MATT HARVEY (Exhumed) – it should hurt
- by Rune Grande
- Posted on 25-06-2011
Gore metal provides greater freedom for the variation than other death metal genres and here Matt Harvey from Exhumed has one of the most distinctive and rasping vocals. He screams more than he growl but makes sure his voice help shape the screams and give them identity. He is determined that the extreme vocals should hurt, that it most likely will hurt your chances with the opposite sex and that Jeff Becerra (Possessed) has one of the best death metal vocals, especially on the debut album "Seven Churches". Here is Matt Harvey from Exhumed and his contributions to The Deepthroat Series.
When did you start doing extreme vocals (What year and at what age)?
It must have 1990, when I was 14 or 15. I did a little bit of screaming before that, but it wasn’t really death metal vocals, I was going for more like a Tom Angelripper type of voice at that time.
What made you start to do extreme vocals?
I was playing guitar in Exhumed and was adding extra vocals here and there for texture or for call-and-response type of stuff. I actually started doing low vocals, so that when our lead singer at the time, Jake Giardina, was doing highs, I could fill in the background.
Can you describe the technique or the techniques you are using?
Hmmm… I don’t really have that much of a technique worked out. I pretty much just open up my mouth and start screaming. I use a different part of my throat for Exhumed than I do for Dekapitator, more like the bottom of my throat. But I pretty much just try to push from my gut and then dirty it up with my throat. I never really gave a lot of thought to vocal technique – obviously, I try to breathe evenly and shit, but that’s really about it. The biggest part of my technique is probably the 3-5 beers I have to numb my throat from the rasping, because that shit hurts, haha!
Has your technique changed during your career?
I think it’s just become a bit more honest. I feel less like I’m making a monster voice these days, and more like I’m just screaming and letting my own voice come through a bit more. And my throat has been damaged from years of abuse, so that has changed the timbre of my voice recently.
Have you ever hurt yourself by using a "wrong technique"?
Every time I do Death Metal vocals, it hurts. That’s why it sounds heavy and intense.
Is there something you do on a regular basis to keep your voice in shape? Any routines?
Just a few beers and some warming up before we go onstage, that’s about it. I don’t sing at practice or anything because it’s just too much for voice and I don’t want to not be able to talk the next day if it’s just for a rehearsal. Plus then I don’t have to drink every night we rehearse if I don’t feel like it. Oh, fuck, who am I kidding with that last bit?!?!?
Do you think it can be dangerous to do extreme vocals?
Only if you like getting chicks. Then it definitely hurts your chances.
What is most important for you – to make cool sounds and interesting rhythms, or to have a clear diction/pronunciation?
I think I try to keep the pronunciation as clear as possible, because it makes it more listenable, but ultimately, the intensity coming through is the most important part. As long as it sounds brutal, painful, and in-your-face, I’m basically happy.
Do you think that extreme vocals can be made into a science, like "this is how it works for everyone, to make this sound you have to do this etc"? Or is it more intuitive and individual how to do it?
I have no idea. I know people are trying to do that – the same kind of people that are totally into pro-tools and sound-replacing all the drums and shit on records. I think that sucks the individuality out of things personally and I’m not really interested in it at all. That kind of shit is dangerous because it puts everyone into this cookie-cutter kind of mould where everyone is basically doing the same thing, with the same techniques and of course, it’s going to yield basically the same results, which is really boring.
Do you have any advice to people who wants to start doing extreme vocals?
Crack a beer, and start screaming. And yes, it should hurt. Most importantly, try to let your own voice come through, don’t get so hung up on being "brutal" that you lose all of the character of your own voice.
Mention three extreme vocalists whose style you admire, and explain your choice. What specifically do you like about the styles of those three? Also mention three vocalists (not necessarily extreme vocalists) which you have been influenced by, and explain in which way you have been influenced by each of them.
As far as vocalists I admire, Jeff Beccera from Possessed is definitely a big one. The vocals on 7 Churches are among the most extreme ever, and totally paved the way for guys like Chuck Schuldiner and John Tardy. Darren Travis from Sadus is another one of my favourites. I’ve always wanted to skew my voice more towards his direction, as opposed to say, Jeff from Carcass (no offence, Jeff!). He just sounds so incredibly pissed off on "Chemical Exposure". Rounding it out is Martin from Pestilence / Hail Of Bullets / Asphyx. He is the ultimate Death Metal vocalist in my opinion. His voice has so much unique character, raw emotion and terrifying power. He sounds like he is subjected to whatever is going on in the lyrics and his voice is so fucking tortured. Truly the man who perfected Death Metal vocals.
Other vocalists I’ve been influenced by… Hmmm… James Hetfield would definitely be one. Like me, he’s not the greatest singer, but he has a cool way of building simple, repetitive phrasing that makes things really catchy. The simple melodies of the first four albums are so effective. I used to be really into the Beatles as far as trying to figure out different ways to use multiple vocalists, but that was when Ross was in the band and he and I were basically co-vocalists, kind of doing a Lennon-McCartney thing. After he left, I kind of ended up being the "lead vocalist" and that hasn’t been as much of a factor, unfortunately. I also really like Bon Scott and David Lee Roth, because they sound like they’re really enjoying themselves when they’re singing, and they kind of break the fourth wall and find ways to directly engage the listener in the song and really bring the audience into the experience of the music. That’s a tough thing to do in Death Metal, but I try to add flourishes here and there that kind of let people know that I’m having fun doing this, and I want them to be enjoying it as well. I listen to a lot of different kinds of music all the time, from Billie Holiday to Mogwai to Buck Owens, so I think I kind of get a lot of ideas for phrasing and rhyme schemes and stuff from all kinds of different places, not just Death Metal and Grindcore.
Who do you want to challenge in this series? (Who should be the next extreme vocalist to answer these questions?) Give a brief explanation for your choice.
Van Drunen would be someone whose brain I’d like to pick. I didn’t want to be that annoying fanboy guy when we shared a dressing room with Hail Of Bullets at the Neurotic Death Fest in Holland, so maybe you guys can do it for me, haha!
(Martin van Drunen is already a part of this series. Find his answers here). Red