Napalm Death

Work to Rule

By Cameron Edney

24 August 2010

Words by Cameron Edney

Next year will mark the 30th anniversary for English Grindcore metallers Napalm Death, a band which has certainly had their fair share of the highest highs and lowest of lows. Releasing their first full length studio album ‘Scum’ in 1987 the world would soon sit up and take notice. Defining the Grindcore genre by incorporating elements of Hardcore, Punk and Death Metal, Napalm Death early on became extremely influential and have gone on to become one of the world’s most successful and respected death metal bands! During the bands iconic career they have released such album as ‘Utopia Banished’, Diatribes’, ‘Enemy of the Music Business’ and ‘Smear Campaign’ to name just a few and have toured with metals finest artists like Kreator, Entombed and Machine Head. Growing up a fan of heavy chaotic and extreme music Napalm Death was certainly one band that had a massive influence on me, my peers and metal fans not only in Australia but all over the world.

I distinctly remember in the late nineties when Napalm Death toured Australia on the back of ‘Diatribes’, the buzz surrounding both the album and tour on the metal scene was incredible, the bands impact was felt right across Australia and those Australian Napalm shows went down as some of the greatest extreme metal shows to ever hit Australia! Extreme metal fans would have to wait almost ten years for the band to return to our shores for another series of chaotic, explosive performances done the Napalm way, but it was well worth the wait! Playing to sold-out crowd’s right across Australia extreme metal fans expressed their appreciation with rave reviews via many online forums and through social networking websites and metal webzines. In early 2009 Napalm Death released their fourteenth studio album ‘Time Waits for No Slave’ an album which is arguably one of the bands best and most defining works to date! Since its release the band has been touring non-stop, playing all over the world and now Australian fans are about to get treated to another round of Ultra-violence, Chaos, Anarchy, and good old fashioned head banging when Napalm Death hit our shores again next week!

The tour will be kicking off in Perth on September 1st playing at the Amplifier bar and takes in all the major capital cities winding down in Melbourne on Sept 5th. With the bands return to Australia just around the corner I took the opportunity to catch up with legendary metal vocalist Mark “Barney” Greenway to discuss his love for Australia and our television shows, the band’s latest album, life on the road and the bands future plans and more!

Napalm Death Logo

TMF: Good evening Mark, thanks so much for taking the time out to speak with us tonight; I have been a fan of your work for many years now! How’s everything going?

Mark “Barney” Greenway: Things are looking pretty good; we’re doing weekend shows at the moment because of the general financial situation over here. Obviously it allows me to get some personal stuff during the week which is an option I’ve never really had before with the band. Everything’s great, we’re rolling along…we’re really looking forward to getting back down to Australia too!

TMF: Mate speaking of which, the countdown is now on! In just over one weeks time Australian extreme metal fans will once again witness the greatness of Napalm live, but before we discuss the upcoming shows, take us back for a moment… what comes to mind when you look back on your last Australian visit?

Mark “Barney” Greenway: Oh it was great, the turn outs were amazing and the promoters down there are excellent hosts. We hadn’t been down there for a long time between tours and we were really unsure of how it was going to be and I think the promoters had the same feeling; but it was amazing. I have wonderful memories of Australia and funnily enough as I’ve mentioned in a few of the other interviews tonight already, there was something on the TV here last night on BBC that said the Australian board of tourism is looking for people to move down to Australia to do some jobs like koala and shark catching. I started thinking to myself… in all seriousness if I didn’t have the band and as long as these jobs are humane jobs then I would probably do that!

TMF: Well we do have much better weather over here [laughs]

Mark “Barney” Greenway: Yeah, yeah, yeah… the weathers never really bothered me actually; I’ve just always wanted to experience and live in Australia at least for a while, it’s a really interesting place.

TMF: The Australian leg of this tour kicks off on September 1st in Perth, what can the fans expect when you hit the stage this time around?

Mark “Barney” Greenway: You’ll get the ultra-violent music with the lyrics of tolerance, peace and a humane view! It will be a 100% musical attack; it’s going to be fast, furious and chaotic!!

TMF: I’m certainly looking forward to it! Last year you released Studio album #14, I would imagine the task of putting together the set-list these days is becoming more and more of a nightmare which no one wants to tackle anymore? How do you guys come up with a set-list that is for fans of all eras of the band as well as a set that you guys are happy playing night after night?

Mark “Barney” Greenway: To be honest mate it’s not something that we worry over for days. We as a band… we tend not to look at the band in different eras; to us it’s all one long stream! Napalm is one long stream that goes right back to 1981, the people that like the band of course may have a certain period in time that they feel is their favourite time for Napalm and we try and cater for that. We understand that people like different things and we want try to put as much in as possible!

TMF: Mark, I want to talk to you more about touring but before we get into that lets talk briefly about last year’s killer album ‘Time Waits for No Slave’. Having had so much time to digest the album now, looking back over the writing and recording process, is there anything you would have liked to have done differently?

Napalm Death - Time Waits for No SlaveMark “Barney” Greenway: Absolutely not mate; it’s a really good album. It has a lot of aspects to it, and whilst having that it doesn’t lose the fast, chaotic, and if you’re listening to it for the first time… the unpredictable edge to it… given that, I wouldn’t want to go back and change it. There are things from the earlier albums that I was a part of that I would change and yet there is another part of me that says leave them alone! People in life sometimes strive for perfection and it’s not possible to obtain that and you actually stress yourself out so much by trying to be perfect all the time that you don’t do yourself any favours. I think it’s good to have imperfections in what you’ve done with your band in the same way as you do in your life.

TMF: 16 months since the album was released, it’s still in heavy rotation in my home and tracks like ‘On the brink of Extinction’, ‘Life and Limb’ and the opening track ‘Strongarm’ really showcase how kick ass the album is! With so many albums under your belt I would imagine when it came time to hit the studio for the album, no time was wasted! Did you approach this album in a different way to previous work?

Mark “Barney” Greenway: We’ve always done things generally the same way; it’s what helps us to make the best album that we can. Over the last couple of albums we’ve really put ourselves under the clock time wise. For arguments sake given a year period in January – February we’ll get the songs together, March we’ll go straight into the studio from rehearsals and then we give ourselves two to three to get everything recorded and mixed! Some bands do it on a shorter time scale than that but we set ourselves a definite time frame. Sometimes we’re sweating, arguing amongst ourselves “shit, shit, shit we’ve gotta get this done”, but that helps us, it gives the album a breathless edge and that’s what a Napalm [Death] album needs to me! If it doesn’t have that raw, chaotic on/off the rails edge to it then it doesn’t have the same impact as a Napalm album!

The Metal Forge: You once again worked with producer Russ Russell who has done some amazing work with Napalm Death in the past… By now you guys must be classing Russ as the fifth member… what is it about Russ and his direction that makes him the right guy to work on the production for your albums?

Mark “Barney” Greenway: Well you’re right it’s an old cliché but he is the fifth member! The thing with Russ is he understands the band, I know it sounds really simplistic but he gets that we need that raw, chaotic edge. To achieve that sometimes you use recording techniques that some producers would turn their head up at! When I record my vocals I don’t stand in an isolation booth or even in a control room where you usually just see the producer at a desk, with some other people sitting around, with no other musicians in there. I have to be there in the control room feeding off other people running around with the microphone. Some producers won’t even entertain the idea of doing that! Russ understands that if there is a technique that works just do it. This is going to sound like absolute torture to a lot of studio owners but some of the best things you can do is plug in the microphones, turning the gain up full and sticking the microphones into the monitors, getting that horrible feedback and using it as ambiance in the back of the recording. Don’t tell the studio that you’re going to do that [laughs] but stuff like that makes recording fun and recordings are supposed to be fun, whether it’s a pop album or something we do make it fun, enjoy it and it’s going to sound like fun!

TMF: Since the album’s release you guys have been out on the road non-stop! Have you guys begun penning ideas for the next album?

Mark “Barney” Greenway: Not as yet, funnily enough we’ve come to a firm decision that we’re going to start getting everything together in January and will probably start recording in March or April!

The Metal Forge: Mark as I said I wanted to talk to you a little more about touring and life on the road… there is no doubt you are an amazing vocalist and I often think that extreme vocalist do not get anywhere near the recognition that is deserved. This type of singing certainly isn’t the easiest to do, after so many years has it become more challenging to get up there night after night and belt out the songs or are you finding it easier these days as opposed to 15 – 20 years ago?

Mark “Barney” Greenway: Absolutely not mate; it’s never been a problem for me. The only time I have any kind of problem is if I get a cold, the phlegm gets in the way a little and that kind of annoys me but certainly my voice itself it’s extremely strong, I can’t really give you an explanation for that, it just works!

TMF: Over the years you have shared the stage with so many amazing artists, whilst on the road who has given you the best touring advice and what was it?

Mark “Barney” Greenway: I don’t think we’ve been given advice so much but I will say this… The best place you can be when you’re on the road is when you’re all talking to each other [laughs]. People who aren’t in bands or who don’t understand the burdens of touring sometimes look at bands and think “why are they fucking fighting all the time”? You have to understand that if you have four or five individuals, a couple of whom might be reasonably close to each other in their outlooks, in their habits, in their manor but there is also the possibility that you might have five or six more or less very different individuals. When you put people in a confide space whether it’s a van or a shared bus or airports, and you try living your everyday life you’re going to have some clashes and it’s very difficult. You’ve got to be a realist but sometimes you just have to step back and chill the fuck out [laughs]. Napalm’s not immune to that either… we’ve had a few episodes over the years and I’m not afraid to admit that, to me that’s just part of life, it’s fuckin’ annoying at times but for the most part we’re able to be together as people without wanting to kill each other.

TMF: You guys recently played a bunch of shows in South America as well as the European summer festivals and of course you’re heading our way… is that the end of the touring cycle for this album or do you guys have more dates in the works?

Mark “Barney” Greenway: No we haven’t finished, we have a few European shows coming up. Before starting the new album we’re heading to Bangkok, we’ve never been over to Thailand then we’re heading to Japan.

TMF: There is no doubt that Napalm Death has played a huge part in influencing many of today’s heavier musical acts! Who have you been surprised to learn is a fan of your work?

Mark “Barney” Greenway: Oh that’s a tough one… there have been a number of people that have come up to us over the years and said different things. The Dream Theater guys are fans, Mike [Portnoy] the drummer is a big Napalm [Death] fan. He likes the band a lot but he likes heavy music anyways so I’m not too sure how much of a surprise that is. We’ve had some really soft emo bands that have been huge Napalm Death fans [laughs]... is that really such a surprise? I don’t know… I’m a music fan; I can say that I like some pretty soft stuff myself. 

TMF: How about rumours? For quite some time especially in the early 90’s extreme music was getting a raw deal with media all over the world, what’s the craziest rumour you have ever heard about yourself and or the band?

Mark “Barney” Greenway: Oh, I’ve had the death rumours, that’s come up a couple of times but that seems to be quite common with bands now. Another was that I was gay, it’s not controversy to me, it’s not true but it certainly doesn’t offend me but I wonder where that rumour came from… I don’t really know? I guess ‘cause I’ve never been afraid to speak out about same sex relationships? Who knows…? I don’t see why they should even be made an issue and I hope at some point that we won’t need to have things like the Gay Pride Parade and I say that because it’s just not an issue they are as they are. At the end of the day whether the people are born with those emotions and feelings or whether they choose at some point to indulge in a same sex relationship it’s nobody’s business and its not society’s business to judge them… it’s there fuckin business! It’s their fundamental human right as people to do what they wish, there’s nothing wrong with it, it is part of life. Because I’ve been very vocal about that I’ve put two and two together and got ten! I get those kinds of rumours from time to time.

TMF: Mark, unfortunately we’re almost out of time but before we wrap it up, the band formed back in 1981, next year of course marks the 30th anniversary for Napalm Death... do you guys have anything special planned to commemorate the bands longevity, perhaps a DVD/CD box set featuring some great unseen live footage from over the years and collections of demos, out-takes and live recordings?

Napalm Death Band

Mark “Barney” Greenway: Nuh… you know what... I’m not judging them but I think that sometimes when a band sometimes reaches a milestone they do all this stuff and it becomes a little tacky, we’ve already passed the 25th anniversary and we didn’t do anything for it, Earache did I think, but Earache is just a beast of its own! I don’t know if we will or not to be honest I don’t want to get involved in some great big cheesy parade or anything; part of the reason that Napalm has had such longevity is because we just let things roll on by, you’re only as good as your next album or your next gig everything else is secondary. We’ll see but if we do something it can’t be tacky!

TMF: Mate, thanks again for your time tonight, I look forward to seeing you in Sydney shortly! Do you have any last words for our readers?

Mark “Barney” Greenway: Yeah, I’d just like to say thanks to everyone for all the support its amazing and I’m sure most Australians could probably give a fuck knowing how those things go but Home and Away and Neighbours... massive fan!

TMF: Dude, are you fuckin’ serious?

Mark “Barney” Greenway: Oh yeah the cheesy reality to those programs is so good! I can’t say I have watched every episode because I’m away a lot but I’m up to speed with every plot line. Whilst we’re there I am hoping we can get to meet some of the casts!

TMF: Barney I have to say not in a million years did I ever think I’d be having a conversation with you about Australian television soaps [laughs]

Mark “Barney” Greenway: Mate, I’m a huge fan of the Aussie soaps, I love it!

TMF: Well dude thanks once again for your time tonight it’s been awesome!

Mark “Barney” Greenway: Ok cheers, and remember this immortal line “everybody needs good neighbours”!

TMF: [laughs]

Napalm Death’s Australian Tour Kicks off on September 1st in Perth. Their latest album, Time Waits for No Slave, is out now on Century Media Records through Stomp Distribution. For more information on Napalm Death check out http://www.napalmdeath.org

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