NAPALM DEATH

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TARTAREAN DESIRE WEBZINE

Napalm Death is one of the few remaining pioneers in extreme metal who still manage to produce world class material. They are really in no need of an introduction. Our own Chris Rohde spoke with their singer Barney Greenway on April 21st, 2005.

Howís it going Barney??
Good, good, we just got back from the Asian region. So itís been a fairly hectic schedule recently.

Alright well, Iím going to start off with The Code is Red. . . . Long Live the Code. It hasnít really had much time in the publicís hands, what are your impressions on the final result of the recording??
The very good thing about this album is that we all have done many albums with these particular four individuals in the band, and you know youíre onto something fairly special, when you go in and record something, then come out and listen to it in that recorded format and things jump out at you that didnít before you recorded it. When we went in to do this album, I thought yeah man, we got some really manic stuff and itís just going to be great. Then when it came out I was twice as impressed!! And I think thereís a lot of like little nuances on this album that work to a point quite unintentionally, but it then kinda comes out and smacks you between the eyes you know what I mean. So yeah man, Iím pretty happy with it, pretty happy with the whole thing.

Itís really diverse too. . . .
Yeah, and you know that diversity. . . we were sort of aware there was different parts, but not like theyíd work the way they have done in the final outcome. So yeah it is pretty diverse, but it still keeps the pacing, the whole album rolls along at a real break neck pace. Which is good because thatís how a Napalm album should sound!!

Exactly. Now what I respect the most from you guys is the fact that you havenít sold out or changed your musical direction, you do what you want to do/play what you want to play. Not like say Metallica or slayer, how do you continue to deliver??
Well you know I was always aware of the mistakes that some bands have made, and there are some very obvious ones, I mean, I remember Discharge. . . and they were a massive influence on Napalm you know. They did a couple of albums in the early eighties to mid eighties, they were like the archetypal fast punk band at that time. They were basically the band that took punk to a new extreme. . . but then they did this album which was very gothic/glam oriented, and the change was so drastic you know, it took a lot of people by surprise and it wasnít a pleasant surprise at that. They lost their edge completely. It was such a disappointment for people. . . . Iíve always borrowed that in mind, and taken it on board, and with the other guys in the band as well. You know, at the end of the day thereís a happy balance to strike in terms of satisfying yourself, and of course we are happy playing fast, thereís certainly no question of that. But in the end of the day, we do what we want, but we also try to keep the kids happy that have followed the band down the years. This may sound clichť, but if it wasnít for them, then we wouldnít still be doing it you know. We have to strike that balance, because whoíd want to play in front of like two people you know what I mean. . . . . and you know shit man, weíre proud of what weíve done. Weíre proud that weíve taken the music to the nth degree, weíre proud that we have this real contrast between ultra-violent music, but then a message thatís completely about peace, tolerance, and equality. So thereís that contrast there as well. Thereís all kinds of factors really, and to cut through the bull shit, we try to do the best that we can.

Even after twenty years, you guys still blast out the grind, but at the same time you keep evolving. This time youíve included two tracks that arenít necessarily what people would expect from you guys, those songs being ďMoraleĒ and ďOur Pain is their PowerĒ. Whose idea was it to record those two tracks??
Weíve done these sort of tracks before. . . .

Yeah, but these are different, heavier in a way. . . .
Like we were just talking about, shifts in direction, but those are still completely heavy. The primary influence for those tracks, well there were a couple really, but the main one is Swans, which is a band from New York. The best period for the Swans was the period from the early to mid eighties really. They were pretty gothic, but not gothic in peopleís general interpretation. They were just completely fucking depressing (laughing). . .

For sure man, but they were fucking great. . . .
Yeah yeah man, I mean they were a massive influence, and for this one, Shane had that track, ďMoraleĒ on tape, and he said umm, he said look Iíve got another song itís like a Swans type thing, he said but I was thinking of using it for something else. Then he played it to me, and I said ďShane, we got to have that song!! You know I could do some really good things with that vocally I think, so weíve got to use that song!!Ē At first he was like ďHmmmm, well I sort of wanted to use it for another projectĒ. I was like ďNO!!Ē

(Laughing) You took ownership of the song??
Yeah exactly, I said Shane, trust me we gotta use that song. Then he was cool with it. So thatís what we did, and I applied my vocals to it, and they are probably the most melodic that Iíve ever done you know. You know itís like three layers of vocals, I wouldnít say that itís three part harmonies per say, but its three layers of harmony. Thatís quite something for me you know, I wasnít entirely comfortable in being able to pull it off. But I did, and I was very happy when I did it.

Are you happy with the job Mitch Harris did with the ďMoraleĒ video??
Yeah, totally!! You know bearing in mind that Mitch had absolutely nothing to work with really (laughing). It does, it looks really good. The thing is Mitch has actually been to film school in the last couple of years, and he actually excelled at that. He was one of the best people in the class as far as Iím aware. He did a really great job with the video. Actually we are about to do another one next week for ďSilence is DeafeningĒ, but weíre going to use a quite established director within extreme music. The guy that basically did Dark Tranquillity, and a couple of other videoís. . . . cause the label want to use someone whoís a bit more experienced. The relationship with Century Media has been very good so far, so we listen to some of their opinions or suggestions, and that has been absolutely fine so far.

This is the first album that Napalm Death has released with out Jesse Pintado since the Harmony Corruption album. How did that affect the writing/recording process?? Do you think missing him hurt the recording?? Or can you even really tell that he didnít play on it or record for it??
I would actually like to say, yes. I mean itís quite a sad episode with the whole thing with Jesse, itís slightly depressing. . . . but we didnít miss him at all. I mean Mitch really handled things well. . . and you also have got to remember that Jesse wasnít around for either the Leaders 2 album, or really for the last studio album ďOrder of the LeechĒ. So itís something that weíve had to get used to over the last couple of albums, as opposed to just being thrown into the deep end with it. So it wasnít a problem really at all.

Now everyone should know who did guest vocals for you guys, them being Jello Biafra (Dead Kennedyís), Jeff Walker (Carcass), and Jamey Jasta (Hatebreed), why did Jamey get two songs??
I did sort of plan what the guys would do singing wise before they came in. But while Jamey was in, I said Jamey thereís a couple of songs here that you could do quite well, but itís up to you, and what you feel like you could do. So he said Iíll kill both of them if I can. So yeah I kinda revved him up with a couple cans of beer (laughing), and he was fine you know. So no particular reason, I kind of had a couple in mind, and he was willing to do them, so it worked out perfect.

What about on the next album a Napalm Death reunion?? With Nik Bullen, maybe Justin Broadrick, Mick Harris, Bill Steer, Jim Whiteley?? Sort of like an ďAll in the FamilyĒ Napalm Death recording??
I would never say never. Ummm (thinking. . . ) this guest vocalist thing weíve just done now, and it worked out pretty well. Weíve now proved that it can be done, and it worked out well, so who knowís?? As for Napalm people singing on the album, we tried to get Lee to sing actually on a couple of albums ago, because Cathedral were recording in a studio right next to us at the time, but he couldnít do it for one reason or another at that point. So I mean yeah, we wanted to get Nik Bullen to come down to do some vocals on this one, but the schedule never worked out really. If weíve got tracks that are applicable and relevant, in context then I donít have any problem with it. I mean at the end of the day man, you know these people are friends. I mean getting them into the studio is part of the fun really. Like I say man, the friendship in the scene that weíre involved in goes back a fucking long while man. It runs pretty deep.

So you guys just got back from Indonesia, you played to over 7,000 people. What was the response like??
It was massive!! Iíll tell you what mate, it was absolutely fantastic!! Iíll tell you what man, there are bands out there and Iím not going to names any names, but there are bands out there that have the opportunity to do these things right, there are countless bands that have that opportunity. . . . yet they donít fucking step up to the plate and do it. They think well itís not really a developed country, or whatís it going to be like when we get down there. These people in like Indonesia and that, thereís no reason why you shouldnít get your asses down there. These people are as big of fans for the music as anyone else. I mean fuck me, with the poverty thatís going on down there, these people need bands to go down there and stuff. They really do. I mean have some respect and go down there, play for all the kids, because they so want people to go down there. Iím not being funny, but there are some bands from some countries that think thereís going to be security issues, itís like fuck. . . donít be ridiculous. Donít always believe what the media tells you, itís not fucking dangerous to go to these places. So get on a plane, get your ass down there and youíll see what itís like.

Well security issues, look at what happened to Dime Bag Darrell. That was in the States. . .
Well there is that yeah, but shit youíre going to run a risk if you walk out the front door. . . .

Exactly. So something like that hasnít made you worry for your safety on stage??
Absolutely not man and Iíll tell you the reason. . . . Thereís fear, very much like the theme for ďThe Code is Red. . . . Long Live the CodeĒ, thereís so much fear being propagated. I donít subscribe to it. I mean yeah, Iím not irrational enough to go out there and jump into a cage with a lion and think that this things not going to hurt me, because clearly it fucking will!! (both of us laughing) But in terms of the world around us thereís a lot of over reaction to various things. . . . it is my belief that rather than being afraid of going to certain places, we should show solidarity with people. In an age, and Iím not trying to be too mellow dramatic, but itís an age where the world leaders mention no names, their trying to divide us, and thatís why we must show solidarity to people. Thatís the way to break down barriers. Before we can get to the real bounds of the issue, and really properly tackle poverty, I mean the token gestures that we can make as a band is go down and try and show that kind of solidarity you know. Thatís the whole point. So, I wonít be swayed by some of the fear and the paranoia. Weíll just continue to do it.

Napalm Death is always a band that takes action, the Tsunami benefit CD was a great idea, and you and the other bands, plus the record label must be commended on it. I think that anything can happen at any time, just look at the Tsunami, and the passing of Mieszko. These are things that people get afraid of as well. .
What happened in December was fucking horrible, make no mistake, and whatís happened since there was an earthquake. What people seem to think is that when you arrive in one of those countries, that itís the size of roughly equivalent to like a quarter dollar. The radius is a lot bigger than one particular region. The motivation for us to go to Indonesia far outweighs any fears that Iíd have about going there.

What about bootlegs?? Since you guys released Bootlegged in Japan, you must be fine with the idea of the art of bootlegging, do you welcome people to do so??
You know what man I donít have too much of a problem with it really. What I do have a problem with is when somebody puts out a shitty bootleg, and charges regular price or above for it. I mean thatís just a rip off really. If you canít give kids something half decent, then just donít do it. Kids will always have ways of recording shows, and I donít want to be the band that stops kids from taking cameras in ect ect. . . . Unless of course there are times when we do know of a particular bootlegger, and we know this guys doing really bad quality bootlegs. So then we tell him, no, you arenít going to tape the show, but most of the time you know, shit happens.

What are the bands plans for touring the States/Canada if any. . . .
No, not as of yet. Weíre still trying to get things together for that. We were trying to set something up with Converge, but that sort of didnít really come to fruition. Then we talked of going out on tour with a band called Terror. Thatís kind of maybe a possibility still, but yeah weíre still working on that.

Whatís next for Napalm Death, or are you mainly concentrating on The Code is Red. . . . and touring??
Weíre just touring to promote the album now that itís out. But we donít have any recording plans really apart from that.

Going back in time now, what were the days like in BENEDICTION?? How many shows did you sing with them?? Any fond memories??
Yeah I played a grand total of one show with Benediction. Well two shows actually, tell a lie. One with Napalm Death fondly enough. But playing with the two bands was too much for me. Besides, Napalm Death were the band that I connected with on a personal level. But they were good times.

What about a flexi EP that you released with COLOSTOMY??
Ahh (laughing) yeah. That wasnít really an EP, more like a demo really. Was basically for fun. Something we recorded and got it into a magazine. It had members of Bolt Thrower and Cerebral Fix. It was a one off thing really for me.

Okay, now Iím going to mention some names, and if you could respond with whatever comes to mind:

Ozzy:
Father figure. I donít think thereís too many people out there that donít like what heís done musically. Unfortunately he took the shine off with the whole Osbourne show, but heís definitely a funny man.

Sex Pistols or the Clash:
Ahhh the Clash really for me. I mean I certainly respect that era of punk you know, and what the Pistols did and all the rest of it. With the Pistols actually being very obnoxious was just a breath of fresh air, because no one was really willing to be obnoxious in music at that point, or anytime before that really. And you know the Pistols actually opened up a lot of doors for the whole really belligerent music scene. The Clash more so for me because of the humanitarian/social political angle. It opened up a lot of peopleís eyes, especially with the whole freedom fighters thing. It was really quite a bold move, it created a lot of awareness.

Shane Embury:
Shane is old faithful (laughing). I wouldnít lie to you and say itís been particularly a smooth ride all of the time, but Iíll tell you what man, Shane is one person that Iíd rather have in the band than a lot of people Iíve found over the years. Me and Shane kind of spark off each other really. When Iím feeling overwhelmed by stuff surrounding the band, he kinda picks me up, and vice versa. Weíve had a bit of a rocky friendship, we differ on certain things, but we are naturally two different people. Still, I think his passion for Napalm, and for not letting any bastard grind it down is fairly admirable.

Grindcore:
Grindcore, is a word that was invented by Napalm Death, specifically by Micky Harris, the old drummer. Itís basically a chosen path for us for many years, it always will be really. You know if it wasnít for grindcore, I think that a lot of extreme music that has broken through and became a mainstream thing wouldnít really be in existence really. I definitely think it has served its purpose.

Wicked man. Well that ends it from my end. I know you have other people to talk with, so thanks for taking the time to talk with me today. . .
Not a problem. Thanks man.

You take care Barney!!
You too Chris, thanks for your time.


Links of interest:

Napalm Death
Century Media