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The MK ULTRA Interview with: “A Primitive Evolution”

by John Wisniewski contributing writer

With their unique brand of dark electronic metal, the Toronto-based band A Primitive Evolution have just released their cover of Motörhead’s “Ace of Spades.” This long-awaited follow up to their 2018 Metropolis album “Becoming.” A Primitive Evolution (A.P.E.) features Steph Misayo Seki on bass, Stu Dead on drums and is fronted by Brett Carruthers who also plays guitar. It should also be noted, Brett, a busy guy, is also the bassist of the legendary The Birthday Massacre. A Primitive Evolution (A.P.E.) formed in 2007 then through a string of releases, created a constantly evolving soundtrack with their unique brand of dark electronic metal. We recently sat down to chat with Brett Carruthers.


John Wisniewski: What was the first original band that you were in Brett? Can you tell us about your earlier projects like Lye and Aphasia? Are any of these available for streaming?

Brett Carruthers: Wow the first original band I was in was actually called Purple Milk. I was 12 and the drummer Nial, what 13 or 14 haha. We made some nasty grunge jams at his parents place. Of course, Lye and Aphasia were when I got more focused and started recording and producing. Actually I’ve been talking with the members of Lye and we are actually working on a new EP for fun that will coincide with releasing digital versions of the catalog. Might just call it Lye/Aphasia haha.

JW: A.P.E. has an eclectic mix of sounds, was this the intent when the band first began in 2007?

BC: Definitely. One of the things we set out to do was mix all of our influences together. I think what came out and what we’ve evolved to sort of changed from our original outlook but we are happy with the results. I would say actually the new material is probably closer to what we originally imaged when we formed the band 13 or so years ago.

JW: Who are some of the biggest musical influences that have helped shape A.P.E.?

B: Wow so many. Of course the pioneers for us are bands from the 90’s when we were all first really getting into music. Nine Inch Nails, Ministry, Smashing Pumpkins, Alice In Chains, Guns N’ Roses, Depeche Mode, U2, Tool, The Cure, Jane’s Addiction, Killing Joke, Nirvana, just to name a few.

JW: Could you tell us about what led to your recording your version of “Ace of Spades”?

BC: This was actually something that came up when we used to play parties. So we’d do like a New Years Eve set at a bar and they’d ask us to throw in a few covers. So over the years we’ve done a bunch of fun songs, Stu actually dreamt up the way ace sounds with his drum beat. He suggested what if we played “Ace of Spades” like this beat instead of the original. We gave it a go and immediately loved it. We’ve actually been playing it for like 5 or 6 years live randomly sprinkled on some shows or as a pinch hit encore track so it was about time we released it!!

JW: Tell us about the recording and the concept behind the 2018 album “Becoming”? Who writes the band’s material? Unlike many of your peers, who perhaps release “too much” material, it seems that A.P.E. is very selective about releasing material. Is this intentional or a coincidence?

BC: “Becoming” was actually one of the most difficult albums I’ve ever made. It went through years of development and personnel changes. We actually really wanted to make this album with Ian D’Sa and Eric Ratz originally, but we just couldn’t find a label or get funding from Canada’s music fund FACTOR. Despite what we thought was a really solid record and having Ian and Eric both award winning producers/engineers we figured we had a shot no problem. But, alas, like most things with APE we ran into some haters on the FACTOR board lol and also some people that just couldn’t seem to categorize us so the hunt continued.
Unfortunately after the second failure to find this beast Ian and Eric had to move onto the next Billy Talent album so I took it upon myself to produce and record the thing. My good friend Kenny Luong came in to save the day with helping me mix the album. I desperately needed extra ears and Kenny also works with Ian on his records so it all came together with a pretty solid vision of what we had hoped it would be. We brought the finished album to Metropolis since I knew them through “The Birthday Massacre” and to our delight Dave Heckman liked the album and agreed to sign us! This album felt like it really needed to say something about where the band was headed so we did take our time to make sure it was the best it could possibly be.

The material is writing by all three of us. We start most things as a jam band. Loads of sessions of just bouncing ideas around a room. I write the majority of the lyrics and Melodie’s, but Steph and Stu do chime in on them sometimes for guidance or just that they don’t like it haha. Sometimes I’ll write on my own but I try to leave the bass and drums in a sketch state so they can compose their own parts to the tracks for the most part.

“Becoming” was original conceptualized a concept album even. But, unfortunately, as time went on we wrote more songs that’s didn’t connect and the concept sort of went of course.

The generally feeling was to write about an outsider, or even an alien experiencing life on Earth for the first time. So you might notice a common sort of theme across a bunch of the songs on that album.

JW: Would you say your North American Tour supporting Metropolis labelmates PIG opened doors for A.P.E.? Considering the amount of work it is, would you take on a large scale tour like this again?

BC: Ya definitely. It was our first big tour and we were received really well! PIG and Cyanotic were great and we loved the tour. We would definitely go back out given the opportunity for sure.

JW: Along with being a live member The Birthday Massacre, you’ve also done some co-writing and engineered for the band. Can you tell our audience more about your involvement with the group? Will you be performing with The Birthday Massacre on their upcoming tour with Lacuna Coil?

BC: Yes for sure. I’ve known the band for so long. We all met in college when I was in Aphasia and they were still called Imagica. We got along great and actually played loads of shows together in London and Toronto back then. Sometime around 2003 we started sharing our drummer James “Rhim” Davis and all the bands made their way to live in Toronto. I had set up a small studio in a house we were renting and we did some recording for the re-release of “Violet” there. I always called it “Desolation” studios and still do actually! So anyhow, their keyboard player had to quit and they were about to play their first American tour so I jumped on keys for a brief stint in like 2004 or 2005 or so just before being Owen in so I could pursue my goals for Lye and Aphasia. From there over the years we’ve been friends and shared a studio space together so when they were working on albums I’d always pop in and help out in some way or another. For “Fascination” their most recent release I got to be more a part of the writing and production process which was really exciting and satisfying for me after all these years.
And yes, I’ll definitely be on bass with them on the upcoming tour with Lacuna Coil as well!’

JW: Would you like to tell us about any future plans for A Primitive Evolution or any of your upcoming projects?

BC: We’ve got a whole new album on deck for A Primitive Evolution that we’re going to start recording in April and as well I’m getting the Lye and Aphaisa material together. Aside from that I’ve start scoring some animated Horror short films, one that just came to the festival circuit recently was called VRDLK: family of Vurdulak, and two more will be in the festival circuit this fall. And after that probably another “The Birthday Massacre” album will be ready to start working on! Loads of things! Loads!! Haha. Cheers!