Interview: Shane Embury of Napalm Death

The fathers of grindcore, Napalm Death pushed the envelope of metal to new extremes of ear-splitting intensity, rejecting all notions of melody, subtlety, and good taste to forge a brand of sonic assault almost frightening in its merciless brutality. Formed in 1981, they trafficked in the usual heavy metal fare for the first few years of their existence, but by the middle of the decade they began to expand their horizons by incorporating elements of hardcore and thrash into the mix; ultimately, Napalm Death's sonic experiments evolved into a blistering mutation of metal that they dubbed grindcore, a kind of extremist noise attack characterized by incredibly brief song lengths, demonic vocals, and eye-opening sociopolitical lyrical commentary. Now in 2017, and over 30 years into their career, extreme times demand extreme responses. Australian and New Zealand metal fans, you are about to be vehemently seized by the throat! After hugely successful runs in the USA and Europe, the intemperate Napalm Death, Brujeria and Lock Up gang are heading south to run riot through our part of the world. We caught up with longtime bass player, the legendary Shane Embury, as we talk about this massive tour, new music, memories of Australia and much more.

Hello Shane, thanks so much for taking the time from your busy schedule to chat with us today. How have your lives shows been lately with the festival season nearing the end?

Yeah mate, well we did a couple of festivals, it's not been too crazy this Summer which is unusual. But it's going to be picking back up again shortly with a few more shows happening in Europe, that's going to keep us busy. There's been an odd show here and an odd show there, obviously being based in England we jump around a lot and we do a lot of weekend shows. We try and space it all out. But other than that, we've been doing good, I've been rehearsing with Danny (drummer) on some new Napalm songs over the past few weeks. We're going to go into the studio soon and start recording some new stuff, so there's plenty of stuff happening.

You're not only playing bass for Napalm Death whilst you're here in Australia this October, but you'll also be playing bass for the other two bands who are supporting, your other bands Brujeria and Lock Up. How did this come about? It's quite a workload by the sounds of it.

Well, we did all tour earlier this year in Europe where all three bands played together. I've done it the odd couple of times here and there at a festival or whatever, whether it's playing with the bands during the evening or over the weekend. When we did a tour in Europe with Napalm and Brujeria, that kind of kick started that whole thing. There was some concern that I couldn't handle it, but to me it didn't seem like a problem because Brujeria and Napalm are kind of different entities on stage really. So that was that. Then the new Lock Up album came about in March, around the same time we were on tour, and it was suggested if Lock Up would be able to open for Napalm on the tour, because we don't really get to play too many shows together because of our schedules really. That's kind of like what the Melvins are like, they're always touring with their own thing you know. We did it, and we pulled it off and it didn't kill me. So I think it was pretty successful. Then when the Australian tour came about, I thought well fuck it, let's do it again. They asked if all three bands came down together would I be into it? So I said, yeah of course, we'd love to. So here we are.

Are you excited about getting back to Australia since the last time you were here back in 2015 along with Carcass? That was an epic tour by the way. Do you have any fond memories from that run of shows or playing here in general?

Yeah it was good, we've been friends with the guys in Carcass forever, we go back a long time and we've known each other since we were teenagers really. It was a fun time. Australia is always great and New Zealand is very cool as well, we got to hang out with all of the friends that we've made over the years. The shows were terrific and the people are always welcoming and polite, which is always nice you know, I'm a simple man and I enjoy simple things. We've always had good memories for Australian and New Zealand actually. I got to go and see Peter Jackson's studio and I was geeking out with excitement because I'm a freak for Lord Of The Rings. Lots of good things to say about both countries and I'm looking forward to coming back, especially with Brujeria and Lock Up because we're all like family really, we've been friends for ages. It's going to be a fun and easy going tour that's for sure.

Hopefully the October weather is good to you while you're here. Pack some shorts just in case it gets hot, as I'm sure you know what our heat can be like.

Well I hope it's warm when we do get there because to be honest I'm sick and fucking tired of this miserable bloody weather we've got here right now (chuckles).

What's the craziest thing you've ever witnessed at a Napalm Death show?

Hmm, let me think. There's few things over the years. We've played a festival in Nepal a few years ago, and they didn't tell us that they were going to use pyrotechnics. So that fun when a big flame went off about six away from me on the stage. I almost got roasted alive and I wasn't ready for that. Then many, many moons ago back in 1989 we did a tour of England and it was Napalm Death, Morbid Angel, Carcass and Bolt Thrower. We played a place called Bradford, and there was a local guy there called Sid who would have been about 65 or 70 years old this dude, we was like your grandfather. He comes running up on stage and just flips into the crowd. I was just standing there thinking what the hell did I just see? Then we got told oh that's just Sid, he's the local guy, the local metalhead that likes to go crazy. There's been plenty of other crazy things I think, but those are the ones that always stick in my mind as being pretty out there really.

You mentioned earlier that you're about to start work on a new album. Can you tell us a bit more about that?

We're pretty much ready to record basically, we will be releasing a new album, probably early next year at this stage. The drums will come first, that will be the main goal of the first week of recording. I think also we might experiment a little bit, I have some ideas, some kind of weirder songs as opposed to the traditional Napalm tracks. I'm not sure exactly what direction it'll be heading towards until I actually get to the studio. As I've gotten older I've become more of a fan of a sort of loose song structure that we'll probably work on as a band. Once we finish the album we will all sit down together and listen to it, and maybe we'll like it, or maybe we'll start all over again and record something completely different. That's the sort of way we've done things in the past, but as I said, nothing is confirmed until we get in that studio and start playing. It's still early days. Sometimes a really cool track will just come out of nowhere, and you can't plan that. We'll be taking a very loose and laid back attitude towards the new album.

How would you describe a Napalm Death show for those that haven't experienced you guys live before, that may be considering going to see you this October?

Energetic, wild, noisy, unexpected, strangely humorous at points and also very thought provoking at certain points.

Very good. Well we can't wait to have you back here again soon. Thanks for taking the time to talk and sharing some terrific information with us. Take care in the meantime and we'll see you shortly.

Excellent mate, looking forward to it. Cheers! See you soon Australia.

Written by Steve Jenkins

Get your tickets now for this stacked line up by visiting Soundworks Touring.

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