“Over the years I would laugh and joke “Oh yeah, this’ll go down in the book!” Ya know, talk about some stupid silly shit I did or whatever a long time ago…That was a part of my humor I suppose!”
Over my decades as a metal / heavy music “journalist”, I think to myself that there is pretty much nothing else for me to cover or interview people about. But with every new year brings another first for me. And 2023 has been no exception! A lot of books on heavy / extreme music have been written and published over the years, of which I have many. But…I have never spoken to any of those books’ author’s until a month or so ago when I had the pleasure of talking to Mr. Shane Embury in Melbourne as part of Napalm Death’s recent Australian tour, the bassist for that band plus many other reputable bands. Given this opportunity to talk to one of the Godfather’s of Grind / Extreme Metal was a privilege to say the least so I jumped at the chance to delve into his mind to recount his motivations and memories of a life spent surrounded by brutality.
With forty years of source material to reflect upon, Shane and I discussed the initial moments of how the book Life…? And Napalm Death came to realisation…”Over the years I would laugh and joke…”Oh yeah this’ll go down in the book, ya know, talk about some stupid, silly shit I did or whatever a long time ago. That was just part of my humor I suppose! Then during the pandemic, which was crazy time in general for everybody, I did a publishing deal with “AMF Publishing” which is Andy Farrow who manages Paradise Lost and Devin Townsend (to name but a mere two), which I would never of done in some ways other than it would seem to bring in some extra income in for my family, but also because I was getting into different kinds of music, I always have been, I wanted like another outlet of trying to push that other music. I do a lot of experimental stuff….So he said, “Would you be interested in doing a book?” and I was always sort of half joked about it…and then I released at that particular point, it’d been thirty five plus years really of moving towards wherever that finale may be, I thought “Yeah, I have tales I can tell, stories to tell, but also where I come from is unique in some ways, so I thought “Yeah I’ll go for it, why not?“
“Napalm is very important to me and I like to think that I am trying to move the band forward in some ways but also adhere to the spirit of Napalm Death!”
In the intro of his book, Shane mentions reflecting back on his life’s path, I asked him if putting those memories into words difficult – “We finished the actual draft of the book, I just felt that because I’d reached a bit of a melting point, which happens to a lot of people…I wanted to present many sides and because I had recently crashed and burned. “I’ve always kind of been, that heart on your sleeve, what you see is what you get really! And that’s for anybody as a person you try to present yourself from many angles.” Embury continues to try and elaborate further; “it’s a little strange, I’m not quite sure exactly where I was 100% at that point but I felt like I wanted to, maybe not justifying it, but just saying this is what it is!”
I was very curious to hear if Shane considered it to be cathartic to put his life into words and onto paper. Confronting those questions of looking back on his life so far, where he came from (roots), how you were formed and raised and the man he is today – “I did get to this point during the whole lockdown thing, I was at home with my family normally I’d be on tour for six or seven months a year, I felt myself changing during that period and…she’s passed away now but the point where I hadn’t seen my Mum for a while and I started to look back on how I grew up and you realise that, you’re in the middle of it all living your life to the fullest, you look back and go “Oh well, this is quite an interesting journey (Embury finishes by laughing, stating) “that I still can’t believe in some ways!”
One of my final questions for Shane, considering all he has created and achieved throughout his life’s work was what does he want his legacy upon the world to be? – “That’s a tricky one, because for a long, long time besides Napalm I did so many other projects. It’s evident that crazy music is something I have to do, I don’t choose it in a way, I have to do it, it’s necessary!”
The mission statement of Napalm Death according to Shane Embury – “It’s the challenge, the musical challenge (Obviously Napalm are known for their shorter songs…) to move forward whilst still remain true to the nucleus of it; It is an experience of escalating chaos from the beginning to end of a gig. And there is many variations of that chaos because it’s not always about playing fast, but it has to have that intensity and that feeling of leaving you out of breath!”
“If I go too long without creating some sort of music I just go nuts and the wife knows I go nuts. Hopefully it’s gonna be nice. Out of all the chaos from Napalm and the life I’ve been lucky enough to lead through Napalm but I’ve got two amazing children and that’s the legacy really, to see what is gonna come from them in whatever endeavour!”
As this chat between Shane and I wasn’t really focussed on an upcoming tour or album release, there was this magnificent freedom to just banter and follow tangents that would necessarily lend themselves to a “normal” interview that am I used to doing, so across our journey into Shane Embury’s life and projects we cover a lot of different territories that are interesting and intriguing and you will just have to buy a copy of the book Life…? And Napalm Death plus also listen to my (near) exclusive chat with the legend himself as he also chooses Napalm tracks that he enjoys and tells us why he picked them.
Life? …And Napalm Death is out now courtesy of Rocket 88.