Famous Firsts: Napalm Death

We chatted to one of our favourite Brummies about his undying love of Motörhead, getting a bit too drunk on tour and Lemmy’s secret weapon.

The first album you ever bought?

“I’ve got a feeling that the first album I bought with my own money was MotörheadMotörhead. Motörhead are my favourite band of all time, really. There’s lots of bands I love but they were the catalyst for searching out heavier stuff. In my opinion they were the first extreme band because they were playing certain tempos that other bands just weren’t and they always sounded like they were about to come off the rails. I loved that. I don’t like my music metronomic, I find it a bit tedious.

“We were supporting Motörhead on some dates in Germany nearly 20 years ago and just getting on a support tour was surreal. One night after one of the gigs in East Germany Lemmy wanted to go to a bar with me, Shane our bass player and Mitch our guitarist. We got in this taxi and the driver was playing some absolute bollocks on the stereo and Lemmy pulled a cassette out of his top pocket and told the taxi driver to put it on… then Little Richard started blaring out of the speakers! It was surreal.”

The first single you ever bought?

“It was Paranoid by Black Sabbath and very fittingly it was in the Newtown Shopping Centre opposite The Barton’s Arms – which was Black Sabbath’s stomping ground as young boozers. I have to admit that I didn’t buy it when it came out as that would make me an extremely old bastard ha ha, but it was three or four years later. My dad already had the albums, he got me going on the heavy music road. He was very into the particular generation that was Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and others that came before – Be-Bop Deluxe! Then I picked up the baton and ran with it from there.

“I never intended to do this, though. It just shows you the power of the DIY ethic – anybody can step in with a bit of imagination and enthusiasm and if you really want to do something and have a ‘skill’ then you can do something. Minor Threat’s Ian MacKaye always said ‘You could be my band’ – in other words, ‘If I can do it, so can you’. My attitude never really changed, I came into this not taking it for granted and I never have. I came into it with a genuine love of what we do – everything else was kind of a bonus. I was just in the right place at the right time, I was an engineer before joining Napalm. One day I was an apprentice engineering in the car industry, the next I’m in CBGB in New York playing a gig.”

What was the first gig you went to?

“I think it was Judas Priest at the Town Hall in Birmingham in ‘77 or something. They were wearing capes. I can’t remember much about it above and beyond that. The first gigs I really remember are the Motörhead gigs because they were my favourite band so it has stuck with me. I saw ‘em on the Bomber tour, the Ace Of Spades tour… loads of great gigs.”

What was the first gig you played?

“It was with my first band Benediction but supporting Napalm Death and S.O.B. and funnily enough I’ve just been in Japan with Napalm and S.O.B. supported us. But the first gig with Napalm was definitely a bit shaky and Jesse the guitar player, that’s not with us any more. We were all over the place – I’d had a few sherbets anyway and I know Jesse had more than me, and from day one it underlined that you shouldn’t play a show in a band that goes a million miles an hour when you’re pissed ha ha. Micky the drummer was getting so frustrated with us that he stood up during a song and threw his sticks at us. It was funny, but it wasn’t great the first gig. The following night in Glasgow though, we were spot on.”

Napalm Death’s new album Apex Predator – Easy Meat is out now on Century Media.

Luke Morton joined Metal Hammer as Online Editor in 2014, having previously worked as News Editor at popular (but now sadly defunct) alternative lifestyle magazine, Front. As well as helming the Metal Hammer website for the four years that followed, Luke also helped relaunch the Metal Hammer podcast in early 2018, producing, scripting and presenting the relaunched show during its early days. He also wrote regular features for the magazine, including a 2018 cover feature for his very favourite band in the world, Slipknot, discussing their turbulent 2008 album, All Hope Is Gone.