Primer 55 Biography
The Louisville, Kentucky-based band hit the ground running, touring with acts such as Slipknot, Staind and Sevendust, while also sharing stages with the likes of Godsmack, P.O.D. and Ozzy Osbourne as part of Ozzfest 2000. As if that didn’t keep them busy enough, Primer 55 appeared on The Ozzfest: Second Stage Live CD, recorded a cover of N.W.A.'s "Appetite For Destruction" for Priority’s Rebirth of Loud, and contributed a track to WCW Mayhem, the soundtrack for World Championship Wrestling. "The whole year was a like a blur to me," says Primer 55 guitarist Bobby Burns. "As soon as one tour ended, we’d start another. It was the most amazing experience—we were completely blown away by the audiences. We were on the road for several months before the album came out and we consistently got great reactions even though nobody knew who we were. I take great pride in that."
"I got addicted to being on the road," laughs vocalist Jason. "I love the adrenaline rush that comes from watching how our music affects the people in the audience. It’s an incredible feeling."
When the grueling tour ended, the road-tightened group returned home fully developed, their sights firmly focused on making new music. "Traveling around the country, meeting all kinds of people and experiencing a different side of life really affected us," says Burns. "It definitely influenced our writing and you can hear that immediately."
One spin of (The) New Release and it's obvious you're listening to a band that's gone through a process of creative revitalization. As Jason tells it, "This album is night and day compared to the first one. We were kids when we wrote the last record—pissed at everything and needing to vent. This time we opened up and wrote about the personal changes we went through instead of railing against the world. I think the growth is pretty noticeable."
Recharged and feeling musically liberated, Primer 55 has crafted a seething album that broadens with each listen. Produced by Burns and collaborator Eddie Wohl, (The) New Release retains all the key elements of the first album—meat-grinding guitars, throbbing grooves and Jason’s primal scream—with a few surprises thrown in for good measure. Among the album’s many highlights is "Texas," a deliciously raw, reggae-tinged rock cut, and “Hesitation,” a nerve-jangled blend of coiled-up guitars and horns—a far cry from what the genre typically offers.
Says Burns, "I’ve always wanted to incorporate horns into a heavy song, but felt scared to do so. This time, it was just like, fuck it, if I want to try something different, I’m just gonna go for it. I’m really proud of the way the song—and the album—came out."
Adds Jason, "We also made sure not to listen to any current music. During the writing and recording period, we never listened to the radio or watched MTV because we didn’t want any outside influences creeping into the songs. We wanted everything to be fresh." And is Burns tough as a producer? "He can be," laughs Jason, "But he also helps me to be the best I can. We’re also not afraid to tell each other that something sucks. We never settle for anything less than 100% satisfaction."
Such breakthroughs don't come easy, as Burns and Jason can attest. In addition to bringing in a new rhythm section—ex-Dope drummer Preston Nash and bassist Kobe Jackson—the duo turned themselves inside out to make the album.
"I’m really big into melody and took an active approach in the overall songwriting," explains Burns (who makes his vocal debut in the song, "Pills"). "I didn’t want J to be around when I recorded the music because he was already familiar with the demo versions. The finished versions were radically different and I knew they would take on new meaning for him. The goal was to have every song sound unique by evoking a different emotion—and it worked."
A case in point is leadoff single "This Life," a harrowing look at spousal abuse. "That song is written about people we all know," says Burns. "It’s inspired by a real event and it’s about a victim who decides she’s had enough and gets out of the situation the only way she can—by shooting her abuser." In "Tricycle," Burns recalls a time when he didn’t have to worry about marketing strategies and mortgages. "It’s about my memories of growing up," he smiles. "Life was so much easier back then. We thought we had it rough because our parents would give us crap, but I’d give anything to be that little kid my mom yelled at to clean up his room." "My Girl" is a look at how life on the road can take its toll on one’s personal life. "Being away from home can be really difficult," says Burns. "The ups and downs of it are a very real situation for us. As much as I love being out there and playing, I get really homesick. I’m lucky that my relationship has endured in spite of it."
What keeps him going during the tough times?
"Music," he says. "I was 12 years old when I heard Kiss Alive and Frampton Comes Alive and those two records changed my life. Those albums fucked me up and there was no turning back after that. A dozen years later, I still get that same feeling when I hear a good song and that's why I still play music. As long as I have that feeling inside me, I'll do this forever."
At a time when most metal bands are content to simply bash away, Primer 55 has raised the stakes with (The) New Release, a dynamically diverse album that extends the parameters of rock songcraft.
Says Burns, "This album was influenced by some of my favorite artists—the Beatles, Peter Frampton, Kiss, Black Sabbath—bands who made records that were real. You listen to those albums and the tones are rich and warm and each band sounded unique. All the guitar tones on today’s records sound the same because each player thinks he needs to sound like the rest. Back in the '70s, it was about individuality and that was what made the music special. Now we're saturated with same-sounding bands. There are too many people trying to live in the same house. We wanted to make a record that people can listen to in 10 years and say, 'that’s still good music. I don’t want to be categorized. I just want to be a rock and roll band."