Napalm Death: The Rebirth of Grind

"Napalm probably wasn’t the most popular band at that stage"

It’s not every day this upstart little writer has the opportunity to chat to two of the biggest names in the Grind Core business. A genre that has had prolific highs and dejected lows in popularity (what about the creamy middles? - Ed); without doubt its fare share in controversies and enough history to propel it into the next generation.... and that is exactly what it is doing. Ever so slowly and skilfully the giants of grindcore are returning in rapid numbers, except in this case they are returning on Spotify rather than an 8 track.... Metal As Fuck sits down with Shane Embury, the longest serving member of British extreme group Napalm Death for an in-depth chat about the stomach-turning rebirth of eighties grind....

I am indeed spoilt this week, Bill Steer (of which more next week) and now Shane Embury; it is indeed a pleasure sir! One of the founding fathers of grind; what a title eh, what was it about Napalm Death that has kept you keen? “Well, I was a huge fan of Napalm before I joined the band and it’s a bit cliché but I always wanted to be in a band, play in a band, tour around the world and Napalm gave me that opportunity. Musically it’s really that need to find something that’s mean and fast and the interest in pushing boundaries and playing extreme music. We [Napalm] still get the chance to do this, so it all seems to still work” More now so than ever with the release of Apex Predator – Easy Meat, an album that gob-smacked the entire metal community; an album which had Mark [‘Barney’ Greenway – Vocals] quote ‘pinching himself’ - what have been your thoughts on its success? “You do have to pinch yourself really. Every album we've sent out over the past ten years has been getting more response, better reviews. We just continue to uphold what the band is about really, what we expect from an album. We did try to take our time on this album, open up to new inspirations and the album has a lot of varied elements which still uphold our reputation of being an extreme band. The album was released under some controversy but at the end of the day, what’s an extreme band without any controversy?”

Napalm Death have never shied away from any sort of politically motivated theme and with the massive resurgence of 90’s grind over the past few years – and being that Napalm Death would have to be the most trusted stalwarts in the genre what do you think has contributed to this revival “I think things go round in circles, things have a way of coming back around. A few years ago we were playing a set at Maryland Death Fest and all the younger kids were wearing a lot of shirts from grind bands that haven’t been seen since the eighties. It was really amazing. Some younger bands have struck an urgency within me again, cemented the fact that extreme music is a genre that will continue to move forward and the people who are interested in extreme music now have the information at their fingertips, more so than twenty five years ago where they are able to share and listen to not only the bands who started the genre but the bands who carry on its name, there are a lot of decent grind bands these days, a really great band I’ve been listening to for the last couple of years is a band called Nails, there really is some great stuff coming about”. Perhaps due to this latest generation of grinders, or some other fixation, regardless; Napalm Death in particular are selling more records than ever which is fascinating considering the band have always turned away from the commercial advantage, a true recognition of the bands independence would you agree? “In today’s climate (compared to what it was probably like twenty five years ago) the important thing is, is that the extremities of the band remain solid, we constantly push our music out there, you can’t put your finger on it, it’s one of those things that you can’t explain. Things change and evolve and evolve, like the early nineties when nu-metal movement was happening – Napalm probably wasn’t the most popular band at that stage, so it’s just something that happens. I will say though, that we are writing some of the best albums of our career lately”.

The band has consistently been evolving throughout its career and obviously can adapt to any era thrown at it, so what new challenges presented themselves to the band whilst recording Apex Predator? “We decided that we wanted to record the album in three to four different stages, so that was interesting, it allowed us to record sections of it at different times of the year; you're slowly building an album so sometimes it takes a while for that vision to come to fruition – so that was a challenge; trying to stay motivated over such a long period of time. There weren’t massively insane challenges faced in the writing, you’re simply faced with the ‘usual’ challenges; that you are creating songs that deserve the title of a Napalm Death song, you hope you’re not repeating yourself, you hope that you are incorporating innovative ways for the listener to feed off the song the same way we do”.

With the ‘usual’ challenges you’ve mentioned, what fundamental elements have to be included to make it a Napalm Death album? “Bits a pieces that are left over from each record – they would be my starting point. Just riffs that have been kicking around in my head for ages and sometimes it’s a riff that was never intended for Napalm, but then I’ll be sitting in the van, I dunno somewhere like Dinkelsbühl, Germany and think to myself ‘Hmmm, if I do this, that just might work’ hover around it for a while until its roughly finished. Some of these riffs can be hovering in my head for ten years; they come from everywhere, so I think a big element on any Napalm Death album is keeping its roots, incorporating these long-standing riffs. The obvious and probably most important element for any Napalm Death album is, the fact that I like to keep the intensity, I hate to use the word ‘groovy’ but it’s a staple. And as this age, you need to know what makes you tick; for me, what I would want for a Napalm Death album would be some good catchy riffs, good intensity, great rhythms’ and a good display that the band is pushing forward, but not too much too soon, just enough to whet peoples appetites for the next album”.

Where has the Apex Predator taken you in terms of touring so far? “This album, it’s been urgently assured, so we’ve just finished a six week tour in the States with Voivod, Iron Reagan and Exhumed which was a lot of fun, we have the Australian tour coming up with Carcass – then we head off to India. It’s a solid touring schedule and looking to be the next Utilitarian tour, which we toured for two, maybe two and a half years on that album, we have barely started with this tour and we have a loooong road ahead of us”. As you mentioned you guys are next hitting Australian with long time pals Carcass, a nice nostalgic blast for you guys – what are your expectations for the tour? “I always enjoy it in Australia and with mates Carcass, it’s even better. We’ve known them forever, been mates forever, about, wow thirty years, I remember meeting Bill Steer at an Exodus concert in 1985.... So yeah, it’s been fucking ages, I’m sure he looks better than me these days [Laughs] but it will be cool. There is a nice cross sections of fans these days at Napalm Death shows, a mixed audience of mixed generations and genres that appreciate this type of thing”....   

STOP PRESS: Enjoy that piece so much you think you'd like to catch one of the Napalm Death/Carcass Australian dates live in the naked, steaming flesh? Well, thanks to the good offices of Soundworks Touring and Metal as Fuck you can do just that FOR FREE! simply by sending your MaF user name (you can register now for free if you don't have one) and stating the show you'd like to attend to ASAP (or at least before close of business on April 2nd). That's all you need to do - Although obviously you have to be available for the show you want to go to - get involved! and good luck!