Exhumed came back to Helsinki, Finland, mid March to promote “Necrocracy” which has been praised by fans and critics alike, and once again I sat down with Exhumed’s vocalist/guitarist Matt Harvey to talk about the recent album, touring, some possible future plans for the band and a bit also about one of Matt’s side project, Dekapitator.
Interview by Petri Da Costa / Pics by Arto Lehtinen
NECROCRACY TOUR & FUTURE PLANS
Let’s start off with the current tour. How has it been playing with Toxic Holocaust here in Europe?
It’s been really cool. We get along with them really well, we have a pretty similar taste in humor and that kind of stuff. We both like to party a lot, so it’s been a pretty intoxicated holocaust, it’s good. We are sharing a van over here, so it’s a good thing we are all friends. (laughs) We also had 3 weeks in the States before this tour with Toxic, Ramming Speed and Mammoth Grinder, so within the fist couple of days I was like “Yeah, this is gonna work just fine, us and them in Europe is gonna be awesome”. It’s been really cool because previously when we’ve come over here we haven’t really found a lot of package tours to be apart of, so this just worked out really well. Like I said, stylistically we are similar enough but different enough at some point for the kids, we get along together as dudes and we have a good time together. The shows have all been really good, we had one random show that wasn’t good, the Swiss show was lame, but every other show has been killer.
How come was lame?
Just that not many people showed up and the people that showed up just stood up there looking at us like we are in the zoo, that was weird. But it happens. (laughs)
Has there been any gig that stood up like a highlight?
The show in Poland I think and the show in Portugal so far have been the two best, but I think tonight should be pretty good, so we’ll see what happens. (laughs)
Yeah, I think it has been exactly 2 years since you guys played here in Helsinki.
Wow, ok. Yeah, I was trying to think when we did that Virgin Oil gig. That was a fun gig, it was really cool.
You mentioned this before [the interview] already, but you are going to have some time off then after this tour?
Yeah, for the first time since I guess July or August 2011 we are taking 6 months off. Just because…we have one show in May, a festival or whatever, and that’s it. It’s in L.A. so it’s not like a big ordeal or whatever. (laughs) It’s just down the street basically, so it’s not so bad. I just think we’ve played everywhere so often that…It might be 2 years since we’ve played Helsinki but we played…I think we were in Southern California and in Phoenix, Arizona, in October with Dying Fetus and we were there 5 weeks later with Iron Reagan and then we were there 5 weeks later with Toxic Holocaust. They were all good shows and that’s why were like “We need to stop playing now” because people will just be like ‘Ok, fuck off, stop coming here’. (laughs) So we are gonna take some time off and we have a release coming out in the fall, not a new album, it hasn’t been anounced so I’m not trying to be all like mysterious but I just don’t want to blow it for the label. (laughs) We do have something coming out in the fall and then we’ll do something around that, but we’ll take the summer off and just chill, you know maybe be normal-ish for a while.
Ok, because I just thinking that since you guys returned playing and since “All Guts, No Glory” came out, you guys have been touring a lot and last year “Necrocracy” and the split with Iron Reagan came out. And I was thinking if you guys are going eventually to burn out after so long of…
(laughs) Yeah, I think the longest break that we had since 2011 was 6 or 7 weeks. Now we are gonna do 6 months and chill.I mean, things have changed quite a bit or whatever. Mike, our drummer, just moved to Florida and stuff. So it’s a little bit different dynamic, andgive everybody a little chance to hang out. You know, see my nieces and nephews more than once a year, that’s cool. (laughs) I don’t want for them to forget who I am, that kind of stuff.
Yeah, I understand.
It’ll be nice and like I said also we’ll recharge, and you know we have a lot of ideas to comebcak in the fall. I don’t know how much we can do in Europe because of logistics, but we have a lot of production stuff that we are gonna be adding to the shows next fall in the States like some new props and different things. So that’s gonna take some time and effort to build, but that should be pretty fun.
Actually I was gonna ask you about the props because obviously 2 years ago in Helsinki there was nothing, I mean…
Yeah, real simple. Tonight is gonna be pretty close to the American show.
I mean, it’s not like fuckin’ Iron Maiden or anything. (laughs) It’s not gonna blow your mind, there are no hydraulicsor animatronic fuckin’ monsters or anything like that. (laughs)But yeah,the last time we were here, in Europe anyway, we didn’t play in Finland but we were all last summer and we had an additional guy who’s like our driver, crew, and sort of like our mascot. So he did the last European run with us and he’s here with us this time, so that’s the way it will be from now on. It’s just a money and logistic thing as far as expending the production in general, especially over here because we can’t bring a chainsaw on the plane. (laughs)
Exactly, but you are still using that in US during the tours?
Yeah, and we have it here tonight, but it’s not our chainsaw, it’s a chainsaw. But it’s something, you know it’s a start. We don’t have our own European chainsaw yet (laughs), but that might come next year.
So about the new album: what was the main influence or the driving force behind these political and social themes that were throught the “Necrocracy” album? Was there anything in particular that made you pursue this theme?
It’s sort of always been there, but once I got the album title, actually first it was just a song title, but I thought it was the strongest title and it was kind thematic, so that sort of just colored most of the songs. Then the whole time I waited until we had the music pretty much written to start writing any lyrics whatsoever, because if I write lyrics first I just write too many lyrics and then the fuckin’ singing never stops and it sucks. So because I wrote all the lyrics kinda in one go, they ended up being more…centrality themed or whatever. At the time, while we were getting ready to record, the whole presidential election was going on. It was all over the tv, all over the fuckin’ magazines and papers and everything. Not every song in the album is political. It’s about 60% or 70%.
Was there maybe some other subject that you wanted to explore? Or you thought that this one would be stronger because of the election?
Right. I think that also because we’ve been writing gory lyrics for a long time now, so it’s nice when I have something to sort of focus on because that just helps me keep writing lyrics, whereas I’m just trying to think of grosse stuff, you know going for the gross out or whatever. It’s a little bit more difficult to find something that I get excited about, you know? So that just kinda like got a momentum. Like most things we do, we don’t have like a huge plan or anything, I just start writing lyrics and I got a momentum in one direction and I was “Well, I should keep going with this”. That’s how it kinda ended up that way. The next album I doubt will be that political. The weird thing about is that it has kinda changed people’s perspective of the band. We played in Ieperfest, in Belgium, the hardcore fest, with the whole panel on how to have a pro-vegan lifestyle and all this kind of shit. They were like “We want you to come talk about stuff”, and I was like “You want me to come talk? Are you sure?”, they were “Yeah, you know the lyrics and stuff…” I was just…I wrote all the lyrics and I was reading all this shit, and I honestly just got burnout about it. I haven’t really thought about it since (laughs), so I was like “Oh fuck”, and then I did another interview with this sorta super left green webzine in Australia and I was “This is just little over my…” I just kinda felt out of my depth, I don’t know that much about politics. Let me just say that this is what I see, this is what I get out of it. I don’t know, I’m just a guy that plays guitar. So it was interesting, it was pretty cool though.
How has it been the feedback from the fans? Have people been coming to you and saying “I wish you’d write something like Necromaniac again” (laughs)? Like “old school” lyrics?
You know, the really cool thing that I find and that I feel pretty fortunate is that most of our fans seems to be a lot more open minded than I was when I was a kid. I mean, I was like the most hardline death metal only guy when I was 15 or 16. I remember when I went to a party and this guy is like “Hey, do you want to hear the new Death album?”, he handed me “Human”, I looked at it, and it wasn’t even my tape and I just threw it against the wall. I said “This doesn’t even have a fuckin’ inverted cross on the logo, fuck this, this shit is for posers”. I never heard a note from the music, you know I was really militant like that and luckily most of our fans are much more forgiving. I think they get the idea that each album we’ve done is a little bit different and each will be a little bit different. If they like “All Guts…” better coz it’s faster, or they like this one better coz it’s slower they know that they are not gonna get the exact same thing, whether is lyrically or musically. Hopefully that’s something that people like about the band. But yeah, I haven’t got too much shit for it [the lyrics], I mean a couple of people here and there, but I’ve got more compliments on it than anything else, which is weird.
I know that you haven’t been always a fan of your earlier records…
But I think this one [Necrocracy] was perfect in every aspect, from the lyrics to production and the songs. Actually it toped for me “All Guts…”
Yeah, definitely. I always think that if you are in a band and you don’t think your latest album is your best album, then why are you bothering doing it? I mean if you go to the studio and be like “Well, this is not as good as whatever…” So why are you putting it out, you know? When we did “All Guts…” that was my favorite so far and now that we’ve done “Necrocracy” that’s my favorite. I like them all in varying degrees, it’s really just the first one that…It’s more about the production than the execution. The material I really don’t mind at all, there are lot of good songs…
Yeah, of course.
We play them so much better live now. I’m really happy with it. I think that’s one of the reasons why the last 2 records are able to be more different from each other because we were happy with “All Guts…” so we didn’t want to do it again. So let’s what happens with the next one.
You guys re-recorded couple of songs on the “All Guts…”. Did you ever think about doing a full album of re-recorded versions?
Yeah, we have and I don’t want to get into it too much but that’s something we’ve been working on. So let’s leave it there. (laughs) But at the same time I think that as long as it’s done in a way that’s tasteful and respectful to the original because there are always people that have a relationship with the record, and you don’t want to trample that. But at the same time we do feel we can do it better now. If we do something like that or when we do something like that, we should say that we tried to be respectful about it and not reinvent the wheel but show people that “Hey, this is how it was suppose to sound, if you are interested”.
Another cool aspect about the new album was that Bud [Burke – guitarist/vocalist] came back to the band. I read a little about his return, but how this actually happened? And now he’s playing guitar.
Well, he has always been a guitar player, it was just that when he first joined we needed a bass player, so it was like “Here’s a bass.” (laughs) That was one of the reasons why I think he left the band in the first place, I mean he left coz at the time we weren’t that busy and our original drummer had just quit, so being a guitar player and being stuck playing bass I’m sure it was frustraiting for him. Anyway, we were touring a lot with Wes, who played guitar on “All Guts…”, and the longer we were out the more it kinda wore on him, I don’t want to speak for him but he just seemed to be getting more and more unhappy with the circumstances. He also had some health issues that made less convient for him to be on the road. When you have 3 people having a good time and one person not having a good time, it slowly creeps over and turns 4 people not having a good time. It was just time to make a change. Bud was the only guy that we thought about it. It wasn’t like “Well, we should try out some people or see this and that”, it was like “Cool, we need Bud”. First couple of times he was just “Nah”, he has a country band, he lives in North Caroline, honestly that’s his main style of music nowadays, country. But they were kinda not really doing that much and we said “Just do a tour, if it’s fun and you like it, we’d love to have you, if it’s not then it’s cool, you helped out with this tour and we’ll give you a couple of bucks”. But we ended up having a really good time and kinda coaxed him back (laughs)I’ve known him for years and just knew that he’s the guy that should be here, he’s gonna get a long with everybody, he has the right vibe and everything else. The leads on the album are just outrageous, the shit that he did is just crazy, so now if he ever decides to quit we are fucked, “Ok, now how are gonna find a guitar player this good?” (laughs)
I remember that in 2000 or 2001 there was an interview with you in Terrorizer Magazine, you were talking about how Bud joined the band back then, and it was something like you guys were disappointed a bit that he had short hair…
So he had to compensate that by…
Throwing up on stage. (laughs)
So is he still doing that?
No. Even towards the end when he in the band back in the day, we were like “Dude, you shouldn’t be doing this every night”. Because there’s a little valve over there and it can get worned out by just throwing up too much, and once it gets worned out you can fuck up every gag reflex. Plus, obviously, it’s not good for your teeth to have barf in your mouth all the time. We still put him through hell on stage, but we don’t make him throw up. Back then, at that time, me and our original drummer were super…Kinda like fundamentalists, like “If you are in a metal band you should have long hair, period, blah blah…” We had this very restrict set of rules, things are more relaxed now. Everybody has enough space to do their own thing. (laughs)
Talking about the split [with Iron Reagan], there’s a different sound in the songs recorded, it sounds a bit more raw…
So was that just a natural thing for you guys, like “Let’s try something different”, or what was the approach?
It was cool because with the record [“Necrocracy”] we did it fairly meticulously, we didn’t get crazy, it’s not like it’s super sanitized, it’s not like an Andy Sneap thing or whatever. But we were pretty meticulous, we took a lot of time. Then when we did the Iron Reagan split we didn’t take too much time, it was just fast. Not in a bad way, like “Fuck this”, but it wasn’t about being meticolous, it was about being raw at it, there’s always a push-pull thing. “All Guts…” didn’t have enough slow parts, so the new record has more slow parts, so we just said “Fuck it, let’s throw out some grindcore stuff”, just let it loose and play fast. That’s the cool thing about music, you get to explore different things as you want. So that’s what we do, we explore something we like and then when we get tired of that, we go to a different sphere of what we like and focus on that.
Were those two songs from the split, “Dead to the World” and Gravewalker”, leftovers from “Necrocracy” or just completely new?
Yeah, completely new, I wrote them later. “Gravewalker” is just sort of like a long Repulsion tribute (laughs). It kinda has a “Driven to Insanity” type of riff or whatever. I was talking to our old drummer Col, and his band Cretin was working on a new record, so I was just thinking that they always have these cool Repulsion-y riffs or whatever, and I thought “Ah, I could do that”. Sat down and did it, “Alright, cool, this is like Repulsion”. Then “Dead to the World” is sort of like Terrorizer-ish. It’s fun just to let loose and do that kinda stuff, you know?
What’s the situation with the label? Was “Necrocracy” the last one on Relapse?
“Necrocracy” will be the final new thing and then we have one more release with Relapse. Then I’m not sure what we are gonna do, it’s not like we are “Fuck Relapse!”, we’d be pretty happy re-signining with them. We kinda haven’t thought that far and that’s one of the things we need to start working on our break is like the normal band stuff. Like the boring shit being in a band, talk about how we want to structure the business side of the band all that shit. I’m not gonna get into a bunch of boring details but it’s just shit that has to get done. We were talking in the van that we don’t even have a website, what the fuck is up with that? [laughs] We should probably have a website, that would be a good idea. So just getting those kinds of basic things taken care of. Then going to Relapse or whoever and being like “Hey, this is what we are doing now, we need a record contract”. Coz when we signed in ’98 we were just like “Yeah! Fuck, it’s really hard to get signed. Cool, we’ll just sign anything.” Now we’ll probably think a little bit more. (laughs)
DEKAPITATOR & THRASH SCENE
What’s the situation with Dekapitator? Are you still planning to…
(laughs) You know, it’s really up to our drummer. He’s gonna be a father pretty soon, in August, so that really doesn’t boat well for us. (laughs) And our bass player’s kid is 7, they both own houses and stuff, they are like adults you know? So I don’t know. I have some stuff written but at the same time it is what it is. It’s not like Dekapitator is particularly ambitious in a way that we are gonna do all this stuff, so it’s not worth to look for new members. To me is just something that the 3 of us did as friends, so it’s not worth shitting on that and be like “Well, people wanna see the band, so I’m just gonna bring Joe Schmo and Joe Q Public, and now we are gonna go out as Dekapitator and play.” It’d be cool to do something, I tried to get some shows going but it just didn’t come quite together coz I figured that if we had something to do, then we’d have to do and we might get out of our asses. But if we are just like “Ah, what are you doing that weekend next month? I don’t know, I gotta a thing…” It’s hard to be in a band with grown ups coz they are always “Yeah, you know my wife and I were thinking about remodeling the kitchen. Ah, ok, cool, I’m just gonna be home from tour in 4 weeks and I thought we could hang out and get wasted, but alright never mind.” (laughs)
Over the past years there has been this big thrash revival, a lot of people like Dekapitator and obviously you guys came before all this revival, so I was just thinking…
I didn’t even realize that we put our first record before Toxic Holocaust was a band, I was talking to Joel the other day and I thought that they had already started by that time. I don’t even consider them or Municipal Waste part of that either coz they are both sort of ahead of the curve, you know? I mean that’s also been part of the reason that we don’t feel that much a need to play coz there are 8.000 fuckin’ bands playing. When we started doing it, we obvioulsy grew up with that music and are big fans of it, but we weren’t trying to do anything new or advance it. We were just kinda having fun with the cliches, you know? Singing about nuclear attacks, fuckin’ dumb stuff like that, you look at the cover of the album and it’s pretty obvious. But at the same time people do keep asking us about it, so I don’t know, I’d like to do something with it. I think that the new school thrash thing is finally dying down a little bit, which might give us more space to play. It was cool at first and it was cool that when we played shows there’d be all these kids, but then it just got so fashionable. I was reading this fuckin’ shitty Terrorizer thrash magazine special, there was a section like “How to dress like a thrasher. What kind of shoes to get?” I was like “You know what, this like what metal is supposed to be 100% against.” The fact that you are wasting space in your magazine talking about what kind of shoes people should buy…It’s not like a shoe company was like “Hey, we wanna buy an advertisement in your magazine.” That’d be fair play, that’s your business, you sell adds in your magazine, I’d get that. But to write an article about what kind of fuckin’ pants to wear. Fuck that, it’s just so fake. It just becomes so over rotted and England is the fuckin’ worst man. So many shitty thrash bands. There are a few good ones out there but most of them just bore the shit outta me, I just think it’s really cheezy.
Yeah, it seemed that there was this “boom” of this, let’s do this and bring out even some old bands and try to get them back together, all that…
It’s just too much man. I think that the genre has been thoroughly explored, it’s not like it was only around for 6 months, there were 10 good years of thrash albuns. There was Funk Thrash, whatever…Bay Area Thrash, German Thrash, Melodic Thrash, Progressive Thrash. So what more can you do with it at this point? That’s the thing which is sorta depressive, you hear these bands and they are doing the exact same thing. Like I said, with Dekapitator we weren’t trying to reinvent the wheel but also weren’t putting out fuckin’ records on Erache and going on world tours. We didn’t take it seriously, we just tried to do a good job. Thrash is already there, so we are just having fun with it. The extent that it has gone is been outta control. I’m really afraid that the old school death metal wave is gonna get just as bad, and I really hope that doesn’t happen, but at the same time that could help us sell some more t-shirts and albuns, so maybe it’s good, I don’t know. (laughs) But just this fuckin’ nostalgic craze that just kinda gets depressing. As much as I’m not into deathcore or whatever the fuck, at least it doesn’t sound like the same records that I bought on cassete when I was 12 years old and I’m almost 40. So to see a bunch of 15 years old playing the same shit that I listened to when I was a kid would be like if I started a band in high school and I was playing fuckin’ Jefferson Airplane songs and my dad’d be like “Oh yeah, you guys are great.” It’s just like fuck off man. (laughs) Seriously, all these kids and I’m old enough to be their dad or whatever. And I’m thinking “Really? You think the same thing that I think is cool?” That’s not how it’s supposed to be. Too much nostalgia. It’s the same way with movies and everything else.
Of course, the remakes…
How many fuckin’ Robocops, Transformers, Clash of Titans….There’s nothing new out there and it kinda bums me out. (laughs)
Has there been any new bands that you like or what have you been listening lately?
I listen to all kinds of stuff, mostly older stuff. In terms of newer bands, most of the new bands I get exposed to are from playing with them. There’s a band from the U.K. that we toured with last year, like 7 shows, called Seprevation, kinda stupid name but great fuckin’ band, it’s kinda on the cusp of “Swallowed in Black” and “Leprosy” but they have their own “Kill ‘Em All” take on it too. It’s nothing that’s completely new, but it’s really aggressive and really well done. There’s a sorta similar band, but a little bit more death metal from Orange County called Madrost, that’s really good. I think my favorite curent band is Enforcer, they are from Sweden and I listen to them all the time. They fuckin’ rule. They just make everybody else sound silly and they are not necessarly doing anything new but they just do it so good that it doesn’t really matter. It’s just like “How come every riff can be this good?” It just fuckin’ rules. But aside from that I listen to New Wave of Bristh Heavy Metal, like Thin Lizzy or UFO, or just stuff that has nothing to do with metal. I really love M83, Interpol, stuff that really bums out metal kids. (laughs)
Alright. (laughs) Well, thanks a lot again for the interview.
Right on, thank you man.