ZT’s JACK LATIMER cornered Napalm Death vocalist Mark “Barney” Greenway to get his take on the anarchy of England’s August riots. Feast your eyes on this exclusive interview with extreme metal’s most vocal political force. Barney gives us his perspective…
ZT: I want to ask you about the riots…were you around Birmingham at the time?
Barney: Yeh, Handsworth isn’t far from me, stuff was going on there – it’s been an interesting week or so. My general view is the same as it would have been beforehand: I don’t like violence wherever it comes from, but you have to understand there is a certain section of people in this country that no one gives a shit about, seriously. Whatever this government might say about taking the moral high ground, and that it’s disgusting or whatever, well its also disgusting that [the politicians] have very little regard for a certain section of society. There are obviously a large number of people below the poverty line, and no one is doing anything but [making] token gestures. It wasn’t just about a few people breaking into a trainer shop here and there – to suggest that is just stupid and that’s politicians playing stupid. There are a lot of bigger problems, and until they’re sorted you’ll get more of it! You’ve got to remember that the people shouting most loudly about this are the people protecting their assets – those that have things others don’t have access to, so there is a certain agenda there. Unfortunately the press, and politicians too, have this real knack of whipping up the rest of the population to start shouting a bit: “Use live bullets, bring back flogging… and national service”. Shut up!! It’s just a diversionary tactic. I see it on more of a wider scale, but again, I don’t condone violence against people: people driving cars into eachother, or some old guy being attacked on the streets for stopping people burning his thing or whatever, of course, but there’s a wider question. Just to parade these people in front of the courts like a ‘rogue’s gallery’ or something…totally pointless, nothing’s been achieved this last week, nothing!
ZT: If you had to put it bluntly where do your sympathies and animosities lie?
B: That wouldn’t be the way I would put it basically. I’m a human being – I want to see nobody deprived, that’s my ultimate goal. If people see it as a bit utopian and far-fetched, then whatever… But I cannot abide this continual down-treading of those at the bottom. I know this point has been made but I think you can’t make it enough: over the last two or three years you had people involved in financing and investment banks did things for their own ends that condemned groups of people to even more deprivation and in certain parts of the world, perhaps, condemned people to death because of money that was lost and food distribution was lessened even more than it was, so it could’ve killed a few people you know. Yet, have you seen anybody that has really answered for it? One or two token things here and there; nothing really, nothing. So, there’s the inequality: Why should the people at the bottom, who get so frustrated that things kick off, why should they be paraded as scum – incidentally, people using that word; I can’t abide it – why should they be portrayed in that way when there’s this inequality? Its just nonsense, you know?
ZT: So, within these views where does the balls-out nature of the music you make fit in? I mean you talk about Utopianism, but Utopia Banished is one of my favourite albums…
B: Well it’s paradoxical in a way, I mean the lyrics are very peaceful and egalitarian and human, I suppose, humane if you like. But the music is a complete violent noise attack, and that’s a good paradox. I mean from – and I hate to use this word, sounds a bit pretentious- but from the artistic side its paradox, and that’s good, it’s a little bit creative.
ZT: Is there not a wee piece of you that looked at the looters and itched to get involved at all?
B: Nope. Again, I can’t condone violence, but I’m not going to generalise and call anyone scum, because I’m not in their position, I’m not going to make that judgement you know, because I’d just be taking the easy route – like a lot of other people. Why should I condemn them, when there’s people out there who’ve done far worse things on a far grander scale – that you might not see on the surface, it isn’t going to burn a house or something – but leaves a lot more damage in the longer term, and to a far greater extent. See, I don’t wish violence [on the ruling classes] either, but they do need to understand that the level of resentment is because they’re protecting their assets, you know, and whilst they want everything for themselves, you’re going to have that kind of reaction. I’m not going to call anyone scum. I refuse to do it! Anyone that takes umbrage with that… I couldn’t give a fuck!!
ZT: Amongst my friends there were a fair few who I always had down as fairly liberal-minded, who have since come out of the woodwork as raging Tories, have you felt that switch at all?
B: Well yeh, there’s a certain knee-jerk reaction to these things, but I’d hope that over time people would realise a little bit more. I mean you look at it: only three or four months ago we marched in London, however many thousands of us, to try and stop these cuts in local services. They never listened. Did they not expect that things were going to happen? They just sat back.
ZT: Do you think the Tories have more of a propensity to bring this out in people?
B: Well yeh, by their ethos they tend to protect the entrepreneurial side of society, the cash-generating side of society, more than the people that actually live in society who aren’t associated with that side, and that stems from protection of the asset holders. But I’m very disappointed in Labour, I didn’t hear too many Labour politicians coming out and offering and alternative view point. Of course they said the violence was unacceptable, fine, but there’s an addendum to that like I’ve been talking about and I want to hear that from somebody. Have they not learned anything – that to condemn people, and to just say they’re scum, or low-life, or whatever – does anyone think that’s going to make any progress?
ZT: Theresa May will keep making her speeches, you honestly don’t feel any genuine animosity towards her and her kind?
B: Politicians in general are big into self-preservation, that’s what power does to people. I don’t waste my time resenting them. Of course, I really think things need to change in terms of governmental systems in general, it’s not enough for Labour versus Tory anymore, there’s got to be some genuine change, and its not going to help when you have [politicians] whipping people up into this reactionary frenzy.
ZT: So, do you have an idea of how to achieve your utopia?
B: There isn’t a way of constructing it – I just think it’ll be a natural process. People said the Roman Empire would never fall, but that fell… These days there’s arguably left and right but generally it’s a capitalist system, and that will go at some point because you cannot have the levels of inequality that we have. At some point that system will have to go because it won’t cater to that growing inequality; time and cause and effect tell you that.
ZT: So, are you an optimist or a pessimist?
B: I’m human. A humane human and I appreciate the qualities of being a human being and acting in human ways, that’s my thing, and I’ll deal with things as I see them. A lot of people probably think I’m a gobshite talking about this stuff, but I’m not offering to change it, I’m trying to tell people not to take things as read, look for yourself, that’s what Napalm’s about. Whether we achieve it is for other people to decide, not me.
Napalm Death, who hail from Birmingham are one of the UK’s most celebrated extreme metal bands. They released their debut, “SCUM” in 1987 and are widely argued to have invented the blastbeat. Check for news gigs and updates on their official site: www.napalmdeath.org
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