vendredi 26 avril 2013

Napalm Death Interview 2011


Ever since their genre breaking Scum LP in 1987,
NAPALM DEATH have been trail blazers in the
extreme metal undergroud. Here is a recent interview
with ND vocalist and 20-year veteran Barney
conducted by Flox of Fight for Your Mind Records.

PE: Greetings, Barney! We’re going to pass on the
usual band presentation since ND isn’t a newcomer
to the political underground scene. So why ND in
PE ? I believe the band has a tight link with hardcore/
punk due to the first years of the band and the
bands covered on Leaders Not Followers (AGNOSTIC
FRONT, SIEGE, DISCHARGE, etc.) and from seeing
you wear an INFEST shirt in the video for “When
All is Said and Done.” I also recall you wearing an
ATROCIOUS MADNESS shirt on some kind of gig
poster years ago and having Jello Biafra participate
on The Code Is Red... Long Live The Code album.
It even seems that you have tighter roots into this
scene then into metal. How do you feel about this?

BARNEY: Greetings, mon ami. I like all kinds of music,
but punk and hardcore punk in particular mean a lot to
me. I feel a very strong connection to it both as a musical
and ethical form, and I have been close to it since
the mid-eighties when I got involved fairly heavily with
the great hardcore scene we had around the Midlands
region, Birmingham in particular. Within NAPALM, I feel
that hardcore has always had a huge influence. There
have been some amazing metal bands down the years
some – and they had a real raw power to them. Hardcore
also has that perhaps to an even greater extent and
we have definitely learned as a band that its influential
chaotic edge keeps things exciting. I don’t know about
you, but when I hear albums by extreme bands where
the sound is all polished and the rough edges smoothed
off, I find it quite hard to get excited. There’s nothing like
ambience and the spontaneity of noisy hardcore to give
an album a real sense of thrust. Lyrically, I don’t really
copy anyone because I think it’s important to form your
own thoughts, though I guess my thoughts fall on the
side of general humanitarianism. All the same, I would
have to acknowledge the irony, tragedy and sometimes
comedy within the lyrics of classic bands like CRASS
and old DEAD KENNEDYS. In terms of stylistic definition
though, I really don’t stay awake at night about
whether NAPALM is punk, metal or grindcore. I leave
that to internet forum dwellers. They get quite aggressive
about that stuff sometimes. I definitely don’t.

PE: It seems that the band has been able to evolve
and gaining a reputation and a new and young
crowd. Your latest LP Time Waits For No Slave is
fucking extreme! ND is definitely not a band of the
past and still making it happen. What keeps you fueled
/ inspired and where are the old diehard grinders
from the late 80’s early 90’s these days?
BARNEY: Thanks, I appreciate that. On the most basic
level, it’s simply our own excitement that keeps us going
and hopefully that produces albums which sound vital
and alive and not at all like we are just going through
the motions. I’m kind of proud that after making 10+
albums, we still have that excitement and enthusiasm.
Perhaps one day that motivation won’t be there, and at
that point I would probably just quit because I wouldn’t
want to make music or play gigs where deep down I
know I’m only making half the effort I could be. On the
lyrical level, there are always lots of things to bring to
people’s attention, and the art is to try an interpret those
in different and fresh ways. As far as other bands from
previous times that you sort of referred to, well, I guess
that with most bands nothing lasts forever. When you
have people living in each other’s pockets most of the
time, it can be very testing. It’s usually burnout from
those kinds of circumstances or perhaps feelings that
a band has run out of creative steam, or has different
visions for the future, that people decide to give up and
move on.

PE: ND has worked with numerous different labels
from Scum through Time Waits for No Slave. To
cite a few, you’ve been with Earache, Peaceville, Relapse
and for some years now with Century Media. I
imagine there has been some hard times with some
of these labels. Does ND have any rights on their
music ? What made you take all these decisions of
changing so many times over the years ? Will we
ever see vinyl reeditions of all the Earache releases
and of Enemy of the Music Business?
BARNEY: We have certain rights over our music in
areas that we feel are important – not being used to
promote certain companies or corporations is one that
is worth mentioning. But when you choose to sign to a
record label the compromise is that you unfortunately
have to sign some other rights away. Realistically, we
could not manage a ND release on our own as a band.
We’re not the biggest band in the world and I totally love
the DIY ethic, but it would still be too much for us to
handle besides everything else. I don’t really want to go
deeply into the unhappy times with Earache because I
feel enough has been said on that subject, but I will say
on the flipside of the coin that Century Media have been
fantastic with NAPALM DEATH. They understand what
the band ethos is, they promote us in the right away and
they are always there when needed – and they know
that musically ND knows what is best for ND. It’s not
that crappy kind of situation where the record company
puts your record out and you never hear from them
again. So you can imagine why we have wanted to stay
with them, and on the other hand why we moved away
from so many other labels in the past. You may see vinyl
at some point of the Earache years, but that label still
owns the rights and we don’t really cooperate with them
at all, so that would be down to them. On ‘Enemy…’,
we tried to get rights back to redo vinyl, but the label
involved there didn’t show much interest in that either.

PE: I’ve only seen you twice live, once when you
were on tour in France with NASUM and a little
over a year ago in a festival with BLOCKHEADS
and WITCH HUNT. I’ve been impressed both times
with the dynamic, positive political positions of the
band, which is very uncommon for a metal band to
confront their audience with. You’ve also toured
with SEPULTURA, SICK OF IT ALL, etc. and played
in front of huge crowds. Are you ever confronted
with idiot crowds who confront your ideas of being
anti-fascist, anti-homophobic, pro-choice, and a
pro-feminist band ? Knowing that some death metal
and black metal bands are very rightwing,
how do you deal with this at bigger
festivals? ND does play out of the comfortable
bubble of small crowd, but up to
what point can ND’s politics disturb? And
is doing the cover of Nazi Punks Fuck Off
live something you feel very important to
BARNEY: Firstly, let’s say that super-negativity
is not exclusive to some death/black
metal bands. I’ve met some hardcore and
punk bands who were equally as ignorant…
On tour, we certainly have had a few unfortunate
moments down the years – attacked by
self-proclaimed fascists in the USA (the worst
place for macho right-wing violence, I found,
in the early ‘90s), South Africa, Russia, northern
Europe at certain points…I don’t want to
go into specific stories because I don’t want it
to give credibility by romanticising confrontation
or something. Despite such depressing
experiences, I open my mouth and speak my
mind when I feel it is necessary and that applies
to a band situation or not. As far as I’m
concerned, people know about the NAPALM
DEATH way and I’m certainly not one for
self-censorship. If, hypothetically speaking,
a promoter didn’t like it, then don’t book the
band in the first place. What can I say? Nazi
Punks… is as vital to the set as any other
song. People would really fucking complain if
we didn’t play it – ha-ha! On festival crowds,
there is not so much opposition as you might
think at certain ones. Most people at any
festival have a generally open-minded perspective, I
would say. Honestly, I think it’s a big mistake and bad
stereotyping to pass off certain types of festival crowds
as being ignorant. They’re really not in my opinion, apart
from a few bullshit merchants. I just blow kisses at the
few negative heads in the crowd when they shout stuff.
They love that – ha ha! Incidentally, some bands with
renowned “right wing” perspectives never really come to
challenge us, even when we end up somehow playing
on the same festival.

PE: Have you been following what has been going
on in Tunisia (having Ben Ali fly out of the country
with millions of dollars worth in gold ), Egypt and
now also Algeria which is starting to revolt as well ?
Do these situations inspire you at all even if the political
situations are a bit different? Even if we can’t
compare life in western countries to these situations,
would such a popular uprising of the people
be of consideration in the UK these days? Can having
people attack Prince Charles in his Rolls Royce
be a sign of hope?
BARNEY: Yes, you cannot fail to be following the
Middle Eastern situation – it’s everywhere right now. It
is always inspiring–and also inevitable–when enough
becomes enough and people come to a self-realization
and cease to be scared of their bullying governments
any more. You can apply that to any country in the
world. It’s a pity that people often have to go through so
many years of intimidation, loss of liberty and equality
to get to the point of action. The thing is that somehow
over the development of these oppressive governmental
systems, the rights have been allocated to
smaller and smaller groups of people, with the rights of
the majority eroding in that process. But, as we know,
thankfully there is always a breaking point in the end.
All this said, I can say I’m still not comfortable with violence
– it’s a difficult subject. Often I think the human
race gets caught up in an endless cycle of violence, and
whilst I understand the infuriation of people who attack
those who have enslaved them, somewhere we have
to move forward, learn lessons of the past and make
the changes. Surely that is the ultimate aim – equality
and a peaceful world for all. For example, attacking that
Royal car in the UK protests recently was somewhat
symbolic, but I feel the real actual issue is to understand
that the British Monarchy is an unnecessary, outdated,
elitist institution and should be dissolved. That does not
mean personally hurting or executing the Monarchy or
anything though—that’s like bloodlust and I couldn’t do
that to another human being whoever it may be. If we do
that then we learn nothing.

PE: Have you been aware of the situation in France
when Nicolas Sarkozy has decieded to expluse all
the Gypsies from the country, while destroying their
houses and caravans?
BARNEY: Yes, I find it deeply unsettling that this has
been allowed to happen in France – especially as the
EU (agree or disagree with them as an organisation)
– has always been quite vocal about human rights and
racism and associated things. If the EU is unwilling to
stop this action, then obviously we as people have to
make our voices heard and underline that all people are
equal under the basic human right to exist without provocation.
As far as the extreme right wing movements
go, they are always there. They may have a bit more
momentum with the economic situation, but I have not
known a time when they weren’t encouraging paranoia
and suspicion of others.

PE: I’ve always been a big fan of Rob Middleton’s
artwork and I think alot of people involved in PE
are as well, since he’s worked on a few projects for
the fanzine / label and has been a featured artist in
one issue. What importance do you as a band have
for your artwork and layout and how did you come
to work with Mid and what is crucial for you in this
aspect of art for your band and albums?
BARNEY: Personally, I’ve known Mid since before his
band DEVIATED INSTINCT even released the first
demo. He’s a great guy and his art thing was always
eye-catching; kind of that doomsday-esque / AMEBIXish
approach. Without changing that direction too much,
for NAPALM, he colorised it a little more and just simply
developed it to the kind of topics we were talking about
on our albums. Nothing was too crucial – we would
rather let Mid develop some art naturally as we kind of
thought that he would know best after we’d given him
the themes . Generally I think art is very important, but
it’s also subjective – some people don’t care too much.
You can, though, be as creative with imagery as you can
with writing a guitar riff or a lyric.

PE: How did Feto Records come together and was there
ever a possibility/consideration for NAPALM DEATH to
take back its own catalog and rerelease old records?
BARNEY: The initial nucleus of the idea was to have it
as an imprint for the band, so we could assume more of
the control by sub-releasing our stuff onto it from bigger
independent labels. However, as I mentioned earlier,
the release of a NAPALM DEATH album would have
proven to be be just too much for us alongside everything
else. Plus, we don’t have access to the rights still
from a lot of earlier albums so there’s not much to say
on that.
Shane (our bass player) actually went onto develop
it as his own label and put out bands that he wanted
to, which was fine with us. So it’s not really wholly a
NAPALM thing anymore. I think even that got to be too
much work for Shane, so I suppose the label is kind of
in suspension for now. Actually, the only NAPALM thing
available on the label is a split picture disc with Nasum
which was recorded in Japan years ago. I almost forgot
about that.

PE: How has touring with NAPALM DEATH changed
over the years, knowing the band’s going to celebrate
its 30 years of existence soon? Do you have to compromise
to make a living out of the band, especially with
members’ side projects?
Touring is a really varied process for us and that’s not
really changed over the years. We’re quite happy to go
out and self-drive a van, but if it’s a 30-date Euro tour
with a package of other international bands, it’s actually
cheaper to hire a tour bus and get all the bands
on board. We had something like 27 people on one vehicle
for the last Euro tour. Or of course we do the short
weekend fly-ins quite a lot. Regarding on-tour habits,
I couldn’t really think of too many differences with that
over time either. Speaking for myself, I live a very simple
life at home and I similarly live a very simple life on tour.
All I really need is a shower, relatively healthy vegan /
vegetarian food, a few hours sleep, my books that I take
with me and not too much else. For one thing, I don’t
touch alcohol on tour – it would have a really negative
affect on me being able to play. As far as side projects,
obviously Shane has lots of them. He’s just brimming
with ideas about doing lots of different stuff, so that
release feels good for him. For me, I
get asked to do a lot of guest vocals
on other band’s albums and I’m happy
to do just that alone for now. NAPALM
alone gets us a certain living from the
band, and I don’t see anything wrong
with that. It’s certainly not excessive
and we don’t compromise the ND approach
to get more.

PE: Your lyrics are a very strong
part of ND- For Time Waits For No
Slave, you made short videos for
each song to get the message out.
Do you think alot of your fans attach
a lot of importance to it? Would
you like to make the message more
important than their long hair and
head banging ? What kind of back
flows have you had from this ? Does
ND consider itself as an anarchistinfluenced
band ?
BARNEY: I think video is just another
extension of the art and you can obviously
do lots more with moving images.
People talk about the subject matter of
our various videos and of course we try
to always give them a subject basis, so
I guess it must be working somehow.
All these things are subjective though,
so what I would say is that it’s up to the
individual how they enjoy it or whether
they look a little deeper. Is ND an anarchist-
influenced band? I would say that is kind of a
paradox given that anarchism is kind of based around
free-thinking anyway. But is ND influenced by certain
bands that happen to class themselves as anarchists?
Yes, on several levels of course. Personally, I moved
away from labelling myself as an anarchist or assuming
any kind of personal label years ago. Quite simply, I just
try to open my mind and think freely. It’s consistently a
very refreshing way to live life.

PE: I think this has been long enough to get some
words through even if I’d like this to go on. Just a
last question, how do you feel about an interview in
PE rather than in some kind of a big metal magazine
with much bigger circulation of copies ?
BARNEY: Great. I don’t tend to make distinctions. I do
every interview that comes my way. It doesn’t matter
what it is and I don’t count circulations. Most important
to me is that people actually want to talk about the band.
I’m quite familiar with Profane Existence anyway – have
had quite a few friends who were connected with it over
the years. We are therefore old acquaintances!

PE: I’d like to thank you, Barney, for taking your time
doing this interview. You are more than welcome to add
whatever you feel like on any subject and on any upcoming
projects for the band and tours! Keep it grinding,
BARNEY: I suppose it’s a fairly common closing comment,
but thanks to everybody who keeps supporting
us and therefore helps to keep us excited and enthusiastic!
We’re about to start working on a new album,
which should be out late 2011. Peace and love to everybody.
And thanks for the time, space and attention,
Flox. Cheers.
NAPALM DEATH e PE 60/61 15

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