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2020 needs Hatebreed. Often seen as a positive force in metal’s long and storied history, the metalcore pioneers have bridged the gap between hardcore and metal long before the likes of Killswitch Engage and Overcast. Just days before the band drop their 8th studio album, ‘Weight of The False Self’, drummer Matt Byrne discussed the songwriting process, potential livestream plans and that all-important optimism that Hatebreed bring to the table.

Hatebreed, legendary band, just basically sitting on the ‘Weight of the False Self’, which comes out November 27th. A very exciting time. Even with the pandemic, I really feel like the excitement of this record is very much still there. I was just taking a look at the Spotify stats on the two singles that are out: the title track and “Instinctive (Slaughterlust)”. Each of them are almost at 1 million plays, which is amazing, considering the landscape of where we’re at right now. How are you feeling before the release of this record?

Matt: “I’m actually really excited for it. I think there’s no better time than now to release a Hatebreed record. All things considered with the climate of COVID. Everyone’s stuck at home, and there’s no telling when live shows are going to come back. We’ve got bars and restaurants closing down again. It’s just not a good time, it’s not a good year. A lot of people are pissed off and depressed and there’s no end in sight. I think a new Hatebreed album shines a very bright light on everyone’s lives and situations. If you’re stuck at home, you’re going to be moshing and destroying your living room. What better time than now to release a Hatebreed album? *laughs*”

A Hatebreed record is exactly what 2020 needs, I absolutely agree. Hatebreed are known for being motivational, powerful, “testosterone injected into the veins” kind of band. And it’s so good to have you guys here in 2020 putting a record out. A veteran band at this point, what feels different about this record compared to ‘The Concrete Confessional’ or even the self-titled? 

Matt: “Well, there’s no touring on the front to support it, whereas past records you always have something lined up ready to go, promotion-wise, and we’re stuck now. So really, just pushing it. We’ve released one song and did a video. We released another song, and then we have another song that we will be releasing from the record and doing a video for that too. As far as promotion goes, there’s all sorts of new merch designs and whatnot.
Comparatively, I mean album to album, between this new one, ‘Weight of the False Self’, and the others, the recording process always changes a little bit with technology. We’re emailing ideas back and forth. With me, I always track the drums solo anyway. I don’t do it to scratch tracks or anything, it’s just me and a click track. I just hum the songs in my head. So nothing changed there. When I finally went in to do the final tracks, I didn’t see anybody. It was just me all by myself. I might see the guys when they’re leaving because they were doing demos and stuff during the day, but when I was coming in at night to do my parts, I’m in there by myself. It’s amazing that with technology, you can write music through email. You all really don’t have to be in the same room performing or hashing out ideas or anything like that. Whereas past records, I think there was a little more of a “live” thing going on where we would actually hash out some ideas, like an AB idea, jam on it a little bit and see where it goes-type of thing. Or, you know, you already have fully assembled songs, like Jamie might have a lyrical idea, and lyrics are mapped out already, and he has a general idea of what the music should be. So it’s just us sitting down and really putting our stamp on it.
This was written before COVID hit, so this was done already. I think a lot of people are like, “what’s the parallels between your new album and COVID?” None of that had an influence on the music or anything like that. It’s just a Hatebreed album that has all the trademark things that a typical Hatebreed album has, as well as some new, little tidbits thrown in.”

There’s some really great drum parts on the album, by the way. I think it was towards the middle of the album, you actually had, like a mini drum solo to start one of the songs out. That was a nice touch.

Matt: “Yeah! It’s a track called “The Hurt Will Scatter”. It’s more towards the end of the record. Thank you for noticing! We’ve done a couple songs over the years on albums that starts out with some kind of drum intro, or just some little small drum tidbit or something recognizable. This is full on, 8/16 bars of drum solo— just shredding. It was cool for me to have a lot of fun, stretch my legs like that, and really show some chops. That’s speaking of cool things that change up a record or whatever, that’s one of them. Let the drums go for a minute to start off the song. It really sets the bar pretty high, which I’m stoked on.”

Going back to the whole, this record wasn’t recorded during COVID-thing. That’s true. And you’re not really going to hear anything related to COVID on ‘Weight of the False Self’, and maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe people don’t want to be that close into the situation, while living it. Do you feel like the next record is going to reflect where we’re at right now? Or do you feel like you guys are going to want to pass it?

Matt: “I don’t see us taking the COVID situation directly as an influence. Even right now, if you draw any influence from this record from the COVID thing, it’s purely coincidental.
We’re good every three or four years for a new album, we’ll have to see what’s going on in the crazy world then to see what kind of subject matter we’ll draw from. New record brings new subject matter. The world’s a crazy place. That’s not going anywhere.”

How would you compare a record like ‘Supremacy’ from as far back as 2006, which was a significant jump in quality for Hatebreed, to the new record.

Matt: “The intro, it’s I think it’s a perfect note to end an album with because it has all the elements. From start to finish of the album, you’re just getting pounded over the head. It’s a river, it’s fast. The album moves fast, it’s 35 minutes long, and you’re just getting pummeled from start to finish. So, “Invoking Dominance” is a good way to end the album because it’s layered. The way the song starts out with the intro. The guitars are very layered and thick, and they’re harmonizing with each other. It’s just a slow burn, the slow build of an intro before it really drops into the thrash part. It’s another example of us playing with song structures, new ideas, and stuff we haven’t tried on previous albums.”

So I know you said the biggest difference for this record is that there’s no touring cycle at the moment. Have you had any discussions about maybe pushing a new merch line out or doing a livestream concert?

Matt: “Well, small correction, there is touring in place. We are supposed to hit the road with Parkway drive in 2021. We begin in March/April in Europe. Now the question is, here we are in November, will that still stay in place? Will we be able to tour in promotion for the album with that tour, and then everything passes? I hope so. It’s it’s right now it’s on. We’ll see what happens. Fingers crossed that travel restrictions are lifted and all those crazy things that can really hinder you from hitting the road. If it doesn’t happen, that’s when we’re stuck and we have no promotion behind the record. 
We talked about virtual shows early on. I know a lot of bands out there have done them. They’ve had success with them. A lot of production behind it. It looks really cool. I don’t know for Hatebreed, I’m not sure. Never say never. We could go that route. Me personally, I think a virtual Hatebreed show, there’d be something lost. There’s so much audience participation that goes on with our shows, the “give back and forth” and everything between us and the crowd. That’s like 80% of our show maybe. Our audience is just such a big part of our show, I think there’s such a huge piece of our show that would be lost.
We have new merch out now. We’ve put out new shirts for this record. We also did a Hatebreed beer, breed brew, it’s called ‘Live For This Lager’. We did it with a brewery in southern Connecticut, Witch Doctor Brewing. They’re great guys easy to work with. We’ve since canned it and now we’re working on shipping.”

I can imagine you really stoked to get back out there on the road again. Listening to ‘Weight of the False Self’ all the way through, one of my questions was, do any of those tracks specifically stand out to you personally as, “Okay, open the set with this, this would be a good  changeover moment, and we could close the set with this”? Do you feel like this record has that capability to fill out the set pretty well?

Matt: “We’ve never used a setlist, it’s very improv on stage. We discuss what we’ll start with and what we’ll finish with and those are usually the staples. You’re never not going to hear us play “I Will Be Heard” or “Destroy Everything”. Some of these songs though on this record, over time, could take their place. There are several anthems on this.Take the title track; perfect crowd chanting lyrics and cadence. I think that’s going to become a staple in our set easily. We’ll just have to see what other songs fit best with the old stuff too once we get playing again.”

Whenever you guys make a new record, it’s definitely made for Hatebreed fans. At this point, you pretty much have a solid fan base, and you’ve done records like ‘Supremacy’ and the self titled that opened the fan base up. So my question is, with this record, ‘Weight of the False Self’’, and records forthcoming, is there ever that idea in mind that “okay, what what can we do to get new fans?” Or are you pretty much servicing the Hatebreed fans at this point?

Matt: “We’re definitely nurturing our identity and the sound we’ve created without letting it go stale, or without just regurgitating what we’ve already done. I don’t think we write anything specifically just to capture new fans. That would mean like, if next year or next two years, every band is doing a ballad that we would do a ballad. I don’t see that happening. We’re just not that band.
I think our fans as a whole, we’re a lifestyle band. Our fans get tattoos of the logo on them and the lyrics. They are wholeheartedly following us and waving the flag of Hatebreed, day in and day out. That type of thing is passed along to friends or family or a new generation of fans.
As far as gaining new fans, we’re not writing anything specifically to capture new fans, we just don’t function like that as a band. I think we just nurture a deep relationship with our fanbase to where it continues. It’s like a club, I guess. It’s a lifestyle thing amongst our fans. We just keep our material fresh without losing our identity.”

Thank you so much for your time and take care out there. ‘Weight of the False Self’ out on November 27.

Matthew Powers I write reviews for CaliberTV and enjoy the existence of music.