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Interview: Napalm Death Talk Fascism, Tour Life and New Material

Interview: Napalm Death Talk Fascism, Tour Life and New Material

Fluffy / Thursday 28th September, 2017 1:57PM

Few groups have made a stronger contribution to the world of extreme music then Napalm Death. From coining the term "blast beat" to describe the drum technique which is one of the defining cornerstones of sub-genres on the harsher end of the punk and metal spectrum, to bringing the existence of grindcore into public consciousness with help from BBC legend John Peel. To prepare ourselves for their upcoming Auckland show, we sent our resident connoisseur of cathartic drum pummelling, Fluffy, to chat to powerhouse frontman Mark "Barney" Greenway about the alt-right, beer drinking and beginning the recording cycle for their as yet unnamed 2018 release.

So, obviously you participate in many rad bands but today weíre speaking about Napalm Death.

It would seem so, it would seem so.

The name of said band seems particularly poignant at present given the situation with North Korea. Whatís your take on that? 

Well, I think the real crux of the matter has been missed. Youíve got to remember in the 80s and 90s, there was this big thing being made of non-proliferation treaties where they were supposed to scale back nuclear weapons to the point where nobody effectively had any anymore and certainly none that could be used. So I just find it strange, why [are] two people arguing basically over the use of nuclear weapons? The US has a huge stockpile of weapons, infinitely more then North Korea does, so I do find it a little bit ironic that the US is jumping up and down about this when they have quite an arsenal themselves. Which is not in any way to give credence to any kind of dictatorship really. I find it a bit strange that for some reason the US is allowed to have all these nuclear weapons and a small, isolated nation is not. Thereís not too much equity for that argument.

Not very congruent, eh?

No, not in any way.

At present weíre living in quite the time of political turmoil and with the rise of the alt-right, things over stateside seems pretty bizarre at present. So I wanted to ask, do you guys still play the Dead Kennedysí ĎNazi Punks Fuck Offí at every show?

We play it at every gig, weíve never not played it. Hereís the thing man, I know thereís quite a few flash points in the news at the moment, but has it really been any different, ever? I would suggest not that much. Thereís always something going on of this general ilk. So I think itís just a continuation of the fact that human beings donít know how to be human beings basically. So this kind of the current fallout. But yeah, yeah, we do play ĎNazi Punks Fuck Offí.


I am inherently anti-fascist, I always have been. I donít get quite as physical about it as I probably did 20 plus years ago but if I ever got attacked by one of these people then I would certainly defend myself y'know. I find the whole neo-fascism thing just as objectionable as I did 20 plus years ago but my perspective about how to deal with it might be slightly different. As much as I disagree with these people, I do respect their right to hold that opinion if they wish, but that doesnít mean that I dislike it any less. 

That segues well into my next question. I feel this question has been thrown around in the media in of late in various capacities: do you think it is ok to punch a nazi? Or are you more of the school of thought that violence begets more violence?

Iím definitely of that school of thought these days, Iíve evolved into that thought really. If violence keeps cycling around, youíre never actually gonna solve the issues that underpin these things. Surely the real issue at stake here is to bring a human understanding that visual, on the surface, differences shouldnít divide us. Ultimately we are all human beings, it doesnít matter our colour, sexual persuasion, gender etc, etc, we are human beings and we should all have learnt by now to treat each other as such. If somebody punches me and I punch em back, yknow, Im always gonna defend myself. I wouldnít attack anyone but I will always defend myself if I need to but even that in itself isnít achieving anything. Theyíre punching me, Iím punching them back, theyíre gonna punch me back again.

Yeah, the cycle perpetuates itself.

I donít necessarily know how to get there but at some point everybody needs to step back and go ďlook, letís just stop this shitĒ, learn how to live with each other. If you stop and think about it, it shouldnít be that difficult to learn how to live with each other. 

I agree. More on the musical side, youíre coming to New Zealand in the not too distant future. Last time you guys were here you played with Carcass, who are also some of the originators of the British grindcore and death metal scenes. Thatís a pretty fitting pair to have on a line up together.

Yeah, theyíve always been natural bedfellows I suppose. We didnít play together for two decades pretty much. Obviously they werenít around for quite a while. But yeah, it made sense to do that and I think that people liked it. Itís quite a double act for people to get their teeth into. Especially since Australia and New Zealand is so far away and thereís not a lot of opportunities to bring that kind of bill down there. We were lucky that both bands could do it at that point. It was good times.

Were there any hilarious stories that stick out from that tour?

Mate, I couldnít even remember. This is two bands that have been on and off doing it for 25 years. Iím not saying it becomes joyless, Iím just saying you kind of tend to put your head down and get on with it and do the important thing which is play the very best gig you can for the people that come to gigs. I donít remember anything in particular. I do remember some quite heavy, real ale drinking sessions but thatís kind of run of the mill stuff.

*Mutual laughter*

This is true. That tour was only two short years ago. Iím guessing New Zealand audiences treated you pretty well if youíre coming back so soon?

Yeah, you know what, we donít like to leave people out. This time were going to Tasmania this time. Iím really looking forward to that. Whatís unfortunate about New Zealand is that we donít get to spend enough time down there. Iíd really like to see with Maori and indigenous [people] how it's all going. I think certainly in Australia, the Aboriginals there, really have a rough time of things.


We donít always get to know about that stuff. Sometimes thereís this assumption with indigenous people that everythingís cool now and everythingís resolved but I think that that is not the reality, necessarily for everybody so itís interesting to see that stuff. Iíd like to scratch the surface and get beneath whatís going on. We only see the obvious reference points in regards to Maori culture and itíd be nice to see the real deal.

For sure, for sure. This time around youíre heading down with Brujeria. It seems like their politics are pretty righteous.

Being the kind of band they are, theyíre very Latin culture based. A lot of it, to be honest, is parody. They do a lot of play on the drug culture. Which, on the serious side of things, is not necessarily a great thing. Because a lot of people suffer for the cultivation and farming of drugs in South America. So Brujeria is kind of a parody on that to a certain degree.

Going back to what you said just before, do you think that maybe through that parody they can bring that struggle that they are put through for industrialization and imperialism and what not into the western gaze?

Yeah, Iím not quite sure if thatís their particular angle, more specifically the drug culture. Iím not sure how that would translate into really telling people whatís going on under the surface. But itís there as a parody and what people sort of take of it beyond that, Iím not sure and I canít really speak for them. But I do know myself that, cocaine, people tend to take it for granted but I would suggest that, again, if you can scratch under the surface, I think youíll find some stuff that would put a certain percentage of people off ever getting involved with stuff like cocaine because thereís some pretty nasty stuff going on that almost enslaves people and surely thatís not something glorify.

Not at all. I also wanted to get your perspective on maintaining a DIY ethos while existing within the paradigm of capitalism, as we all do, especially in regards to staying fed and clothed as a musician. 

The world is as the world is. We are subject to the same systems as anything else. We donít exist in a bubble; we are a microcosm of the larger world. Any musician that tells you that their existence is completely on an alternative plane doesnít have a complete semblance of reality, I donít think. We are all subject to those forces but of course, the difference being that we try to operate quote/unquote ethically. Everybody can chose to operate how they wish so its what you do with that. Napalm does certain things in certain ways and itís important to note there are certain things that we get offered as a band that we wont do, certain companies we will not get involved with. So you have your own cheques and balances. Whilst we do have the general system that we have in the world then we are in the spheres of those forces. But it will all depend on the system coming down at some point, which it could do. Itís not all powerful. The Roman Empire was something that people thought to be unstoppable and invincible and look at the way that went in the end. Capitalism, for example, if it operates in the way it does with such levels of inequality then it wont last forever. It cant be sustained. 

Itíll collapse into itself right?

Yeah, I think so, at some point if it continues to operate in the way it does. 

I have a brief example to do with that, that Iíd be curious to get your thoughts on. I see many a Napalm Death back patch screen-printed and sold at DIY market stalls at shows, festivals, etc, of which, Iíd imagine you probably wouldnít have seen any royalties from.

I donít mind, actually. I kind of see it as a tribute to Napalm, that kind of stuff. I donít worry about it too much. The only issue I would say with that bootlegging is, and you canít always tell, but whereís the money going? Iím not so bothered about Napalm not earning the royalties off a $2 patch or something like that, then I am where the money is going. One thing youíve got to remember is there are certain people involved in bootlegging that are involved in some quite nasty stuff. Gangsterism, which involves, of course, intimidation of people, or worse. So, thatís the only note of caution that I would sound with that stuff. If itís just DIY kids at a show that have made a Napalm patch, honestly it doesnít bother me that much.

Thatís rad man. Presumably that also exposes your art to more people and the impression I get is that said art has a very anti-capitalistic message so I suppose that is bringing that message to even more people then it may have otherwise reached.

Yeah, well first and foremost, it has an anti-oppression message, a pro-human and pro-equality message. So the anti-capitalism is only one small strand of it, but of course it encompasses that.

I hear you have a new album in the works, which is slated for a 2018 release. I was just wondering if we might be likely to hear any of this new material on this tour?

Oh, when we say 2018 we mean a pretty advanced stage of 2018. We donít have anything yet. Were basically at the stage where Shane, the bass player, has laid down some of his ideas and material, a lot of which will be used, some of which maybe wont. I donít even know yet as I havenít really heard it, although I do posses a copy of it, I just havenít had the chance to listen to it. Its in a very basic, what we call a scratch form. So itís very early days, there are no complete tracks. 

Napalm Death are playing the Kings Arms on 4th of October as part of their 'Campaign for Musical Destruction' with Brujeria, Lock Up and Malevolence. For more details and to score tickets, head over HERE.



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