Napalm Death interview with Mick Harris: From the Vault

D.U. ran the following piece in archive ‘zine issue #38 in 2007, and we thought, why not put it on the blog here. The archive piece, which your editor wrote, was itself a reprint from Curious Goods ‘zine #5 in 1991. Enjoy.

The phone rings. A distant voice on the other end says it’s Mick Harris from Napalm Death. Fuckin’ A!

Curious Goods: Hold on a second, okay? [pause] Okay, hello.

Mick: Right, then. [laugh]

I had to get my questions, you know.

Yeah, no problems.

Thanks for calling, though.

Yeah, cool.

I guess you must be sick of doing these calls all day.

Nah, it’s only four interviews. It’s easier to sit down with someone, but then again, I guess it’s pretty easy over the phone, you know what I mean?

I prefer doing it in clubs myself, you know.

Yeah, you know, no problems either way. I’m hungry, that’s about it, and I can’t leave the apartment, ‘cause I got no fucking keys. [laughs] Oh, my stomach’s turning over and over. It’s rumbling like anything, man. I could record it, man; it’d be so good. Put distortion on it, you’d have a perfect track.

Put it on the next seven inch. [laughs]

Yeah, I’m fucking hungry, man. I have to wait till my fucking mate comes back to fucking open the door and let me out. [laughs]

I guess if you’re ready, we can go ahead and start up.

Yeah, no problems.

The album From Enslavement to Obliteration, is that the album that put Earache Records on the map?

Well, Scum did, but like, yeah, I guess with all the grindcore and shit, that was, I guess, the LP that sort of did it, sort of thing, definitely.

Right, right. How did you get the deal with Earache in the first place? Did you send it a demo?

We were playing with Sacrilege, the English Sacrilege, when they were around, when they were good, October ‘86. In August, we done, like––which ended up being the A side of Scum––we done that demo, which was just a demo, but you know, we thought, “Let’s spend a little bit of money.” Not much, but it was like, it turned out to be a good demo in the end. And Dig [Pearson, Earache] was at the Sacrilege gig and just loved it so much, he just got in touch with Justin [Broadrick] and said he wanted to do Napalm.

So it was just, like, “Yeah, cool,” and the next thing you know, Justin leaves, and then we had to find a new guitarist. Then Nick [Bullen] left, and we had to find a new vocalist and a new bass player and shit, so it’s like, you know [pause] pretty hard work, but we got through it in the end. And then all we had to do was, once we got––I’d found Bill [Steer] and Jim [Whitley], Lee [Dorrian]. We just got the songs together that I’d written for side two and we did it right, sort of thing.

How much control does Earache give you in the studio?

Oh, totally, as much as we want, y’know what I mean. They’re really good with that. I mean, obviously they pop in to see how things are going, but they just leave us to get on with it. We know what sound we want, we know what we’re doing, so we don’t really need anyone to interfere, and they don’t interfere anyway. They’re just basically there at the beginning to sort out what’s going on and shit, just to say hello. And then at the end of the day, to cut the tapes and pay the bills, so it’s no real problems. They’re easy to work with and shit.

Like, I know at lot of labels have control over the band’s sound, and also the songs. A lot of bands demo songs beforehand and give it to the label and the label even decides, y’know what I mean. No, Earache’s totally cool, sort of thing. I’m totally happy with them. Combat, the deal with them, I’m happy with that as well, so there’s no problems.

Okay, gotcha. Do you like being labeled?

No, because Napalm’s [pause] we are, I guess, yes, but Napalm’s always tried to do its own things, sort of thing.

So you wouldn’t get associated with something you’re not.

Well, no. I mean, it’s like, we always liked to be classified as Napalm Death, know what I mean, sort of thing. We’re doing our own thing, basically. Obviously, we’re influenced by bands and them influences rub off, but we always liked to do it our own way, sort of thing.

I keep reading in these magazines and press kits about all these vegans and vegetarians running around and all this.

That’s nothing to do with me at all, you know. I’m a vegetarian, Barney [Greenway]’s a vegetarian, the other three eat meat, which is up to them. They do what they want.

I was wondering what the big deal about it is, like why they keep bringing it up all the time.

As it toward Napalm Death, or––?


I guess they just associate us as that sort of anti-war, fuckin’, you know, vegetarian clone sort of band, which we certainly aren’t. But that’s just something we just got labeled with, y’know what I mean, because we are a vegetarian/vegan band, sort of thing.

I was a vegan, until I was getting very sick and really ill from it, and I had to change my diet back to vegetarian. But it’s got nothing to do with the band whatsoever. We do our own thing and that’s it, really. Two of us happen to not like meat in our diet, so we don’t eat it, and the other three do, so whatever.

So, no big deal?

It is no big deal. [laugh] People like to make a big deal out of it, but it certainly isn’t.

Do the fans from way back give you an attitude because the songs are longer and such?

Oh yeah, totally. I mean, that’s going to happen on everything. It’ll happen on the next LP that we do. But the thing is, we do our own thing.

Lyrics, I’ve never been involved with, so I can’t answer nothing to do with lyrics. Not that I ignore the lyrics, but it is nothing to do with me. If someone in Napalm writes lyrics, it’s usually something that they feel strong about personally that may affect them. Or something that they really do feel strong about, subject-wise, whatever it be. I mean, that’s totally up to that individual.

And music-wise, we write what we feel like writing. [pause] But could you say that again?

Oh yeah, right, I was wondering, when people tell you they don’t like the way the songs sound because they’re all longer nowadays––

Yeah, well, the thing is, I mean, them people couldn’t have been into Napalm in the first place, ‘cause if they listen, all they can say is, what any band can do is progress, and that’s what happened. The trademarks are still there of Napalm. It’s got everything in it we’ve ever done on any LP. Just that the fact that we just play longer songs, not for the hell of it, but because you can’t write 10, 20 second or one minute songs forever on each LP. It just becomes very boring, y’know what I mean? We’ve gotta bring new ideas, an’ we’re gonna bring even newer ideas for the next LP.

I mean, I think those people’ll find out. Maybe we’ll lose a lot of people then, maybe we’ll gain. Who knows? We’re doing what we’re happy with. We’re not just writing music to keep other people happy. I mean, it’s what we enjoy writing, and that’s it.

That sounds good. Is there a big censorship movement over there in the U.K.?

There is, I guess, but I don’t think as much as what there is over here [in the U.S.]. Like, sleeves are a lot easier to get away with in England. But we don’t really hear much about it, so, I mean, we’ve never had any problems. So, I guess not, whereas I know America’s strong about it.

Oh, definitely. Have you heard of those little “parental advisory” stickers they put on albums?

Oh yeah, totally. That thing would never come out in England. It’s like, up to the individual, I mean, to take it as they find it. Whereas, I know they’re advising people over here with stickers and shit.

Yeah. People that aren’t in the band anymore, like Bill Steer––are you on good terms with them?

Yeah, I’ve not hung out with Bill, but when he’s at gigs, when we play gigs with Carcass, or I go to a gig where Carcass is playing, or vice versa, we’ll talk. Lee I’ve still never talked to yet. I’ve seen him, but he’s just brushed past me, so when I get back, I’m gonna write a letter to him. ‘Cause I haven’t spoken to him for two years now. I just wanna write him a letter, just, you know—

Just to say hi.

Yeah, just to say hi, basically. “What’s the problem?” sort of thing. “There shouldn’t be a problem,” like.

You read a lot in the press about bands breaking up because of bad attitudes.

Oh, totally, yeah, totally. It’s true. I mean, bands do finish because of attitudes and things going on around the band. But I think that’s going to happen always, y’know what I mean. No band can be perfect. Every band argues; that’s how good songs are put together, because bands arguing and shit like that.

That’s always going to happen, but we ain’t got no attitudes against anybody. It’s like, do your own thing, do what you wanna do, no problems. Don’t bother us, we’re not gonna bother you with anything; we got no reason to bother you. But, I mean, it happens. Bands split and they don’t talk to each other ‘cause they’ve fallen out on bad terms. But we didn’t fall out on bad terms. You know, Bill and Lee left because they wasn’t happy what they was doing in the band, that was it. Not because I turned around and said to Bill, “Hey, you’re a fuckin’ wanker, I hate you.” I mean, there’s nothing bad, know what I mean, like that. They just left; it was what they wanted to do.

When you got Barney and the others, did the fans react well to them at the beginning?

Yes, there still isn’t no problems. We still do gigs around Europe where some of the crowd stand there to take it in, the music, just to check out what the new stuff is like and how those musicians are playing. But we never had no problems. People get into it. I mean, the band is a lot wilder live now. Before, it just stood there on stage. It was basically me thrashing the fuck out on the drums. And now at least they’re getting into it, the rest of the band now, which never did before, sort of thing. Bill used to stand there and shit; Lee virtually did, just screamin’ his head off ang shit. So there’s a lot more going on with the band now.

Who does the main songwriting now?

It’s me and Shane [Embury]. I think it’s always gonna be that way. I mean, Jess [Pintado], he has ideas, but no full song ideas. Mitch [Harris] has got quite a few ideas, but—

Just riffs here and there, and stuff like that?

Yeah, just riffs here and there, but I mean, Mitch, he’s really on a fuckin’ Slayer trip, sort of thing. He’s so hooked on that “we’ve gotta be better than Reign in Blood,” and you shouldn’t even aim to that, you shouldn’t even be thinking of that. Reign in Blood is the perfect thrash LP of all time, that’s my opinion, and what’s the point of tryin’ to do something better than that, or even doing a Slayer?

I mean, Napalm’s Napalm, and he’s still gotta think of that, that we’ve always done something different on every LP. We gonna do something different on the next LP to break away from this––not grindcore, because we’re always gonna have that shit, I mean, that’s Napalm’s trademark––but this whole death metal thing. We really gotta do something different to maintain everything.

Yeah, I understand that you guys don’t write death metal lyrics per se.

Oh, well, no, y’know what I mean. I’ll listen to it, I mean, I don’t have any problems, but I can’t really see any point in the lyrics. But, then again, I’m not gonna rag on no bands, ‘cause it’s everyone for their own thing. They’re happy doing that, death metal bands.

Deicide, for instance, are happy what they’re singing about. It’s stupid, but let them get on with it. They don’t rag on us just because our lyrics are personal, dealing with social subjects. They might think, “That’s stupid. What’s the point singin’ about that? You’re not gonna change anything.” But that’s just something we sing about and something they sing about. We got no quarrels with anybody.

Right. Another thing is, what name brands of instruments do you guys play?

Right, then, I use a Pearl drum kit. [pause] Don’t ask me what model it is; fuckin’ got it off Pearl, sort of thing, so I can’t even know what model it is, but I’m happy with it. I use Sabian cymbals, which, for the five years I’ve played drums, Sabian have been my favorite. I’m truly into them at the moment.

Jesse, he likes Charvel Jackson, he just recently picked up in England, it’s, like, a Flying V sort of thing, it’s a custom made guitar from some English guy, and that’s cool, he’s happy with that. They both use Marshall stacks and Marshall heads. Shane uses Marshall stack and head. Shane likes B.C. Rich, so he’s got a B.C. Rich bass. Mitch likes Charvel Jackson. [pause] That’s about it, I guess. Barney’ll use anything. [laugh]

Whatever he gets his hands on?

Whatever he gets his hands on. As long as he’s got some reverb and a bit of echo for certain effects, he’s happy.

What bands did you personally grow up on that influenced your playing style?

Oh, well, I listen to all sorts, but, like, as for my playing style, it’s definitely Repulsion and Siege for the fast stuff, no doubt about it. And then for, y’know, the real sicker stuff, I guess Swans’s a real big influence on me. I guess them three, really. I mean, also some Discharge, as well, has been a real big influence. I guess, a lot of things, really.

Stuff like that.

Yeah. It’s varied, I guess, but that’s the main influence.

What did you think of the Live Corruption video?

Totally happy with it. We got a good deal there; we got treated well. Totally happy with how it turned out. It’s good. It’s got good sound and shit. You play it through a stereo, if you have it hooked up to the [VCR], it sounds even better. The whole thing’s good, people seem to like it, so I think it gives people and idea of what the new lineup and shit. It’s cool.

Right. Where do you think Napalm Death would be today if John Peel wasn’t around?

Good question. Uh [pause] I don’t know if I could really answer it, ‘cause John Peel does so much for the independent scene and the alternative bands. He’s like a genius. That guy is so good, he’s such a nice bloke.

Maybe only half to where we’ve gotten. I mean, it woulda been harder building it up ourselves. Peel’s done a lot for us in England and Europe, so he deserves a lot of credit, y’know what I mean, totally.

When you play live, what is the album that you like to take songs from the most?

As you see on the video, we play songs from every record, which keeps everybody happy, and keeps us happy and the crowd happy.

Two songs I still like––I’d like to play “Evolved As One” live, ‘cause every gig that I’d ever played in Napalm since we recorded that song from FETO, which is going on three years old, people shout for it at every gig. I’m talkin’ about not just a few gigs––every gig. And it’s about time we started doing that. And also, that track that we did on the Pathological compilation; I’d like to start doing that as well, ‘cause I know people get off to that. But, basically, what we do play, people enjoy. It’s, like, a pretty good selection of songs.

Are all the Napalm Death side projects still going?

No. Defecation, that’s finished, ‘cause the new contract that we signed with Earache, we can do bands as long as they come out on Earache. But we didn’t want it to come out on Earache, we didn’t want to fuck over Markus [Staiger, Nuclear Blast Records], so we just ended up not doing it. Righteous Pigs is no longer for a long time. Barney’s not in Benediction no more; they got a new vocalist.

So I guess everything’s 100 percent Napalm Death now.

Basically, yeah. It’s just Napalm.

Do you know anything about what the guitars tune down to?

Right, then, I can tell you. [laugh] Side one of Scum, if you want the whole history, was tuned to normal concert pitch, which I think is E, is it, or something?

Yeah, E, that’s right.

Right, tuned to that. The B side of Scum, we tuned down to five, which I wasn’t really familiar with, this band tuning. I’d hear it from bands, but I don’t really understand it ‘cause I don’t play guitar, but that was what Bill was into, so that was what we tuned down to. We tuned down five on that one, which I think is—


B, yeah. FETO, we tuned to C#. Mentally Murdered, C#. Harmony Corruption, we tuned up to D on that, which I think is one step up or something, yeah. Now we’re back down to C again. [laughs]

I don’t hear about bands doing that much, switching on each album.

Well, yeah, as I say, we’re that sort of band. We’d never tune all the way down, ‘cause I think it’s stupid, y’know what I mean. It gets too muddy.

I think B is all the way down, you know?

Well, it is, but look at Bolt Thrower. I mean, they tuned down seven on the last LP.


Yeah, fuck yeah. Oh, totally, y’know what I mean. And look at Godflesh; they tuned, like, seven. Not anymore, but they were. I think with Godflesh, that sort of stuff, yes, it works, ‘cause it’s so slow and shit. For your metally sort of stuff, I mean, it just gets muddy after B. That’s why we tuned up a little bit on Harmony Corruption, just to try it out, sort of thing.

Actually, that’s all the questions I have. Do you have anything to sign off with to tell the fans or something?

Just thanks to everyone that’s always supported Napalm, kept with us. Watch out for the new LP; it’s gonna be real sick material. No doubt about it, we’re really gonna go not a step forward, but a mile forward, but still keeping the trademarks of Napalm.

Just thanks to everyone, thanks to you, and [pause] just thanks to everyone, really, who’s followed and really believed in Napalm, sort of thing. And the key word for 1991 is definitely Killing Joke. ■

There’s plenty more Napalm Death coverage here at the blog.

Photo: Earache


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