Napalm Death

Published: 08 April, 2010 - Featured in Skin Deep 127, November, 2005

Are these the most conscientious ink collectors in rock? Opting for well planned quality over and above quantity, the Napalm Death gents are ink aficionados with a conscience. The tattoos of singer Barney and bassist Shane reflect social and political awareness and the sort of pre-execution planning that puts my chaotically thought out tatts to shame.  

These lovely chaps allowed me to gently probe them (not like that, naughty), prior to their recent Sheffield gig, which served as something of a christening for new venue DNR Live, or should that be baptism by fire? Uncovering the motivation behind Barney and Shane’s ink while fending off steely dagger looks from outraged fellow Travel Inn guests was something of an event in itself, so I was certainly looking forward to the gig later on that night (what’s up hotel dwellers? Ain’t you ever seen a guy with a beard before?).Enough of the fighting talk, let the probing commence.


Hello men. We are gathered here today to discuss your ink and maybe even your music if you behave. 

Courteous greetings are bandied about by Shane, Barney and all present.


As the main representatives of ink Napalm Death stylee, please reveal who did them?

Barney: A guy from a band called All At War is responsible for some of my work, as is New York’s Chris Dodge, who was part of the underground tattoo scene until it became legal over there. He tattooed me in ’95 when it was still illegal to get tattoos in that state. I also have work done by Tye from New Orleans as well as from a studio in Birmingham.


So a bit of an ink slut then? And you Shane?

Shane: Steve Arkman, who was apprenticed by Mickey Sharp did most of my work. He is based in Birmingham, which is handy when we are back home.


What are the influences behind the designs?

Barney: I go for what they symbolise and I believe tattooing to be a very personal, individual process. Tattooing is a taste thing. I have to feel very inspired before I commit to a new tattoo and 100% into it. 

Shane: I am a huge fan of very detailed intricate work and am influenced by specific art works and artists more than anything else. The detail Steve, my tattooist , puts into his work is amazing. Again, I believe that tattoos are highly personal and the reasons people get them are equally varied. 


Have you attempted to convert your band mates to the joys of the needle? 

Shane: Mitch already has some coverage, but apart from that we are the sole reps in the band. We are all into very different styles of ink.


Indeed. As long term members of the rock scene, have your tattoos reflected musical developments at all, or am I being a bit pretentious?

Shane: My tatts represent dark imagery, which I am naturally drawn to. The Napalm album cover on my arm represents the concept of people as puppets; my strongest influences are Geiger, however, rather than music. 


Any other influences, artistic or otherwise? 

Barney: I also like Geiger and am influenced creatively by film, particularly David Lynch and Tim Burton’s films as well as powerful use of colour.

Shane: Murals and symbolism influence my choice of work and are very inspiring. Good use of street art and art constructed from nothing, urban art and the use of space are also things I like and cite as inspirational. 


Are you planning any further work?

Barney: Maybe if I am struck by a moment of inspiration. I would like a Green Peace logo or imagery, or perhaps something signifying my involvement in human rights activity and then building it up into a larger piece of artwork.

Shane: I intend to stick to the biomechanical and music themes I have begun. My back piece is currently under construction, but will be an extension of these themes. 


Perhaps we can get a look at it once it has been completed then. Without further ado, onto the music. Your sound has been described to me as ‘grindcore’ please confirm whether or not I have been grossly mislead and can you define your sound for the uninitiated?

Barney. Yes, we would describe our sound as grindcore. Micky, our original drummer applied it to the extreme fast and furious music, manic music.


Meat Hook Seed. Sounds painful. Do tell.

Shane: All of us have side projects with which we are involved. These include MHS, Mick the guitarist’s project. Venomous Concept and The Lock Up are just two others of many.


So you are very busy boys then. Tell me about the new album.

Barney: We start rehearsals three months before recording the new album although we are constantly working on it, correlating bits and pieces. Every album sounds different, but cohesive within our sound. We don’t want to lose momentum and the general thread by moving away from our sound and core values and influences, however, we try to keep it fresh with new developments.


How has the music scene changed since you first started out many moons ago?

Barney: Technology, MP3s, internet etc have made music and different genres of music more accessible and also the music business more accessible to bands, increasing competition. Record labels attitudes have changed, there is more money and acceptance than previously.

Shane: We try very hard to maintain our own identity. So many genres come and go along with developments and fads. We try to keep our eyes on our own balls rather than someone else’s and worry about what we do, not what other people do. 


Wise words that every gentleman should adhere to. Same question again, but applied to ink?

Shane: We’ve noticed the huge rise in new school tattoos recently, which aren’t really my thing. However, I am a firm believer that you should do it for yourself first and foremost and if people like it, its up to them.


Sounds like reason enough to me. Buy our album because…..

Barney: It has got character and substance, music that is creative and reflects our ethics.


Anything to add?

Shane: Don’t stay up ‘till six in the morning drinking check beer. It leaves you feeling sluggish.

A. Barney: Any future tattooists, please be gentle with me......


.......Thank you gents, the pleasure was all mine. Except for the bit when I was squirming in my insignificantly inked up skin at the recollection of precisely how much political and social meaning belies my Hello Kitty ink collection. Who you calling shallow?



Text and Photos: Rebecca Burton


Skin Deep 127 1 November 2005 127