An interview with drummer Matt Byrne
by Tommy Rage
November 2018

Matt Byrne of Hatebreed at the Sylvee on Oct 26, 2018 - photo by Scott Moller/Chronovisual Photography

Matt Byrne of Hatebreed at the Sylvee on Oct 26, 2018
photo by Scott Moller/Chronovisual Photography

Teacher or drummer, teacher or drummer, teacher or drummer. Life can be a toss-up. Especially if you reflect back on nights spent sleeping on a bar-room floor after a local Madison gig, or playing huge festivals in Germany. Either way, you find your calling and you stay true to your fans.

That is exactly what Hatebreed drummer Matt Byrne along with Jamey Jasta (vocals), Chris Beattie (bass), Frank Novinec (rhythm guitar) and Wayne Lozinak (lead guitar) have done for more than twenty years.

Hatebreed, along with Ringworm and Miss Ma I, opened for Gwar when they played the Sylvee on October 26th. I spoke with drummer Matt Byrne about up-coming plans for Hatebreed, their fan loyalty, and his fond memory of playing Madison back in 1999.

With 8 albums under their belt, Byrne recalls his journey with the metalcore masters over their 24 year history. “This is my second stint with Hatebreed. I was in the band back in 1998 for almost a year. I quit drumming for awhile and was going back to school to become a Special Education teacher. I got a call from the guys to get back together in 2001. We had a little following of fans and moved up from a van to a bus. When it comes to touring now, we take quality over quantity. We haven’t changed the format of our music. A fan of Hatebreed knows what they are going to get on every album. We aren’t going to let you down or try to reinvent ourselves. We’ve added different guitar solos and changed the sound structure a bit, but its always been about Hatebreed just being Hatebreed. We haven’t tried rapping or anything like that [laughter]. We are loyal to our fans and our fans are loyal to us. I like to call it the ‘Slayer-Effect’. Slayer fans are rabid, no matter what. At every festival, you hear people yelling ‘Slayer’ like it’s the mating call for heavy-metal fans [laughter].”

Sharing the stage with metal heavyweights such as Slayer, Disturbed, and System of a Down over the years, Byrne chuckles at the biggest difference on The Gore, Core, Metal & More Tour with Gwar, “It has to be the costumes, blood and space jizz [laughter]. We both have a loyal fans who have followed us, and it’s great to think that our fans are the same as Gwar fans are, diehard fans for life.”

The effort and success of Hatebreed has had its ups and downs. From their 2004 Grammy nomination for Best Metal Performance for their song ‘Live for This’ to the suicide of former guitarist Lou Richards in 2006. “The nomination came out of the blue,” reflects Byrne, “we were surprised. You wouldn’t say Grammy and Hatebreed in the same sentence [laughter]. It was a nice surprise, but we aren’t in the game for that. There aren’t a lot of radio stations that take a chance on us and don’t just play us at 2 a.m., but now we are getting exposure to fans who may not necessarily hear us.” 

The crowd at the Sylvee was a mixed crowd, with half the attendees wearing white t-shirts or costumes for Gwar and the other half donning Hatebreed concert shirts. A circle mosh-pit in the center of the floor brought hardcore metal fans together to slam and push each other in typical high energy mosh pit style. “The U.S. is starting to take the ‘open-air’ festival model that they have in Europe, its getting bigger and bigger. The festivals in Europe are so intense and have a great mix of genres. We played Wacken Open Air festival in Germany last year, and it’s a different vibe. One of the best things I’ve seen from my kit is when someone is lifted up who is in a wheelchair. It’s wild to see someone so fearless with their ‘horns’ up and hands free with everyone else helping, especially once everyone gets into it.”

A full set-list drawn from the band’s history kept the crowd engaged and shouting along with favorites as ‘I Will Be Heard’, ‘In Ashes They Shall Reap’, ‘Looking Down The Barrel Of Today’ and ‘This is Now’. The Concrete Confessional was the band’s last release in 2016 and Byrne hints at things to come, “After this tour I get to decompress a bit. I live in upstate New York and I like to go home and see the beautiful outdoors with the leaves changing. Maybe do a little road-tripping and be domestic. As far as Hatebreed, we are kinda in our time line. It’s been about 3 years between albums, and we have talked among ourselves about 2019 and some ideas to get back into the studio. We are working on plans now. We will see. There is talk about something in 2019.”

The pure enjoyment of playing live was apparent with each member of Hatebreed. With their gratitude to their loyal fans, singer Jamey Jasta took a brief moment to challenge the crowd to not spread negativity, and come together during turbulent times. The crowd clearly embraced Jasta’s challenge and roared with delight at the end of an all-out metal show. Looking back on Madison’s love of Hatebreed, Byrne smiles and laughs, “Now I gotta find a block of cheese to take home with me [laughter]. I remember playing a place right outside Madison called the Warehouse back in 1999. We didn’t have a place to go after the show, so the bar owner just let us crash right there in the club. It was one of those cool things about the old days and playing around here in Madison.”   



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