It’s November 10th, 2022, and somewhere along the highway in a van on the way to Portland, Matt Harvey is getting ready to kick off a headlining tour with EXHUMED. Their latest album “TO THE DEAD” has been out since October 21st (via Relapse Records, links below).
Hellbound’s Danielle Griscti was eager to pick his brain about the writing of TO THE DEAD, touring, and what inspires them to keep the gory, gross feeling alive after 30 years.
Matt Harvey (MH) on playing in Canada:
We love playing up there, we always have a great time – it must have been 6 years or something since we’ve been there, it’s crazy. I know we’ve done the Opera house a few times in Toronto, we did a couple other places – the last time we were there was with Dying Fetus, before that we did a big thing with The Black Dahlia Murder where we went basically from Vancouver all the way to Nova Scotia, which is cool because I hadn’t been that far east before, it’s beautiful out there.
Hellbound’s Danielle Griscti (HB): I counted 32 stops, 23 states on this tour, anywhere you think is gonna be particularly nuts?
MH: There’s a lot of places we always look forward to going, for different reasons, tonight and tomorrow Portland, Seattle should be really good, it’s always fun to do L.A./Bay Area because that’s closer to where we’re from, Chicago is always a highlight, it’s gonna be cool – usually Orlando is pretty good for us, Houston is a lot of fun.
Certain spots even off the beaten path – we really like to go and hang out in Des Moines Iowa, there’s a restaurant we always go to, it’s like Chinese food pizza, family outings (HB laughs, that sounds really good) MH: it is really good, it’s really half and half, people are either like “that sounds like the worst shit in the world” or “that sounds amazing”
HB: you’ll be playing the new album a lot on tour – do you find that you want to listen to the album before you play a set?
(laughs) No, absolutely not, it’s kind of weird – some people are really big into listening to the album all the time, not necessarily for enjoyment but to also drill the songs – I’m really the opposite, I want to play the songs a bunch and then I wanna get done and listen to something that’s completely totally different, that’s outside the death metal wheelhouse in general.
Everybody’s different, it’s just like kids in school, some kids cram before the test and that works great – I’m just trying to pay attention in class the whole time, and then the weekend before the test, go goof off with my friends, and come back and it’s already there. Just allow it – I feel like sometimes if I focus too much on something, I just sort of lose what the fuck it is and now I’m just hearing noises and can no longer differentiate the forest from the trees.
HB … right, isn’t the point to have fun with it?
MH: Absolutely, yeah absolutely, it’s also weird because I meet a lot of people who only listen to metal, and I always think that that’s odd – it’s like if everything’s heavy then nothing’s heavy, you know what I mean – it’s true… (laughs) I can’t eat tacos every day, like 3 days a week I’m good, then I want some sushi or I want a burger – you need some time to appreciate it.
on the process of writing of TO THE DEAD:
It was all done remotely, because we were doing it during the pandemic, and a buddy of mine pointed out “hey, you guys have been around for 30 years”, and I was like, how do we commemorate that? We didn’t know if we could do a show, or what. We could re-record some old songs but everybody does that, we’ve done that, that’s kinda boring. But we’re still on good terms with all these guys, [Mike Beams, Leon del Muerte, Matt Widener, Bud Burke] so well, let’s see if they’ll write a song for the record? It’s really cool that we have a lineup with Sebastian, Ross, Mike Hamilton and myself where everyone is comfortable enough to be like “yeah sure, bring in these other guys!”. They were curious, some bands would be like “no, I’m the guitar player now, don’t let the old guitar player back in!“ (laughs)
We don’t have that kinda ego tension, we’re just all like “hey this would be interesting, let’s try it” – and also with the pandemic, there was no schedule pressure, no idea when we could tour, no idea when the record would come out – but, it was really fun just because I’ve known all these guys for decades now, all the former members of the band and we’re still really good friends, and they’re still really great creators and players, and it was fun kind of getting their take on what the band is about from the outside –
I also kinda warned everybody – I was like, I’m still gonna edit the song, and make changes, as long as you don’t think I’m destroying your artistic integrity or whatever – and they were all again, no ego, it was very understanding, and so they sent me stuff and I kind of played around with it, moved some parts around, I was like the editor of the magazine. But it was fun to work with people I hadn’t worked with in a long time, and appreciating how talented they are, and also it’s interesting being the … lead singer guy, main band guy, it’s very flattering to my ego to get their take on what the band has been doing. I’m like “oh look this is what you think about it, this is great” (laughs) so it was just a really fun process, and it was something that I don’t know of other bands that have done this, at least not – usually if they do it’s a ghost writer kind of thing, like ‘oh we don’t want you to know our old singer is still writing our lyrics, blah blah blah’ (laughs) so I thought it was sort of fun and interesting, and it maybe made the album a little bit more dynamic, while still hopefully being cohesive –
[Watch the video for EXHUMED – “Drained of Color” on YouTube]
HB: … some of the best acts out there – that’s the process, it’s not just one person…
The thing is also a lot of the processes that are publicized, or perceived as just being just the vision of one guy or one person or whatever, a lot of that is fluff, a lot of that is bunkum – I mean it’s just, it’s good p.r., it serves the brand, or whatever, it serves people’s egos and all that. With this band, I’ve kind of fought with that because being the primary songwriter/lead singer, the guy that’s been there since the beginning – so many people are like “oh you are the band”, and I’m like “no I’m not, I’m not at all”, I like to think that I’m an integral part of the band but we have a team, not just creatively but even in terms of logistically and production-wise and everything else, that without all of these people being involved, it’s a very, it’s a much poorer result.
Maybe if I was 23 I’d still be out here trying to prove that I’m great, and I’m like well at this point anybody that thinks I’m great already thinks it, and anybody that doesn’t I’m not gonna convince now so – fuck ‘em! (laughs) like what are we really doing?
HB: you don’t have just one palate, it’s not just all death metal all the time – so is there anything weird that you’re listening to?
I mean it really depends because I’m kind of all over the place, Earth Wind and Fire – and then Jerry Goldsmith, a lot of film music, old hard rock like UFO, Deep Purple, Thin Lizzy, and then – but then, I also like the fun retro pop stuff like The Midnight or Wild Nothing, it just really depends from day to day.
Sometimes I listen to music that I don’t understand at all like John Coltrane, I don’t even know what’s happening, it’s like this is good, because when I listen to metal I’m like he’s doing this, the drummer’s doing that, and this kinda reminds of me of some other thing that I’ve heard before – especially right now there’s a bumper crop of really really good especially death metal bands out there, I think it’s about different music for different moods.
I have music I listen to just for falling asleep, there’s this Canadian cellist Julia Kent who’s incredible, mesmerizing cool layered cello stuff and a theremin player named Carolina Eyck from Germany that’s amazing, ethereal science fiction-y but still rooted in classical tradition, and anyway I just like stuff I’ve never heard before or is catchy or has some kind of movement to it. I also just like stupid-ass music like Weird Al, Tim and Eric, I listen to this record called ‘The Yellow River Boys’ by the comedian Tim Heidecker, it’s like country rock songs about drinking urine, and I listen to it all the time (laughs) I just went and saw Weird Al a few months ago.
HB: what are the things that go hand in hand with you playing, writing recording, living this music and are also inspired by – not musically, but – in the world of b-movie horror? Gory stuff?
A lot of the horror stuff that I love is kind of frozen in time – because it’s so intertwined with a specific part of my life, discovering metal, The Beyond, Zombie 2, Suspiria, Demons, Tenebrae, Re-Animator, Evil Dead 2.
There’s something about these movies, they just have such a specific vibe, and just like the music that I’m primarily influenced by in terms of metal, it’s mostly from that same era, the Late 70’s, late 80’s those are all formative things for me, I hear great stuff now that I love but it doesn’t stick with me the same way – just like I’ll see a movie and I’ll enjoy it but it doesn’t stay with me the way that Brain Dead, Bad Taste – I close my eyes, I feel like I can see the scene.
I love the artfulness of a movie like that because it’s clearly not a big-budget movie, and some the dialogue and the plot is a bit ludicrous, but the amount of detail into the set pieces, and the cinematography is so specific that, it’s taking something objectively so trashy and sleazy and then putting as much craft and art into it as possible.
That resonates with me because – that’s my aesthetic – (laughs) – there’s kinship between what we do in this band, we know what we’re doing, it’s gross, and it’s sleazy, and it’s trashy and shocking, at the same time we’re gonna try to make it the best we can and bring all our abilities to bear on it, but it’s still gonna be objectively trashy and gross, and that’s what I fuckin love, I don’t want death metal to become intelligent and become this beautiful art form about expressing my inner feelings, I want it to be like Romero does, gross oozing guts and eyeballs popping out –
Previous Hellbound inteview coverage with Matt Harvey:
Links to all things EXHUMED: