South By Southwest (SXSW) 2008

Spread the metal:

Napalm Death – Barney Greenway

(Pics by Arto Lehtinen)

I had made contact with the management for Napalm Death backstage at the Motorhead gig. Unfortunately the band had no time to talk metal that afternoon. But they did hold true to their word of having Napalm Death frontman Barney Greenway give me a call to do the interview over the phone.

The following is my interview with Barney, briefly interrupted by our dogs barking at each other over speaker phone, but none the less a true pleasure to talk with a legend…. 

How are you and what brought you to Austin for SXSW?

Well personally, I’m ok, not too bad actually. You know, the Austin thing is great, loved it. You know, really, really loved it. The unfortunate thing is when I’m on tour and stuff, if I’m tromping like sort of consistently or in a consistent manner like in a vehicle or whatever then I’m fine but as soon as I go up in the air, and get a whiff of that sort of….you know, really artificial sort of, plane cabin environment or whatever it fucks me up, you know, everytime, so….

I got a like cold, sinus infection the other day right after SXSW. But…the whole experience, I must say, I really enjoyed it. You know, well, the whole “Motorhead” thing obviously, and “High On Fire” I thought they were really good actually, and “Enslaved” are friends of ours so….

It was just an all out, really good experience. I mean I know the whole event is somewhat corporate in some ways these days, but there’s a lot of people hanging around and just having a good time. I just really enjoyed it for the brief time I was there.

How did your recent tour with DevilDriver in support of Smear Campaign go?

It’s still ongoing, we flew into SXSW and then flew back again, you know, back to Florida to play the next day basically. It’s on going, it’s going really well actually, because I know these days it’s difficult to get kids out, to get them to gigs, it’s not the easiest thing in the world.

With that in mind, the attendance on this tour has been really good, I can’t complain. You know, we’ve been getting a lot of kids at concerts probably you know, through Devil Driver,(they) just got into the more mainstream end of heavy music or whatever, and they sorta watch Napalm and they think it’s just like you know, the most insane thing they’ve ever seen.

It’s been positive. They’ve picked up on it, and kids are sorta looking at the cds, buying the cds, they’re getting off on it, and that in my book is a really good thing.


You guys are a touring juggernaut, I am really looking forward to your upcoming tour this spring with Suffocation and Warbringer. I understand you guys will be dusting off some of your older material?

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, we’re gonna….that’s the thing….(ruff ruff ruff) that’s my dog barking….. 

(My dog responds to the speaker phone dog) (woof woof woof)

eh Hahahaha sorry about that man…

No problem.

We’ve dusted off and been rehearsing just a whole rack of stuff that we’ve really never done before, you know, so it should really be interesting. 

Last fall you brought Napalm Death’s brand of no bullshit, pedal to the metal, grindcore over to Russia. I have heard that people there are very, very enthusiastic about metal. How was that experience for you?

Well, see, we were actually the first band to do Russia back in 1990-91, no band out of area had ever been there before. We actually played there in the very last week of the Soviet Union. It was disbanded that week, and it was just the most surreal vibe, you know, you couldn’t even imagine, you know?

People on the streets looking totally confused, it was pretty wild actually, and very enjoyable. I don’t know, like, Napalm, I can only speak for Napalm, Napalm see’s like a real affinity you know, with the kids over there in Russia and stuff.

You know, every time we go there, we’re always greatly received. We get like, tons of kids coming out to the shows, more so than most bands that go there of our ilk.

For me, Russia and Eastern Europe are highly, highly interesting places, you know? Sort of a side interest of mine is history, so it’s and extra enjoyment thing for me.

Napalm Death has always been a band with strong anti-war sentiments. Having said that, going into elections this November is there a certain presidential candidate that you feel strongly for or against?

Well, I mean generally speaking I’m a pacifist. Not just anti-war but also anti-violence. Whether that’s state sponsored or otherwise. For me, it’s always been Ralph Nader really, if there’s a perfect candidate.

I mean, people sort of think that they actually know me as a Democrat and stuff, but some of the things that the Democrats say, and that’s all candidates really, is pretty conservative.

I mean, I like the concept, some of the concepts Obama comes up with, but I still think he’s bound by this, this sort of system, the Washington system and the general governmental system.

The problem is that, you know, even outside of just the anti war spectrum, if someone doesn’t do something radical for America, and changes it radical, then your still gonna look at the same issues like 8, 12, 50 years time you know, and I think the main thing is that someone really tries to bridge the gap between people that have got absolutely nothing and people that have everything over them, you know?

Considering that Napalm Death has put out a plethora of releases over the last several decades, many now sadly out of print, is there any chance that now that you have aligned yourselves with Century Media that we could one day look forward to a huge box set for fans that need to do some backtracking but can’t afford to pay high prices on eBay?

Well, you know we did do one, it was way back in the nineties or whatever, and it was like a couple of albums in a box, but we just haven’t done one since.

I mean, it’s always a possibility but if we’re gonna do it, then, it’s gotta be something good, you know? It’s gotta not just be the albums in there, it’s gotta be something extra that’s worthwhile.

I don’t just wanna give people the same albums, cause, I mean, Earache (records) traditionally, especially all the early albums, every fucking six months…. You know? So what’s the point of putting out another box set? It’s pointless, you know?

What, you expect kids to part with even more money just to buy something that’s got a box wrapped around it. If it’s gonna be something it’s gotta be….it’s gotta have something extra in there, something worthwhile, now what that would be….who knows?


Napalm Death covered “Face Down In The Dirt” by “The Offenders” as a tribute to Mikey Offender. Considering Austin, Texas was Mikey’s hometown, did you guys consider playing this song for Mikey during SXSW?

No, we actually only did “The Offenders” cover once or twice, when the actual “Leaders Not Followers 2” came out. The problem is obviously we’ve got so many songs to cover and you have to chop and change stuff, I mean….I love pulling that stuff in from time to time, you know? That’s what we do when we sorta revamp the set list.

I’m sure we’ll cover it again, I fucking love that song. That Offenders album is fucking wicked.

Napalm Death was formed in the early 80’s by Nic Bullen and Miles Ratledge of Birmingham. Do either Nic or Miles have any contact with the band today? Are they fans?

Yeah, I see Nic, I saw Nic not so long ago. Whether or not they’re fans of what the band’s doing now is not something we really talk about. It’s not really a topic of discussion, or we don’t feel the need to talk about it.

I mean, I think Nic, as far as I know, Nic Bullen supports what we do and stuff. Is he really a what you’d call a fan of it? I don’t know really know to be quite honest with you. Who knows? I can’t really say.

The last two Napalm Death albums feature cameo appearances by both Jello Biafra and Anneke van Giersbergen respectively. How was it collaborating with these musicians, and is there any else in particular you would like to collaborate with on future recordings?

It was great, the collaborations all worked really great. The reason they worked really well was because they were in the contexts of the songs that were written.

The way I look at the guest appearances, you know some bands might think “Let’s just get this person or that person.” So that they’ll make the album cool and stuff, fine. But for me, for it to succeed for Napalm, the context of the song has gotta be there first.

The guest is kinda an afterthought, in terms of, these songs written that way and that person would suit that particular part so let’s get that person in.

Anneke from “The Gathering” with the greatest respect to her, we wouldn’t have sorta gone “Oh, let’s get Anneke from the Gathering.” If the song was written in the first place without that sorta vocal, which is when we then went “Anneke would be perfect.” So, that’s how we do it.

So as far as stuff in the future goes, it all depends on what any particular song sounds like in the future.

The metal community truly lost a very special musician in Jesse Pintado in 2006. Are there any unreleased recordings that were made with Jesse that may someday be released?

No, everything that was done with Jesse was done….was released. You gotta understand, he left the band two years before he actually died. So, everything that he was a part of was released.

But actually, the latter day stuff with Jesse in the band he didn’t play on anyway because of the problems he was having, there were some absences when we were in the studio.

What are your favorite memories of Jesse Pintado?

Jesse was pretty goofy to be honest. He was pretty funny at times. He definitely kept me smiling you know, so….

I’d like to thank you for taking the time to chat with me today. Before we wrap this up what would you like to say to all the die hard Napalm Death fans out there?

Just that as we always say, thanks for people’s support. We first came to the States playing like seventeen years ago, eighteen years ago, and because of everyone’s support we’re still here and we’re still doing well, you know?

So what can I say, just that….much gratitude!