Interview conducted February 08 2011
Interview published March 06 2011
Mark "Barney" Greenway
has led Napalm Death with a shorter hiatus since 1989 with a dedication
and honesty that mark a great frontman. Rarely keeping silent about things
he finds wrong or just plain stupid he is a person with a big social conscience
as well as a fierce interest in music. Napalm Death has this year been
active for three blasting decades and still doesn't show any signs of
calling it quits.
Metal Covenant's Martin Bensch sat
down Barney prior to the band's concert at The Rock, Copenhagen in the
beginning of February to discuss just what makes the band motivated, positive
reviews, songwriting and touring. When all was said and done this is what
Martin: You've been around for three decades,
which is a fair number of years. How do you keep yourself motivated?
Barney: Well either you are or you're not,
I think. There really isn't a magic formula, but you'll have to been
into it, if you're not it's going to show. And it's going to make
you unhappy. Luckily I've stuck with a band I felt a very strong connection
to before I joined. I'd been around those guys for years, during those
cold years, you know. For me Napalm had two points of appeal - first
of all of course the music, but secondly and just as important was
the ethos. And that's why I'm still here. I mean it's going to come
to an end, as everything does, at some point.
But it's not as, for instance, Slayer that are saying that they are getting
too old to play this aggressive music?
Barney: (long derisive snort) You know, and
this is just my personal view, but I don't think those guys are enjoying
themselves. You can see by their bodylanguage that they really don't
want to do this anymore, more like they're doing it because they think
they have to, you know. At least that's the impression I get. I've
seen them a few times, and there just wasn't any spirit in it to me.
But on the other hand who am I to say this as an outsider?
Martin: Are you writing any new material?
Martin: How do you go about writing new
Barney: Well once again, I really can't give
you a sort of magical formula. The other guys write music and bring
that to the table if you like, and from there I take it on. I've always
got ideas about lyrics, places where I like to take stuff. It's really
simple and I guess the purest form of songwriting. Again there's really
nothing I can give you that's really exiting, it just kind of happens
you know. To me the key is to keep it organic and spontaneous.
Martin: Those two words, organic and spontaneous,
come up pretty often when Napalm is talked about
Martin: Well, yeah
the work ethic Napalm has, putting out records touring a lot. Just how
difficult is it for you to keep that spontaneity?
Barney: The way you put it kind of makes it
sound that it's really down to a formula, but it's really not. The
thing where it kind of becomes a machine and it just goes round and
round, well I like to avoid that at all costs, because that is the
one thing that really puts me off. And it has been in danger of going
that way at some point.
Barney: Yeah, not on purpose mind you, but
just by the nature of the amount of stuff that we were doing. We had
to stop and say, just remember what we are doing here and try to keep
to the spirit of the thing.
Martin: That underground thing still is
Barney: Yeah, if you want to put it that way
you can, but that sense of independence has always been there and
always will be there. I've said this many times, and said it to Shane
the other day, that I have no intention of ever selling out the band.
The day that happens we might as well just go home. Bands that start
to believe in their own hype very quickly start doing things that
aren't very good. So I'm not going to do that. I'm not going to be
in another band after this, so this is it for me. I didn't join Napalm
Death because I wanted to be musician - I joined because I loved the
Martin: Your "current" album Time
Waits For No Slave, now I've heard and read that you were surprised by
how well it was received. How come?
Barney: Because as far as Napalm goes 10 years
ago we really got used to a lot of detractors saying that Napalm was
this and that which was just fine, but when you got an album that
get pretty much 100 % positive response, where do you go from there?
You almost can't comprehend it, because no-body, no band has the divine
right to expect to be applauded all the time. Life doesn't work that
way, and that's why I was really shocked. I didn't read one negative
comment or review or anything. I mean, shit, even the biggest bands
in the world get shot down in flames, so I was really taken aback.
Of course it's nice (smiles).
Martin: Are you thinking about this going
in to writing new songs?
Barney: If you're saying if that is going to
affect us, then no. You will do whatever you need to do and if someone
doesn't consider that to fall short of what you've done before then
so be it, what are you going to do? You can only try your very best,
and that's not to say that things should be calculated - again we're
back to spontaneity - but if we do our best and the new album has
everything people like about Napalm and also the little new stuff
then that's all we can do really. We're not a choreographed, calculated
mainstream metalband, so what do we do? We do what feels natural to
us. That's all you can do. And if, you know, we make an album and
the critical response isn't as good as with the current record, I
won't loose any sleep over it, because I know that I've done the right
Martin: How about the global grindcorescene?
Do you keep an eye on it?
You were the scene basically
Barney: (Smiles) Well, there were other bands,
but a lot less than it is now. It's very difficult to keep up with
what's going on. The thing with grindcore is that there are lots of
bands in it, and lots of different approaches within that. A scene
really can't run with just one band if you know what I mean, so it's
up to other people to come in and inject their own characteristics
into it. There are some things out there that can be categorized as
grindcore that don't do it for me, but that's just my perspective
you know. It helps to create a vibrant scene even if it's something
I don't like.
Martin: But what bands do you like? I know
you have a close connection to the guys in Nasum for example
Barney: Oh yeah! Well all sorts of bands really.
Grindcore is quite a subjective term, so how do you define it? Obviously
you can't just use Napalm as the example because grindcore has diversified.
My favorite strain of grindcore is the one that's a bit more punky,
a bit older stuff when bands weren't so concerned with tuning down
or playing as precise. The stuff that sounded as if it was coming
off the rails. One personal thing is that I want to hear drummers
that play that kind of stuff I'd say properly in lack of a better
word. Using one bass drum and really using the entire kit. The best
drummers I've seen had one bass drum, two toms - that was it. The
way they used the limited kit was just awesome. I've seen drummers
that I couldn't take my eyes off. And I'm not saying that people that
don't use just one pedal are fake, mind you, it's just my personal
preference. Bands like Siege and Heresy had some drumming that was
Martin: Napalm Death has a huge catalogue.
Do you even know how to play all the songs?
But how do you go about creating a setlist?
Barney: Again, we try and make it so it flows
nicely and spontaneous. We like that stop-start hardcore way of doing
things, as I've told you, but we try and cover every era, because
generally people like a spread of things. The set we're doing tonight
is the set we did on the last European tour which is really different.
It has some stuff that prior to that tour we weren't playing.
Martin: Touring as much as you do - is it
worth it? Being away from friends and family as much I mean?
Barney: It can be tough, and being away from
family is the hardest thing about it. My attitude has always been
that we're here for a reason, playing shows for kids that don't have
to come and spend their money on us but choose to. That keeps me inside
my head - that I have a purpose. And you enjoy playing!
Martin: Well, that's it.
Martin: No Barney, thank you.