An Interview with Shane Embury…
First of all, I have to admit this is one of my dreams come true ever since I was a teen, to interview such a freaking legendary musician, a monster of extreme metal, this is something that I’ve been expecting for many years. Well, Shane, first, congratulation on the birth of your beautiful baby girl, I wish her (and of course yourself and your wife) all the health and joy. This might be quite obvious, but how’s life treating you lately?
Thank you – Life is busy as ever, tiring more than ever with the arrival of the little one., I have to say more difficult than I had imagined but it’s worth it when you see the smile on her face.
I thought with the endless touring I have done over the years I would be prepared but as they say nothing prepares you for parenthood…
I think I have a lot more to learn about myself and how I am as a person and this would never have been a realization were it not for the birth of my daughter! But Life is well!
Shane, this is an interview that I would like to focus on yourself, to talk about your life, the road you took and all the difficulties you faced to reach where you are now. To ask you about your passions, your favorite activities, obviously focusing on your bands as well, but I’d like to as if someone would be reading an interview with you for the first time. Tell us, please, how your childhood was, when and how you got into extreme music and why you decided to become a musician.
Mmmm my childhood? I was probably a bit of a loner in the earlier years perhaps. I wasn’t into conventional music like a lot of the other kids! They would listen to disco and i all i listened to was TV themes I had recorded from the TV so they thought me pretty weird I suppose. At school when there were assignments in English or arts i would usually be writing very basic horror stories, drawing pictures of Dracula so again perhaps a little strange. I suppose escapism was my thing!
Musically I got into guitar based music like The Sweet and Slade form the age of 5 or 6 I suppose as my mom would buy me records from the Village Bike shop that also doubled as a record shop.
I used to bash My grandmothers buckets to bits on a regular basis and i guess this is why i wanted to become a drummer. I liked loud music and in the 70’s to dally 80’s Rock and metal ruled the charts really so a love of Heavy metal began that eventually led me into thrash metal and hardcore punk…
Once I got into tape trading with the help of Bill from Carcass in 1985 I had been playing drums in my first death metal band called WARHAMMER my tastes in music just became more and more extreme so when me and a good friend of mine attended the mermaid pub in Birmingham in mach of 1986 to see napalm death, also becoming good friends with them and ultimately joining them in 1987 the path was set I guess!
One thing that amazes me is that Napalm Death manages to be loved by metalhead, grindcore listerners and punks. The band exists for over thirty three years and are more than relevant for the scene, not only when it comes to the music, but to your lyrics as well. Less than two years ago the band released Utilitarian, which is, in my humble opinion, a masterpiece. How do you feel over all of this? Did you ever expect to reach such an important status? And how did you managed to keep your head cool, being this great person that you are? As we know, there are many musicians out there that become real jerks because of a small amount of success.
It’s very hard to comprehend the bands success at times really as I had never imagined me still being here after all this time, there becomes a point where you start to take yourself more seriously and develop what you do as a career! I hate that word as it implies that its money motivated which it isn’t with me, yes I have to live but i hope that I have retained passion for what I do and i believe that the spirit now is even stronger for making music but I am lucky to be where I am.
I don’t think I am great person really and am prone to the same mistakes and delusions of ego perhaps like anyone – my wife reminds me a lot of that and it’s good to be brought down to earth at times. Success is nice but at this point in my life I have to look hard at what it is that makes me truly happy too and now with a family I have to find compromises. I have a lot of friends in similar positions so we talk about this a lot! I think fans of what we do would be surprised at the conversations we have amongst each other!
When you look back at your career, playing for several bands, being considered a historical music figure, what would be, in your opinion, the high points of your life when it comes to music and what were the lowest ones? No need to mention names, but have you dealt with many musicians that you wouldn’t expect to be complete arseholes?
It’s hard on questions like this to really reflect on the high and lows as right now for me every week seems a blur but obviously joining Napalm Death finally for me was important as I thought I had missed my chance in between Side A & B of Scum and when I did finally come into the band I had songs ready and we were booked to record a john Peel radio session, before I even played a show, so to me this was amazing so that was definitely a highlight. Playing in front of 5,000 people in Chile in 1997,winning an award from Kerrang and having John peel present it to us was amazing, playing in Kazakhstan recently, playing in Russia in 1991 right as the communist regime imploded, South Africa we played as apartheid was abolished so there’s been some amazing experiences.
Low points! Well we made some bad decisions really early on I suppose as we learned what people to trust and what people not to, we went with a manager early on who didn’t really have the bands best interest at heart maybe and towards the end of his time with us and I blame myself for that a lot but we all were involved I guess and because of his slackness we experienced a couple of dark years, both if the scene and between us and friends, obviously when our second guitar player Jesse Pintado passed away that was awful and took me a long time to process all of that – that was hard and I think I reflect on it more now than ever as life is just too short but I feel he is hovering around still looking on as we continues and hopefully raises a smile once and awhile!
As for meeting assholes I haven’t really met that many I am not too interested in people who think they have to have the upper hand i just plod on with my plan and try to ignore the negative comments, I find people who talk shit really pointless but as we rely on social media more and more everyone will get there 15 minutes of fame even if it means they are remembered as a dick head but i do my best to steer clear of idiocy!
And as a listener, I’m curious to know, you obviously have been in touch with lots of bands, received lots of material, you’ve been involved with music for a long time. Have you ever got bored out of music? Or better, I’ve heard some musicians that couldn’t listen to new bands because they couldn’t stand the generic sound, nothing that stood out, nothing new or interesting… Has this ever occurred to you? And a curiosity question: is there an album on your collection that people wouldn’t expect?
I don’t get bored with listening to music – I may not listen to that much at home but since I have become a father I like to play my daughter some tunes… nothing too insane just yet although she was exposed to some of the new napalm death album we are recording and that seemed to get her arms shaking up and down which usually means she is happy!
But I do like to hear new bands, not every grind band will light a fire under my ass but I do still love the blast beat and when a band I hear makes all the right connections I cannot help but like them. It’s always good to hear someone reinventing what came before and you can never be too pigheaded to think that some new band that comes along isn’t going to blow you away as i like a lot of the new grind scene that’s coming out, sure I know where it’s come from but as I say if it’s played from the heart it’s good for the spirit
There are probably countless albums in my collection people wouldn’t expect off the top of my ahead I am a big fan of Danish singer Agnes Obel.
Still on the music subject, but always about your views, what do you think about the state of music in general as well as the extreme music? We see new bands rising every day, some of them very creative, mixing black or death with grind or crust, but, with the state of the “industry”, do you feel that these bands will be able to survive?
I think that if a bands has it in themselves the fire and sacrifice it takes to do this was much as you need to then of course they will survive, but also you have to be smart early on and I hope now there’s more info out there for young bands so they don’t keep on making the same mistakes that we and so many older bands have made. The Industry is still full of sharks and leeches who play on musician’s naivety and passion for making music and bands have to be coached into looking out for those people and also as I said making smart moves etc..
I like that music is crossing over into so many genre’s even if some of it is not my cup of tea I think as the future speeds towards us we will see more wild and creatively interesting music/bands and that’s fun as some days it’s nice to have that uplifting feeling of discovering an interesting band.
I’m updating my Android right now and it’s taking forever, do you have any suggestion? Just joking, of course. Well, looking back at your musical choices, your albums, bands, just musically speaking, nothing personal, are there any regrets, anything that you’d change if you had the chance to?
Not really! I maybe would have started the “Diatribes” album with the song Anti-body as opposed to Greed Killing but as regards to the album in the mid nineties which some fans have problems with I am proud that we have done albums that have been different and not what was expected.
There comes a time in which we all must have a closure, unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your work, on what you do for a living) we all must retire someday. Have you ever thought about this?
I do think about it at times, I still have a lot of styles musically I want to explore as a solo artist for want of a better word but we are in the process of finishing the 15th Napalm studio album which will mean probably another 2-3 years touring as long as we all still get along but i feel confident that there’s still more to come either with me still being a part of Napalm or on a solo adventure. I meet a lot of musicians who hare similar visions so it’s going to be fun collaborating with them as well, I have a lot of things in mind and again projects I still haven’t finished… No closure for me right now!
I know that you are a big movies maniac. I share with passion with you, especially when it comes to the classic horror movies as well as old 007… Share with us some of your favorite movies and the reasons why you love them so much. Who was the biggest “badass”, Christopher Less, Vincent Price, John Carradine, Peter Cushing? And what about 007, Roger Moore or Sean Connery? I only accept as an answer one of them, hehe. Still on the subject, your favorite Dracula?
I grew up on Universal and Hammer horror movies, I was allowed to watch them from san early age and I have fond memories of my parents coming home on a Friday or Saturday night – I was usually with a baby sitter and they would bring home an English takeaway so I would be sitting and eating that whilst watching Christopher Lee or Peter Cushing or on Saturday it would be Universal so Bela Lugosi or Boris Karloff or Lon Chaney Jnr! Awesome memories but the movies had a style which you don’t see too much nowadays I think but I worshipped and still do Christopher Lee! I would love to meet him.
Vincent Price again totally amazing and his tiny appearance in Edwards Scissorhands was so touching I love that as you know that Tim Burton is chuffed with all his movies he made over the years!!
But for sure Christopher Lee, pairing up with Peter Cushing though every now and then in Movies Brilliant! And Christopher Lee for sure my favourite Dracula.
As for Bond I actually think George Lazenby was killer in “On her majesty’s secret Service”, a shame he got cocky according to the documentaries. I loved both Moore and Connery but it would have to be Connery out of the 2, again great childhood memories! Daniel Craig is kicking ass right now I feel!
Being a person that has been able to travel around the globe, what were your most fascinating experiences that you had when travelling, as the human being and not the musician. What were the places that most impressed you? And as a musician, what were some of the crowds that you considered really special? Is there any country you haven’t visited that you’d like to, be it for a personal experience or as a musician?
Tough question, my earlier years I partied a LOT!! So missed out on some great experiences I feel but I have always and now even more when I was in Israel for instance or some small coastal Spanish town or in cape town years ago, and you get to look out at the sky or sea and you hit those isolating moments in your head when you can reflect on the moments you do remember and the people you have met, and some of them who are not with you anymore that those feelings I get are a real buzz! A chill that resonates throughout my body and its not really a case of “Oh I went here and saw this amazing piece of architecture” I believe it’s more about the mood of a place, and that place can evoke a feeling you wouldn’t get if you were at home it summons you to think of all that’s around you and you feel accomplished even if it’s only for a split second – those are the feeling I like the best and when times feel rough those simple emotions count the most and make you appreciate life a whole lot more… Sorry if that’s a wandering answer but that’s how I feel about traveling I suppose!
I don’t know if covered everything, but if I didn’t, please, let us know some of your passions outside the music world and what we’ve already discussed and what are your main objectives for the future, goals that you now have set for your life?
Well we talked a bit about movies and I love a good film, currently vibing on the new hobbit trailer! Despite what people say about those films I love them and again they make me reflect whilst I watch them, it’s like a great ambience that’s in the background which is good food for thought, I have a lot of movie like that. I have been spending a lot of time looking at my daughter with a million emotions running thru my mind – hopes that I will do the best I can for her and she will grow into strong adventurous fair and beautiful person, with the world the way it is I get scared for her.
Musically I have a lot I am involved in still but a couple of my main projects I want to, one of which is a Prog influenced project which is massively influenced by my love for the band The Cardiacs, so I am assembling musicians for that and also I want to get more into soundtracks, drone and ambience music, something like the Cocteau twins I have wanted to do for years which I loved forever but now I really want to make more of an effort! I love to lose myself in abstract sound it makes you feel like you’ve astrally projected yourself somewhere far away, a far more fulfilling way of day dreaming I think but lots of music to do, a project full of bass players is on the cards lots of stuff!
And we reach the end of this interview. I hope you and readers have enjoyed it. I also would like to thank you for your time and again to wish the best of luck for you, your family and your bands. Do you have any last words for our readers?
Many, many thanks for the questions, they were really interesting to answer and I hope I don’t come across too pretentious? Sorry it took so long for me to reply to these but thank you for your interest! I feel very fortunate to have come so far so this support means a lot to me and I hope I can continue for a long time to come thanks for taking the time and to your readers the time to read this cheers from the Lands of Sabbath.
All pictures belong to their rightful owners.August 3, 2014