A couple of our crack reporters here at Metal Riot recently braved Hurricane Sandy to get a chance to sit down with legendary Napalm Death frontman Barney Greenway and discuss everything from politics and religion, right down to washing up. They are currently touring with Municipal Waste, Exhumed, and Vektor. For a full review of the show you can click here. Otherwise you can continue on and check out the interview by clicking here.
Sean Metal Riot: So, we were supposed to interview you at Wacken but I guess something fell through.
Barney: I did a lot of interviewes that day.
Sean MR: I think they said that you were full up actually.
B: That’s bullshit, I still had time to do stuff. They do that sometimes, they won’t ask you, they won’t say to you directly there is another one do you want to do it.
Tyrus Metal Riot: When we watched your set we were in the beer garden because of all the mud and there was a four year old boy just sitting watching the set while eating French fries and then there are also just die hard metalheads standing around. It is so different from the states, the whole metal culture over there is different.
B: Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, of course it’s more of a wide spectrum of people.
Sean MR: Utilitarian was obviously awesome, I was a huge fan of the album…
B: Obviously ? I don’t know (laughs)
Sean MR: Could you guys just come out with more, more often?
B: Well, I mean you know, the thing is… what stops us sometimes from doing more albums is the fact that we have so many touring offers. I cant say for certain but I would suspect that we are one of the most requested of anybody because we get offers from places where bands don’t go as well. So, it important to do that stuff …because A, it’s stimulating for us not doing the same circuits and B there are people out there, outside of the obvious places to go, that don’t get the opportunity. I want to give something to people like that, you know? I see everybody the same, you know? I don’t want to treat some people in one way and other people in another, that’s my general life thing anyway…so.
Tyrus MR: What do you think the most unique place you guys have ever toured is?
B: I think like, The Soviet Union was, because we were the first band independently to go into Soviet Russia and that was obviously an eye opener, that is as unique as it gets really, you know? And then, like, where else…unique..Nepal!
Tyrus MR: Whats the metal scene like there?
B: Well, I didn’t see much of it because we weren’t there long enough to be honest with you, but the gig was good. It was more for the point of seeing how life, the two different ends of the spectrum live. I literally saw people living in ditches on the side of the road, no exaggeration and that kind of brings it home to you. You know, how things really are.
Tyrus and Sean: Yeah, we have it very well over here.
B: But even Nepal obviously has its middle class and upper classes, and then its got people that just have literally nothing and its depressing. There is no question. You are there and obviously you are pumped to do a gig, you’re happy to play for people who don’t normally get much stuff going through but there is that stuff as well. Its difficult. I find it difficult at least.
Tyrus MR: I think that makes you very human.
B: Well I don’t. It makes me…it reinforces the thing that I don’t take this for granted. You know its not like you know, “Oh I got to go away again and shit like that,”shit I could be digging ditches very similar to what those people are living in. You know what I mean? I mean I, personally, if I were doing something else it would be with an academic background personally, but all the same you know I am not going to complain about doing something that 99% of people will never get to experience even on the fringe. You know? Whats to fucking complain about
Sean MR: Speaking of academia, have you read any good books lately?
B: I am actually going to re-reading George Orwell’s 1984, which is kind of an obvious choice for a lot of people, but there is another reason. I picked up a version from an airport recently and it said some different stuff on the cover, I picked it up in a hurry to be honest, so I didn’t really see what, but I am just about to start reading it. I am also in the middle of reading this book, and to be honest with you because I haven’t really picked it up in a while, I am going to have to read it again because it’s so complex. Its’ called Yamazhita’s Gold. It’s basically about the theory, and the guy that did it, the guy who wrote the book, is actually in hiding his name is…I cant remember the name of the author right now but basically he is actually in hiding because he’s been threatened by both the CIA and the Japanese intelligence services because this book basically claims, and he has evidence and documents to prove it, that Japan and the States, other countries too, but those being the two principal players, actually colluded in WWII so the actual conflict was just a smoke screen because there were lots of riches on the Asian continent and Japan and America came to an agreement to actually split those, at the higher levels, to split those riches and when they did they buried a lot of it underground. The Japanese used prisoners of war to get this stuff up because it was heavy. Tons of gold and bouillon. Then once these prisoners of war had done that they fucking didn’t tell them and set off explosions and buried them all so they could never speak, so they could never tell anybody if they ever survived the end of the war. It’s a pretty powerful book man, the Chinese come into it, all the different players come into it in gangs, or military around the world. Its pretty interesting.
Tyrus MR: WWII is one of those things that is taught to you in school in such a black and white manner, which isn’t the case.
B: No, you have to look. There are many complexities to these things, you know, and school curriculum whether good or bad intentioned can only teach so much, you have to look into it yourself. All is not always what it might seem.
Sean MR: On the political side how do you feel about the election coming up?
B: My basic thing is this, you know, it depends on what day you catch me on. A lot of days I would say don’t vote, politicians are self serving tokenistic idiots, all of them, and that’s coming from a person from the left. That’s where I grew up. That’s part of my standpoint, my principals, the Left. Having said that I think it’s crucial that people do and I know that a lot of people are going to disagree with me on this, I think its absolutely crucial that Romney and especially his running mate Ryan are kept away from the presidency because I think the implications of those two getting in, everything I have seen so far, and it isn’t even hidden stuff, is worrying man you know. Domestically, things like women’s sexual health care rights with abortion, I mean this guy Ryan I think he is actually the one to be afraid of. I think he is fucking nuts, I think he is a religious fucking whack-job. Really I cant put it any differently.
Tyrus MR: Especially the right to abortion.
B: Not only that its also health care as well. It seems to me that he is going to tear whatever scraps of public health care there is left and so that’s for that. On the other side of things there are some things that I don’t agree with that Obama has done, for a guy that came from a cival rights background, I cannot see how he can continue to support the use of drone warfare in the middle east and stuff I mean if you wanna create more insurgency and unsettled regions and make people hate America even more, use drones, you are guaranteed to get that result.
Tyrus MR: Robots killing your family?
B: Exactly. There are things that I would most definitely say to him. He used to be a civil rights endorsee, show your pedigree, its like put a stop to this stuff, but on a wider level I think that its crucial that he remains because he is a settling influence. He is at least stopping certain things from exploding out of control and that is really important. It might have been under a little duress but it was really important that he spoke up for same sex relationship, marriage and rights, really important. He wants to preserve women’s rights to abortion, he’s pro choice, he also wants to develop his health care plan which is really important. The end result is that people in this country, as we have in the UK, you should be able to have access to health care and there are too many people in this country that don’t. That ain’t fucking right. Beyond that which he hasn’t spoken about, he needs to regulate the private health care service because its not right that you pay all this money for premiums and the health care company can turn around on a whim and can refuse you because of preexisting conditions or something. They determine, very often against other doctors evidence, independent doctors. So the point is all that stuff is irrelevant, the point of health care is to treat the fucking patient for whatever is going on with them. Ok if you have to do tests that’s fine but you don’t then drastically take them off medication and refuse to pay for their treatment until the final stages. Its stupid.
Tyrus MR: I had just read an article about a company that purchased life insurance policies for the terminally ill and is paying out for them so they can receive health care.
B: Subcontracting life and death. Its insane and the thing is I find it so absolutely ludicrous its almost laughable. People you can say, not to sort of stick people in little boxes, say lower working class people who support people like the tea party who are for cutting back on public services. Yet if those public services get lost, these are the people, the exact people who are going to get fucked. This obsession of too many public services equals communism its so laughable. So there you go, I would say, do anything you can to keep Romney and Ryan out of office. I think I’m again speaking for a lot of Europeans, because its going to effect the world and it would not be a good thing.
Sean MR: We have been to Wacken twice and we were surprised how people treated us over there. Not as asshole americans, really more excited that we had made the trip over to Germany for the show.
B: Yeah, of course.
Sean MR: and you know we would like to keep it that way.
B: Having said that, most people are of course open minded enough to know that its not the regular people to blame for their idiot presidents. Certainly me I would never case aspersions on people because Bush is in power. I got accused of being anti-American because I was critical of certain things. I mean how can you associate the two things?
Sean MR: Exactly. Well to lighten the mood…do you like Marmite?
B: Good question, I actually do but I don’t buy Marmite, as in the brand, because its owned by a company that I really don’t like.
Sean MR: They have the whole advertisement going on, “You have to love Marmite,” or whatever.
B: Do you know the thing behind that is that people either love it or hate it, there is no middle ground. That’s actually true. I have this other one called *honestly I have no idea what he said here but I think he said vegicon* which is lower salt. There is a lot of salt in Marmite and I am a big sort of health freak. I try and stay away from high salts.
Tyrus MR: To keep it light I know the tour just started but how has everything been going? I mean obviously we have a hurricane outside but other than that?
B: Its been good man. I mean New york was sold out and the other two gigs were well populated so its going really well. I mean I can’t complain because I know its tough out here for bands. I know there is still stuff to pick and chose from and people haven’t really got the cash that they usually might have to be able to come to gigs. So when you look at almost four sold out gigs again you cant fucking complain. What’s their to complain about?
Tyrus MR: It’s also an incredible bill, you guys, Municipal Waste and Exhumed
B: It seemed like a very logical thing to do. Different styles but bands that think along the same lines, and we wanted to keep it a reasonable ticket price.
MR: Thank you for that
Tyrus MR: Because you guys have been doing this for so long and tape trading in the 80’s was such an important part of band’s being discovered, how do you feel about the fact that you were cool enough to stream the whole Utilitarian album before its release and give people the option to see if they wanted to buy it, and how do you feel about the opposition to that?
B: I take a very philosophical view to that I think that I understand the way things are right now and that people power is kind of taking over right now. The monopoly of big music industry needed to get a big kick up the ass at one point because they were too powerful, they were. All monopolies need to be broken, in the end they get too powerful. So the Internet and file sharing stuff was helpful in a lot of respects. Me personally, I would just say this, we are not Metallica if you download our album in the first two weeks of the release you know that first initial period, say 8 weeks something like that. That’s our prime selling period when we need to sell to recoup the money back to the record company because we are not in profit. WE are recouping back to them so its really important that people come and they by album at that point in some way. You know what if it’s a year down the line and someone really wants it and they don’t really have the money to spend or some guy across the world that doesn’t have anything, I am not going to complain if he downloads my album I mean really? Id rather they get it and it gets out there then it not get out there at all.
Tyrus MR: We have a running joke that there is Britney Spears rich and then there is Cannibal Corpse rich, that level of wealth is so far apart for what they are making vs. what they are putting in. So you are just a dick if you go out and download an album of some small band and don’t pay for it.
B: Personally I don’t download, but that’s not to say that people necessarily should follow my lead, my example. I always support bands or I will not download bands for free, movies are the same I am a huge independent buff. I will not download them, I will buy them. I like the solid product anyway.
Sean MR: Given the state of the world vs. 20 years ago how do you feel your personal philosophy, political and world views have changed?
B: Well I mean you know one aspect of that is unchanged is religion, I still, even though I think that people should be able to believe what they want, I still find it utterly fucking ridicules. So that hasn’t really changed. I mean all religions of all different persuasions. Um, there are always issues, in that sense nothing ever changes because if something subsides something else comes along. So and we have a situation right now that mirrors 20 or 30 years ago when Reagan first got elected, that was a very scary time because the religious thing as well was one that believed that thing over Megiddo. Fucking like the armies of god and Satan were gonna meet at Megiddo, Israel was going to be it. Regan was one of the ones who believed in that philosophy and you have to think to yourself of the figurative finger on the button and that’s what worries me about Romney and Ryan, genuinely.
Sean MR: That and Romney wears magic underwear…
Sean MR: and believes in the golden tablets.
B: Yeah Exactly, its insane and people buy it hook line and sinker over here. Its such a large percentage of people you know.
MR:Its really funny because the three of us are of similar mind and being in the Northeast it’s fairly liberal so we don’t really see the other side of that coin as much but if you look at the polls it’s a fairly even split.
B: Its fucking nuts man, I mean, the really crazy thing is that in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s yeah of course there were all kinds of problems in America with segregation but you didn’t have this insistence on mentioning god every ten minutes. There was a separation of church and state to the point that the two were always kept purposely apart and rightly so. And now it seems to have gotten to a point where even Obama is afraid and mindful that he references at least something as he goes along. It’s a crazy situation.
Tyrus MR. It’s like we went from a political renaissance to a political dark age.
B: Exactly, If I were in power I would be doing away with it. I would never say it. I would never say god bless. I mean I’ve got no problem with people believing what they want to believe, I’ve got no problem what churches being around. Having said that churches should pay for themselves. They shouldn’t get these subsidies and tax breaks, I don’t believe in it. Let the fucking mother church fucking pay for it. Tax breaks no, not acceptable, no tax breaks.
Tyrus MR: Man, we went heavily political in this interview…
Sean MR: …Do you say washing up liquid?
B: (Laughs) Washing up liquid, of course. Yeah washing up liquid.
Tyrus MR: It’s so to the point that when I first heard I had no idea what the person was talking about.
B: Yeah, do the washing up. Which is do the dishes.
Sean MR: So lets talk enlightenment and…
B: No, I don’t believe in enlightenment, spirituality, any of that sort of stuff. I think, and you know one of the reasons I am so resistant to it is I think human beings have forgotten that there doesn’t need to be a reason for the earth to exist, there doesn’t need to be a fantasy or some kind of magic. Scientific process shows us that everything is possible or impossible at the same time, so I don’t have any spirituality. I prefer to deal with logic and obviously mixed with humanity and dignity for other people and to care about other people. That’s my thing. I don’t need a spiritual angle for that. Like people say, “A lot of people say I am religious but I am not religious I cant stand the whole thing and the hoodoo behind it but I am spiritual.” Why do you need to be spiritual? Don’t get me wrong, if that’s what you want to do I just don’t understand why you have to have some kind of spirituality. If you believe in logic and the scientific way and nature of things and evolution, it all is ok. Things are there to be disparaged at times and tested and you go back over ground but a large part of evolution can be substantiated. It can! that’s it, end of story. As for this crazy shit, the dinosaurs and man being around at the same time, that old chestnut or the earth is 5,000 years old…
Tyrus MR: or that you can’t get pregnant from rape?
B: Yeah, exactly, I mean that theory in itself, especially the earth is 5,000 years old is idiotic, asinine, uneducated stupidity. It is.
Tyrus MR: Its funny, you are dressed respectable, and you have short hair. People listen to Napalm Death and think about metalheads and you are the furthest thing from their mind.
Sean MR: Are people ever taken aback when you tell them what you do?
B: Yeah, yeah, I mean I look pretty clean cut but I have always been a believer that you do what you do and you look how you look and you don’t have to fit into a stereotype. That’s what I do. Some people are shocked by it and cant believe that its what I do the vocals, etc. but that is at is. I like the paradox actually, I find it quite entertaining. Why should people all just be one thing.
Tyrus MR: That’s like the core ethos of metal, hardcore and punk but my god there are so many narrow minded people in the genre.
B: I got these stupid things when I cut my hair off all of ten years plus ago. People saying, “aw its never gonna be the same again, the band is never going to be the same again.” Are you fucking serious? Really?
Sean MR: Do you like David Mitchell?
B: Yeah, Yeah, he does Peep Show. I do like David Mitchell. I think he is an atheist as well.
Sean MR: I believe he is.
B: You know there are a lot of prominent atheists in the UK. Really quite a high percentage of celebrities willing to speak out. The funny thing to see is the comparison, when you see the official American atheists, they have to live in a compound with barbed wire around the top because they are constantly under threat.
Tyrus MR: It’s backwards, like bombing an abortion clinic, and killing people to prevent them from killing.
B: Or these pastors who support other pastors when they go to jail, “Oh you did the right thing.” Fuck.
Tyrus MR: Do you have any opinions on the Westborough Baptist Church?
Sean MR: I had heard that they are trying to actively get people to sue them with the whole “God hates fags” thing.
B: I would believe it because its so over the top. Bikers shielding veteran funerals, flip side of those guys. Let us to get dinner.
MR: Thanks for everything.
B: Good interview.
Sean MR: We had a couple of questions that we asked in other interviews but we both felt that we couldn’t ask so we left them out.
B: Like what?
Tyrus MR: Well we asked the other bands we’ve talked to if they had ever shit themselves on tour.
B: You should have asked, I would have answered….next time.