Napalm Death’s Mark ‘Barney’ Greenway Talks New Album, Political Issues
Napalm Death frontman Mark ‘Barney’ Greenway was a guest on Full Metal Jackie’s show over the weekend. Barney talked about his band’s new album ‘Utilitarian’ (due out Feb. 28) and discussed politics, among other topics. If you missed Jackie’s radio show, check out her full interview with Barney here:
It’s been how long now since the last release?
I think two nearly three years, which is a long time for us but we’re a little bit random as a band so it all doesn’t really matter I suppose.
After so many albums and so much experience, what would you say is the biggest challenge in making ‘Utilitarian’?
I guess it’s purely because of the amount of albums we’ve done in the past. It’s whether you can maintain the spontaneity of ideas. We’re not a big pre-planning band, we don’t take a load of boxes into what an album should sound like. We just try and do what we feel is right, whatever comes out, comes out and there you go. I’m speaking for myself, I do get periods where I get mental blockages where I literally have to force myself to leave the writing process along for two or three days and just come back to it after that. If there’s really nothing coming out then you need to separate yourself away from it for a little while, otherwise it’s counterproductive because you’ll just sit and sit and sit and the longer it goes on the less you will get done.
Which happens more, politics affecting your lyrics or the lyrics inspiring you to create some sort of social change?
It’s a little bit simplistic, to be honest it’s a lot more organic than that. It’s not that sort of rigid approach. As a person, like any person I have certain thoughts and ideas and perspectives and I’m driven as a person. The band, as strange as this might sound, also drops out of the equation. It’s just the way I am as a person so it’s perfectly natural for the band to be the vehicle of that, it’s my own thoughts, I would express those even if I didn’t have a band to do that with in some way or another. The music and lyrics go hand in hand, they’re not too far off, I think they link quite well.
What’s going to be the touring situation for the U.S. this year?
I’m not sure on that at the moment. We’re doing the Maryland Death Fest thing in March, there’s nothing else planned at the moment. There will definitely be something in the U.S. but we just don’t know. The U.S. is sort of, problematic is probably too strong a word, but it’s so difficult right now because one of the things our old pal Bush did before he left office was completely screwed a lot of entertainers by putting up the cost of entertainer’s permits by like 500% or something like that and that really hurts a lot of small to medium sized bands like us. That is something that we need to take into account, we also need to make sure if we come over it needs to be a good tour package with the right bands because it’s not acceptable anymore for people to just come and see a headline band and another band, I think it’s not enough right now.
Obviously that needs some planning and also of course the ticket cost needs to be fair, that’s one thing that we try and insist on. We’re definitely going to come it just requires a little bit of planning, I know with the gig situation and club tours in the states right now can be a little difficult, the attendance is really quite down. I know that all sounds a little bit pessimistic but it’s not, we do want to come it’s just we got to make sure it’s the right thing, if you know what I mean.
Barney, what’s been your most extreme display of animal rights activism?
[Laughs] What a strange question. My most extreme display, I don’t know, to me it’s not extreme. It’s placing the emphasis on the quality of all beings, to me that’s not extreme, that’s actually humane, there’s nothing extreme about it. As with a lot of other things my perspective on animal rights, I think you can’t use violence against other people to promote animal rights because that defeats the whole object. I can’t say I wasn’t for direct action in terms of certain things to achieve in specific cases but to use violence against the people who might be part of an industry or something that’s really having a negative effect on our world I think that’s not a good idea because psychology then the people who are on the receiving end of that get the psychological picture that animal welfare means violence against people and that’s not going to advance the whole issue of animal rights.
My methods really aren’t that extreme, what I do is I don’t put my money in the meat industry because I don’t buy products of that nature. I don’t spend money with companies that promote or fund or engage in animal testing or anything like that, I don’t wear leather. So those are my methods and yes of course I do engage in certain activities at times but they’re not violent activities against people because at this point I don’t see how that’s going help. I’m a human being and believe in humanitarianism and animal welfare is a part of that, there are other aspects of my life as a person that I also deal with things in the same ways. It’s a human instinct for me to do that stuff.
The latest Volbeat record had a song with you on it. Do the tables turn and the musicians you inspired in turn inspire you?
I seem like a bit of a nostalgic person for a lot of people. My influences are still the same as what they were when I first joined Napalm Death, which is the fertile period of extreme bands and extreme music in the early to mid ’80s. The various forms of fast and extreme hardcore, punk around the world, death metal at the time was extremely productive other goth sort of bands that was the era for me and still is that way. It’s difficult for me to turn around and say really that any contemporaries really have an impact on me because I’m a bit of a traditionalist in that sense. What’s really ironic to me is in many areas or my life I’m not really at all, so I’m sort of conservative in that way with my music. I can’t help it, it’s the way I am.
It’s been a couple of years since the last Napalm Death album; what have you been doing these last few years?
To be honest, part of the reason why it took a while to come out was because we kept getting these chances to go and play some really interesting places. Don’t get me wrong doing what might be considered as the regular gig circuit, the European tour, U.S. tour that’s great but it’s also good to go and trail blaze a little bit and Napalms was renowned for going places where other bands didn’t go. One example was we were the first band to independently go into the Soviet Union way back in the day which was discouraged, it’s a truly amazing to do and still there are new places that we are discovering along the way.
We tend to be the guinea pigs, we’ll go there before anybody else does in certain places. So those kind of things have come along and when they do, you kind of think to yourself, “Well you know what we were going to get the album done in this period but it’s really not going to be the end of the world if we delay it for three or six months” because we’re so prolific and active as a band it’s not like we’re going away for five to 10 years and people aren’t going to hear of us. We just got other things to do which is all part of the general thing in an active band; it works quite well for us.
Next week, Full Metal Jackie will have Trivium’s Matt Heafy and In Flames’ Anders Friden on her show. Full Metal Jackie can be heard on radio stations around the country — for a full list of stations, go to fullmetaljackieradio.com.