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Gnarly Charlie Catches Napalm Death vocalist Barney Greenway Backstage

By Charlie Steffens, aka Gnarly Charlie, Writer/Photographer
Wednesday, March 22, 2006 @ 1:31 PM


On Religion: "I don’t need a t

- advertisement -
Grindcore (or grind core) is music of angular and combative riffing and broken, thrashing drum patterns and detonations of blasting. Vocals are guttural pukeshouting with hoarse howling texture and guitars are massively distorted, out of time with drums and bass deliberately and often utilize drop-dead simple riffing.

Based in underground music like hardcore or thrash which had seceded from society in the early 1980s, grindcore is similarly alienated and its adherents can be seen looking distinctively grindish: matted hair, gnarly illustrations on t-shirts, and perhaps a horde of piercings and tattoos. Many are vegan or vegetarian, and some claim to be pacifists and democratic. [Definition courtesy of grindcore.org]

Napalm Death was a band of blokes from Birmingham, England who pioneered a movement of music that would foster the development of groups that wanted to express themselves by use of instrumental weaponry. Napalm Death songs characteristically had a political slant to them in their lyrical content, and the guitar work mainly consisted of very loud and speedy power-chords with desultory, powerful, abrasive drumming known to make the rooms move violently. The man out front singing, screaming, and often gyrating spastically was the maniacal mouthpiece, the sweat covered spokesman and the master of ceremonies, Mark "Barney" Greenway.

Though they’ve experienced changes in personnel and changed labels here and there, Napalm Death is a force to reckon with, as much as they were back when they started. They still play it murderously hard and fast, while spreading the good news and keeping the pits circling.

Backstage, before NP’s Key Club show in Hollywood, Barney Greenway takes a few minutes to talk with me about his band, and as you probably would have guessed …politics.

KNAC.COM: On the recent album, The Code is Red there were some guest vocal appearances from Jello Biafra [Dead Kennedys], Jamey Jasta [Hatebreed], and Jeff Walker from Carcass.

GREENWAY: Yeah, these people are our friends –we kind of grew up together.

KNAC.COM: Are you a big Carcass fan?

GREENWAY: Well, obviously they were a part of the scene. With Jeff -- he was coming into the studio just to hang and make a nuisance of himself, so we made him do vocals, because we told him he couldn’t leave.

KNAC.COM: You have to work …

GREENWAY: You had to work for that space on the sofa!

KNAC.COM: You did a pairing with Dream Theater, doing vocals on a cover of Metallica’s "Damage Inc.", right?

GREENWAY: Ah, that was a long time ago…

KNAC.COM: Yeah, but that seemed unlikely …

GREENWAY: Yeah, it is unlikely, but again that was a friend thing …I mean, me and Mike [Portnoy] – I haven’t spoke to for years, but we used to be pretty good friends …we still are, it’s just a lot different. I never speak to him. I never see him, really, anymore, because you figure that Dream Theater is as busy as we are, if not busier.

KNAC.COM: They’re playing three hour shows.

GREENWAY: Yeah, yeah, well, I mean, you know …when I was used to see Mike a lot they were in that phase that they were really growing, fairly quickly.

KNAC.COM: How long will you be playing tonight?

GREENWAY: We’ll be on for about fifty minutes to an hour …good enough.

KNAC.COM: What’s going to be on the setlist?

GREENWAY: A mixture of everything –always a mixture, you know? There’s something for everyone on there.

KNAC.COM: You’re probably going to attract some new fans tonight with the crossover in bands, right?

GREENWAY: Um … yeah. With Kreator, obviously, there are a certain percentage of the kids that are here because they like that revival of the thrash stuff that was there in the 80’s –the early and the mid-80’s. You know, some of those guys wouldn’t necessarily to go out of their way to check out a Napalm album, but when they see us live they appreciate our intensity, so some of them will probably choose to look further into us.

KNAC.COM: I’ve read a lot of about your views, and I understand that the upcoming album will deal with religion and creationism.

GREENWAY: Yeah, creationism is going to be one of the things –the intelligent design. I think that things are really coming to a head as far as that stuff goes. A lot of bands do albums where they criticize the whole …the real powerful, ultra-powerful side of the Christianity, but I’d like to think that Napalm’s goes deeper. A lot of stuff will be stuff that people already know about, but I think that it really needs to be forced at this point in time. It will also have Satanism as well, you know, but both religions are of no use to me. I don’t need a theory to live my life in a peaceful way. Of course there are other things surrounding the religious issue, which is well documented, which is the freedom of choice. I’m very much a believer on the abortion issue –women have the right to choose –and I’m vehemently in favor of that. The other day –I’m not sure if the listeners are aware, but there was a law that passed in –I think it was South Dakota, actually, that says that all abortions now are illegal, even in the case of rape and stuff like that, so that’s quite depressing. So then I think it’s about time to have to really force the issue out from a freedom approach or perspective.

KNAC.COM: Right. Not really a blatant - "I’m imposing my belief on you", but just the whole wrong of it.

GREENWAY: No, I mean the wrong aspect of it …this divide often gets dealt with as well; it’s the wrong, which is from my …from our side, if you like, versus the right, which is God’s word. But, you know, the abortion issue to me is fundamentally an attack on human rights -- that’s what it is, basically. A fetus is not a living being. It cannot survive outside of the mother’s womb –that’s why it’s there on that support system. So therefore it’s not a being –you couldn’t take it from the womb and then let it develop on its own accord without the help of all the medical technology. So there’s a human rights issue there, and it’s the interference of church and state again on the individual being.

KNAC.COM: I know that in Texas they love you …

(laughs)

KNAC.COM: I heard that a guy had tried to rough you up saying he didn’t like you talking smack about Bush …

GREENWAY: Yeah, yeah, yeah (laughs).

KNAC.COM: We have a few more liberals here in Los Angeles.

GREENWAY: You’re entirely right –the balance is different here, but there are good people everywhere that are trying to "fight the good fight", to state a Christian expression, but the abortion clinics, the abortion doctors, you know … abortion rights activists, the biology teachers at schools, who are teaching the theory of evolution, which, for the large part –not all of it is proven – but the crux of it can be proven, it can be traced back through animals and carbon dating, etc., etc. …you know, different scientific notes. Intelligent design is pure theory –there is no proof to enhance that. So why should that start to nudge out the facts of evolution on a school curriculum, you know? There’s a whole ball of issues there that needs to be dealt with.

KNAC.COM: What do you think of Hillary Clinton?

GREENWAY: Well, if she’s anything to go by …if she’s representing the Democrat party right now, then I don’t really think too much of that all. It’s good that potentially a woman could be President, because it helps the sense of equality –of course it does, there’s no question about that …America needs a radical change right now. It doesn’t need someone who’s going to make token gestures, you know? It needs someone that will basically --and people might not appreciate me saying this—America needs to be turned on its head. The social welfare system and the lack of healthcare, the schools …Bush’s "No Child Left Behind" policy –what the hell’s that? I think Ralph Nader has the ability to take things forward, and I just wish people would give him a chance –build up his percentage of the vote, or whatever. You need to give someone like that a chance.

KNAC.COM: Would you have voted Green, say, if you were here?

GREENWAY: I would have voted Nader, because the Democrats to me are no kind of opposition right now. They are supporting things like restrictions on gay rights and gay marriages. We have the civil partnership laws now in England, where same sex marriages carry exactly the same rights as heterosexual marriages. Everyone should have the same rights. No one should be favored over anyone else. The whole ghetto-ization of people needs to stop as well, because a lot of these people that live in the ghettos –they may as well be complete nonentities with the kind of rights that they have and the accessibility to the system that they have. It’s really appalling the way things are right now, and it’s no good making token gestures. You know what? Pull the troops out of Iraq, stop fucking around in other countries, and assemble a foreign policy that’s actually peaceful, and moves forward –progressive. This is not progressive what’s going on …it’s all regressive, you know?

KNAC.COM: You seem to know your history of the U.S. --what type of president could you see that might put things in shape?

GREENWAY: Well, you see, there’s no one I could really give …because they’ve all been under constraints, even the Carters and people like that. They did some good things, but they also did some quite bad things as well if you look entirely at their records. I mean, Jimmy Carter, as much as he was loved by Democrats …there were certain things that he did that weren’t very good at all. The Presidents all have these constraints around them, and you need a free thinker to free stuff up and move things forward. That’s why I can’t give (you) a President like that, to be honest. If anyone, it would be the individuals that came to America in the first place. Probably the true founding fathers –they were probably the people who were most qualified.

KNAC.COM: You’re from Birmingham [England], which is a pretty industrial area, right?

GREENWAY: Yeah …car factories, steel foundries, blah, blah, blah. I grew up in a working class environment, lived through the Thatcher years …just about. I mean, there was a two-headed beast for you: Thatcher and Reagan, you know what I mean …God that was something else, that was. But, um …yeah, we lived through that and of course we had this suppression of trade unions, which were representative of the working people, of course. All the trade union powers were completely restricted by Thatcher’s government, so the working class who already had a very small voice that was even smaller when she was in power. But still, I had a good life. Okay there were parent/child issues or whatever, but I can’t really complain. I really didn’t have a bad childhood.

KNAC.COM: Did you come up listening to Discharge, Minor Threat …bands like that?

GREENWAY: Yeah, exactly. That was the essence of grindcore –it was starting up from a hardcore perspective, taking those bands and zipping up the speed even further, so that was that and then, of course, the metal influence –it sort of accumulated over the years. And it just moved from there, really. All these years later you can still hear the same vibe as the first album, and there are not many bands you can really say that about, so I’m fairly proud about that.

KNAC.COM: I’m looking forward to your show, man.

GREENWAY: It’s cool, man. Thanks.


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