A Fireside Chat with Napalm Death's Barney Greenway
When word came through the Kaala Slack that Barney, the vocalist of the legendary Napalm Death, was in Japan and willing to do an interview, I was more than happy to do it. Although I saw Napalm perform at Loud Park 2015, I was a bit bummed that I missed them when they came through on their tour with Turtle Island and S.O.B. in Autumn 2016. A couple of the Kaala guys packed into a van and travelled up to Ishinomaki to see them play and got some killer photos. But alas, I was left behind, alone and uncared for.
So on an unseasonably warm January 17th, I met with Barney and Konomi (who I had met recently at a Cripple Bastards gig at El Puente) at a fantastic vegan restaurant in Shibuya called Nagi Shokudo. If you’re in Shibuya and don’t mind going a bit off the beaten path, Nagi Shokudo has some amazing vegan cuisine at a very affordable price. So over lunch Barney and I had about an hour long “fire side chat” about the Japanese music scene, the brave new world we suddenly find ourselves in, and other topics ranging from the political to the personal (special thanks to the staff at Nagi Shokudo! I think we ran a bit past closing time for them, but the staff was patient enough to let us finish the interview without interruption).
In any case, here’s the transcript of the interview! Dig in guys!
Kaala: So what are your overall impressions of the Japanese extreme music scene?
Barney: Well my favorite stuff, this is always subjective, but I have a great love for Japanese punk. It was always really important and absolutely integral to Napalm Death. You know S.O.B., GAUZE, Systematic Death, you know Kuro, Swankies. The list is endless. It was always very informative to the sound of the band. So yeah, that side of things is very central to us. And we're lucky enough we get to play with those band. And also, I like that Japanese noise scene. In which Melt Banana is really only one part. You know the noise scene across the world, the great thing about it is the many different reference points. The Japanese scene takes it further, I think there is even more kind of quirky and bizarre kind of common reference points. I couldn't give you a huge list of names. I'd have to really sit and think about it. But I've heard some stuff that really took me awhile to get my head around. But that's a good thing. Music doesn't always have to be instant.
Sithter was one of those bands for me, I really like them. But the first time I saw them it was a bit difficult for me to grasp and get into.
Yeah, like Boris as well. They've done many things, you know. They've sounded very different at different points. Just really quirky.
I think Melt Banana is another good example of that, quirky, weird, but just fun and catchy.
Merzbow, for the more straight up, cacophonous (laughs). I think it was Konomi, but I had some Merzbow on once, and she heard it and was like "what the fuck".
So when do you think you'll move to Japan?
Well, there's no time limit. It's in the talking stage in the moment. And you know I'd have to settle my life in England basically first. Though I'm always gonna have a UK passport, I wouldn't want to - I'm not the sort of person who can have things kind of lurking in the background that need to be resolved. So it's tentative right now. But we'll see. Maybe in the next couple years roughly speaking.
So Barney, you've been here for almost a month now.
When did you come in?
I came in December 13th and yeah so today is the 17th. Just over a month and I've got a couple more weeks left. Which I'm trying not to think about - we're trying not to think about it. Like more so than any other place, and I've visited tons of places as you'd expect in 30 something years. It's really hard for me to leave Japan, you know. I've always found it really really difficult.
Is that because of Konomi [Barney's GF]?
Well obviously Konomi-chan but also, even before we met I used to spend a lot of time here. I came over here, sort of volunteering when the Tsunami happened, which a lot of people did. But also before that, I used to always come. You know what it's like, you meet a lot of people and of course there's always that thing there. That immediate fascination with the look, well Shibuya where we're sitting even though we're not right in the center right now. You know that sort of neon kind of fascination. I kind of got over that with the amount of time I spent here. And I came to realize, of course I knew it anyways, but Japan is about a lot more than that. Like, Tohoku region is very beautiful. And you know I've managed to go further down South and East. Not so far West yet, but we're planning to do that next time. I mean yeah, it's - I really enjoy it. Of course it's not all rosy in the garden because there's a lot of things that sort of need attention. But you know, it's no worse than anywhere else.
Yeah that's true. I have a lot of friends who are like "oh it must be crazy there" and I'm like it's just a place like any other.
Yeah it's just a place. I mean there are a lot of conventions that are different from probably where we're from. But that's to be expected.
So you said, you came here to volunteer and that was in 2011.
Yeah, 2011. Well it just happened that somewhat conveniently - to use that word loosely - I already had the trip planned on my birthday. I was coming over anyways. I used to come over here every birthday or I used to try. It was kind of my birthday present to myself. It fell three months after the tsunami, my birthday did. So a friend of mine told me, who's from Hamamatsu, we planned to go North and like at first we're like "let's go see" we had that sort of fascination. But we were like "let's go do something" you know. But to be honest with you, contributions could only be minimal because it was such a mess, even at that point. And, we realized that a lot of Westerners came here and kind of tried to really impose upon - or impose themselves - you know they didn't mean it intentionally but maybe it kind of got in the way a little bit. And we didn't want to do that. We wanted to help but we sort of stood back away, see if there was something we could do. To be honest at that point it was minimal, it was more a case of like, being able to manually move stuff. And a lot of the stuff they wouldn't let us go near anyways because it was still pretty hazardous. You know twisted metal and there were still cars stuck up forest gates and stuff like that, things they wouldn't let us go anywhere near. But they got to the point where they literally got their bulldozers and bulldozed paths through the debris to get to places where there were bodies or whatever. So there wasn't much to do. But the one thing while we were there is they did a test of the Tsunami alarm system, and we didn't know obviously. And the fucking tsunami alert when off for a minute there and we just started fucking running. We didn't know and there were people laughing at us so we kind of figured it out, that it was a drill. Yeah you know, so Higashi Matsushima that was the first place that I saw. And I remember it was really difficult to get there. There was no public transport, so the way we came into town was on a bus. And you couldn't see anything at first. I was like, "where is this?" And all of a sudden we walked over a bridge, there was this small bridge, and my jaw just fell on the floor. I just couldn't believe what I had seen. And so yeah, that was that. Then we went to Ishinomaki and saw everything up there. And it was like nothing I'd ever seen, you know. The stuff all over the internet just didn't do the devastation any justice.
Yeah in school I took a class about the disaster, and they showed some of the videos and it was absolutely horrifying.
Yeah. So like any human being in any human situation like that, I was just fucking absolutely taken aback. Same with the one in South East Asia in 2004 in Thailand. Indonesia and Malaysia got hit as well I think. We were there about a year after. We were one of the first independent noisy bands to play in Indonesia so it was a big deal for the people.
I've heard they got a pretty good scene there.
Yeah, it is now. It's more developed. But when we went there wasn't that much going on there it seemed and that's what they told us, you know.
We had a screamo violence band come through a couple months ago. They were from Indonesia I think.
Yeah, Discharge-type bands are huge in Indonesia, you know. But it's really weird because even though it’s a very religious country it still tries to be quite moderate within that framework. Even so it's still quite conservative in many ways. Yet that form of music is obviously not very conservative at all and that's huge there.
Was it in Indonesia? Where police and elders from a local mosque busted up a local show. Was that in Indonesia or Singapore?
Yeah, I think it did happen in Indonesia. It doesn't happen happen that often there. But I think actually in Singapore shows are like that where they have the obscenity police that go around and find stuff that's considered immoral. And to my mind, how dare you judge what people do as long as they're not hurting other people. So yeah, I'm going back to the subject of being in Japan now. It's like, it's a phrase that's used quite a lot, but this is a second home for me. It really genuinely feels like that. I've met friends, which is one of the most important things, dear friends who that I've made since I've been here are second to none, you know what I mean.
Yeah that's one of the reasons I decided to stay. All my friends back home have moved to different places and they're scattered all over the US. Here everyone is pretty local, it's easier.
The friends, the people that Konomi knows, are such on the real base level the most generous people. And that counts for everything. On the most human base level.
Especially living in the city it's hard to find people to connect to. You kind of drift around.
Yeah just like London. I lived in London for a couple years. I already had some friends down there, granted I made a couple of friends, some good friends there. But on the whole, the walls really went up. People always seem to be a bit suspicious of other people, you know. Just because. It was really tricky. Because my motto is you can never have enough friends, you really can't. People you can rely upon and they rely upon you, and in a world that's so fucking divisive in many ways, it's really important to have that.
(Waiter comes to tell us about last order, we ask for tea)
Did you guys see anything about the march they had in Shibuya a couple weeks ago?
No, I do know about them because I know in Japan and Korea there's the usual - still quite adversarial in a lot of ways. They have problems with the ultra-conservative kind of factions, and that to me just echoes - although it's a different cultural reference point - the whole intent and ethos is very much the same. Which isn't a good thing in any way shape or form. If that's what you were referring to.
There was an Antifa or Anti-Abe March.
That's what I'm saying, but it’s related to that yeah. I know some of the people who are involved in a couple of the groups. You know the Tokyo Against Racism people who a friend of mine put me in touch with back in - I wouldn't say I know them that well, but we've started to get to know each other. And that's a great thing.
I know they have some connections to some local cafes and zine shops.
I mean at this point I don't know much about that whole community. But I do know they're very positive people.
Yeah from who I've met they're good people. Some of them put on the Rage Against Fascism show every year.
It seems to me that one of the objects of concern which I know about is the Zaitokukai. And those to me seem like a very good reason to be concerned about, you know. Because they seem, in a country that's kind of maintains a level of calm, they're quite dangerous people you see, I mean in the physical sense. And they seem quite prepared to go to severe lengths. I know they've beaten up Koreans on the streets and stuff, they've murdered people. And a couple of vocal vans filled with fascist people, severely beaten or killed.
I have a friend who's doing research on this topic. At first he wanted to look at the more anti-fascist and anti-racist movements, but experts told him it was probably easier to do it on the nationalists. And they were very happy to give him interviews and stuff, but they're very concerned about pushing their agenda and narrative. And they might say things like they would be happy if all the Koreans and Chinese in Japan were killed. Really horrifying shit like that.
Yeah, and you know what. I struggle with it sometimes. I'm sure a lot of people would say this, but I'm really an advocate of free thought. If you really think that way, then that's your choice, you know. But the trouble is especially when you look at the era where fascism was allowed to prosper in the 1930s, it went unchecked. And the consequences for large sections of the population were disastrous, so therein lies the issue when it comes to it. It's probably going on here right now, there are ultra-nationalist movements that are almost legitimized by national governments, or they're left alone to let them do what they do.
That was a good thing in Greece, where they outlawed the Golden Dawn.
Yeah, but see, not in places like in Bulgaria where they have citizens militias who like really take it upon themselves to target Romani Gypsies who are one of the groups that often don't get talked about because they are one of the most victimized people ever in the world, you know. And down there, there's quite a large population of them. And they just get harassed, they very often get denied access to healthcare, education, everything. You know, it's just.
It sounds like many of them are forced to live in a sort of "no-man's land" in these precarious situations.
Yeah, yeah. You know, on the wider level you really have to ask yourself, where is it, why haven't we learned as a human race. What have we learned. It's nothing constructive. And it's certainly not constructive to push people out into secluded areas, whatever. It's just not good.
We have that in America, and I think it's a thing here as well. In Asia in general seems to be large movements to nationalism that are increasing and becoming more agitated.
Yeah also a few years ago.
It seems to be a global trend, which is pretty horrifying to me.
I'm just depressed about it all the time (chuckles).
Yeah I'll get depressed about it, but also I'm quite positive about it. You guys and the vast majority of people, what they would think about the possibility of ultra-nationalists coming back to power, you know I think most people would reject that. Even some fairly conservative people would reject it as well.
I think it's the nature of the politics here as well. It's how the LDP stays in power, by sort of pandering to these nationalist groups.
Yeah, that is really crazy. That that party has been in power for the last 60 years.
Yeah, with only like two short breaks during that time. So when you're visiting here, do you tend to go to a lot of shows?
We tend to. Konomi's really good at finding these things out you know. Because I'd like to say not being on Facebook or nothing like that, sometimes it's tricky because these things are not exactly well publicized. You know, you get flyers when you happen to be at another show. But we try. I mean we went to the GAUZE show, I always knew about that one. And Los Crudos, I always call them Los Crudos, but they're called Crudos now. Then we went to the Vivisick show, which was not long after.
Yeah it was Vivisick and...
It was really good, Exclaim? Exclaim.
Ah that's right. It was just the two of them right?
Yeah, just the two. It was really weird, they did four sets. Exclaim did like 20 minutes, and Vivisick did 40 minutes. Then Exclaim did another 20 or so minutes. Then Vivisick did...we kind of left because you know we had to leave. We had to go somewhere else. But it was quite an interesting way they did it. And then yeah, we went to the SOB show the other night, because it's fairly easy to find out about their shows.
Yeah I wanted to go to that, but I ended up going to the other Anomalous Collision that was the Wednesday before.
Yeah, and there was a Burning Spirits show that we were gonna go to, but it was New Years and we had already made plans.
Ah yeah, I was thinking of going to that. But I woke up thinking it was the next day. I realized later it had already started.
Yeah sure. I mean a couple years before we met [Konomi and he], and I was here for Christmas I was meant to a Burning Spirits show. But I got so fucking shitcanned, you know. I'd ended up...you know the night is quite patchy. But I ended up, there was a friend of mine from the States, I broke up into somebody's karaoke room, their private party apparently. And grabbed the mic and just started doing all kinds sense of nonsensical. So the security guard people were very nice apparently, because they escorted me out because they could see, what - you know. And I just fell down the stairs and fell into like a big plant. And ended up in the gutter on the street. These girls picked me up and took me to a photo booth, you know the kawaii photo booths, I know I just got all these photos of me completely wasted. Just, yeah, I got totally lost as well. I tried to walk back to my hotel, which is in Minami-Senju, and I was just totally fucking lost dude. I felt like fucking hell after that, I remember it well.
Yeah, we try to keep the calendar on Kaala. We try to keep that updated. But like you said it's really hard sometimes. Sometimes they're not well publicized or the band will post a flyer the day of or day before.
Yeah, I mean I know quite a lot of people here now. I mean Systematic Death is actually always been one of my and Shane - the bass player from Napalm - always one of our favorite Japanese bands. So you know from coming over here, I got to know the drummer and a couple of the guys. So through them we always know if they're playing around, and if it's with other bands then you know great. Do you know that band Turtle Island?
Yeah, they don't seem to play out very often from what I can tell.
Well they did the tour with us in November. So yeah, George-San, ,the guitar player, is one of my best friends. He's half-English, actually, half-English half-Japanese. His dad was English from London and he married a Japanese lady. So it's pretty weird, because when George speaks you in English, he's got a very English accent. Even though he's only ever been, as far as I understand it, only been to England once in his life. But he's got a total English kind of accent. It's quite weird.
I remember one time we had a student [at work] whose mother was from the UK. And it was very interesting because he looked very European, but he was very Japanese. His mannerisms were Japanese, but he could speak some English. And it was really one of those interesting moments where I walked into the classroom and I'm like, "Am I in the right classroom?" And he was like, "uh...yes." I felt like a huge jerk after.
Sure sure, I'm like with George. Unless you're up close with him, you'd swear he was European. Because, it's hard to explain but, he's got this European head shape but his eyes are very Japanese eyes. But then when he speaks, you kind of almost....like, if you know if he's Japanese, but like whoa I didn't expect that.
Yeah, it breaks the sort of definition of being racially Japanese I guess.
Yeah, well he had a lot of problems when he was in school. They used to call him a name, a racist kind of name used in Japan. I can't remember what it was, but he used to get really fucking messed with in school. And I think he's really quite a peaceful guy, but he just - a lot of people just wanted to fight him quite a lot.
Yeah, I've heard a lot of stories similar to that.
Yeah, and that's not good. Nobody would expect that, no matter where you live in the world. It's not right and nobody should have to fucking deal with that.
Yeah, bullying is everywhere though.
Yeah, I think you can call it bullying. Because I think kids are still, you know to be fair, kids are still learning about perspective and stuff like that. But still if you're on the receiving end it's not great.
Yeah, I think kids partially learn these attitudes from their parents too.
I would never dream of doing that. If I ever had children, which I probably won't, but I would never dream enforce those kind of values on them. To perceive people as lesser entities, you know.
Yeah. I think it's the whole kind of idea that, it's not always the lesser, but difference. And it seems Japanese culture, at least the education and the government, wants to emphasize this sort of difference. This is Japanese, this is not Japanese. This sort of othering.
I would suggest that being a human being is way more important than any of that. I mean I've always had this thing, culture and tradition ceases to have value if it does nothing but sort of hold on to and reinforce negativity. Why, what value does it possibly have then? You know we have, the UK was always very very quite, very sort of - how do I put it - we were always kind of introspective in a good way. Because we got a bad history. The British empire really did fuck a lot of places up. And it's always quite introspective about that. I wouldn't want to see that again. I mean never. But there is, in the past few years, not only because of the BREXIT people, but other things, we seem to have had this kind of, this whole reaffirmation of British-ness and stuff. And to me at this point, personally I could care less. Will I think about being British to me? Sure, if you're gonna put an identity on me, sure that's what I'll roll. But does it matter to me? Is it one of the pillars of my life? Absolutely not. It doesn't matter to me.
I agree. We have this same thing going in the US, where I've heard people talk about having children to cultivate and groom the next generations of Americans. And this is the most ridiculous shit I've ever heard. Who cares? It's just an accident where we're born, you know.
Right, I mean like let’s be honest. Borders, anyway, are the product of setting out boundaries of power for those that have the power. Which many people didn't. That's what they were. They were a sort of declaration of a power base, that's what borders were. Whichever border you look at in the world. And I think that at some point in time, the human race might go so much in reverse, that we might need to fucking break down to borders. Just say to people, "look, you go live where you need to live. Where you can maximize your contribution to humanity. If you can grow crops and you know where to do it, then go do it. If somebody else needs to go there..." So in other words you're using the Earth in a good way that benefits everybody and benefits the Earth itself. Because right now it's going particularly well.
That's really one of the things I've started to focus on recently is environmental issues. How absolutely fucked it is.
I mean think about it. Take one place, how absurd is China in Beijing. You've got days of the week now it's getting to the point where you can't go out. The government is not advising people to leave their homes.
Yeah, I've heard also what the government might do as well, the government wants to say "no" but the companies want them to say "yes" because they want the productive labour, so they'll fudge it so "you shouldn't go out, but you can" sort of thing.
I mean that's surely just a recipe for disaster. I mean, I think you're gonna ask it at some point, but this is the thing with Trump, this is the real danger right now. Because he seems really intent on rolling back any of the very tenuous protections that are in place now. They're not that great, to be honest, the ones that are already in place. But at least it's something. And I just think that's gonna go in reverse. And of course that's gonna set off a chain reaction, because if America one of the big powers in the world that it decides for itself it's OK to go and pollute and continue with fossil fuels and stuff, let's face it, everybody else is gonna go "well if they're doing it, we can do it" you know. In the UK right now they're talking about rolling back some of the - for domestic energy related stuff - they're talking about rolling back some of the green energy subsidies, you know, well they already are stopping a lot of the subsidies.
I remember there was a big thing under Obama, what was the name of that big energy company that went bankrupt after receiving a lot of money from the government. It was a huge thing, and the Republicans were up in arms, all like "oh see we shouldn't have this green energy investments and subsidies". Saying it was a huge waste of taxpayer money when at the same time they don't mind giving huge tax breaks to GE.
Yeah, and on that note as well, who knows what's gonna happen with health care in the US right now. You know one of the most absurd things I've ever seen is people marching through the streets in Washington, other places too, with bill boards saying, "Socialized healthcare equals communism" you know what I mean? The stupidity of it. I noticed a couple of American senators as well being really critical of the UK healthcare system, you know it might not be perfect, but for sixty-something years, it's meant that everybody no matter who you are in the UK can get access to a doctor and treatment - and life saving treatment. My dad wouldn't be alive if it wasn't for the national health system, you know. And if we are to have countries and citizens, if that's the structure we're gonna persist with, then one of the first marks of a country is its willingness to look after the health of its people. That means everybody across the board. It shouldn't be the case where you have to take substandard healthcare or no healthcare. What is really telling about this whole thing is that the people who protested against socialized healthcare are the ones who would give carte blanche to these private healthcare companies who are setting their own - moving the goal post every five minutes on every claim. I've had friends in the US who have been refused very important treatment because of the preexisting condition law. And when you look at it, you don't have to be a doctor to see how ridiculous and how tenuous the link is between something they have and always did against what they need to be treated for. It's absolute horse shit.
The corporations get to decide who lives and who dies basically.
Yeah, and people are really saying they want to persist with that level?
Yeah, and so many of them are benefiting from the new Obamacare, it's not perfect but...
No it's not. But I think it's a step towards a national health system. I think that's what he intended on. But I just think there's gonna be no public health care now. Certainly not in the next four years. It will get taken off the agenda and silently be pushed to the background, like really way to the background.
Yeah, the house has already started planning on defunding it basically. So they can't dismantle it, but they can get just defund it, it makes everything slower, bogs everything down, and then people become unhappy and demand something different.
Yeah, repealing it to me means to reclaim it, basically stomping it into the dirt.
Yeah, and they have no alternative plan. They don't really give a shit, they just want to privatize it.
And again, another real absurd thing about it is it's fair to say that quite a large portion of the people protested against it, although it's they who would benefit from socialized healthcare the very most, you know. And what I really object to on a personal level, is the fact that people are so bitter about what they put forth for other people's healthcare. It just really saddens me, first and foremost.
Yeah, I don't really understand that either. It seems strange that they wouldn't want other people to benefit from their tax money going to help somebody. That's always really confused me.
Well you know, any taxes you pay, I know tax allocation isn't always perfect, but in the main while we got society - OK that might change in the future if society breaks down, which also might be a good thing at some point. But once we're in the situation that we're in, you know, again it's about that ensuring everybody else isn't left to fucking die in the gutter basically.
What do you think of Japan's healthcare system?
I don't really know much about it, I must be honest. I was always under the impression that there wasn't really any public healthcare in Japan. But Konomi tells me that there is.
So there's a public health care that is offered through your ward office, which is based on your taxable income. Then there's shakai hoken which is a pension and insurance scheme you can get through your employer, it's better but more expensive. Then I think there's a third scheme run by the government. And there is also private insurance.
I'm really against private companies running healthcare, I'm really opposed to it. I think the whole notion of putting profit before people's lives, it's always sat at odds with me. It's just never sat right with me and that's an understatement. I think every healthcare system should be run - if we're gonna have governments - it should be run on a social care level. That's the way it should be run. Everybody should have equal access and if you earn more, you pay more taxes, you put more into the system to give back. That's what progressive taxation is, you know.
In Japan, the private companies tend to fill niches, so for example cancer treatment. I don't think shakai hoken covers cancer. So they have this good public base.
Sure, but I think if we're stuck with private companies having a presence in the healthcare system, there should be a different set of rules. If we really have to have it, there should be a different set of rules when they are advocating public healthcare. I mean, I'd rather they weren't there at all, but if private companies have to be involved in it they have to understand that if they are making money from the healthcare system they have to run it on that set of ethos, under a private healthcare ethos. As was set out by, I think it was Nye Bevan in the UK who set out the blueprint for the national healthcare system.
When was that instituted?
It was '48 or around there. Right after the second world war, basically it was decided we couldn't keep going the way we were. The poverty was insane, the rationing was still going on after the war. So they needed to really make sure that everyone was protected you know. And I still hold, that principle to me, that's the right one to my mind.
I agree. It's kind of one those things where you know, if we had my way we'd have full communism basically.
Well here's the thing. That's a discussion itself. I'm not a communist myself, I get accused of being a communist but not many people can make distinctions of the sorts. The Soviet Union, North Korea, that wasn't really communism. You know the real definition of communism is a commune - communal living. Some of the kibbutzniks Israeli communes] were quite good examples of the way to live to where everybody is taken care of, everyone contributes to the community. Like, Russia and North Korea are state capitalism to my mind. It's a very few at the top who benefit from the wealth that is generated. There is wealth generated in North Korea, that's for sure. But it goes to the top, it doesn't go to the people. That's not communism or socialism. If you are for the people you know, then you don't sort of sit in palaces and sit on thrones and basically expect people to do as you say but not do the same yourself.
I think Marx saw the state as a vehicle to sort of achieve communism, well socialism not communism. Where in communism the state falls away, it's not needed.
Yeah, you know fundamentally as a human being, I could not sort of make apologies for any system that imprisons people for thinking or expressing themselves the way they do. Even if I might not agree with it, I cannot condone that. No matter what shade of politics in that particular system. That to me doesn't sit well. My first priority as a human being is to see that other people can live in dignity and peace and not be fucking harassed or you know intentionally made into second or third class citizens.
Yeah, I agree. I've heard people who are sort of apologists and if you criticize the USSR or North Korea they'll say "but America is way worse - damn capitalists!" which I think we can say that both are bad. We don't have to stick up for something that's so called communism just because it's labelled as such.
Yeah, like labor camps and enforced labor. Really are people gonna say that they really - you know I don't want to be dismissive of people. But you really sort of need to think of the implications of these things are and really take a long view. I've learned that in all the years. Sure I enough I used to be very, you know, like that about certain things but then when you understand what it entails sometimes. It's not so great. If you're gonna argue against totalitarianism, then argue against totalitarianism.
I agree, I think we really need to think critically about things and not just take things at face value. Everything should be critiqued in some way.
I think that's the one thing I would say that maybe at some point, we've already touched this, but I think the way the world is organized right now. It may be unsustainable in the long run. It may have to - like the Roman Empire - collapse. You know they always thought it was invincible. In the same way that collapsed, the way the world is going right now it might have to collapse. And it might have to go back to something like citizens councils. Not governments and stuff like that. But maybe more localized citizens' councils where everybody has a voice in the locale. And different councils have a same kind of understanding, you know, that they will not go to war if there is a dispute. If they sit down and everybody kind of talks about it, force is never necessary.
Yeah that would be the ideal scenario. I mean we can see people doing that, even here, on a very localized level.
Yeah it's really localized, and of course in Europe you still have the mechanisms, the many levels of intermediaries.
But I think of that argument, "You don't like capitalism, but you have a cell phone." But anyways, let’s get back to Japan. So how long you and Konomi been together?
A couple years now, two and a bit years.
How did you guys meet?
Well, Konomi used to always come to Napalm shows, I used to always see her there. She likes the music in general. And we sort of met a couple times and then we just sort of got together. We sort of were talking and I was like "I'll come over and visit" you know, and it sort of went from there. You know, we have a great time. We really enjoy ourselves. I don't think we've ever had a cross word the entire time we've been together. Even though she speaks quite good English. She thinks she doesn't, but she does. (laughs) But you know, your understanding can transcend that language. So we always have a great time, we always make light of things. We laugh, we smile, we have a fantastic time.
And you were saying you spend almost half the year here in Japan.
Yeah, I would say maybe four or five months in Japan. A long time in Japan then, every couple of months.
And does Konomi go to the UK?
Konomi: Once a year.
Yeah, she couldn't go once because although she's more fortunate than most Japanese employees, their time off is never great. I would suggest not consistent with a good work-life balance. But yeah, her boss is, at least within that context, quite generous. He's quite a nice guy. So he lets her come for two weeks or so. Well about ten days because obviously the traveling. And yeah, we're gonna - she's coming over in February. So I live near the sea there in Brighton and we're gonna go to Stonehenge and visit my family in Birmingham, we're gonna make wasabi sushi. We'll have a good time. I want her to know more about the UK, but it's difficult because when I'm here I can spend months at a time, and when she's working during the day I can do a lot of exploring. But trying to get around the UK in a week is not easy.
Yeah one week a year doesn't sound like much time. But at least you're able to come here on a regular basis.
Yeah, I am. And the thing is if I do end up in Japan I'm in a very fortunate position. Because obviously Napalm doesn't require a base. Well it does, but in terms of me being - I can live wherever I need to because I would still need to be where Napalm is. I'd still be out of Japan anyway for period of time.
And you guys [Napalm Death] just came through here in, what was it September?
Yeah. We did a tour. It was us, Systematic Death, Turtle Island, and a few bands hopped on at different scenes. Some quite classical Japanese bands. So yeah, it was great.
I couldn't make any of those shows, but I did see you guys at Loud Park last year  though.
Yeah it was pretty wild. It's a pretty different thing for us, it's way bigger than what we would ever do ordinarily. It's pretty funny because out of pretty much every band that's on that bill, we're the only sort of noise band you know. And some people's faces when we played were like [makes a mock face of shock and surprise], you know.
Yeah, Loud Park is pretty expensive.
Pretty expensive and pretty heavy metal for the most part. You get a lot of Hammerfall shirts and stuff like that.
It's funny you say that, my friend who I went with wanted to go see Kamelot on that day. I was like...well I want to see Napalm Death and Carcass, so ok.
Yeah, it's really different for us. But you know what, I have to say that - it's what two times that we've done it? Of course you'll get a certain contingent of people who are like "what the fuck is this?" you know. But in the main, the reaction has been fantastic. And the thing about Japan is, the one good thing, if people are aware of the band and they're like "well I kind of like that band," they investigate and they want to know all the details about the band. And so Napalm is all about the detail in many ways. You know, the lyrics, the ethos, I want people to know about it. And sometimes it's hard, it's one of the hardest things to get across. Sure we always have the lyrics sheet in every album, we always talk about it as we're talking about it now. But you can't always get that across, even in Europe. So it's good that people are very inquisitive about the things they like. They sort of become familiar with it.
That actually is a question, because we talk about this at Kaala. We talk about whether or not music should be political and if it is, how political should it be. Can it be divorced philosophically?
Well that's a complete non-question, no disrespect intended. Because think about it, music is the ultimate, like, the ultimate sort of transcend-er of anything. Look through the ages to what music has contributed to, in terms of breaking down walls. It was part of the civil rights movement, you know in the US. It's been used to strike a chord where chords couldn't be previously struck. So, imagine that, how ridiculous that sounds. You're gonna start putting parameters on what music can say and what it can't. No, it should be completely bereft of parameters, you know.
Like you said, it's a transcendent form or art. Some might argue art is always political.
Yeah, well whether you call it political or not, whether you just call it basic humanity is a debate. But surely, you should not put those sort of gauges on music, it's absurd.
I agree with what you're saying. I tend to hear the argument that music shouldn't be political or to keep politics out of music entirely. I think everything informs, especially politics, informs what we do. And it will inform our art, what we make.
I know why people balk at that, and I agree with them on a certain level. Because politics is a very stigmatic word. You think of politics, you immediately you think of the massive machinations in the corridors of power. Which a lot of it is tokenism and none of it really achieves what it needs to any great degree. Although there are people in politics that have very good intentions that way, but the wheels in motion don't lend themselves to the drastic change in motion that are needed. So for that reason I understand why a lot of other people say that. But what's intended with band that generally are political, surely you can't sort of minimize that. It wouldn't right. They can be as political as they want, they can be as apolitical or non-political as they want, you know. It's that band’s choice.
Well, I mean that's what we generally agree on. I'm not arguing that bands should or shouldn't be political.
No, I'm not saying that but I have heard that quite a few times. That does come up quite a lot, that bands shouldn't be political. Well, I'm sure it's up to the band to make that decision. It can be whatever it wants to be. It can be absolutely non-political. You know I get the other side sometimes. "Barney, why you like these bands that aren't political bands?" Duh, because I like fucking music. You know, because it speaks to me. It doesn't always need to have that ultimate social narrative. It can be something completely - you know the whole manipulation of words and notes for different aspects. It can be purely escapist. You know we don't just live this life in a monochromatic way. You know there are many shades. And if we're gonna get to a world that is enjoyable and decent and has dignity for everybody, we want to be entertained. You know I don't want to live a monotone life. Fuck that.