Napalm Death - Codebreakers

By Joe Who?

Alright, Kick Ass, Sweet - These were my exact words when I found out Napalm Death was going to open up for Cannibal Corpse on a fall U.S. Tour in 2004. (Come to think of it, I always use these words when I find out Napalm Death is going to tour the states!)

I was first introduced to their music when the Scott Burns produced album - "Harmony Corruption" came out in the early ninties. When I heard that album, it completely blew me away. This was some of the fastest Death / Grind I ever heard at the time, and still ranks as one of my favorites.

When I started discovering their back catalog, I was shocked to find on classics like; "Scum" and "From Enslavement To Obliteration" that they incorporated elements of punk, hardcore, and thrash into their sound - furthering my interest in the band. By the mid nineties they went into a more progressive direction with albums like; "Diatribes", and "Inside The Torn Apart", and continued to prove there was nothing they couldn't accomplish.

After a decade of working with Earache Records, the band would eventually leave the label and find a new home with Spitfire Records. The label released two albums; "Enemy Of The Music Business", and "Order Of The Leech", but the partnership wouldn't last, due to lack of promotion, and the band looked for a new label to give them the proper "push" they deserved.

Fifteen years after I first became aware of the band, and they're still going strong. 2005 looks to be an exciting and busy year for the band. A new record deal in place, (Century Media) a new studio album on the way, and tours to follow.

I had a chance to speak with vocalist Mark "Barney" Greenway after their show with Cannibal Corpse on November 11th 2004 in Milwaukee Wisconsin. We discussed a number of topics including; George Bush,the new album, the Earache years, the health status of Jesse Pintado, side project bands, and more...

Wormwood Chronicles: Well, to start this off, I was wondering about your thoughts on Bush getting re-elected?

Barney Greenway: Um, yeah it's pretty disappointing, you know? I fully hoped that Kerry would do, not necessarily because I'm a particular fan of Kerry, although I am in some instances, but I think that Bush really needed to go, for the sake of not only the American people, but I think for the world as well. So I'm pretty disappointed. I think one good thing that comes out of it is that Bush is going to be scrutinized really heavy now, and I think it puts a front runner on people who are going to be on it. By the same token what effect will that have? Who knows, we'll see. I am pretty disappointed myself.

WC: You guys just signed with Century Media, you have a new album coming out next year. Can you give us any details?

BG: Yeah it's already done, man, it was recorded in England, it took about three weeks to do. It's fast, furious, it's progressive still. Napalm tends to try and move forward, while retaining the core elements. It's called "The Code Is Red, Long Live the Code", which we played the title track tonight...

WC: Yeah it sounded killer!

BG: That's cool, man. The general overview of the album title is that basically fear is the goverment's greatest tool. If they can make you believe something, they can actually make you accept anything - like things they want to infringe on your civil liberties. That's the general concept behind it. So yeah, it's going to be good. It's got lots of fast stuff, but we've also done a really slow track on the end. It's very influenced by a band called Swans... we've done similar kind of tracks before. So it's come out really good, we're really happy with it.

WC: What happened with your previous label, (Spitfire) why the switch to a new label?

BG: They just were not coming up with the goods.We made a couple of really good albums since we left Earache. Unfortunately, we never quite found a label that was going to help us out, in terms of working along side us. Yes, they did for like the first period of releases, but they just got kind of disinterested...

WC: They didn't really promote you guys...

BG: Exactly. If your working your ass off, giging your ass off, you need that helping hand. We just were not getting it, you know? I mean, kids still come up to us that don't even know that "Order Of The Leech" came out. It's ridiculous.

WC: I heard Jeff Walker (formely of Carcass) makes a guest appearance on the new album. How did this come about? What will his role be on the new album?

BG: He did some backing vocals.Jeff's a friend, you know? He's been a friend for many years, and since the Carcass thing finished he's remained a friend. That's the important thing they (fans) all think that when these bands all split, they kind of seperate themselves from other people in the general circle. That's not always the case. A lot of these people are friends of ours, you know? Shane phoned Jeff up and asked, do you want to do some vocals on the album? No problem, Jeff came in and did them, simple as that .

WC: You have a new album out called "Leaders Not Followers - 2", an all covers album. How did you guys decide on what songs would appear on the album?Did you all just pick your favorites?

BG: Yeah, we all just picked whatever, you know - whatever tracks we thought, and just whittled it all down really. We just tried to keep a good mix of metal, punk, and hardcore. It worked out pretty good in the end, I mean a couple of members didn't come up with as many, but we just tried to represent everyone on the album. We're a four way band everyone's opinion counts, everything's equal - you know...

WC: What's your favorite track on the album?

BG: It's difficult really to pin down one in particular, but Cryptic Slaughter track is a favorite, we kind of decided early on that song was going to be the opening track. I like the Siege track, because that means a lot, Discharge, I mean, I could go on, really. I don't actually have a least favorite track on the album, although I think it's all pretty good.

WC: Jesse (Pintado) is sitting out on this tour, due to health reasons. How's he been doing? Will he be back in the band for your next tour?

BG: Well, the thing is that, there's a lot of problems with Jesse.You say health reasons, he's got some personal issues with alcohol and stuff like that. You know what? We actually took him back to do some shows in brazil, and he played really well, but the thing is surrounding the alcohol, there's other issues that stemed out from that. We've tried to really help him a lot, but he's got to help himself at some point. We feel that he hasn't been doing that.

I don't know what's going to happen to Jesse, to be honest. You know, it's really sad, man, after fifteen years of working with someone. You can only help someone so much. He was pretty deceitful towards us at some points, like he never showed up on a couple of really important things we were supposed to do. When it gets to that point ,man, you ask yourself - Is this fucking worth it?It's sad, but what can you do?

WC: Back in the nineties, you guys had a lot of different side project bands. Are there any bands your currently working on outside of Napalm Death?

BG: Shane's got a couple of bands. He's got the Venomous Concept thing going on with Buzz from the Melvins, and Kevin Sharp from Brutal Truth. The Lockup thing... he's going to do a live album with that. Shane's pretty industrious. Mitch - I don't know, he's probably got bands, something or other. Me and Danny don't have anything, but yeah, people just do as they will at the end of the day. Some bands get weird about side projects, personally I could give a shit, you know? If people want to do stuff, let them do it, I don't give a shit.

WC: I remember reading a while back that you guys had your own record label. Are you still involved with that?

BG: Feto, Yeah. It hasn't quite worked out, because we didn't have the funds or the time to do it. I mean, if we were going to do it - yeah, releasing our own stuff is ok, but again we need promotion to do that, and the money's not there to do it. If we were going to do other bands, I'd want to be able to deliver, if I promised bands something. I wouldn't want to do it half-assed. Too many record labels - they fuck bands over. We had a record label operational to that degree. I wouldn't want to fuck anyone over. I've seen it all to many times happen to me. I wouldn't want to do to someone, what I've had done to me.

WC: I know you guys had a real hard time with Earache Records. I was wondering if you could comment on those years, and what led to you leaving the label?

BG: Oh with Earache, it's a long story. I don't know if you followed the history between us. Yeah, there's a lot of stuff that's gone on. Basically we felt that Earache exploited us in ways that they shouldn't have, and there were a lot of legal issues actually about the whole thing. Yeah it took a lot of bullshit through the years, and we're still not there to where we need to be at really. I wouldn't work with Earache again, and I wouldn't advise anyone to work with Earache. It was a really fucked up situation...

WC: Do they still own the rights to those albums, when you worked for them?

BG: Yes, they still do. Although I'd have to look back through the contracts, there is a time when they do revert back to us eventually, I think.

WC: Didn't you guys settle something, where they put out a greatest hits album?

BG: They did a greatest hits thing. Originally they were just going to do it on their own, but we said No, No. If you're going to do it, why not make it good? So we found a lot of really old stuff, and also some extra bits and pieces. So yeah, it worked out ok in the end. It's called "Noise For Music's Sake".

WC: How would you compare European audiences to American audiences?

BG: It's hard to make a comparison really, because audiences are audiences. Some places they go nuts, other places they don't. So you can't really make a comparison, because people are people at the end of the day.

WC: I was wondering what bands your digging right now?

BG: Converge, I really like Converge.There's a band called Das Oath, an American band. People should check them out, they're fucking intense. They're fast. They're very rooted in the style of Napalm as in taking the metal but mixing it with hardcore from the mid eighties, like Negative Approach and Minor Threat sort of thing, and I like that, I really like that style. They also have a Killing Joke image to them as well, a mixture of a few things. Definitely recommend the people check them out, I think they're fucking great.

WC: What are your future plans?

BG: We got a tour in europe right after this, it's an X-mas festival thing, it travels through a few countries in europe. After that, we break for Christmas. January, we start on the activities for the new album, because it's finished, it's done, it's got to be worked on, you know? Then we do a couple of show case gigs, then we do European festivals. We're going to come back to the U.S. and do a headliner or possibly with The Melvins, probably going to do something with The Melvins. After that, go to Japan. After that... we don't know that far ahead.

WC: Barney, thank you for your time, man, I really appreciate it. (shaking hands) Do you have any last words for your fans out there?

BG: It sounds like a cliche because you always end up saying it, but it isn't. Thanks for your support, man. There's been times down the years where we kind of doubted ourselves whether we should come, but it's always been kids that encouraged us to move on, and we're grateful for that. We sincerely are.

Century Media's Website

Napalm Death's Official Website