Metal Special: Napalm Death
Vocalist Barney Greenway talks about things that make him angry, very angry
Mumbai ACP Dhoble had better watch out. “I know people might say otherwise but police tactics are generally heavy handed wherever you go and I don’t think the police as an authority have a right to tell people what they should do, where they should go,” says Mark “Barney” Greenway, the very angry frontman of UK grindcore pioneers Napalm Death in his rolling Brummie accent. Greenway was talking about how police cut the band’s set short when they played their first show in Nepal in February this year. “Our rights in general are trampled upon sometimes in that respect and I think you have the right of reply, of response if you think you’re being treated unfairly in any scenario.” It’s this same outspokenness and defiance that’s driven the band for much of its 31 years in the business. Since its formation in 1981, the band has had numerous lineup changes ”“ in fact, not a single member of the original lineup is still in the band ”“ but the vision hasn’t changed. “I didn’t join the band to compromise on the sound or the message,” says Greenway. “We’re just as brutal, hard-hitting and vocal about things that matter to us as we always were.”
Following the release of their 15th studio album, Greenway spoke to ROLLING STONE India about issues close to his heart, growing up in Margaret Thatcher’s Britain and almost taking on the police in Nepal.
Your 15th studio album Utilitarian released earlier this year. How has the response to it been?
The last few Napalm albums have been unbelievably well received. I have to pinch myself sometimes because you try not to take things for granted, even doing as many albums as we have but I continue to be surprised by the level of positive response. For the last three, four albums I didn’t see anything negative as such, so I don’t know. Having played the arenas the response has generally been good, so I couldn’t have asked for anything better.
Utilitarian felt more spacious than Time Waits for No Slave, less in your face than the latter.
I think it depends who you speak to, because what I’ve found in Napalm over the years is that you can speak to 10 different people and draw 10 different conclusions on an album. Our whole thing really is just to go in and make the best album we can and it’s always going to be hard hitting, because I don’t think we’d do anything else. I didn’t join this band to compromise on the level of attack, so, for me, none of the albums really skimped on that. Having said that there’s always been an ambience to Napalm because there are certain influences that fall outside of heavy music, going back to bands in the early Eighties, the sort of stuff that’s labeled post punk or whatever. There’s that sort of dark ambient ”“ aggressive in some ways, but not necessarily aggressive sounding ”“ stuff like Joy Division and My Bloody Valentine. But it’s not something that I would allow to dilute the sound because when you’re doing anything that has quite a contrast to what you’re known for, there is a danger that it could soften your core sound. But I don’t think that has happened with us.
(To read the full story, pick up the July issue of ROLLING STONE India magazine)