Interview by Jason Williams
Prior to and post the release of their sixth studio album ‘Necrocracy’ via Relapse Records this year, Northern California goregrind masters Exhumed have been on a relentless touring run through North America, Europe and other parts of the world. They’ve just concluded a North American tour supporting Dying Fetus, and it was during this run that they played at the Constellation Room in Santa Ana on October 15. A few hours before the show, our man Jason Williams sat down with guitarist/vocalist Matt Harvey and drummer Michael Hamilton to discuss tours past, present and future, amongst many other things like the new album, the government shutdown, and basically all things Exhumed. Enjoy the light-hearted conversation below, along with a taste of the new album, and use the links at the bottom to read a review of the Santa Ana show or to visit Exhumed on the web.
Jason Williams of Metalassault.com here, gearing up for the Dying Fetus headlining tour alongside Matt Harvey and Mike Hamilton of Exhumed. How are you guys?
Mike: We’re doing good!
Welcome back to California! I’m saying ironically because a couple of weeks ago, you guys just did a two-day tour, both sold out shows with Carcass at the Troubadour. It was fucking mayhem, and I’d like to ask you, how did it happen and how was it for you guys to play with one of your influences and idols?
Matt: Well it happened, I guess through a variety of things. We just knew the same people, like this gentleman here, our sound guy, also works for Carcass. Lots of mutual friends that have been bugging them ever since they got back together about doing something with us. And also, Repulsion turned down the gig. (laughs)
Why would that happen?
Matt: I think because they were just in LA, playing at the Jesse Pintano tribute show. We also met the Carcass guys, (looking at Mike) in May?
Mike: Yeah, it was at the Neurotic Death Fest, in the Netherlands.
Matt: Yeah, so we hung out with those dudes there. And, you know, we didn’t piss them off too bad (smiles). So yeah, just a variety of factors.
Mike: It sort of seemed like, their new album, and our new album. It was nice that was going to happen eventually and it was nice that it did. And it was going to happen in LA.
Matt: It kind of seemed ineviable at some point.
Matt: Really cool. They were really cool about everything. They instruct their drumkit for us, they let us use their riser, both shows, we were partying in the dressing room. They have more booze than us so… (laughs)
Mike: They shared the wealth. (laughs)
They’re generous blokes.
Matt: Absolutely. Great dudes. It was fun and just one of those things that just made sense. They said nice things about our band and hopefully, we weren’t too sarcastic, well, people other than Jeff (Walker, Vocalist/Bassist of Carcass) said them, so I assumed they’re not sarcastic (laughs). It was cool and just a fun time, you know?
That’s amazing. And speaking of amazing tours, we talked a little before previously about the great opportunity you had for the Death To All tour, singing the later material. Not only that, but you took it on a week’s notice? Because Steffen of Obscura (Steffen Kummerer, Vocalist/Guitarist of Obscura) had visa issues and couldn’t be there.
Matt: It was almost about 9 days. And I had about 4 days to jam with the guys, with 5 days before to learn the material beforehand. Yeah, that was another thing, Steffen from Obscura couldn’t do it, and I’m all about taking opportunity, not like (in a mocking voice) “Why didn’t you guys want me first?!” I don’t care, I’m happy to be the cleanup man (laughs). I talked to Eric Greif, who was Death’s manager and is now Chuck’s estate manager. And I met him beforehand, before I knew any of this. We hit it off and I’m a pretty big Death fan. And I knew that he managed some other bands. I was asking about Numbskull and Morbid Saint. So anyways, we hit it off and hung out for a while, and then when I heard about it, I saw him again because he’s also Relapse’s lawyer, and I saw him at the Relapse showcase in LA. I asked him, “Well, hey, I’m sure you guys, not a lot of people have said this but if you guys need a singer, I sing at a higher register than a lot of the guys, kind of close to where Chuck’s voice was. Just saying, if you need a singer, cool. Don’t tell me anything about it, you don’t have to let me down easy, that’s fine. A name in the pot, that’s it. And eventually Sick Drummer organized it and tapped Charles (Elliot, Vocalist/Guitarist) from Abysmal Dawn and Steffen from Obscura. Yeah, Steffen couldn’t make it because of his visa, and one of the greatest things that Steffen had tabbed out most of the songs. And so, he got in touch with me and said, “Hey, I’m really bummed I can’t do it, but here’s all the tab.” And I was like, thank fucking god (laughs). Because you know, the solos are still really approximated, but at least they were approximated instead of like, ‘what?’ So that worked out pretty well.
And traveling to that San Francisco gig from here, having gone to shows for a long time now, it was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. It was for a great cause to let people know, one of the pioneers of Death Metal, just people realizing what it was like back then.
Matt: Even my buddy Andrew from Entombed, actually put it really well. He said, it was kind of like a wake, a memorial service for Chuck for all the people, who didn’t know him. That only knew him through his music or whatever,that never got a chance to sort of, get that farewell tour kind of closure, or the kind of opportunity to see the band live or whatever. And it was really weird, because it was such a different vibe with Exhumed, it’s all about, being assholes and totally disrespectful, you know, breaking stuff and getting wasted and shit. Whereas, with that it was very respectful, which is an interesting tone for a Death Metal show, and I still got wasted (laughs). But it was very respectful. You can tell with people, it was something special. You look out in the audience and you see kids, just like, “I can’t believe I’m seeing this!” It was, wow, that’s pretty heavy, you know, feeling for it, it was just a Death Metal show. But at the same time, it wasn’t just a Death Metal show, you know? It was just a trip.
So, you have a new record out, called Necrocracy. Buy it, buy it! Support your music, buy the album shitheads, please!
Matt: Steal it! (Mike and Matt laugh)
So it’s been out for about, not too long now so, tell us about it? Great record by the way. Really, really varied. You have some songs that are just melodic with acoustic intros and you have songs like “Sickened” that are just fucked up, blasting on it. Was there a goal to kind of branch out a little more? You’ve gone more from the straight Gore to more of a Gore/Death Metal approach?
Matt: (laughs) That kind of started when we were doing the All Guts No Glory tour. We were making the setlist and this is where we would need a slow song and it was like … what slow song? (laughs)
Mike: Yeah, we don’t have any slow songs. All Guts was just pretty straightforward blasting, you know? And we kind of wanted to change that up on this record. Bring a little more, tempos down a little bit, more memorable guitar writing, drum parts, more groove, memorable song structures.
It’s been about 3 years since All Guts, No Glory. For this record, was one of the goals to have a consistent, stable line up, to get that down because one of the reasons why from 2005-2010, you know? (Exhumed was on hiatus for those years).
Matt: Well, you know, it was kind of like, it was actually 2 years (Since All Guts, No Glory was released), which is pretty good because we did, I think close to 200 shows in the last 2 years. We recorded All Guts in 2010 and recorded Necrocracy in 2012. And each came out the following year.
Oh, so this is a year-old record then?
Matt: For us, yes. It’s really old (laughs). We recorded in September and October of 2012 and didn’t come out until August of this year. So getting ready to play these songs live is weird, it was like, “Remember this?”
Mike: Yeah, we rehearsed these songs over a year ago.
Matt: Yeah, I forgot about that. We literally rehearsed for two weeks, did the record and in the middle of the recording, we flew to Japan and did three shows with Cannibal (Corpse). Finished the record, then we did a Municipal Waste/Napalm Death tour, then that didn’t end until a couple of weeks before Christmas. Then we were off until February, we did a California mini-tour. We were thinking the record was going to come out in May, so the April tour with Suffocation, which was supposed to be like, “Hey! We got a new record coming out next month! Buy it!” Then the album kept getting delayed and delayed and delayed.
If the album was already done and released then why does it take so long to get it out there?
Matt: (laughs) Well, the studio where it got mixed in New Jersey was hit by the superstorm, Sandy or whatever? So that delayed it by over a month. And then the artwork, they didn’t like the concept that we had at all and said to do something different. So we finally looked back and forth through several different things until there was something that was like, “Well this is pretty cool.” And they’re like, “Yeah, okay, we can work with this.” And it’s been sort of a weird thing. I’ve had a lot of people tell me that it’s their favorite album cover and other people said they hated it so, I don’t know. Maybe we’re both right (laughs). So by then, at that time, we were looking at like, July, and I was like fuck, because they do everything way in advance. And then the schedule for July was really busy so they pushed it back again for August. And we already booked a three month tour in Europe. So we did four months of touring for the record that didn’t exist.
Mike: They told us the album would come out while we were in the middle of the European tour because we’re hitting festivals and in between small little two-three week runs, and then anticipation of the album to come out while we’re over there. (Matt laughs). We’re like, okay, we have the setlist for the month and a half before the album dropped and then we’re going to start playing new songs.
Matt: For the month and a half before the album dropped (laughs).
Mike: So we’re like, okay, so we end up spending our whole summer in Europe. You know, 3 months of, what basically, 90 shows about?
Matt: No no no, it was like 70 shows.
That’s still pretty good.
Mike: It’s busy.
Matt: Yeah, we had a 10-day break.
Mike: It felt like three little mini tours cause we had some breaks in between but I mean, it was just kind of a letdown because we thought it was going to be out and then we support it by playing those new songs.
Matt: Yeah, so it was kind of weird like, when the album came out it was almost like anticlimactic for us. “Here it is!” “Finally” (Sarcastically)
So, speaking of the album, “Coins Upon the Eyes”, the music video for it, kind of ironic that was out and then the government just, shuts down. Did you guys call this? Was this planned?
Mike: Yeah, we planned it. It was our call.
Matt: We felt like the album release was delayed and we needed to do something else for promo. So we called up our congressman and said, “Hey, we have this album coming out. Can you guys just stop everything for a few weeks? We need to hype this.” They’re like, “Oh yeah, no problem. I got this.”
They did you a solid!
Mike: Well the government failure’s not hard to predict anyways. (Matt laughs)
Considering everything that’s been going on with all of these wars and all of these things in other countries like Korea, is this actually like, surprise you?
Matt: Well, it’s hard to put a niche of optimism, the things that the government does. Like, even something that’s well-intentioned like, you know the socialized healthcare which is really effective in Europe, and in the first world, except for here. By the time they’re able to compromise enough to fucking pass something, it’s like not even particularly good. And then, they’re still so pissed off about passing something that’s not even that great as far as socialized medicine goes, and then they shut down the whole fucking government, it’s ridiculous, you know? So it’s whatever (laughs).
Mike: Meanwhile, they’re still getting paid else.
Matt: Yeah, the park ranger that works at the National Park just standing there until they figure it out.
They’ve been closing down some National Parks. So you can’t walk into a park without the government telling you to?
Matt: That sounds like bullshit. It just a fucking tree, just go.
So, after this tour, do you guys have plans to do anything else? In Europe, where you can actually promote this album and tour for it?
Matt: (Laughs) Now we can actually promote it. It’s like an actual record! We’re doing this tour. We have a smaller thing coming up that is yet to be announced. It should be next week. I have a really bad history of talking about too much before it’s supposed to be announced. But we’re working on some stuff for early next year already, that looks pretty promising. For the first three or four months of the year. And beyond that, difficult to project too far ahead. Maybe some European festivals in the summer and then, you know, continue on the road for as long as it makes sense until it’s like, “Alright dude! You played, you know, fucking…
Mike: 600 shows!
Matt: (laughs) Delaware, Dover. Dover, Delaware like 5 times. “Please, we love your band, but come on, like enough!” That’s what we worry about.
Well the interesting thing is that you guys are touring now, for as long as you guys have been around, you’re finally being like a “band”. Like a proper band, being consistent for so long now. You guys have been around since ’90! Not a lot of people know that. This is your 5th record here.
Matt: The thing was back in the day, our old drummer, who I started the band with, he was always in college. And it was kind of like, we tour in the summer or if he took a quarter off, then maybe we could try to do a tour or whatever. And because of that, everything was really slow. The writing process was slow. The touring thing, getting a consensus of like, they would be saying, “Hey, can you do this tour?” And I was like, well, I don’t know. I need five days to find out if we can get off work, if the school schedule would be fine and they said, “No, we need to know by tomorrow.” And I was like, “Then I guess, no.” And so, we were really never able to capitalize and get a lot of momentum. Because my concept of the band was to always be the way it is now. It’s like, this is what we do, this is our job. We tour for five months, that’s what we wanted. It’s like a 70’s band or whatever. Where you’re just on the road all the time until you just crank another album. You know, the first three KISS albums are like, in a four year period. At this moment we are a band that can and that’s where we want to be and where we want to stay.
Mike: We have a solid lineup now. Everybody’s pretty much putting in 100% in the band. So, really easy to tour this much when we don’t have jobs so, that’s another factor. We just make this our job.
Do you guys prefer to tour, what’s better for the band, in terms of attendance and things that make sense, travel wise? America or Europe, I mean, you guys just went to Japan with Cannibal, so what’s preferred?
Matt: (Laughs) Well I prefer Japan over anything, personally.
Mike: It’s tough, it depends on the package really. If the package makes sense, if it draws kids. Usually diverse packages are what helps us a lot, because it’s not just five grind bands, kind of pigeonhole us into that one sound, where if you have thrash band, gore band,or grind band and a death metal band that makes sense, draw people in from different backgrounds.
Matt: I’ll just say it, I love touring America way better than Europe, personally. We do better over here, we make more money, we have more fans. It’s easier to get around and easier to maintain our gear.
Mike: Maintain our homelife.
Matt: Everything is easier in the states. I like Europe a lot, we were over there for three months. People were like, “Do you guys just live here now? What are you doing? Why do you keep coming to this bar?” Well, we have four days off so here we are! (laughs). So, you know, for me I just think the access to everything here is so much easier. Whether it’s late night food, whether it’s like parking for the van and trailer, you know what I mean? And it’s great in Europe, because it’s a healthier culture, everything’s smaller. They don’t have those, many big box stores and stuff, which is economically way better. But when you’re on tour, and you’re in a town you’ve never been in before, and you’re just like, “Dude, I need to buy everything in one hour.” “Well, least there’s Wal-Mart!” And it’s fucking cheap. And as horrible and evil as Wal-Mart is, and I would never shop there at home. But, when we’re on tour, we’re going there. And plus if you get your tires at Wal-Mart and the fucking tire goes out, guess what? Next town, you bring the tire to Wal-Mart you’re like, “Give me a fucking tire!” And they give you a tire! So, it’s just much easier logistically in the states. I love Europe, we plan on going back there next year. At least a couple of times, I’m sure.
And for my last question, to promote the record and to get it out there, will you be doing mostly headlining tours? Or try to open for bigger bands? What do you think would make more sense?
Matt: Our goal is to do more support, co-headlining stuff, you know? Just because I think when All Guts came out we did two headlining tours you know, Western, American, Canada and the Eastern. And, as much as I like the sort of control of headlining and being able to just take your time (laughs), everything else playing longer, we like to play. Fuck, we played in Europe for like an hour and a half! (laughs)
Mike: An hour and a half, yeah.
Matt: (laughs) It was fucking ridiculous! But, you know, at this point for the band, for the amount of shows we played, it’s better for us to go out and support and do co-headlining stuff. Because we give our fans a lot of opportunities to see us. Fuck, this will be our third time playing in LA, in like, what 3 weeks? (laughs). So I think it just makes more sense to package with bigger bands and get out in front of new people and show them what we’re doing.
(At this point, the bassist of Exhumed, Rob “Bob” Babcock, who I’ve happened to know for a long time, is ‘spying’ on the interview as Matt notices)
Matt: Hey Rob. You being a creep?
Rob Babcock: Yeah.
So I think that’s all the time I got for today, so any last words you guys like to say to anyone reading this?
Matt: (Holds up beer) Beer?!
Mike: Thanks for supporting us, come out to a show. And hang out with us, party and rock out.
Matt: Yeah, that’s it literally, when we decided to do this band again, I just thought, “Oh, we’ll make a record, it’ll be fun. Do a couple of shows.” And now 3 years later (laughs), 500 shows or whatever! It’s because of people coming out and people buying shirts, buying records and that’s what makes it happen, so we appreciate it. Do drugs, drink beer, fuck pussy.
(“Bob” comes in next to us)
So this is Bob!
Rob-Bob? I know him as Bob.
Matt: (Looks at “Bob”) Don’t rape. (Bob walks away). Okay, rape!!