Napalm Death. A vicious-sounding name if there ever was one, and one of the most abrasive bands in our world today. They single-handedly spawned grindcore with their seminal debut Scum at Download this year we had the honour of sitting down with the man himself, Barney Greenway.
Hi, nice to meet you!
Nice to meet you too.
You’re legends of the scene -
Yeah apparently so but you don’t listen to your own hype! (laughs)
Thinking of the time you’ve been going, what’s the best show, or place you’ve ever played?
There’s been some interesting things down the years; one of the best moments for me, there’s many but I’m just plucking one out, was South Africa. The first time, we needed the approval of the ANC, Nelson Mandela, because erm. We got invited there and we weren’t sure because it was not too far from apartheid ending, there was no way we wanted to go there if anything we did was connected to apartheid. So, we solved it by having Nelson, y’know the ANC, helping promote to get us down there so that was great because you broke down a lot of barriers. We had, er, quite multi-ethnic crowds which, bearing in mind that apartheid was just finishing, was quite er.
A big deal?
Yeah! And we had people who weren’t too keen with the barriers being broken down but it was a memorable time, y’know.
Did you get to meet Nelson Mandela himself at all on that?
Nah, we didn’t really meet anybody to be honest, it was all done by the promoter and.. I saw ANC supporters along the way.
I know you’re very keen on equality.
Yeah, we’re human beings, it’s what I want, whoever they are there should be no barriers wherever we are in the world for anything.
Even if they support the wrong football team?
Well… (laughs) Even that!
So how do you warm yourself up for a show? Any pre-show rituals?
I don’t! I just take my time getting changed, probably annoyingly, to the annoyance of the rest of the band! I’m very contemplative before a show, I like peace and quiet. Not on my own, people around me is fine, I just like to take my time and just empty my mind. Then when it’s time to go, just flick the switch and go.
You’ve a very abrasive sound -
The more abrasive the better!
Well Apex Predator was great.
Thanks, and we’re working on our next album at the moment, it’s gonna be even weirder and more wonderful in terms of weaving different music ideas in and out of each other.
That’s something I think can really be admired, you kind of invented grindcore with Scum and yet you’ve never stayed in one place yet you've kept the same lineup and a very unique sound. What keeps the creative juice flowing?
Just enthusiasm, and also very, very wide-ranging and sometimes disparate influences. I mean, you gotta remember, Napalm sometimes is called a metal band - okay, fine I understand that in terms of one element of the band - but actually overall, as a sum of its parts, Napalm isn’t really that metal. It’s… there’s loads of stuff going on, noise, noise rock, noise pop, post pop, whatever like, y’know, it’s all going on in Napalm. So we just, have a huge palette to paint from, there’s always something to draw on. And also lyrically, we are about exposing the lack of humanity and also the other side of the coin, try to promote humanity. It’s quite complex, we’re very specific about certain things so yeah, I mean, we are in terms of a band being creative, we have a huge well of things to draw from.
What would you say is the most out there influence people might not expect to hear influences you?
Well a band like - there was a label called 4AD Records, which was like Cocteau Twins, if you’re aware of them?
On the periphery, yeah.
Very melodic, like, in the sense of being quite the opposite to Napalm, quite melodic and ambient, kind of bands generally speaking. We take influences from that, on a very sort of, er, ambience. So that’s probably one not a lof of people might know about. But yeah, definitely an influence.
We spoke a little bit about disparate influences, what do you think of the splits in subgenres in rock and metal - do you think that's good or bad, that it divides people at all?
No, it shouldn’t have to, shouldn’t need to. At the end of the day, you don’t have to put yourselves in little boxes, you can like whatever you want. One of the few remaining things in this world that can be completely subjective is music! It brings people together, it breaks down barriers. Like what you want to like! And don’t… the whole, kind of, being a box because stylistically you might like something unconnected… who gives a shit? Really? Is that, are we going to worry about that?
That’s the thing. You get people who might be quite elitist.
Music can be quite elitist, but it’s completely unnecessary. I know what I like. Of course there are bands that are playing on festivals I might not particularly care for, but so what? It doesn’t matter. I'm not gonna see them at the end of the day.
So what’s the best tip you can give about festivals? This might be just me, but don’t get too wankered, y’know? Because, you’ve come here for a reason, most people are probably mixed reasons. Bands but also friendship, also have a few drinks, but don’t get too wankered, take care of yourself. If you get too wankered and you end up in a situation it can be quite tricky - pace yourself, drinks loads of water, try having regular meals.
Do you go in for festival food at all? I mean I would do, I’m subject to those things as much as the next person. I mean, I’m vegan so it tends to be a lot less risk associated with not eating festival food and meat!
There’s a vegan and vege stand over the other way.
Yeah I’ll have to go have a bite, I've not eaten at all yet!
Well we don't want that! Thanks so much for your time, enjoy and we'll be watching your set!
No worries, any time, thank you.