NAPALM DEATH – Of A Busy Bassist And Other Diseases

NAPALM DEATH – Of A Busy Bassist And Other Diseases

One of the founders, if not the greatest influence on the Grindcore genre, is undoubtedly NAPALM DEATH, which was established 30 years ago in the city of Birmingham, England. The bands’ line-up (and style) was different at first, but since the early 90′s, it remained stable, with Mark “Barney” Greenway on vocals, Mitch Harris on guitar, Danny Herrera on drums and Shane Embury on bass. Of all his friends, Shane was always the busiest man around, and for a good reason, since he took part in more projects and bands than your hands can count, such as LOCK UP, BRUJERIA, or even a new Heavy / Power Metal group called ABSOLUTE POWER.

It’s difficult to understand how the guy manages to navigate between all these countries, styles and musicians, as he continues to release albums with NAPALM DEATH. But one thing is certain, he and his main band do not intend to rest for a moment – whether it’s with a new album on the horizon, participating in a British teen-drama, or coming to perform in Israel. NAPALM DEATH returns to Tel Aviv after 18 years, and this is a good reason to catch Shane and talk about everything he recently touched, or got infected with.

OV: Hey Shane, first oh all how are you?

Pretty fucked up actually, I came back at night from the studio two days ago, haven’t had much sleep, the schedule has been insane. It’s very typical that after we tour or record for intense periods of times, and I go back to the normal world, it takes me longer than when I was younger to actually slot back in. So it will be a couple more days before I feel relatively human again. It’s been busy, the LOCK UP album has been finished for a while, and now we finally recorded a new NAPALM DEATH album. Soon comes the time for playing shows which is little more straightforward I guess [Laughs]…

OV: Have you completed the recording of the next NAPALM DEATH record?

Well, it’s pretty much finished, Russ [Russel, the producer] will go into the studio in July again, just to master it and fine-tune little pieces here and there. We tend to listen to it for a few weeks and see if there’s anything to change. It’s better to just reflect on the album for a couple of weeks before you decide finally what the right mix is, but it’s pretty much done.

OV: Is there anything you can tell me about the new album or how it will be different from your last one, “Time Waits for No Slave”?

It’s hard to say. We recorded 19 songs and an instrumental in some respects, so 20 tracks altogether. It is different, in what way? I don’t know. I think it’s pretty hard to tell people if it’s like this or like that – it got many elements of what NAPALM DEATH is all about. I hope nobody will get disappointed. It has lot of fast stuff on it; lots of classic typical killer riffs, and there are a couple of songs where Mitch [guitar] and Barney [vocals] split the vocals between each other. That’s little different, because Mitch’s vocals are not as deep, so Barney and him kind of complimented each other. I’m a little too close to it now but I’m very happy with the album, it has lot of different pieces, and intricacies. There are guitar pieces which are kind of experimentally strange and different for us, but if you’re a fan of the band for a long time, it got everything you need [Laughs]…

Shane Embury
OV: Speaking of “Time Waits for No Slave”, how do you see it now, 2 years later? Are you satisfied with it or would you do something different nowadays?

I don’t think so; we’re pretty happy with it… When we go into the studio, especially with the last few records, it’s usually for very intense periods of times. We don’t spend like 9 months rehearsing an album, or anything like that, we just say “OK, we’re doing the album now”. We tend to put up things very quickly, because we’ve been together for a very long time. So on the last few records, we wanted them to be more direct and to the point, and we also wanted to incorporate some experimental stuff but in small doses and I guess we learned to mold it together.

When we do an album, we listen to it and think “I hope its good”, since you can only do what feels best at that time. So I’m pretty happy with “Time Waits…”, the songs are varied and the response was brilliant – we couldn’t have predicted it, that was very flattering and nice. I hope we’ll see the new album in the same way. It’s quite strange the way we do things, because getting back to the last few albums, there are some songs we haven’t played live and you forget that you ever recorded them, which sounds insane [Laughs]… you constantly recording and touring, then you go “shit, I can’t even remember this song, why haven’t we played it live?”

OV: Now, before we continue, I have one word for you: Skins [a British teen drama, where NAPALM DEATH members participated in]. What was that all about?

It was a strange thing. I guess Barney was in touch with the director since he’s a huge Grindcore / Death Metal fan, or whatever. I never watched the program before, though I was aware of it. For us being part of this episode was kind of bizarre. It seems that the idea was pretty good, and I think the acting was kind of strange in places, but it was fun to do it. We went down to record a live version of “Strong-Arm” [from "Time Waits for No Slave"], and they brought all these people – the actors, the directors and producers.

We went to a place called Bristol, which is very close to where we live, spent the entire day going through this track over and over again, so it was pretty insane actually. I don’t know, I watched it and it was bizarre. I didn’t know NAPALM DEATH will be that heavily referenced in it, I thought it will be a brief thing, so I was quite surprised that NAPALM was mentioned there. I guess couple of fans thought it was lame and shit, but that’s fine as well [Laughs]… After all, it was pretty fun experience and kind of cool exposure, in England really. It’s interesting I think, and it’s nice doing things like this from time to time.

OV: Do you think this type of shows, or Metalhead characters, can do good to the Metal scene?

It wasn’t the most amazing representation of a Metalhead, but I think it was not as bad… I thought they might have made the guy too stupid or something, or it just came across that way, but I mean, when you’re younger and you listen to music, and you get to live your life to older age, you see things differently than a teenager. So it could have been a bit better but really, I think overall it was OK.

OV: One of the reasons I wanted to talk with you was because you’re involved with thousands of bands and projects. One of them, particularly interesting to me is BRUJERIA. I have seen it 2 years ago in Czech, and I think you did other shows in the last few years. What about a new album, any plans?

We have recorded a lot of songs in the last couple of years, and I think that with some of the songs, Brujo [the singer] was very happy with. Brujo is quite an interesting character, he doesn’t really want to change direction, but I think he is searching for something. I think what he really wants is for us to record more songs together since we haven’t really done that. With the power of technology, me an Adrian [Erlandsson, drums], or me and Jeff [Walker, bass], can record ideas and send them to Brujo. But I think what he really wants us to do is – which is a very fair point – is to get into the studio like we used to do a few years ago, and just spontaneously see what happens, because there’s a lot of energy in doing things like that. We’re gonna take a picture of a particular moment, and even if some of the ideas are not so great, you can still go back and work on them. I’m hoping that maybe this year, especially since it’s been a long time, we finally get to finish all the songs for an album, and then we’ll probably gonna do some shows.

OV: Another band you’re involved in is LOCK UP, which like you mentioned, is about to release a brand new album. What can you tell me about it regarding the music direction in comparison to your first 2 albums?

It still has a lot of Grind elements, which was the idea when we first started, but having Anton [Reisenegger, our new guitar player], it’s really great, because he brings stuff from his “Oldschool” background. When we first started, it was just a bunch of us, late at night, listening to REPULSION, TERRORIZER, DARK ANGEL, SLAYER, or POSSESSED, and we wanted to do a combination of everything. We managed in some respect but not 100%, and now with Anton, he really brought some of those mid-80s kind of Thrash elements into it as well, so that’s been really good, and it mixes things up. The album is very fast, probably faster than the last record, Nick [Barker, drums] has gone crazy on the blast tempos, [Andy Sneap'] production is great, and musically it got a nice mixture of Raw Death Metal, even with some Black Metal parts. It’s a pretty intense record and I hope you’re going to like it.

OV: How was it to work with your first vocalist, Peter Tägtgren [HYPOCRISY, PAIN], again? I don’t remember, but have you done anything together since the first album?

No, I see Peter very rarely, maybe in some festivals. Obviously, Tomas [Lindberg] is the main singer but, it was nice to get Peter involved in a few songs, because he was there from the beginning. I like his voice, it was great, and we really get it on. Jeff from CARCASS [and BRUJERIA] came down and did some backing vocals on a few songs as well. So it’s very family-orientated kind of release.

LOCK UP Necropolis Transparent
'Necropolis Transparent' Cover Artwork
OV: I understand you wrote the song “The Embodiment Of Paradox And Chaos”, which originally was the album’s name and idea for the artwork. What can you tell me about this song in general and why did you choose to go for “Necropolis Transparent” instead?

Originally, we’ve been practicing songs (it seems such a long time ago, but only last year) and we demoed “The Embodiment…” with a song called “Life Of Devastation”, and another song, for a split EP with MISERY INDEX. When we recorded “The Embodiment…”, we were watching the news and the Earthquake in Chile just happened, and since Anton is from Chile, he came over and said “Where is this great architect in the universe?” not in a religiously way or anything, but just as temperament, “There’s so much catastrophe, why did it happen?” so it came from that. The artwork kind of reflects that in a way – everybody is torn between good and bad, and the perception of good and evil. It’s not necessarily a satanic thing, because the band is more than that, we use dark metaphors but it’s not that we try to promote any particular religion. So that was the title and the main theme of the album, but then we thought that it was just kind of long and complex at the end, and I think it was Tomas who came up with “Necropolis Transparent” which is another song, and we thought it’s a shorter and snappier title really, that’s all [Laughs]…

OV: During my research, I stumbled upon another interesting project of yours called ABSOLUTE POWER, which to my surprise, didn’t involve Grind at all. How did you come up with the idea for this band?

Basically that was going on for a long time, with my friend Simon Efemey (who produced a few of the PARADISE LOST records). We’ve been friends for a long time and we’re fans of classic Heavy Metal really, so we just discussed about the idea for a few years, and now it came out. We started to record a few years ago, with Russ [Russel] and just now we managed to finish basically. We’ve put it on as a digital download and we’ll see how it goes from there. Hopefully we’ll get to release it on vinyl as well. I grew up on Heavy Metal before I got into Thrash in 83′-84′, so it was quite a passion to me really.

OV: I know you have some interesting guests on the album, what can you tell us about them?

Guitar-wise, I played some of the rhythms, Russ did as well, and Mitch came and played a lot, too. When it came to the root sound, we wanted to get various techniques from different people. DIAMOND HEAD was very influential on me, since I lived about 15 miles from where they came from, so I told Simon, who grew up with their founder Brian Tatler, to ask him if he can come down. We actually recorded a cover of “Hole In The Sky” by BLACK SABBATH, which came on a “Metal Hammer” CD a few months back, so he plays guitar on that as well.

Simon also worked with ICED EARTH when Tim “Ripper” Owens was singing for them, and since we did this kind of total JUDAS PRIEST attack on couple of songs [Laughs]… we asked Tim: “Hey, would you like to do some vocals?” and he said: “Yeah, I’ll do it”. With the power of technology, we sent some MP3s over to him, he sent the files back and we placed them in – so we pieced a few songs like that. We also wanted to have guitar solos with that flare of the early 80s, so we brought Paul Harrington, who was playing for ANAAL NATHRAKH, to do some lead solos.

So it’s all of us, and Ian [Treacy, the original BENEDICTION drummer], which is in the band as well. It was kind of an interesting work because we knew what we wanted. Even though it’s not really a Power Metal album, and the lyrics are kind of tongue-in-cheek (like what the old Heavy Metal bands did), the music is pretty serious really, so we took our time trying to get everything right and we basically called down favors from good friends that we knew. Hopefully at some point we’ll do a show here and there, you never know, but it’s been fun for us to finish the album, it was a labor of love.