Thursday, February 12, 2009

Interview with Napalm Death from 1999

Napalm Death is coming to Helsinki on Monday... so this week, I think I'll reprint my earlier Napalm Death articles. This one was printed in summer 1999 from LotFP #3:

Interview with Mark Greenway by James Edward Raggi IV
[2009 note: this interview was conducted in person at the Masquerade in Atlanta, Georgia. The original file of the transcription has been lost, and this was recovered by scanning in the newsprint zine... any really weird words or errors is likely a scanning issue I didn't catch while reformatting for this post... wow, I repeated a couple things between 1999 and 2001, eh? And wow, I don't know that I'd say much of the same things that I did ten years ago...]

Napalm Death. Do you need an introduction? Here's Barney talking about everything BUT their new album, Words From the Exit Wound out on Earache...

You guys are basically the reason I'm doing this magazine, you're the reason I've got 600 CDs on the wall. Back in 1992 I wasn't really listening to music. You had Metallica's Black album, Nirvana was just hitting, it was cool, but I wasn't really into it. So here I am at my Grandmother's house watching Headbangers Ball one Saturday night, and here's Riki Rachtman with the Triple Thrash Threat...
Yeah, he's a fucking twat. huh?

First up, Megadeth's Peace Sells, pretty cool but ehhh, then Slayer's War Ensemble, oh yeah, cool. Then The World Keeps Turning off of Utopia Banished, that came on and snap, that was it for me. My life was ruined at that point. I went out and got Utopia Banished (actually my grandmother bought it for me!) and it completely blew me away as far as never hearing anything like this before! It led to me always being broke buying CDs and now publishing the magazine.
Hey, well, you manage to get shit for free, you know?

That's the tradeoff. But I do want to thank you, it was that roar that did it all.

That's alright. I appreciate the comments!

So to get the boring stuff out of the way, how's the tour going?

It's alright, man. It's been up and down, but it's been good. There's been a couple of gigs, you know, not many people showing up, but it's been OK. Surprisingly so, because the last time we came here it was a bit dead.

I remember last time you played on a Sunday...
That's right! We played in the afternoon.

Yeah, and as soon as you were wobbling off the tour bus I'm shoving CD booklets in your face to sign, like that 10 year old Benediction CD and stuff. Do you guys get a lot of those obnoxious fans that want to crawl up your butt?
Anyone into that son of stuff I don't consider obnoxious. The point of the matter is if they hadn't bought the records we wouldn't be out here, so right there you got to have gratitude.

How was the tour with Cradle of Filth and Borknagar? That was a weird bill.

It was really good! I mean, Cradle and Borknagar are probably closer to each other than they are to Napalm. It was good too, but a lot of the kids were those stereotypical black metal kids that just didn't get what Napalm was about. The link between the bands, at least us and Cradle, was that we make really fast music, you know? But ours is obviously a lot more politically charged so a lot of the kids really didn't get that part
of it, especially the stuff we said between songs. Hey, you know. If you keep on preaching to the converted you're not going to get anywhere.

That's the one thing about Napalm
Death. It wasn't just the fast musk, it wasn't just the roar, the lyrics really had something to say. That's why I kept with it. A lot of bands make a statement, but Napalm really has something to say. It's not just surface protestations, it's in depth... In interviews you're viewed as politically active.
I don't like the word politics. It suggests this
stiginatic label that makes you sound pompous. I prefer terms like humanitarian. That's what the band is. I guess left wing, you know, but humanitarian.

What I want to do here is not have the usual on tour/music kind of interview, but maybe dig in to some recent political happenings. Maybe the people reading will get into it and exercise a little mere brainpower. It's a little bit out of date now but I've asked half the other bands in the world about it, so... what do you think about the Clinton scandals from last year?
I don't particularly like Clinton. I don't think he's an alternative to Bush or Reagan. OK, Reagan was a crazy right wing freak. But Clinton probably less so. But with all the bombings and stuff, I see him in the same light. But aside from that, that whole business was run from a lawyer, this Ken Starr guy, one of these fundamentalist, family value idiots. And if you're going to run your country on those principles then you better prepare down the line for serious military state enforcement. That's crazy, trying to change a country's system through fundamentalism like that. OK, whatever, there's the scandal and the rest of it but that sort of thing you shouldn't be giving a shit about. Let him do what he does. The man is a fool and doesn't need any help to look like a fool. Who really fucking cares that much?

The thing is, and I agree with you about Ken Starr and the people going after Clinton- look at what that whole Larry Flynt thing turned up- but at the same time, here is a man that is considered in this country at least, the leader of the free world. He doesn't seem to be anything but a real slimy kind of guy.
If you're going to fall into the trap of judging people by their sexual habit', then that's dangerous in itself, point A. Point B, I don't consider him to be the leader of the free world. Right now to enforce your ideals on a lot of countries that don't want it. That's not a free world.

It's not so much what he did, because it seems Hillary didn't care. Monica Lewinsky is milking it for all she's worth. She was out in England doing book signings. She turns up at Hollywood parties, I mean come on.
My thing is he's looking straight into the red eye of the camera and straight out lying to everyone. He can't the the truth.
He's a fool! Just as much as everything as you've had before. The country really needs an alternative to the Clintons, the Reagans, and the Bushes. I follow American politics, I don't pretend to understand it. When I heard Clinton was getting elected, I thought there might some hope, you know? But after all the shit that's happened it's no better than the rest of them. What this country needs is someone to shake things up. Do something about this poverty. This glut of poverty in this country. Nobody has done anything about it. There's been all these token gestures, but nobody's really done anything in the grand scheme of things. England's the same, to a lesser degree.

Rich from Stuck Mojo thinks the welfare system isn't working as it is, but he thinks these people need to be helping themselves instead of getting the government handouts.
The point is these people living in ghettos, I've driven though them, I've never lived there so maybe I'm not one to say, but it doesn't take a fucking brain surgeon to tell that them places are pretty fucked. People purposefully want these ghettos as they are because it keeps those people away from the rest of suburban life. That is so wrong. How can these people help themselves? They're not getting any fucking help! They're getting a bit from their welfare check, but that is NOT help! You've got to put money into the fucking projects. I mean truly spend money, instead of spending money on weapon- systems and all that. I really truly believe that.

Well my point of view is, I grew up in the projects. After I left college, I was living in shitholes around Atlanta, and here are these people spending money they DO have on drugs, buying alcohol, the woman is pregnant AGAIN...
I don't think you can contain everyone with that one brush though...

Well no you can't, but there is a reason why that's the stereotype! It's not like you go in to these places and have to wonder, 'Where are all these people like that, why can't I find them?' They're all over the place! That doesn't help them when the people with the money see this...

When you're born into a shitty situation like that and you're fucking desperate, what are you going to do? I know I would given that choice. If I was starving I'd go out and deal drugs. Even with this horrid shit with kids dying from heroin, all die same, fuck. If I were in their shoes I'd be out stealing cars and all sorts.

I guess I have a different perspective because growing up my father left really early, and mother was out drinking quite often... I don't know, I don't drink, I've never had a drink in my entire life.
More power to you.

All I did with that time is read. I started getting into Tolkien, and all that, and had this whole other world there instead of just throwing my brain into oblivion. When these political conversations come up I think of what I did in that situation and wonder why there's this expectation that people in poor situations HAVE to be criminals?
Not everyone's the same. There's all sorts of good and bad. It's a diverse place. Everyone's an individual. We've all got our different aspirations, different tolerance levels, different extremes as to what we will do, or what we need to survive. It's a difficult debate. I wasn't brought up in any projects, none of us in the band were rich, but I come from a working class family. For the first few years of my life, we had a kitchen in our house in England without a roof on it! Whenever it rained it all flooded out and shit like that. Not the projects, but...

Next subject. This mess in Kosovo. What is your take on it?
It's a double edged situation. There's genocide going on, nobody denies that, and that's got to stop. That has got to fucking stop. Again, you don't solve it by throwing more bombs at it. They are bombing Belgrade. What is the fucking sense in that? It's not even happening in Belgrade! You're basically killing more people in addition to those already being killed in the genocidal situation.

I've been entailing up in Canada for awhile that's half Serbian...
I've got a Serbian friend as well.

It's interesting that there is a bunch of bullshit that's going on within that country, but at the same time do you really if the Albanians were the ones in political and military power, that the same thing wouldn't be happening the other way? We're doing the same thing we're bombing the other guys for doing!
It is a funny situation. Obviously there's ethnic cleansing going on, and thinking back to 1939 to 1945, and you know... it shouldn't be like that. Someone presented this argument that was just fucking ridiculous. The other day I heard this guy 'Well you know with the Earth's overpopulation, maybe it's a good thing. ' That's fucking stupid. Just think if it was you!

I'm thinking maybe birth control is a better way to handle over population...
Ah, birth control. IVe got a thing or two to say about that!

OK, go ahead.
I was talking to my girlfriend the other day, someone mat I just met that's really cool...

They all are, in the beginning.
I mean she's had some problems. She went to this woman's clinic and described the whole scene, with bulletproof glass and things like that. That's just fucking stupid. I've got no reasoning to give to you behind what I believe, but women should have the choices about their own fucking bodies!

I completely agree with you.
For these human life institute people to come in and start shooting doctors and bombing clinics that is just total hypocrisy over what they preach in their fundamental Christian beliefs. That is total and complete hypocrisy. They're shooting someone that was born, just a more advanced stage of who they're trying to save! It goes back to the Christian fundamentals.

I've read parts of the bible. I'm not going to say I'm an expert but I think it is a good, legitimate philosophy. When you put divinity into it and smash everyone of different beliefs, THAT'S the problem!
Two things: there's an alarming and growing movement of pro life bands in the metal movement. OK, it's an opposing viewpoint, but that's not good. Secondly, I come from a Catholic background, I do believe in God. I consider myself to be to from Catholic beliefs and I do believe in being a good person. But I don't enforce it. And the abortion issue, one of the linchpins of the Catholic religion, I totally don't agree with their stance on it. If you cant have conflicting opinions within your faith that's wrong too. Why should you agree with everything?'

There's a lot of Christians who don't even consider Catholics to be Christian.
Because they're not hardcore enough?

Because they say they worship idols, and have the Virgin Mary as a toy figure and all that... I haven't gone to church since I was three or four years old.
I've actually been. I've got to say, I've been to midnight masses, Easter vigils, and I find it really calming. A lot of it has to do with my grandfather. My grandfather was strict Catholic. Even though he really didn't give a shit about the abortion issue, he was a strict religious man. He was such a good guy. I'm not saying it's entirely due to him being Catholic, but if you could pick all the good points of the Church he was that. I miss him like fuck.

The whole idea of God to me is irrelevant As long as I try to live a good life and I don't fuck around with anyone, then when I die the God thing should take care of itself. If I die and he's sitting there 'Well you've been a good person but I wasn't in your life constantly' then what good is it?
It would be nice if at the end of everything some guy did come along and did say 'You've all been really good people lets go and enjoy ourselves for eternity. ' That would be great. But I would hope also that he wouldn't chastise the people who fucked up a couple times. It would be nice if for once we could all live together in fucking peace.

OK, third big issue I wanted to move in on. A few days ago with the school shootings in Littleton, Colorado?
Yeah, I haven't been able to hear all the details while out on the road though...

These guys were part of this...

That Trench Coat Mafia, right?

One thing everyone brings up is the gun control issue. I don't think it's the access to guns as guns have been around just as accessible for the entire life of that nation, but something is making them go off now...
If you do minimize the guns, then that threat is minimized. In England, we get robberies like anyone else, but as far as the gun stuff, nowhere near. Lets face it, if you've got a gun and you are going out to commit a crime, the odds of someone getting killed rockets up. You've got to get rid of the fucking guns. It's too far down the line, there's too many of them out there. It's too easy to get them.

I was reading through some of the old Napalm Death lyrics, and a lot of the things are very angry. If someone .whose mind isn't as settled heard some of this stuff, what if they hear one of your lyrics, think, 'Yeah, yeah, I can fight back too!' and they do something like this and some note or whatever that they wrote points to something you wrote as the trigger for doing that?
Oh man. I really can't say. All I can say is that we try as much as we can to tell people that what we're trying to do is... yes it's angry. Yes it deals with a lot of negative issues. A lot of people might find this fanciful, but the whole objective is to create a positive end result, that being a world where people can be together and enjoy themselves. A lot of political bands are these miserable fucking things, but the whole point is for people to go out and enjoy themselves. Everyone gets an equal chance. That's all I can say. And if you look at the lyrics, are they really that negative?

I don't think so! I've always found them to be positive.
Primed Time off of Fear, Emptiness, Despair, all it is about is when you wal
past someone on the street, you look at them in the eyes, and people are so nervous about each other it's almost an aggressive thing. You'll pass them and never see them again. But maybe you think 'What if I got to know that person?' Try not to be negative about people that you see. It's starts off with the line 'I've walked to the ends of the Earth' or something like that.

The one song I'm thinking of for my example is Cause and Effect off of Utopia Banished. About a civilized person who just gets pushed and pushed enough to the point where they lash out.
You totally hit that right on the head. It deals with a one to one situation where you might want to fucking punch someone out. The person, well me, does actually hit the person but totally regrets it afterwards.

Well what if one of these unbalanced people sees this, thinks 'Yeah, there's nothing wrong with me and people don't leave me alone...'
Yeah, yeah.

I remember dating this one girl, her parents did not like me. I'd wear a Napalm Death shirt over to their house and I think the band is a positive thing, but they are totally freaking out. That nailed head shirt probably wasn't the best choice, but...
That one is a particular favorite amongst the parents!

Even though you know what you're saying and I'm taking it as positive, people are going to see what they want to see in there.
This kid came up to me recently, and he was a down syndrome kid. I find those people will speak the truth that regular people don't! He said to me, and I fucking laughed when he said this, he said 'I fucking love your band! My mom doesn't like you. She says you're a bunch of communists and stuff. ' That was funny, man. But we're either too evil, or too pinko. There's no middle ground. You're not allowed to be anything if you're seen as left wing socialists.

Back to the neo Nazi issue with these guys in Colorado, the first thing you hear is 'What can we do to intervene in the lives of the children? What laws can we pass to stop this?' Where is the point where it is good to be an individual, and when does that move into a situation where major intervention is needed?
You just deal with that when it comes to it. It's a matter of individual. I know that doesn't help when it comes to a law situation. But if you block out people, you're never going to understand the intricacies of people.

I know it's not practical to deal with every single human being, but what is the answer then?
With the Nazi memorabilia being in their house, there's been a thing in Metal Maniacs recently about Lemmy of Motörhead's collection, what has sometimes been called a shrine to Hitler.
Yeah, yeah. It's not a shrine. He just collects the memorabilia. Lemmy is a crazy old goat. I don't consider him to be... look, I got this on my leg (A nice Motörhead tattoo!]. Lemmy just has a genuine interest in it. Of course I find the death head, the Waffen SS fucking offensive. Lemmy is by no means a Nazi or anything.

If someone has this interest, how far do you let it go and still call it an interest? When does it pass that point?
There's no straight answer to something like that. You know I'm as anti-fascist as the next, well, uh, anti fascist! An editor of a magazine should be balanced enough to respect that. He should have talked to Lemmy. Lemmy has been quoted as having said that Hitler was a fucking fool. (He's also been quoted as saying 'Hitler was the first rock star'... said to the editor!)

They had this article about fascism in music, actually you were in that article! They said they couldn't contact Lemmy. They did mention he did deny being a Nazi in the past.
Because he's not! The thing you have to watch out for is, it's a case more of the buying public... Look. If you know a label such as Resistance Records is putting out these kinds of records and you're buying their records, those dollars are going towards fascist causes.

The one right now I have problems with is No Colours. They have advertisements and reviews and interviews in Pit magazine. They have interviews with Graveland, for instance, talking about how negroes are ruining the US, and Thor's Hammer.
Yeah, talking about how the NS hordes are rising up and will take over.

I have a subscription to this magazine. It's always the same author that does these interviews and reviews. How am I supposed to feel that is has that shit in there without editorial comment?
I've done interviews with Pit magazine in fact. I didn't realize any of that. That's an issue I'll have to address. They should know not to take the dollars, don't take the fucking adverts. The buying public as well, don't buy the albums! I've got to say I've heard a lot of these albums and they are fucking crap anyway. Why anyone would want to buy it, it just shows you the brain capacity of these fucking nazi bands and their music is shit! Everyone talks about Skrewdriver being this classic band. They were fucking crap.
Someone might go back and listen to From Enslavement to Obliteration, with those recording levels, you know? I was outside of the band at that time so I think I'm allowed to say From Enslavement... was a classic album! Fucking Skrewdriver 7" records are not! They're brainless pieces of sub heavy metal crap! They are! With a bit of punk thrown in!

...OK, everyone knows how you're different. But how are you similar to Barney the Big Purple Dinosaur?
Very similar! I'm a cuddly loving kind of person! Everyone sends me videos, joking around. I get videos, toys. The little boy of the girl I'm seeing when I'm on the phone she says 'It's that purple dinosaur on the phone again!' I love it. Someone talked about doing a shirt with the purple dinosaur but with my head on it!

What about Barney Rubble?
That's my nickname that's been around for years. I used to be a fucking drunk before I went sober. I used to cause all sorts of accidents when I'd fall over and shit around. I'd cause all this rubble and that's where it came from.

I remember when I first moved on to college I'd play the From Enslavement tape in my headphones as I went to sleep. One night my roommate wakes me up in the middle of the night just to ask me, 'Are you listening to running water?'
Yeah, in the headphones there must be that chchchchch noise!

You took a dump and fedexed it to someone?
Yeah, to John Finnberg because he's a fucking scumbag. I shit in a ziplock and sent it in a Fedex tube, and it was real snowy then so it must have frozen. I put 'From the David Geffen Co. ' on it so he'd be all excited about it.

I understand you don't like touring the US?
I actually don't mind it so much these days. I don't like touring nonstop for any amount of time anywhere, because I get burnt out. I'll be the first to admit that. The humdrum from day to day, coming up with things to do, it drives me crazy.

That's another thing I wanted to bring up, with the shootings, games like Doom and Quake have been brought up as possible influences. There are lawsuit's against the companies...
I know. It's a heap of crap. It's a rendered digitized image. It's a fucking game. In all honesty, these things help to relieve people's tensions. There's nothing finer than Sega Saturn's House of the Dead, on the fucking television blowing off people's heads. Do it! We need more of! What do you want more of, virtual shootings or more real ones in a fucking school?

It's the same thing with metal, people say they do this and that because they listen to metal. With Judas Priest and Iron Maiden coming out on major labels in the US later this year, it's going to be fun seeing what is going to come of real mainstream metal again.
I was there! I was there when they made the official announcement of the Iron Maiden reformation. I do a radio show in England and I was there when they all got together in that room! There's a bit of history for you.

You guys had an opportunity to hear the Nasum record [Inhale/Exhale] when you were making your new one?
I have the Nasum record! I absolutely fucking worship that record. If you want a 90s definition of brutality, that is it.

I'll wrap this up...
That was a killer interview. That's the best interview I've done on this tour! It's nice to talk to someone who is stimulating and doesn't talk about all the same shit.

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