NAPALM DEATH – Awareness of yourself and awareness of the people around you

NAPALM DEATH – Awareness of yourself and awareness of the people around you

I forbindelse med Napalm Death sin konsert på Garage I Oslo den 13. januar tok jeg en prat med vokalist Barney Greenway. Det ble et veldig hyggelig møte, og jeg måtte flire da jeg overhørte folka på nabobordet sa noe om ”vulgær engelsk dialekt”.
Barney er fra Birmingham og kommer fra arbeiderklassebakgrunn. Han er en lærd mann når det gjelder politikk og sosiale spørsmål, og  er også vegetarianer og driver med frivillig arbeid – jeg kan ikke si annet enn at han er et interessant tilfelle!

I started the interview by asking about the new album. Religion is a recurring theme throughout the album and I ask Barney if this is due to world situation at present.

“It is things in general, basically”, he begins. “Everyone may come to a realization that the world is fundamentally run on religious principles established by religion many years ago, even though we may not think it. It very much revolves around the “righteous” who holds the cards. I think that with the way things are going, eventually people will have to come to a selfrealization – it is just not working. It does not encourage peace, it encourages division and moral judgements. It is clearly not working. We have to look for a different way forward, that is the main thing. It goes for any religion – old or new. It doesn’t work.”

I then ask if it is the organization of religion specifically which disturbs him, or if it is religion in general.

Napalmdeath_barney.jpg“Religion in general”, he says loud and clear before he adds: “The human being is an incredible machinery, and we are pushed into a corner not to believe in ourself. We have to believe in a third party to justify our existence. We are perfectly capable of making our own choices.”

I still hold a suspicion that the choice of having religion as the main theme for the album must have been triggered by the recent wars. Barney clarifies:

“It is an age old issue. The wars over the Middle East are a focal point of course, but there are people who can’t express themselves in many places because of religion. People have to continually justify their existence, i.e same sex couples doing whatever they wish to do, which is their right as human beings, but that is somehow still under control. Why can’t human beings just do as human beings do?”

Bigger than Avril Lavigne?

I recently read that Napalm Death played a concert in Indonesia, and there were more people present at that show than when Avril Lavigne played. My interviewee laughs:

“Yes, it was apparently so. That made me laugh actually. I do not know what kind of significance you can attach to that. Oh well. It was good.”

I suggest that perhaps Napalm’s music appeals even more to those people; many Indonesians are living very tough lives. Barney hesitates to draw quick conclusions:

“You would have to ask them, really. Maybe they see something in us, the whole essence of the band that tries to cut trough all the bullshit. The Indonesian people as much as anyone else has been through a lot of bullshit, aggression and stuff like that. They have issues with places like East Timor, which the Indonesian government has suppressed and killed people. They have their own issues in that sense.”

Joyful music with a message

I then ask Barney if hatred and frustration are driving forces for Napalm’s music. He says that hatred doesn’t drive him.

“I don’t really hate anyone. If you are driven by that you are just playing everybody else’s game. Perhaps frustration – it is hard sometimes, everybody gets angry – but you have to think about how you channel that anger.”

Do you feel that these emotions are transformed via the music?

Napalmdeath_band.jpg“Yeah yeah, there is often something said that is kind of attached to that – that people go to shows to let out their frustrations. But it is said like they are coming to let out their frustrations on other people, but that is not the point. The point is to enjoy yourself among other people, not to create more aggression.”

I can sense that there is frustration in the music, but I also think that it is joyful. Barney replies in an energetic manner:

“Exactly! It is positive, it is not completely dark. Kids come to shows… I mean, do what you like, I do not want to be anybody’s police force, dance hard, do whatever. But why go out to deliberately assault other people? In the moshpit there might be some accidents, but there is a difference between that and deliberately targeting other people.”

I think a lot of metalbands are darker and have more hatred in their music.

“I do not hate, really. There are many things in the world which I do not understand and I do not see the point. But do I really hate anyone? I do not think I do, because hate is a very negative thing. It might be ok for some people, but I do not feel that anymore. There are certain people I look at in positions of power and I think what the hell are they doing, how are they allowed to do what they do, but hate is something else.”

One thing that sets Napalm Death apart from many death metal bands is that the band has a message. Barney explains:

“We try to look at things with logic and compassion, whether that makes us different from anyone else or not. The whole point is not to intentionally be different or separate us self from anyone else. The aim with every release is to create something really unique.”


What kind of reactions have you got throughout the years to your music, from people who do not listen to this kind of music?

“Some people of course do not understand it at all, some people hate it, and of course some people who do not agree with us have tried to get to us at certain times. We had a situation in Oslo actually, many years ago when the whole inner circle stuff was going on. They tried to attack us, but I am not scared of them. I might sound a little naïve, but I am not scared of anyone. They can do what they want to me, of course they can probably knock me down, but it does not make me feel intimidated or scared.”

Why was this thing with the inner circle taking place?

“Because we were left wing. The whole thing was so insignificant to me. People try to scare us. One of the important points in establishing power is to put fear into someone else, but I am not afraid. I would not say the things that I do if I was afraid of some people’s reactions.”

I guess that if people get angry with you, you would like to talk with them in a quiet manner. Barney confirms my suspicion.

Napalmdeath_band2.jpg“Yeah, I’d talk with them. If someone attacks me I will defend myself, don’t get me wrong, but I would never go out to attack someone. I have no interest in that. There is enough violence, I do not want to create more of it.”

Some people may think that you want to provoke just to provoke…

“What we are trying to do is to discuss things we see genuine solutions to. Our ultimate aim is to make the world a free place where everyone can live without prejudice and where people do not have to live in the fucking gutter. That is the whole point. Not this separation, that the people who are supposed to be the stronger live with all the benefits, and that other people have to deal with poverty etc. surely, as a civilized race, we have to come to the point where we look at the issue of the underprivileged, instead of making talks and gestures. We really need to do something about it in real terms, not just talking generally.”

Religion, religion, religion…

I wonder if you think the new age movement has something to contribute in terms of making a better world.

“When you say new age movement, who specifically do you mean?”

It is difficult to be specific, new age is a very broad term.

“There are many different groups, you know.”

Barney has heard about this ecovillage in Scotland called Findhorn Foundation.

“Oh yeah, it is something positive, at least it is a step forward. Everything has its flaws. At least it is positive steps in the right direction.”

What do you think about spirituality? Is spirituality and religion the same thing?

“Spirituality is something in which I have no interest”, he openly admits. He explains. “Because spirituality is another way or means of diverting you into ways where again you are taking the trust away from yourself, and putting it into another entity, whatever that might be. Same thing again, I do not have a problem with people following religion or doing what they want to do, but in terms of the general human race and civilization – why should it govern the way the world turns? Let’s face it – most people could give a shit. They say they do, but they don’t. A small percentage of people live their life according to the scripture or whatever that may be, but it is very minimal. Whichever way you slice it, it is taking power away from human beings. When you do not trust in yourself you tend to have less of an affinity with other people around you. Religion is about superiority, it is about establishing a group’s superiority in moral terms over another group. This brings immediate problems.”

I think that also in some leftwing movements, there is a need for self-transcendence similar to what one may find in religious contexts. Barney agrees with me.

Napalmdeath_band3.jpg“Yes, everything has its flaws. I grew up with leftwing ideology, but I also see the flaws in that. It can be very elitist at times. It can say that “I am better person than you because I do this”, but that does not solve anything. At least it can be said that there is a great percentage of people on the left who genuinely are striving for change, and that all people should get access to the benefits of being a human being and not just a select few.”

Can it also be a good thing that human beings need to be part of something bigger than themselves, i.e in form of a community?

“Yeah, I understand that, but there is a difference between community and understanding between people and a third party which is not even proven to exist, yet it holds people in a fucking iron grip. That is the difference.”

Violence as entertainment

Violence is often made into a form of entertainment, within the metal genre as well, but the vocalist doesn’t have a problem with it.

“Entertainment is entertainment and fantasy, as long as it remains fantasy. Storytelling is a great thing, it is very stimulating, you know. One of the human needs is to be stimulated, and some of that stuff is great stimuli. Of course there are things which may go too far, sometimes people use violence against women as entertainment etc. That creates a certain conflict – I am against censorship and that kind of moral judgement, but of course there are certain things which I do not like. However, that does not make me want to censor it.”

Some forms of entertainment glorify violence…

“People interpret it in different ways. Some people who have an imbalance will interpret that in a negative way, but I think most people see it for what it is. If you go to a Mortician gig – will 300 people try to kill each other? That kind of tells you something, for the most part people take it for what it is.”

Yeah, but in the mainstream media I see tendencies of desensitizing human beings by making violence something regular and acceptable.

“Yeah, the mainstream media runs on glorification, and if they can get a story out of saying “this music is evil”, then they will.”

Politics and Chaos

For people who do not know your band very well, can you introduce your political beliefs?

“To be honest I want to avoid classifying myself as much as possible, because I have my own flaws like everyone. I would like to classify myself as a free thinker, with elements of socialism and green ethics. Mainstream politics is a crock of shit, it is all talk and gestures but no real action. Why would I like to tie myself to that? That is a general scope. The music – it is just extreme music, hopefully creative. Pretty intense.”

Barney says that Napalm Death constantly attempt to break some boundaries with the music.

“We always try. No albums are radically different, but I still feel there is an evolution with each album.”

Do you consider your music to be chaotic?

“Of course. I like the chaos element of it, because if things are too metronomic it becomes boring to me. We do not use metronome in Napalm.”

Do you think it is important to have more chaos in the society?

“Yes, exactly. Self-expression is like being given a fresh canvas to paint on. You can paint what you like, if it is chaos compared with someone else’s painting, then so be it. That is our point, as human beings evolving to this point where we can do pretty much what we want to do, to have versatility as human beings.”

Is it not so that other people define what chaos is?

“Yeah, sure. One person’s order may be another person’s chaos.”

I think many people will consider something to be destructive if it is unfamiliar to them. Barney is of the same mind.

Napalmdeath_band4.jpg“Yeah, but that is how the human race has been driven down this path of conformity. No one is going to accept mass violence and exploitation if we were to come to a point where we could decide for ourselves and get rid of all the corrupt things that hold all the cards. If we were to have a new start, no one would accept more mass violence and exploitation again. It is about getting to a point where we can trim back all the bullshit like the religions, and the “morals”, which are false anyway. Once we are free of this and begin to have more self-understanding, the order and chaos thing would be a lot easier to deal with. When people have self-awareness and awareness of other people, there is not this need for conflict.”

Violence has a lot to do with fear…

“… mistrust. It has been bred into people not to trust another person because they might appear slightly different to yourself. We are all capable of that. We all have flaws, no human being is ever going to be perfect, whatever that guideline is, but neither should they be. We should celebrate flaws and imperfections in people.”

The green movement and David Icke

Have you been up to date with the green movement over the years?

“The green movement in the UK is slightly different from the green movements elsewhere. I do not know so much about the green movements in Europe, because they seem to have changed quite a lot. Some of them have become quite conservative, but the one in England is still kind of left wing.”

Do you know this guy David Icke, who was part of the green Party in England?

“Yeah. Some of the stuff from David Icke I pretty much totally agree with, but the thing about the two serpents and stuff like that… I kind of do not get that, I look at things from a different perspective. I am an atheist, so I do not believe in any of that sort of ethereal beings and stuff like that. I believe in evolution. That is my thing. I do not believe that anything was formulated by beings above the earth or otherwise.”

When it comes to the more political aspects of his work, do you agree with him?

“Not everything, but some of his stuff.”

Even if only some of his things are valid, do you still see it as positive?

“David Icke is painted as kind of a “crazy”, you know what I mean. Some of his stuff is very valid, absolutely. I wouldn’t dispute that at all.”

Human Nature?

I think that i.e David Icke is fighting for a lot of the same things as you, but there is a lot of distance created between different groups who actually have the same aims. Many such groups of people start fighting with each other instead of joining forces for the overall issues. Barney has something on his mind!

Napalmdeath_cover.jpg“It is a natural part of… There is always going to reach crossroads where people go in different directions. It is human nature, and there is nothing you can really do about that. Whether I think positive or negative things about it, it is as it is. Most people will find their feet and move in the directions that they need to. If their ultimate aim is to try and create a more equal place for people and other things that live on this earth, then ok. The left fights amongst itself, the right fights amongst itself, the center ground fights amongst itself, the extreme right always fights amongst itself. It is as it is, human nature you know.”

Do you really think it is human nature, or was it different at one point if we go far back in history?

“Possibly, but it is said that even the early nomads used conflict as a way of furthering themselves across the earth. That said, in this modern day and age most people agree about evolution, but Darwinism is just one particular brand of evolution, some people use that to say “ok, I believe in Darwin’s theory of evolution, therefore I believe in survival of the fittest, therefore I believe that if someone is ill and cannot manage their life, then they just have to die.” Surely this is not the way to go, we have to help people collectively.”

We Have Free Will

I believe that if we look at nature we will find that there is a balance between cooperation and competition. Barney has the same opinion.

“Yeah, of course. I think that as human beings we have come to the point now that we can decide our own fates. Animals in the forest are bound by an ecological cycle, many of these species don’t have that option. We as the most evolved part of life are able to do that, and we should.”

Do you think the solutions have to come through some kind of organization, or only through the individual?

“Organizations are collective understandings between people. There can be some very dysfunctional excuses for organizations, but in essence it is about people coming together. It is about self-understanding and then understanding other people around you, which is surely where people start to bond and form collectives.”

Al Gore’s Movie and Economy

Have you seen Al Gore’s movie?

“No. Al Gore is an awkward character, I am sure he has many valid points to say, but look at some of the things that he kind of stands for apart from that. It is not quite as simple as his movie. Look at Tipper Gore, his wife, one of the most conservative activists out there trying to suppress self-expression. There is about as much contradiction as you can get.”

In his movie he doesn’t talk much about the economical structure.

“Even though there are leftwing and socialist countries the world pretty much runs on capitalism right now, no matter what anyone says. If it is allowed to run this way we will destroy ourselves. Capitalism is part of religion as well, religion is a capitalist entity. Not in the past necessarily, but at least now. The promotion of religion is pretty much tied in with capitalism, capitalism in the ultimate sense of the word. Bands like Napalm Death selling t-shirt is in essence one form of economics, but it is a different thing, it is not used to further a power base or stuff like that.

I read that Marx said marriage should be abolished, because it has to do with private ownership.


Do you have anything to add?

“There is not much I can really add, because this was quite a fascinating interview. It is not very often that I have interviews like that.”

I then tell Barney that I am quite interested in spirituality, but makes clears that it is not in the sense that I am trying to avoid responsibility.

“Yeah it is not about avoiding responsibility but about you as a human being having the right to decide what makes you happy. You do not need a third party or an entity to justify your existence. You are valid as a human being and no one should tell you otherwise, you know.”

This marks the end of the interview, and we shake hands. Later the same evening Napalm makes an amazing appearance. Check them out if you get the chance!

This interview is a co-operation between Imhotep and Eternal Terror and is published on the same day on the English site