Napalm Death – Brutalizing

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By Kevin Strang
Napalm Death to brutal music is the equivalent of your parents’ genitals to your existence: absolutely essential. Since the release of Scum in 1987, the name Napalm Death has been synonymous with brutal music. When disillusioned teenagers turn their heads away in disgust of the mainstream they are greeted by Napalm Death. The band has consistently and abrasively has been pounding the message that shit is fucked into people’s heads for over 20 years now. I got the privilege to ask vocalist Barney Greenway a few questions via email regarding the band and their upcoming Canadian tour. Be sure to see them play at the Zoo on October 17 and if you can, make it to Brandon to see them on the 18th.

Stylus: 1) Greetings! You are embarking on a Canadian tour on which you are being very thorough with the places you play.
a) Any anticipations or reflections on how it will go?

Barney Greenway: I’m always open-minded about places the band plays and I just roll with it– which is probably one of the reasons why we get to cover more of the globe than most. Speaking from the position of not having started the tour yet, I’m pretty positive it will go well. I believe we were one of few bands to do an ultra-comprehensive tour of Canada back in the early nineties, so we have a little bit of past form there.

Stylus: b) What are thoughts on playing in Canada?

BG: Like anywhere, generally looking forward to it and will take whatever comes. We’ll just give it 100% playing-wise of course and we won’t be making that tired old joke of saying “ay” after every sentence.

Stylus: c) Any thoughts on the current/past state of Grindcore?

BG: Some aspects of grindcore I like and some I don’t, but the scene will be as it will be and it’s not for me or anybody else in Napalm to decree its direction outside of however we contribute as a band. That said, as long as there’s a ‘song’ in there somewhere, I do tend to favour the straight-up, fast and noisy and loose end of the genre. The eighties / nineties stuff will always hold a special appeal for me, as it seemed so fresh and perhaps was more spontaneous through necessity.

Stylus: d) What about globally being from the other side of the pond while here in Canada and North America?

BG: Makes no difference to me. That doesn’t even enter my train of thought.

Stylus: 2) Napalm Death, in addition to their being absolutely crushing in your current state, features veterans of the genre (Members have been in Carcass, Righteous Pigs, Terrorizer, Extreme Noise Terror, as well as many bands of other genres).
a) What are your thoughts on the current state of Napalm Death?

BG: Right at this moment? In need of a shower as I just stepped off an overnight train in Siberia with blast-furnace-style heating. Otherwise, we seem to be doing OK – we haven’t killed each other yet despite living in each other’s pockets for most of the year and, musically speaking, we don’t seem to be losing our manic edge and are introducing new elements at the same time. Things could definitely be a lot worse.

Stylus: b) What are your thoughts on carrying on such an important band that has gone though many evolutions, having a rich past of 20+ years?

BG: I think you just have to do what you feel is the right thing at any given time and not concentrate too much on the past. If you start to believe your own hype or self-importance with reference to being seen as a long-time band with influence, you’re going to come down to earth with a painful bump. I really loved Napalm before I joined the band, but I don’t try to live up to anything or fill anybody else’s shoes from that period either. So, from that perspective I don’t feel any pressure.

Stylus: 3) Napalm death is known for celebrating their influences, having released two covers albums in recent years (Leaders Not Followers Pts. 1 + 2).
a) Any reflections on the importance of having influences and paying tribute to them?

BG: Well, nothing is really ever truly original – everything comes from somewhere. So I think every band has influence, whether they choose to acknowledge that or not. From the Napalm Death view, there is a rich vein of aggressive music going back 30 or so years that perhaps would never have been heard due its underground origins. We felt that it was too good to let it just gather dust in our tape / vinyl collections, so we decided to get it out there by doing the Leaders Not Followers series. We are more than happy to trumpet our influences, as we get such a buzz out of them to this day. In fact, we hope to do a Leaders…4 at some point in the not-so-distant future.

Stylus: b) What bands have made a long-lasting impact and influence on the sound, or song writing of Napalm Death longer than others?

BG: Musically I would say…Discharge, Repulsion, Celtic Frost, Siege, and on the more ‘alternative’ end, Swans. Lyrically, perhaps Crass, Discharge and the Dead Kennedys for their mix of directness, subtlety and irony – although I really try to follow my own strain of inspiration even where ideas might converge. Amidst the hundreds of bands who have influenced us, those are really the pillars of our sound for me.

Stylus: 4) Very importantly, Napalm Death has always maintained a very strong political awareness based in social justice, in lyrics, imagery, aesthetics, the business of music, etc.
a) What are some issues that are prevalent to the band now at a time where social injustices in many situations are becoming more and more extreme (in Societies, Cultures, Values, Arts, etc (Whatever you would like to mention that is of value to you))?

BG: Firstly, being ‘political’ is something of a misnomer.  Politics in the mainstream sense is largely about tokenism and the power struggle, so hopefully Napalm sits at quite a distance from that. I’m more interested in stripping things back toward a humane approach of spending time on this earth and to me it’s not something that I need to strive to maintain – it’s something that feels like a gut instinct, the natural way if you like. Because there is such a high level of inequality around the world, and it seems to get worse rather than better, there is a multitude of things I could mention.  On the most urgent end of things, there has to be something done about the fact that many people wake up in the morning not quite knowing that the absence of food will mean they’ll possibly die today. That is down to dealing once-and-for-all with a combination of corrupt governments and wealth distribution across the world, I think. Then one of the other big blots on humankind is the blanket influence of religion and bullshit morality. To me, it’s fucking ludicrous that something based on myth and conjecture could dictate things such as whether  or not women can have control of their own bodies, or that same-sex couples can live in peace, or of course that you can be severely reprimanded in some places for a driving a car if you are the ‘wrong sex’. Being a pious, deluded moron definitely gives you a chance at wielding power, I suppose.

Stylus: 5) Last but not least and very importantly, what are your favourite grindcore bands? All time? Current bands? Play with any sick fucking bands on tour that are melting people’s faces off?

BG: Bearing in mind that the definition of grindcore is subjective…All-time bands: Siege, Repulsion, Terrorizer, Heresy, Infest, S.O.B, Rattus, Nasum, DS-13,  G-Anx, Extreme Noise Terror…and there are tons more I’m missing here. Current bands: Extortion, Xbrainiax and not much else I’ve been exposed to as savagely catchy as those two. Recently we’ve been playing out with local bands, but the last US tour we did it was great to have Trap Them along for the ride and, indeed, melting people’s faces off. They certainly know how to let loose and don’t stand around staring at their shoes.

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