Hatebreed drummer Matt Byrne brings you a crosscut of hardcore from then and now.
Not only inspired by his own band’s catalogue but a broad selection of pioneering songs, influential artists and notable drummers of the genre, Hatebreed drummer Matt Byrne delivers an uncompromising, full-on assault of relentless grooves spanning the whole range of the hardcore genre from then and now. Expect anything from the metal-tinged and devastatingly heavy to the alarming, crushing and aggressive onset of classic hardcore.
All in all, this is a collection of grooves battered in pent-up rage, right at the verge of eruption – balancing dead center at the divide of metal, punk and hardcore.
What sparked your interest in music?
For as long as I can remember, music and performing has always been a constant in my life coming from both sides of my family. My grandparents on my father’s side were Vaudeville performers. They were singers, dancers and skit actors and toured/performed with the likes of Bob Hope, Abbott and Costello, etc. This was in the pre-television era, before these acts made the transition to a larger entertainment medium and became huge stars. My grandfather later was a booking agent and even owned and operated the Funhouse at an amusement park in Rye, NY called Playland. He actually wrote the “theme song” for Playland and was the MC at the opening of The Capitol Theater in Port Chester, NY way back in the day. My mother’s side of the family are huge Beatles fans and she actually saw them at Carnegie Hall when she was a teenager. Sat right behind Ringo on stage. I was raised on the Beatles. Her youngest brother is a drummer and he is responsible for really getting me into the instrument. My parents’ first date was a Rascal’s show in NYC (they were going by The Young Rascals then). For a short time, my mother worked at a Poughkeepsie based radio station, WPDH, and sometimes the DJs would give me records when we went to visit her at work. My sister and I used to put on little skits and shows when we were really young, lip syncing to Twisted Sister, Journey, etc. I could go on and on.
How come you ended up behind a drum kit? Were you always drawn to drums and were they your first and only alternative?
I first tried playing guitar. I was twelve years old and was way into all the early metal stuff… Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, Exodus, etc. I wanted to thrash. My mother noticed my interest, got me an acoustic guitar and signed me up for lessons with a woman from her church. The whole experience just wasn’t fun. First off, I naturally held/played guitar as a lefty. That’s what was comfortable for me. Jimi Hendrix style. I was told I was doing it wrong and said I had to play as a righty. Also, she was teaching me “kumbaya” and these other folky type, religious songs that I had no interest in. I don’t recall how long I lasted with this but it couldn’t have been more than six months before I quit. My uncle asked if I would be interested in drums and offered an old, beat up drum kit of his if I was willing to try lessons and see if I would stick with it. I took lessons from a guy named Mike Shapiro at a local music store in my area and I loved it. I understood it. My brain and body seemed to gel well together and I could make sense of it all. I started wailing on that old drum kit with friends from school, neighborhood kids, etc. And that was it. I was off and running…
You have been in Hatebreed for years, but you actually quit for a bit to pursue studies and almost gave up on the whole music game. What lead to this?
My first stint in Hatebreed was in 1998 and it lasted for about a year. I was just about in the student teaching phase of a Special Ed/Elementary Ed degree at SUNY Plattsburgh in Upstate New York. I was playing in local bands in my area. Hatebreed needed a drummer and I needed a serious band. I didn’t know the guys, but who in the hardcore scene didn’t know about the band at the time?!!? They had been working/touring for a bunch of years at that point and the “Victory” record was out and making a lot of noise. A mutual friend hooked us up, I auditioned and we immediately hit the road. Hatebreed has ALWAYS been a road band and the touring is constant and breaks are rare. I was ready for that and was hungry for it. We played great together! Unfortunately, we didn’t really click as people at the time and I didn’t really feel I fit into the crazy, rowdy Hatebreed scenario. So, I quit. I jumped in with a band from my area called All Out War (who was also on Victory Records). I toured with them for a couple years and it was a great experience over all. However, the band wasn’t getting the greatest offers, we were touring in a van making maybe $200 a night, had zero support from the record label and was getting pretty tired and disgruntled from the grind. That line up of the band folded and they took a break for a while. Following that, I decided to drop out of the music game and return to school to complete my degree.
After returning, you have been in the band permanently since 2001. Looking back on your journey since then, name a few highlight moments!
There are so many great memories of being in Hatebreed. These are a couple that come to mind as I write this…
• Touring with Slayer. We were able to do several tours/festivals with Slayer over the years and they are my all-time favorite metal band. I don’t think I missed a night of sitting behind Lombardo (or Bostaph) and letting them take me to school. I’m a fan first and foremost.
• Being a guest drummer on Late Night with Seth Meyers. I had the opportunity to sit in with the 8G band on late night TV. What a fantastic opportunity and the experience is very different from what I’m used to doing in the live band setting. Many top-notch drummers have been asked to sit in over the last couple of years and I think it’s become somewhat of a right of passage to be asked to do it. I’m honored that I was asked to be a part of it.
• Getting the big budget/huge recording studio experience. Nowadays, with development of technology, you can record an entire album in your bedroom on your laptop. With high quality results! I feel like I was able to be a part of something that you just don’t need to spend the $$ and time on anymore. We recorded our album “Perseverance” at Long View Farm Studios in MA. Aerosmith, Bad Brains, Gladys Knight, Sevendust…. All these bands recorded albums here. The Rolling Stones lived/rehearsed here for a tour. We lived here for the entire duration of recording our record. There was a chef on site and you could even ride horses in your down time. It was a truly great, one of a kind, big budget record-making experience. Paid for by Universal Records. I don’t recall how much it cost but knowing what I know now, I wish I had that $$ in my pocket.
In today’s scene, it seems like the lines between the hardcore and metal scenes have blurred a bit compared to back in the day. Do you agree and if so, why do you think?
I think much of it has to do with all these different labels put on metal nowadays. Death core, metal core, hardcore, death metal, screamo metal… At the end of the day, it’s all “heavy metal” to me.
What are the best things about playing in a band?
I think when you’re young and just starting out, it’s about hanging with your friends, learning your craft and trying to be the best at it, and getting girls. The greatest feeling is nailing that cover song of your favorite band or writing that first original song. Once you hone your chops and start playing out, there is no drug on earth that would compare to the feeling of playing live. Whether you are playing your local bowling alley or playing a huge festival in Europe….it’s a rush that you never want to disappear. If you’re fortunate enough to get signed to a label or tour on your own and build up a strong following, you can actually make a living out of playing music. It’s a long, arduous journey that has many ups and many downs but when you are able to pay some bills by playing your drums, the feeling of accomplishment is unmatched.
What drum kit do you use for live and the studio?
I have several TAMA kits, all of varying woods and drum sizes. For the past two Hatebreed albums, I have recorded with a sort of “Frankenstein” kit put together with pieces from those: a bubinga kick drum with birch/bubinga toms and a brass shell snare. Paiste 2002 crashes, china and hats, and Paiste Alpha or 2002 ride. My current live set up is a TAMA Starclassic maple. 22” single kick with 12”, 13”, 14”, 16” and 18” inch toms and a 14” snare. I use Paiste Rude crashes and ride, and 15” 2002 hats. Evans drumheads on all drums and Vater 2B sticks.
What is your relationship to e-drums?
I have had a five-piece Roland TD-6 for about 10 years now. I know it might be considered a dinosaur in the electronic drum world but I love it and am not ready to upgrade just yet.
Comparing technique, speed and ability today with the era before the internet and and software, it seems like drummers in general have come a long way. How come, do you think?
It all begins with the passion for the instrument. It will always start with the thrill of playing the instrument and using your imagination and being creative to get better. I believe a player will always take what they will from their influences and build on them/push their own boundaries and take ideas to a brand new place. That being said, in today’s world people have an “access all areas” accessibility to a specific artist or band that didn’t exist before the internet. We have artists posting up close playthrough videos of songs, video lessons, YouTube, Instagram videos, etc… That technology didn’t exist years ago. Players didn’t have their favorite artists and influences giving them a front row seat into their practice spot or the studio to watch them explain how they do what they do. You had to go put on the instructional dvd or go to the live show/listen to the albums a million times over, and then sit in your basement and practice for hours to get it down. We have technology now to rip songs into your laptop and slow down or speed up tempos of tracks so that they are more easily decipherable. That’s not to say players of today don’t sit in the wood shed for hours and put in the practice work. But the general easy accessibility to anything they want to know is a mouse-click away.
Circling back to this collection of grooves, what did you try to cover and what was some of the inspiration behind the material?
I mostly wanted to showcase groove and musicality. As a music fan, I love music with a really strong back beat. Whether it be loud, fast and crazy or slower, sludgy and doomy or completely funky, I love a band or a song that just hits you in the chest and makes you bob your head or shake your booty. I wanted to give a taste of what I have done in heavy music for going on 20 years now, as well as mix in some other feels and rhythms that I don’t necessarily play on Hatebreed material. This material was inspired by what I do in Hatebreed as well as older and newer bands from the hardcore/metal/punk genres. Earth Crisis, Refused, Strife, Agnostic Front, Turnstile, Minor Threat, Stick To Your Guns, Terror…
To you, what defines a great drummer? Name a few that you think stand out in today’s scene (regardless of genre) and some that helped shape you as a drummer growing up and learning the instrument.
I’m a fan of versatility in a drummer. I like a drummer who is a bit versed and has a good vocabulary in everything. I like to see metal guys adding chops from other genres and spicing things up a bit. I like to see jazz or funk guys really laying into it and playing hard. I also love seeing a drummer take chances and add some spice to songs in the live setting that may not have been there on the studio recordings. This isn’t to say they are absolutely changing the material that fans of the songs have come to know and love. But they are just adding their own personality to the material. My main influences are John Bonham, Dave Lombardo, David Garibaldi, Gar Samuelson, Igor Cavalera, Charlie Benante, just to name a few. All of these players encompass speed, power, dynamics and versatility. Drummers who I came up with who I think shred are Brann Dailor (Mastodon), Chris Adler (Lamb Of God), Ken Schalk (Candiria/Independent), Corey Pierce (God Forbid), Jason Bittner (Shadows Fall/Overkill), Dave Witte (Municipal Waste). Drummers who I’ve recently been turned onto, whether they be newer in the “scene” or not- are Adam Deitch (Lettuce), Jerod Boyd (Miss May I), Josean Orta (Fit For An Autopsy).
Finally, what do you hope users take away from using the MIDI grooves you recorded for this pack?
I hope that the material I have created gives other musicians a strong and tasty foundation to create their own ideas around, whether they be heavy or even more rock-inspired. I purposely didn’t want to get too “busy” with this material because I really want this to be a spark or a starting point for the creative adventure of song writing. Get a solid foundation for a song and then add some spice of your own as you play along to this material to make it your own.
Slayer “Reign In Blood”.
It was punk rock on steroids. Tom’s opening scream on “Angel of Death.” Need I say more? Slayer is my favorite metal band of all time.
Led Zeppelin “II”.
My mother gave me this on vinyl in my late adolescent/early teen years. Passed to her by my uncle. The record had (and still has) that vintage “old book” smell. The dynamics and production value of the album is astounding.
Mötley Crüe “Shout at the Devil”.
This was the first album that I ever bought on vinyl and I still have it. It had a huge pentagram on it. Tommy Lee was a monster on this album and the look/sound of the band was pretty intimidating for fourth grader/1984 Matt Byrne.
Van Halen “1984”.
My mother worked at Poughkeepsie, NY radio station WPDH for a couple of years and she took my sister and I to visit the station once. The DJ at the time gave me this album and I was so stoked. I was already into Van Halen and would go to my neighbor’s house to watch MTV and wait patiently for the “JUMP” video to come on. What drummer hasn’t been blown away by the intro to “Hot For Teacher”?
Tower Of Power “Self Titled”.
This was my first taste of “funk” music on the drums. I was a metal he’d and up to this point, it was all that I wanted to listen to and learn how to play. My teacher gave me a copy of the song “What Is Hip?” and began to teach me about ghost notes and how to develop that feel. I was fully engrossed in this concept and how to translate the paradiddle from being a basic rudiment for the hands into an independent beat on the kit.
Double-pedal or double bass drums?
Click track or no click track in your headphones live?
No click live. Definitely click in the studio.
Dream team band (with you on the drums!):
I’d love to be in a band with horns. I’ve never played in a band like that but throwing some funk down with some horn guys would be great. Metal band: Jeff Hanneman (guitar), Barney Greenway (vocals), Jack Gibson (bass). Four-piece punk/metal band. It would rip!!!
Spinning the most frequently in my headphones right now:
Mastodon, TV On The Radio, a lot of new wave ‘80s music and a lot of classic rock (late ’60s/early ’70s era)
Our very own Rikk Currence gives you three reasons why your songs will thank you for using Toontrack drum MIDI.
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