Matt Harvey Comments on Recording "All Guts No Glory," Playing The Goregrowler's Ball & the Group's Sick Lyrics
Band Photo: Exhumed (?)
Exhumed has left a twenty-plus-year-stinky stain on the extreme metal community. Starting with their 1998 platter of splatter, “Gore Metal,” Exhumed has become one of the more recognized acts on Relapse Records’ roster of atrocities. Recently, the group released the pun-heavy-titled “All Guts No Glory,” its first proper album in eight years. The punk-laden album subsides on a heavy diet of blistering drums, sharp guitars, ghoulish voices and dark humor.
Vocalist, guitarist and partial Exhumed brain child, Matt Harvey spoke to Metal Underground via phone about his “It’s Alive”-shaped baby. In addition to providing details about recording “All Guts No Glory,” Harvey spoke about playing two Metal Underground-sponsored events. The day of the interview he had just started Exhumed North American tour with Goatwhore and Havok, and also commented on the group’s upcoming performance at The Goregrowler’s Ball.
Darren Cowan (Rex_84): How’s the tour going so far with Goatwhore and Havok?
Matt Harvey: It’s going killer, man! It’s been a lot of fun. All of the shows have been pretty cool. Kids are coming out raging. Both of the bands are awesome, too. Whenever we do a headlining tour, we really try to work with our agent, both here and in Europe, to try to find bands that people wouldn’t mind seeing twenty or thirty times in a row. It’s been pretty cool.
Cowan: Where are you at on this tour? Are you midway through?
Harvey: We aren’t even midway. Tomorrow (November 4th) will be the first week. Basically, we are almost a third of the way through. We’re just hitting our stride, as much as we have a stride.
Cowan: You are scheduled to play The Goregrowler’s Ball.
Harvey: Yeah, that’s going to be one of our last shows. We’re playing Friday (November 18th) down there.
Cowan: How do you feel about playing that festival?
Harvey: We’re psyched! It’s going to be a cool way to end the tour. We haven’t played Texas in years. Plus, there are a lot of great bands playing. Hirax, Suffocation, Deceased, Noisear are all playing. The only bummer for me is we are playing on Friday and then finishing up in New Mexico and Arizona and then Orange County, so we won’t get to see Deceased, which pisses me off. It’s just an occupational hazard, so what are you going to do?
Gravehill is not coming out to the Ball. Are you still touring with them while they cruise through America with Impiety?
Harvey: They have a couple of fill-in guitar players because one of the guitarists from Gravehill, Rob [Bodybag Bob] is playing bass and vocals with us, so they have both the guitar players from Witchhaven. I’m not exactly sure what happened with The Goregrowler’s show. There was some miscommunication or something, and it ended up being kind of a bummer on their end. I’m not really sure what the details were. It would have been cool because, A: doing double duty every once in a while is kind of fun or B: being able to watch your own band is even more fun.
Cowan: Exhumed as been away from the studio for six years. The last one, “Garbage Days Re-gurgitated” (nice Metallica pun) was an album of covers. What took so long to make a new album?
Harvey: We split up in ’05 after touring for the covers record. At the time, I didn’t really have any plans of doing this again, but we never said, “Fuck it! We’re never playing again.” We ended up not doing anything for a while because you never want to say never (laughs). It ended up being kind of a wise decision. I was living out-of-state and getting ready to move back to California, and I started talking to our guitar player, Wes [Caley] about hanging out and jamming. It wasn’t any more than that. It quickly turned into a conversation about a new record. We went from there to now where we’ve already played all over Europe and have done our second U.S. and Canadian run, so the casual, half-joking conversation snowballed into this monster truck of madness that is this band. It’s kind of crazy (laughs).
Cowan: How do you feel about the production? It seems pretty polished.
Harvey: The last original record that we did, “Anatomy is Destiny” was pretty polished having Neil Kernon produce and mix the record. The playing is a little bit tighter on this one, so the polish comes through a little bit more. We had a lot of input as far as the mix. We weren’t actually present, while it was being mixed. I tried to avoid that because then you always have the guitar player saying, “I can’t hear my guitar” or “tune up the snare” or “turn up the vocals,” and it turns into a total mess. We had a lot of input as far as the total vibe. We wanted to make sure that the record didn’t sound like a lot of other modern death metal records at all, really clicky drums up front and everything is compressed. We wanted to be more powerful and have the rhythm guitar dominate. I’m really happy with the way it came out. Some people like the raw stuff better. You never hear anybody complain that “Reign In Blood” is too polished. That album has great production. As long as you don’t over process it, so it gets so clean that you appear as an asshole. We’re writing these riffs and it’s cool that people can actually hear them. The production on our early albums sounds like a blender, a toilet and a cement mixer jamming.
Cowan: Is “All Guts No Glory” a three-piece with Danny Walker?
Harvey: No, the record was written by our guitar player, Wes and myself. Then, Leon did some bass and low vocals and Danny obviously played drums. Since we started touring, we’ve added Mike Hamilton from Deeds of Flesh on drums because Danny is playing with Intronaut and everything else. One, we can’t wait around and plan our lives around his schedule. Two, you get to the point where you have, “This drummer does this,” and “This drummer does that.” It’s been the same thing with bringing Rob on board to do bass and vocals. At this point, he has a pretty serious career. He is the boss of people. He makes a bunch of money. He’s got one of those jobs that you don’t talk about in terms of “I make blank-dollars per hour.” He’s got a real job where he makes x-amount per year. He’s moved into that adulthood realm. He’s just not really able to tour. As far as the creative process went recording this album, it was mostly Wes and myself, so it’s not really much of a change. Both of these guys have played in other bands. They’ve played in other bands for years, so they’re real pros. It was seamless in terms of going from one lineup to the next and doing shows. It’s cool to have a solid core of guys around who are open to ideas.
Cowan: Danny Walker seems right on with his drumming. He plays super fast.
Harvey: We were really happy. It was kind of the way that we did this record; it was a necessity to work with him because he’s a guy who does a lot of homework. He’s the kind of guy you can send him a demo, and then he shows up to practice and plays the songs straight through. He writes drum charts down, how many beats or measures. That’s the way he has been able to do so many projects. He has that brain where he is all over the map. That’s just his personality, too, because really we only rehearsed as a band four times before we recorded. Everybody had to come in and be prepared. Wes and I got together a few times and worked on some arrangement changes for the songs. We demoed stuff that needed to be redemoed. Then, we all got into a room and bashed through it. Again, because of Intronaut’s touring, we had to push the recording up. It was a necessity to do it the way that we did. The next record we should actually rehearse as a band (laughs). Hopefully, we’ll have a little more time to prepare and work on different ideas before we have to get in the studio. It was like going from a standstill to running at full-speed.
Cowan: Do you feel if you had more time, the album would have come out better?
Harvey: In terms of vocals, there are a couple of things that I didn’t really have time for. I feel like we could have collaborated a little more. We wrote even more songs than we recorded. We did eleven for the record and four bonus tracks. Between Wes and I, we had seven or eight additional songs that we wrote, but didn’t have time to flesh out or consider for the album. Our goal was to make a thirty-five-minute record. We had a lot of material to sift through, but not a lot of time to editorialize. Some of the songs that didn’t make it on the record we would have spent a week in the rehearsal room working on them. It’s good, though, because we’re already a leg-up on the next record.
Cowan: That gives you a lot of time to flesh out the details.
Cowan: Is the band pictured on the album art work?
Harvey: That’s us in all of our smaller than life but twice as ugly kind of thing. We wanted to do something a little different for our album cover. I see too many covers with this sort of nebulous bullshit, like a post-Dan Seagrave robot giving birth to a dinosaur in outer space with the devil. We just wanted to so something a little more ‘70s rock oriented. We’re really into Kiss, Thin Lizzy and Blue Oyster Cult. For me, even a little Aerosmith. We didn’t want to shy away from doing things that are really cliché for a rock band but really unusual for a death metal band. It not only shows the sickness and gore, but it’s tongue-n-cheek. We’ve always had a sense of humor. We wanted to let people know that hasn’t changed (laughs).
Cowan: We especially see that humor in some of the song titles. There are a lot of puns on famous sayings, like “All Guts No Glory.” Can you tell about conceiving these pun ideas.
Harvey: Some people don’t really get it. Some people thought we should have called the record “No Guts, No Glory.” I’m like, “Man, whatever.”
Cowan: The guts are spilling out all over the place.
Harvey: Right! I thought it was obvious, but hey, what do I know? I think when you’re singing about things that are so disgusting and morbid, you have to take it with a grain of salt, and keep it tongue-n-cheek way. Otherwise, you get overwhelmed by how depressing it is. I think that’s really the whole vibe of our lyrics for such a long time. Life and death is disgusting and gross, grim and pointless so fuck it! My reaction is let’s party! Who gives a shit, man? Not let’s sit around and be depressed about it, medicate or go in a forest and sing songs about snow. That shit sucks! We like to have a laugh and a good time. That’s reflected in the music, lyrics, imagery and everything else.
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