As national debate rages over wether Miley Cyrus has the right to shake her coochie or not, you have to wonder how many of these people are thinking about…I don’t know…Syria? Egypt, anyone? Billy Ray Cyrus (her dad) was. He was busy tweeting about chemical weapons used on children while everyone else flipped out about his daughter. Good for you, bro.
I don’t see what the big deal was about Miley’s VMA dance. I thought she was silly and entertaining and seemed to be having a great time. News alert…young adults like sex! The real VMA question should be why does anyone like that Robin Thicke guy? He is like a creepy cornball cross between George Michael and George Hamilton with the most cheesy factors amplified and none of the cool gayness and songwriting talent of George Michael. So Miley appropriates from black culture? Um, first of all…twerking isn’t really something anyone should be super concerned about being a racial badge of honor (not that I have a problem with it) and secondly, the world is more of a collage every day. Everyone listens to rap or rock and even Japanese bands like Crossfaith have metal core looks and emo haircuts. This kind of shit happens and is usually more about excited youngsters than a sinister plot to co-opt from “the streets” or homogenize all culture. It’s more a by-product of modern social connectivity. Let’s face it, someone always finds a way to profit from it anyway. And sure, we should trace things back to the source and give credit where it is due. But seriously…priorities, anyone?
Which brings us to Exhumed. Since the death metal and grind core gore kings reformed in 2012, blazing back with All Guts, No Glory they have been a non stop whirlwind hitting stages around the world showing people how it is done. Now founder Matt Harvey is back with 2013’s timely Necrocracy (produced again with Landmine Marathon’s Ryan Butler for amazing crispness that doesn’t lose intensity). I recently made a summer recap playlist for New Noise Magazine (USA) and boy do I wish I’d heard Necrocracy before I finished that list. Holy shit. Exhumed have injected serious politics into this record as well as aimed for a more crushing mid-tempo melodic death/modern production approach. The results are flat out godly and while there is much less sloppy grind, people should embrace this as a band growing.
I talked to Matt Harvey about their current sound, current events, why he went “political” on this record, drone use in war and much more. Click HERE to read it. This interview is heavy.
Dude, this is destined to be a classic someday. Awesome record through and through.
Matt Harvey: Awesome. We like it. That’s a good sign, so…thanks.
From the solos to songwriting to transitions, it’s just solid. The “coins over their eyes” metaphors…it’s super strong. I’ve always liked political metal a bit more than splatter, though I love that as well.
We toured on All Guts, No Glory a bunch and it became clear to me we needed a little more groove and mid tempo stuff in our live set, really. Even towards the end of writing All Guts within the space of five months, even towards the end of that i thought “Fuck, we need a few slower songs” and I started working on “The Shape Of Deaths To Come”. I just didn’t have time to whip it into shape and get the other guys to learn it. It was kind of a natural reaction, like doing South of Heaven after Reign In Blood, I guess. The one thing going into it was “more groove”. That was the mantra or whatever. For us it is pretty groovy.
Did you feel like since taking a hiatus that when you came back with the new line-up you needed to prove on All Guts that you could reclaim the insanity and speed you were known for?
Absolutely. I wanted that record to be really go for the throat. It still has melody and stuff but it pretty much has one tempo, which is…fast! (laughing) I thought that was important just to show we hadn’t lost the ability to be aggressive and people should expect something really intense. Not old guys playing at 3/4 speed. I felt we accomplished that really well, so now what? The more I feel like a record succeeded the more different the next one will be. Gore Metal I totally failed at making a good record so Slaughtercult was basically the same vibe. With All Guts I felt we succeeded, so this one is a different vibe, y’know?
With death metal and grind it is “how to evolve gracefully and please fans”. Only criticism I’ve heard of Necrocracy is that it will appeal more to fans of a Carcass Heartwork type record than earlier shit. For me, I always liked that stuff better. And politics. So this is right up my alley!
Ultimately it’s about pleasing yourself. I know what Exhumed is about. I’m the primary songwriter but one thing I learned when we broke up for years is regardless of who is the lineup, the band IS its own thing and you try to respect that and not shit on what Exhumed is all about. At the same time, i just write songs that I like. That’s the system. I don’t worry about pleasing or not pleasing the kids. If the riff is too thrashy or something I’ll say ,”It’s not really an Exhumed riff.” If I like it and the band like it then that is our barometer. It’s a slippery slope when you start worrying about what fans or the label think. Your first duty is to be honest about what you are into. For some people that are gore grind freaks who have every Dead Infection 7″, this album might be a little disappointing. But most of our fans are open minded. They are just metal fans. They aren’t as closed minded as I was when I was a 15 year old kid (laughing). When records like Necroticism and Human came out I was super angry. I felt like I’d been personally stabbed in the heart. Now those are two of my favorite albums but as a kid I was mad that the Death logo didn’t have dripping blood on it any more. He’s my inner policeman and will make sure we never get too nice or whatever.
It’s not like you made Illud Divinum Insanus or whatever. Some bands like Aborym or Swans change all the time, but…
Yeah. Be honest but you have to respect what your band is about. For me, if that’s what Morbid Angel are into, more power to them. To me it seems like they probably should’ve done it as a side project, or whatever. I love music like The Cure and Coldplay and Slowdive and Siouxsie & the Banshees and stuff but I would never, ever try to sound like that on an Exhumed record.
That would be odd. Your liner notes on this album are great. You talk about trying to speak out and doing what you believe in. Not like every person changes the world but you should still try. Be socially engaged. I was listening to a song by a very different band than you, Protest the Hero. Their song “Spoils” talks about the kind of futility of grasping at permanence but how do you still have integrity in life and not feel like nothing you do matters in the long run of time. At least, that’s what I got out of it. Necrocracy is awesome in that if nothing I did ever matters, it is nice to know someone else out there like Exhumed cares about making meaningful fucking art.
(Laughing) Thanks. Cool, man. As far as the political thing, it’s almost the same as the music. You kind of have to be the change you want to see, or whatever the Gandhi saying is. Start by being nicer to people. Or if you wish people would stop eating meat then start yourself.
Woah. Gandhi in an Exhumed interview. If you want ‘A Lesson In Pathology” you should smash people’s heads open?!!
(Laughing hard) Well…we’re a little bit older now and how many times can you say the same thing over and over again. Slicing up dead bodies is cool or whatever. The last album had a lot of straight ahead gore songs. Now we were able to stretch the concept musically and lyrically. Hopefully not so far that it is bent out of shape and doesn’t resemble itself anymore, but we tried.
I love it. You are unafraid to say what you believe. It reminds me of what Napalm Death or now Landline Marathon do. There are usually more politics in some grind core but you happened to weld it onto more of your death metal side. Metal has room for whatever, from inspirational bands like Times Of Grace to freakin’ songs about war like Sodom.
It really is just like confidence. We’ve gelled a lot in the last few years from so many tours to trying times like being stuck in Alabama for a week. Fun times also. We feel really comfortable with each other. Believe in the band. It’s given us a lot more confidence to do different things.
When you did the All Guts touring and Boom! It took right off…did it feel like you’d never left in some ways?
Yeah. Things felt really weird until we played the first song and I thought ,”Oh yeah. I remember this. This is fine.” We were in Norway at Inferno fest. We’d never played there. We were playing the last band on the small stage of the evening. It was like, “Fuck. really, we have to play the last set after Immortal? This is gonna suck.” They were like the headliners and we were like the hangover (laughing). We walked on stage and the room was still full. Within thirty seconds people were head banging and it felt completely natural to be back.
That’s awesome. “Dysmorphic”, your new song…before I heard your new song I was recently laughing about how “hoarder” rhymes with “dysmorphic body disorder” and trying to work that into a song I was writing about Walmart-types. People are unhealthy and hoarding and submissively living in hovels stocking up on shit bulk food.
(Laughing) For our song, the idea I had was that people, especially in this country, people have not only a distorted image of themselves but also our country and what we do politically. Things like that. Any information that goes against that they refuse to process. There is that whole dialogue that we are always the good guys. That’s what makes them feel ok with the things America does and that’s how people se themselves. We are much more the Empire in Star Wars than we are the Rebels! We like to think we are cool freedom fighters but, no, we are usually the exact opposite. I wanted to compare it to dysmorphic body disorder where people have extreme eating disorders but have a distorted image of themselves. They are really fat so they become anorexic or really thin so they eat too much. Refusing to believe in objective reality. Like you see people present themselves personally…like some really fat chick with a pink belly shirt that says hotty. Well…just because it says that doesn’t mean it’s true. C’mon. I’ve got news for you…if you have to tell people with a T-shirt that you are a bad ass or sexy then you probably aren’t.
This is like CNN meets that movie Shallow Hal.
(Laughing hard) Totally! I like that. I might use that sometime someone asks me about that.
If you don’t mind, in the liner notes I saw you are anti-gun control and wanted to ask you about the drone debate. If other countries had drones we would be freaking the fuck out. Maybe even more so than worrying about nukes. It’s more Bourne Identity and smaller scale rather than the end of the world, but I think people generally fear espionage more and doubt nuking will ever happen.
I think at the end of the Cold War the perception was that the danger of nuclear annihilation has passed as long as we can contain it to where it is now. As long as new countries don’t get the bomb “we’ll be fine”. I don’t necessarily believe that but…the problem with drones is that yeah, if other countries had them we would be shitting bricks and giving money to Lockheed Martin hand over fist to build something better. The further you remove the human element to war the more it leads to desensitization and lack of empathy. One thing that really inspired the peace movement in the 60’s was that for the first time people were seeing on color tv their fucking neighbors kids getting their fucking legs blown off. When you can see the reality and are connected, then you are forced to take action. That’s when people start burning draft cards. My grandfather got my dad out of the draft in Vietnam. He taught him how to fake out of it or whatever, even though my Grandfather was a WWII and Korean War veteran! When you see the real effects of these decisions you can get a grasp on what you’re doing. When you move to remote control bombing and drones it is dangerous. It starts to view people as numbers and you use military language like “collateral damage” and “acceptable casualties”. In order to save the village we had to destroy it! Shit like that. Whatever the fuck. Technology enables that. Once you lose the concept you are killing someone…it’s a lot harder to take a knife and stab a guy and watch them die. Most people find that repugnant. Pushing a button is easy. Village. Boom. Alright, cool!
To be devil’s advocate, I understand it is supposed to take soldiers from harm’s way and cut down on “collateral damage”.It hasn’t really cut down on it much at all… but, like you said, removing human factors removes accountability. There are no eyes and ears there to tell the story.
Oh, my computer crashed. I didn’t mean to bomb that hospital.
My village crashed.
Yeah, you can’t stop technology. It’s gonna get developed no matter what. It’s what Voivod talks about in “Killing Technology”. Our ways to kill each other move faster than our moral and ethical brains. We can’t properly apply all the clever toys we make.
During the 60’s they didn’t have all the Terminator movies to show them it was a bad idea but we do! And we still don’t learn. The peace movement stayed engaged.
Well, then they all started getting drugs and it was way before AIDS and people got distracted from political change. Doing drugs and fucking is way funner than writing your congressman (laughing). Plus the acid was really pure back then. It must have been awesome. Really pure LSD? “Yeah, I hate the government too, but hold on…”
Grace Slick was still really hot.
(Laughing) So, I mean…the difference is all these movies that have tried to warn us about the dangers, we are at a point now where we empathize with the people that used to be the bad guys. I am a huge comic book fan but you look at a movie like The Avengers and there are five people who have more power than the entire U.S. army. Unilaterally they don’t care what anybody says. They can kick anyone’s ass. All the aliens. A god running roughshod over anybody and there is no danger of anyone really getting hurt. Military-wise and politically we are the 800lb. gorilla in the room and it is reflected in our entertainment or whatever. You look at Star Wars and you are rooting for the underdog, the twelve X-Wing fighters against the Death Star. Now we are rooting for the overdog. Demonizing anybody who doesn’t play into our dialogue.
Are you preaching media responsibility, Mr. Al Gore Metal?
No! I’m not preaching anything, just that our films kind of reflect the backdrop of the times.
I know. I’m just fuckin’ with you. (laughing)
(laughing) I know. I’m just saying these are the things I see. That’s the thing about the record. It’s the things I see. Maybe people see it too or haven’t thought about it, but let’s talk about it.
In those movies the characters are flawed but are nice deep down. What’s real life like if someone has Thor’s hammer? I want it!
Geopolitically that’s us. We are the biggest, toughest kid on the block. We’re fucking bullies a lot of the time. The times we try to do something good there is something in it for us. Follow the money. Sorry, Rwanda. Fuck it.
I think that ties back into why many people ARE anti-gun control. Sometimes they are just rabid but sometimes they are politically engaged and simply think it is a last line of defense regardless of party affiliation.
We’ve adopted this idea in America where we don’t want anyone to get hurt ever. Anybody who stubs their toe…when I was a kid you would go over to your friend’s house and use the diving board of their pool. Now you can’t even have a diving board because people sue you if their kid bumps their head. So we are making the whole world child safe. If I want to do drugs and own guns, wait until I actually do something before you take my rights away. If you abuse it, fine. You can’t shoot your neighbors because you are drunk. No guns for that guy. The vast majority of people ARE able to control their actions. When everything becomes illegal because of the dumbest 1% it is leading everyone towards never having to take responsibility.
School shootings are obviously tragic as hell. I was talking about this same thing with Jeff Tuttle of the band Old Gods and he made a good point that it’s really about psychological issues. Regulate that!
The system in this country is so backwards. Somehow health care can’t be considered a right so people can go to the doctor without insurance companies reaping ginormous profits. McDonald’s can call their “meat” beef, though. Who are we protecting? the whole corporations thing is where the title of the album comes from. Corporations are the most influential “people” in our system but they are not people. They aren’t alive. So we are essentially ruled by the dead.
Or creating death.
Absolutely. It’s funny. I just saw that movie Elysium last night. They were bringing up some of these ideas. Matt Damon works at the factory that builds the robo droid cops that kick his ass at night. That’s kind of what “The Shape of Deaths to Come” is about. You are working for a large corporation and getting paid but at a certain point you are working against your interests. They pollute the air and water. They make you pay more taxes so you can pay less. Ultimately you are working against yourself in a no win situation.
I talked about a similar thing once with Richard Patrick of the band Filter and one of their songs had been licensed to a Hummer commercial. He took the money and spent it on kicking booze and put his kid in school, to redirect it and then make an anti-Bush political album Anthems For The Damned. You can try and redirect the money. I respect both approaches and boycotting as well.
It’s a difficult situation to be put in. I know many people super punk rock. They think it’s essentially weird that we played a Scion show for what is essentially Toyota. For what they offered us it was great. Why wouldn’t we take their money? It’s not like we are selling cars for them. We are forbidden to mention anything about cars on the website interview. Someone gave me $2,000 to drive a few hours and play a show and stay in a nice hotel? That seems…good.
(laughing) Hahaha! It’s not like Volkswagen making cars for the Nazis. It’s them helping metal bands out.
Ford also made tanks for the Nazis. You can’t fuckin’ win. You can be so political you make it so you can’t do anything.
There’s petroleum in some guitars!
(Laughing) If you want to live you have to take part to some extent but you CAN change it little bit by bit. Things ebb and flow. Now we are moving towards super corporations. There’s a balance that will eventually correct itself but it will mean a lot of people going hungry and dying before it gets to that point, y’know?
There are people that still live in a bubble. They don’t want to question.
The average American has a couple kids and car payments. They gotta pay the fuckin’ dentist and have a boss yelling at them. It’s hard after dealing with all that to dig into the issues. You want to relax. I don’t begrudge people that. It’s time consuming and energy draining. It’s a bummer that’s the way things are set up. Lucky for me I can sit in a van for hours of the day and at the very least read a lot (laughing). I have more down time than the average person to think about this stuff. Even still, a lot of my time is spent watching sports or getting loaded or reading fucking comic books. I understand why people want to do that. It’s way better to share thoughts with people then argue with them.
Live Exhumed pic by Liz Ciavarella-Brenner