Smear Campaign is a brilliant album. It has the quality of a premium-brute grindcore, packed with thought-provoking lyrics and fresh-sounding experiments. It recalls distant memories of the Scum era at certain moments, it bears elements of an insane hardcore, and it has a wide array of innovative ideas. Adolf talked to Barney about questioning morals in the new album Smear Campaign, interpreting ND’s lyrics, Barney’s abilities to speak German and Spanish, and Mitch’s playing a twelve-string guitar in grindcore tracks. A couple of weeks before the death of Jesse Pintado, reasons for parting ways with Jesse were discussed as well as then the actual question about him ever coming back to ND.
Your album The Code is Red is very diversified while the previous two records Order of the Leech and Enemy of the Music Business are quite straight-forward. Was it intentional?
There is no great master plan when we are doing a new Napalm album. What we do is we are trying to make not all our albums sound the same because it’s exciting and interesting. Of the very nature passage of time when you go to another album you think “OK, what are we gonna do?” And we just naturally come out with ideas and there would be different moods in songs at times. It’s just natural and it’s difficult to justify or explain any further. We have been working together for quite some time – it’s 17 years of songwriting. I know that Napalm has got a reputation at a certain level of band, so we just want to make exciting albums. It’s pretty simple, really.
There is a small intro before the song The Great and the Good, which says “Take 23 – maximum distortion.” What is the story behind this idea?
When Dead Kennedy’s originally did the song Nazi Punks Fuck Off, if you listen to one of the versions, it’s got a lot of the talking in the studio before it. I thought it would be good to do it like that Nazi Punks song. That’s where you got that stuff from. Because it’s the same like the Dead Kennedy’s version Nazi Punks Fuck-Off. So, it’s a tribute.
So the words “Take 23 – maximum distortion” come from that?
It’s not the same but similar and Jello Biafra is on there. The “Take 23” is really a random number.
I was surprised to see Mitch playing a twelve-string guitar in the Silence is Deafening video from The Code album. I didn’t know a twelve-string guitar can be used in a grindcore track.
Yeah, he uses it on some tracks. It’s actually double strings and he uses it on some stuff to give it a texture. It works good actually underneath and it gives a different tone.
How would you characterize the last album Smear Campaign?
It’s like the album The Code is Red but even more manicky in some places, more crazy, and then more experimental in places. So, there is a good mixture of everything. To us, it’s definitely the better than the last album (Code) and people that have heard it say it’s even better than the last album as well and they are people who like The Code a lot. So, I can only agree that it can only be a good thing. (laughing)
How is the new album different than The Code?
It’s hard for me to say. It’s faster in some places; it’s more experimental in others. The lyrical side is about religion. It’s trying to make in-depth analysis of religion and what the basic theme is - it’s questioning morals. Because morals is an invention of religion and there is always this thing “living to morals” but you don’t have to because you can have your own. You can be a person and you can be good for yourself, which will then make you good to others by default. So, that’s the kind of thread topic and these are the subjects beside: the stuff about pro-euthanasia because I think that if you wish to die, I think you should be allowed to do that. If you make a choice to not be alive when life is no more a quality for you then you should be able to opt and choose to die. I firmly believe in that and there should be no moral or religious restrictions that stop you from doing that. It’s your choice. This is my blood and that’s your blood. You are allowed to do what you want.
Russ Russel became your home producer for the last few albums. Why is that?
He is a friend that was working with us live and then with other bands. We used to use him with another producer, Simon Efemey, then we kind of thought that Russ was good enough to do it on his own. So, he did it with Code and he did fantastic job. What can you say? This new album Smear Campaing is even better.
Is your former producer Colin Richardson still involved with you?
No, he doesn’t work with us anymore. Colin was kind of appropriate to that particular time to what we were doing but we just thought we needed a different producer. It’s nothing against Colin, it’s just we needed someone different.
To what extent do you want your fans to interpret or make use of your lyrics? In your beginnings you were very much into just politics…
Well, not always. It depends. Politics became a really boring word. It’s not as important as people. Politics doesn’t mean anything unless it’s helping people to not suffer in many ways. That’s what the whole thing is about. Yes, you could call certain issues political but what it comes back to really is to see that people hopefully in some time, in some day and age can live in peace without fear of violence being used against them or starvation or all the other things. That’s the general idea behind any politics. For the fans to use it, it is to create awareness. This is to say “Look, this is what we would think. Take a look at the situation, think for yourself, see what you think. I don’t want them to accept everything that I always say. They need to use their own perception as well. I like to think I am presenting the true face across – this is my opinion. But what I mean is that we all have a brain and can think about these things.
Through these lyrics, you try to show the dark side of the politics.
Well, yes and no. I present a lot of negatives but I try to be sort of positive as well.
So, could you then write lyrics acknowledging a politician such as, for example, Nelson Mandela?
Yeah, in a sense I have because the lyrics have always had that stuff about equality, by which I mean the stuff Nelson Mandela was about. Ultimately, when you strip it back it’s kind of about spreading the message and also about thinking for yourself. That’s the thing – it’s not accepting everything that you’re told. Because we are human beings, we have powerful perceptions. We can make those decisions, we are not stupid. We can be trusted to make decisions.
Surprisingly for me, you are using some German words in your lyrics. Why is that?
It’s just because I like to write creatively. I mean I could write certain lyrics in five minutes or I could write certain lyrics in a day and think about it and phrase it properly. I mean I speak Spanish and I also speak German quite well, so I know which words are good to use. I wish I knew every language because I would use words from every language. It gives the lyrics some color as opposed to the basic sayings.
Can you say what exactly have been reasons for parting ways with Jesse Pintado?
It’s been personal problems. That’s the easiest way to say it, really. Jesse had big problems with alcohol. I know he has denied it since because it was probably not very comfortable subject for him but that’s truth – he had big problems. We wanted to help him because you would for a friend who is with you in a band. But we tried, and tried, and tried to help him and every time we tried to help him, he did something to maintain he doesn’t need any help, so he wasn’t helping himself. We kind of let it go for a while; we parted for him to go back to Los Angeles back to his family to hope that might help him a lot more than we could. But it didn’t seem to, it wasn’t getting better. We didn’t want Jesse to change personally. All that we wanted was aimed to get him better with the alcohol because that in itself wasn’t the problem. It’s the fact that because he was so fucking angry all the time, he disappeared for days when we were doing important things for the band. Of course, that’s not going to help anyone when he is doing that. So, in the end we just came to that decision to part.
Is there a chance that he will come back?
No, he won’t, no. Because it is just very long now - Jesse has been out for about two years. We have kind of moved down in a certain way and Jesse is doing his own things now and good luck to him.
What is your opinion about terrorist threats to bomb London-departing planes or other terrorist-related events happening in the UK?
I don’t know whether it’s proven because the last time they tried to pinch something on someone, there was no substance in it. The guys in London kicked the door down and shot one of the guys but there was no fact and no basis for it. I mean a) we don’t know if it’s true and b) the thing is that, of course, if it would happen, it would have been terrible and innocent people would die. So, we know that, of course. But the problem is that what the British and American governments don’t seem to understand is that with the situation in Lebanon, Palestine, and all the rest of it, the western governments are refusing to intervene and tell people like Israel: “Look, stop suppresing people with your big armor that people have got no answer against.” That’s causing a lot of the problems and it’s why that situation is expanding. So, you get things like suicide bombings and stuff like that because that’s a crude response toward what people like Israel do and what Russia does in Chechnya also. People are not going to sit down and tolerate such sort of stuff but, by the same token, that’s not to justify any kind of violence. I think that violence to that degree in this day and age – why? I just don’t understand it. I don’t believe in civil war and violence and I think it’s just a really sad situation that people are doing these things to other people.
You are exposed to a lot of different music and you are known for pointing out the talent of early NASUM. Which band can you recommend these days?
There is a few bands and no one really that jumps out. There’s a band that I really like; they are from Holland and they also have got a moniker The Oath – they have two names: The Oath or Das Oath. I’ve never hear them before and I heard the last album and it’s fucking amazing. It’s one of the best things I heard lately. It’s grindcore but it’s more towards traditional hardcore, which is kind of what Napalm comes from. It’s not like the new grind if you like and it’s very experimental as well. It’s very good band actually and I would recommend it to anyone.
Is there anything you want your band to achieve long-term?
We go from one album to the next. We are trying to pan the whole Europe. It’s just as simple as this - we are just doing the very best that we can. We want to move the band forward. We want to spread our messages as much as we can and write exciting albums. This is what we do for the last how many years and that’s what we are continuing to do: to be logical about things, to enjoy what we do, and to move forward. That’s perfect combination of things.
Thank you for the interview, Barney. Is there anything more we can get across to your fans from you?
Thank you for supporting us. I know it’s the usual answer but what else can I say. We are still here after all these years and a lot of bands are gone and we’re still here. People support us and it’s fucking great. We are going to try our best to make, as always, energetic shows.
Mark "Barney" Greenway - vocal (ex-Colostomy, ex-Benediction, ex-Extreme Noise Terror)
Mitch Harris - kytara, backing vocals (Defecation, Righteous Pigs, Meathook Seed)
Shane Embury - bass (Lockup, Brujeria, Unseen Terror, S.O.B. (host), Warhammer (UK), Meathook Seed, Venomous Concept, Azagthoth, Drop Dead, Blood from the Soul)
Danny Herrera - drums (Venomous Concept)
Rich Militia (Richard Walker) (some early living shows) (ex-Sore Throat, ex-Sludgelord, Isen Torr, Solstice (UK), Wartorn, Warfear, Discontrol, Nailbomb (UK), Harmony As One, Bio-Hazard (UK))
Lee Dorrian (1987-1989) (Cathedral, Teeth of Lions Rule the Divine, S.O.B. (guest))
Phil Vane (1996-1997) (ex-Extreme Noise Terror)
Daryl "Sid" Fideski ((1982)
Justin Broadrick (1985-1987) (ex-Godflesh, Jesu, Head of David, ex-Fall of Because, Final, Techno Animal, ex-God, ex-Ice, ex-The Sidewinder, ex-Solaris BC, ex-Sweet Tooth, Tech Level 2, ex-Youpho)
Frank Healy (1987)
Bill Steer (1987-1989) (ex-Carcass, Firebird)
Jesse Pintado (1990-2004) (Lockup, Terrorizer) (R.I.P. July 12th 1969 - August 27th 2006)
Nik Bullen - also vocals (1982-1987) (Scorn)
Finbar Quinn (1982-1985)
Jim Witeley (1987) (Ripcord, Drop Dead, ex-Doom (UK), Cracked Cop Skulls, Squandered, Dumbstruck)
Miles "Rat" Ratledge (1982-1986)
Mick Harris (1986-1992) (ex-Doom (UK), ex-Anorexia, ex-Defecation, Scorn, Drop Dead, Pain Killer, ex-Extreme Noise Terror, Motherfuckers from Mars)
Punk Is A Rotting Corpse (Demo, 1982)
Kak (Demo, 1983)
Unpopular Yawns of Middle Class Warfare (Demo, 1983)
Hatred Surge (Demo, 1985)
Scum (Demo, 1986)
From Enslavement To Obliteration (Demo, 1986)
Scum (Full-length, 1987)
The Curse (EP, 1988)
From Enslavement To Obliteration (Full-length, 1988)
Split with Electro Hippies (Split album, 1989)
Napalm Death/S.O.B. (Split, 1989)
Live EP (EP, 1989)
Mentally Murdered (EP, 1989)
The Peel Sessions (Live album, 1989)
Split with Naked City (Split album, 1990)
Suffer The Children (EP, 1990)
Harmony Corruption (Full-length, 1990)
Live Corruption (Video/VHS, 1990)
Mass Appeal Madness (EP, 1991)
Malignant Trait (Single, 1992)
Utopia Banished (Full-length, 1992)
The World Keeps Turning (EP, 1992)
Death By Manipulation (Best of/Compilation, 1992)
Live Corruption (Live album, 1993)
Nazi Punks Fuck Off (Single, 1993)
More Than Meets The Eye (Single, 1994)
Plague Rages (Single, 1994)
Fear, Emptiness, Despair (Full-length, 1994)
Hung (Single, 1994)
Greed Killing (EP, 1995)
Cursed to Tour (Split, 1996)
In Tongues We Speak (Split, 1996)
Diatribes (Full-length, 1996)
Inside The Torn Apart (Full-length, 1997)
Breed To Breathe (EP, 1997)
Bootlegged In Japan (Live album, 1998)
Words From The Exit Wound (Full-length, 1998)
Leaders Not Followers (EP, 1999)
The Complete Radio One Sessions (Best of/Compilation, 2000)
Enemy Of The Music Business (Full-length, 2000)
The DVD (DVD, 2001)
The Leech (Sampler EP, 2002)
Order of the Leech (Full-length, 2002)
Noise For Music's Sake (Best of/Compilation, 2003)
Punishment In Capitals (DVD, 2003)
Punishment In Capitals (Live album, 2003)
Leaders Not Followers Part. II (Full-length, 2004)
Tsunami Benefit (CD-Single Split, 2005)
The Code Is Red... Long Live The Code (Full-length, 2005)
Smear Campaign (Full-length, 2006)