Interview: Mark “Barney” Greenway (Napalm Death)

Mark "Barney" Greenway

Napalm Death recently stopped their tour just so Barney could do an interview with Dose of Metal. That’s how awesome we are.

Well not really (they didn’t stop the tour, but we’re still pretty awesome), we just caught him in a good time (for us, as he was sick), and he was kind enough to answer our questions. So, make the jump, and read what The Pacifier-al-kabob-urath had to say.

Dose of Metal: Hi Barney! So I’ve just found out via Twitter you’ve been feeling sick. And the flu season is around the corner, so could you share any homemade, 100% natural medicine with out readers so they wouldn’t get sick and be able to keep reading this site? Get well soon!

Mark “Barney” Greenway: Yes, I developed a chest infection that really messed about with my breathing and stuff. It wasn’t too pleasant. But I’m 100% back to fitness now. On the spot, the best thing I can think of is – all Fairtrade of course – a mixture of honey, fresh lemon and hot tea. Works great. And one of those steamer contraptions really opens the nasal passages. Always eat as much fruit as you can every day.

DoM: Okay, now to officially start the interview, we usually ask the most uncomfortable questions first, just to make it easier on you later. So, you play in a very extreme band, yet you’re nicknamed “Barney.” Could you come up with something better for us, in the vein of black metal band-members’ alter egos?

Barney: Well… in the vein of ‘The Tormentor’ kind of thing. I think… ‘The Pacifier’ would be suitable – it’s not evil at all, but I don’t really do ‘good’ or ‘evil’ so it suits me fine. But to make it a bit more of a mouthful, it should have some meaningless words attached to the end. So…The Pacifier-al-kabob-urath.

DoM: What’s the most extreme thing you’ve done today?

B: Scratched my gums with my toothbrush and made them bleed. I brush with uncharacteristic frenzy.

The Pacifier-al-kabob-urath

The Pacifier-al-kabob-urath

DoM: Believe it or not, the previous two questions look like they’ve been asked by a 15-year old to serve a purpose. There are probably many angry punk and metal kids who look at you and the band and never dig deeper past all the shouting. On the other hand, you have your middle-aged Christian woman church goer who would probably want to burn Napalm Death CDs if someone played it to her. And behind it all, there is Barney, one of the nicest guys out there (at least that’s the image I could paste from many interviews I’ve seen and read – so you’re either really nice or a great actor). Does Barney the nice guy get a lot of misconceptions because of Barney the Napalm Death frontman, and vice versa (I guess not even all the punk kids praise you, certain groups definitely have problems with your message)? How do you cope with that?

B: Well, it seems a little pretentious doing the self-analysis thing. But the Napalm Death message is a very humane and compassionate one; it’s only the way in which it is expressed which is the ferocious thing. So I would find it hard that people who are of the opinion that I am ‘a nice guy’ would make a distinction between that and what the band is when you get down to the ideas – ND and myself would be quite the same thing in several ways. Still, some people do assume I’m some kind of merciless beast because of my vocal approach when all I feel in most situations is calm, peace and balance. I do have the odd head explosion, but that goes with just about every human being.
Overall, it’s not a question of coping with differing opinions about me or the band. I’m definitely a people person, but I have no problems with people forming negative opinions about either me or the band – that’s life. So there’s no need for me to have to cope with anything if I’m comfortable with myself and confident in the ideas I’m putting forward in what is a very ethically-driven band.

DoM: Your chance to fight back, Dose of Metal style. Recommend a soft, preferably romantic album for all the angry, ignorant kids out there.

B: I cannot lie – JourneyRaised on Radio’. Let’s not assume all angry people are ignorant though, eh?

DoM: Recommend the most brutal album you could to that middle-aged Christian church goer lady.

B: That could possibly be most stuff by Throbbing Gristle or Psychic TV or Genesis P Orridge. Not metal or hardcore, but some of the most amoral stuff out there to curl up the edges of you bible!


Dose of Metal: Where questions are short and to the point.

DoM: Napalm Death are a few years older than me. The line up with you on vocals is about old enough to drink legally in the US. Yet you’re still on tour, still making albums. How does it feel to still be doing what you’re doing? Any pro tips for the younger bands out there?

B: I don’t take anything for granted, and it feels great to make albums – and that they somehow seem to come out quite good in the end – and to be able to go fucking loopy on stage. If ever I wake up in the morning and feel that it’s all just a chore, or that we’ve run out of ideas, I’ll call it a day.
My tips, for what they’re worth, are 1) Always do what you feel is the right thing creatively. If a manager or somebody tells you to do something and you really feel it’s a crock of shit, then you should follow your own path. 2) Try to keep your head out of the clouds and in reality 3) The rock and roll life is a stinking myth 4) On the road, always treat other bands fairly and as equals – you’ll need somebody’s help one day too. 5) If somebody promises you the world, they’re usually lying.

DoM: The best thing, experience, lesson or anything else you would extract from the entire period spent with the band?

B: I’ve seen the world almost from pole to pole, and it’s a wonderful place overall. And there are great people in it.

DoM: The worst?

B: Even when you have the best intentions, people will still look to exploit you or screw you over. And others might use kindergarten insults in their capacity as the ‘music police’ when they don’t possess that power. Outside of the ND world, I’ve seen some of the worst deprivation with my own eyes and my own feelings are there is much more we can do to help as those not in that position.

Napalm Death

Napalm Death: Still got it, still doing it

DoM: If you hadn’t ended up in Napalm Death (and music), what would you be doing now? Would Barney be using his super powers as a gardener or a vet to fight the good battle?

B: I actually did consider somehow doing veterinary studies back when I left school. But my parents could in no way afford university. These days I’d really love to study evolutionary biology. I have developed a real fascination with the often unseen aspects of the  natural world. Failing that, I’m woolly enough to be a social worker. But I’d be fucking useless at topiary.

DoM: What do you do in your free time anyway, away from Napalm Death?

B: I like football (soccer), so I go to watch my local team Aston villa quite a lot. I also work on a voluntary basis for the Musicians Union, which protects musicians’ rights– though I’ve been a bit removed from that of late. I’ve had a fascination with video games since I was small, so I’m on that when I can. I like to actively keep quite fit at home – I do a lot of cardiovascular exercise to help me keep up stage stamina, which always falls by the wayside when I’m actually on the road so I’m always catching up with myself. I like a few drinks too every now and then, though I don’t touch alcohol at all on tour. All everyday stuff.

DoM: You’re into the whole progressive metal thing. How did you take the news of Mike Portnoy leaving Dream Theater?

B: Um, not quite the whole story. I like a couple of bands of that ilk at the most. Dream Theater always wrote good songs, and for me were a good band without tying them down to genres. I got to know them as people, and although they seemed quite close as a band whenever I was  around briefly, five people living in each other’s pockets all the time is quite a test of human tolerance. As far as I read the situation, it looks like playing together lost its sparkle, and Mike was the one to crack.  These things happen and life moves on.

DoM: You’re currently heavily touring with Napalm Death, and it’s been almost two years since “Time Waits For No Slave.” Are there any plans regarding a new album? Or is time waiting for that one?

B: We will be starting more or less from scratch in January 2011 making a new album and will record in May. Don’t read that wrong – it doesn’t take us that much time to get our stuff together, it’s just that Russ Russell our producer has his hands full until May. It does seem a while since ‘Time Waits…’, but we recorded the previous few albums in quick succession so thought we’d hold back for a change. Time can indeed fucking wait.

While you’re waiting on new songs: Napalm Death – On the Brink of Extinction

DoM: Usually this would be the part where I say “send a message to all the Dose of Metal readers and Napalm Death fans,” and you say something cheesy, but instead, I’m giving you space to say absolutely anything that comes to your mind. Anything.

B: Be yourself. Free yourself. Don’t be a sheep…baaaaaaaaaaaaa!

DoM: Well, that was the 13th question, and I didn’t want to end it on a bad note, despite myself not being superstitious, so here’s another one. You’ve made your religious beliefs (or lack thereof) pretty clear, but are you superstitious about anything?

B: No, I’m not at all. Really. Everything has a physical or scientific explanation, even if I can’t always personally explain things as a lay person. I don’t think you want me to go deeply into my faithlessness here, but I will say that it is quite sad how people can’t trust in themselves or the physical world anymore – divine faith is like an easy out for people because it doesn’t require deep thought or logical application.

DoM: That was actually 14th question, not 13th, did you count to check?

B: No, I’m dancing to your tune, kiddo.

DoM: And finally, going back to the first question, we see you use Twitter. Many musicians have complained it’s things like it, that are sort of killing the rock star image, there is barely any mystery left when everyone can see what everyone else is doing. Are they right? Or should they just get with the times?

B: Who cares either way? Is this something that is really worth any kind of debate? If people want to build up their own mystique, then that’s their funeral. I have no rock star image to live up to because I never went down that road and was never interested in doing so. I’m not concerned with pissing about with all the social networking detritus, but Twitter suits me because it’s a few words and I can say random stuff. I try to throw a bit of comedy in there, but to tell you I’m just going to shave or something is something that nobody really wants to hear about. I would hope people have better things to do with their time.

DoM: Thank you very much for your time, and it’s been a huge honor interviewing you!

B: Cheers mate. Have a good one. I’ve run out of comedy for now, so no witty parting shot I’m afraid.

There you have it, the man himself. If you haven’t had a chance to see Napalm Death live, what are you waiting for, go check the tour dates and get yourself a ticket, to warm up for the new album.

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