As all fans of the death metal scene know, Napalm Death is a name that receives a HUGE amount of respect whenever it is mentioned; after forming all the way back in 1981, they forever changed the music industry by pioneering the grindcore genre! After going through a lot of line-up changes in the early years (including starting out as a three piece!), the current line-up of Mark ‘Barney’ Greenway (Vocals), Shane Embury (Bass), Mitch Harris (Guitar/Backing Vocals) and Danny Herrera (Drums) have made up most, if not all of Napalm Death since 1991. The only changes in that time were when Greenway was replaced on vocal duties by Phil Vane (96-97) and when Jesse Pintado (Guitar) made Napalm Death a five piece up until 2004.
OVERDRIVE was fortunate to get to speak to long time frontman Greenway about Napalm Death’s upcoming headlining Australian tour which starts in Hobart on October 6th. After a bit of research into previous Napalm Death tours, this interviewer noticed that this was the band’s first time performing in Hobart; what better place to open the interview than finding out what motivated the band to want to play a show down in Tasmania! Greenway explained how “it would be the same motivation as with anywhere else really; we’re always looking for places off the track a little bit, it’s the same as if we were going to anywhere else in the world! When Brad (from Soundworks Touring) first mentioned it; actually we’ve been talking about going to Tasmania for the last couple of trips but he just wasn’t able to organise it and we were all ‘urgh damn; that would have been amazing if he could have organised it!’ This time however, it has worked out! I’m curious and am looking forward to it; coming to Australia itself isn’t an everyday thing, so coming to Tasmania I’m coming in there completely open-minded and curious to see how things are! We’re the sort of people who when they get told there is a new place in the world that I can get to travel to that I’ve never been to before, my response is usually ‘tell me when!’ (laughs)”
Touching further on how Tasmania usually miss out on shows and are required to fly to the mainland to experience concerts, Greenway elaborated further on the band’s perspective about taking the tour down there for the fans:
“That’s the other side of it; not only from our point of view, but we also recognise that doing things for people who might be disadvantaged in terms of having access or whatever else, we want to give something to them and alleviate that, go down and contribute. We’re quite happy to do so! The general rule of thumb is those kids like in many places around the world, we wouldn’t be here 30 something years later; there’s a lesson to be learnt! (chuckles) I mean, honestly it’s not that difficult for me; I’m coming down to Australia anyway and the Soundworks guys clearly had something in the works for Tasmania, so the only difficult thing for me (which isn’t difficult for me) is getting on the transport, getting over there and being there! It’s great; there’s nothing about it that’s problematic to my daily existence, in fact it’s nothing but positive and I’m really looking forward to it! Napalm has always had a very community kind of ethos anyway so it’s an extension of that; if it wasn’t Tasmania, it would be somewhere else in the world! For example, we played a hippie commune in Norway last year that was a fantastic place; basically this island were effectively stopping the oil companies from asset stripping the land, they were on that island so they put on a festival and they contacted us. The travel was a bit chaotic; fly to a city nearby, then get into a van before getting on a 3 man boat across the field and ferry the gear across in several trips, but why not experience a bit of diversity in touring life! Why be a robot or a clone and do the same thing every day of your touring life as a band; there’s the fun in that?”
Considering how much Napalm Death have visited Australia over the last decade, not forgetting to mention that they last made the trip Down Under in only 2015, it’s pretty obvious that the band have a deep love and appreciation for our country! So just what is it about Australia that Napalm Death love so much; Greenway explains that “well, it’s hard to give a real specific as there are many things about Australia! First of all, don’t forget, there’s a certain curiosity because of the colonial links between the two places. I mean, I met people in Australia that were born in Birmingham (the town where I’m from) yet they live many thousands of miles away, or their relatives are from Birmingham or the UK; it’s interesting that you’ve got a separation in miles between the two places but you’ve still got those links there! There’s that first and foremost, but then of course; as Australia is the other side of the world, the environmental set up is very different to the UK, so it’s interesting to see the way Australia is. Of course, there are many experiences environmentally within Australia because the cities are so far, so that makes it doubly interesting. Even though I know it isn’t widely broadcasted, the underground music scene in Australia was very vibrant in some parts for thirty years or so now; that also interests me. So yeah, there’s many different things; the next thing you need to do is basically understand that a monarchy isn’t needed and to become independent, but that’s somewhere down the line! (lets out a big laugh)”
Is there going to be any special treats or gems for long time Napalm Death fans being performed for Australian fans this time around, especially those in Hobart who are getting a show for the first time? Greenway explained how when it came picking songs that:
“I mean, we’ve always done a wide variety of songs; in contrast to some bands, we’re not the sort of band that plays one or two token songs from our first album! We recognize the importance and the milestones of those within the evolution of the band, so we’ve always done a wide variety of stuff; I’m not going say from all the albums on every set-list, because you just can’t. It’s not an exact science; “well there’s two songs from this so there’s got to be two songs from that” and you’ve gotta play everything…of course you don’t do that, as that doesn’t give you a natural flow! By the same token, we do a wide spread of everything across all the eras of Napalm; so hopefully things in there will surprise people. I don’t know how much we can surprise them as we’re not going to pull rabbits out of hats (laughs) but hopefully people will genuinely be captivated by the set that we’ve got! We’re constantly revolving our set-list whether we’re coming to Australia or not, so there will be quite a few songs that wasn’t on the set-list last time.”
Greenway touched further on the creation of a set-list, giving some insight and knowledge from a man who has been doing this for numerous years, by adding “plus what you’ve got to remember is that all music is subjective; certain songs that may be a revelation for some fans could have other fans wishing we played other songs instead. It’s not such an easy thing to achieve to sweep everybody off their feet who are in attendance, but we most definitely try! You want people walking out of the gig where it’s hopefully been etched into their memory; on the same token, you don’t want to make the show too stiff, choreographed and mathematically calculated in putting a set together, as it will sound stiff without spontaneity or a flow to it. Hopefully we achieve that, but only those who come to the show can decide that!”
This interviewer was curious what it was like from Greenway’s perspective watching Embury from the side of the stage before getting out to join him during the Napalm Death set; Greenway reminded this interviewer that “He’s already done this; don’t forget this tour went out in Europe a few months ago albeit with one different opening band.”, then explaining how “I was a little bit unsure at first before the last tour that we did. Needless to say that if it was the case that Shane was doing two sets before coming out on stage with Napalm and clearly being fatigued (which would be understandable), then I don’t think that would be a good situation; as Napalm has to be 100% and with me being in Napalm obviously I’m going to want what’s best for Napalm, as the other guys in the other bands are going to want the same thing as well! I was a bit unsure but I spoke to Shane and he said how he wouldn’t do it if he thought Napalm was going to be adversely affected; I then thought that if I can’t trust his word after thirty something years together, then something must be wrong. So I said to go ahead and do it, no problem! It worked out okay; there wasn’t any signs of Shane huffing or puffing to get going. It’s different seeing him play for so long; I’ve seen him play for other bands before playing with Napalm but mostly at festivals. I’ve never seen him playing in a high percentage of bands playing before us, but Shane is doing what he thinks he needs to do and it is what it is!”
When this interviewer asked Greenway whether he had noticed that Embury seemed more limber or warmed up when getting out on stage with Napalm compared to normal, the first response was “well, that’s a good point!” before Greenway then continued by saying how “that’s the thing; it’s a pretty high benchmark to set as I’ve never known him not to come out on stage and not be going at it 100%! You can’t really go above the line almost, as there is nowhere else to go really. He’s playing just as well as he ever has done; if you want to look at it that way, he’s still contributing to the set in the same way. He’s set a high benchmark in the first place so it’s hard to go past that; the only thing I would be worried is as if previously mentioned that he was lagging a little bit, but he isn’t and it works out pretty good!”
Knowing that Napalm Death have a tour of Spain leading into December, what else does the rest of 2017 hold for Napalm Death? Fans might have noticed via social media that there is a new Napalm Death album in the works, which of course this interviewer had to ask Greenway about; mainly about the progress of the album and how far through any workings the band might be. Greenway was kind enough to give a bit of an insight into the current status of the upcoming album:
“The preliminary stuff has been laid down; should I say Shane’s preliminary material has gone down in the studio, so it’s at a very early stage! I’ve already had this discussion with interviews previous, how one problem with social media is that it does have a tendency to overinflate; from the post that was put up, people think we’re well into the production of the whole new album. But we’re not; we’ve just done a preliminary session. Obviously we did want to get something out there that we have started, but in terms of what goes into a Napalm album in small chunks, it’s probably not going to be ready until probably later next year. When I say later next year, I mean LATER 2018 as it’s very early days yet; I haven’t even had a chance to listen to the stuff that Shane has given me! From what I know from the discussions we’ve had, hopefully it will move things on a little bit; it will still be that chaotic band that you knew, but like with Apex there will be other elements coming in which will make it fast, dark, crazy and everything you’ve ever known!”
MAKE SURE TO CATCH NAPALM DEATH ON THEIR UPCOMING AUSTRALIAN TOUR, STARTING IN HOBART OCTOBER 6TH! TICKETS AVAILABLE HERE.