Napalm Death Plead With Indonesian President, Label Abbott “Fucking Disgraceful”
When the new Indonesian President Joko Widodo was elected in October 2014, social media went wild with images of the leader throwing the metal horns and rocking well brutal Napalm Death and Lamb Of God T shirts. The world’s first Heavy Metal President had arrived. Unfortunately, enthusiasm for the leader quickly dampened when he announced he wanted all 64 prisoners on death row to be executed ASAP, in the hope that it would help curb a growing drug problem in Indonesia.
As you probably know, Bali 9 members Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran are now moments from facing a firing squad. The Australian Government has shown compassion and denounced the death penalty but Prime Minister Tony Abbott has stressed he will not be “jeopardising our relationship with Indonesia”.
One man who could be potentially alter his own standing with the country is Mark “Barney” Greenway, singer for one of Widodo’s favourite artists, Napalm Death. In an exclusive interview with BLUNT Magazine, Greenway explains why Widodo needs to realise that “revenge culture” is not the Napalm way and calls out our Prime Minister for his own actions when it comes to mistreating foreign citizens.
“It just sounds like mass extermination. Whether it’s a politician or not, Napalm Death fan or not, if somebody needs to be put under scrutiny that’s
the way things are.”
How does it feel for you as an artist to know that there’s a guy walking around in a Napalm Death T-Shirt who will potentially order the execution of a number of people very soon?
I can’t comment on the accuracy of the words, but I believe he said something like, “I’d like all prisoners on death row to be executed as soon as possible”. It just sounds like mass extermination. Whether it’s a politician or not, Napalm Death fan or not, if somebody needs to be put under scrutiny that’s the way things are. Obviously we’ve all seen the pictures of this guy in his Napalm shirt, and I’m sure he is a fan of the band, but I wonder if he really understands what we’re about, because I mean, we went to Indonesia, and when we went there, we’re not backwards about coming forwards – we always say what needs to be said and we put ideas out on the table.
Some people listen to bands that have no reflection on what they would do in their normal lives, so maybe it’s one of those situations, but obviously I’ve tried to appeal to him, and I’m sure he knows about it. I know the wheels of government turn slowly, but I hope there’s been some movement on this, because it’s not only about the three prisoners I appealed on behalf of – because their situation seems quite urgent – but it’s about the death penalty and capital punishment in general, because if we’re trying to arrive as a civilised world I don’t see how this can contribute to that; it’s such a backwards step. And I don’t see how any state should have any moral high ground if they’re executing either their own citizens or other countries’. It doesn’t fit into a just culture; it’s a revenge culture.
Do you think there’s any value in his idea that it will deter drug culture?
The thing with drugs is, all you’re doing is putting a Band-Aid on an amputated leg – you’re going after the people who move it from place to place, but the real problems are the drug overlords and their gangs, and the fact that poor farmers in certain parts of the world have little choice but to cultivate drugs. So it’s about a lot more than that, it’s about a social change at the bottom of the pile. It’s a complex issue, but I don’t see how capital punishment can change anything, for any crime.
“Boat people off the shore of Australia, I think that’s fucking disgraceful.”
With the media attention reaching fever pitch around this subject, do you think that it’s so loud now that for him to turn back on what he’s said is almost an impossibility?
Wouldn’t it be great if he was one of the first leaders to actually take a step back and reconsider? I know they’re not going to ban capital punishment overnight, but if it could be taken to some kind of moratorium, or a judicial review or government review… I think that’s not out of the question. One thing I will say is that if you’re going to campaign, as Mr. Widodo did, billing yourself as a new sort of leader, bearing in mind that Indonesia’s recent history is about as brutal as it gets – dictatorship, mass killings, and many really harsh savage things – if you’re gonna campaign saying you’re going to make life more peaceful, bring more dignity to people, bring the poor people up and give them more prospects, then surely that mentality should extend to all levels. You can’t have one draconian part of your society while other parts are all green grass and flowers. If you want to be a humane leader then that has to extend to all areas.
Would you agree that, with him being seen as the “Heavy Metal President”, that he should note that the essence of heavy metal should be to question the norm rather than reinforce it?
Exactly, and that goes back to the question of whether or not he understands what Napalm really is. But then again, he might think that might be arrogant of me to use that as a reference point for how he conducts himself. But I would think that if he’s a guy who came from a humble background, as it seems, he will have seen some of the real atrocities and inequalities, so I do find it strange that he wants to conform to something like that; I find it hard to believe. Maybe it’s pressure from his ministers, other people in the Indonesian parliament. But we’ll see. There are a couple of main things I want to say about this. There were some things I was accused of that I want to respond to. Some people said, “Well, before you turn attention to the Indonesian situation, look at the British empire”. And to that I would say, “Absolutely, I don’t disagree with you”. I have never tried to glance over that period in British history – I think it was a disgusting period and it was shameful, and were it happening now I would be completely in opposition to it.
The other thing I was accused of was of being an interfering Westerner in other countries’ policies. Flags, nationalities – it’s irrelevant to me. This is a human issue. The borders, the countries where it applies, are meaningless. I would do the exact same thing if an Indonesian person was on death row in the UK; I would campaign for their life in the same way.
“Wouldn’t it be great if he was one of the first leaders to actually take a step back and reconsider?”
Just like the Indonesian government campaigns for their own citizens to be taken off death row in other countries?
Well exactly, go figure! There was an Indonesian lady recently in Saudi Arabia who was executed and I was equally as disgusted. I mean there’s no excuse for it, for that method of dealing with people.
Tony Abbott is showing public compassion but says he won’t do anything to jeopardise our relationship with Indonesia. Do you have any choice words of advice for him?
Well, there’s another guy. I mean, the thing about the boat people off the shore of Australia, I think that’s fucking disgraceful too. I’m sorry but I don’t see the humanity in that situation at all. And we could go on and on – there’s a lot I’d like to tell you about the UK government right now too. And this is the point – I am not attacking nationalities or trying to say that UK and European citizens are all liberally minded while these other nations are stuck in the dark ages, that would be to completely miss the point. Those in power exercise it in certain ways, and there is a lot of optimism going on where decisions are being made that are barely rational. And that’s always been the case. But because of the way the world’s population is growing, these human issues are becoming more prevalent, and I think the way people are dealt with at times is scandalous and inhumane.
Let’s hope this thing ends in a positive way.
We’ll keep plugging away. And like I say, it’s a general thing – it’s not just about those three people, it’s about capital punishment and this revenge culture on a state level.
Napalm Death are currently on tour in the USA and head out across Australia in April with Carcass and Extortion.