Interview with Primer 55 guitarist Bobby Burns

- Jan 16, 2008 at 01:25PM
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Guitarist Bobby Burns has been around the world and back. Rising to stardom in the late '90s as the brains behind the alt-metal act Primer 55, Burns and company quickly developed a following from sold-out tours alongside Fear Factory, Disturbed, Taproot and a stint on Ozzfest 2000. Much has happened since then for example, in 2001 Primer 55 returned with their sophomore effort The New Release and shed their nu-metal skin and released one of the most underrated albums of the year. In 2003 after battling record labels, his own personal demons and band members, Primer 55 went on hiatus and Burns went to join Soulfly as the group’s new bass player. With Soulfly, Burns would go on to tour the world multiple times over and perform in front of thousands each night. Now, with Soulfly on hiatus while Cavalera rejoins his brother in Cavalera Conspiracy, Burns has returned to his first love with the release of Family For Life. The 2-disc CD/DVD combo offers fans a retrospective looks back at one of the genres most underrated groups with some previously unreleased tracks, a live set and behind the scenes footage. Burns took the time out of his busy tour schedule to speak with PureGrainAudio.com about Primer 55’s recently released new album, his split with P55 frontman J-Sin and some fantastic touring stories.

You’ve been playing with Max Cavalera and Soulfly for a few years now. Why reunite Primer 55 now?
Bobby: I've been in Soulfly for the past 5 years and I've made 3 records with them. Crash Music contacted me wanting to know what was up with P55 and I was like "nothing at all". I started talking with the label and we decided to go through all my personal video tapes and put together a DVD/EP. So that's what we did. I called Jason (vocals) and told him what I was doing and it seemed to have set off a spark in him to get better and go out with me and play some shows and here we are. The past few years have been hell for Jason and he wasn’t in any shape to tour or anything like that for a really long time.

Primer 55 released arguably one of the most underrated records of 2001 in The New Release, which debuted at #1 on the Billboard Heatseekers Charts and #102 on the the Top 200. How disheartening was it to create such a dynamic record and then have your record company shelve the album only 2 months after its release?
Bobby: It totally fucking sucked! The album was out 2 months then 9/11 happened and we got lost in that shuffle that was going on in NY at that time.

That record must have come as a shock to some fans expecting to hear the same band and then they're hit with songs like “Texas” and “Tricycle” where J-Sin is using a singing voice and some of the tracks had horns. Do you think The New Release wasn’t given a chance by some fans, because Primer 55 had been pigeonholed as a nu-metal band?
Bobby: I think most of our fans know that we love all types of music and we put our influences into our songs.

Give us the lowdown on the Family For Life CD/DVD package that you just released.
Bobby: IT'S GONNA BE THE SHIT; Plain and simple. "Family For Life" covers a whole era' from 1998 through 2002 with backstage footage, 3 full concerts and behind the scenes and extra stuff. It turned out really cool. I know it has become a little hard to find since it was released on an Indy label (Crash Music), but it's all worth it and I love it.

The disc contains a lot of B-sides rarities etc., from previous releases. Where has the material been all this time and why is it just surfacing now?
Bobby: It's just songs that I had locked away and decided that now was the time for true fans to hear us again, old and new. Some songs are electric and some are acoustic versions.

You recently parted ways with frontman J-Sin, care to explain what happened?
Bobby: Primer 55 ended up having to take a five year break due to addictions and I speak for Jason and myself included, but Jason just can't seem to get those demons out of his system. It officially ruined our relationship both musically and personally. That chapter that involves J is now closed and will never be re-opened again; ever. He fucked the band and the fans over for the last time. Good luck to him, I hope he gets better.

Your new frontman is Heath Joyce of the band IGM, where did you get Heath and why was he the obvious choice for the band?
Bobby: It was more convenience than anything. I knew Heath when I lived in Memphis, TN and was just starting P55. Whether or not he stays is one thing, but I just think he’s a great frontman and good friend. He has his other band going on and I'm not one to steal people from their love, so the choice will be up to him.

Are you worried fans might not take to Heath and be upset J-Sin is gone?
Bobby: I'm not worried at all. I've actually had people come up to me after shows saying, "Thank you for having a singer that can sing the songs we love." Jason lasted 3-weeks out of 6 on tour and I think the fans were just happy that they could understand the words and J-Sin wasn't falling off the stage or lying on the floor while we played. He was a disaster man! It was horrible being on stage with him like that and I'm glad I won't ever have to again.

Single Bullet Theory vocalist/guitarist Matt Difabio recently had some disparaging remarks about you when the band dropped off Primer 55’s “Metal Crusade Tour”, claiming your ego was out of check. Can you tell your side of the story?
Bobby: He's a funny guy with great "metal" hair.

What would you say is your biggest musical accomplishment and how do you want the hard rock world to remember you?
Bobby: I've made and released 7 fucking records and I'm grateful for that and to do what I do for a living. I don’t really care if anyone remembers me or not. I've never thought about it.

Give us your best memories of touring or playing shows with the following:
Ozzfest:
Bobby: I got in a lot of trouble, did a lot of stupid shit and broke 22 guitars. I did lots of drugs with Crazy Town until they got kicked off the tour, but you could say we became instant friends. Those dudes are punks at heart just like me. I actually heard that Shifty has been having some drug troubles and I hope he gets better. The perk was meeting and becoming friends with Max Cavelera and eventually joining Soulfly.

Soulfly:
Bobby: I've made 3 records now with them and love them all. We've toured the world over and over and I'm enjoying my time with them. We just finished the new Soulfly record at my studio called The Porch in Orlando, FL and it's bad-ass. Max told me that I have the most comfortable studio he's ever recorded in and that means a lot to me.

Kottonmouth Kings:
Bobby: My boys! Loved that tour so much! Don't remember too much because I was fucked up most of the time. [laughs] They were nothing but cool to us every single day and I'm a fan.

Gathering of Juggalos:
Bobby: One word; insane! I'm happy that the ICP family and fans took us in and never gave us any shit. They know we're for real and not out there acting.

Fear Factory:
Bobby: Still great friends with these guys and had a blast with them on tour. I've seen them a few times at European festivals and we've had so many chances to catch up; great band.

Disturbed:
Bobby: Watched them blow up into super-stars on Ozzfest 2000.

What's next from Primer 55, are you planning to record another album?
Bobby: I'm planning a new Primer 55 record, all new material and I'm starting working on that soon. It will be a new singer, new chapter and a new beginning.  [ END ]
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