Gruesome is relatively young band who was born in 2014. So wouldn’t be very surprised if this name tells anything to most , or at least some part of you. Actually it took place precisely April the first, but believe me that it wasn’t any joke of April Folls’ Day! Anyhow, invite you all to read interview with Matt Harvey, guitar player and vocalist of, as it’s written in their bio, multi-state death metal project. Of course I recommend to listen to their music – especially if you like band we mention. Honestly, I just can’t imagine that there’s at least one death metal fan who doesn’t love this band who was one of genre’s founders, by the way! What band it is? Well, read and you’ll get to know.
Hey guys! What’s up?
Hey man, just relaxing after work and practice with a glass of wine and checking out these questions. Thanks for featuring the band.
On the beginning let’s talk about history. This is not too long and strongly connected with Death to all tours. Who was its initiator, what was a guiding idea to arrange it and and why you participated in that?
I did vocals and guitar on the first incarnation of the DTA tours, as a last minute fill-in for Stefan from Obscura after his visa was denied. I had a great time playing the songs and hanging out with some of my favorite musicians like Steve DiGorgio, Gene Hoglan, Sean Reinert and all the guys. I could see the way that DTA was being pitched, and I felt that it neglected the earlier portion of Death‘s history, which was always my favorite stuff. When I met up with the DTA guys again when Exhumed supported them for a couple of shows, I met Gus and we started talking about how much we wanted to hear songs like “Forgotten Past” and “Denial of Life” live again. We briefly floated the idea of doing another DTA tour and trying to get Terry Butler and James Murphy involved to focus on the older stuff, and I jokingly said that if that never came together, we would just write our own songs in the style. Long story short, here we are a few years later doing just that.
Some time after this event you decided to play together and create a project. What was reason(s) of this decision and do you see some semantic difference between terms band and project?
I think I answered the first part above – as far as the difference between a band and a project, Gruesome started as a project, but has grown into a band as the whole thing has kind of gathered steam. Gus recruited Dan and Robin, since they all live in Florida and were already friends of mine as well, and things started to grow beyond our expectations quite quickly. All of a sudden we were lining up a record deal, then shows, and then festivals, etc. To me a band does three main things – writes its own music, records and puts that music out and plays gigs. A project only really has to write and record. Once you’ve done more than a handful of gigs, it’s become a band – at least to me.
You’re all rather busy musicians and the most of you play in more than one band (except Gruesome). How you find time and energy for another one? Have you some “normal” lives in general?
I don’t know how “normal” my life is, but I do have a job and a wife, and I also play in Exhumed, Pounder and obviously Gruesome. I enjoy different things about each band, and keeping involved with different things keeps each project fresh when I turn my attention to it. Plus it’s a great excuse to hang out with my friends, and I learn a lot playing with different musicians in each band. In terms of the writing and the “creative” aspect of multiple bands, it’s not an issue for me, I am a pretty prolific songwriter. All the logistical stuff, the business stuff, the promotional stuff, that’s what takes up most of the time and can make things a hassle sometimes.
So… Tell something about other bands in whom play(-ed) Gruesome’s members, and their advantages, plans. Some of them are extremely well-known and even have status of cult, legendary ensembles to maniacs of death metal. But the best part of them…
I can’t speak for the other guys, but for me, I enjoy a lot of different stuff and I have fun playing and writing different stuff. Also, I’m 42 at this point and I realize that I can’t physically keep touring like I have forever, so I want to make the most of the time that I do have. I do think it’s pretty awesome that I play in a band with the guitarist of Possessed though, because they’re one of my absolute favorite bands of all time.
What is your attitude to so called tribute bands? Isn’t it some kind of band’s definition contradiction, self-limiting, even derogatory for musician? And maybe this is taking the easy way out taking which’s the only motivation are money?
I think tribute bands are fun, honestly. I recently had a great time watching The Iron Maidens, who play great and are nicer to look at than Maiden anyway, ha, ha! I think the vast majority of tribute bands are truly big fans of the things that they pay homage to and really enjoy what they’re doing. Plus, I’m ultimately a fan and that’s why I started playing music in the first place, so I can understand their motivation. Gruesome is a tribute band, we just write our own songs. And I can tell you, money had nothing to do with our motivation. Not that we make much money anyway, but even the amount we have made has surpassed my expectations tenfold. I wanted to show my appreciation for Death and to celebrate their work by doing something I thought would be fun and neat for other Death fans. It’s that simple.
Anyways, since you live in two opposite corners of the States I guess there’s no way to play common rehearsals. So how you create the stuff for Gruesome and first of all get what calls chemistry on the stage?
I write the framework for the songs in California and record demos that I send to Gus and Dan. They’ll add different parts, or they’ll send me riffs and ideas and I’ll work them into the songs I’m working on. I’m still the primary arranger, but “Twisted Prayers” has a lot of input from the guys and feels more like a “band” effort than ever, which keeps it interesting and exciting for me. We (almost) always get in a little bit of rehearsal before gigs, but the chemistry onstage really comes from us having fun playing and enjoying playing with each other. We’re all friends and get along (even when we don’t always agree) outside of playing music together, which is really important.
Yeah, on the debut you were an author of all music and lyrics as far as I know. Is it still like that? Have another musicians right to suggest something or this is only you who decide what and how Gruesome will play?
I don’t ever want any band I’m in to be a dictatorship. That said, there has to be a level of trust between everyone – if I’m the main songwriter, the other members have to trust that I’ll come up with decent material – and I have to trust them to tell me if a song isn’t good, as well as trust them to contribute good stuff as well. It’s always a team effort, and even on the early stuff where I was writing all the riffs, Gus and Dan took my stuff and really put their own stamp on it when they recorded it. I always look forward to hearing the stuff that the guys come up with and working to make the songs more collaborative. That said, with Gruesome, we have only one goal – to sound like Death, so if a riff is really cool but doesn’t sound like Death, we don’t use it.
All Gruesome’s stuffs was (and upcoming album also will be, in all formats) released by Relapse Records. How you got this contract? Are you satisfied of cooperation and plan to continue it?
I’ve been working with Relapse since 1998 when Exhumed did “Gore Metal”, so I’m quite happy with them as a label. I know most of the people there and consider them friends, which makes things easy when we work together. I know that Relapse believes in us and what we’re doing, which is the most important thing.
The fact of participating in mentioned above tour tells us a lot. But even if you play in style of band we all know and love there’re also hearable some other musical inspirations. Can you deal with it?
I’ve tried my best to really focus on making Gruesome sound as close to Death as we can, but of course we can’t help but have some of our own musical personalities shine through. We’re also influenced by Death’s influences – albums like “Seven Churches ” and “Show No Mercy”, as well as traditional metal and things like that.
Which Death’s album is your favorite one and why?
I’ll always love “Scream Bloody Gore” the most. It has such a snotty, gross vibe that can’t be quantified or duplicated. The first four records are all very near and dear to my heart though – that’s the stuff I grew up with.
Your newest, second in line, album came out few days ago. What can we expect of that? Is it easy to compare “Twisted Prayers” to some album created by Chuck or these influences aren’t as strong as in case of your previous releases?
This album is our answer to “Spiritual Healing” and we’ve tried to advance the material just as Death did, with more melodies and more technical flash this time around. We even got James Murphy to play a couple of solos on the record. Gruesome was created as a tribute band and we want to stay that way. I feel like it would be dishonest on a number of levels to try to find our own sound – especially when we all play in other bands where we can do that.
As far as I know cover-arts of your debut and two EP’s were painted by Ed Repka. Is it also him who’s an author of “Twisted Prayers”? Was it you as a musicians, label or both of you who decided about this on the beginning of cooperation?
As soon as we inked the deal with Relapse, we knew that Ed had to do our cover art. The covers for “Scream Bloody Gore”, “Leprosy”, and “Spiritual Healing” are so iconic that we had to get the same artist. We couldn’t be a proper Death tribute without his art. When we signed, we told Relapse that we needed a sufficient art budget to get Repka to do all the art, and they agreed.
OK, let’s turn our roles for a while. It means that now it’s you who will ask me the question or two, if you want.
What got you started as a music journalist?
It was, is and will always be because of passion and love to Metal!!! That’s it. It was in the end of 90’s, by the way, when I started to edit my own zine.
Who’s the most interesting musician you’ve interviewed?
There were so many of them! But surely on the top of the list there are Christopher of Krabathor, Jan of Agathocles, Mister of Polish Trauma, Lesley of God’s Tower… Anyhow, I treat all musicians of all bands the same and the most of them were very interesting interlocutors, by the way.
What color socks are you wearing?
Black!!! I’ll wear other colors when they’ll become darker.
Well, I guess it’s time to end this interview. Thanks a lot for this chitchat and your time! Would you like to add something what is important in you opinion and I forgot to ask you about?
Just wanted to say thanks for featuring the band and supporting our brand of DEATH metal. And of course thanks to Chuck and all of his band-mates through the years for the inspiration and fantastic riffage! Cheers!