Napalm Death - Hallelujah, God is Dead!

Interview with: Mark "Barney" Greenway

By Joe Who?

Religion is a subject that means different things to many people. From the dawn of time there's been arguments pro and con on this topic. It's no doubt had a profound impact on our society that we still see and hear about today. While there's been various philosophies, ideologies, and theories, the fact of the matter is we can all find peace within ourselves knowing that we do have the "freedom of choice", but, at the same time, is that right being challenged by religion?

Analyzing this question along with addressing other concerns centering around religion and its morals is the general premise for Napalm Death's first ever full blown concept album, entitled "Smear Campaign". Throwing down the proverbial gavel with a "guilty of all charges" sentence, the album explores the faults of organized religion, and also shares it's views on Athiesm (free thinking...) wholeheartedly.

I had a chance to speak with vocalist Mark "Barney" Greenway in Milwaukee Wisconsin Barney and I had a lot to talk about. Here's our extensive conversation that follows...

Wormwood Chronicles: How's the tour going so far? This is a pretty diverse lineup of bands. (Devildriver, Napalm Death, 36 Crazyfists, Straight Line Stitch, Invitro...)

Barney Greenway: Yeah, you know what? Surprisingly there's been a lot of people coming out. You saw the show tonight...there was a lot of people here, and it's been like this generally all the way through. I mean, obviously you play smaller venues, but, we're seeing more people than what's usually typical for every venue, you know? Well, you say it's a diverse's good for us actually. Because we're playing to people that truthfully wouldn't come and see Napalm Death on our know, if it was advertised as a Napalm Death show. So it's good, it means we're not just preaching to the converted.

WC: How long have you guys been on the road for this record?

BG: Two years pretty much...

WC: Is this the longest amount of touring Napalm has ever done for a record?

BG: Possibly...Probably, yeah. I mean, that only goes in tandem with the fact that "Code" and "Smear" have both been very well received. So it's because of that, our excitment, and also the enthusiasm of the record label. The combination of everything really has helped us, and it's given more desire for people to see Napalm.

WC: What's a typical day like for you guys when your on tour?

BG: Mine's probably slightly different from a lot of people in bands. It's kind of unheard of, but I set an alarm. I make sure I get up at the same time every morning, and there's a reason for that. It's very easy to over sleep on tour. You can sleep ten, twelve hours, and not even think about it. In the long run that's gonna totally wipe you out, because,you're over sleeping, and you'll start to become tired. When you sleep too long, your body starts to expect that you get twelve hours of sleep a day, and that's pretty excessive, you know what I mean? So I set my alarm every morning...I get six, six and a half hours of sleep a night, that's all I need.

WC: So, tell me about "Smear Campaign". I know religion plays a big part with the theme on this album.

BG: Yeah, generally speaking, it's about embracing the ideas of Atheism and acknowledging the fact that as human beings religion really has no part to play in our lives. You can have faith...if people have personal faith ,that's fine, I don't have a problem with that, but, I do have a problem with it when it's controlling people's lives. I mean, that can even come down to things like morality, which is a false concept. Morality was something invented by the various religious groups and sects as early as the medieval times. Morality could control people because it led them to believe that they couldn't behave in certain ways. This is a totally false concept because it assumes that this one person sitting over here on a pedestal has a negative view of this other person over there whose doing something that offends them...then naturally what the other person says has gotta be wrong. Well, really, when you think about it, that's bullshit, you know what I mean? So, it's rejecting that thing about morality as well.

If you compare me...someone whose completely someone who is religious, is my life any different to theirs because they've adopted faith? No it isn't. Actually my life is more full, because I can do things, and I don't restrict myself. I do things that to some people with faith they would deem as "taboo",and I don't have any taboo's. I mean, yeah, of course ,I'm not gonna go out and stab someone, because to me that's something I'm not gonna do, you's wrong for me personally to do that, as a moral view point

So it's basically talking about all this stuff and also on a wider scale obviously challenging people to set aside their religio, and come to an understanding when that dosen't play a part. For example, look at the problems in the Middle East. What I would say to those people without being able to obviously get amongst them is to stop all this stupid fighting over religion? If Israel stopped the annexation of Palestine, this would in turn prevent Palestinian groups from killing Israelis' and then people could live side by side. For fuck sake, just try it, you know what I mean? (Chuckles)

WC: You know something, Barney...This is more of an observation on my part, rather than a question, but I've noticed that religion can also be tied in with other subjects you've mentioned in your lyrics over the years, like wars, greed, and corruption. It's really sad to see all these problems still escalate on a daily basis.

BG: Yeah, of course. I mean, there's a situation over here in America with these churches and ministries and stuff. These people don't even pay tax and they amass personal fortunes through the actions of their churches. We're talking about people that go to their congregations that are living on fucking peanuts ,man, you know what I mean? They're not able to provide health care for themselves, which is another issue, Yet you got these fucking ministers and that have these massive personal fortunes, and they're not contributing to the social welfare and the social well being of the country. Religious organizations that generate finance should be taxed, that's important. (Chuckles)

WC: What kind of mindset were you in when you recorded the album? With all the negatives that can come out of religion, did this fuel more anger from you?

BG: Well, I mean, you're always...not to be cliche, but you're always fucking pissed off about something because, obviously, that forms the basis of the action. The anger's one thing, but, channeling it into a direction that's not generic...that's difficult. When I write with Napalm, I like to make observations, and write titles, and write lyrics that hopefully aren't generic. For example, "The Code Is Red...Long Live The Code", Would any title like that ever be used anywhere else by any other band? Probably not really...

WC: Megadeth! ...

BG: Yeah! I mean, for example, you could name an album "World In Pain". How generic is that? That's really generic! So what I try to do is make album titles, and song titles that aren't generic, and are creatively written, but, still are easy for people to understand. Because it's important for people to be able to translate the stuff I do. I'm not telling them that they should think in every way that I do, but I at least expect to give them an understanding, and then they can draw their own conclusions where they wish to, you know?

WC: We've been talking about all the negative things caused by religion...let's look at it from a different perspective. You mentioned faith before...I know people also use religion as a way of giving themselves hope and strength as well. My question is...Do you think there's anything good that comes out of religion?

BG: Again, as I said at the start, I don't have a problem with personal faith, but, what I would say to those people is this - show me / tell me, how your life could be any different without faith? How would it be any different for someone like me to adopt faith right now, and suddenly see the light...which I won't at this point, because, I know enough about science and the natural order of things to know in myself that God is a complete fabrication. For that reason, I won't adopt faith,but, just assuming I did...someone tell me how my life constructively and physically is gonna be any fucking different to what it is now? It isn't, full stop. All it's gonna be is...Ok, there's gonna be a slight feel good factor, but, I can create that without faith.

Here's the whole point...Actually people of faith, even those just with personal faith...this is one thing they try to do sometimes, they try to suggest that people without faith are unhappy with themselves. Bullshit! Once you come to a period in your life where you have self realization...and I have, it took me awhile to come to that. I think everyone does when their growing up and getting older, you know? But, once you come to a period of self realization and realize that you can make yourself happy...and when I say that, I don't mean in a hedonistic way, I don't mean at the expense of others. I mean, living a life where I'm happy, I do things that make me happy, and that's it ...period, full stop. Once you get to that point, you don't need really don't need it at all.

WC: What's your view on Satanism in metal? A lot of bands seem to embrace it. Are they looking for controversy in order to propel their career? Or are they using it to be free thinkers?

BG: Well, there's a real irony to that ,actually. Using satanism as an entertainment thing is fine, it's just a horror type scenario. But, when people start talking about the reality of satanism...all satanism is, is a mirror image of christianity turned on it's head, that's what satanism is. But, again, how do you need it in your life? If you're adopting satanism to reject christianity, just reject religion full stop. You don't need satanism to do that. Satanism is another false prophecy. To me, it's complete nonsense.

WC: Do you think the rebellion aspect is the reason why metal music has always been condemned by some people?

BG: Well, I guess there might be an interpretation of that, but, let's put it like this...metal is always classified as rebellious, but it really isn't that much. Actually, if you're trying to be rebellious by being in a metal band, you're conforming to another thought process, which is really no different from other things that are classified as nonconformist, but, really kind of are in a way, you know what I mean?

It's like rebelling against your parents...that's supposedly nonconformist, but,it isn't. It's completely conformist, because
you're following a stereotype of what people think kids should be like and that actually in a sense is harmful to the youth. This suggests in social circles, and in governmental circles that the youth are to blame for a lot of things when actually a lot of times they aren't to blame, you know what I mean? There's this preconception of teenagers that a lot of times is a load of fucking nonsense.

WC: With all the different topics that you use to get people thinking, have you ever been challenged by censorship? I mean, for metal in general it's always been an issue...

BG: Yeah, we've been censored...actually not that much, though. It's kind of surprising, because,I'm not backwards, I always push forward when I need to say something...

WC: Was there ever any particular instances where someone didn't agree with what you were saying and they confronted you about it?

BG: Oh, yeah, I've had that. You're talking about just pure disagreement and not necessarily censorship. Yeah, it happened when I criticsized George Bush in Texas...right in Houston, I think it was, which is his place kind of. (Chuckles) I was challenged about it...very aggressively actually, but so what.? Did I give a fuck? No, not particularly. I mean, that guy was a fucking jack ass!

I know it's sort of become trendy to do that now, but, let's face the facts...I don't need to clarify what I've just said. I mean, yeah, I just made a funny comment that people will laugh at, but, in reality...Well, we all know why he's been about and he's not the only one, to be fair. Most world leaders are full of shit, you know what I mean? So he's not on his own, but it just so happens that he's the figurehead of the biggest super power in the world. (Laughs) There will be a lot of things that last long in the memory for most Americans, and the rest of the world as well.

WC: Now being that this is a concept album, are all the songs supposed to tie together as a whole to accommodate the theme? Or do you want them to be looked upon as seperate songs?

BG: Well, every song on the album addresses the oppressive nature of religion, you know...each one has an element. So, yeah, they all do tie together. Whether we do that again for the next album is something else entirely. Perhaps we won't, I've been thinking about that. I haven't come up with anything yet, but, I think it'll feel a bit more loose on the next one.

WC: You've been involved with music for awhile. What would you say is different from 1990 when you started with Napalm, to 2008 where we are now?

BG: Just a lot more bands are around, man. The scene has saturated, you know...there's so many bands around. Well, we've seen bands come and go all the time and that will continue to be the case. I mean, we're sort of insular in a sense, because we do what we think is right for Napalm. We're not influenced by what's immediately going on around us, it's always what is right for Napalm, you know?

WC: You had a brief period of time when you were out of the band for about six months. What was going on around that time frame?

BG: Yeah, it was around that mid nineties time when the music became quite experimental, which was fine, but I just felt that the core elements of Napalm kind of lost the edge a little bit and it saddened me a lot actually. I guess the guys felt that I had become too withdrawn,and that I couldn't do the band to my full potential. So I was out for awhile and then they took me back.

WC: Durning your time away from Napalm you did an album with Extreme Noise Terror...

BG: Yeah, I did an album with them, it was good fun. I think the album could've been better, but,it was good fun, you know?

WC: Which would you say is harder to do - Maintaining a successful band? Or covering new ground?

BG: Maintaining a band, probably. The thing is, covering new ground can do it, of course you can, but, it's whether it works in the context of the band. Maintaining a band is difficult because the exterior pressures are usually what kills bands. We didn't let that happen to us because we vowed that we wouldn't years ago.

WC: What's your opinion on the music business these days? What's good? What's bad? What needs improvement?

BG: I've never thought much of it ,to be honest. I don't have any particular opinion on it because, again, I do what's best for Napalm. We operate pretty much outside of the usual operations that the music business does because we're very self contained, you know?

I mean, obviously down loading is the big thing with the internet with the music companies and stuff, but they didn't react quick enough and they're paying the price really. The major labels were the monopoly for years. They had a stranglehold on the industry, but now the tables have turned a bit, and they don't like it obviously. A lot of bands in the future are just gonna rely on the internet to spread the word.

WC: With the economy not being that great and all this down loading of music for free going on, does this worry you?

BG: No, it doesn't worry me. I mean, the only thing that does worry me is when albums are online before they're released, because, we're not Brittney Spears or Metallica, you know? Early sales are the biggest in the first month...I'm sure that goes without saying, but it's the first three months when you sell records. It's sort of like; start, peak sales, and then descending a little bit but staying quite high for the first three months is important.

If people aren't buying our albums in that's not a profit thing, it's actually the maintenence of the running the band. That's the period that's gonna generate cash for us to be able to operate. So that's the only thing that worries me. But,a year down the line, two years down the line, if kids wanna down load an album...Hey, it's extra promotion for the band really.

WC: I understand you're a supporter of animal rights. I was wondering what are some issues right now that you're concerned with and is there anything you'd like to address about it?

BG: There's no individual issues that particularly jump out at me. I mean, vivisection is still going on, you experiments for medicines and stuff like that. At this point with the advancement of science...we were talking about science early on, it's unnecessary to do that stuff. We don't need to test animals and actually animal tests, again and again and again prove to be inconclusive. Animals don't react to them the same way as humans necessarily...yes, they do in some aspects, but not in others. So how can you be conclusive about results on tests for animals for one, and two, it's just fucking heinous what they do to some animals. I just don't get it and I've never been able to grasp it.

I mean, there's other stuff too, like whaling for example. Actually Japan has been doing a lot of whaling again. It's totally unnecessary, and it dosen't need to be done. Whales are beautiful creatures, and they don't deserve to be fucking harassed in the way in which they are, you know? You don't need to kill whales, you don't need whale meat or blubber and stuff like that. I mean, I can understand when indigenous groups that live in the arctic wastes and stuff are using their environment to live...Ok, but commercial whalers and stuff like that...unnecessary, man. Seal coats...some places have started doing seal coats again. Why? You know what I mean?

WC: What did you think about that Michael Vick scandal with the underground dog fights?

BG: I don't know about that...I know about dog fighting, but, who's Michael Vick?

WC: He's a superstar million dollar quater back football player for the Atlanta Falcons...(He's also the douchebag who's running away with Wormwood's "Worst Athlete" poll--Dr. Mality)

BG: Oh, right, Well, England's had a lot of problems with underground dog fighting, I know the actual process of it. Well, clearl what was he fucking thinking? How does the public react to that stuff over here? Because in England ,of course being kind of the home of animal rights, that shit does not go down well at all, man. (Laughs) Understandably, but I'm just wondering how it goes down in America?

WC: Well, it turned out to be a good thing, because they sent this guy a message...he's actually in prison right now...

BG: Oh, really? They put him in prison...

WC: Yeah, his career is in jeopardy and he's working for like ten cents a day in a kitchen...

BG: As a matter of interest, how long did they put him away for?

WC: I think it was for two years, and he's gonna get probation...

BG: What state was he prosecuted in?

WC: I believe it was his home state of Virginia...

BG: Wow, that surprises me, because Virginia is very traditionally conservative. So it's hard to grasp that he would have to do that much time. That surprised me actually.

WC: Who would you like to see be our next president here in the U. S. and why?

BG: Ralph Nader! Because, you know what man? There's something about that can't trust politicians, but I really do believe that I could trust that guy. Some people might say that I would be a natural democrat...Yeah, ok, but not necessarily the democrats that are running right now. I mean, the democrat that I liked was actually a Greek guy who was a human rights activist who was out of the race in the first primary. (Laughs)

I like certain things. I like Hillary...I like the fact that she's a feminist, and I like the fact that she's pro-choice, you know? I like Obama because he's concerned about social justice, and health care, but, Obama especially keeps banging on about christianity and faith. I don't wanna fucking hear it anymore man, I'm tired of it. You know, the secular vote in this country...the non-faith vote in this country is fucking huge, but secular people aren't accommodated. Instead they're treated like some know, some cousin whose disliked or whatever. The secular / athiest people...even those people that that don't even proclaim themselves to be athiest, but, just are naturally secular, they're ignored, and beat in favor of the faith community. Well, whose catering for secular people? No one.

I've never ever heard Nader mention faith or Christianity or anything, you know what I mean? So that alone is
enough for me, but it's also Nader's general concern for the public that I like. Here's a guy that's willing to take on corperations and willing to tell them - Fuck you, you can't do this, and you're not gonna steam roll over people by doing these particular measures. I just wish people would wipe the fucking shit out of their eyes, but also from him as well, I wish he wouldn't drop out of the fucking race every five minutes. It's like he gets a build up, he gets momentum, and then he says - "Oh, I can't carry on anymore, I've gotta drop out." The last election was it? He had a really good vibe, a really good buzz, and he dropped out. Why?

WC: I don't know, man. Maybe it was a money issue...

BG: Well, no, it wasn't a money thing, because didn't he have a lot of backing? I think he just dropped out, because he felt like the pressure had got to him or something. I'm encouraged by some democrats. There was a lady on the television last was the black lady whose the only person to ever stand up in congress and say - "No, war is not the answer", after 9-11 when everyone was all up in arms. She actually was suspended from the house for daring to say - "No, this is not the way to go". I forgot her name, but I've always really liked her. I like a lot of democrats, and I think some are pretty fucking hokey as well!

WC: Who's the wildest band or band member you've ever hung out with on a tour?

BG: The wildest? (Thinks for a moment...) Probably Brent (Hinds...) from Mastodon. He's fucking nuts!

WC: (Laughing) Yeah, I know he likes to party...

BG: Yeah, he's fucking crazy, that guy! I love him, but he's fucking nuts! I can't say much more than that really.

WC: What's the best gig you've ever played and why?

BG: There's been so many. It just depends on the situation and the places we play. I mean, Japan...I've always loved playing there, because Japan is so unique, you know? Russia...the first time we played in Russia was fantastic. We were there durning the last week of the Soviet Union, the whole thing was just a trip! Playing Africa was great. We went down there with the ANC, and Nelson Mandela. That was a total experience. I'm lucky to have done all these things, and I don't take it for granted. I totally recognize the absolute brillance of what I'm able to be involved with.

WC: What's been your favorite tour? The one that always sticks out in my mind is that one you guys did back in the early nineties...It was Sepultura, Napalm Death, Sacred Reich...

BG: Yeah, and Sick Of It All. Us and Sick Of It All were traveling together...

WC: That had to be a landmark tour...

BG: Yeah, absolute silliness of the highest order! (Laughs) It really was, man. It was a fucking laugh a minute from begining to end!

WC: I'm trying to remember...was that Napalm's first U.S. tour?

BG: No, we did that thing with Nocturnus, and...

WC: Cathedral...

BG: No, no, it was before that...Nocturnus, us, and Godflesh...back in 1990. Pretty sweet!

WC: Yeah! What's your favorite Napalm Death album and song?

BG: I couldn't name a favorite song, because, there's tons that I really love man. As far as albums...Well, you could pick any of the last four really, ("Enemy Of The Music Business", "Order Of The Leech", "The Code Is Red...Long Live The Code", "Smear Campaign"...) and "Utopia Banished" for ones that I played on. But as a fan..."Scum" and "From Enslavement To Obliteration" of course.

WC: You talked a little bit about the next Napalm Death album earlier. I was wondering if you had any other info on it that you'd like to share?

BG: I've got nothing for you, my friend, unfortunately. I've got one track at Shane's on the laptop and that's it. The only other thing I can tell you is that...Well, as I said earlier, it might be a non-concept album, but what I'm thinking of doing...and this is just a nucleus of something, is doing an album about what we talked about : self realization. It'll be about all the pressures of everything, pushing them aside, and realizing that we as human beigns are these; fantastic, biological, physical, chemical machines and we should be able to enjoy our lives for the very short time that we are here. So basically it's about the rejection of things that might try to convince us otherwise, you know?

WC: Thank you so much for your time, Barney. Do you have any final messages or words of wisdom for your fans?

BG: I'd just like to say it's now 2008. It's been nearly twenty years since we first came to America, and I look at it like this...It's hard enough for some bands to even be able to come over here and tour, because they just don't know if people are gonna show up. We're able to come here because people have continually supported us and they've always been there for us. I know it's a cliche...people always say - "Thanks for your support", yeah, yeah, but really it's because of everyone. So, if you've promoted us,or just come out to our shows, or whatever...that's great, many thanks!

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