Barney Greenway interviewed by PSL
It hasn't been much more than a half year since your last release. You certainly don't waste any time do you?
No, we don't fuck around. No, to be fair the Leaders Not Followers II thing was already done like a year previously so with that it was just a matter of getting it released. So it wasn't as if we were kinda working solidly on recording to different sets of music but one was already done and it was just a matter of finding and getting the record deal and getting it released. Although that caused problems even to that degree because you have to sort out artwork and blah, blah, blah and all this stuff so.
Music wise it sounds like a continuation from where Order of the Leech left of.
I would definitely say so. That was kinda my thoughts when we came out of the studio.
Where would you say the biggest difference is?
There are a few things. I mean, when I went into doing this album I thought, as I always does, that we had these really great songs. It's gonna be really good and the rest of it so that was kinda my trail of thought but then with this album more than a couple of the recently. I thought it's a really good album and when I came out there's like all these little small things that come and jumped out and I thought: "Wauh" as I realized the impact of those particular parts when I went in so there was just little sort of bits here and then that just jump out and of course when you look at it in a more simple terms the track "Morale" at the end is very different from the rest of the album but it's not something that we haven't done before it's just more so, it even more in that particular direction. "Morale" was very much influenced by the band Swans from New York which is an old art kind of noise band from the early 80's and My Bloody Valentine and that sort of indie music but dark very sort of noisy music and vocally I thought well, I've done this thing in the past where these kind of tracks were mixed my regular voice with less my tone of voice but this time I thought: "fuck it, if I'm going to do this I'm fucking really going to do it" so I took it and did proper sort of melodic vocals. At first I was really nervous and I thought: "Shit, I'm not going to be able to pull this off" but when I actually did it the layer off vocals you hear which is three tracks on top of each other. I did it in like half an hour and I was like really happy that I had achieved that…
It was also what struck me instantly that "Morale" was the most experimenting song on the album.
Yes, for sure yeah and there's also something else to add to that. I mean we're already thinking about the next album and one of the ideas is to like have a small piece of "Morale" to start the next album and then have it come directly to another song which is kind of along the same lines as "Morale" as a start to the next album so one album ends with the continuation into the next album if you see what I mean.
Yeah I get it. The last track "Our Pain is Their Power" is also bit weird but you've done that before on Utopia Banished with a track like "Discordance"!
Yes, absolutely yes, but I would like say that there are very different elements on the album, but it's nothing that we haven't explored before. "Our Pain is Their Power" to be honest came together in the studio 'cause "Morale" worked out so well that we thought we couldn't stop it dead with the end of "Morale" lets do something a bit cockier and experimental if you like, and it was all done in the studio. Sometimes that kind of spontaneity like improvisation can work really well so that was the general concept about that really.
Okay. Who comes up with stuff like that?
"Our Pain is Their Power" Mitch and Shane and Russ [the producer] came up with. They got a basic rhythm and the sort of build around it, so it's quite sort of testing kind of thing. I guess the expression is "suck it in and see" kind of process really.
You got a few guests on the album. Could you say a little about that?
Yeah, it's the three J's basically Jamie, Jeff and Jello. All of them work really well in the context of the songs I worked out for them to sing on. Jeff was the simplest of the lot 'cause Jeff as obviously have been with Carcass and had a big connection with Napalm Death down the years. He had obviously been in Carcass and also a lot of people tend to forget that he actually did the artwork for the Scum album, that's Jeff's artwork. Jeff was going to come down to the studio anyway just to hang out so I said: "if you're going to come down then do some vocals!" and he was like: "ok" [laughs] so that was all good. Then with Jamie, I mean Jamie's been a friend of ours for quite some time, I mean he's put up gigs for Napalm Death in America and supported Napalm Death with Hatebreed in the past so Jamie has kind of become a close friend so that was pretty easy to organize as he was going to be on tour in the UK at the some time as we were going to do the album with Hatebreed, Slayer and Slipknot. So I just went and picked him up and brought him back to the studio and it worked out really well so that was fairly easy as well. Jello was not a mature problem either, I mean we were on tour in the US and all we basically had to do was organize a studio which Billy Gold, the old bass player from Faith No More really helped us out with, so that was fairly simple and we got there and Jello showed up and he got the song and lyrics and I said: this is the parts I think you should make" but beyond that I didn't say anything to him. I just said: "you go do what you think is good" 'cause I mean lets face it Jello has done so much classic stuff that I don't need to tell Jello what to do so I'd rather just let him go and do what he sees is fit. Every vocalist works really well in the context of the songs and obviously I was really pleased about.
Yeah, it adds a lot more diversity to the songs!
For sure, I mean for an example if you hear the original version of "The Great and the Good" which was the track that Jello sang on compared to what Jello added to the song its world's apart.
Do you consider yourselves a political band?
Okay, good question. Sometimes the word "political" or "politics" can be really fucking boring sometimes because politics is a process and that can be sort of complex and quite boring to some people, I mean, yes obviously we sing about political situations, but probably best to describe Napalm Death as a humanitarian band. I mean I've always tried to push the sort of ethics of tolerance, equality and obviously we're against war, violence and stuff and that's the whole thing, so yes we are a political band in context, but I'd like to think us more as a humanitarian band.
Yeah, I remember you spoke out against the war in Iraq and the whole so called war on terror. It seemed to upset quite a few people as far as I could tell!
Yes it did, but to be fair are they going to expect anything else from me or Napalm Death? I mean what do they expect? Clearly we're a band that is not into aggression and that sort of state sponsored aggression. I personally am against imperialism and I think if that is the case… I live as much on this earth as these people do. I don't want to see people being murdered by the state sponsored aggression so it's my right to do so. People are obviously going to be irritated by that because there are some people that believe that war is a good thing. And I'm saying when 3.000 people can get killed in one night by air raids and it doesn't even register in some people's brains that this is a really bad thing and that to me is pretty crazy.
It's about being narrow-minded!
Exactly, so yes it did upset a lot of people but fuck I'm not here to say words that are just going to please people. I'm here to make a point.
You were involved in some beneficial work for the victims of the tsunami disaster. Could you say a bit about how that came to be?
You know what? Credit where credits due. We had the idea to do something and we first thought about a download and we figured: "hmm… well, are people really going to go for a download in these days where people can download music for free. Are they really going to pay for it?" So we thought instead: let's do a single, something solid that can be a collector's item since it being limited". Once we got the idea established Century Media came up with the artwork and the sleeve stuff was done in two days and I was like: "wauh, this is fucking cool" and they arranged for the other bands. We kind of already requested that The Haunted to do something and they came along with the other bands as well. It was really cool. Again credit goes to the record label for really turning it around really quickly and it's doing really well. The record sold really well at gigs and there's copies of it on Ebay right now that is selling for quite a lot. All that money is going to go to help the relief effort. But beyond that really I mean speaking generally I think obviously the way the whole world kind of reacted to the whole tsunami thing is very good. I would say if people can do this for the tsunami thing then people maybe can find it within themselves to donate to Africa 'cause Africa really needs relief right now. I mean they are on the verge of like many, many people dying. They really need some relief and also let's not forget the earthquake in Iran a couple of years ago which comparison-wise speaking didn't get as much coverage as the tsunami thing after all. Those people also really need relief so it would be really nice if people would now that they have been really generous and helped out with the tsunami thing that they can think on a wider scale.
You've once again worked with Russ Russel. Could say something about the reasons for this?
Well, it's really good to get continuity. Russ works a lot and obviously he's also worked on two albums with us. I don't think a producer necessarily really becomes familiar with the band until he's done a couple of albums with them. I think that is when he finally settles down into the whole process and begins to understand what the band really wants and needs from a production point of view so I think it's this album that Russ… Russ has done some really good work on the other albums but I think it's this album that Russ finally nailed it, nailed it perfectly down. I know this expression is used pretty often but he's become like a fifth member of the band now and we were totally satisfied with what he did with the album.
So you never considered producing yourselves?
We did at one point, but imagine if we went into the studio… I mean we're experienced enough now to know what we want in the studio as a band but does that necessarily mean that we can going in a produce an album? I don't think it does. To be totally honest we could quite easily go into an album, into a studio and try and produce ourselves and fuck it up completely so I don't want to do that especially when you get one chance, one crack at being in the studio 'cause studios cost money. I don't want to fuck it up so it's always better to have that safety net of a producer I think. All the bands if they are confident about doing it themselves - fine, go do it. I'm not necessarily at this point [laughs]. I have to be honest.
Looking in hindsight which of your albums do you then like the best and the least?
Okay, the best from my time Utopia Banished certainly was one of my favourites and the new one, of course bands always says that but I really think this is a really important album for us. It's a combination of the previous two and I would also say Enemy of the Music Business so those three albums definitely. Least favourites! Fear, Emptiness, Despair definitely come into that category and there's good reason for that. It was when the whole approach of the band sort of changed and I was one of the guys who weren't so confident about the changes in direction. I wasn't sure it would be fitting on the energy of Napalm Death. Also it was an absolutely fucking pig to record that album. You think about stuff that can go wrong, it went wrong with that album. The vocals I got some kind of mystery throat infection and the studio where I was singing in was also fucking dry heat, it was really hot and you couldn't get away from that and it was really fucking with my vocal cords and it was an absolute nightmare that whole recording so that is definitely one of my least favourites for sure [laughs].
Yeah, we have a big tour in June which goes until the end of July. I don't know where you're sitting Per but you may know we're playing in Copenhagen on the tour but you should check out the MAD website who is promoting us. You might want to check that site out it will give you all the details for the European tour. So there's that big tour and after that we're looking at going to America at some point and towards the end of the year we'll do some festivals and some other stuff as well so there's lots and lots of stuff for us to do. And actually the week after next we're going to Japan and Indonesia so that is really cool I think.
You mentioned that you're playing in Indonesia. That's a pretty unusual place to play!
Yes, but Napalm Death has always kind of tried to go to places that many other bands don't go. We were one of the first bands to go to Russia from our scene. We were the first to do many places. If there's a place to be played in the world and its not to difficult to get there we should do it. I'm really looking forward to the whole Japan and Indonesia thing.
What happened to Jesse Pintado?
It's a long saga that one. Jesse has… I will mention it since a lot of people already know, but Jesse had quite a big problem with alcohol for many years and it just got to the point not necessarily the alcohol that was affecting the band but the things around the alcohol. The problems caused by it and there was a couple of things that happened that wasn't really conducive to good operation that the band was. For an example on Order of the Leech Jesse kind of disappeared prior to the recording and without any explanation and left the country and we were like: "fuck, we're trying to do an album here what are you doing?" We are very tolerant people so we kind of accepted that he kind of needed to get away and whatever, so we left it at that but some other stuff happened that in the end we just said: "Jesse, we can't deal with this anymore. You got to make an effort to try and resolve problems" but he wasn't doing that so we just had to make the decision and tell him that: "what you're doing is not working well with us. You have to go away and take care of yourself and come back when you have sorted this stuff out" but he wasn't really doing that so in the end we just had to come to the decision where we said: "Jesse, we're sorry but we're just going to carry on as a four piece". It's very sad. The guy was with us for many, many years but sometimes life is tough and you have to make these kinds of decisions in life.
Do you intend to go on as a four piece?
Yeah 'cause it's working out well at the moment. Our motto is: "don't fix something that is not broken".
Do you have anything you wish to add to conclude this interview?
To be fair I always end up saying this, but it's true. Thanks to the kids in Denmark who've supported us. We haven't been to Denmark for a little while but every time we come we always after all these years get killer treatment 'cause the kids are always super friendly, it's really cool as with everywhere else in Europe and stuff. It's just really enjoyable for us to be able to come and play. It's really cool.