“Vinyl never really went away, did it?” Bassist Shane Embury is one of grindcore’s founding fathers and the longest standing member of Napalm Death. From recalling early childhood memories to Napalm Death’s association with John Peel, his connection to music on wax is quite evident. In our latest installment of Vinyl Talk, Shane shares some memories of John Peel and his legendary vinyl archive, his love for wax, and reveals his greatest regret, as a musician.
J.R: You recently had an opportunity to dig through the John Peel archives and pick out the records that influenced you the most
Shane Embury: It’s an interesting thing, really. I’d met John Peel 2 or 3 times over the course of being in Napalm (Death); he was always a massive supporter of the band. He’d invited us around to his house for dinner but we never managed to go. We should have gone, really. Getting invited down there was quite a big thing; I’ve never seen that many records (laughs). He has like 30 000 lps and 10 000-15 000 12-inches. Inside the garden, there’s a shed area that’s wall-to-wall 7-inches. He had multiple copies of albums as well, and 7-inches. We did a split with S.O.B. from Japan and he had 10 copies of that. Yeah, it was kind of overwhelming, really.
He really did provide a template. The breadth of his knowledge, his interest and the fact that there was truly no boundaries whatsoever. He liked everything
One of John’s beliefs was that if he heard something and didn’t like it at first, he considered it something wrong with him. And so, he kept listening to it until it made sense to him. I think that it’s kind of interesting because I come from a rock background, but I always wanted to check out different things. You can’t explain that, it just happens. Not everyone is like that. In the early Napalm days, I was buying records from My Bloody Valentine, or a band called Stump, from England. I’d put that on and at first I’d be like “what the hell’s going on here?”, but that intrigued me to listen to it even more. And then, after 2-3 listens you’re like “ohh, I’m getting what they’re doing here”…. my thing is that I like to listen to different things that I kind of store in my head. Even if I don’t listen to it all the time or a lot, I like to listen to different (music).
…Whether it be a live performance or a record, was there a particular moment which made you realize…”Wow, that’s it! That’s what I wanna do”?
You look back at your childhood and you have those little snippets that you remember. I originally wanted to be a drummer…spent my childhood days in my grandmother’s garden, bashing buckets and making noise. It’s kind of cliché but you look at that and you say “that’s what I wanna do”, and that was from the age of 4 and 5. My mom always said that whenever they’d ask you “what do you want to do”, I’d answer “I wanna be in a band”.
Any particular memories associated to vinyl?
We can start with the fact that I’m from a very small village, so small that the local bicycle repair shop also acted as a record shop. They sold records and did bicycle repairs (laughs). So you went in and there would be the Slade 7-inch and the Slade album. Every other week my mom would ask me “what 7-inch do you wanna buy?” “That Slade 7-inch” That was like a happy moment (for me).
Are many of these memories attributable to listening to music on vinyl?
There’s a ritual to it, isn’t there? You look at the lyrics and you look at the album cover because it’s not all squashed in some sort of cd format, so you can take in what’s going on.
Is there anything you’d do differently, if you had to do it all over again?
I only have one regret. I got asked to play guitar for Napalm Death, in between side A and side B of Scum. I lost my nerve and didn’t. I was there when they recorded the A side, in the studio, when they did all that, but you’ll still get the odd smartass who’ll say “but you weren’t on the first album!” That just drives me crazy.
Napalm Death are currently on tour with The Melvins and Melt Banana. Their latest album, APEX PREDATOR, is available on vinyl, at the merch table.