Napalm Death on Fighting Modern-Day Slavery: "It's Going on All Over the World"

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The men of Napalm Death are never too busy decrying human slavery to take a Caribbean vacation.

But as soon as the 7000 Tons of Metal music cruise returns to shore, they will march, sunburned and rested, from the Port of Miami to downtown's Grand Central, where they will rip a feedback hole in the universe and take the crowd to hell.

However, before this underworld of growls, shrieks, distortion, and blast beats is revealed, here's what lead singer Barney Greenway had to say about modern-day slavery, slumlords, the super-rich, and playing in Cuba.

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New Times: What is your history with Miami?

Barney Greenway: We played Grand Central last year before the last cruise thing. But before that I'm sorry to say we haven't played Miami for, like, 15 or 20 years.

Where was your first show here?

It was a club on the seafront, as I recall. It had a kind of a fruit name, like Club Pineapple or Peppermint. Some kind of fruit or sweet name I can't remember. It was quite small.

I listened to a couple of your interviews about the new album, Apex Predator: Easy Meat, and how the concept comes from the sweatshop-collapsing death of thousands at Rana Plaza in Bangladesh, and the existence of modern-day slavery. Are you familiar with the relatively recent documented instances of human slavery in Florida around the fields of Immokalee, being battled by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers?

It wouldn't surprise me. That stuff is going on all over the world. And part of the theme of this album is to illustrate that. People think of human slavery as confined to these big industries in Southeast Asia, but it's right under our noses. And actually, some of the big companies who are legal, or supposedly operate under the rule of law, the way they pay and the working conditions of their employees is something I consider slave labor. If you undervalue people badly enough, it's tantamount to slavery, and it's not acceptable in a humane world.

Did you know your concert will take place on the actual border of the highest income disparity between rich and poor in the United States?

Yeah, man. I remember being in Miami and people saying that, to look at the contrast between the neighborhoods and you see a distinct dividing line between the rundown deprived and the super-rich. It all goes to the things Napalm has addressed many times over the years. The human race is at the top and supposed to be learning and evolving. And part of that is supposed to be understanding humanity and how to treat other human beings. Reaching a truly egalitarian globe may be off the mark, but it's always been a thing of mine to scratch the surface, call these things out, and promote humanity.

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Would you ever play a show in Cuba?

Yeah, I think I would. I think it's a tricky one for a lot of people, but I come from the left. That's where and how I grew up. My perspective is always leftist, but I don't think there's any justification for stopping people from speaking and acting freely and society opening.

I think going into Cuba now can only move things forward and I would definitely be interested in doing that. I think it would be a good chance for Napalm. And as far as I'm aware, I think Cuba looks at bands from the left as having a better chance at being accepted. I'm not saying that music would save lives, but everybody has the right to enjoy life. I think it would be a good thing. You've also got to remember UK citizens are not under the same embargo conditions, so it's a little different for us.

What's another place you played like that?

Napalm was a trailblazing band. If you know the history, we were the first band to play the Soviet Union, and that was a real eye opener. I've been doing it with Napalm Death since 1990, so we've got a long and checkered history.

I see your tour goes through Albuquerque, New Mexico, where two cops were just charged with murder for executing a homeless person on video. What do you think of that?

I didn't know about that specifically, but I think too many moves forward into militarism are bad. Police are given way too much leeway to use physicality on citizens and I think it's not right. Police should be held to account. I'm against violence, against militarism, against any sort of very aggressive policing. It's not necessary and makes matters worse, not better.

Have you seen Jim Carrey talking about you on Arsenio Hall?

I know the one. It is pretty funny to be fair.

What's the song "Dear Slumlord" about?

You may know about slum landlords in places like New York City. I'm referring to situations in Southeast Asia where big companies or corporations not only control workers, but also hold a stake in their living arrangements. They own the buildings and hire slumlords to control these buildings and basically set rent levels at will and control the lives of the people living there. And if they want to skim off the top, it's encouraged, as the workers are further impoverished. It's written like an open letter where the worker is pleading to the boss like, 'You should beat me. And if you beat me and intimidate me, and provoke me, I'll be a better tenant and worker, and that's what you should do.' On the musical side of things it's very strange and queasy sound. It's a very bizarre and uneasy little number.

Any shoutouts?

Shoutout to everybody who has supported the band. Sorry we took so long to get back to Miami after all these years. And I give my best to the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. They should be treated with dignity and get what they deserve.

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Napalm Death. With Voivod, plus Exhumed, Iron Reagan, Ringworm, and Black Crown Initiate. Presented by Speedfreek. Tuesday, January 27. Grand Central, 697 N. Miami Ave., Miami. The show starts at 6 p.m. and tickets cost $18 plus fees via ticketfly.com. All ages. Call 305-377-2277 or visit grandcentralmiami.com.

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