Short but informative interview with GRUESOME‘s vocalist / guitarist Matt Harvey.
This one turned out to be a bit more of a pain in the ass than the previous two, haha! I think because the first two records we did were centered around Leprosy and Scream Bloody Gore, which were quite raw, they went really quickly and weren’t too difficult to recreate. I think we underestimated the technical sophistication of Spiritual Helaing, in terms of its production. We ended up going a bit beyond the schedule and budget that we had in mind for this one, but it ended up being worth it, because we’re extremely happy with the way that everything turned out. I really think we’ve come the closest to our goal of making something that is almost indistinguishable from the source material so far. We wanted Twisted Prayers to feel like the lost half of a double-album with Spiritual… and I think sonically we’ve come as close as possible to achieving that.
Twisted Prayers is a homage to Deaths classic album Spiritual Healing. What inspired its creation and how was it channeling such a seminal album?
Well, we had covered Leprosy with Savage Land and Scream Bloody Gore with Dimensions of Horror, moving to Spiritual Healing was the next logical step. It was a blast going back to that record in particular, because I have such fond and vivid memories of getting the album and sitting in my bedroom as a 14 year-old and learning all of those riffs and really obsessing over the record. It was also really cool to revisit since I now know James and Terry as friends and being able to pick their brains a little about the album while trying to recapture that vibe was a really special experience for me as a Death fan.
How big an influence on you as a musician and death metal fan were Death as a band and what made you choose Spiritual Healing over say Leprosy or Scream Bloody Gore?
Death has been one of my biggest influences riff-wise since 1988, when I was a little pimply nerd learning the riffs to “Primitive Ways” and “Sacrificial.” I learned a huge chunk of what I know about Death Metal from jamming “Regurgitated Guts” and “Mutilation” with my school buddies when we were kids. We felt that we had really covered the first two albums pretty extensively already with our previous records and we’re now moving chronologically through the Death catalog so Spiritual Healing was next in line.
The album again features artwork by the legendary Ed Repka. Can you tell us about the cover and how you hooked up with him and what are your favourite Ed Repka covers? I’m guessing Spirtual Healing must be up there!
Repka has done such a bang-up job for us. All three album covers have come out even better than I had hoped for. He’s able to channel that Death vibe better than anyone, since he came up with those classic covers. He’s also great at taking our ideas and streamlining them into something that works as a piece of artwork. Some of my favorite Repka pieces would be Scream Bloody Gore, Eternal Nightmare, Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying?, Uncertain Future, and Leprosy.
You’ve done a fantastic video for the song Inhumane. Can you tell us a bit about the video and the story behind it?
Most of that credit belongs to our fantastic director Jeff Sisson. I had worked with him on the Nightwork video for my other band Exhumed, and I knew he’d come up with something awesome. We discussed the lyrics for the song – which is an anti-capital punishment thing, and he took that as a seed of inspiration for his Escape From New York homage, which fits in perfectly with the Gruesome vibe.
You are heading over to Europe in July for a variety of dates including some big European festivals like Wacken, Metaldays and Obscene Extreme. Are you excited to be coming back over to Europe?
I’m always excited to get on the road. Gruesome seems to do pretty good in Europe, so it’ll be very cool to hit the road with a new album in tow and play some pretty big stages and shit. The last time we were over there went great, so hopefully we’ll be able to build on that and keep bringing our brand of old-school Death Metal to all the bangers over there.
Will you be playing much new material on these dates?
We will be doing about half of the new record on this tour, which will be an exciting challenge, as the new stuff is a bit more musical and technical.
You are also playing a couple of dates with Exhumed. Have you ever done this before, with Matt handling double duties with Gruesome and Exhumed?
I have done two gigs with two different bands a couple of times, but not with Gruesome and Exhumed. It will be an endurance test, for sure haha! One thing is for sure, all that work is gonna cut into my drinking time, which is kind of a bummer.
What is your favourite Gruesome song to play live?
I don’t really care what songs we play, I just want to play the song that gets the audience the craziest. We’re choosing the set list for the audience, not ourselves. I like all the songs, and I wouldn’t record something that I didn’t think was good, so I’m fine playing whatever people want to hear.
Who have Gruesome enjoyed touring with the most and who would you love to tour with in the future?
We haven’t done a ton of touring but our brief US tour with Obituary went great. It was the perfect audience for us to play to and the Obit guys are great dudes. We had a blast and hopefully we can do it again in the future. We’d ideally like to tour with bands who were contemporaries of Death, bands like Asphyx, Carcass, Pestilence, Possessed, Dark Angel, etc.
What are your favourite memories of this early days when death metal was still in its infancy and growing in the underground?
I just cherish the excitement of feeling that this style of music was wide-open and being super excited for every new record, demo and 7” EP. That was a special thing tied into my own teenage years that I try to hold onto and carry forward into everything that I do.
What is the most gruesome scene from a horror film that you have ever seen?
Hmm… I don’t know specifically, but my favorite bit is the part in Fulci’s Gates to Hell when the dude regurgitates his guts after staring at the hanging priest. It’s such a disgusting, amazing scene.