Matt Harvey of Gruesome “We are a Death tribute, homage, worship, whatever you want to call it band.”
In the video below Matt Harvey of GRUESOME talks new Solo movie, clubs versus festivals, gear and Death with Hayden Johnson of Capital Chaos TV. Less than four short years into their career, death metal defenders of the old GRUESOME — featuring current and former members of Exhumed, Possessed, Malevolent Creation, etc. — returns with its second full-length sermon, Twisted Prayers.
The eight-track offering follows Death’s paradigm shift during the Spiritual Healing era, incorporating more cerebral, melodic instrumentation with elements of thrash and thought-provoking, socially conscious lyrics. Recorded at New Constellation Studios in Orlando, Florida with producer Jarrett Pritchard (Exhumed, 1349, Goatwhore, Wolvhammer) who has been instrumental in crafting the band’s sonic homage, Twisted Prayers features GRUESOME doing what they do best across over forty minutes of unholy hymns with lurid melodies and vulgar atmospheres. The band has once again teamed up with the legendary artist Ed Repka (Death, Atheist, Massacre, etc,) for the album’s blasphemous cover art in addition to legendary Death guitarist James Murphy (Death, Obituary, Testament) for a pair of special guest guitar solos. Bow your heads and worship at the altar of GRUESOME!
Your second full length album, Twisted Prayers came out a few days ago. How has the initial reaction been?
“It’s seemed to be very positive. The label’s already talking about a new pressing of the LP which is a good sign. It should be going well. Everything we’ve done with Gruesome has gone better than suspected. It’s nice to see that continue. We were all happy with it and people like it.”
How did you pick the two bonus tracks on the album and are their any other unreleased recordings?
“I don’t think there’s anything we’ve done that’s been unreleased. The only thing that’s unreleased I guess is we did a four song demo and I think we only released two songs and we ended up rerecording those songs for the album anyways. That’s really the only ‘unreleased’ stuff. As far as the cover song for the record. We are a Death tribute, homage, worship, whatever you want to call it band. We’re just a tribute band who writes our own songs, which is sort of a goofy concept but anyways. Our whole goal is to make the record be as close to a Death as we can. When Death was recording “Individual Thought Patterns”, Chuck and Gene started working on a cover of the Exorcist. I actually think Gene did most of whatever work there was. But never ended up finishing it. So I thought of that as the perfect excuse for us to go ahead and finish the work left undone and also Possessed is one of my favorite bands, Certainly one of Chuck’s biggest influences so it kinda made sense from that standpoint. And even easier, is the fact that Dan Gonzales our guitar player also plays guitar in Possessed. So he knew the entire song like the back of his hand, or at least most of the song. It was pretty easy from there. And I love Jeff Beccera’s vocals. It’s kinda more where my vocal range is naturally anyways. So it’s really just a blast to do a Possessed song and have it really be where i can be right in the same territory as the original. We did a Possessed cover with my other band Exhumed and we have the philosophy that we make our cover songs sound like our songs, even if the orginal didn’t. And then with the other cover track, ‘Legion of Doom’ by Mantas, and for those of you who aren’t aware, Mantas is what Death was called before they were called Death. And ‘Legion of Doom’ is actually one of the very first songs Death ever wrote. I think that and ‘Evil Dead’ are probably the first two. And when Death was writing ‘Spiritual Healing,” Chuck repurposed the riff from ‘Legion of Doom’ into a very signature part of ‘Spiritual Healing.’ So we thought it was a cool way to let people know we were doing an album that was inspired by ‘Spiritual Healing’ without just covering a song from the album. And also it was kind of cool to show the through line in the composition and the style all the way from Mantas which is three teenagers in Chuck’s mom’s garage to ‘Spiritual Healing’ which is like a signed band with three albums touring the world and playing for decent sized rooms and stuff. So there is a common thread that connects the whole Death discography and we just wanted to illustrate that and just have fun bashing out some primitive death metal classics.”
Do you have a favorite overall Death album?
“Yeah. ‘Scream Bloody Gore’ I think will always be my favorite. That one is just so over the top, so snotty, and unapologetically rude and crude. It’s really brutal and intense but it also has a certain sort of, beautiful charm that can’t be replicated. You can’t really quantify it. Obviously I like all the albums to varying degrees but when I was a kid, I spent a lot of time at the age of thirteen or fourteen, just learning all these Death riffs. I remember playing along to ‘Scream Bloody Gore’ and playing the whole album straight through on guitar with my cassette tape, and I would do that night after night after night. So that one has really stuck with me.”
You’re going to be playing a few upcoming festivals including Stonehenge and Alcatraz while on tour in Europe. How are you feeling about these shows?
“We’re stoked for them. When you’re playing the larger festivals, it’s kinda one of those things. And this might sound kinda shitty of me so I apologize, but I honestly just prefer playing a club. I think that, for the style of more extreme, brutal, metal, it just doesn’t sound as good outside. While it’s great to play for 5000 people at one time, because that’s amazing. But at the same time it’s like, a band that does the style of music we do, will never be best represented by playing outside in the afternoon in the sun with sound going everywhere. And you have to pretend like it’s just another show. One day you play for 110 people at like a shithole bar, the next day you play for 5000 people at Wacken Open Air. It’s just another day and you take each show and try to do the best you can.”
It seems like you tour more in Europe than the US, is there any reason for this?
“So far that’s kinda been the case. It’s something we’re working on rectifying. We’ve done a couple of regional things; we did a two week tour with Obituary in the south and up to the northeast and another two week thing on the west coast with Soulfly. We’ve also done our own shows up to Portland and back. We really want to expand and do a proper North American tour. That is the next project. It’s a little tricky with this band because we’re so scattered out. I live in California the other guys live in Florida, we all play in other bands. I’m pretty busy with Exhumed and we have a tour booked for the fall. I have another band called Pounder which is getting more active, Robbin is tour manager and does merchandising for everyone from Testament, Slayer, Overkill, Exodus, Death Angel so she’s always on the road. So for the four of us to all be available at the same time and then also have an offer that makes sense for us to get together and go out and not lose money, the right stars have not quite aligned yet to do a full American tour so far. Luckily the band seems to keep growing with every record and that’s going to let us move the stars around a little bit more. It just gives us a little more control over the situation. So I think very soon there will be some kind of an announcement for a US tour.”
Do you use any specific gear onstage for Gruesome compared to Exhumed or visa versa?
“The main difference is Exhumed tunes to B standard and Gruesome tunes to D standard just like Death did. But I use the same amp. I’ve been using a Peavey 6505+ for years because it durable, its comparatively affordable and it sounds great. I use a Maxon OD 808 in front of it with a Super Distortion. It’s a very simple rig. Actually not that dissimilar to Chuck who always used a very simple gear setup. But it’s pretty versatile and it can be dialed in really really saturated guitar tone and also a dryer Marshall sound. And maybe counterintuitively, I use a dryer more Marshall-based sound for Exhumed and a more saturated sound for Gruesome. The meat of what’s going on is pretty much the same. I actually have the identical ESP Arrow Vs but my Exhumed one’s white and my Gruesome one’s black so I don’t get confused because I get confused fairly easily. And Seymour Duncan pickups, Blackouts, and that’s about it.”
I heard you were a Star Wars fan. How do you feel about the newest movie, Solo?
“The first trailer for Solo looked horrible so I really adjusted my expectations. The second trailer was okay. And then I went and saw it opening night because I’ve seen every Star Wars movie on opening day since Return of the Jedi in 1983. So I make it a point to continue this streak. I went in there just thinking “well whatever” and got the popcorn and kill a couple of hours and I ended up coming out of it really having enjoyed myself far more than I expected. I had a fucking blast watching the movie. There was a couple things that I thought didn’t really work. Like when they tried a little bit too hard to raise the stakes that somehow the Kessel Run enabled the entire rebellion to get started. I thought that was a little bit of a narrative reach. But in terms of a fun story about Han Solo and Lando Calrissian, I had a fucking great time. I think Donald Glover particularly as Lando Calrissian was just way too charismatic. He was so fun to watch. Every scene that he was in was fucking great and the L3-38 droid was fucking amazing. She made me laugh nonstop. I actually think it was my favorite of the newer movies thus far”
GRUESOME will kick off a Europeans headlining tour this summer. Beginning July 19th, the trek will travel through two dozen cities and includes appearances at Obscene Extreme 2018, Wacken Open Air, Free & Easy Festival, Stonehenge Festival and more. See all confirmed dates below.
7/19/2018 Obscene Extreme 2018 – Trutnov, CZ
7/20/2018 Hydrozagadk – Warzawa, PL
7/21/2018 Red & Black – Chorzow, PL
7/22/2018 Modra Vopice – Prague, CZ
7/23/2018 Free & Easy Festival – Munich, DE
7/24/2018 Durer Kert – Budapest, HU
7/25/2018 Metaldays – Tolmin, SL
7/26/2018 Viper Room – Wien, AT
7/27/2018 Master Of The Unicorn – Ernsthausen, DE
7/28/2018 Stonehenge Festival – Steenwijk, NL
7/29/2018 Bastard Club – Osnabruck, DE
7/30/2018 Immerhin – Wurzburg, DE
7/31/2018 Nomansland – Volmerange-les-mines, FR
8/01/2018 7er Club – Mannheim, DE
8/02/2018 Wacken Open Air – Wacken, DE
8/03/2018 Klubb Dissonans – Jonkoping, SE
8/04/2018 The Crypt – Linkoping, SE
8/05/2018 Underwerket – Valby/Copenhagen, DK
8/07/2018 Chemiefabrik – Desden, DE
8/08/2018 Musik und Frieden – Berlin, DE
8/09/2018 Partysan Open Air – Schlotheim, DE
8/10/2018 Das Bett – Frankfurt, DE
8/11/2018 Helvete – Oberhausen, DE
8/12/2018 Alcatraz Open Air – Kortrijk, BE