Greenway checks in by telephone from England to talk about the band’s longevity; continuing to tour in his 40s; how his band mates find fresh musical ideas and his desire to sit under a tree in a park and do nothing. It also wouldn’t be a Greenway interview without his take on the latest political news.
Justin M. Norton: To what do you attribute Napalm’s longevity and your ability to keep playing at this level long after many bands that you came up with have gone by the wayside?
Barney Greenway: Just a different level of perseverance, a real sort of punk view. We went through a lot of difficult times like a lot of bands did. But we just decided amongst ourselves, it was almost unspoken, that if the band was going to finish it was us who would decide that. We just sort of said we’ll run with it, we’ll roll with it and just see what happens.
We haven’t just seen bands, but entire scenes come and go. We’ve seen a huge cycle of different things become au fait and not au fait. We’ve always been there in the background and said we’ll do what we’ve got to do.
The critical write-ups beginning from when you split with Earache and did Enemy of The Music Business have been resoundingly positive. One thing is you've had a support of a consistent label, Century Media, since earlier in the decade. What creatively is keeping you going this far into your career?
I’d hate to sound cliché but there is a certain chemistry between these four band members. I think Napalm’s definitely got its own sound. It's whatever we come up with. There’s never a big master plan. This is something I answer quite a lot, actually. There's never a big master plan with Napalm. People think there would be but there just isn’t. We're just very able to come up with what we think is a good album in a short space of time. The album before (Smear Campaign)...although there were ideas it was all refined within three or four weeks before we went into the studio. It was all rigged very quickly.
We also have a really good support system with Century Media and it takes a lot of weight off of our shoulders. I never take things for granted and I’m taken aback by the amount of positivity. I couldn't tell you of anything negative that’s been said about any of the last three albums. It’s unheard of. It entirely knocks me back, in a good way.
What do you do to keep going when you are on the road as frequently as you are?
I don’t put age against anything. I really think if you want to do something it doesn't matter what age you are. It’s always bugged me that age is related to how creative to a band can or can’t be. That’s something that holds no water for me.
I’ve always been fairly fit because I’m a strict vegetarian. I get a good balanced diet. I don’t drink when I’m out on the road because the most important thing is to be able to give the people above and beyond. I try to keep stimulated as well. I read a lot of books. On the road, I take a whole bag of books with me. There’s just very simple things you can do for yourself.
It also seems like the band is still having fun with their music.
We wouldn't be talking right now if I wasn’t still having fun. I can’t do stuff unless I enjoy it. It’s got to have some sort of attraction to me or I just can’t do it. If Napalm became mundane I’d just leave. I would. I have no bones about saying that, I'd just go.
On the new album you seem to have moved a little bit away from pressing political concerns to the larger theme of the illusion of freedom. Could you talk a little bit about that?
It’s not that far removed. It’s another album about free thought, as was the last one. Smear Campaign was basically an analysis of the power of religion, an analysis of power structures that have a stranglehold on us. That very much carries over into this album in a slightly different way. We’re not reinventing the wheel with this. We seem to work ourselves into the grave from a certain point onwards. It may be because we’ve been conditioned to do so. I include myself in this. I feel like if I'm not doing something I must be doing nothing which is not the case. You can draw back from things and experience an extension of your own mind. There’s other people that work themselves into the grave so they can have money, status symbols. That's not my thing but the fact remains that a lot of people do that.
Given that drive people sort of miss a lot of things in life, the simple things. If they are always concentrating on getting ahead they are missing the beauty of the world around them. How often do I just go to the park that's down the road and sit under a tree? The answer to that is probably not in the last ten years. There's something quite wrong about that. If you don't have an understanding of those simple things in life you can't understand all the complexities. That really is the central theme.