Napalm Death return to Australia & New Zealand for the Campaign To Destruction tour along with support from Brujeria, Lockup and Black Rheno. We talk to frontman Mark “Barney” Greenway to discuss the tour plus we get into a bit of politics, the longevity of Napalm Death and how the band have kept going after all these years.
Andrew: The first thing we gotta talk about is the new tour in Australia, so it’s good to see you coming back again!
Mark: Yeah definitely! I was thinking about it actually on when we were going to get back out there again and unfortunately you don’t always come down to Australia and New Zealand as it’s quite tricky compared to a lot of other places for the obvious reasons. So it’s quite good that it’s worked out the way it has so looking forward to it.
Andrew: We saw you about 2 years ago when you came down with Carcass which was a great set of shows. You must have had a lot of fun on that one.
Mark: Yeah we did. To be honest I remember parts of that but I don’t remember all of it but Napalm is so busy all of the time so the memories tend to fade a lot easier than they would in other circumstances! But yeah we had a really good time, I do remember we were really pleasantly surprised because Australia being as it is with the distances involved and all the rest of it, sometimes trying to get people out on any kind of level is difficult. But a lot of people turned out and the general enthusiasm levels were fantastic so if it’s anything like last time, this one in October will be great.
Andrew: So what can we expect this time around? Because obviously you still have the same album that was out a couple of years ago “Apex Predator – Easy Meat”, so what will you be planning this time around?
Mark: Yeah and I don’t mean it to be a stock response, it ends up being one because what we’ll do is we’ll do something from every era of Napalm Death. I mean effectively what we’re going to do is we’re going to do the set we did in Europe which was on the recent tour, now for example if we had been to Australia recently like 6 months ago we would change the set. Because the one thing I don’t like to do, and speaking for myself, is going to the same place twice and doing the same set. I think that’s lazy and unimaginative so we will have the European set which is very different to what we played in Australia last time and it will span the whole history of Napalm basically.
Andrew: You mentioned setlists and changing them up on every tour but that must be getting more difficult with each album that comes along I guess.
Mark: Well yes and no, think of the huge raft of songs we have to choose from. I think some bands that have comparable amount of songs to us, they play the same set and I think to myself, ‘Hang on a minute, you must not be very confident in your own stuff to do the same thing’. There’s no reason for it really, if a band is around for quite a long time obviously they have some kind of creative strength so go out there and give people some different flavours and to me it makes complete sense to do that. So for a band to go out and do the same setlist like for arguments sake, 18 months is a little bit off [laughs]. I love the songs, I love every era of Napalm Death and getting into a comfort zone like that I just don’t think is particularly constructive.
Andrew: Yeah you gotta keep things fresh for yourselves as things can become quite tedious being on tour for a number of years.
Mark: Well it’s not even that, the touring thing for us I can always keep myself stimulated. I’m not one of those people that get necessarily mega bored on tour, I always find something to do. The most important part of it is that hour plus on stage and it’s something that I always say, if kids are coming through the door or spendng a certain amount of, well Australian dollars in this case, you better give them a hundred percent. Nothing else is really acceptable to me, it’s gotta be a hundred percent. Everybody has off days, some days you don’t feel that great or something might be happening at home or something like that. There’s a variety of things but at least give it your best, do the very best that you can and if you know you’ve done that then I don’t think you can go far wrong.
Andrew: After all these years, what is the main thing that keeps you and Napalm Death going?
Mark: I think it’s hard to really pin it down to the fine details but speaking for myself, I still have an utter enthusiasm for it and the thing is if I didn’t feel that, I just wouldn’t do it. I would give up and go do something else with my life because I’m the sort of person that’s not interested in doing things 50 percent, if I do things I want to do it 100 percent. Luckily I still have that enthusiasm, that might change one day but any person really in the band, their level of enthusiasm and commitment can come into question. And that’s not a problem, there’s no stigma to that necessarily. That’s life, human beings can become interested and uninterested in things through out their life, everybody does. But luckily for us, certainly for myself I have that real love for it and I have thought to myself on a few occasions what would I do if I didn’t have it because it’s like a phantom limp to me almost. If it wasn’t there, I would struggle. I really would because it encapsulates me, it’s an art form. It’s not just the music, it’s also the lyrics. It also speaks to me as an encapsulation of my life and not just something I do because I can and I’m a musician and I’m good at it, the whole ethos behind the band is a big part of my life so it speaks about me. It’s not about me but it speaks about me if that makes any sense so it’s really important and I couldn’t imagine life without it to be honest. Sure sometimes there are things about it that get on your fucking nerves if I’m honest [laughs] but that goes with anything in life so it’s a wonderful thing.
Andrew: I have to ask about something that happened to you recently where you were at some radio station in the UK with this British politician and you were teaching him how to sing death metal. You guys seemed to have infiltrated the mainstream a little bit here and there [over the years] like with Jim Carrey mentioning years ago that he was a fan of you guys, it is entertaining that some people will find your music – and people that are not necessarily fans of Napalm Death – and are quite fascinated by the fact that you play such extreme kind of music.
Mark: Yeah so the thing is we don’t take it seriously, any of that stuff that has ever happened come to us and just fell into our laps. We didn’t go out there to court it because that’s just not our way, we do what we do and we recognise the fact that it can have a very selective appeal. You are constantly fighting against that to a point because obviously the kind of things we’re talking about, certainly lyrically are things that we would wish every human being to understand and hopefully get onboard with. So in that sense you’re trying to get to as many people as possible but in terms of trying to go out to a mainstream appeal, well that’s never been on our agenda. We do what we do and you know what, if something sticks to the wall, fine. There’s no way on this earth you can deliberately stop people from getting access to your stuff but at the same time, yeah Napalm has become kind of a touchstone I guess for when people wouldn’t always be around the band and exposed to the band when they want it, it just comes into focus sometimes.
So the Ed Miliband thing was quite interesting because me being a sort of trade union rep, I get a vote within the Labour party to vote for a Labour leader and I actually voted for Ed Miliband in my trade union membership when the vote came up in the previous leadership election so it was quite interesting to meet him. I struggle on the fence on these things really depending on what they ask me. You ask me about politics, I do come from the left and there are definitely things in my outlook for sure but then if you ask me on another day then I also believe that the political system could do with being brought to the ground and redone. So there’s more speech and power sharing for people in the general populous, cities and councils and stuff like that, there is an argument for the whole system to be brought down. Because even though there are different strains of parliamentary and other systems around the world, they all essentially come back to the same thing with a few people having the power and everybody else kind of catching and scratching the table. So that is within me but sorry I’m digressing a little bit but yeah the Ed Miliband was interesting because I kind of wanted to speak to him and I got to speak to him a little bit off camera and honestly, the right wing press over in the UK absolutely destroyed him in the Labour party election before last and I have to say with the very small amount of time I spent with him, I found him to actually be a pretty nice bloke. He was genuinely interested in the band and it wasn’t just, ‘Oh I’ve heard your band on John Peel 25 years ago.
Andrew: So he was a fan of Napalm Death then?
Mark: Yeah apparently so and I tested him on that and he answered and knew things that only people who…I mean I didn’t sit there and quiz him but in the context of a conversation he knew things about the band that, to be fair only people in the know would know. So yeah it was quite interesting but the vocal thing, the BBC asked me, ‘Oh we want you to sing a Napalm style vocal’, and I’m like, ‘Do we really have to?’ I said, ‘Do you know how many times I fucking get asked to do that?’ So it’s like come on, be a bit more imaginative and in the end they kind of twisted my arm so I was like, ‘Oh alright then’. But I have to be honest, when I look back on the clip I never thought anything of it. I’m not on social media or nothing like that but when I look back on the clip I was laughing because it’s so ridiculous and it is unintentionally pretty funny [laughs].
Andrew: Yeah and it’s gotten quite a lot of attention as well, apparently Spotify has blown up and sales have skyrocked pretty high and all kinds of stuff.
Mark: Unintended consequences.
Andrew: Oh yeah for sure!
Mark: Again sometimes I just kind of hold the hands up and go, ‘OK’ [laughs].
Andrew: [laughs] Well there you go. I better let you go as I know you got more press to do but it’s been great chatting to you!
Mark: Yeah sorry mate but that was a good conversation, I enjoyed that.
Andrew: Yeah definitely and we look forward to seeing you in Australia. Before I let you go, do you have any words for the Aussie fans before you come down in October?
Mark: As we started in this interview, we don’t come down very often and certainly the last 2 or 3 times…Well always it’s been pretty good but people have done us proud and hopefully we’ve done our bit as well, hopefully people go away with good thoughts about the gigs and stuff.
NAPALM DEATH, BRUJERIA, LOCKUP & BLACK RHENO Australia & New Zealand Tour
Oct 4th – Auckland, Kings Arms*
Oct 6th – Hobart, The Goods Shed*
Oct 7th – Adelaide, Fowler’s Live (The New Dead Metalfest)
Oct 8th – Perth, Capitol
Oct 10th – Melbourne, Max Watt’s
Oct 11th – Sydney, The Factory
Oct 12th – Brisbane, Max Watt’s
*BLACK RHENO not performing
TICKETS ON SALE NOW at Soundworks Touring.