Napalm Death interview – 1991

Napalm Death artwork

Originally published in ‘zine issue #2, 1991

I had a chance to interview the gods of Napalm Death on the New Titans on the Bloc tour recently, so Barney, Jesse (who mostly kept to himself), Shane, and I sat in the front area of the band’s tour bus. Actually, I had just walked from the back area where I had talked to Sick Of It All just a few moments earlier. Anyway, the three-fifths of Napalm were passing around a pre-release copy of Death by Manipulation (described later on), which, strangely, they got from Sepultura.

Barney: Yeah, we recorded [new EP Mass Appeal Madness], um [pause] I can’t remember when we recorded it. In March, I think. And we basically did it because we had a few songs knocking around, and we thought, y’know, rather’n wait till the LP, which is gonna be quite a long time, we’d knock some songs out and just do ‘em, sort of thing. So we went into the studio in Birmingham, where we live, and just recorded it and mixed it in three days, everything.

D.U.: So these songs were written after Harmony Corruption?

Barney: Yeah, those are after.

How are those songs different from the last album?

Barney: Um, the actual songs are not that much different. It’s just the production that really differs. And it’s, like, really raw edge sort of stuff, which we were looking for in the first place. When we’d gone to do Harmony, if we did what we did on the EP, then it would’ve been a lot more satisfying personally, y’know what I mean.

Does that mean you don’t like what Scott Burns did with the album?

Barney: It’s not I don’t like it. It’s just I don’t think it fits what we’re trying to achieve, y’know what I mean? The sound that we’re trying to achieve and that we’ve always tried to achieve. I think personally, Napalm Death doesn’t need anybody. Obviously, we need an engineer to create what sort of sound you want, because we don’t know how to use the equipment. But as far as producing it, then, you know, we do it ourselves. We don’t need nobody.

I heard about what happened with Mick [Harris], but not his replacement. Could you tell me about that, like where’d you find him?

Barney: Yeah, well, it’s just an old longtime friend of Jesse’s, a kid that used to hang out and stuff. Jesse’s played Napalm songs with him a few times.

What’s his name?

Shane: His name’s Danny Arera*, that’s his name. He’s never been in any bands before. Napalm’s his first band ever.

So you just called him up and he came out?

Shane: It’s like, it’s weird. It’s the same when Barney joined. We’d known Barney for a while. Jesse had known this guy for a while. He knew that he’s a good drummer. And then Mick left. How people come into Napalm, it’s all through a friend, sort of basis. There’s no great auditioning or anything stupid like that. You just come in through friends. You’re usually selected straight away.

So he’s permanent now?

Shane: I think he is. He can do what we need to do. He’s far more into, like, our way of thinking, whereas towards the end, Mick just didn’t want to play fast anymore. He just got tired of doing it, which is fair enough, you know.

Then does that mean you’re going to get faster on the next album?

Shane: Oh yeah. We’re going for a serious blast on the next album.

Barney: We were really lucky, the way things worked out, y’know what I mean? Because I know for a fact it would’ve been really hard to find a drummer that was, like, up to the sort of stuff that we play. And actually play the way we play it. I think we’re really lucky and I’m grateful. I’m really thankful that the things worked out and shit, ‘cause it did freak me out a bit at first. Not just because, y’know, Mick was there for a long time and he’d done the stuff a long time, but because I didn’t honestly think we were gonna get anybody else who could do what we wanted to do.

Well, I knew we could find somebody who could do what we wanted to do, but I wasn’t sure we could find anybody with the dedication and commitment to be touring for this amount of time and rehearsing day in, day out, sort of thing. So it all worked out.

Do you agree with how the United States and the United Kingdom are getting along with foreign policy, or do you not pay attention at all?

Barney: No, I’m pretty much into the state of world affairs. I like to keep an ear open and stuff and try and understand what’s going on, although I don’t understand some of it. Uh, in which way? What foreign policy?

Let’s say economics and stuff like that.

Barney: I dunno. That’s part of the things I never really thought about, y’know what I mean? And I don’t fully understand now [what side] either nation stands on. I hear all this shit in the news, and it’s like, each day there’s some different opinion from somewhere else, and I can’t always work out what’s going on. So I can’t really answer that one. If there’s anything more specific, I could out prob’ly answer, but in general—

Yeah, it’s a general question. That’s fine.

Shane: Y’know, I’ve sort of got my own personal politics, but when I listen to certain politicians talking, I get really confused by what they say, because they seem to contradict themselves every three or four minutes. And looking at it, I’m like, they’re saying things and all of a sudden, what they’ve just said, it just seems to change. I never really understand what the bloke’s goin’ on. It just confuses me. I dunno, I get confused by it so much. I never understand what goes on.

Barney: Obviously, it’s just that there’s a lot of bullshit flying around and stuff.

Did you guys like how the “Suffer the Children” video came out?

Shane: I think it’s a little too harsh on the eyes, the actual flickering. In a way that’s quite good then, because you don’t take it in straight away. But, y’know, we’re pretty happy with it. ‘Cause we didn’t have too much to do with it. It just turned out okay. Then next, you haven’t seen the “Mass Appeal Madness” one yet, obviously. I’m sure they’ll prob’ly show it when Death by Manipulation comes out.

We’ve got an album called Death by Manipulation. It’s a compilation. It’s the Mass Appeal Madness EP, Suffer the Children EP, and the Mentally Murdered mini album, all in one. There’s quite an overkill in the next few months, is the compilation album, then there’s Scum being re-released over here, and From Enslavement to Obliteration.

Getting back to the video, do you think MTV plays you enough?

Barney: [flatly] I don’t really care about MTV, to be honest. I don’t really care for MTV or about MTV, ‘cause a lot of it’s pretty plastic, if you can see what I’m saying, like.

Shane: I mean, in Europe, MTV is so much different. Bands you would never even dream of seeing over here, you see regular in Europe.

Did you do the video more for the European one?

Shane: Kind of, yeah, but we didn’t even think about America when we did it. In Europe, every band gets decent airplay. Not just on MTV, but on all the other cable channels in Europe.

Barney: What I think about MTV, I think it’s pretty bullshit how it’s, like, squandering to trend, sort of thing. Because if Napalm had’ve actually done a video like, two, three years ago, there’s no way in the world MTV would’ve ever touched it. But now it’s trendy and shit.

Shane: I can’t understand how the American MTV and the European differs, because there’s bands that are, y’know, so unheard of, and their videos are getting shown, and over here little of that’s happening. It’s weird. I dunno.

Jesse: They got a video standard out here in America. It has to be some sort of quality or else they won’t play it. In Europe, they can play, like, a home grown kinda garage sort of thing. Where down here, they don’t let you do that.

Shane: If notice is getting taken of you over here, then your video gets [airplay].

Barney: Yeah, ‘cause that’s happened with Iron Maiden over here, because the “Holy Smoke” video apparently didn’t get played on American MTV because it was not rock ‘n’ roll enough for the fuckin’—not stereotyped enough for the mass market to sort of accept, y’know what I mean?

They played “Bring Your Daughter … to the Slaughter” once.

Barney: Yeah, ‘cause that was a movie soundtrack, so that’s why they played that one. A Nightmare on Elm Street 6, I think it was.

Shane: The European MTV’s much better. Not just that. There’s a lot of other music channels as well in Europe, like three or four. We get constantly played on them all. In general, I mean, the TV and the radio stations in Europe are totally liberal. We’ve been on national TV, like, five or six times. We were on a Christmas heavy metal special with Guns N’ Roses. And people wrote in to Kerrang! and complained, ‘cause we got more time than Guns N’ Roses did. That was with the old [Napalm] lineup, and people got really pissed off at that. Lots of glam fans got annoyed. Radio played us lots of times as well. We were on a children’s TV show called What’s That Noise? Talking about different rhythms and stuff. We played and then an orchestra played next. It was, like, weird. I mean, that would never happen over here, I don’t think ever, for us anyway. Not that we really care anyway. We used to just do it in England just for a laugh anyways. It was funny.

How did it come about that Barney started to do Mick’s vocals live?

Barney: I mean, I didn’t used to do it at first, ‘cause, I thought, “Well, you know, whatever.” So it just didn’t ever enter my mind to do it. And I was going on stage live, and it was one vocal all the way through and with just different accents around there. And I’m like, “Well, this is getting a little tedious,” y’know what I mean, so I thought, “Well, I’ll go back to doing it.” And I have fun. I enjoy doing it.

Shane: When he started doing it, I sort of like couldn’t get into it at first, but now I just started accepting it again, ‘cause it was such a long time without it, and getting back into it was, like, strange.

So are you going to do that for the next album?

Barney: Yeah. I mean, I’ll do it, but it won’t be like an overkill. It’ll be bits and pieces here and there, sort of thing. I gotta work on it, because it sounds killer live and that, and on live tapes, but when you’re on a vocal track, it, like, picks out everything, every vocal and that. And I’ve gotta make sure I get it right.

Shane: Prob’ly use certain sounds and stuff like that. Put some effects on it to bring it out more.

Barney: Yeah, I’ll prob’ly use effects on that bit, y’know, nothing to change the voice, but reverb, so instead of sounding dry, it’s, like, drawn out, because it sounds crap dry anyway. You can’t have that kind of vocals dry.

Okay, that’s all the questions I have. Do you have anything to say to the people when this comes out?

Barney: Just, uh, thanks to everybody once again, as always. Thanks to everybody for supporting us, fans of radio stations and people that come to the shows. And actually take time to listen to what we have to say. And that’s it. ■

Photo of Shane Embury of Napalm Death

Photo: Shane Embury after the interview

*Danny Herrera


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