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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 we’re 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. What’s your take on that? 

Well, I think the real crux of the matter has been missed. You’ve 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. There’s not too much equity for that argument.

Not very congruent, eh?

No, not in any way.

At present we’re 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 Kennedys’ ‘Nazi Punks Fuck Off’ at every show?

We play it at every gig, we’ve never not played it. Here’s the thing man, I know there’s 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. There’s always something going on of this general ilk. So I think it’s just a continuation of the fact that human beings don’t know how to be human beings basically. So this kind of the current fallout. But yeah, yeah, we do play ‘Nazi Punks Fuck Off’.


I am inherently anti-fascist, I always have been. I don’t 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 doesn’t 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?

I’m definitely of that school of thought these days, I’ve evolved into that thought really. If violence keeps cycling around, you’re 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 shouldn’t divide us. Ultimately we are all human beings, it doesn’t 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 wouldn’t attack anyone but I will always defend myself if I need to but even that in itself isn’t achieving anything. They’re punching me, I’m punching them back, they’re gonna punch me back again.

Yeah, the cycle perpetuates itself.

I don’t necessarily know how to get there but at some point everybody needs to step back and go “look, let’s just stop this shit”, learn how to live with each other. If you stop and think about it, it shouldn’t be that difficult to learn how to live with each other. 

I agree. More on the musical side, you’re 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. That’s a pretty fitting pair to have on a line up together.

Yeah, they’ve always been natural bedfellows I suppose. We didn’t play together for two decades pretty much. Obviously they weren’t around for quite a while. But yeah, it made sense to do that and I think that people liked it. It’s quite a double act for people to get their teeth into. Especially since Australia and New Zealand is so far away and there’s 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 couldn’t even remember. This is two bands that have been on and off doing it for 25 years. I’m not saying it becomes joyless, I’m 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 don’t remember anything in particular. I do remember some quite heavy, real ale drinking sessions but that’s kind of run of the mill stuff.

*Mutual laughter*

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

Yeah, you know what, we don’t like to leave people out. This time were going to Tasmania this time. I’m really looking forward to that. What’s unfortunate about New Zealand is that we don’t get to spend enough time down there. I’d 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 don’t always get to know about that stuff. Sometimes there’s this assumption with indigenous people that everything’s cool now and everything’s resolved but I think that that is not the reality, necessarily for everybody so it’s interesting to see that stuff. I’d like to scratch the surface and get beneath what’s going on. We only see the obvious reference points in regards to Maori culture and it’d be nice to see the real deal.

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

Being the kind of band they are, they’re 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, I’m not quite sure if that’s their particular angle, more specifically the drug culture. I’m not sure how that would translate into really telling people what’s going on under the surface. But it’s there as a parody and what people sort of take of it beyond that, I’m not sure and I can’t 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 you’ll find some stuff that would put a certain percentage of people off ever getting involved with stuff like cocaine because there’s some pretty nasty stuff going on that almost enslaves people and surely that’s 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 don’t 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 doesn’t have a complete semblance of reality, I don’t 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 it’s 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. It’s 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. 

It’ll 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 I’d 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, I’d imagine you probably wouldn’t have seen any royalties from.

I don’t mind, actually. I kind of see it as a tribute to Napalm, that kind of stuff. I don’t worry about it too much. The only issue I would say with that bootlegging is, and you can’t always tell, but where’s the money going? I’m 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 you’ve 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, that’s the only note of caution that I would sound with that stuff. If it’s just DIY kids at a show that have made a Napalm patch, honestly it doesn’t bother me that much.

That’s 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 don’t 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 don’t even know yet as I haven’t really heard it, although I do posses a copy of it, I just haven’t had the chance to listen to it. Its in a very basic, what we call a scratch form. So it’s 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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