As one of the most visible bands in the heavy music scene to be left-leaning and anti-fascist, have you encountered much hostility because of things you’ve said?
“Oh, God… Certainly it is accurate, in some respects, to call us politically left-leaning. Having said that, I also subscribe to the Crass idea, where it’s also completely apolitical. Left and right is divide and rule, the classic thing; it just keeps people fighting amongst each other as a distraction from what’s really being done on a governmental level. But certainly fascism existed in the sense of the racist, sexist, homophobic bullyboy tactics that were in danger at times of swamping the general scene. Not necessarily so much here in the UK, with that you’d have to go back another 10 or 20 years, probably, to when the National Front were extremely active, but more so in the States.
“The first two tours of the U.S. we did were fucking miserable, if I’m honest, because we were coming into conflict every other gig, even in places where you might think they’d be a bit more tolerant. It was everywhere. It was almost trendy to be in an Aryan gang. They would either wanna fuck with the band, or they would wanna fuck with the fans, because they would wanna take over the audience. And it wasn’t acceptable, I just wasn’t fucking having it. We needed to stand up and do something about it, and that led to a lot of conflict and some really fucking dangerous situations. But I just couldn’t let it lie. It’s not about me, it’s about the people that are there, that shouldn’t be getting their fucking heads punched in.”
Napalm have had opportunities to do unusual things, like when you played the De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill in collaboration with a ceramics artist…
“Yeah, Keith Harrison, who’s also from the Black Country. It was a representation of urban decay, and I thought it was fucking great. I wanna do more stuff like that. Hopefully he’ll come up with something else – or if anybody’s reading this and wants to work with us, get in touch! Here’s the thing: I’m very much into that ‘art-wanker’ side of things! I can take the piss, but I love it.”
What sort of people turned up to that?
“It was a real mixture of people. Of course, some of the regular Napalm Death fans came, but there were some academics there, and a lot of chin-stroking – it was brilliant! And it kicked off in there. It kind of malfunctioned a little bit. They had to have security, because it was quite a dangerous installation, and they freaked out because the kids ripped up the safety barriers and it turned quite chaotic. This kid was wandering around and started kicking this huge 20-foot thing with molten clay inside it. I think we played more or less a two-hour set, with oscillators on the PA, so it was like that kind of propeller effect. I love that noise/industrial kind of thing – I’d love to do more unconventional stuff like that in all honesty.”
It’s striking how many ex-members of Napalm have gone on to do wildly different things musically: doom, blues rock, industrial, and even some dubstep-style stuff. Have you ever been tempted to have a side project to do something totally distinct from Napalm?
“Absolutely. But it’s just a case of getting the time to do something like that. Shane has got a million fucking bands on the go, but he’s very fertile in that respect. I’m very industrious as a person, but I can’t turn my mind to another band like that. I’m not motivated to do that. So it would be more about people coming to me, rather than me taking the initiative. But I would, I’d do something completely different to Napalm, and I’d be really fucking happy about it, even if it sold minus 10 copies.”
What can you tell us about the new album?
“I’ve definitely done some stuff on this album vocally that I’ve never done to this degree before. We’re heading into the noise-rock territory, loosely. Swans, My Bloody Valentine, The Young Gods – we’re heading more down that path. But there’s some more traditional, fast, chaotic stuff as well. Again, as long as it’s aggressive, confrontational, abrasive, even when it’s less full-pelt, it’s always Napalm Death.”
Napalm Death's new album Throes Of Joy In The Jaws Of Defeatism is out September 18 via Century Media Records.
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