For Birmingham based bassist Shane Embury, music is more than just a passion. It’s a force that brings meaning to his life, an outlet for his creativity and a channel for his obsession. It’s also given him a career as unlikely as it is groundbreaking, a testament to staying true to what you believe in, even if what you believe in sometimes seems incomprehensible or even unlistenable to others. And yet his vision has endured into a four decade long career, taking him around the world a hundred times, and led to some of the most seminal, iconic and important music ever to spew forth from the British underground scene.
If you know anything about Embury at all, you’ll know him for his work in Napalm Death. Largely misunderstood and widely mocked in their early days, Napalm Death nonetheless became the benchmark for uncompromising extremity, as well as being viewed in some quarters as a political force for good. Dismissed by many as a ridiculous noise, Napalm Death became the credible face of extreme art rock, beloved of Radio One DJ John Peel, NME cover stars and indie music darlings. Embury’s debut studio release with the band, 1988’s From Enslavement To Obliteration, remains a seminal work of raging sonic violence coupled with ultra-credible punk critiques of corrupt politics, capitalist opportunism and societal collapse. The record remains as revered today as it ever was.
Fast forward thirty five years and Embury has seen and done it all with Napalm Death. But that is only half the story of a man propelled by creativity to make music seemingly without end, a constant flow of ideas leading to a wide variety of projects from Brujeria (ultra-violent Mexican drug grind), Venomous Concept (hardcore punk rock), Dark Sky Burial (experimental sci-fi influenced ambience) and Tronos (progressive rock) among others. His fellow collaborators include members of Faith No More, Dead Kennedys, Melvins, Sick Of It All, Dimmu Borgir and….The Wonder Stuff.
Although music still drives him, Embury now wrestles with the responsibilities of being a husband and a father, trying to balance his time between what he loves doing, and those he loves being with. In the course of Life?….And Napalm Death, the bassist talks openly about his struggles with mental and physical health, his battles with addiction and the bullying that affected him in his teenage years. Although his musical career has been prolific and largely successful, there have been plenty of dark times which have led Embury to question his chosen career path.
Shane himself remains modest but proud of his achievements; “If you’re growing up in a village in Shropshire, you never imagine that 30 odd years later you’ll still be doing this. I just went for it because, well, why not? After a while it becomes like, ‘bloody hell, this is what I do’ ”
The idea for the book seeded itself a while ago; “After so many years, the idea of doing a book seemed like the right timing I suppose. I guess the diehard fans know something about me, but hopefully people will find out about different sides of me, because there’s a lot more to me than just being the bass player in Napalm Death”
In essence though Life?….And Napalm Death is a riotous celebration of following your dreams, unleashing your creativity, and retaining a positive sense that anything is possible. From humble beginnings Embury has forged a career that serves as an inspiration to anyone, musician or otherwise, that life really is what you make it.