Ray Westland recently put a few questions to Napalm Death bass player Shane Embury. They talked about the new Napalm Death album “Utilitarian,” the ‘Occupy Wall St.’ movement, working with Russ Russell again, illegal downloading and the League of Gentlemen…
Utilitarian, the latest Napalm Death album, sounds incredibly inspired and it’s arguably one of the band’s finest moments to date. What are your own thoughts about the album?
We are happy with the album, it’s been recorded now since July last year so we are eager to start touring the record. I think there are a lot of dynamics on the album and this is always something we want to achieve with every album, so yes now to play these songs live!
There’s a connection between “Utilitarian” and the beliefs/ideals from the Occupy movement. Can you explain this link, please?
The Utilitarian artwork coincidentally had a lot in common with the Occupy Wall St. etc. movement. A few people picked up on this, and being that we are a band with a message that encourages equality, free speech and that sometimes non-violent actions speak louder than words.
There is a message in our lyrics and ideology that has a lot in common with the views shared of those currently or not currently occupying any targeted areas. What it will take to keep the movement running is for the governments to continue to operate as they are, and people will continue to show their loyalty to the concept, (weather permitting) until the point where change is achieved.
Look at all those countries that have overthrown their governments in the last 5 years, and continue to force change, for better or worse, but still it’s an achievement, whether they will eventually benefit from their successes is yet to be seen.
Many bands tend to mellow with age, but you guys are the exception to the rule. What keeps you inspired in order to produce such spirited music?
Many things I guess, for me personally there is always a band every now and then that inspires the passion in you to pick up the guitar or something you see on TV or a book you read. We are very passionate about Napalm and it has become part of our every day life, you live it and breathe it.
We feel more confident with each album we release, there is a label that really supports us with getting the right coverage and this altogether inspires us to constantly believe in what we do, feedback from our fans is great, as that really drives you when you are told that the music you make is important to them. That means a lot as we know how important it is to us, so when it clicks with individuals all over the world you think about how you can top what you have done next time!
Besides blistering grindcore, Utilitarian also contains some more experimental moments. This keeps the album fresh and exciting to me. How important is it for you to try new things as a musician?
Over the years we feel like we are perfecting the craft so to speak, as we get older what some of us may have had problems with in the band becomes a journey to see just how far we can push things!
Our attitude towards extremity is a lot more intense perhaps than some bands but we just write what we write and it all slowly evolves into the album. Our way of writing is quite unorthodox so we never quite know what we have got until the album is done and this pushes the envelope I feel.
How did the collaboration with John Zorn on “Every Day Pox” come about? What did he add the song according to you?
We met John on our first trip to Japan in 1989 and he has always been a fan of the band. This track called for something different so I called on him and asked and he kindly obliged! For me it just fits perfectly as the track is all over the place rhythmically and I couldn’t imagine anything more better placed, it sounds like some car chase in a mid 60’s movies on TV late at night! Annoying, but in a great way perfect!
Singer Barney Greenway isn’t afraid to voice his opinion on political and social issues. To what extent are his (political) views shared by the rest of the band and to what extent would you call Napalm Death a political band?
Napalm is obviously a very political band and has been since it’s inception. The rest of the band are far less motivated in reality though, we share ideals but prefer to let Barney do the talking, we like to concentrate on the music.
Utilitarian was produced by Russ Russell. What did he bring to the table and how was it like to work with him again?
Russ knows what we are thinking before we even suggest an idea and he is a close personal friend. We share the same musical tastes and he keeps improving with his sounds and idea’s and that really helps what we do as a band.
As for me, I just keep writing music and don’t think of it in terms of albums just continuation so I feel his production marks the period we record perfectly and it’s a snap shot of where we are at at that particular point and it allows fans to look at the music with clearer insight.
Napalm Death is a veteran band with many records under its belt. Can you give some examples of how you do things differently nowadays compared to earlier days in terms of preparation, recording and writing songs?
We don’t do much differently really once we determine that it’s time for a new album. We collect our ideas and work on them, me and Mitch jam with Danny on different occasions at first before we show Barney what we are thinking about for the record. It just builds from there right up until we are actually recording the songs and its been like this for years now!
Back in 2001 the band released an album, called Enemy Of The Music Business. It was one big musical middle finger to the shady business practises within the music business. Nowadays, the same music business is shaking to its core because of (illegal) downloading. What are your thoughts on this development and how does it affect a band like Napalm Death?
It affects the labels for sure but we have played so many more shows which is a result of people checking the band I guess, as opposed to them just going to buy the record.
It is a scary time but it’s also brought the industry down to a level, as kids just can’t buy everything, there is hopefully a compromise somewhere but for a band like us we weather the storm and see where it takes us?
Time for the final question. Who is your favourite Blackadder character and why?
I don’t know but I can tell you my favourite League of Gentleman character! Herr Lipp…