Napalm Death – Considering and Understanding


Aug 27, 2002
In Hell
[IMGLEFT][/IMGLEFT]By Katalin Sipos

The British band has a long history as one of the first grindcore bands. It is not just about forming and defining the genre, since their first steps, but influencing thousands of extreme music lovers all around the world. Despite all the ups and downs they went through during their career, behind the brutal music they are deeply down-to-Earth guys who live with an open eye on the world. Their statement on the current social and political issues are always clearly defined in their lyrics, so it is always a pleasure to talk to them because it cannot turn out any way other than interesting and thoughtful. This time, in connection with their eleventh studio album, The Code is Red… Long Live The Code I had the opportunity to interrogate the Napalm Death vocalist, Mark "Barney" Greenway. We talked about the new album and lots of other things. Read it carefully.

Is the promotion of the new album going well?

Very good. You know Century Media has been a different thing for us because we never had that kind of a reassurance with a record label. Some labels have been pretty bad from the start or others have been good for a while but CM has been pretty good, I can't complain. Yes, there are small issues here and there but nothing serious, that is normal.

I'm sure there is a big interest for the new album.

Yes, very much so. I mean, even the last couple of albums did quite well critically and otherwise and the response has been fantastic for the new album too. It gives us the hope that things are really gonna work out this time.

How does it feel that after 20 years there is still a big hype for a new ND album?

It's hype but you know it's hype in measure. It's not cheesy hype or shitty hype. I guess from ppl's perspective it is a good album, it's an intense album. And when ppl are saying good things about the album, how can I not be happy?


Yesterday Labour Party won the election in England. How do you feel about it?

I don't know how I feel at the moment to be honest. You know I used to be a Labour Party member many years ago when it was more towards the left. There are many things that I absolutely disagree with now. Like the war for a start or that the private health companies are getting involved in the national health system. Or there are private high-schools I just don't agree with, because there should be only a national school system. So, there are many things I don’t agree with but the last thing that I want in this country is a conservative goverment. It would be just absolute disaster. I've lived through Margaret Teacher's years and it was absolute disaster unless you were a rich person. The thing with Labour Party is that I would just like to see a different person at the head of the goverment. I don't like at all that the party has moved towards conservative sort of things on quite a few issues actually. I don’t like that at all.

If you were just about starting to write the lyrics for a new album now, after the election, how much effect would its result have on them?

Not neccessarily any because the concept that is there on the album was always gonna be the concept, once I had thought about it. Maybe in a couple of points towards that the right things are gone with the war, but that’s there on the album anyway to a certain extent. I would say it wouldn't neccessarily be that different although there would have been some more points as warnings for people not to accept it again. I mean Tony Blair sent the troops to war and the last time most of the nation was protesting and saying that was the last thing they wanted.

Yes, but people put their faith into him and his party again.

Yes, that's true but they certainly didn't vote for a war. They certainly didn't vote for someone that comes along and ignores most feelings of the people in the county and sends troops to war. People didn’t vote for that. I mean yes, I take your point that they voted for him this time. I think the thing that makes it easier for Tony Blair is that the conservative government is even worse. The fundamentals of the Labour Party even nowadays, like the decent health and school system where you don’t have to pay for it, is what most people want. The war thing is not an important issue for some of us, because it is not happening here and time can change things a lot in ppl’s mind. Not in my mind because I’m completely against war and the killing of that many thousands of innocent people can never be justified. I don’t forget about it but obviously some ppl do so. I think most people who were against the war still think it’s totally ridiculous. But you know time goes by and people start to look after other things, and the war has been quite along a path now and they would rather look for the domestic things. At the moment, in Iraq, people are fighting because they believe they are freedom-fighters and whether the people over there like it or not they are fighting for a country they believe has been invaded. Yes, there have been some horrible things done and violence but where is this coming from?
Personally speaking, I am against war and extreme violence so I just don’t think for a so-called civilized world and civilized society it is neccessary. Thus said, there are many inner-qualities in the world. Governments should do something against poverty but they don’t really do, just a few suggestions here and there but do they really do anything substantial? No, they don’t. And as long as that is the case, of course many ppl in the world will always fail or get ripped off if you like, they’re gonna get pissed off and you’re gonna get violence again.
Put it like this, has anyone really thought about that Iraq is a tribal country, it’s made up of tribes. You cannot enforce this western style system onto them. Their culture, their traditions are so different. We have to appreciate these differences in the world. Not like what George W. Bush might think in the back of his mind or what he might tell you, his vision of this great, Christian democracy is not working there. There are many things that I agree for, like the quality of women, etc., etc. but generally speaking in a tribal system like that, things have their own way and that’s the way they want. And you can’t enforce these kind of things onto them. You can’t and you shouldn’t, is the point as well.
And it’s pretty sick and twisted as well from Bush’s point-of-view because they are killing people and even before the dust is settled, he is talking granting contracts to this or that person and his good pals…

It’s not about freedom…

Exactly… but what kind of freedom is Bush talking about anyway? When the people at the bottom of the ladder just don’t get any help at all? That is not freedom.


Let’s see a few songs more closely, what is ’Silence is Deafening’ about?

Silence is Deafening is basically about the same sort of things we’ve just been talking about. We all get this feeling sometimes when you are trying to make your point to authority when you do not agree on something and a lot of times they aren’t listening. They might send you a token letter or a brochure but are they really listening to you? We have all felt the frustration when they are not really listening to us. That’s the whole script of that song.

Diplomatic Immunity Actually another band used it many years ago, I think it was GBH. It’s about the power of the governments. They are so unbelievably powerful and as a contrast our power of response as simple human beings to that is getting less. You get this balance tipping all the time. This songs refers to this whole idea of presidents and staff walking around and doing what they want and not being responsible for the reactions. I mean going back to Bush again, it sounds like I’m purely Bush-bashing when it applies to a lot of people, lot of governments but Bush is the example of one of the worst candidates ever, which is why I use him as an example. The guy launches, basically you can call it indiscriminate bombing now, over Baghdad. We still don’t know how many Iraqi people are dead, probably hundreds of thousands in a blink of an eye, with a click of a finger. This is the guy who signs death warrants for people, for one person who kills another person. This is also the guy who signs death warrants for people who are mentally unstable, for people who don’t deserve to be sent to death because their responsibility is not there. How is it that this guy can put his judgement on people like that? He is not responsible for what he has done. How does that work? I know it might sound like an annoying question but it’s fairly simple. This guy is condeming people to death. He is doing the same on a massive scale and he is not answering for his crimes. That’s the whole point of ’Diplomatic Immunity’. That these people get this kind of immunity to do as they wish.

The Great and the Good There are a lot of songs with kind of the same thread on this album. This song is about the people who put themselves on a pedestal when they preach their religious views. I’m doing this in the name of God, I’m going to kill these people in the name of God. If you really think God exists and he is the all-powerful, all-peaceful person you claim him to be. Do you think he really let you fucking do this in his name? I don’t think so, you got that whole theory a little bit twisted somewhere. People pretend to care about us, they think they do good in the eyes of God but that’s bullshit.

Climate Controllers It is pretty much about the same concept of the power governments have got, we’ve been just talking about. The acutal visual concept is when you have a greenhouse, you can control a very large area with a temperature controller. It is like one person controlling large sectors of population of the world with a very simple thing. He has the power to do that.

Earlier you said the lyrics are about love. In which way?

They are! Napalm Death albums have always been about love. The essence of the band, behind politics is about humanitarianism, proper humanitarianism. Not the kind of humanitarianism that governments preach when they send troops to war. It’s about peace, tolerance and equality. Peace, tolerance and equality means love for the people. A lot of extreme bands talk about hating ppl but why do you always have to hate? I would say you should probably do the opposite.

You shot a video for ’Silence is Deafening’ in Sweden.Why there?

Because Roger Johnasson, the video director lives in Sweden and it made more sense to go there rather than him coming here and bringing cameras and all the stuff over here. Imagine the cost that would have been, so we went over there. It’s done and it looks pretty good. The storyline is …. basically you see us performing and you can see lots of images of conflicts or wars. I’m dressed in a suit like I was a politician and I scream at the people. The whole concept is about power and how powerful one person could be. I think it turned out pretty well.

Will it be aired on TV?

I guess it will be, that’s the idea.

The Code is Red… Long Live the Code sounds like ’The king is Dead… Long Live the King…

Exactly! It’s a good observation! In other words ’the code is red’ … so it should be always red along with the same kind of meaning as ’the king is dead, long live the king’. You know, the king died but the same old shit comes into his place.


Yeah, but a red code is the highest emergency code. So the title says that ppl should pay more attention to what’s happening around us… ?

You should pay more attention to the fact that you are being taught to be more and more afraid as time goes on. I think they grossly overexaggerated this whole threat. The whole concept is that many governments are trying to preach like ’you gotta be careful because Mr. Terrorist might be around the corner and he’s gonna put a letter bomb in your mailbox.’ It goes way beyond that, I mean for example governments start to pass laws where they can imprison people without evidence who they might possibly suspect to be capable of terrorist acts. The scary thing is that the big part of the population starts to believe it. And when they get that kind of public support, it is very difficult to make your point that it is not good.

Before we start talking about the recording, let me ask, where is Jesse?

He is not with us anymore. He has problems, but I don’t want to go too deep because he is not here and can’t answer for himself. He has some problems with alcohol. It was not neccessarily the cause of the split between us and him. You know he barely played on Order of the Leech, he left us in the middle of the recording and you can’t do that. When you’ve got money invested in the studio, from the record label, that potentially you’re not gonna get back again, then you just cannot do that. We gave him another chance, well, several chances, but you know it comes to a point where you can’t help him if he is not helping himself, and it just caused situation after situation and sooner or later it was just too much. I mean I am a very tolerant person, I wanted to help him, we all wanted to help him but you got to help yourself, you have to give people something where they can help you.

Will you continue as a four-piece band or will you recruit session musicians for the tours?

No, we will continue as a four-piece. We’ve already coped well as a four-piece band before too, so there is no reason really to.

He used to contribute to the songwriting. Did you feel his absence now?

No, not really because obviously on Order of the Leech he didn’t write very much at all. We did that album actually in between with him coming back for a short time, so it wasn’t a problem for us really at this point.

Russ Russel was the producer for the new album, for you, for the third time now.

He has become full producer, he only strictly-speaking assisted on the last couple of albums.
I think producers only really come to a real sort of understanding of a band when they’ve been with you for a couple of albums because they get to know the way you work. I think Russ really kicked into getting on this album because he did a fantastic job undeniably.

Yeah, it sounds very dynamic.

He did a very, very good job. But it’s raw as well.

Is it true you used a hand-held microphone?

I did it indeed. It was Russ’s idea though I always wanted to use it. But Simon always said, no, you need to use a microphone with a pop shield, proper studio stuff. Russ said, ok, just use it and we’ll see how it sounds. And it sounds great! I’m always hugely focused when I’m in the studio because I know I’m there for a reason, and I want to get my ideas done properly. I always try to drink lots of honey and tea to keep my throat supple. Which I don’t need to do on the road, but when you are in a studio you are obviously more under a microscope. Try to do as much as I could to keep the whole sort of vibe rolling along and obviously not overdo it in one session.

How much time did you spend in the studio?

Three weeks including the mixing too. I mean we were in a little bit of a rush, like we were working 10 or 11 hours a day … but that’s Napalm. We also kinda work like that. If it was too easy it would just be too weird.

Several guest musicians contributed to the album. Jeff Walker (ex-Carcass), Jamey Jasta (Hatebreed) and Jello Biafra (ex-Dead Kennedys). How did you get them to participate on the album?

Very easily. Once we decided we were gonna have some guests on the album we just asked Century Media, ’Can you help us?’ Because of the logistics of getting people into the studio can be a fucking nightmare sometimes. When you try to really concentrate on making your album as good as possible. But they helped us and managed to co-arrange everything with us. It worked out pretty well. Each vocalist in context of the tracks they sang on did really well.


How did you choose them?

We just came up with their names. Jeff was gonna be in the studio anyway, because he was coming down and hanging around. His voice is always good. Jamey was gonna be over here because he was doing the Slipknot tour with his band and we thought why not get him because he has a pretty strong voice. And then of course Jello was a long time connection with Napalm since Nazi Punks Fuck Off.

Does FETO records still exist? Have you thought about releasing your album on your own?

Yes, it exists but it’s kinda like on hold at the moment. We will use it to release other bands’ albums and not our own. But at the moment we don’t really have the money to run a record label. If we’re gonna do it, we will need to get the money to release any band’s album and also somebody who will run it for us. If we sign a band, I want to be able to give them what we promise. I do not want to bullshit ppl because I’d have it too much myself.

For how many albums did you sign to CM?

Three albums. The cover albums plus three albums. So we have another two albums left. Which is fine. It’s a fairly short deal and they have been pretty good so far.

You are touring a lot. Do you still like playing live?

Yes, trust me. I mean I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t enjoy it. It’s that simple. I’m not the sort of person who can do something that I don’t enjoy. Just going out and playing a good gig is one of the best feelings you can have.

If you don’t mind me saying, you are going nuts on stage.

Yeah, I know. It’s quite strange because most people who know me well said it’s not the same person. Otherwise, I’m a gentle person but ND is an extreme band and it just feels right. You know the kids who are coming there are paying to see us and I want them to walk away like, ’wow, that was really good’. I want them to enjoy it instead of putting out a boring show for them. That just wouldn’t be right.


Where does this amount of energy come from?

Just the enthusiasm, the adrenaline. The fact that there are intense songs but the Napalm songs are really intense and…you just get that feeling. Actually I feel pretty good after a gig. Of course there are a couple of minutes when I’m kinda cooling off a little bit, need to cool down but with all the adrenaline in your veins… the annyoing thing is trying to get some sleep after a gig at 5 in the morning .. that’s the hardest part…

During the long career of the band, have you ever felt you had enough, burnt out or…?

Yes, I would be lying if I said otherwise. You do get those feeling sometimes, that’s human nature, you always have your doubts about situations but you know, with the band, we have pride and enthusiasm and determination and we think, we hope we can still cope making challenging music. And as long as we have the enthusiasm there, we will continue to do this. People ask what I’m going to do in 5 years and I can’t answer that because I don’t have a crystal ball. And it’s not just what the band wants to do, but the circumstances like if one of us goes away and has family and kids and feels he wants to devote all the time to them, that’s gonna change circumstances and at that point we would have to reconsider what we’re gonna do next. There’s all kinds of different permutations.

Everybody knows you are a big fan of AOR. Never wanted to play in a melodic rock band?

No, no. I mean I’m a music fan at the end of the day, I like many different kinds of music. I love to listen to AOR but it doesn’t have influence on me or on Napalm Death. And neither do I have the sort of urge to do it. Once you’ve been in a band that is as intense as Napalm, it’s very hard to get your musical kicks that are even slightly less intense.

But… will you ever perform with Dream Theater again?

Haha, maybe. Ask me and I would definitely consider doing it, for sure. Those guys are friends of mine. And it was pretty amusing. I laughed and also the band laughed. The people were clapping and laughing and that made me laugh. Just think of the irony of the situation.

Something else, how do you feel about Aston Villa right now?

Oh God… well, they’ve done ok. I mean I’m very positive about them, they made an ok season. They could have done better but looks like they’re gonna finish in mid-table so no European football this year but you know, it could have been worse.

I’m sure you know West Bromwich. A Hungarian guy plays there.

Yeah, it’s a local club. You mean Gera, he is a really, really good player actually.

Is there any plan to make a third part of ’Leaders…’?

Yes, but not at the moment. If we released it next year it would be too much stuff in a short space of time. We will do one but it will be some time later. We haven’t even started thinking about it yet. We have songs left out from the last time. Not recorded songs but ideas of songs we should do.

Plans for the rest of this year?

We have a European tour starting in June. We will play in Hungary too. Hungary has been absolutely great for us so far. We used to play in that venue that’s like a mini-arena almost, with an inside and outside stage. The outside stage gig we did there was one of the craziest gigs I’ve ever done in Europe. I mean the kids went absolutely fucking apeshit. And we played at the Sziget Festival. I would like to play there again because that was a great festival.

By the way, do you know anything about Hungary?

Yes I do. I love Eastern Europe and the Eastern European culture, the way the countries are. There are tremendously beautiful places in that part of Europe. I was actually thinking about having a holiday in either Croatia or Hungary. I’m absolutely fascinated by countries that went through the Soviet system. It’s something I’m interested in, I’ve always been interested in those forms of history.


You played at many places, do you have a favourite spot?

I like to go everywhere basically. Every place has its own strengths, I wouldn’t say weaknesses really but every place has its own nice things. Europe versus America, I kinda prefer Europe because the States are the same, even though they do have different characteristics if you travel for days and do gigs. Whereas Europe has many, many different cultures. And then of course Asia has many, many different cultures.

What is this thing with Monster toy?

Basically it’s a toy of Shane. It’s just a toy a Japanese guy made. Toys like that are massive in Japan and he came up with this idea. Of course the Napalm Death figure isn’t gonna be anywhere near as popular as some of their popular stuff over there. Actually it looks pretty good. It has certain characteristics of Shane but it doesn’t look like Shane at the same time.

Is there anything you would like to tell us about the album but nobody’s asked so far?

I think that everything has been pretty much covered. Just the fact we’ve been sharing the studio with lots of sheep. There were sheep all around the studio. I mean in the fields, not in the studio itself. : )

Thank you very much for the interview!

Thanks to everyone for your support. This European tour is gonna be really good, we got some good bands along with us. Hope you’ll all enjoy the album and the lyrics behind the album. Hopefully you will understand why it is as it is. See you soon!

UltimateMetal's Review of Napalm Death - The Code is Red...Long Live the Code (By Jason Jordan a.k.a. circus_brimstone)
UltimateMetal's Review of Napalm Death - The Code is Red...Long Live the Code (By Philip Whitehouse a.k.a. dill_the_devil)
Official Napalm Death Website
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