Exhumed's Matt Harvey: "Metal Is All About Tearing Down Sacred Cows"
Not to burst any death metal bubbles here, but Matt Harvey of Exhumed is a really nice guy. He's insightful, seems to genuinely care about how much fun fans have at their shows, and when I approached him from the standpoint of why and how he does his thing, he was all for it. The 30-something singer and guitarist, who fronts the Northern California band, even gave me a fair amount of his time, until he had to excuse himself because nature was calling.
If you are new to the band, well, you won't find a more lighthearted and fun-loving group of guys in all the metal universe. Okay, lighthearted might be a stretch -- considering their songs have much to do with death, killing, and dismemberment -- but like Harvey says, "It's not like we actually do the things we sing about."
"We're just having fun and make something that we can be proud of." Harvey and the other members of Exhumed -- Bud Burke, Rob Babcock, and Michael Hamilton -- crank out seriously rockin' songs and have recorded their last couple of albums in the Phoenix area with metal maestro Ryan Butler.
After taking a six-year hiatus from Exhumed during most of the Aughts, Harvey was more than ready to get things rolling again. I asked him about this and many other things during our interview.
What motivated you to go on the hiatus? Why come back and keep cranking out Exhumed records and tours?
Um, you know, time off. I had just turned 30, which is a kinda scary number. I had been in [Exhumed] since I was 15. I wanted to see what else was out there. Wanted to see what I was going to be and if could I do something else. Ultimately, after working a few jobs, living a few places, dating a few different chicks, I decided I wanted to do Exhumed again -- and people wanted to hear it.
I got back into playing music and listening to lots of heavy music. I got the fun aspect again. I really [enjoy] playing this style. I did a few different projects during the break . . . played some thrash metal.
The thrash influence is definitely apparent in your sound.
I'm from San Jose. In the late '80s, when I was growing up, there weren't really many metal people around. We were all skaters and we listened to a lot of the punk and thrash bands at the time. Bands like Dead Kennedys, Angry Samoans, Dayglo Abortions, Exploited, and GBH. Loved that shit. Mainly, though, as far as Exhumed goes, it was unfinished, you know? It didn't feel resolved. Our last tour [prior to the hiatus] didn't go that well, and it just didn't feel right to let if fade away like that.
How is it going now?
We tour all the time. It is awesome because everyone contributes. We're all psyched to see what presents itself to us in the future. We are a full-time working rock band.
Do you have a day job outside of music?
Some of us work between tours. It's not glamorous, but we scratch out a living. It's a lot better than pumping gas -- not that I'm any better than someone who does that -- but playing heavy metal is not a bad way to make a living.
What is tour prep like for you guys?
I do Excel spreadsheets and map it all out -- and I hate Excel spreadsheets. This is when it is like job. We work with the vendors to get merch sorted out and figure out how to pay for it.
You guys take care of all that yourselves?
Oh, yeah. We call all the promoters and set our schedule, work out a budget for the tour. There is always something unexpected. The van breaks down [while we talked, Harvey was waiting to hear from his mechanic about an oil leak in the tour van] or gear breaks. Sometimes you look at the amount of money you're making and think, this is pretty cool, but then you look at the expenses and then it is not so cool.
Sounds like you guys fully embrace the DIY ethic.
Oh, definitely. One thing about the climate these days [in the music business], the more DIY you are, the better you are going to do. The leaner and meaner you can run it, the more it is going to work in your favor. "I enjoy the whole process . . . from humming a little tune to holding the record in your hand to rockin' out for the kids.