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Things I Have Learned

Barney Greenway of Napalm Death Raises The Horns To Soft Rock
John Doran , January 27th, 2009 06:54

Napalm Death’s Barney Greenway tells Toby Cook about the pleasures of soft rock, why it won’t be playing at his funeral and what pisses him off about the genre's modern pretenders

Yes, I like soft rock

I make no bones about it and I’m certainly not in the closet with it, if someone asks me I’ll tell them. It’s not usually something that comes up in conversation because for the main part my sphere of influence, and what I like, is about as noisy as it can get. But I’m just a music fan really, I like all kinds of things. In my formative years I was perhaps a bit more blinkered, but as I’ve got on I’ve come to appreciate different things – I even like ambient music, and all sorts of music even more gentle than soft rock. If you ask anyone out there that says they are a music fan I don’t think anyone would say that they entirely love just one thing all of the time, the exception would be when you’re younger – then you’re a bit more like ‘Nah, that’s shit’ or ‘Yeah that’s great’.

Soft rock encompasses a wide spectrum of artists

I think you could call Radiohead soft rock, and Muse also. Muse I really like, and a lot of their stuff is soft rock, I mean, what else can you call it? I know you can split stuff into sub-genres, but some of it is really, really melodically intense and so there’s a whole, huge spectrum of soft rock and it all comes down to definition and perception. This is why I’m always loathed to pigeonhole things – I hate splitting hairs with genres because I don’t think it serves a purpose, I think it can get pretty pointless after while. For example, I often have debates with people about what is Grindcore, what is this, what is that and you know what? It’s fucking irrelevant. When I go in to make an album I want it to sound like Napalm – I want it to be uncompromising and spontaneous and outside of that anything else kind of pales into insignificance really.

Soft rock or other wise, it’s all about the quality of the songs

Like everything – first and foremost the songs have got to be good. It’s all well and good having a load of fluffy keyboards hanging about, but it’s not going to be any good if the songs aren’t there. If you’ve got a load of plinking, plonking wimpy sounds and no song to hold it all together, for starters its going to last about two minutes in the CD player and then it’ll become a drinks coaster and an ashtray after that! And that rule applies to anything: the songs have got to be good. If it aint good, toilet it.

Nothing beats Journey

I think they reached a perfect amalgamation of song writing and guitar work, and of course they had a vocalist that could do things that would just turn you to fucking jelly, just by the pure sonics of his voice.

Yes, I do have a top five of soft rock albums

Number one’s always going to be Raised On Radio by Journey. People always trumpet other Journey albums but for me on that one the song writing and the production is perfect. You could take ‘Separate Ways’ – people always talk about that song – and yes, its one of the best tracks they ever wrote, but ‘Raised On Radio’ just had everything.

Number two would probably be 4 by Foreigner. Three would be by an obscure one, a band called Open Skies. They had one release on a major that never sold any copies, but was a really good album. Four would be Mark Free actually - Long Way From Love. He’s the guy that recently had a sex change, I think it was just after he made that album which is an interesting fact, but that’s a really good album, and of course number five would be Vital Signs by Survivor. Yes, they of ‘Eye Of The Tiger’ fame – that’s a classic.

You have to see pictures of Randy Jackson whilst he was in Journey

He’s now on that Pop Idol shite, but in Journey ‘The Jackster’ looked magnificent. You have to see the pictures of him, he had this huge bouffant and he used to wear this spandex jump suit, I mean, its got to be seen to be believed – it’s a magnificent piece of kit.


I won’t be having any soft rock played at my funeral

I actually wouldn’t have any soft rock at my funeral because – and this is probably quite a serious point actually – for me death is not something that is taboo. I would want people to just go nuts at my funeral and it would be Discharge and Motorhead playing. There’d be none of this Simple Minds ‘Don’t You Forget About Me'. I don’t want that sort of shite being played. I want something fucking mad, I want people jumping around and actually having a good time. I think life’s to be celebrated. I get sad of course when a relative dies – it’s hard to avoid that – but that’s not what I’m about. I’m like ‘Fuck it. Let’s have a fucking blast, let’s celebrate this and make it a good time and realise that we’ve got to move on, and that life is going to go on.’

Modern soft rock? I’ve no time for that piss!

They’re heading down a totally different road now. Soft rock is a certain sound. The song writing was great on the Journey albums, there was always a great sense of orchestration without it necessarily being orchestral. I think these clipped, kind of very, very condensed things like Nickleback and stuff like that, they’re just unlistenable to me. It’s just music to clean windows to or something like that. I know it’s hard to make a differentiation but to me it’s just dull piss! Nickleback, to me, is this kind of very marketable, very easy to slot in there ‘for the public’ stuff. I mean that ‘Rock Star’ song! What a gratuitous load of over-obvious nonsense! I Don’t quite see the point that they are trying to make with that track to be honest. Maybe they are trying to take the piss out of that whole lifestyle, but it doesn’t come across that way. It comes across very smug, and there’s nothing worse that fucking smugness! It’s a pretty torturous listen really.

I’ve no time for dross like Dire Straits either

I mean, ‘Sultans Of Swing’? That is just one of the most hideous, toe curlingly bad songs. At least Journey were heavy, I mean, not ultra-heavy, but at least they were heavy and they had that real emotional sort of heaviness, but ‘Sultans...’ is just soporific, fucking piss. It is such a non-event to hear one of their albums. It’s hard to put it into words... it’s just, well, dire. I can never handle Eric Clapton either, his solo work is so dull to me, that sort of singer songwriter kind of twee shite. I can’t listen to it. It’s the same with the Beatles – I actually really like some of the Beatles stuff, I think a lot of people do – but when you take some of the solo output, like Paul McCartney’s, it’s just atrocious.

My soft rock tastes will never influence Napalm Death

My spheres of influence have been set in stone since 1986, but that’s not to say that I’m some sort of stubborn bastard, hanging onto that past, it’s just because I love that stuff so much and I love doing what I do in Napalm so much. I don’t really want to think about doing anything else because who else do you ever speak to after 12 albums that’s going to say ‘Yeah this song I’ve done on this album was influenced by Anti Cimex.’ Not many people can say that, and I like that uniqueness. I like to know where my influences are and what I can do with them. I don’t necessarily have to bang a drum from on high, I just know where they are and I know that I’m always going to be driven by them.

I’m not going to debate whether soft rock is a credible genre or not

At the end of the day we always have to create these debates. I hate debating and arguing over genres and about me as an individual and whether I, in peoples eyes, am living up to being a punk or a metal kid, and the same thing applies to soft rock. It’s like, who fucking cares! Be yourself – if you want to be a certain way then you do that, but do it for you, don’t do it for other people. To be honest, if someone were to ask me to put myself into a certain characterisation right now, I would say fuck you – I’m not going to answer that question, I will not put myself into any particular box. Let’s not forget: If people can’t have power they like to have some sort of elitist thing over other people. There will always be those who point their fingers at people and generally feel that they mean less than them because they look a particular way, that’s a very typical human trait, one that’s not quite so desirable, but people do it. They point fingers like: ‘Look at this cunt here, with his poodle haircut’ and it’s almost like saying ‘clearly he’s an incarnation of a lesser cultural style’ but, I mean, well, who are they then? How are they so non-conformist!?

I can’t defend soft rock

Let’s face it. It’s fucking shit, isn’t it?

Napalm Death's Time Waits For No Slave is released on Century Media on February 2