Metal Blast recently conducted an interview with vocalist Mark “Barney” Greenway of British grindcore pioneers NAPALM DEATH. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
Metal Blast: The band is known for political messages in its albums. Is that the case with [the forthcoming NAPALM DEATH album] “Utilitarian”?
Barney: Basically, it’s a philisophical theory that has a hundred different interpretations, so it’s not just one thing. It can mean, on the most basic level, the acheivement of total happiness by any means. Happiness being subjective, it could be anything, you know, but it also could mean that “good” actions makes for “good” consequences. On a wider scope, if everybody does that, then in theory the world becomes a better place, and negative things become minimal. That’s the meaning of it, and what I wanted to do was draw a parallel, and when it comes to myself, I’m not sure whether I’m a utilitarian or not. What I do see, a part of it is that, as a person, I live quite ethically. I make my decisions on how I live based upon if something might have a negative impact, I generally don’t do it, because I don’t want to cause them any kind of pain. Of course, when you sort of live ethically, one of the things that you have to deal with that is a trait for everybody is self-doubt, and I go through periods of self-doubt: “Why am I doing this?” you know, “Why can’t I just go through life doing what people do and just live the way I can and forget everything else?” That’s what I try to do, and try to bring it to a conclusion by saying that whatever the actions you should always persevere, because that sort of ethical living is a lower form of protest. There are some forms of protest that involve going out in the streets and showing your discontent, but you can also protest in your own individual ways, and I think if you lose that kind of low-level protest, then you leave a gap, basically, and you get the very things you were always against that can take more of a hold and create more problems. I guess it’s the analysis and conclusion to try and stick to what you feel needs to be done. With the utilitarian thing, I didn’t want to just do a descriptive of it and say, “Yeah, I’m a utilitarian and this is what…” you know, it’s not doing that. It’s bringing a parallel from it and just using it as a reference point. And the paradox is, of course, that a utilitarian is promoted by very human people, animal-rights people… but sort of the total happiness is used by very ruthless people who want power and possessions, because that is their total happiness, even if it’s at the expense of other people. Right there there’s two very different reference points.
Metal Blast: What’s your opinion on what’s happening in the world, with the riots in the EU and the U.S., the Arab revolutions, etc.?
Barney: I take a different view to it than some of the British media and the politicians did. There’s difference of opinion… Generally speaking, they were very, “Oh, it’s just people stealing goods”, but there’s two points to that. The first point to that is yeah they stole some goods, but who started this race to the top of the consumer period? It was the governments we have in place, and they are criticizing people for going out and trying to obtain the goods in society that the politicians have been pushing for decades. So there’s a certain contradiction… nothing wrong with contradiction, but in things as serious as this, you kind of have to look at the wider picture. Second, and even a more simple point, if you treat people like “animals” by keeping the people that are right on the very bottom part of high society, they are going to act like “animals,” so there’s a certain rapid response to it sometimes. I don’t promote violence, I don’t like violence, I think violence really solves nothing, but I can really understand sometimes when people reach a boiling point and they just snap. Yes, the actual things themselves I might find not particularly great, but I understand why it happens sometimes. As far as the other things you said, like Greece and stuff, that’s a bit more… been happening for a longer time. The root of that problem doesn’t rely within Greece, it relies within the speculators that overstep their mark, but they’ve always been given carte blanche to do so, they’ve effectively condemned a lot of people to a rudely troubled future on many levels, and it’s quite interesting to see that the people who caused it never answered for it in a significant way, but it’s an easy way to turn people against people and that’s what government like to do to keep us distracted. I know the financial things are slightly different, but it’s not a national governmental issue, but there is some kind of parallel. And, you know, it comes back to something that’s very simple: If you and I did something quite insignificant out on that street that was considered to be a small form of social disorder we’d be carried off to jail, spend the night there, be fined and end up in court. And yet, the financial institutions did things that effectively condemned countries where one meal a day is the norm, to a crippling one meal every three days due to the compression of resources. And when you think about things like that… nobody has answered for it! Have you seen any credible admission or actions aimed at making someone answer for it? Nothing! I haven’t seen anything.
Metal Blast: Do you think that things like Facebook and Twitter make us more vain?
Barney: Well, it’s not for me to dictate people’s habits and what they’re interested in. To me, it seems tedious, which is why I say the most tedious things in there, because I have that type of sense of humor. But, don’t get me wrong, I love social interaction. I don’t really phone people anymore, it’s all about e-mails and text messages. Twitter and Facebook are just one more thing… I don’t really need to do it. People take a lot of pleasure in doing these things, far be it from me to piss on their fucking peace but it’s just not for me. Maybe it’ll catch on for me in the future, but right now I have so much on my plate that I wouldn’t like to do something, like on Facebook, and not get back to people, especially if it’s a NAPALM thing… it wouldn’t feel right. I leave it alone, but Shane’s [Embury, bass] great at it, he loves doing this stuff.
Metal Blast: As an animal-rights activist, what issues concern you the most right now?
Barney: There’s a number of things! I mean, factory farming is something that really has to change, I really think that it has to be completely turned on its head. I mean, I know farming is one thing but… I mean, I’d love if everyone in the world was a vegetarian, but it’s not a realistic prospect overnight, but I think that the abolition of factory farming in the way that we know it has got to go. If we are going to have farms, everything has to be organic with freedom for the animals. I know that it doesn’t mean that they won’t be killed but If we can make small steps that’d be at least something. Factory farms are just brutal; the animals that are born there don’t have a “diminished” quality of life, they don’t have any quality of life. Some of them are kept in stalls for basically their whole life. Milking stalls are one thing, since I don’t think that the animals are kept in those for 24 hours a day, but some animals are confined like that.
Metal Blast: Not long ago a Dutch court ordered to Internet Service Providers to block the access to The Pirate Bay. Even though this won’t stop the trading of MP3s, what’s your take on this blockage as well as MP3 sharing in general?
Barney: First of all, I think that blocking, no matter what I think of anything else, is just not the right route, it can never be the right route for anything. I think that kind of extensive censorship is just wrong, under any circumstances. So that’s a very simple thing for me to answer. The MP3 trading is a little different; the only thing I would say about it is, in the case of NAPALM DEATH, that when people start sharing the album in the first three months of its release, that’s a prime selling time. It’s not a profit time, it’s a selling time, so we can pay back [the label] Century Media for the money they’ve put into us, so that then they can give us more money so that we can continue doing the things that we need to do, and if they can’t do that because a large percentage of that profit is taken away due to downloads, then that’s a problem for us, no question about it. And I’m always very free and easy about a lot of things, but that does hurt us. A year after the release, no problem; also, if a kid in another country, with very limited resources… I rather that kid get the music that way than not being able to get it at all.
Read the entire interview at Metal Blast. You can also watch it in the YouTube clip below.
Fan-filmed video footage of NAPALM DEATH performing a new song, “Quarantined”, on October 17, 2011 at The Zoo in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada can be seen below.