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Hatebreed interview w/ Matt Byrne by: Alexa Linger

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Posted May 27, 2016 by Alexa Linger in Interviews

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Hatebreed interview w/ Matt Byrne

By Alexa Linger

As Hatebreed prepared to obliterate North America on the first night of their US tour, Empire Extreme sat down with Matt Byrne, the drummer of the Connecticut metalcore band. From their humble beginnings touring in a station wagon with the wheels falling off to touring Europe to promote their newest album The Concrete Confessional, Matt talked about the record, his musical roots, vegetarianism, looking like a teacher, and what’s next for the band.

byrne_matt_kitEmpire Extreme: I know your uncle was a drummer, but did your parents play any instruments? Are you from a musically talented family?
Matt Byrne: No. His parents were actors in the Vaudeville era, so early on, when they were kids, they were traveling around the country because the places to play were hotels. My father – he always jokes around, like, there’s me playing drums and my sister who does acting – off-Broadway stuff – so he’s always like ‘I don’t have an ounce of talent. It went to you guys.’ So, on my mother’s side that was my uncle who plays drums – her youngest brother. She never played anything, but he really influenced me to get into the drums. I tried playing guitar and I was terrible at it. So, I went to the drums and I got it a little more and that was it.

EE: I do yoga sometimes and I know you do, too. It’s a great way to relax. What is your favorite pose? Do you feel the breathing or anything from yoga helps with your drumming or keeps you calm before a show?
MB: As far as yoga goes, I like yin yoga – the really deep stretching – mostly floor exercises. Though I guess my favorite poses are Pigeon or King Pigeon or Frog where you’re really opening up your hips and stretching your legs. I feel a big difference and I see a big difference in my playing. As far as stretching goes, I’ll do your Downward Dog and just the basic stuff. I know it sounds crazy, but it really helps the playing.

L-R: Wayne Lozinak, Matt Byrne, Jamey Jasta, Frank Novinec, Chris BeattieEE: Okay, awesome! I read you’ve been dabbling in vegetarianism. What made you decide to make the switch? What has been the hardest part? How has it been on tour?
MB: It hasn’t been [hard] thus far, but we haven’t toured the States yet. I’ve only been vegetarian for a month. It’s relatively new – I just started it on our last tour in Europe and it’s kinda easier in Europe… I really got into it for health reasons – blood pressure, cholesterol, what meat does to your colon… It was more like ‘I’m getting a little older every day, right?’ And I wanted to switch and I wanted to notice a change in myself. It hasn’t been hard to give up meat.

EE: Who or what made you want to become a drummer or did you fall into it?

MB: Like I said, I tried guitar first. I didn’t have the hand-eye coordination and I just didn’t get it. As far as drumming goes, my uncle was a drummer and I’ve been watching him since I was 5 or 6 years old and he had an old drum set and he basically said ‘You don’t want guitar? O.K. You want to get into something, why don’t you try the drums? If you like what you’re doing, I’ll give you my old drum kit for free, but you gotta take lessons. I’m not going to give it to you to bang on, make noise, and drive everyone nuts. I want you to understand what you’re doing.’ So, I took lessons and I had fun with it. I understood it – the independence between the limbs and everything like that – and I just ran with it.

EE: Who are some of your influences? I know you like jazz. Do you take any influences from jazz?
MB: As far as influences go, Dave Lombardo was always been my favorite metal guy, straight up. He’s got that punk rock approach – really fast and real busy – it’s almost like a jazz guy’s approach with the fills and stuff. And then I really like Dave Garibaldi from Tower of Power. My teacher at the time turned on to funk and that type of stuff and he was the guy we really focused on.

Hatebreed_1357_loEE: What was the first song you learned on drums?
MB: Hysteria by Def Leppard ‘cause it’s so easy – it’s just that four on the floor. I think it’s the perfect introduction to drumming.

EE: You’ve been with Hatebreed since 2001 – that’s a long time. Describe the past fifteen years in one word.
MB: Adventurous, I’d say. I try not to take anything for granted, so when you get into a band, you never know how long it’s going to last. I never expected it to last this long… I don’t think any of us did. So, every day, every tour, every album is an adventure.

EE: Do you believe The Concrete Confessional, which deals with social issues like the rise of terrorism, police brutality, greed, betrayal, moral decay, and the fading promise of the American dream, was an important album to make in 2016? It’s one of the Top 25 Most Anticipated Metal Albums of the year, but do you think it could have been as relevant at any other time?
MB: Well, those types of issues have always been around, so I think it would have translated to any time period. But with the election coming up, terrorism, the Internet as crazy and influential as it is… it [The Concrete Confessional] is great timing for 2016 and I think releasing the first song we did – A.D. – really deals with The American Dream. Does it exist anymore? Is it the same as it was? It’s more of a socio-political theme rather than what would be our standard theme of self-empowerment and positivity. I think it hit home for a lot of people throughout the world.

EE: What has been the craziest pit you’ve ever seen at a Hatebreed show?
MB: There’s a bunch, man. I remember playing Hellfest in Syracuse – it must have been 2001 or 2002 – it was at an outdoor venue where they do fairs and stuff. It was in this stable area where they have cows and stuff, so it was dirt floors. The crowd was huge – there was a couple thousand people. We probably played fifteen, twenty minutes because the circle-pitting got so big and was kicking up so much dirt that nobody could see anything and we were afraid of people getting hurt.

EE: What do you do when you’re not making music or on tour?
MB: I try to relax, hang out with the friends I have left that I haven’t lost contact with… I have a 1980 Camaro, so I mess with that. I’m by no means some master mechanic, but it’s cool to have the hotrod and tinker with that and go cruising around. I try to take yoga classes three or four times a week and really perfect that [yoga practice]. I like to cook, read, and watch movies – I’m a homebody when I’m not on tour.

HatebreedTCC_cover_lo_1EE: What album are you most proud of?
MB: The Concrete Confessional – it’s the newest, the freshest, and I had the most fun playing it. Not that I dislike our old stuff, but a song like I Will Be Heard I’ve played 2,000 times since it came out. I really like my playing on the new record – whether I was going fast or not – I was really proud of that. Going back, I’d say Rise of Brutality has a soft spot with me. To this day, though it was 2003, I remember the recording process… It was my time to shine as far as metal chops go.

EE: What’s your favorite song to play live?
MB: My favorite song to play live right now would be A.D. or Looking Down the Barrel of Today.
EE: Looking Down the Barrel of Today is my favorite.
MB: Well, you might hear it today. You never know. Older songs – I still like Beholder of Justice – there’s a lot of groove to it and I’m able to open up on the drums. There’s a lot of double bass. And we don’t do it often, but I love the Slayer cover of Ghost of War. Dave Lombardo is my favorite drummer – I’m trying to do him justice up there. I love playing that. It’s a lot of fun for a drummer.

EE: Any chance we’ll hear that tonight?
MB: No, probably not. We play songs from all of our albums, but with the new album coming out today, we’ll probably focus on that.

EE: What do you want people – especially new listeners – to know about you and Hatebreed?
MB: That’s a good question. I think the reputation of the band over the years has been very rowdy. At a Hatebreed show, you expected to see a riot and not even finish the show because the cops would show, there’d be crazy fights or something… It’s really not like that anymore. It’s a safer environment – not to say the pits aren’t crazy and everyone’s not having a good time… It’s safer where the front windows aren’t getting broken out of the club, not everyone’s leaving in an ambulance, you know? New listeners should know it’s safe to come to a show, it’s awesome, and you’ll have a great time.

As far as about myself… It’s crazy – I’ve always tried to fight it or shrug it off, but now I embrace it: I’m the guy in the band who probably looks like he shouldn’t be in the band. Personality wise, too. It get it all the time: ‘you look more like a teacher!’ It’s funny – I was going to school to be a teacher, so I see where that comes from. People always say ‘It doesn’t seem like you should be the drummer of Hatebreed!’

EE: My daughter’s history teacher is in a metal band, so I get it.
MB: There you go! It’s not such a crazy thing!

EE: What’s next for Hatebreed?
MB: Well, we were off for seven, eight months making the record, we just got done with a two week European tour, and we’re going into this month long tour with DevilDriver and Devil You Know, so the touring cycle is just beginning for this album. Right now, on the horizon, it’s just touring. We’ve got a lot of good shows lined up, festivals in the U.S. and Europe, and we’re going to ride out the year on the road and see what the next year brings.

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About the Author

Alexa Linger
Alexa Linger


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