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Interview: Beastwars Talk About Their New Album 'IV' – Part One

Interview: Beastwars Talk About Their New Album 'IV' – Part One

Ace Hunt / Thursday 27th June, 2019 12:11PM

Ace Hunt of Cortina / Reptilian Future Cops met up with Beastwars members Matt Hyde and Nathan 'Nato' Hickey in Wellington to talk of things and of their new album IV out this Friday [update: it's out now], their upcoming release tour, and their latest music video release, 'Storms Of Mars'. Read the first half of their in-depth conversation below, and check out the epic conclusion of the interview here.

They have an absolutely monumental sound, with influences of hard core, various metal styles, punk rock and slow motion power Sabbath riffs. Their spectacular dynamics are seemingly unorchestrated but very tightly and consciously delivered within the grander scheme. Soothsayer-like magic combining an unprecedented alchemy of four personalities to form a cauldron of hits! Meet Beastwars, the last band that will be standing after everything else has gone. I was all set to give Beastwars an interview about their upcoming album and tour taking place in the next few weeks. But then a few days ago they dropped their bombshell music video to 'Storms Of Mars'. It was after witnessing this absolute compelling video I decided to change the direction of a more routine interview to a much closer examination of this remarkable band.

I have to say that the 'Storms Of Mars' video for the upcoming album IV has to be one of the most powerful music videos I've ever seen. The juxtaposition between the low key, in-studio scenario conflicting with the barrage of vocals emanating from vocalist Matt Hyde in his real actual chemo character is incredibly powerful. It reminds me of New Order's 'Perfect Kiss' video, where they play in a very low key played down way, but this lets the music speak for itself, almost an antithesis to what was going on in popular over-produced and dramatic music videos of that time. In Beastwars' case there is a similar feel to the instrument players, but in their video they are in stark contrast to Matt's vocals as his words punch out at you like a McCahon painting on speed. He cries out the last cries of a dying man, but the last requests of potential imminent doom are not screamed without hope. As with the intensity of the faith of appeal to a higher power where he is forced into a corner of the ultimate dualistic destiny, the crossroads of a live or die situation. The sound engineer James Goldsmith who was recording at the time thought that this was a practice take, but this all changed when he realised that Hyde was really going for it. He began scrambling to capture this moment to the best of his ability. This song is pure emotion and the 'obey the riff' mantra quickly dissipates into a sonic trance like wall of sound, Hyde just constantly delivers statement after statement, appeal after appeal, emotion after emotion, and the sound unit machine of Beastwars backs and works with the extreme emotional range of the lyrics... This is NZ music history in the making.

Beastwars IV - Album Release Tour

Thursday 27th June - San Fran, Wellington w/ Witchskull (early show, doors 8pm)
Friday 28th June - San Fran, Wellington w/ Witchskull (sold out)
Saturday 29th June - Galatos, Auckland w/ Witchskull
Friday 5th July - Blue Smoke, Christchurch
Saturday 6th July - The Cook, Dunedin

Tickets available HERE via UTR

Ace Hunt: Who mainly wrote the material for the new album IV?

Matt Hyde: Most of the songs on the album were written by Nathan, and Clayton wrote 'Storms of Mars', and Nato pretty much produced this record. This album was a strange time for me, I wasn't as fit because of my illness at that time so I had to try new stuff vocally. Other stuff happened as I just couldn't rely on what I had done before, at that stage of the recording my left lung had deflated and I just didn't have a normal oxygen level, I was still recovering from the chemotherapy.

So you had just finished chemotherapy for cancer, and you decided to record an album including 'Storms Of Mars'? In particular this song seems to sum up the immense personal suffering that you were going through.

Matt: I was going through this situation of being ill and it was horrendous, I had to work out how I was going to work with the dynamics of the treatment I was undergoing. Quite often I felt like I was totally failing. There was a time where I was crying, upset, and it was often my 10 year old daughter who would pick me up and say, Dad, you will get back into work again, you will play music again, you will get better. She would give me the kick that I needed at that moment to push me again when I needed it. You become this thing that you don't want to be and you have to think how the hell do I get out of here. How do I make it back. I lost my faith a few times... I finally got there. Halfway through my treatment I realised we had to do another album, it was something to look forward to, something to hold on to. I knew deep down that I had to record this moment now, I could be gone, the doors were opening and closing.

And with 'Storms of Mars' James Goldsmith was mixing you guys and was scrambling to ensure this was being captured properly?

Nato: Yeah he thought it was a rehearsal take.

Matt: Nato told me that my hairs were standing up on end, so I went back and looked at it yesterday and my hairs were sticking up on it, I remembered at the time it was like a desperate tremendous energy to get it all out, The 'Storms Of Mars' and the whole album. At the end of it I didn't want to have anything to do with it. Hear it listen to it, I didn't want anything to do with the album. I feel much better now. 18 months later it seems the right time to release it. It couldn't have happened too soon. As I was quite ill, it takes quite a long time to actually get the drugs out of your body. I had fatigue, the fatigue lasted quite a long time.


With 'Storms Of Mars' who came up with the music?

Matt: Clayton wrote the beginning part of that years ago and you guys wrote the middle part.

Nato: Yeah he wrote the verse and the chorus but it needed a middle part.

Matt: Yeah it needed a middle part and James came up with the keyboard.

Nato: Yeah but it's just one note. [everyone laughs]

Matt: Is it just one note? Well that took one and a half years to write that one note!

Sometimes all it takes is one note, like the intro sustained guitar note over the mega riff to Ministry's 'Just One Fix' is just one note, but a damn fine dynamic at that moment.

Matt: All the ideas of the past collided at that moment to write that song.

How did you decide to use that video footage with the release of the single?

Nato: I just looked at it and thought “this is incredible”.

Matt: I only saw that footage three, four weeks ago and I was like “What the hell? I can't remember that day”.

Who came up with the flashing text idea in the video?

Nato: Oh yeah, Beasty-oke... I think lyric videos are just a thing these days. I thought the lyrics were so important that we had to spell them out, literally.

How did the new material come together for the new album?

Matt: When we got back together after breaking up we revisited any music that anyone had ever done, and music that we had made in the time that we had broken up, as people had made lots of music. So we revisited anything to see if we could use it for the next step, and Nato came back with complete songs.

Nato: I was living in London and felt that the band had broken up before I found out that Matt was ill. I was jamming with other people and writing my own music and feeling inspired, so I ended up with some new songs up my sleeve that were going to be used for a new band.

Matt: Yeah you were over there and had seen all this art, this music, all his favourite bands over there and he had come back inspired. You had fire in your belly, you wanted to do something.

Nato: Yeah and when we met with Nick the artist who does our covers about the album art, he asked what have you got in your head about it. I said all I can see in my mind are all these amazing old statues and ancient ruins and stuff that I'd been looking at over the last few years. So we ended up with the angel with the sword as the cover.

Matt: It's almost like everyone in the group went away on their own separate journey and led their own lives and my illness brought us back together again to make this record.

So you had pretty much broken up just before Nato went to London?

Matt: Being in a band is a bit tiring after a while, thats the reality of it... we spent too much time together. I really enjoyed not being in a band at that time.

Nato: I thought the band was over, but thought I would come back to NZ eventually...


Nato then found out from Matt that he had been diagnosed with cancer and they talked on the phone, Matt said that the rest of the band were keen and he wanted to do another album, as soon as he said that Nato agreed immediately. In that one conversation the band had reignited and the new album 'IV' was suddenly on the horizon...

Nato: I came back for a month over summer... we rehearsed our new songs for 10 days and then recorded them in 10 days.

And Matt you were sick at that point?

Matt: I finished my chemo on the 2nd of January 2017. I would have finished my last treatment, but you are still left with fatigue, you have no strength, it takes a long time, I wasn't feeling normal for about a year... it was so tough, also the mental side of it and depression. That whole fear of not being able to get back to where your body was, you now have to live with fatigue. I couldn't even stand for a full day at work because I couldn't physically do it, it freaks you out. It gets out of control. I have to respect my body now, I'm swimming at the moment, pretty much everyday. I'm trying to build fitness. I have to really allocate my energy and conserve it...

Are you back at work now?

Matt: I'm back working and studying now... but yeah the fatigue was game changing, ending and it's boring, I had to sleep all day, you would wake up and still feel tired. So it's about learning how to respect it, that's all.

While Nato was away in London and Beastwars were seemingly broken up Matt started to feel ill, a normal flu floored him for three weeks. There was daily pain, his health seemed to be failing unlike anything he had previously experienced. He went to A&E several times and eventually asked them to check him over as he knew something was wrong. His gut feeling was correct and was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. He realised after that it was growing inside the whole time with early Beastwars as he hadn't being feeling quite right for many years.

How was it recording the album after just finishing chemotherapy?

Matt: Halfway through the treatment I was getting fantastic results. The tumours had shrunk down but the thing is you have to still finish the treatment. At this stage, it may come back, you don't know when. It could be 20 years away from now, it might be never. But it's a lesson on life. You need to focus on diet. I'm finally ready to give up cigarettes again, Im on day 21 at the moment, and swimming again. It’s just respect, so it was a big learning thing. I have a very quiet life now, cups of tea... which for me now is one of the greatest drinks ever invented!

Every morning, I’d work out that I could only do one song a day and I’d have to be finished by midday, so if I started at 9 I’d have three hours to achieve something. Otherwise I’d need to wait until the next day to do it again.

Nato: Because you’d need to go home and sleep.

Matt: Yeah, I’d wanna go home and sleep. 


Was it challenging to work within these parameters for the rest of the band?

Nato: Well we were working on the music and we just knew that every morning Matt was going to come in and sing over what we’d done the day before. Then we’d just have to record more for him to sing the next song the next day.

I think the lyric that got to me the most was the one where you literally scream out “let me see my daughter grow”. You only sing it once and that hit me hard.

Matt: My daughter was 10 and I was 46. She was fantastic while I was sick and she said some great words of encouragement. It made me really want to live to see her grow and to see the wonderful human being she is and who she will become and it made me very sad to think I would miss out on that. It’s almost like I was screaming at the gods, like “give me this”... Some people get sick and they cant avoid what happens and they miss out on their kids growing up which is just terrible. But yeah, she would just come over and just watch TV and when she was in the house, I always felt much happier when she was there. Then her grandmother would come and pick her up and take her back to her mum’s house, so she would visit and it was always great to have her around. Great words of advice from a 10 year old, who may have lived many lives, I don't know.

I guess at that point you weren’t sure of how much time you had left and I guess you have to ask yourself what really matters here?

Matt:It's just the pressure, it's just so fast. Sometimes you need a car crash or something... something like that. Like “dang” it's only early days. That's why I think it's a blessing to get ill when you're young, in your 40s, rather then say your 70s. Also just keep reminding yourself how precious this whole thing was.


With “let me see the New Rome”, what were the meaning of those lyrics?

Matt: It goes back to, y'know how everything you watch, they always want the Republic to come back because all the Caesars are fascists. “We want the old Rome! But a better version of Rome!” That's just me going “you want a better version of yourself in the future”. I want to build a better version of me who’s more compassionate, more understanding, more awakened more loving. All those things that you think “I could have been but I chose not to be”. My New Rome is a place where you are a better person.

So that also relates to the lyric about building your soul?

Matt: All that stuff, I’ll use my mind, I’ll use my soul. It’s like I was screaming at the gods, like “give me these ten years and I will show you”. Yeah, there was bargaining. That’s what New Rome is.

I wanted to say, I thought that the vocal intensity and emotion is matched with the music as well, it felt really amazing... it seems more sonic driven and more dynamic than the other albums.

Matt: I think this was the best one. The thing I found most exciting was I was confused by. I used to ring up Nathan or email him and go “I don't know about this record, what do you think. I just can't work it out”. Looking back I think that's a great sign because you just don't know what you’ve created. Is it good or is it bad? Is it really good or is it really terrible?

Nato: It must be hard for you because its so personal.

Matt: Now, 18 months later, its doable to talk about it.

In another interview you said you faced death and couldn't accept it...

Matt: Just all the questions… The thing for me was from where you have your diagnosis to you finally have your treatment, there’s these weeks where you don't know how long... what’s going down. All you know is you're losing weight, you're starting to look different, you're starting to feel weaker. I used to wake up at night time and it was dark and I used to think... “oh is this death? Like darkness but conscious” and that freaked me out. So that was that period and then you get your treatment and then another chapter begins in the book of being sick. The George Harrison movie... I saw for some strange reason in the middle of being sick but he found all his wealth and his fame and he was like “this means nothing” and his whole journey was learning how to die. I thought that was a very interesting concept because he was into his Eastern philosophy, all that was learning how to die without fear and those subjects were things that I was thinking of on a deep level and I still don't have answers for them.


Part Two next week.


'IV' is out Friday 28th June via Destroy Records and can be pre-ordered now - limited edition vinyl, cassette and t-shirt bundles are available at http://www.beastwars.bigcartel.com.

Links
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