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Napalm Death | Enemy of the Music Business | interview | metal | Lollipop
Enemy of the Music Business (Spitfire)
An interview with Barney
by Tim Den
With more albums/EPs under their belts than most metalheads can count up to, Napalm Death are a true wonder in the world of extreme music. 20 years in the game, surviving a shitload of line-up changes (all original members were gone by side B of their debut record!!!), and ten years of steadfast quality has made this band one of the most respected in the underground. Whether it's their haunting introspection, cold sarcasm, intelligent political stance, or just their pulverizing grind that attracts you, there's no denying that the metal underground looks up to Napalm Death as musical, lyrical, and ethical role models.
Enemy of the Music Business finally puts music to the reason why we all loved Napalm Death in the first place: They don't fake the funk. Trends come and go, but it takes a band of infinite wisdom to maintain their integrity and develop at their own pace. When grind fans wanted more 30-second songs, Napalm Death turned out full-on traditional grind/death metal (Harmony Corruption). When the world (or, more specifically, Columbia Records) wanted a more accessible Napalm Death, they unleashed Fear, Emptiness, Despair (an album of weighted buzz and gloomy subject matter). When the people wanted the speed back, Napalm Death brought in Sonic Youth chords and Helmet-meets-Meshuggah rhythms and created a whole new abstract identity. If we haven't gotten the point yet, here it is again - articulated in an entire album's worth of biting commentary - Napalm Death do what they want. Fuck you and your expectations.
Bringing back some of their early '90s grind/death style, yet retaining the late-'90s' groovy tempos, Enemy of the Music Business is the band at its most pissed since the '80s. There's a kind of givenoshit in the delivery and a stench of rejuvenated enthusiasm in the mix that, though not enough to make the album "the best one they've ever done" (as claimed by European metal mags - c'mon, Utopia Banished anyone?), does propel the end result above the throngs of grindsters out there. No matter if you favor their early noise-grind, middle-era death metal, or later rhythm-based material, Enemy of the Music Business has it all.
In music and in art in general, people talk about "progressing" and "moving on." It seems like you guys were doing that with the last few albums, but decided to infuse more traditional grindcore into the new record.
Yeah. The people who've been analyzing the band quite closely know that I'm quite "traditionally-minded." The other guys too, but I've always been "straight-ahead." For me, this is the album that I've been wanting to make for six to eight years. I'm very, very happy with the final result. The press has been very good to it: I haven't heard anything negative about it yet.
It made the Top Ten list in almost every European metal magazine.
Yeah! We just kind of sit back and go "Wow." What can you say, you know? We didn't expect it. We just made the record that we were happy with...
How did you reach a compromise with you being "traditionally-minded" and Mitch (Harris, guitar/backup vocals) being more experimental?
I think Mitch kinda realized that, as much as experimentation had been done, we're at our best when we're going full-power. We're just more on-target and full-barrel. I don't know what Mitch really thought about it... He seems to be happy with everything, so we didn't push the issue. He also gets to experiment in other projects, so that hopefully satiates his desire to spread his wings.
Even though you're recognized as the more "traditionally-minded" member, you also love stuff like Dream Theater and Richard Marx...
Yeah, all that stuff. At the end of the day, that's kind of traditional too. One of the most important things to me as a music lover is that a band has soul. When a band has soul, it could be the mellowest band or the heaviest band around. If it does things for you personally and it has soul, then that's what makes the band.
Have you thought about doing music of that nature? Non-heavy, melody-based songs?
No. As much as I love other kinds of music, I've always been the kind of person who makes a distinction between what I do and what I like. I know my limitations and I know what floats my boat.
Doesn't everybody in the band, except you, live in the same house?
Yeah, I don't really go in there. We're all really different people, and I need my space. It's cool going on the road with the guys, but things can be tough sometimes. When I go home, I want to put my head elsewhere for a while. I wouldn't want to go home to the same space as the guys. I think it's a natural reaction. The others can do it, and hats off to them... They can deal with each other. I don't live inside their four walls so I don't see how their daily life is, but they do it and they haven't split apart... I just couldn't do it.
Most bands start off living together, then move apart as time goes on. Not the other way around. Like Bad Religion.... They started in L.A., but now the five of them live really far apart. One's in California, one's in Texas, one's in Vancouver...
Bobby (Schayer, the drummer) lives in Seattle.
Did you hear about him? He's out of the band because of an inoperable rotator disk problem that pretty much won't allow him to play drums ever again (according to their website).
Oh shit. Shit. That's a shame. Bobby was great. I always thought they were one of the first. If it wasn't for them, a lot of these bands that are selling fucking millions of records wouldn't even be around. I'll probably go see Bobby when we're in Seattle. We played with them in Spain about six months ago, and Bobby was still playing. I got up and did "You Suffer" with them as a joke.
Mr. Brett's back in the band, too. He's writing songs, recording his parts on the album, but not touring cuz he's got Epitaph.
He's got the best deal out of the lot! Touring's a difficult thing. It really ain't easy, especially when you're a band like us that plays a million miles per hour every night. We're not a band standing around looking at our shoes. It's full-tilt; high energy. It fuckin' takes it out of you. It definitely takes it out of me, man. I find touring really hard sometimes. It's a big task, physically and mentally. When you're at home, most days you feel good, but there are days when you feel like nothing, you know? Same with touring. You don't want to go out on stage and give a lukewarm performance. It's hard when you get those tough days.
How does your voice keep it up after all these years?
That's actually the most resilient part of me. My voice I don't have a problem with; it's the rest of my fucking body. I have days when I'm sick and my throat kind of hurts, but it never effects me singing-wise. And that's good. (knocks on wood)
How long do you think you can keep up the level of intensity that grindcore requires?
That's a common question. "How many albums do you think you've got left?" You can never tell, man. Circumstances could dictate that we're finished next year. Who knows? Obviously we're not thinking like that...
When grindcore/death metal first started, longevity wasn't exactly one of the issues thought about...
When I joined in '89, that wasn't considered. We're doing okay physically, but - as I said - it gets harder every year. I try not to think about it.
How old are you guys?
I'm 31, dodging 32. Shane (Embury, bassist) is the oldest. He's 34. We started young. I was 19 when I joined.
How does the band construct its songs? Do they send you tapes of songs already done?
I go to rehearsals. When I've sat in, I've offered my opinions on whatever song, and it's all agreed upon. Then the music goes to tape and I take it with me to write lyrics. We do three months before an album. By the time we meet, the other guys have got rough ideas going, and it's constructed together. We rehearse about three to four days a week.
How do you choose songs from your enormous back catalog for the set list?
We decide which ones we want to play and rehearse them... I don't really rehearse. I've got a pretty photographic memory. I don't know how we choose the songs; it just kind of comes together. Kids all ask for different songs. "You playing this?" No. "Shit. How 'bout this one?" Yeah, we're doing that. We try to rotate to please everyone.
You should have people vote for songs on your website.
I think kids do that (on the message board) by themselves; they write out their favorite songs and albums. It's cool that they do stuff like that, cuz when we get into the rehearsal studio, we get really single-minded. What you rehearse is what you rehearse and then you go home.
You're the one who writes the band's more politically-fueled lyrics. Why is that?
Again, it comes down to the individual, who we are as people. We've all got opinions on stuff and we meet at certain points. Obviously, we all hate fucking racism. But there are other things that, not so much we disagree on, but the other guys probably don't think about too much. They're not too interested in my politics, which is fine. Me, I grew up with it. I was in the environment. I grew up around Tri-Union politics. I've always been what you might call - without pigeon-holing it - left wing.
Has the band ever encountered fascist problems? I know you played South Africa once...
Yeah, the PKK - South African fascists - gave us some grief. We've had Aryan Nations give us a lot of shit. Showing up at gigs, beating people up, and getting in our faces. And because there's only a few of us, they're able to away with it. But then we've had other instances where S.H.A.R.P.s - anti-racist skins - come to help us. And we've been able to remedy the situation.
(101 Bay Ave. Hicksville, NY 11801)