By Aniruddh “Andrew” Bansal
San Jose, California-based death metal band Exhumed are ready to embark on this year’s Summer Slaughter tour which starts tomorrow in Los Angeles at the House of Blues Sunset Strip. The band will be part of a massive lineup featuring Cannibal Corpse, Between The Buried And Me, The Faceless, Periphery, Veil Of Maya, Goatwhore and others, and will continue supporting their latest album “All Guts No Glory”, for which they’ve already done some significant tours. A couple of days ago, I had the pleasure of chatting with frontman Matt Harvey to talk about this upcoming tour, and he also shared his “Death To All” experience, as well as discussed his work with Gravehill. Read this insightful and light-hearted conversation below, check out a song off of the new album using the YouTube player below, and visit Exhumed’s facebook page for more info.
First of all, I have to ask you about the Summer Slaughter tour which is about to start. How does it feel to be on that tour? It looks like a great lineup this year.
It’s kind of nuts. It’s interesting because it’s not really the kind of show that I personally would normally go to. I kind of burn out after four or five bands (laughs). When I was 15-16 years old, this happened to be the exact kind of thing that’d make me shit my pants with excitement. So I think it’ll be pretty good (laughs). I’m curious to see how it all works. I’ve talked to a lot of people who’ve done it before. I’m just surprised that it’s not like a total mess, because from what I’ve heard, everybody has pretty much got it down to science, getting bands on and off stage really quickly and everything. So it should be a lot of fun and we’re psyched for it. We’re also in the process of buying a tent and a camping barbeque, so that when we don’t feel like being inside for several hours of brutal metal, we can just head outside and start our own barbeque, like we normally would do when we’re home. It’s gonna be pretty rad.
You know, we’re out on this tour because we want to play in front of the new kids who haven’t heard us before. We’re kind of stepping into a different realm, so I’m just taking it as it is. We’re playing right before Goatwhore, so I think that’s a good grouping with us, Goatwhore and Job For A Cowboy probably being more on the death metal side of things than the Sumerian Records-type stuff. So I think it’ll be fine (laughs). There’s nothing to worry about in terms of the whole ‘who’s playing above whom’ or whatever. It’s not a big deal. Last year we went out and toured with Goatwhore, and they supported us. This year we’re going out and supporting them. We’re also be supporting them on off-date shows on this tour, because they have a new record out and that makes sense, and we’re not really obsessed with who’s in what place. The cool thing will be, our day will be over at like 5 or 6 o’ clock (laughs).
What’s your experience been like touring as part of multi-band packages? Is this the biggest lineup you’ve ever been part of, in terms of number of bands?
This would be the biggest package in terms of sheer number of bands, for sure. We did the Morbid Angel-Deicide-Soilent Green tour around 10 or 11 years ago, and that was a trip. It was interesting. The main difference between this type of tour and a tour that we do on our own with four or five bands or something is that it’s a big deal to be a half-hour late for a show with ten bands. We’d just be putting the whole show off schedule and really be wasting a lot of people’s time. If it’s our show with two of three other bands and we’re supposed to be there 4.30 in the afternoon, if we get there at 5.15 it’s not really too big a deal (laughs). So I think it’s a good challenge for us to get our shit together a little bit more and really make sure that we show up everyday on time, and try to be team players. Because I wouldn’t want somebody else doing that to us and throwing it off. But all the bands are professional, and we’re probably going to be the biggest idiots out there on this lineup, which is normal (laughs).
That’s an interesting way of putting it! Recently, the early part of this year and the latter half of last year, you’ve been on a lot of tours. Would you say that your last album “All Guts No Glory” had a big role in that? Is this because of the success of the album?
Yeah, it all kind of works together. The fact that the record came out and it was well received, I mean I don’t know whether people buy records at all anymore, let alone our records, but it definitely got a lot of good reviews and people seemed to be happy about it. It really opened up a lot of doors for us, we got some great tours already, and now we’re just looking to play with bigger bands and bigger packages, get out and play for kids who’ve become aware of the band just now. People who haven’t heard us before will also get a chance to see us, and they’ll hopefully come on board, or at least get a chance to make up their mind, I guess. We don’t really think about the record or how it’s doing, or if people are buying it or whatever. All we can do is just make music, throw it out there, and whatever happens just happens (laughs). We’re really stoked to be able to take advantage of all these opportunities. Basically we weren’t even planning on doing that much touring for this record, but things just kept coming along that made sense, so we just kind of continued down the road!
I’ve been noticing that this year a lot of great package tours have been coming through the States. People are getting shows that may be much more than worth their money. Do you think this is something that has to be done to attract crowds in this economy?
I think it’s something that people deserve whether the economy is doing great or not. Whether the economy is good or bad, people are going to need to be entertained. In the great depression in the 30s, people were going to movies like crazy because they wanted to escape the fact that their dad got laid off or whatever (laughs). I think metal is definitely an escapist kind of art form, and it’s a great way to vent your frustrations. So I think it makes a lot of sense to do these kind of tours. Regardless of the economy, it’s about what’s fair to the kids. It’s one thing if you’re going out and playing bars by yourselves, but to go out and really deliver value for the money is a spectacle to your fans. Whenever we have a say in it, we always try to keep our prices down and sell our shirts for as little money as it’s possible enough to make sense for us. People are spending their time and money to support your band. Don’t shit on that and try to be a dick. I think it’s cool that some people in the industry are fans, and the way they think is hopefully pretty similar to the way I think (laughs), at least the people we work with. I know our agent really well. He’s a great guy. He’s the kind of guy who gets stoked on putting together cool shit, so it works out pretty well.
So that was about the Summer Slaughter tour, but coming to the most recent thing you did, the Death To All tour. What was that like? You stepped in at the last minute, and I’m sure it was a “Is this really happening?” kind of feeling.
It was surreal. It was really bizarre. When I was a kid, I was just a huge Death fan. I sat in my room and learned all the “Scream Bloody Gore” riffs by heart. Then I learned the “Leprosy” riffs, and I bought the tape of “Spirited Healing” the day it came out and learned all those riffs. By the time “Human” came out, I already had my own band. But yeah, it was a really crazy position to be on that tour, because on one hand you’re really excited to be there, but on the other hand it was like, there’s nothing you can possibly do to replace what Chuck did. I was telling people that it wouldn’t matter if I was taller, better looking, had a bigger dick, played all his parts right, sang his vocals better, and had a cooler car, whatever I did just would not be as good as what he did, you know. There was definitely a level of pressure that isn’t there when I play with my own band. It’s one thing to walk into a situation in which you’re already intimidated, but when you don’t even know any of the guys you’re jammed with, and it’s the first time you’ve met them when you get up and start jamming, it’s like, fuck! Usually there’s at least one person I know in that situation, so it was a little scary. When I looked over, there was Gene Hoglan playing drums. It was really weird and I didn’t know what to do (laughs). Actually the shows were easier than the practices, because during the shows I could interact with the audience and concentrate on them, and that’s pretty similar show-to-show. With the other guys sort of like being my heroes (laughs), it was scary. But it went fucking great. I had so much fun, the kids were really appreciative, and I think the whole thing was done very tastefully and with respect to the band, and to Chuck and his family as much as we could possibly do. So yeah, I was psyched to be a part of it, man.
And the fact that you were replacing Steffen from Obscura, that would not have given you much preparation time. But I guess you already knew all of the songs so it didn’t matter, right?
Well, I was playing a lot of the newer stuff which is way more technically enhanced than the stuff on Leprosy (laughs), so it was just like getting myself into the deep end. I could freshen up on the earlier material in like 15 minutes and be ready to play them because I knew them by heart and I knew all the lyrics. I’ve been listening to them and used to play them non-stop at the age of 13, but with this later stuff, I like it but I just didn’t know it like the back of my hand. So it was definitely a challenge. I think I learned ten songs in nine days, or something like that. Then I did the first show. It was kind of nuts (laughs).
Would you call this a career highlight?
Oh yeah, for sure man. I’ve been really lucky in that I ended up playing with Repulsion for a few years. They’re still my absolute favorite death metal band of all time, and then I also did one show singing for Exodus, another one of my favorite bands. But doing Death To All was kind of crazy. Apparently, now I’m starting a set list of my all-time favorite bands and I’m like, that’s three out of 10. Who’s next? (Laughs) So yeah, it was totally a career highlight. It’s not even a dream come true because it’s something I wouldn’t have even considered happening. When we played in San Francisco, our original drummer Col Jones was at the show. He’s still my closest friend after all these years, and I’ve known him since 1987. He was telling me that he was tearing up seeing me on stage with Death. That was pretty heavy (laughs). When your best friend tells you that he starts crying because of something you’re doing on stage, it’s kind of significant. So yeah, career highlight for sure, hands down.
Another thing that you’ve done recently is being part of the LA-based band Gravehill. You’ve been doing a couple of shows with them here and there, whenever you weren’t touring with Exhumed. What’s your status with them now? Will you still do shows whenever possible?
No, they have a couple of permanent guys now. Basically Rhett and Mike were old friends of mine, and I was coming home just moving back from Hawaii, and had this tour shortly after I moved back. I hadn’t really done anything in a couple of years as I was on an island (laughs), so I thought it’d be cool to just go to New York City again, so I told them I’d do their show. The tour went really well, we had a lot of fun, and it wasn’t a gigantic financial success but we all had a great time and enjoyed hanging out together, playing and getting drunk. So they just sort of wrote to me, and pretty soon I was in their rehearsal room, we were working on new songs, and I ended up doing a record with them. We did the record and then once the latest Exhumed album was out, I kind of turned the tables on them (laughs) and ended up stealing the bass player from Gravehill. But there’s no bad vibes between us or anything like that. We all hang out all the time. I just hung out in San Francisco the day before the first Death To All gig. So yeah, it’s just a case of, I’d be totally down to do more stuff with that band but I’m just way too busy, and they want to stay busy which is great. They have two new guys on guitar, they are awesome dudes and are playing great. So it was fun thing that I was able to do for a little while.
Finally I would like to ask you, after Summer Slaughter what’s the plan for Exhumed? Are you touring more or taking a break?
(Laughs) Well, the plan was to take a break and focus on writing a new record, but we just got offered another tour for October-November that basically was too awesome to pass up. Once we’re able to announce that, we’ll let people know. But I’m super psyched about it. In the meantime, we’ve just been writing for a new record and we’re trying to get in some studio time somewhere in between all of these shows so we can get it out by next spring and be on the road again next summer. So we’re definitely not slowing down (laughs).