Interview: At home with Shane Embury

Shane Embury is perhaps best known as the bassist in Napalm Death. But he is also involved in many other bands and projects across multiple genres, such as Lock Up, Bent Sea, Brujeria, Venomous Concept, Tronos and much more. Most recently he released dark ambient music under the name Dark Sky Burial. Roppongi Rocks’ Stefan Nilsson checked in with Shane to see what he’s up to now that he’s not able to tour and stuck at home at Napalm House in Birmingham, England.

In normal times, you are very busy with tours and gigs with Napalm Death and your other bands and projects. What are you spending time on now when you can’t perform live gigs in the short term and you are spending more time at home in Birmingham? “We were lucky that Napalm Death finished our latest Campaign for Musical Destruction Tour all intact and that was on March 9th. No one got sick so that was a bonus too. We have been at home and feelings are up and down I guess as situations change from day-to-day! Our tour was successful on many fronts but we had many tours and shows cancelled and I really don’t know what’s in store towards the end of the year. I am an optimist so I hope things will get better to some degree but in what way? I have been home in Birmingham with my family and also working on music at my home studio – a new Lock Up album amongst other things.”

Tell us about your Dark Sky Burial project. How would you describe this terrific atmospheric music? “I have always wanted to cross over into dark ambient – soundtrack inspired music! I love loops and sounds and always have. I did attempt this direction way back in 1994 but was sidetracked with Napalm’s live schedule. Now seems, finally, the right time for me to explore these sonic emotions. I guess I am at a point where I am changing and am uncertain of a few things as we all can be – Dark Sky Burial is very therapeutic for me and I use the stress or depression of the day to inspire.”

Shane Embury in Tokyo in 2019. Photo: Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks

Dark Sky Burial is very different from most of the other things you’re involved with. Where did the idea to create this kind of music come from? “I have always loved horror movies – minor chord structures – growing up on 1970s UK TV and their early sound innovation must have been a keen influence as I always recorded TV shows on my tape recorder. My friends thought I was weird at school. This first album is only the starting point for me. I have strong visions for the future of how I want it to develop. I have a lot to learn still it’s almost like a joint journey.”

You’re most famous as bassist in Napalm Death. But in recent projects such as Dark Sky Burial and Tronos, you’re demonstrating a much more all-round multi-instrumentalist approach. In Tronos you’re even singing lead. Were you getting bored “just” playing bass and decided that you would do most things yourself on some of the other projects? “Well, I originally started out as a drummer before joining Napalm on bass. Over the years I have got into playing guitar and, I think, with the birth of my daughter I got into singing to her and that certainly helped when Russ and I decided iI should lay the groundwork for Tronos. As the years churn on I become more confident and more enthusiastic. Music was my first love and it’s always been there through the dark times. There’s so much more music in me.”

Are you worried about the future of touring musicians, crew members, venue operators, etc? Do you think that things can go back to normal touring or will things never be the same after the coronavirus? “I don’t think things will ever be quite the same and I don’t think this will be the last pandemic we witness! I have my theories and my wife always tells me what good do they do if they scare our children but, well, these are dark times! Russ Russell had a chat with me at the beginning of this and said that good and bad things will emerge in our cultures from this and I believe that to be true. It’s hard now – in a year’s time, we will look back but in what way? Music has always been there and it will evolve and, hopefully, we can move forward but things will be different.”

What do you have planned music-wise once you can get out of the house? “I have heard there are some Napalm shows on the horizon towards the end of the year, but I don’t know! I personally want to go on tour as soon as I can. This is who I am and that’s just the way it is, but I feel it’s going to be a while. On the recording front, we have a new Venomous Concept album coming out on Season of Mist at some point soon. And of course the new Napalm Death album. I am working on a new Lock Up album as we speak. Also, I recorded a second Blood from the Soul album with Jake Bannon of Converge, Dirk Verbeuren of Megadeth and Jesper Liveröd of Nasum, which will be out this year I hope. And a new Dark Sky Burial album soon also. Life’s too short to fuck about.”