My introduction to Hatebreed was pretty nuts. Playing smack dab in the middle of the Slugfest reunion show that took place in Buffalo some 17 years ago, all I knew of the band was they had a cool logo, a crazy sounding name, and were from Connecticut. Then, they took the stage and proceeded to sonically kick the shit out of everything in sight… It was one of the most intense performances I had ever seen, and I immediately booked it to the merch booth to cop their first 7”, Under The Knife. A short time after, the group released their debut full-length, Satisfaction Is The Death Of Desire, and that was the beginning of a new era in hardcore music.
After a steady stream of pummeling releases, Hatebreed’s latest crusher, The Divinity Of Purpose, dropped just a few weeks ago on Razor and Tie, and offers long-time fans and first-timers (who’d better wear a helmet) yet another insane example of what hardcore music is all about… Loud, heavy, pissed-off, and straight to the point. No one has been able to touch these guys for years.
I’ll be a forever fan of Hatebreed, and this year I found myself with a welcome birthday present! I caught up with drummer Matt Byrne on my humble 35th in Syracuse to talk about the new album, the group’s near constant touring schedule, and how Razor and Tie is treating the heavyweight hardcore kings of Connecticut.
G- Hi there and thank you very much for taking the time to speak with Live High Five!
G- You guys just dropped your latest album, The Divinity of Purpose, on Razor and Tie, just a couple of weeks ago, and I want to talk about it a little bit. How are the fans responding to the tracks?
M- So far so good, man! We’ve had a lot of positive reviews before the record came out and now since it’s been out. The good reviews keep rolling in! We’re playing 3 songs live off the record, and the fans really latched on with the lyrics right away and are responding great to the songs. I mean, the way the fans are reacting, you’d think we’d been playing these songs for years, and it’s great… We’ve really only been playing them about a month. So, as time progresses, and we’re working more newer songs into the set,
I’m interested to see how the fans latch on to them, as well. But overall, the record has received nothing but positive feedback, so it’s good!
G- Have you noticed any fan favorites off the record yet?
M- It seems like “Honor Never Dies” is a good one because of the sing-a-long chorus and what not. And then “Put It To The Torch” is one that we usually play at the beginning of the set, and that was the first song we released of the record as a single with a lyric video on Youtube and everything so the fans could start getting to know the lyrics. As soon as we kick into it, you can see the energy in the crowd… They latched right on to the song, so that’s good… Good feedback!
G- Nice! Now, obviously you’re here today and you’re the headliner of the heaviest bill to pass through Syracuse thus far into 2013. It’s the second-to-last date and today is sold out, and tomorrow in L.I. is sold out… How has everything been going on the road, how have the shows been, and any standout cities you’d like to give a shout to?
M- The shows have been great! We’ve had a couple of sell-out shows in a lot of places we haven’t been in years… Some of these cities we’ve never been in. Nashville, Tn was great! We haven’t been there in 6 years. Lexington, Ky was great, and we haven’t been there in… I don’t know if we’ve EVER been there. If we have, it’s been a long, long time.
Yeah there has been a couple of sell-outs. All of the turnouts have been great. It’s smaller clubs, and it’s good to get back into that environment. Like I said, we haven’t played some of these clubs or cities in a long time, so the smaller venues, some of them have barricades and some of them don’t, so it’s cool to get back into that intimate setting where you’re up close and personal, and there’s a lot of stagediving going on and it’s really old school. It’s that old school vibe.
We’re playing a lot of old songs, as well as newer songs and brand new songs, so it’s a great mix of music, and the fans are responding really well to it. And overall, you know the package of the tour, you have us, crossover Metal/Hardcore, and Shadows Fall Heavy Metal, and Dying Fetus which is Death Metal, and The Contortionist which is kind of newer Metal with a Jam vibe to it, it’s a strong package of bands. There’s a lot of variety on the bill… It’s not like you’re seeing the same band over and over again. So, I think that’s cause for a lot of the turnouts as well. It’s a good bill. As a fan, it’s something that I would want to see!
So, going through a lot of these smaller cities that we haven’t been and bringing a package like this, I think it’s great… It’s been great!
G- Nice, and staying with touring for a minute, Hatebreed is just about to complete this run, and you just announced another headlining run with Terror pretty much directly afterwards… You guys are on the road constantly and you always have been… How do you guys maintain such a rigorous schedule and how do you find yourself occupying your time while you’re doing all this traveling and going between gigs?
M- That’s a good question. There’s more down time on the road than anything else, and it’s not really a sex, drugs, and rock n roll vibe with us. You know, like the old school vibe, as far as that goes. So, it gets pretty damn boring during the day, man!
I mean, we’re only on stage for an hour, and you’ve gotta occupy your time keeping yourself busy during the day. I could see how people get addicted to drugs or that you just become a drunk, because there’s nothing else to do but do these types of things. So, you really have to be creative and constructive with your time. I watch a lot of movies, I’m online a lot just surfing around and doing stupid bullshit like Facebook and Instagram and all that crap. I think we all do that.
We’ve concentrated on trying to eat better, so we stock the bus with a lot of cool food and we’re cooking on the bus…
M- So we’re coming up with different stuff. We’ve got a skillet and an oven and a toaster and whatever what have you, all the little kitchen appliances that’ll fit on the bus, so we mess around with a lot of cooking and stuff like that. That takes up a lot of time.
And, you know, it’s good to get off the bus and go walk around and see the cities, you know? Like you said, we tour rigorously, so you’re in a different place every night. We don’t take a lot of days off, so you go to sleep in one city and wake up in a new one. So, there’s plenty to see, there’s plenty to do, and plenty of people to meet to get off the bus and get into the fresh air, walk around, see the sights, and just soak it all in, I guess.
But yeah, Hatebreed’s always been a touring band. There’s no sign of that ever stopping. Now, with some of the members being married and having children and stuff like that, the home time is definitely sought after more, because we’re more selective about the touring that we do. Instead of just hitting the road 300 days out of the year like we used to…
G- (laughs) Only 250 now, huh?
M- Yeah we stripped it down a little bit. But especially in the US… We haven’t toured in the US rigorously since 2009, you know? We’ve done support tours but, as far as headlining tours, we haven’t toured the US rigorously since 2009.
This year, with the new album coming out, that’s what happens… That’s the name of the game with the band. You drop a new album, and you go out and support it. So, we started off in the US, and this leg is great, so great we decided to add another one with a different set of bands. And once again, it’s the same strong package. It’s us, Every Time I Die, Terror, Job For A Cowboy, and a band called This Is Hell. So, once again, it’s a solid package of bands that aren’t all copycats of each other. Every band is the king of its genre, and it’s gonna be a good time. I’m looking forward to it!
G- Yeah bring that one to Syracuse if you could! Hatebreed can come to Syracuse twice in 3 months and make it work, I’m sure.
M- I think the closest we’re coming this time is Rochester. It’s not too far, right?
G- I’ll make the trip to Water Street. I’ll be there.
M- Water Street! I believe that’s it!
G- No question. So, to get slightly serious for a second, obviously, the metal and hardcore scenes are hoping for the exoneration of Randy Blythe of these bullshit charges in the Czech Republic. Hatebreed is one of the heaviest bands out there, and I’ve personally seen some situations transpire with overzealous fans and tough guys starting shit at shows. What do you guys do when there is an issue with the crowd/security?
M- Well, we’re really proactive in addressing the crowd. When there’s fights that pop up, we don’t necessarily stop the set unless we have to, but if we have to, we do. We have no qualms about stopping the set immediately and addressing whatever situation is going on. We’re really proactive in acting with security and fans, telling each like ‘You know, these guys are here to look out for you, and in turn, look out for these guys,’ and just kind of look out for each other, you know? We’re all here to have fun and we know what the scene is… It’s a lot of crowd surfing and stage diving and head-walking and moshing and all the physical stuff, and somebody’s bound to get bumped into or knocked down, or there’s bound to be a little bit of blood happening.
The more serious it gets, than you have to kind of address it like ‘Let’s take it down a notch,’ because I don’t think people actually realize what’s at stake when somebody gets really, really hurt. Obviously, everybody has a family, but you’re dealing with clubs getting shut down, people getting arrested, people going to the hospital… Really serious stuff. So if you want to keep a scene in your town going, you have to nurture it and take care of it and kind of address a problem when there is a problem.
The Randy situation… Of course, it’s an unfortunate thing. Nobody wants their fans to die at their show. Nobody wants their fans to get hurt physically, you know? The moshing and everything, everybody knows what it is and, you know, it never severely gets to the point where somebody actually dies. It’s not like he purposely did something like that or called for something like that or wanted that. It was an unfortunate incident and I hope he can come out of it. I hope everybody realizes what kind of person he is and that he can come away from it exonerated, because that’s all it was… It was an accident.
G- Right. Agreed.
M- I hope the family can get some closure out of it.
G- Agreed. Now, to lighten it back up a bit, Hatebreed has a tremendous amount of output, and it all falls into the same category, but do you have a favorite song you have ever written or to perform with the band? “Smash Your Enemies” is my song, and that’s been my song for a long time.
M- Nice! That’s an old one!
G – Play that one for me tonight if you could (they did!).
M- We’ve been playing it.
G- Excellent! But, if you were to give 1 song to someone who’d never heard of Hatebreed before (if there are people like that at this point,) what song would you give them and why?
M- That’s a good question. Well, we’ve kind of experimented here and there throughout. We’re on our 7th album, so we’ve taken some risks here and there on every album we’ve done, you know? Adding some guitar solos, making the song longer, maybe there’s a more complicated structure.
But I think if I had to choose a song that really summed up Hatebreed, I’d have to go with something that’s an old school formula, fast part/breakdown, just short, simple catchy song structure. It’s hard to pick one because a lot of the old stuff off of Satisfaction… is that, and I think that’s what a lot of the old school cats will use to summarize Hatebreed.
But where I’m at right now in my head, we just write a new record, and I’m pysched on it! I’m psyched to play the new songs. It’s fresh, we’ve been playing some of these songs for years, so I think “Put It To The Torch” is a good with where we’re at right now, but with the old school Hatebreed formula. “Indivisible” is another one where it’s the old school punk/hardcore formula… Catchy riffs, catchy sing-a-long type lyrics, and an anthem-y type chorus, but that’s kind of experimental for us because it isn’t hard and growl-y as far as the vocals go. There is some, not singing, but some holding notes there, but overall, how hard it is… It’s just a short song. Fast, heavy breakdowns, and that’s another new one that I think would sum us up pretty well.
And as far as groove, I’ll probably say “I Will Be Heard” because that’s one of our more popular ones, it’s one of the last ones we play in the set, and people think of that song when they think of Hatebreed.
G- Right on. Good answer. Very good answer.
Now, you’ve played shows and shared bills with pretty much everybody in the metal and hardcore at this point, and Hatebreed is usually a name that comes up when I ask other hardcore groups this same question, but are there any bands or artists that you hope to share a bill with in the future? If you could curate your own feasible 3-band dream bill for Hatebreed, who would you want with you and why?
M- I would say Hatebreed, Slayer, and Metallica. Slayer because they’re my favorite Metal band of all time, and Metallica just because they’re the biggest Metal band there ever was, and that’s one band we still haven’t toured with. So, it’d be cool to say we toured with one of the inventors of Thrash Metal.
G- No doubt! And you’ve played shows with them before, correct?
M- Yeah we’ve done festivals in Europe, one or two. We did one in the states a long time ago, but never directly related to them like ‘We’re on tour with Metallica.”
M- I mean, there’s so many other bands on those festivals… It’s really cool and a great mix of music, but I would like to do a direct support tour with Metallica, to say ‘Yes, we’re on tour with Metallica.’ That would be cool!
G- Nice. And to finish up here today, Hatebreed grew as organically as it gets. From DIY venues to stadiums, you’ve done it all and everything in between… What advice could you offer some of the young, up and coming bands everywhere who want to make it in music, on the road, and as a professional musician?
M- It’s tough, you know? The music landscape is constantly changing with the internet and music downloading and all this stuff. Free music is out there. Illegal downloading, whatever you want to call it. Record labels are constantly scrambling for a new marketing idea or a new way to actually sell the music and giving things away for free, as is the artists who write the music. Because obviously, that’s our job… We’ve gotta get paid.
So, as a younger band, you’re starting out because you love it. You’re playing your instrument because you love it. You’re jamming with guys that you love to play with and there’s chemistry there. It’s tough to not get disheartened because of the way the music climate is today. So I would say, you have your local scene and area… Network out with as many bands and musicians and players as you can, network out with a lot of promoters and get your foot in the door with a lot of clubs so you can play shows in your own town and create your own scene and networking within your own scene, and that’s where it all starts right there. That’s where it starts to grow.
So, I think the big dreams of playing guitar for 5 years and being this virtuoso and just stepping out your door and getting signed to this mega million dollars record deal and being a rock star for the rest of your life, those days are over and gone. Going into the big million dollar studios and cutting a record, those days are gone, too. You’re making quality albums in your basement with technology and everything, so basically those rock and roll dreams are gone.
It’s a very DIY atmosphere now. It’s important to promote yourself, market yourself, network, and use whatever resources you possibly can in your local area and that’s how you’re gonna start growing. The word will spread. Once you have something going in your area locally. It jumps out from there. So just jam with people you like to jam with and get that chemistry going, man.
And just keep your fingers crossed, man. Cuz a lot of it is luck, too. Sometimes you just step in shit. Just have fun with it, man. Music is there to have fun with and enjoy. Always remember that first and foremost.
G- Dig it. Well, thank you for taking the time to speak with Live High Five today!
M- Happy Birthday!
G- Thank you very much! “Smash Your Enemies” please!
M- You got it!
G- And play well, play hard, and we’ll be here.