Hatebreed just released their latest record The Concrete Confessional and the touring road brought them through Baltimore. Drummer Matt Byrne sat down with Shockwave Magazine to discuss the recording of the new album, his favorite tracks, and the progression of Hatebreed.
Shockwave Magazine: When a new record (The Concrete Confessional) comes out, how excited do you guys get? Or after so long, has it become pretty normal to you?
Matt Byrne: No, no. We get excited for every new release. We tour a lot on every record, so I think the average now between our releases is usually about three years. So you figure when our album comes out it’s three solid years of touring on it, not that we don’t like any of our songs, but by the end of that three years you’ve been playing these songs for a long time. So when fresh material is on the table and ready to be put out on a new record, and you start working the newer songs into the set, it becomes just a fresher thing, and you get excited about it. It’s like, “All right! I’m not playing these songs that I’ve been playing since 2002.” We’re still playing those but we can work some newer stuff in too, so it kind of breathes some life into the set and everything, and it’s cool to watch the audience. Especially with this record, I’m really surprised. With a song like “Looking Down the Barrel of Today,” every show that we play that song at, more and more fans are already latched onto it. They know all the words, they know where the drums are going to drop in. It’s really cool to watch from the stage the fans latching onto the song and the song develop.
Absolutely. How did the recording, just in general, and the process of putting the record together go for you guys?
In that respect, it was pretty standard. We just kind of block out some time and our writing usually goes pretty quickly. The initial writing, putting ideas together — because Jamey (Jasta, vocals) and Beattie (Chris, bass) trade a lot of ideas back and forth anyway, so there’s always skeletons and loose structures or riff ideas already going. It’s just a matter of everyone else stepping in behind them and putting their stamp on it. So, once that starts happening, the process moves along pretty quickly. So the songs came together quickly, then we found we had a lot of time to revisit stuff and go back on the songs we started with and really let things breathe and develop until we felt that we had a really good finished product.
Considering how in demand you guys are, and you really are, you tour a lot and you do a lot of stuff not only in the country but out of the country as well. When you decide that it’s time for a new record, does it ever become difficult for you to block off that time?
Not really. The last two albums we’ve actually been recording in between touring cycles. So no process on either end, whether it be touring or recording, is hindered by the other. It’s kind of cool. We do spend a lot of time international, and we have the last couple years, especially during the summer time. We fly back and forth to Europe a lot and hit a lot of festivals. So, we fly over and spend two weeks there, fly home for a week or two, and then we go back to Europe for two weeks. And that’s the process so, in the time that we fly home, we have two weeks and we’ll get together and hash out ideas. Or if we’re in the studio, we’ll go back to the studio in that chunk of time we have off from the road, and we’ll try something new on a song that’s already done or whatever, and just kind of keep both sides of the process, the recording and the touring going at once. It seems to work thus far. It’s not driving us crazy, so that’s a good thing.
Do you have a favorite song on this record, and what is it and why?
I wouldn’t zero in on just one. I like the song “A.D.,” the opening track, because of how fast it is, and it’s really drum heavy, and it’s more thrashy, more in the vein of Slayer, my favorite band, so I love playing like that and I love being able to flex my chops a little bit. I like “Looking Down the Barrel of Today” because it has the Biohazardy type of groove to it, and the catch lines are really good. It’s more of an anthem so, like I said before, I knew that it was going to be a hit with the crowd, our fans were going to be able to latch onto it really quickly. But, I also like a song like “Walking the Knife” which we haven’t messed around with live yet. But on the record it’s my first time doing blast beats, so that’s kind of cool and it brings something different to the element of Hatebreed, and I’m looking forward to, if we play it live, what that’s going to be like.
Considering that you, yourself, have a really large chunk of time with Hatebreed, how do you see Hatebreed’s progression? What have you seen in Hatebreed from, like, 2001 to 2016?
I’ve seen us go from traveling in a van with a U-Haul trailer to being able to work up to being on a tour bus. I’ve seen us go from playing basements or smaller bars to playing these huge, 40,000-person festivals in Europe, or being on the Ozzfest five times. Not that we don’t play the smaller clubs anymore, I mean, we’ve never stopped doing any caliber of venue, but I’ve seen us make the jump from being only able to play those mediums to being put on these larger festival-type tours. So, I’ve watched the band expand and grow through that, and through that your fan base grows.
So, you’re touring currently with Devildriver. Do you have history with Devildriver, are you familiar with those guys?
Yeah, they’ve been a band for a while. They’ve changed lineups, so I was friendly with a couple of the guys in the previous lineup as well as the guys who are in the band now. It’s funny, Austin (D’Amond,) the current drummer, who’s in a band called Bleed The Sky, which we toured with in Europe, which has got to be like seven or eight years ago, they were on one of the tours we did over there so I’ve known him a while. Obviously, Dez (Fafara, vocals) goes back to Coal Chamber and they were late 90s — mid to late 90s — so he’s been in the game a long time and I give him a lot of respect for that but it’s cool, I watch a little bit of him every night and they really have a solid unit with the lineup they have now, great chemistry and they’re killing it live.
And something to close out: Matt, what does Hatebreed mean to you?
Well, I’ve been in the band for sixteen years now. It’s…geez, that’s a good question. [Laughs] What does it mean to me? Well, it’s my life, man. It’s my life. I love the guys I jam with. I think we have a chemistry, and any band will tell you that, but we have a chemistry that is unmatched by a lot of other bands. I think, what we have going on, we’re able to be on radio fests and we’re able to play in people’s basements and we’re able to play these huge festivals in Europe. So we’re able to assimilate ourselves into a lot of different environments musically, which I like because we’re a hardcore band with shorter song structures and stuff and our pits are crazy, but we’re still able to fit in a radio environment or something where the crowd is a little more “safe,” I guess you would say. So I just think it’s cool that I’m a part of this working machine that’s been able to achieve these things, and this hardcore band from Connecticut has come up and played with Black Sabbath and Slayer and Napalm Death and Dropkick Murphys and Motörhead and all these bands from different areas and kinds of music. Yeah, I’m glad to be a part of it, man. That’s what it means to me. It’s my life and I’m glad I’m involved in such a diverse thing.
Matt, thank you so much for taking some time to talk.
Thanks for the interview.
Catch Hatebreed on The Concrete Confessional Tour from now through September.