Sep. 13 2006
Matt Byrne

Matt Byrne

Hatebreed

TAMA :When did you join Hatebreed for the first time and how did that come about?

Matt : The first time I was in the band was the end of ’98 and at the time it was through a mutual friend.  They needed a drummer.  They didn’t have a steady guy.  I didn’t have a steady band and at the time I was going to school up North, going to college.  It was a thing like, “hey these guys need a drummer, you want to try out?”  The bands I was jamming at the time just kind of fizzled out and weren’t really doing anything.  I was still playing, but I wasn’t doing anything serious.  This was a serious thing and a good opportunity.  I liked the music and I knew of the band, so I said, “yeah, sure why not.”

I came down and met everyone and hung out. I told them I wanted to try out, we set up a tryout date, and I went down and jammed. It was me and another drummer that were trying out at the time, another friend of theirs I guess, and I got the gig.

TAMA : I understand that you left the band, after a year or so, to become and elementary school teacher.

Matt : I was in the band for like a year, and then I quit. Things just weren’t happening. At the time we were just different people and we didn’t click. So, then I joined another band, All Out War, who at the time was at the same label. They were from my area and I’d known those guys anyway. They needed a drummer and I needed a band, so I jumped in with them. I was with them for the next 2½-3 years. We didn’t do any albums, mostly just touring. We were working on an album that really never came out. The band sort of fizzled out.The guys got into other things. They ended up doing an album since then, but it was with different guys.


And that’s when I was going to go back to school I was all signed up and ready to go. I was over music at that point. I was just sick the roller coaster of it all with being up and down. I was ready to go back school, and I got a call from Jaime saying that they had just fired their drummer at the time. They were on the Ozzfest 2001 tour and they just wanted me to fill in on some dates to get them through the tour. And I said, “Yeah sure why not?” I figured if anything I’d do Ozzfest and it’d be a good summer.  It just kind of snowballed from there.  The shows we did were great, the chemistry was there, and it was like I never left the band. We were still locked in and we were really tight. It had been a couple of years since I’d jammed with them last so it was amazing that the chemistry was still there.  It had been a couple years, so we were different people and we just seemed to have more of an understanding about each other. One thing led to another and then they asked me to join them on their next tour. So I did that. They had also just been signed to Universal, and asked me to do the record with them. Then it was like, everything is great and everything is working so they asked me to be part of the band again. And we’ve been off and running every since. That was like the end of 2001 and beginning of 2002.

TAMA : You are currently in the studio recording your next album, is that right?

Matt : Yeah. It’s almost done. It’s going to be called the Supremacy.

TAMA : Right, so how’s it going and what stage are you guys at?

Matt : The drum tracks are done. Most of the guitar and bass is done. Starting on vocals as of yesterday and the album is set for an August release.

TAMA : How has the writing and/or recording process for this album differed from previous work, if at all?

Matt : It’s kind of the same. For this album there were a lot of ideas. Nothing was really structured, except for three songs, which were written during the recording process of the last album. Nothing was ever done with them. So we sat down with those songs again and reworked parts to make them fresh for what we’re doing now. The rest of the album was just ideas. I think this was the first time where we were in the studio and just had a table full of ideas and went through working everything. Jamming it all together, seeing what worked with what, and weeding out all the good stuff from the bad. Getting it down to 16 songs or something like that and just honing them. Whereas Perseverance was a different experience in that I wasn’t really in the band, at the time I was just kind of a fill in. It felt rushed, some songs were done, some weren’t, and some were written in the studio last minute. So it was really different. It felt kind of unorganized. It wasn’t, but it just felt that way. And then on Rise of Brutality we had been jamming in the studio for a while, probably a month just jamming and ideas came through playing. We sat down with them and we would jam or demo stuff out and find out what worked with what and the songs kind of evolved from there. Whereas this one, it was just ideas. Everyone had their own ideas that they brought to the table. Nothing was really established prior to that except these songs that came from the last recording session.

TAMA : So, for this album if I understand correctly, you guys were writing as you were recording? Or did you get together hash everything out and then record?

Matt : It was a little bit of both. Probably a quarter of the album was written while we were recording. And there are a couple of other songs that maybe came together like, rough skeletons on some jam sessions that we did in our time off.

TAMA : When did you first start playing the drums and how did you develop your skills on the kit?

Matt : I started when I was like 14. I tried guitar first, when I was 12 or 13 and I failed at it miserably. I don’t have the eye-hand thing... You know? (laughs) My uncle is a drummer and he has been playing as long as I can remember. I always liked the drums, but I wanted to try the guitar first. When guitar didn’t work, the natural thing to do was play the drums. My uncle was really good about getting me on the right track. He had his first drum set that he wasn’t using anymore and he said that I could have it. He wouldn’t give it to me to just bang on; he wanted me to learn the right way. So, that was the deal and I started taking lessons. I liked it and I liked where it was going. The teacher I had at the time was really good too. He wasn’t the by-the-book type of guy. Half the lesson would be learning how to read music, the real structured part of playing drums; the second half of the lesson would be I’d bring in a song that I wanted to learn and he would show me how to play it. So I was learning from the book as well as learning how to rock. It was never stale and it never got boring. I was doing something that I wanted to do.

TAMA : How long did you study with him?

Matt : I studied with him for about four years, and he was also a session guy. He got a gig in a Broadway show or something. So, he packed up and moved down there permanently and that was pretty much the last I saw of him. I took lessons here and there with some other guys, but nothing extensive. By that point I knew the fundamentals and I knew how to interpret things. I was off doing it my own way, and started developing my own sense of style. He introduced to a lot of funk stuff and jazz which is good. I definitely learned a little bit of everything. Even tough I was a metal head at the time; he imposed on me to keep my ears open to other stuff because there were chops that I didn’t even know about. If you are really into learning then you have to branch out to other genres of music. It’s funny when I talk to people how many people are not into that. They are still in that young metal head attitude telling me “man, I don’t listen to that crap”. It’s like, “well, you really should because there are always guys out there that can teach you something”.

TAMA : How did you first get into hardcore metal music? Who were your primary drumming influences?

Matt : The first exposure to the electric guitar and stuff like that was Led Zeppelin. My Mother had Led Zeppelin 2 on vinyl and I found it in her record collection when I was 9 or 10 years old. I popped it on, and I was just hooked at that point. Then my older cousin found out that I was into Zeppelin. He had all their other records, so he started turning me on to their other stuff. From that point on it went right from Zeppelin to Sabbath, right up to Metallica. From there it was that early thrash movement, with Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, Exodus, Testament...all those bands. That was my thing... the thrash bands of the 80’s. That’s where a lot of my influences come from. Like Dave Lombardo is my favorite metal drummer hands down. Gar Samuelson the first drummer from Megadeth. Igor Cavalera of course from Sepultura. All the metal drummers from that era that really made metal what it is today. So, that’s where I started and then hard core came later. When listening to these metal bands, you get turned on to other things from other people. Somebody gave me Age of Quarrel by the Cro-Mags, Cause For Alarm by AF, and bands like that from that era. They were from the same era, but from the other side of the spectrum as far as heavy music goes.

TAMA : Tell me about the kit you use with Hatebreed?

Matt : I actually have a new kit now that I’ll be bringing out on our new tour. Typically I use the six piece... I’ve kept that set up but, I added some things here and there. I’ve always used a double bass pedal, but I just stepped it up and got two 18”x 22” kick drums. I shifted everything to my left. So mounted on the kick drums now, I have 8”, 10”, 12”, 14” toms mounted in front of me. I’ve always like the smaller toms because I feel like they cut more and there’s just more life in them. I also have a 16” floor tom on my right. I basically modified my kit so I’m not turning my body to the right as much anymore. Everything’s right in front of me so I don’t have to move around too much. Energy efficiency is at the top. (laughs)

TAMA : Are these the Starclassic Maple or the Birch drums that you’re using now?

Matt : The new ones are Maple.

TAMA : So you were using a Birch kit before, correct?

Matt : Yes.

TAMA : What made you decide to make the switch to Maple?

Matt : I‘ve always used Birch and I always recorded with it. I’ll always favor Birch over Maple for recording. They just have a warmer sound, I think they sound bigger. But for live, sometimes that warmth gets lost because we are such a loud band and you’re playing at that intensity level that you want drums with a little more attack. It will come through over that wall of guitars and the low end. Maple, I think, is a lot better as far as a live drum sound goes. I learned this from playing other people’s kit. I noticed how they cut more than my Birch; there is a little more volume to them. So, I was getting a new kit and decided to try maple, I’ve never had one before, I’ve played them, and I like them. I want to have that variation between the Birch and Maple.

TAMA : So you are happy with the sound that you are getting from them?

Matt : Yeah, I really am. They are loud. They’re smaller drums, but they still put out that volume.

TAMA : What is your snare drum of choice when you’re playing live?

Matt : I’ve always favored metal snares over wood snares. They have a little more attack than the wood. The wood definitely has more body, but for faster music, like Hatebreed, I like the metal snares because that attack is there and it can cut through. Right now I am using a 6” x 14” hand hammered brass. That’s my favorite.

TAMA : What prompted you to make the switch from a double pedal to using two kick drums?

Matt : I have used double pedal forever and I’ve never had a double kick kit. I wanted to try it. I played a couple of my buddies’ kits, and I found that you can definitely add a little more power to a double kick drum kit, than with a pedal. With a pedal you tend to layoff naturally a little more just because you think that you are going to break the thing. Where as you have two drums that are like extensions of your legs. You tend to lay into it a little more.

TAMA : Has it been a big adjustment feel or technique wise to go from the double to the two-bass drum?

Matt : No, not really. The feel seems to be the same. I don’t really feel a difference. Technique-wise I had to change some things here and there, just because with a double pedal you can set up a little tighter because you don’t have that other drum on your left side taking up more space and essentially pushing everything out a little bit. That’s where I had to put my hi-hat back a little bit more to my left, I have that drum in there now, the 8” and the 10” kind of creeping over to my left, so I wanted to add another crash above them, so I’m not reaching to my right. So it kind of shifting things a little bit and it’s something I’ll get used to over time.

TAMA : Do you have any particular tuning preferences?

Matt : I tend to tune them a little higher than what would be the natural note of the drum. I like tuning them up a little higher because you’re really laying into them and by the end of a show or a recording session, the heads are going to be a little more worn-in and tuned down naturally anyway just from beating on them.

TAMA : In addition to drumming for Hatebreed, you write a column. What kind of topics do you cover in this column?

Matt : I guess you can say I am “the metal guy”. Theirs is a lot of guys who write for the magazine, but I go under the header as “the metal guy”. That being said surprisingly I have only touched on metal stuff maybe once or twice, and I’ve been writing for the magazine for about a year and half now. I have touched on everything from poly-rhythms to some funk beats with ghost notes, to triplets to para-diddles... I’m kind of all over the road. I like that because it’s easy to be pigeon holed, being “the medal guy”. I want to give more than my metal knowledge, because I have more to give. (laughs) I don’t want to over do it, that’s just not me, but I definitely want to show my knowledge and give a taste of what I’m actually into outside of metal.

TAMA : So, it’s pretty much open to whatever you want to cover?

Matt : Pretty much.

TAMA : I know that you guys are going to be playing Ozzfest 2006 this summer on the main stage, what else is next for the band?

Matt : Before Ozzfest we are going to Australia. We’re there for 12 days with Korn and Disturbed, as well as some of our own headlining shows. From there, we are doing a show in Hawaii. We haven’t been back there since 2002. It’s kind of a one off and breaks up the trip on the way home. Then we are home for a couple of weeks, before heading to Europe for June to do some festivals because it’s their festival season. And I think we’re doing some off dates with Korn as well as some headliners. Then we come back at the end of June to do Ozzfest, that’ll take us to the end of August, I think. After that we’re going up to Canada to do this tour called Core Across Canada, that we haven’t done since 2002, we headline and we bring some our friends along with us. We go from the East Coast to the West Coast to Canada and everything in between. We’ll be doing a headlining run of the US probably early fall also. We are pretty much booked for the rest of the year.

TAMA : So you said that you are leaving for Australia in a couple weeks so does that mean you guys will be done with tracking the album before that?

Matt : Yep, it’ll be all tracked and probably sent off to be mastered and mixed.

TAMA : So you must be in your final stages.

Matt : Yes we are.

TAMA : Are there any other projects that you’re involved in outside the band that you wanted to mention?

Matt : I am definitely looking. We’re getting busy now, but in our off time I am trying to make myself more and more available for studio and session stuff. I’m getting my resume together and I‘m going to try to get it into the right hands of the right people. I’ve been jamming with a band called Saint Caine. They are a new band out of New Jersey. They’re really rock oriented, kind of like old Sound Garden style with a little bit of Alice in Chains. It’s kind of different for me, but they are great guys and I just want to jam, man. They don’t have a drummer yet so I am trying to help them out. They are getting their album together and there’s a possibility that I might do that with them. It’s slow moving and ongoing. Those guys are cool. That’s what I’ve been doing here and there. I am just looking for other stuff outside of the Hatebreed realm. I have no intention of leaving the band, it’s not like that, it’s just trying to keep playing all the time and keep it going.