Interview: Hatebreed Drummer Matt Byrne on New Album, Kickstarting "Breedbrew," Unusual Influences, and More

(Photo credit: Jeremy Saffer)

Connecticut hardcore legends Hatebreed require very little introduction. In the 25+ years they have spent as a band, they’ve released hardcore classics that continue to influence new generations of hardcore today. With the release of album #8, it’s safe to say they have no plans of stopping any time soon.

I got to speak with drummer Matt Byrne about a slew of topics - their new album, Weight of the False Self, evolving as a band over the years, lockdown activities, some unique places he draws musical influence from, and even the beer that the band got to create recently with Witchdoctor Brewing. Stay tuned!

AA: Introduce yourself with your name and what you do in Hatebreed.

MB: My name is Matt Byrne, I’m from Poughkeepsie, New York, and I’ve played the drums in Hatebreed for about 20 years now.

AA: Do you remember who played your first hardcore show? What impact did it have on you?

MB: It would’ve been local bands around here, I think there was this band called Dissolve from here - Poughkeepsie - and they were really making a buzz from this area. They were probably the biggest straight hardcore band to come from Poughkeepsie in general from my time, and they branched out to different areas, playing in Massachussetts and Connecticut. You know, I was friends with the guys, locally, we were all doing our thing in bands, working in the area and stuff, so… I remember they were playing this club here called the Chance [Theatre], that was our big club, that was the spot to see shows back in the day, so that's where we all congregated… and they used to blow the roof off the place. It was really fun to watch and play. They were really energetic, the tunes were great, and that's that!

AA: Do you think it was that show, or another one further down the line, that made you think, “okay, this is maybe something I want to keep doing. I want to keep going to shows after this.”

MB: It was that, as well as just starting to play drums and jam with friends and stuff. Then you start your local band and you're playing locally, networking out and stuff. I think, just getting a taste of it, all those things at once, made me really feel like, man - I just wanna keep doing this. I never thought I'd be doing it professionally. I mean… I'm just lucky. I think all of us in bands are lucky that we were able to turn this into something that we can make money at and call it a career. It's a crazy word to use when you're playing music, but it's true. So, I think… You know, you get that first taste of playing your instrument and comprehending how it’s supposed to be played, creating your own sound and everything, and once you really digest what's going on with yourself and what's going on around you, I think you’ve been bit by the bug at that point. You just pursue.

Album art for Weight of the False Self

AA: As a band with a long and well-established catalog, what was different to you about writing Weight of the False Self? Was there anything in particular you set out to do when you started writing/recording?

MB: I think, no matter what, we always set out to be better than our last album. That’s where we set our bar. We always try to add a new element to a new record, whether it be - in this particular case - the song structures are a little more in-depth, we added more shredding on the guitar, some more guitar solos -  and they're longer - in the songs. We start out one song with a drum solo, so I'm able to show some chops and whatnot. 

I think production-wise, we tried some different things on this album. We went for a different drum sound, a little fatter and beefier. We really layered the guitars - each song had 4 guitar tracks, just to really thicken it up and give it that “wall of guitar” sound and feel. I think we just set out to be better than our last album.

AA: For sure! Also, I know you guys record with the same producer, Zuess, every time - do you feel like he’s heavily involved with planning out how the album is going to go each time?

MB: Yeah, absolutely! He’s part of the process. He’s been with us since the Perseverance album in 2002, so he’s been with us [for] every album that I've personally done with Hatebreed. He’s great [and] easy to work with, he was a friend before, so it’s good having a working relationship with somebody like that in the studio, because they're not afraid to tell you what sucks… What works, and what doesn’t. We definitely sit down [with him] in the early stages when we start throwing ideas around, [discussing] what we're trying to achieve and the sounds we’re going for - he definitely is a part of shaping the final product.

AA: Has anything new been inspiring you musically?

MB: Hmm… I don’t know! There is a ton of new bands out there, and what with YouTube and stuff, just the players [on there], so I think it kind of sets the bar for us to have to keep up with…  We have been a band for over 25 years, so [we] do wanna keep up with a lot of the younger cats that are out there playing live, being able to keep up that pace. We just generally want to keep up with what's going on currently, but do it in [our] own way. Influence-wise, we all pretty much listen to the same stuff, but then we also listen to different stuff. So, it's good that we all bring in these different outer influences. 

Personally,  I'm a funk guy. I like old funk, [but a] new band - or newish - that would be in that realm is Lettuce. I really like them, they do some awesome stuff and have really blown up over the last couple years. Real instrumental stuff mixed with some vocal stuff. They just have a really great backbeat. The drummer, Adam Deitch, he’s really awesome. I think they really, in the pocket, do some really cool stuff. They’re way out of left field. Do they influence Hatebreed? No. Do they influence me a little bit? Yeah, of course - from a drumming standpoint, yes, absolutely. So, if anything, I’d say that’s one of the bands that I've been really snacking on lately. I wouldn't call them new, though - they're [just] at the forefront for me.

AA: I think a lot of people, especially those who listen to heavy music and are newer to it, tend to think, “Oh, all the bands I like have to be listening to super heavy, hard music” - but they don’t realize, you know, individual musicians listen to a lot of different stuff.

MB: Yeah! Another one is I thought of is My Dying Bride. They’ve been around a long time, but I recently just got into them, [even though] I've known about the band and I've seen the name all over the place. They’re like a doom metal, goth band, and you wouldn't think that the guy in Hatebreed listens to that stuff, but it's actually really good stuff! I'm looking forward to - I think they have like, what, 10 or 15 albums out or something - they've been around for a long time, so I'm looking forward to cruising back through their catalog and seeing how they've changed over the years. [It’s] just a totally different genre of music than what people would think I listen to, you know?

(Photo credit: Gabe Becerra)

AA: If someone were to check out one song from the record, which one would you suggest?

MB: Ooh, I don’t think I can pick just one. Can I have two or three?

AA: Sure!

MB:  I think the first one would be “The Herd Will Scatter,” because that’s a song that starts out with a lot of drums. It’s different for me, and us as a band, because, sure, we’ve had some songs that have a drum intro or maybe a trademark drum spot in it, but nothing as lengthy [and] involved as this, nothing as shreddy and choppy as this. It lets me show some skills. So, I’d say check out that one first.

Another cool song is “Instinctive,” that’s the first song on the album. I think it’s trademark Hatebreed stuff with a new sound. It has all [the] characteristics and traits of us being a band and what our music truly brings, and it's a perfect way to start out an album. It just comes out and punches you right in the face.

Third song, I think I would do track #3, “Set It Right.” It’s got a great groove to it. Drumming-wise it’s got a really heavy backbeat. The kick drum hugs the guitar riff so closely that I had to kind of think of a different way to play, to keep bouncing along with the guitar part. So, a lot of kick drum, heavy single kick drum work going on there. You need a lot of stamina [and] endurance to really hug that riff. It was kind of challenging, but the final product came out really cool, so I think that’s a cool song. It, too, has all the Hatebreed elements, but it’s just different. 

Live For This Lager, beer created by Hatebreed and Witchdoctor Brewing

AA: Since touring isn’t doable at the moment, how do you guys plan to promote the record this time? Do you plan to tour off of it later on?

AA: Yeah, absolutely! Touring is set up for next year with Parkway Drive, we’ll be out supporting them. That tour was supposed to happen this year, in Europe, the US and Australia, but we know what happened there. It’s in place for next year, so that’ll be a good way to promote the album live. We’ll have headlining shows in between all that stuff, I’m sure, and festivals in Europe. 

We’ve also, in this time we’ve been off, managed to release a beer! We worked with a brewery called Witchdoctor Brewing in Southington, CT, and the beer is called Live For This Lager. So far, the reception has been great. It’s a good gig beer, as I like to call it. It's a perfect beer to be sippin’ while you’re watching us, or any other metal band. It’s a great outdoor festival gig beer. We’ve been having fun promoting that. We’ve done a couple events with the brewery, and [has] fans come out [to] do meet and greets and try the beer and all that stuff. I'm sure there's more of that ahead. Right now, I’ve been working on trying to ship the beer. I’ve been working with the company to get it to our fans in some areas across the country. They don't ship everywhere, but we’re trying to ramp it up and at least be able to ship it to some places so our fans who are not based in Connecticut can give the beer a try. Stay tuned for that!

AA: With the beer, would you say you guys were pretty personally involved with creating that?

MB: Yeah! We talked with the master brewer, his name is Rob Todd - he’s a man with two first names [laughs] - we talked with him a little bit about the idea that we were kinda going for, with the style of beer and the alcohol volume and all that stuff - so he came up with the recipe. Everything else behind it was all us. We've been very hands on with it, we were able to jump in while it was being created, pouring the hops into the tanks and stirring the wort and all of that stuff, and when it was time to can, we were onsite and able to can the beer, so we’ve been very hands on with it since day one.

AA: Very cool! That’s not an opportunity a lot of bands get.

MB: Yeah! You know, Hatebreed so organic with everything we’ve done since day one, going from being a garage band to playing these huge festivals in Europe, Ozzfest and stuff. I think everything we do, we’re pretty hands-on, and we nurture what we’re a part of.

(Photo credit: Gabe Becerra)

AA: As a band that was touring pretty consistently before the pandemic, how has the downtime been for you?

MB: Pretty boring, at this point. [laughs] Everyone would say [at the beginning], “Oh, now it's time to learn a new trade…”

AA: [laughs] Yeah, learn how to make sourdough!

MB: [laughs] Yeah, exactly, I’m not a rocket scientist right now just from being home from COVID. But I've enjoyed spending time with my wife. I got married back in May, so that’s very cool. I’ve been home with the wife and the dog, we’ll do some working on the house and stuff. It was cool to be home in the summertime, I haven't been home for a steady summer in 20 years, so [I appreciated being able to] be home, be able to do all these outdoorsy things and stuff that I'm not normally able to do because I gotta pack a bag and leave for a week. So… Being off sucks, but I've also embraced it at the same time, because who knows when we’ll have this type of time off again? [I’ve just been] kind of getting into home mode. 

I've been practicing my drums a lot… It’s good just to get back in the practice room. You get so caught up in the touring wave so much that you never actually take a breather and sit at the drumset again and work on stuff - strengthening exercises and speed and what have you. It’s been cool revisiting doing the things I used to do when I was a teenager.

AA: For sure! Did you guys finish the album pre-pandemic, or was it worked on at all in this downtime?

MB: No, actually! The album was started at the end of last year, we actually finished it sometime in January. This whole thing was pre-pandemic. A lot of people have been asking, “Oh, did you draw the influence for the new album through the pandemic?” or whatever - nah, it’s purely coincidental if you draw something from it. And that’s great! But it was actually done before. … Our next album, maybe! We were still in a normal time when this one was finished.

AA: What do you think it’s going to be like when shows come back?

MB: Absolutely crazy! I think every band in the world is gonna go on tour at once. [laughs] The crazy thing is, where do you play? A lot of clubs have been shut down permanently through this whole thing, [they] just can’t keep the doors open. So… I don’t know. It’s gonna be crazy. It's just gonna be nuts. 

AA: Yeah! Personally, I see maybe some more DIY stuff popping up, not bands on your level, but the smaller bands playing in houses and stuff like that a lot more than they were before.

MB: Oh, absolutely, I agree. There’s gonna be small shows, there’s gonna be large shows - I think you’ll see new clubs popping up in vacant buildings and stuff, which is good. Hopefully that does happen, because we need our mom and pop clubs too. LiveNation can’t own everything. 

AA: Oh, absolutely. Can’t turn everything into, “Now pay us another $15 even just for considering buying a ticket to this show!” [laughs]

MB: Oh yeah. It’s super expensive. You can’t price the fans out, they can’t buy tickets - how’s a band supposed to tour that way, you know?

AA: Yeah, exactly. It’s pretty depressing, but reflective of the state of mind everyone was in when the pandemic started [laughs] - I saw a lot of people say, “Well, the touring industry is gonna be changed because everything’s gonna get so expensive that shows aren’t gonna happen anymore,” - but at the end of the day, I don’t know if the fan will ever let themselves get priced out completely. That smaller, maybe DIY stuff is always going to be there regardless.

MB: Yeah! DIY stuff’s always gotta be a part of it, at least.

AA: Exactly. It’s probably never going to exist instead of clubs and more legit venues, but, you know. People find a way.

MB: Absolutely.

(Photo credit: Gabe Becerra)

AA: As a band that’s been around the hardcore and metal scenes for a long time - how do you feel about the current state of things? Do you have any advice for newer bands in one of those genres?

MB: Current state of things are very healthy, or at least they were before this whole pandemic thing - there’s a lot of bands out there with a lot of energy, and there's a lot of great music going on, you know? People are creating. And that's good to see, in metal and hardcore both. I look at it all as metal - I'm a metalhead headbanger guy, so it’s all heavy metal to me. [laughs] I feel like the “scene” usually has the same strength and energy behind it, [it] just has a different face and look every couple of years. I think it’s alive and well, and I hope, once things open up again, that bands who may have got shut down through this whole thing are able to hit the road again and tour. Especially bands that just started out right before this whole thing [that] couldn’t even promote themselves or tour behind their new music. Hopefully, they’re given the same opportunities they might have had before this whole thing. 

AA: Yeah! A lot of bands have come out with first demos and LPs in this whole thing while not getting to tour off of them at all, so I feel like the anticipation is gonna make everything interesting. [laughs]

AA: I know you guys come from a pretty humble place, going into the studio just trying to be better than the last time - still, how does it feel to be a band that has such an influence on newer bands?

MB: It's pretty crazy! I only think about it when someone asks. It’s pretty wild, but I guess, if I think back to when I was a kid, starting to play, starting to be in bands, the guys I looked up to… Here we are, 25 years in, so it's only natural for people to be citing us as an influence. It’s actually pretty cool, but I just hope that we stand up to the image people have of us, you know, as far as being an influence, or how we are as players and whatnot.  It becomes a sensitive thing. You never wanna meet your heroes because you’re scared that they’re gonna bum you out, if they’re an asshole or something, so… I just hope that we don’t come across like that, because we’re not like that. [Still], it’s pretty flattering that we’re actually cited as an influence now to younger players!

[We discuss the topic of “what if you meet your heroes and they’re assholes?” a little more]

AA: [laughs] and that’s a real fear! Because, you know, you’ve got a piece of art that resonates with you for so long, and then you talk to the guy who makes it, and it’s just someone shoving you out of the way, taking a picture and being like, “okay, get away from me…” It does bum you out.

MB: Yeah! It happens, it’s definitely happened to me with guys that I wanted to meet, and I think when that first happens, [when] you still have this access to your heroes, you start to not want to approach them. And maybe they are the nicest guy in the world, but you just don't want to [try to] find out, because what if they’re not? You just don’t wanna get let down.

(Photo credit: Gabe Becerra)

AA: I think we covered most of them, but are there any future plans you’d like to discuss?

MB:  We pretty much got into it already, with the beer and everything! That’s been a fun work in progress that’s worked out thus far, and we’ll keep putting energy into that. We hope to have different beers come out and different types of drinks and stuff. It’s kinda cool to delve out of the music world and into the… Food and beverage world! It’s completely different, yet it’s also kind of the same… And it’s cool to tie the two together. So, looking forward to that!

AA: Any last words?

MB: No, I think I talked your ear off enough. [laughs]

It was truly a pleasure to speak with Matt. If you’re interested in keeping up with the band on social media, you can do so at their links below:

Twitter | Instagram | Facebook

You can also check out Weight of the False Self via Spotify below:


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