Napalm Death’s Mark ‘Barney’ Greenway Talks New Album ‘Utilitarian,’ Politics + More
Legendary Napalm Death frontman Mark “Barney” Greenway recently spoke with us prior to the release of the band’s 15th studio album, ‘Utilitarian,’ which is out now. Having formed in 1981, Napalm Death quickly became known as one of the heaviest and most aggressive bands on the planet — paving the way for the entire genre of grindcore.
Greenway spoke to us on a wide range of topics from the new album, the philosophy behind it, the current state of extreme metal and most predominantly, politics. The Napalm Death frontman spoke his mind regarding the Occupy movement, the Tea Party, President Obama, the current state of America’s health care system the Stop Online Piracy Act and more.
Check out Loudwire’s exclusive interview with one of extreme metal’s most respected frontmen, Napalm Death’s Mark “Barney” Greenway.
Is Utilitarianism a philosophy that you personally subscribe to?
Yes and no, really. I’m not sure to be honest. We didn’t take that title just to pay a literal homage to it. With Napalm, I like to use a lot of creative writing and comparative plays on words and stuff like that. The utilitarian thing has certain aspects to it, which I definitely see in my own life and in other people’s lives, but I’m not entirely sure whether I am one or not because it has some characteristics that I wouldn’t agree with generally. For example, the achievement of total happiness could mean the acquisition or power. If that means negatively affecting other people along the way, that’s just something I can not concur with.
I do draw a parallel though in the sense that the interpretation of the philosophy says that good actions promote good consequences. I think I try to consider whether my actions will have a negative effect on people and I usually won’t both taking those actions if I feel they will. That’s where I see a parallel. When you live an ethical lifestyle, the object of the exercise is to make a difference. Of course you don’t always see instant results in that. It’s quite a long, progressive process, but of course you become inpatient when you don’t see instant results and you begin to wonder, “Is this worth it doing all this stuff? Am I really making a difference?” And then you think, “Why don’t I just live my life like everybody does and don’t worry too much about that stuff?”
I think there’s a conclusion to all this. The importance is that you must persevere, because if a certain percentage of people don’t engage in that and you take that away, then you leave a vacuum for the very things that we protest against or oppose or are critical of. You leave a vacuum for those things to come in and exploit situations and people even further – so that is something that’s unthinkable in some ways. So you see the point that I’m trying to make with this whole thing. It’s not necessarily, absolutely know whether I’m a utilitarian or not, I’m just taking a certain aspect of it to create a parallel and a thought process.
You make some good points, because something such as the dropping of the atomic bombs in World War II could be considered utilitarian.
Yes, that’s a very good point. It can be interpreted in a variety of different ways. As a lot of philosophical theories, I think that’s pretty much the norm. You can think of it in another way too — who really wants to put themselves in a little box and tie themselves to a philosophical theory? To me that’s as crazy as saying, “I’m a Christian.” Everybody has got the right to believe in whatever they want, but for me it still doesn’t make sense to do something like that.
The album art for ‘Utilitarian’ reminded me of ‘Scum’ and ‘For Enslavement to Obliteration.’ Is that any indication of what people should expect from this new album?
No. People have made that connection a couple of times – and I do see that, don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t see it, it’s just that wasn’t the starting reference point. It was Shane [Embury] who worked in conjunction with the artist to arrive what what eventually arrived at. The album has quite a wide style, so it’s not as straight off as those albums were.
Napalm Death just started its ‘Occupy Napalm’ campaign, what is your opinion of the ‘Occupy’ movement?
Inevitably because of the mechanisms that the systems have around the world to suppress those sorts of movements, they tend to lose their momentum, but I think the Occupy movement seems to have some kind of continuity towards it. Correct me if I’m wrong but I think that people in Europe perhaps have a bit more sympathy towards Occupy than the people in the States do.
I know you’ve got the Tea Party movement, but I feel like the premise of the Tea Party is idiotic. It claims to be a voice of the people, but what it’s really doing is pushing corporate interest. It’s not trying to get corporations to actually work in fair ways and to not ream everybody. It’s trying to take that away. It’s trying to take away the regulation. It’s trying to wipe all that stuff out and to me that’s just lunacy. The Occupy movement is something different to me and I’d hate to sound trite when I say this, but I think the Occupy movement is a genuine voice of the people.
The thing that’s crazy about the whole Tea Party movement is that you’ve got people on low incomes that are fighting for what they should be fighting against. Like Obama, whether you agree with him or not – and personally I agree with a lot of what he says. I think Obama has made genuine efforts to try and change certain inequalities and if I’m going to support a government, those are the thing I’m going to be interested in. He tried to equalize the health care system to where those at the bottom of the scale have access to it – as we have in the U.K. It’s so important.
The fact that people are fighting against it and are fighting to maintain this system where crowded health care systems operate carte blanche to exploit people in whatever way they can … They tell people who actually scrimp and save every month to pay premiums to these health care companies and then the health care companies turn around and say, “You know this treatment you need? Well, we found a small blot on your health records and we’re not going to give you the treatment.” I’ve experienced it first-hand with friends in the States and I’ve seen the misery that these private health care companies inflict. People need to understand that corporations have to be blamed and have to be regulated. End of story. I’ve got very cut-and-dry views on this sort of thing,
What are your views on the recent controversy of the Stop Online Piracy Act?
Yeah, it’s interesting. The online piracy thing has been thrust out, but I think it’s a little bit more than that. I think they’re trying to extend tentacles throughout the whole internet to somehow try and govern what is in many ways an unstoppable force. The internet is one of the last bastions of free expression.
You might say that me as a musician has a certain interest in this, but I can’t sacrifice free expression. Of course I have a certain viewpoint that if you download a Napalm album in the first few weeks of release, you’re kind of hurting us. It’s not a profit thing, it’s the fact that that money is going back into the record company for the stuff they’ve already paid out for us. But if someone with limited resources somewhere down the line wants to hear a Napalm album and the only way they can do it is to go through certain methods… You know, you have to ask yourself, “Do I want them to get involved in Napalm or not?” And of course, I do. So then I’m not going to argue with whatever they did. I have a sort-of multifaceted perspective on this.
Are there any new extreme metal or grind bands that you’re really into at the moment?
I’ll give you two bands. There’s a band called Retox. They’re on Mike Patton’s (Faith No More) record label. They’re a really good traditional fast hardcore band. The album is 12 minutes long and there are 20-30 songs, but the songs are incredible. It’s just really reckless, rampant, spontaneous – everything I want from a traditional grindcore album. Also Trap Them’s last album ‘Darker Handcraft’ is really raw, really nasty, really dirty and just again -great songwriting. They’re a band with a real spirit, a real drive to them.
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