Rene Botello of Rock All Photography conducted an interview with frontman Mark "Barney" Greenway of British extreme metal veterans NAPALM DEATH prior to their August 15 concert at Freeman Coliseum in San Antonio, Texas, as the support act for SLAYER (along with LAMB OF GOD, ANTHRAX and TESTAMENT). You can listen to the entire chat below. A few excerpts follow (transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).
On getting the chance to open for SLAYER:
Barney: "It's something completely different for us. This size of gig is not really in our universe. When we were asked to do it, we were pretty surprised, to say the least. We were, like, 'Really?' We kind of thought somebody was playing a joke on us. [Laughs] Yeah, we were curious to see how it would go. I guess the important thing to say is, first of all, everybody on the tour's been really nice to us. You kind of have an image of a big tour when you go and there's going to be a few people that are a bit sniffy, but everybody's been really nice, helpful. Nobody's been dickish to us or anything, so that's a good thing. As far as the gigs themselves, obviously we're first on. Depending on which city it's in, there's more people in others. We are, I think it's fair to say, we're the odd band out on the bill, really. We're the most noisy kind of extreme, if you want to call it that. But, we've had a good response. There has been — as you would expect from a certain percentage of people — who look at you kind of nonplused, which is great. We get a kick out of that anyway. There's been a few people, I think it's fair to say, discovered the band on these dates, even though we've been around since '81."
On NAPALM being the most extreme band on the bill:
Barney: "Honestly, we don't treat these gigs any differently. You shouldn't do that as a band. If you're a band that plays, like, 100-, 200-cap venues somewhere — could be America, could be anywhere — then you should do the same for those people than you would for something like this. You have to. Otherwise, you're not presenting the band properly. You've been too selective. That's not right, to me. What have we got to gain by being two-faced? It's pointless. I certainly have no intention of selling the band short in that respect."
On being grindcore pioneers:
Barney: "The thing is, you've gotta remember this: There was at that time, there were bands playing mega-fast back in as early as '81, '82, '83. There were bands playing like that. Not quite to the speed that NAPALM went to in '86, but pretty close. We weren't the first. I think what NAPALM was kind of solidified the influences from punk and hardcore, from metal as well, and melded it into this thing that was parts of both, with some alternative stuff as well. NAPALM has always had one foot in the alternative scene, the SONIC YOUTH, KILLING JOKE, JESUS AND MARY CHAIN, part of NAPALM. So, it was a different kind of thing. Then, I guess, with the grindcore thing, one day, somebody picked up on it and ran with it. Micky [Harris, ex-drummer], said that grindcore could be painfully slow or extremely fast. So, yeah, somebody picked up on that and it just blossomed into this generally accepted term. See, that's the thing: We never said, collectively 'we are grindcore.' It was somebody who picked up on it and blossomed. To us, we didn't really have a term for it. It was just fast hardcore mixed with fast metal or extreme metal."
On whether the political and social nature of his lyrics makes NAPALM albums "timeless":
Barney: "You know what? I don't think our albums are any more or less anything than anybody else's albums. We chose to do certain things with our albums, but we also understand other bands forge their own paths. To me, at least, I get it put to me quite a lot: 'socio-critical lyrics.' Well, yes, in some respects and they are political, subjectively, but what they are really underneath everything is humanitarian. That's what they are. In the true sense of the word because politics is nothing without people. If people are suffering because of X, Y, Z, that's the most important thing, the politics on top of it aren't relevant until you help the situation with those people down there."
On whether he feels NAPALM DEATH has accomplished its goals:
Barney: "Here's the thing: I never predicted what NAPALM… I didn't have any expectations. When I first joined the band, I thought… I was an engineer before joining NAPALM DEATH. I was doing an apprenticeship. I was training. When I joined the band, I thought, 'You know what? Two or three years of this would be fantastic to tell my friends later on and family or whatever.' Then, nearly 30 years later here I am. I never predicted any of it. In that respect, what the accomplishments are, I don't even really know because all I know is that people still come out to see us because without those people, you are nothing. What are you going to do? Are you going to play a gig in front of an empty room? Of course, you're not. That's really the accomplishment, if anything else. Also, the ideas that we put out on the table that people generally do listen and they make of it they will. That is an achievement in itself. I never set out to accomplish X record sales, I never set out to accomplish, I don't know what else, like 'this award' in a magazine. You have to [enjoy it]. You probably ask anybody in this building and they would say if they didn't enjoy it, they wouldn't fucking do it. What's the point?"
On his most memorable experience in the music business:
Barney: "There's been singular things such as being the first band to go to South Africa after apartheid. We went down there with the ANC. At the time, apartheid was just kind of finishing, the apartheid system. We didn't want to go down there if we were playing places or with promoters that may have been connected to the apartheid system. So, we were really concerned about that. Then, somebody involved with the ANC, the African National Congress, Nelson Mandela's people, found out about it, then came to us and said 'We'll point you in the right direction. We know what you're about. We can sort this out.' We went down there and it was great. I'm pretty proud of that. That is an achievement, if anything. Yeah, various things. We've done lots of benefits. Hopefully we've raised quite a bit of awareness that people wouldn't necessarily think about. I think we've also put the thing out there that we've also broken a myth that to play extreme music you have to be really spiteful, like kind of macho a little bit. That's part of the artform — that's the contradiction. You've got extreme, violent music, then very peaceful, sort of passive lyrics, although they talk about some fairly nasty stuff, the endgame, the desired endgame is peace, tolerance, equality, dignity, all those things."
NAPALM DEATH supported SLAYER on the second U.S. leg of the latter band's final world tour. The 20-date trek kicked off on July 26 and wrapped up on August 26.
NAPALM DEATH released a special 2CD, 2LP and digital-download compilation titled "Coded Smears And More Uncommon Slurs" in March via Century Media Records. This special collection includes a total of 31 songs with a playing time of over 90 minutes, compiling rarities and exclusive earworms spanning 2004-2016.