Hard Talk

Interview with Mark “Barney” Greenway of Napalm Death

One band that defines the genre they had the hand in creating over two decades ago is back with an all new studio album, ‘Smear Campaign’. A superb new album that will melt your face off. According to Barney that is. I tend to agree with him.

Here in the states on the Monsters of Mayhem tour with Hatebreed is just one of the several times Napalm Death will be on these shores in order to promote their newest offering.

Going into this interview, I really didn’t know what to expect. I was nervous. That much is for sure. But what I didn’t expect was how down to earth and overly talkative Barney was going to be. It really made for a relaxing and wonderful chat that lasted way to long for me to be typing all out. So I had to edit it down to about 15 minutes worth.

JH: So how’s the tour been going for you guys so far?

MG: Yeah, yeah. It’s going great. You know the thing is, when we go out on our own it can be quite difficult sometimes. To open up for people who may normally not come to see us. So this is, it sounds kind of obvious, there’s obviously a lot more people coming to see all these bands that are maybe a bit more main stream accessible. Maybe that’s the wrong word, but it’s close. There’s definitely a lot more people that come to shows like these. People who wouldn’t go and see Napalm on their own. And that’s great for us.

JH: I think it’s great that you guys are here. And by the crowd reactions, you’ve been very welcomed here in Ft. Wayne. How did you guys get involved with this tour?

MG: I know Jamie very well. We speak a lot. We had played on a hard core tour called ‘Persistence’ last year and me and him talked about doing this quite a long time ago. Then it came to light to do it so here we are.

JH: Tell us about the new album ‘Smear Campaign’.

MG: It was very much musically done as ‘Code’ was done. Same studio. Same producer. But I like to think it’s even more, it’s got even more to it. It’s a very good album. It’s got everything you could ever want from a Napalm album. It really pushes the boundaries even further in terms of the experimental stuff, but it’s still in context to me of what a Napalm album should be. And lyrically, it’s probably the most single issue album we’ve ever done. It’s basically looking at religion. As most peoples albums do, but hopefully it goes a bit deeper. It talks about , well basically it’s atheism is the point we’re trying to push across to people. We want people to know that you don’t need a third party to justify your existence. You can live your life knowing that you’re just as much of a person as anyone else. It’s very much a scathing attack on morality as well because morality again is a religious adventure. To be moral, you make judgments on people who are immoral. Well how can you make that judgment. It’s not up to us to have a superiority complex with someone else just because they don’t hold your religion.

JH: I learned real fast about people like that since I’ve been here in the Midwest. The bible belt. And personally, I can’t get over the amount of people in this area who are so Jesus-freaked out. Or whatever they might follow.

MG: Yes, yes. It’s very much a stranglehold. To me it’s like, if people want to have faith in that direction, okay. But the problem is, is that it’s come to the point of governing people. Maybe not necessarily directly, but in a sense it kind of is. Indirectly if you will. And it really causes a lot of problems. There are a lot of people’s freedoms taken away because of it. Freedom of choice for one as far as things like abortion go. And of course euthanasia which is another one that I firmly believe in. I think people should have the choice to do that. Religion interferes with that freedom to make a choice.

JH: And they cram it down their children’s throats from the get go. I got tired of the debates when I myself would tell people I was an atheist. So then I would say humanism was my religion when asked. Then I’d have to defend myself on that subject. So now I just tell them I’m a Satanist. The questions that follow that statement are very few if any. And I do truly believe in the satanic philosophy according to Anton LaVey. I am no devil worshiper by any means, but the philosophy and beliefs really mean something to me. It’s also funny when I tell some of the bible pushers some of the things they do all the time, probably daily that is actually a satanic belief and they shrug it off.

MG: Yeah, yeah. Yeah. There can never be enough for me to not tell people what I am. Or what I am thinking. I’ve never been that way and I never will. I am an atheist. But then again, in another breath do I really need to promote myself that I’m an atheist? No I do not. Atheism is free thinking. Stuff like that. All I know is that religion is mythology as I said up there on the stage. None of it is proven. None of it is substantiated. Yet society is driven forward by religion. Look around you man. Not necessarily in this parking lot but around the world. People are fucking killing each other. But we don’t need to discuss that. We already know that.

JH: Watch CNN for one night. It’s enough to make you sick.

MG: It’s , yeah. Fucking crazy. There has to be a better way forward. And if the existence of god has not been proven, why should we grasp that. Why should anyone do that.

JH: They’ve been killing millions for centuries over it. And what exactly does that prove?

MG: Exactly.

JH: So that should cover the question, What would you like the fans to get out of the new album?

MG: Well yeah. But musically, hopefully it’s very challenging. I think if you listen to the album you will find it’s multi faceted. There’s different things going on. Different moods that weave in and out here and there. So yeah, that and the lyrics. We’re just trying to promote free thought. I don’t want to be people’s thought police, but at the same time I do want people to realize that you are a human being. You are a very complex piece of machinery. And you’re very capable of making your own decisions. You should not be bound by rules made by religion when there’s nothing concrete to it in the first place. That’s ludicrous.

JH: Musically being such an extreme metal band, how do you go about writing such socially conscience lyrics? I know pretty much all Napalm albums are this way. Do you hope more and more people will actually focus on the lyrics and really listen?

MG: Well yeah. And they do. That’s half the thing. It’s really 50/50. You take the music hopefully and then you take the lyrics as well. They come in a package if you like. I know there is a better word, but they are together. Of course there are some people who are only going to like the music, that’s fine. Again I don’t necessarily want to become people’s thought police. I just want people to be aware.

JH: I think it’s great that lyrically you guys are like that. Not just about death and fantasy and killing.

MG: And again it’s like, I’m not trying to be down on the bands that do that, but for me and maybe it’s just a personal thing but I grew up on hard core. Political hard core and stuff was a big thing for me. It really made an impact on my life. Ore so even than death metal probably. And again, death metal music, loved it and still do. I’m not trying to play up one or the other. But what I had to do for myself is take that just one step further and craft my own train of thought.

JH: So how did the recording process go?

MG: Pretty much the same as ‘Code’. Very smooth. Very easy. We really put ourselves under pressure. We did a month of rehearsals and then we go to the studio.

JH: So you just slammed it out.

MG: In a manner of speaking yes. 3 weeks.

JH: Now this is your second release under Century Media? How are they treating you guys?

MG: Oh yeah, they’ve been fine. I have no complaints and I’d be the first to complain. As I’ve done so many times in the past. And justifiably so. There will always be little things no matter who you’re with, but at least with Century Media, there’s always someone there to answer the phone.

JH: What does the upcoming tour schedule look like?

MG: Well we finish this. Go to Japan for one day, come back and go through Europe for a month and a bit. Then we come back here to America. We’ll be here for November and December headlining. We’re not fucking around.

JH: Well I hope you could come by here again.

MG: Well we will be somewhere in the area. You going to come?

JH: Hell yeah!

MG: Ah good.

JH: What is it like for you being in the band that basically created grind?

MG: It’s really cool. I mean we get a lot of positive comments on it. It’s great. But you know what man, there’s been a few bands through the time who have just rested on their loral’s and just said and took that on board and said we could do that if people would like it. But that’s not the case. You’re only as good as your next album basically. So for us, rather than go ahead and say we’re the pioneers of this or that, we need to concentrate on our albums.

JH: Did you ever think it would catch on as it did and produce such a vast amount of bands?

MG: Well it’s big in a sense, but I wouldn’t say that it’s huge. There are a lot of bands that play the extreme music if you like. Besides Napalm. It’s not like we’re a real marketable band. We don’t have an image or market ourselves like that. What really matters to us is quite simply the roots. The music and the thoughts. Everything else beyond that is secondary. So you either take us with that or you leave us.

JH: With each release, is there a certain amount of pressure involved with working on the next album? To try and top the last?

MG: Don’t ever feel the pressure. We don’t feel it because we’re not a competitive band. I don’t put myself out there to compete with anyone or anything. We just do what Napalm needs to do. And I hope that’s the secret , hopefully, to making what people consider challenging albums. Concentrate on what you’ve got to do and don’t worry about what that bloke’s doing or that bloke’s doing. It’s not a race or a competition. The whole point of creativity and substance to music is doing what comes from there man. And you know, moving your own path. Again, free thoughts.

JH: What’s your opinion of today’s death/grind metal scene?

MG: This new stuff that’s coming out? To be honest, I really don’t listen to much music. I don’t get to hear that much of it at all. I’m just so busy with Napalm that a lot of it just passes me by. I have heard a few good bands around definitely, but you know what? I’ve said this before and I will say it again. The ‘80s for me was a very formative period . And some of those bands are so great to me it’s really hard for me to find an equal now to that era.

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