Metal Life Exclusive Interview With NAPALM DEATH
Metal Life Magazine reporter Anthony recently conducted an interview with Barney Greenway from NAPALM DEATH. They discussed Barney’s injured arm, the song “Hierarchies”, the band’s writing style and does Barney have any regrets?
How’s the arm? I heard what had happened.
Yeah, it’s alright. It’s painful, but not excruciating, and I can play with it, so It’s fine.
That’s good. So no difficulties when you’re playing shows at all?
Nah, well I mean, I’ve done a variety of things like taping my arm to my chest, because strictly speaking, I’m not supposed to obviously throw it around. But, I can’t… I feel really imbalanced if I have it taped up when I’m running around, so I have to kind of need to let it swing.
I know you like to thrash around on stage when you’re playing.
Yeah, I just need to be mindful not to obviously bump into anything at all.
I recently saw a list online of Napalm Death albums in order from worst to best. What is, in your opinion, both your biggest musical regret and your biggest musical triumph? #1 was Time Waits For No Slave and being #15 Harmony Corruption.
I can’t say I have any regrets because I believe everything is a learning experience. There’s definitely some stuff I would have done differently, if you put it like that. But regret is a stronger word I think. Of course when it comes to subjectivity, the albums are different.
I have a question from a colleague actually, she wanted to know about the song “Hierarchies” because “to her, that choral singing part toward the end was like having a cold bucket of water poured on my head, I never expected it but boy was it damn refreshing. Also that part of the song just seems incredibly deep.” Do you mind going into detail about that song?
I’ve got two words for that. Killing Joke. That’s where that comes from, it’s completely Jaz Coleman, that chorus.
It’s just an interesting different part of that song.
It is. But there’s many things along those lines with a different flavor throughout the album, but this is nothing new for us. That’s the point. We’ve done this kind of stuff all through our material. Actually some of the stuff we did on the previous album was pretty radical as well.
Do you feel like it’s hard to find a balance between writing creatively, and still get the message across?
No, not at all. It’s harder to get the point across, should we say point instead of message. For one, you could do something completely generic you know, fuck the system, fuck the government, it’s been done a million times. And the thing is, it’s not a sign that they’re not confident in making a point, but there comes a point where it loses it’s pull. It gets a bit dull. So I think in my opinion, it’s important to explore creative writing, but if you’re just vomiting word salad in the most technical way possible, that’s pointless as well because you’ll try to over entitled with your stuff. It’s like, “look at me, I can write this way, and it’s up to you to decipher it.” So you know, it’s important to say that there’s a balance. The one thing people often say to me are “you seem like a really smart guy, you’re lyrics are really intelligent” and I would say to them, I hope it doesn’t seem like we’re trying to do something academic. It’s just not the point. The point is to have something that’s creative that has a spark. You don’t want people to have to go to a thesaurus or a dictionary to find out what you’re trying to say.
I feel that people think that way because you talk about certain situations around the world, like Apex Predator – Easy Meat is a kind of concept album about slave wages and it works for you because you talk about specific events. People usually think about music that is generally “fuck the system” style of music like you said, they’re thinking of general problems. Generalizing doesn’t really work.
Yes, because you can say fuck the system all day long, but they’re not saying who, when, where, what. You have to refine it. Generalizing doesn’t work, because it’s been done a million times. The first few times is okay, but you’ve got to choose some specific stuff.
So do you guys feel like you’re successful in getting the point across?
Yes, I really do think so.
Also I feel like Hierarchies can mean a lot, between corporate industries, even down to “regular everyday people.” Is it all encompassing?
I think the meaning behind it was exactly that.
I know that you guys recorded Apex Predator, Easy Meat, in segments. Did that make the writing process easier on you?
I’d say the process wasn’t too different. You’ve obviously got more time to think about what you’re writing. That process helps because, you reset by default now when you go back into the studio. When you go back to the recording studio, the ambiance of the day generally is going to give you a different result, and the idea is to get a bit of variance throughout the album.
When you guys are writing, do you guys have anything that inspires you to start writing, or do you just pick up and go?
Actually Shane has always something in the background form previous recordings. There’s just so much stuff we haven’t gotten to record. There’s always bits and pieces there, and I’ve always got ideas but those won’t necessarily be used if they’re not current, if they’re not appropriate for the time. I try to be as current as I can, because that’s the point. You talk about something specific, not something that happened years ago.
How does your personal life affect the band? Do you guys share the same perspective?
Well my personal ethos is what I pursue. And at the end of the day we are four different people so, to say that four different people are always going to have the same thread, that’s just not reality. But yeah we certainly converge.