“If we didn’t get into metal then we wouldn’t be sitting here and doing this. It’s just something that’s part of you and never goes away. Even if later on we didn’t play in a band and got real jobs and shit like that, I would still be listening to Terrorizer and Autopsy and shit. Even if I was working at a bank I don’t see that changing.”
As I have reported earlier this week, I went to the Death On The Vine festival in Cincinnati, Ohio, last Saturday that included performances by a large host of bands, and Exhumed were one of them. Before their monstrous performance I was able to sit down and have a chat with two of the goremongers, Matt Harvey and Wes Caley. After having been a fan for many years it was a great thrill to be able to sit down with the group that has greatly influenced my musical tastes and get the skinny on a few topics I had been wondering about. Right from the get-go Matt was nothing short of a humble and appreciative man. We went into a bar right across the street from the venue and as we sat down he asked if it would be cool to have Wes join us. With a mentality that believes in the motto of “the more the merrier”, I quickly jump at the chance to get him involved in our conversation. Matt had to step away for a moment, but Wes and I got to talking about life on the road, including the physical and emotion hardships it can cause (I wish I would have got footage of this), and then Matt quickly rejoined us. No sooner than I hit the ‘record’ button on my camera, Matt was soon recognized by fellow fans and called out upon, asking if he was the guy from Exhumed. It was then known that the fans were really happy for the band to get on the stage and show a younger crowd who their favorite bands owe a big thanks to.
Metal Blast: I am here with Matt [Harvey; guitar, vocals] and Wes [Caley; guitar, vocals] of Exhumed, where they are going to be playing here at Bogart’s for the Death On The Vine Festival. So, without any further ado, let’s get this started.
Matt Harvey: We’re all out of ado’s…
Wes Caley: Adon’ts… let’s start using those.
MB: [Laughs] You guys right now are on a nationwide tour with Cannibal Corpse, Abysmal Dawn, and Arkaik. How has the reception been on the dates you have done so far?
Matt: It’s been great, awesome. If you’re a death metal band and supporting Cannibal Corpse and aren’t able to get a good audience response then [death metal] is probably not the genre for you. It’s the easiest set-up in the world for a band like us, so we would really have to fuck it up in order to blow it. It has been killer.
MB: Not too long ago you also finished a tour across Europe, and when you’re done with this current one you will be going across the northern states and Canada with The Black Dahlia Murder and Fuck The Facts. With all these three tours, is this just the start of something much bigger the two of you have in mind for Exhumed?
Wes: I don’t know, we are just doing whatever they are giving us. If they give us something awesome then we want that to continue, of course.
Matt: We’ve never been a band that had a grand scheme or master plan…
Wes: Everything is just… random.
Matt: After we do the The Black Dahlia Murder and Fuck The Facts tour then we have the Summer Slaughter thing, and then we need to start working on a new record. Last year we did two North American tours, went to Europe and did a bunch of festivals, so this is kind of like “phase two”. After we did [“All Guts, No Glory”] we didn’t really have a plan and maybe play a couple of festivals and see what happens.
Wes: We didn’t think we were going to tour all the time and maybe just hit the major stuff where we could make some money and keep it at that, but we just didn’t think that far ahead. It’s the same thing with writing a new record with the intention of getting bigger. It just goes whatever we write is what comes out.
Matt: We really try not to think too hard since it isn’t our strong point.
Wes: Yeah, thinking is kind of stupid for us if that makes sense. [laughs] Matt: It works for some bands, but it’s just not us.
MB: Speaking of thinking, Matt, it seems that since you have been spending time in both Dekapitator and Gravehill I thought there was a bit of thrash influence on “All Guts, No Glory”.
Matt: Well, aside from maybe “Anatomy Is Destiny”, all the records are really thrashy. It’s just for the first time you’re able to hear the riffs a lot better.
Wes: Yeah, there has always been thrash riffs. To me, if you played the riff one string-set higher then it would be a thrash riff, but since it’s tuned down to B it doesn’t sound like that.
Matt: Yeah, plus we’ve always had really muddy production in the past, so it sounds murkier. It’s weird that people are surprised because it’s always been so obvious to me. People say “oh yeah, this sounds like a Carcass riff,” and I say, “no, dude, it’s a Flotsam and Jetsam riff.”
Wes: Well, Carcass did that too where all the riffs were thrash, at least on “Necroticism…” and stuff. If you took those riffs and made them higher in pitch then it is thrash metal.
MB: Speaking of writing new material, what would you say the normal writing process when you would start on a new record?
Wes: We would probably just do it at home. That’s how we did it before since we are all spread out so we can’t really go in the rehearsal room. I don’t write like that anyway, I need to do it at home. I can’t just stand there and go “okay, let me just come up with a riff,” I like to do it by myself and send an mp3 to [Matt] and we’ll say what’s good and arrange it. That’s how we did it with [“All Guts, No Glory”] was by sending files to each other because [Matt] was in Hawaii and I was in Orange County, California.
Matt: Yeah, we used to be the kind of band that would get in the rehearsal room and sweat it out. But now with Wes, the dynamic is so different. In the past I was writing 80% to 95% of the music, particularly on [“Gore Metal”], and I am not bragging about that at all. Now it’s the case where we have two song-writers and it’s pretty much fifty-fifty musically, and we both are pretty productive and are able to bounce ideas off each other, so it’s just much easier that way. Now when we go to the rehearsal room we have more of an idea and are able to hit the ground running.
Wes: It’s more cohesive and it’s better because when you got here to practice everybody already knows the song and you don’t need to sit there and go “okay, here’s the drum beat I want for this part,” and just go in there and play. It’s just faster and better. We might change it up not for the sake of changing, but just because if we’re all local again. I don’t live in California, I live in Arizona. We might be trying to move everything to Arizona because I can’t even afford to have my own apartment in California with what we make, but it’s just cheaper to live and do this in Arizona. Plus, the airport is better and easier to navigate through than LAX. What this has to do with all that other stuff is if we are all centralized and only one or two people need to fly out to practice we could actually write a record that way.
Matt: Even if we were centralized I’m not even sure if we would do that, it just seems not as fast.
Wes: To me it’s not as annoying. I don’t have to stand there and go, “fret three… okay, I think I got it— no, wait, that’s not right.” [Matt] can just tab it out in a program and send it to me so I don’t even have to ask him much and just learn it. Technology, that’s the wave of the future, man. Just do everything at home.
Matt: I’m going to invent robots to write my riffs.
Wes: That would be nice. Just get robots and dopplegangers to go out on tour. You can just hang out and drink beer while they’re making money for you.
MB: The only difference between humans and robots is you’re not going to get the same energy out of a show.
Wes: [laughs] Well, not yet, but as technology advances…
Matt: Give us ten years and we’ll sort it out. We’ll be in a lab working on it.
MB: Taking a time machine back a little bit, what was the very first inspiration you had to bring forth Exhumed?
Matt: I started the band when I was in high school in 1992 and at that point we were into Carcass, Carnage, Terrorizer, and Repulsion, and as time went on what frustrated me in the death metal scene is that most of the bands changed or faded out completely. The differences between [Entombed’s] “Left Hand Path” and “Wolverine Blues” or [Carcass’s] “Reek of Putrefaction” and “Swansong” are both pretty big. It seemed like nobody was playing the kind of death metal that I was into. I stopped being a current death metal fan in 1993, because it just didn’t sound like what I liked. I wanted more stuff like Impetigo, Cadaver, those types of bands. We kind of got out of death metal and more into thrash, and in ’94 and ’95 we began to blend those two a little bit more. On one hand you had the powerviolence and grind scene, and on the other hand you had the thrash and traditional metal, with death metal in the middle. It was never a conscious decision where we did that, so it took a long time for the band to get to the level where getting signed might have been appropriate. [Laughs] It’s because we let it happen slowly and by the time [“Gore Metal”] came out it was already a retro sound, even in 1998, because when you looked at bands that were around at the time, like Nile and Dying Fetus, the direction the genre was going in was a lot more technical. We always weren’t into doing that. It’s great that they could push the boundaries but it just didn’t interest me, personally. So, we just played old-fashioned death metal.
MB: Now when you talk about old-fashioned metal, of course, Exhumed has been around for almost forever now. Do you guys ever get afraid of the possibility of this style of music not exciting you anymore?
Wes: Not really. Maybe the scene will change and you’re not excited about the new types of bands, but as far as the old shit we grew up on, that’s what we do. If we didn’t get into metal then we wouldn’t be sitting here and doing this. It’s just something that’s part of you and never goes away. Even if later on we didn’t play in a band and got real jobs and shit like that, I would still be listening to Terrorizer and Autopsy and shit. Even if I was working at a bank I don’t see that changing. I could see getting burnt out playing in a band when I’m in my fifties or something when it’s like, “okay, this hurts the dude…” you know what I mean? I can’t headbang because my neck is all fucked up. Slayer can’t headbang really because the shit really fucks with your bones. You can’t really do that forever, but I can still see being into it.
Matt: Yeah, man, my dad still hangs out and listens to Jefferson Airplane and Quicksilver Messenger Service. I still sit around and listen to [Bolt Thrower’s] “Realm of Chaos” and [Autopsy’s] “Mental Funeral”, it’s the same shit. That’s what I was into when I was in high school and that’s what he was into when he was in high school.
Wes: The only thing I could say is that we don’t listen to death metal all the time because we would get sick of it. I’ve gotten in that phase where I didn’t listen to death metal all that much, but I never stopped entirely.
Matt: Even when the band split it up it didn’t have to do with not being into this type of music, but just the process of being in a band and dealing with several line-up changes and doing everything ourselves. We never had a manager or anybody who tried to steer us in the right directions.
Wes: When you’re doing everything yourself like that and having people going in and out of the band for so many different reasons, it was just so stressful all the time and you can’t deal with this anymore. It was like hitting a wall. “What do we do? We can’t keep a bass player or a drummer…” We just thought it was too difficult and had to take a break.
Matt: It’s the kind of thing where there is always effort, but if it had a natural flow it would work. When it doesn’t have that you need to stop, regroup, and recognize what needs to be changed.
Wes: If we had tried to make a new record like we had back then it wouldn’t have been as good because of all the stress. It just was not a good time.
Matt: [Looks at Wes] Have you listened to those demos? They were fucking horrible.
Wes: Oh yeah, they were terrible.
Matt: I’m so glad we didn’t do it. [Laughs] Wes: There were some songs that even I wrote back then where we used some stuff from them, but we had a lot of ideas that were just stupid or boring; nothing you would want to buy.
MB: If either of you are sadomasochists do you think you would release those tracks?
Matt: A lot of them weren’t even worked up to the point where they had anything of importance in them. I always do go through old demos and stuff because there is always a riff here or there where you’ll still like it. There are riffs on the new album that have been sitting around for years, not having ever found the right places for them. Even one of the riffs on the new record has a riff that has been around since “Anatomy Is Destiny”, I just never had the rest of the song. “That’s a good riff, I need to keep this one.” There’s always shit that pops up here and there.
Wes: There are a couple songs on the record that I wrote back in 2005, but I never have any riffs that are older than that. I don’t come up with shit off of the top of my head. The way I play is guitar is it sounds like shit for a while until I find the right notes and I’ll start adding more stuff to it, but nobody should ever be around when I’m doing that because it sounds terrible [laughs]. That’s just the way I do it, though. I never have a riff that’s in my head. I just play guitar for the sake of playing guitar.
MB: You guys came out with the “Platters of Splatter” compilation 8 years ago and it was really interesting to me to look back and see all of that old material because I was never able to get my hands on it. Were there any songs that got left by the wayside with the last couple records where you might think about doing a follow-up to “Platters of Splatter”?
Matt: It’s tough to say because we wrote 21 songs for [“All Guts, No Glory”], and even the deluxe edition doesn’t have all those songs on it, but we didn’t rehearse all of those songs, either. We just picked the best ones we worked on. I think those tracks will get cannibalized. As far as another compilation, it’s more if we’re able to start recording more and doing more split 7”’s and shit like that.
Wes: That’s what we want to do, maybe a split with Magrudergrind or something like that, rather than the compilation stuff.
Matt: What would happen eventually is all of that stuff would get collected. What I liked was in the early days when I was in the scene when you could get all these weird 7”’s like Impetigo and Blood split, Haemorrhage and Dead Infection split, a lot of these weird little record collector things. I’m kind of a nerd so that’s what I’m into. I like to look at my record collection and be like, “oh yeah, here’s [Slayer’s] “Live Undead”,” and here’s the Japanese pressing of “Live Undead”, “Yeah! The tracks are all in the wrong order, that’s awesome!” That’s the kind of stuff that interests me.
Wes: Oh yeah, dude, I used to have that one, too! All of the lyrics were interpreted, too. They were really bad, they are not even close. It was hilarious!
Matt: It was like a phonetic translation that some Japanese guy did. It is one of my favorite records for that reason, just the lyric sheet is amazing.
MB: You just really weirded me out with that information. I had no idea…
Matt: That’s some deep and nerdy shit.
Wes: I had a [Metallica] “Ride The Lightning” copy that was like that, too. The sky was green and shit and when you opened it up all of the songs were in the wrong order. ‘Fight Fire With Fire’ was the fourth song and you were like, “what the fuck?” [Laughs]
MB: When you guys look back at all of those 7” splits, do you think that maybe it is something that is being missed in this day and age?
Wes: I don’t know if people are missing it or not, I’m not another person obviously, but I would think people would like that because it’s cool. I think vinyl is way better than CDs. People these days are buying vinyl and not CDs because they can download the record for free. Vinyl is obviously a bigger picture and sounds cooler. I think people are going to start getting back into that. It was still going on in 2000 and 2001, but after that I haven’t seen a lot of people doing that lately. The last one we did was the one with Ingrowing.
Matt: It’s more of a punk thing rather than metal, especially in the mid-‘90s when we were starting to find our feet as a band there wasn’t any metal happening in the Bay Area except for Machine Head, and obviously we aren’t a part of that scene, so the bands that we played with were Dystopia, Spazz, Noothgrush, Agents of Satan, acts that are more powerviolence, grindcore, and punk. We would play house parties, community centers, we never went to a proper venue with a sound system. One of the bands would bring their PA and set it up on the floor.
Wes: Sometimes you didn’t even have vocal microphones so you would just scream into the air. I like those shows, they’re cool. I don’t even know if we could do that these days, it would be cool to, but I think our agent would be pissed off. We are kind of above that now, which is cool, but it also sucks because I like playing punk shows and used to play a lot of them in my old bands and shit.
Matt: A lot of people that are into metal aren’t necessarily into that.
Wes: It’s weird when you tell a lot of metalheads that you’re into Doom and shit, they either don’t know what that is or ask why you’re listening to punk. “What? Metal and punk are totally related, how do you not see the connection?”
Matt: To me when I first heard crust I was like, “oh, this is like Celtic Frost. I already know how to play this style.”
Wes: [Laughs] I was already listening to Minor Threat at the same time I was listening to Napalm Death so I already knew the lineage of it. I just didn’t think there was really any difference.
Matt: It just seemed like if you had a good amp, long hair and played the same riff it’s metal, but if you have a shitty amp, spikey hair and played the same riff then it’s punk. People would fight me about whether His Hero Is Gone is crust or death metal. It’s just splitting hairs.
MB: Are there any last words you guys have for your fans here and in places you will be visiting in the future?
Matt: I’m stoked that we’re able to do this band again. We’ve been pretty lucky because when your band splits up there are two things that can happen. Usually it’s just a few people who remember your band, nerds like me who have 2,000 LPs in their bedroom with Exhumed patches and they get together with their friends and drink and talk about how awesome our old material was. The other thing can be somehow people remember what you did and are happy to have you come back, and I feel really fortunate that we fall into the latter category. It really surprised the shit out of me. I figured after a year people would stop asking what we were up to.
Wes: We didn’t think any of this was going to happen, so we’re totally stoked. As long as people want to see it then we’re going to keep doing it.
Matt: Yeah. So thanks for that.
Wes: [Laughs] Cheers.
I would very much like to thank both Matt Harvey and Wes Caley of the mighty Exhumed for taking the time to sit down and have a great conversation with me, as well as both Relapse Records and Earsplit PR for helping to set up this interview in the first place. You can catch the band on the rest of their remaining dates with Cannibal Corpse, Abysmal Dawn, and Arkaik.