INTERVIEW: Barney Greenway (NAPALM DEATH)
Levi: Are you looking forward to the upcoming tour of Australia?
Barney: Yeah, mate. Gigs are always ... I'm always ready to do gigs. I'm always curious and enthused and always go into these things with an open mind. Of course Australia and New Zealand, two places that we don't go to all that often so it does have that extra spice I think, if that's the right word to use. I'm definitely looking forward to it. The people that promote us down there are really old friends of ours so on that human level I'm also looking forward to seeing them again.
Levi: What can we expect from the set list? You've got a lot of albums to choose from. Is it hard to pick one from each album or is there any albums you're going to be focusing on?
Barney: No, we've never had trouble doing that. We've always ... The thing for me Levi is that I think you should pay as much attention to what you do live than what you do when you're creating new music and what I mean by that is, you do see bands from time to time that play the same set list over and over again, tour after tour after tour. I think that's a bit neglectful. We are constantly chopping and changing our set list. Obviously not having been to Australia for some time, there's a lot of new songs that we're playing that people wouldn't have heard before. Obviously Apex Predator, although we've played it a lot around Europe and the States, it's our first time in Australia so there'll be quite a bit from that and then it'll be a mix of old stuff. Hopefully stuff that last time we were in Australia we didn't play by and large, so hopefully there'll be a bit of differentiation there.
Levi: You've definitely got a few different styles over the years. There's Grindcore, the more punk-y stuff, there's a bit more progressive elements on the newer stuff and thrash metal elements. It's going to be a pretty diverse set, I imagine.
Barney: We're a mix of everything and we have been for 30 years. We've done bits of everything. There'll be something for everybody. Obviously you don't want it to be too choreographed, cold, and calculated. It needs a little bit of spontaneity so hopefully the range of stuff that we're doing will lead people through a quite fluid experience or whatever. Hopefully.
Levi: I also hear you're working on a new album. Do you think you'll be testing out any songs or anything?
Barney: No. This is one of the, I'll say problems in small letters, with social media sometimes is as soon as you put a post like that and people just think, understandably so, that you've got a raft of new songs ready to go. We haven't. It's very preliminary stages. Basically we're at the point where Shane went into the studio with Danny and basically laid the stuff down that he'd been thinking of doing, so there may be some material there that never sees the light of day. I just don't know because I haven't actually heard it yet. I've got the stuff but I haven't actually sat down and listened to it so there's nothing approaching any complete songs.
The reality is is that it won't even surface probably till later next year, I would've thought. It's going to be a while yet. Don't get me wrong, it would be fantastic if we had some new stuff to play. It's always quite exciting when you do have that choice but we don't, is the simple reality.
Levi: I remember when this news came out that the president of Indonesia, Joko Widodo, was apparently a heavy metal fan. Were you pretty blown away to find out that he listened to Napalm Death?
Barney: No, you know what, here's the thing mate. I don't have any ... My thing in life has always been I don't have any idols. I'm not bowled over by celebrity or anything like that. People like what they like and that is going to extend into certain areas of life and so okay, the guy, he might well like hard music. I don't know. Sometimes it's hard to tell because you do get pictures of quote-unquote celebrities along the way wearing different band shirts and some quite left-field bands and sometimes it can turn out that they just got given it by somebody or they were advised by one of their management team to where a certain shirt, so I don't really know because he's been a little bit quiet about it. Hasn't really said much.
The one thing I do know, he's a big Metallica fan but there's quite a distance between that and something like Napalm. I really don't know. To be honest, it's something that I don't spend my time thinking about too much, you know?
Levi: Sure. I saw on your Wikipedia that you're an atheist. I guess I am too. I was quite into reading a lot of books and stuff about it a few years ago but were you ever religious at all when you grew up as a kid?
Barney: Here's the thing, mate. I know it's used for the purposes of ... Wikipedia's used for the purposes of putting info out there and stuff but sometimes it comes across like, "Here's a person, here's a checklist of what they are," but it's not that cut and dried. Atheism is a realization. To be honest, yes there are some great books out there that give you the more scientific explanation of why belief in spiritual beings, when you look at the evidence, is nonsensical. There are some great books on there but I don't think you arrive at that point by reading a book if you see what I mean. I think you have a natural realization inside you that says you know what, I'm a living, breathing entity. I can walk around this world, I can see why things are as they are and given ... even if I have a limited understanding about how the world was formed, the physiological, the biological, and grounding, then that tells me straightaway. Of course if I want to go on from there and look at stuff, then I can, with books but I think sometimes there's a danger that atheism can become a religion in itself. It's a state of understanding. It's a state of recognition of the world around us.
I do worry that it becomes like another quasi-religious organisation because that would be just as bad, because we're not just questioning the existence of spiritual entities. We're also questioning I think the need for organised religion. The power vice of religion and how it's wrongly, in my opinion, affects civic life because the idea of running groups of people on guidelines which cannot be proven, which have no basis in facts, is absurd at the very base level. Like I say, it's a state of understanding more than anything. I don't think you just go, one day wake up and go, "Oh I'd like to be an atheist." I don't think it quite works like that. It's a state of understanding, so I think it's important to make that distinction.
Another thing to say as well is I don't want to wear a T-shirt with "I am an atheist" and jump up and down on the spot because it's not about me. It's about general understanding of what the world is and the way it works, so therefore we can hopefully preserve it a little bit better because at the moment of course, needless to say, it's not going that way and it needs to.
Levi: In 2000 you put out an album which I really like, it's called Enemy of The Music Business. You talk about the music business and seems like it's the wild, wild West. People get ripped off all the time and it's a confusing world. What are your thoughts on the music business? I know everyone's got to make a buck.
Barney: Here's the thing, mate. For starters, we were never really a part of it. Or we tried not to be. Of course we sell CDs and we sell T-shirts so to that extent, I guess people would argue that we are part of it but we never were subject to big music business guidelines and under orders. We would never do things that we weren't comfortable with or we had I guess a ethical problem with, of which there are many things in the music business that come around.
We always wanted to maintain our independence so we were always coming from an angle to where we were almost on the outside looking inwards. As a band what we try and do is we try and keep our prices down. Keep our gig prices down, keep our T-shirt prices down and we do our very best to make it fair for everybody and fair for ourselves of course because we're not excluded from the process.
That's basically what we try and do, and the band is run on those guidelines that I was telling you. If we don't want to do something we don't do it. We're not told by managers or a record label, we're not ordered to do stuff. We live and die by our own decisions. We were basically critical of what we might be subject to or what we might become if we chose to go down certain paths. We did have some experiences of it because we were hoodwinked, if that's the right expression to use, into situations at certain points in our early years when we were perhaps a little bit naïve and a little bit less understanding of how we needed to operate. Obviously we therefore had the experience to be able to say, "That's not going to happen again. You'll learn from that." You just go on from there, really.
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