Baker's Dozen

Artists discuss the 13 records that shaped their lives

Life In Death: Shane Embury’s Baker’s Dozen

Napalm Death stalwart Shane Embury takes Kez Whelan through his thirteen favourite records, from his friendships with Repulsion and Cardiacs to his early years shaped by Venom and AC/DC

Photo by Jean Michel Monin

If anyone embodies the term “lifer” in England’s extreme metal scene, it’s surely Shane Embury. Most well known for his long-standing tenure as bassist for grindcore legends Napalm Death, his dedication to music also spans the lightspeed hardcore of Unseen Terror to his forming of grinding supergroups like Venomous Concept and Lock-Up with some of his own musical icons. As the varied choices in his Baker’s Dozen will attest, he’s a ravenous music fan, devouring anything weird and wonderful he can get his hands on – but it wasn’t until recently that he could sit back and assess just how much of an impact music has had on his life.

“I think everybody had their own strange experience through the pandemic – I did, for many reasons,” he begins. “I’ve never been home for that long a period of time ever. I wasn’t struggling but I’m quite a creative person generally. I always kind of knew I was, but it’s only the past few years I’ve said to myself, ‘Well, this is what I do, and I need to do it.’ I think it was there for a while but it definitely ramped up the heat during Covid.”

Although Embury says he already has “shitloads of ideas for the next Napalm album”, he also spent the moments of downtime afforded to him during lockdown working on some more reflective projects, including his loop-based dark ambient solo outfit, Dark Sky Burial. “This will be the eighth album I’ve done in three years so I’m pretty crazy,” he laughs. “I can sit there for a few weeks and drone out on some strangeness and just put it out, and it is what it is, and that’s brilliant. I get a real kick out of it, I have a small following, and that’s fine for me.”

These moments of (relatively) quiet reflection have also led to one of Embury’s most ambitious projects yet; namely, his new book Life?… And Napalm Death, which chronicles his entire life up to, including, and beyond his time with the band. “It begins where I began,” Embury explains. “I’m from a really small village called Broseley, near Ironbridge in Shropshire, and it starts there. I’m 55, I grew up in the 70s when Top Of The Pops was blasting out stuff like Slade, and that’s really what got me into the guitar. [The book] talks about my life growing up in a village and the people I met, and eventually meeting people from Napalm and coming to Birmingham. There’s also a big chunk of how I was as a person, developing musical influences or just stuff that I was into which I think probably helped towards me being who I am.”

After toying with the idea for a while, Embury started to piece the book together towards the end of lockdown. “It’s quite a strange trip actually, doing a book. I used to joke about it quite a bit, and then you realise that you’ve been doing your thing for 35 years, so you do have some memories. I just opened my mouth and then didn’t stop talking, and it was transcribed with the help of a friend of mine [veteran journalist Dave Everley], so co-written, I suppose. Most of my friends can attest, I have no problems talking about stuff, I veer off on weird tangents,” he laughs. “Dave did a good job of keeping up!”

The project was quite a different undertaking to making a record. “I’ve no problems going into a studio and blasting out twenty tracks, but the finer details, normally Barney [Greenway, Napalm Death vocalist] takes care of that with Napalm. With the book I had to make sure that it was right, and not fuck it up basically,” he smiles. Nevertheless Embury is looking forward to seeing where this new adventure takes him. “I think when the book comes out I might have the opportunity to go to a few book festivals and stuff like that. I’ve spent 31 years in the live circuit, which is nice, but I’ve been enjoying being home a bit more lately, with my family, so I’m trying to find the balance.

“Obviously I’m known as the bass player from Napalm Death, and that’s all well and good, but there’s a lot more to me really than you might think, as there is everybody – and I think that’s probably why I wanted to do the book.”

Shane Embury’s new book Life?… And Napalm Death is published on 3 October by Rocket88, and is available to pre-order here. To begin reading Embury’s Baker’s Dozen, click the image of him below.

First Record

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