorant to raise awareness over struggles with race, addiction & mental health through my music & lyrics - but I'm not trying to directly influence anyone. I'm just sharing my experiences & hopefully someone might relate to them & feel reassured that they are not alone, or even feel encouraged to share their own. I believe there is a huge power in exposing vulnerability with humility & sharing a struggle. The record is not about being a victim though. It's about victory & exuding in your identity no matter what.

“Sikh Punk” contains collaborations with some of the most important names in punk/alt music from the 70’s (The Clash’s Mick Jones) to the present day (Joe Talbot of IDLES). How did these come to be & what do you feel these voices bring to the record?

I first met Mick Jones when I was playing a Rock Against Racism gig at The Astoria & then later on again when he lived around the corner from me in Ladbroke Grove. Mick is probably my favourite ever musician so it was great bumping into him all the time. As the album is set in W10, & has a sprinkling of sounds from Portobello Market running through it, asking Mick to contribute to the record seemed like a pretty cool idea. A dream really. He's such a lovely man! I've been a big fan of IDLES since my manager played me a demo in 2016, so it was a real honour to work with Joe Talbot - another voice of a generation. I spoke to Joe on the phone to chat to him about the idea really early in the first lockdown & I really appreciated his openness & warmth as a human being. It was so wonderful to work with the both of them. Their delivery of the Oscar Wilde poem is so, so beautiful & gives the record so much charisma &, also, this theatrical, story book feel. It's incredibly vivid & extremely moving.

This takes us to the dazzling lead single “Beautiful Scum”, a track that features AUS’ resident superstar Daisy Coburn. After how well the single was received, could further collaborations between the two of you be a possibility further be down the line? We’d love to see it…

Ah I love Daisy so much! She's so amazingly talented & I love “Beautiful Scum”. It was such a privilege to work with her on that song. I think there'll definitely be more from us in the future! It's been such a natural collaboration & so much fun - I'm so honoured to work with her.

Your latest EP, “Infant Joy on Midnight Streets”, has just been released via Something In Construction & has already received rave reviews from the likes of Steve Lamacq, Under The Radar & Louder Than War. With this new music already making big waves & the end of the pandemic somewhat in sight, what is in the future for Primitive Ignorant & Sym Gharial?

Thank you all so much. I just want to keep evolving, changing & putting loads of music out. A new album is being recorded as we speak & there’ll be shows soon too. I feel an enormous amount of freedom with Primitive Ignorant so I'm really excited to discover where the next record is going to go.