Albert Petersen talks to the Godfather of British grind, Shane Embury, ahead of Napalm Death's upcoming Australasian sojourn...
After a lot of fucking about with Skype (as always), I’m suddenly on the phone to Napalm Death bassist Shane Embury. We spend a few minutes bonding over our mutual lamentation of communication technologies before getting right down to the nitty-gritty of the call, namely the band’s imminent Australian tour and their new album.
I start by mentioning how, as a young metaller in the late eighties, we would talk of Napalm Death in hushed reverential tones, a bench-mark in heaviness, madness, and generally all round sheer fucked-up-ness. You must be pretty happy about having been able to make a living out of this insanity, aye? “I came from a metal background but when I jumped into the whole punk thing that was happening here in ’85, you’re all young kids and you don’t get paid but you don’t give a shit – you know, £1.50 gigs for seven or eight bands. You’re doing it because you love it and you’re passionate, and you never envisioned that you were gonna be around doing the same thing thirty years later.” He is both grateful and astounded that he (and the band) is still going strong, mentioning a number of his comrades who now have full-time ‘proper’ jobs. To Shane’s credit he doesn’t come across at all cocky or ‘King Plop of Turd Hall’ – he has respect for the unfortunates who have to do the daily grind. As he notes “It’s a weird thing because I always wanted to play music. It’s the only thing I wanted to do and it’s really nice to be able to make a living from it. Every now and then you have a little pinch of your side – there’s almost a bit of a guilt-complex that you are touring and you are making money but you still try and do things – hopefully – on your own level. But it is bizarre that you’re making a living out of it – it was never the intention!”
I see that Brujeria and Lock Up (as well as Australia’s own Black Rheno) will be supporting Napalm Death on the tour; seeing as you’re in three of the bands on the bill, will you get paid three times? He laughs, explaining “Well, with Lock Up we never get to tour much – because me, Anton (Reisenegger) and Nick (Barker) are also in Brujeria, it’s more a case of just being able to play the shows – it’s not like I’m sitting there rubbing my hands together going ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah!’ – you’ve still got flights and expenses etc. For me, especially with Lock Up, it’s a just case of the band never getting to tour so let’s get the band exposed to fans of that kind of music.”
I ponder the differences between Napalm Death, Brujeria and Lock Up and ask if he needs many different bands to express his many different ideas. “The thing about Brujeria, that started in the early nineties in Los Angeles with members of Fear Factory and Faith No More, and I kind of became an honourary member, and their take on it was a latin-american interpretation of Napalm Death in the early days.” He mentions touring the US twenty plus years ago with Napalm Death, noting “You’d play California and most of the crowd would be Latino, and Brujo the singer (John Lepe) would say that there’s never been a band for those guys and that’s how Brujeria came in to being. It’s not really my band though obviously I’ve been a part of it for a long time. Lock Up was something that Nick Barker and I put together to explore the hyper blasts and grind death metal which is a little bit more death metal than Napalm because Napalm is really more of a mixture of death metal, punk and gore. Kind of like old school punk, ambient, industrial stuff so they’re all different. I think I’m a little bit insane because I’m always into different kinds of music and I’ve always got little things I want to do and you can’t always squeeze it into Napalm – and I don’t think you should – if I’ve got the time, I’ve got no problems recording a split EP with some guys in Australia if I’m in to it because I like to have a bit of fun.”
This observation leads me to highlight Shane’s vast CV; drumming with Azagoth and Warhammer, and his work with Blood From The Soul, Meathook Seed, Malformed Earthborn – the creativity pours out from him all over the shop. Again, he’s quite modest.
“I feel quite lucky in that respect; you meet people, and musicians, we’re a strange breed as my wife keeps telling me! You meet people and you click and you go ‘Yeah, you’re alright’ and then you’re doing something musically together. I always try and make something happen. I’ve become really good friends with Buzz from The Melvins and his work ethic is that he just likes to keep busy and he gets a kick out of making music and creating sounds.” It’s the love of it that keeps it all going. It’s a beautiful thing. He mentions several other projects in the pipeline, exclaiming “I just love it!”
So how’s progress on the new album going? “We’ve just finished recording a bunch of new Napalm ideas for the next album, which will be out next year, and Danny (Herrera) the drummer was just sitting there laughing at me, and he said ‘You love being in the studio!’ – and I do; I like it and it’s fun – and if you can’t have fun doing it then why bother?” I ask if there’s a working title for the new album but he’s not giving anything away, although content-wise, he says “The recording session we had down at the studio the other day was very productive; it was more productive than I’d hoped for so musically we’re well on the way with the new Napalm album. So I’m very happy. It’s been a good run. I guess we’re looking in the same direction as early 2000, trying to keep it fast, trying to keep it noisy – but also trying to keep it a bit different as well.” I ask if this will involve Napalm Death going all ambient on us which makes him chuckle. “I don’t think so with Napalm but there are gonna be some strange bits on the new album…there’s a bit of metal bashing going on but in regard to ambience, I think there’ll be a couple of points where it quietens down a touch – but not for very long! The thing with Napalm albums is they start off one way…” His approach to recording is typically old school and he has no patience for Pro-Tools or such malarkey. “I can’t be bothered sitting there programming drums; what’s the fucking point? I’ll just tell the drummer to give me a beat. I’m too old for learning new tricks in some ways…” Old school composition!
Sadly there won’t be any of the new album busted out on the October tour though he does admit that the set-list might have a few covers thrown in. “Maybe one or two different cover songs…we might play a cover song from one of the old punk bands. But it’s quite an interesting set; it’s got a little bit of everything with a bit of a noise factor going on towards the end of the set – get your earplugs ready!” I’m there already – and you should be too.
Fancy a night out on the grind with Napalm Death? Get your tickets HERE