Hatebreed's eighth studio record is called The Concrete Confessional, and it's one of their fastest-paced, in-your-face releases to date. Produced by Chris "Zeuss" Harris, who has worked on several releases thus far with the Connecticut five-piece metal outfit, it showcases the best of what Hatebreed truly is: aggressive (yet uplifting), pure heavy metal that inspires mosh pits, stage diving, and crowd surfing at any show the band play. Yet beneath it all, the metaphor of The Concrete Confessional is one that is inspiring to any who listen.
The band just finished their run on the Vans Warped Tour (which came through Mountain View, CA's Shoreline Amphitheater at the beginning of April. We sat down with drummer Matt Byrne before the band took the stage to discuss the new album, the band's live show, and his process of putting together drums for Hatebreed records.
I have a number of questions about The Concrete Confessional. First off, what does the idea of “the concrete confessional” represent? The name of the album is enticing, the look of the album artwork is incredible. It’s dark, but there’s a lot of detail when you look at it.
To me, the concept of that album title…I mean, there’s some religious connotation there, but it’s not like we did a religious concept album. I think, to me, the “concrete confessional” as a thing, if we were to use it as a metaphor, is more like this: you’re a music fan. Music is one of our outlets in our lives, both positive and negative things. It’s a chance to get things out. There’s a lot of bad shit that happens in everyone’s lives, whether it’s personal, political, there’s shit all over the spectrum. To me, I always saw the concept of the “concrete confessional” as the venue of a club, let’s say.
Let’s say that you’re going to see a band that you love. You’re in the confessional. And what do you do when you’re at a show, man? You leave it all on the dance floor, or all on the stage. That one night, you’re getting it all out. You’re seeing your favorite band, and all the frustration that’s built up for the week, the month or the year, or a lifetime, you’re leaving it all on the floor. So it’s like what you do when you go to a confessional in a church, where you confess all of your sins. You leave it all right there, you’re absolved, you walk out, and there you go! So that’s how I always looked at the concept of that album.
It’s not far off from what we’ve talked about in past Hatebreed material, too. Turning negatives into positives, self-empowerment, taking control of your own life, and making something out of yourself, really squashing all of the bad shit.
There were three years between The Divinity of Purpose and The Concrete Confessional. Was there a lot of touring in between that time? Were you guys constantly writing? What did those three years entail for you guys in that time?
Constant touring, which is usually what it’s always been in our career. We’re not a band that’ll tour an album cycle and then take a year or two off, sit, and then start gradually writing, everyone goes off in their different directions and then eventually comes back, starts meeting in the studio and hashing out ideas. That’s not Hatebreed at all. I think when we get down to the brass tacks and start doing an album, all of that stuff happens, but typically, if an album comes out, we’re on tour. Whether it be headlining or support. We spend a lot of time in Europe doing festivals overseas every summer, so we just really keep ourselves busy, with some gaps and breaks in-between.
Between Divinity of Purpose and The Concrete Confessional, there were those gaps. We felt like we had a larger gap, and then we just rolled right into the writing and recording process for Concrete Confessional. A larger gap for us is like three or four months. That’s a long time for us. But the same can be said for any past Hatebreed record, man. Time in-between is spent touring, for the most part.
Getting into the topic of drums, when you guys are in pre-production mode, how detailed you get in terms of honing in on the sound that you want from your drums? What does that process encapsulate for you?
I just like a big, natural sound. We’ve done so many albums with Zeuss (producer Chris Harris). He’s like the sixth member of the band at this point, as far as the production goes. A lot of that is left to his devices. He’s an expert in getting the tones and everything. I just like a natural drum tone. I want the drums to sound as live as I can get, and natural. I think a lot of bands these days, especially in metal, whether you call it deathcore, metalcore, straight heavy metal, a lot of these bands have the same production value. A lot of these bands sound exactly the same. The drums are sampled or triggered. The kick has that wet, snappy sound. The snares all sound the same, the guitar tones sound the same. A lot of the singers sound the same too! They’re growling, they’re singing these epic chorus, they’re growling again.
It’s not like the days of thrash. And I’m a metal fan, first and foremost, man. I cut my teeth on the thrash movement. Look at all of those bands: Exodus, Testament, Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer. Each one had their trademark sound. You knew exactly who each band was based on the sound or the guitar tone. It’s really hard to do that nowadays.
Getting back to [the question], drums, guitars, whatever we’re talking about when it comes to Hatebreed, I just like the natural tone because it’s got a personality of its own. That drum kit I used for that album will have the personality of its own, and hopefully that translates into not being like everybody else.
It makes the experience of listening to it feel more like you’re in a live setting. There are times when you can hear drum samples, it may sound cool, but you can tell it was a sample. When you have a natural sound, it feels like you’re in the room.
Yeah, and the thing about Hatebreed to is that we’re all about the live show. We’re all about audience participation and a lot of people talk about our live show because of the pits and the crowdsurfing, stage-diving. With the songs being as aggressive, fast, and supercharged as they are, you want that to translate on record. We go for that live sound.
In terms of the process that you had for getting the drum parts recorded and figured out, how long did that process last for you? How did writing work? Was it a full-band effort, do you guys split off into separate sections and write?
The Hatebreed formula has been Jamey (Jasta, vocals) and Chris (Beattie, bass) writing all of the material, as far as the lyrics and the riffs go. There’s a couple of times where it’s actually full songs, but the main idea is there. A lot of the time there’s riffs and ideas there, maybe half of the song. Once I step in and do my part, I start to put my stamp on it. There’s an idea of the tempo or the kind of beat that would happen, but overall I get a full song structure, the idea that I’m going with, and then I’m able to play with it and put my stamp on it.
What kind of message, if you have one, would you like fans to walk away with after listening to The Concrete Confessional?
Well, all the stuff we were talking about first off, in the interview. And that goes for a lot of the Hatebreed material. I think it’s really just [about] self-empowerment and taking control of your life, based on all of the crazy things that are happening in this world, and all of the crazy things that are happening around you, while being able to still keep a level head and be a productive person, taking hold of your emotions and your life. Be all that you can be! Learn to take the negatives and turn them into positives.
What does music mean to you?
Music has always been an escape for me. It’s like my happy place, whether it be funk music, a little bit of jazz. Drummers, man - we love our funk music and our jazz. I really appreciate the playing. But the same applies to heavy metal or hardcore. I listen to a little bit of everything. It just makes me feel good. There’s really nothing else I can say, there’s no crazy answer. I love to play, I love to listen, I just go somewhere when I’m engulfed in music.
There’s one other thing that I did want to touch on. You just reminded me when you brought it up. When you started playing drums and started to evolve as a player, what was your style? Were you playing metal?
Well, I’ve always been a big funk fan. Heavy metal, first and foremost, but I like funk drumming. I think that genre of music has some of the best drummers in it. Real pocket stuff, just real good, funky stuff. When I started out, I took lessons and I had a great drummer teacher. He turned me onto all of the book stuff, like your rudiments and all that. But he also taught me and allowed me to learn what I wanted to learn. Like, I could bring in a song by Metallica or Slayer, and say, “oh, what’s he doing there?” Then he’d transcribe it and we’d work on it. That’s where it started. He turned me onto funk music. He said, “Man, if you’re digging this fast stuff and this more intricate stuff, check this out!” And then that opened up the doors: Tower of Power, James Brown, I was like, “holy shit. This is a whole different world!” Those are my two favorites, funk and heavy metal. So I’d like to think that from learning that stuff, or dabbling in it that I can inject as much as I possibly can into Hatebreed.