NAPALM DEATH Bassist Sounds Off On Illegal Music Downloading, Band’s Early Years

Thiago Sarkis of Brazil’s Roadie Crew magazine recently conducted an interview with bassist Shane Embury of British grindcore pioneers NAPALM DEATH. Several excerpts from the chat follow below.

On the metal and punk roots of NAPALM DEATH:

Shane: “Well, this lineup of the band has been together since 1991, but all of us at one time were metalheads; that’s our background as kids! Speaking for myself, I got into punk around 1982-83, and I think the other guys who are younger just a little later. I got into hardcore through my friend’s stepbrother and then into tape trading in 1984 and then finally it kept growing up until I came across the punk scene in Birmingham, but I have always held onto my metal roots. I got into guitar music at the age of 6 with bands like SLADE and THE SWEET as my mom used to buy me the records, I then heard JUDAS PRIEST when I was 9 or 10 and it went from there, really. I was always attracted to the loudness of the music, the craziness and the guitar sound. I used to bash the shit out of my grandmother’s water buckets, so I think when you do that as a kid, you are not going to join a reggae band! Some of my favorite metal bands are JUDAS PRIEST, BLACK SABBATH (the Dio period is my favorite), TYGERS OF PAN TANG, RAVEN, SAXON, SATAN, DIAMOND HEAD, ACCEPT… Too many to mention.”

On new songs and upcoming releases:

Shane: “In the future, we want o be able to do more stuff like [the single ‘Legacy Was Yesterday’]. We are planning to release some splits in the future as well and so we are going to record some songs next month, actually. It’s fun. We have plenty more songs to record, so ‘Legacy Was Yesterday’ was especially for Albert at Decibel [magazine] and it’s nice to have an exclusive like that. We have a split planned with THE MELVINS which will come out this year and also another couple of split with some other bands but for now it’s a secret. They are certainly fun to do.”

On the friendship between the members of NAPALM DEATH:

Shane: “We are good friends, and also, I guess you could say, brothers. But as most brothers do, we fight at times about what we feel is right and at times this can cause uncomfortableness, but it passes and we move forward. Sometimes I don’t know how we get over the arguments and move on, but we do. Sometimes life on the road can feel like a very surreal journey and you feel very disconnected from home and each other, but we have been together as friends so long now that we can give each other space, and yes, we have fun not all the time, but we still have some great laughs on the road. It’s also still very nice and important to meet our friends from around the world. It’s at these times that you realize how lucky you are to be doing what you do, but perhaps we are an exception, since I have seen a lot of bands who don’t interact that well with each other. We are lucky.”

On illegal music downloading:

Shane: “I know that ‘Smear Campaign’ was available to download two weeks after we had finished the record, but I think other powers were at work there. It [illegal downloads] is obviously affecting the record labels, but we, as a band, have been touring like crazy the past few years and perhaps that is a little bit down to kids downloading the record and checking it out. I just don’t know. My feelings are mixed on this whole subject and I think that stems from me being a tape-trader back in the day. I think that genuine fans will probably buy the record or a version of it if they like it. I have to be honest — especially here in the U.K., when CDs first came out, they were just too fucking expensive and technology came along and kicked the industry in the ass. I just know that as a musician the rules have changed, but playing live which for me is a big part of the whole thing is as intense as it’s always been.”

On the early days of NAPALM DEATH:

Shane: “I live very close the place where I first saw NAPALM DEATH. It’s a pub called The Mermaid. They are knocking that building down now. NAPALM DEATH was a three-piece and I loved the band instantly. They had the perfect blend of CELTIC FROST-inspired metal riffs and blasting savage hardcore. Mick [Harris], as a drummer, was so exciting to see they became my favorite band and I became great friends with the three of them and traveled with them to many shows. My biggest regret, really, is that I did not join them when Nic Bullen asked me too as I would have played on ‘Scum’, on the B-side in reality. I just sat in the studio when they recorded the A-side, but the band made such a massive impact on my life and still does to this day.”


Shane: “I came from a very small town called Broseley, which is in the county of Shropshire — 40 miles from Birmingham. I was one of four friends into metal and we were tape-trading with Bill Steer and people like that and we were getting into faster music like POSSESSED and DEATH, so we formed WARHAMMER, who were, I guess, the first death metal band in the U.K. before ONSLAUGHT. We had a demo called ‘Abbattoir Of Death’ and I originally started playing drums in that band. I had always wanted to play in a band since I was 6 or 7, so this was one step further towards my dream. AZAGTHOTH was a band I played in with the guitar player of WARHAMMER, a guy called Pete Giles, who later played in many bands, one of them being SCALPLOCK. WARHAMMER‘s and AZAGTHOTH‘s music was very intense death metal.”

On the possibility of new material from INSIDIOUS DISEASE, his side-project with DIMMU BORGIR‘s Silenoz:

Shane: “I saw Silenoz in Oslo the other week when my other band LOCK UP played and we discussed working on some new material. Let’s hope we can do something again soon.”

On his memories of “Utopia Banished”, the NAPALM DEATH album which was released 20 years ago:

Shane: “That was the first album that Danny Herrera [drums] played on, so it was I guess an important one as everyone was looking to see if we could pull it off without Mick. We had a lot of fun in the studio. I feel the guitars are not loud enough on that mix of the record, though, but as an album, it’s a very intense record with a lot of manic riffs. We were very young, but as a band we were enjoying hanging out together a lot and we were very focused on making the record a good album. I am very proud of the album. As I said, I think it could have had louder guitars on the album but Danny‘s drumming on that album is great and very spontaneous.”

On NAPALM DEATH‘s plans for the immediate future:

Shane: “The band will head to the States for the first time in three years to play the Maryland Deathfest. NAPALM also plans to release a few split releases this year, all being well, with MELVINS, CONVERGE and MUNICIPAL WASTE. These will take time to come together, though, but it’s a nice break from the norm of just recording album after album.”