Napalm Death’s Barney Greenway: Government Needs to Help People in Pandemic
Napalm Death's Barney Greenway was the latest guest on Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio program. The vocalist touched on the band's 16th album, Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism, and the grindcore forefathers' aim to remain rooted in the present regarding the social themes that populate their lyrics.
Always with a humanitarian outlook, Greenway also urged that governments around the world — if their aim is to protect and serve their people — need to understand the unique situation of the coronavirus pandemic and offer their citizens assistance as many are currently face or are preparing to face hunger and homelessness.
As for not being able to perform, he's finding ways to deal with it, but is more concerned about human welfare on the whole.
There's always been a social consciousness about Napalm Death. How has your approach to effecting change evolved throughout your career?
We can only really deal with what's the place at the time, you know, so we're always reactive to the world around us. If you if you don't keep your ideas in the present, I think the people who show an interest in the band wouldn't connect as much if it was just a generic idea, with no relevance to the here and now.
We just deal with what's in front of us, always with the intention to speak up for fellow human beings and other sentient beings where they are all being exploited or suppressed or however you want to put it — that's modus operandi, I suppose, [laughs].
The new album is an example of how an extreme band can continue to progress beyond categorical limitations. Why is it important for there to be that sort of beacon for like-minded musicians?
This is our 16th album, which I keep having to be reminded of because I forget these things — the stats — but we just try not to repeat ourselves, really. What would be the point after this many albums, if we just carbon copy what we've done previously? It would not do ourselves or the people who listen to this band any justice.
We just press on and still maintain the extremity of the sound. One thing we won't do is we would never polish the edges off or make it somehow more diluted or sterile. That's definitely not for us.
Barney, experimental somewhat describes the overall sound of the new album. What do you embrace most about exploring atypical musical ideas?
To be honest, it's always been the case of extremities as the linchpin of Napalm Death.
We see extremity as not just one or two things — we see it in a very wide palette of different bands. Going back to the 1980s, some of the bands that I'd take influence from — the vocalists I suppose — were people like Ian Curtis from Joy Division. Some people would think of that band and him not really as an extremity, but what they were doing at the time to me was... not necessarily sonically completely harsh and distorted like [Napalm Death] like our sound, but in another way.
We take bits and pieces from a big ol' spectrum. It keeps us forward-looking. That's how we do it.
Napalm Death, "Amoral" Music Video
There's no one definitive way to make an album. What was singularly unique about writing and recording Throws Of Joy In The Jaws Of Defeatism?
Nothing out of the ordinary for Napalm Death. Our writing process goes back to what we were doing when I first joined the band, albeit that we're not using mobile dictaphones these days, you know? [laughs]
The process has always been the same — Shane [Embury, bass] generally will give me the music and I'll put out all my ideas based upon what I think needs to be exposed in the world and then we'll just take it from there. It's just a building process.
It's very spontaneous, and it all seems to click into place. I'll go into the studio with my ideas fairly firm, but then there's always some stuff on the hoof in the studio that you'll do, which gives you that extra vibrancy.
It's an age-old process for us. We're not reinventing the wheel amongst ourselves. It's like riding a bike, you just never forget [laughs].
There's great uncertainty about the immediate future of live performances. Ideally, how can the health and economic realities coincide as the industry tries to recalibrate?
It's a tricky one.
First and foremost for me is the protection of the vulnerable, because, as a human being, I don't want to sacrifice other human beings for the sake of opening things up. Much in the same way as the things that Napalm Death generally talks about, we don't walk over people to get to what we need. That's not the way to do things as far as I'm concerned.
I know it's not easy. A lot of bands are missing out and we are, too. We are slightly worried about it, but I'm just quite philosophical about it at the moment. I'm waiting for things to move forward. I don't know when it's going to be, and I don’t know if it will get to the point where I'm completely desperate myself.
I've always lived very simply and I have made a few extra adjustments and I'm kinda getting through it okay, but I don’t know the answer and we'll just have to see how it goes.
Obviously this isn't just exclusive to people in the arts or, or musicians or however you want to put it — this is for a lot of people. We'll have to roll with it for a while and see where it goes.
Overall, we need more government assistance or assistance for everybody, whoever you are and whatever your circumstances are. If governments are supposed to... if they're there for anything at all, which is to try and protect the people that they serve, then they have to realize this is a unique situation. People should never be allowed to go without food or shelter or anything like that.
Thanks to Barney Greenway for the interview. Grab your copy of Napalm Death's new album, 'Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism,' here (as Amazon affiliates we earn on qualifying purchases) and follow the band on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Spotify. Find out where you can hear Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio show here.