Matt Greiner of August Burns Red Interview on The Metal Teddy Bear Experience
Written by Michael Figueroa on October 18, 2017
Matt Greiner of August Burns Red
10/7/17 at Rock Allegiance
MTB: Welcome back to The Metal Teddy Bear Experience here on 90.3 WMSC Upper Montclair with your host Chris. I’m here at Rock Allegiance with Matt the drummer of August Burns Red. What’s up man, how are you doing?
Matt: Hey you doing? Doing well.
MTB: Really excited to be here. There’s a ton of bands here. Obviously, August Burns Red is playing tonight and we have Mastodon, Rob Zombie. Who are you looking forward to seeing?
Matt: Nice. I would watch Beartooth but they’re playing right over top of us, so I wouldn’t be able to see them. They’re good friends of ours-awesome music. Other than that, honestly, we’ll play the show and then I have some other obligations I need to get home to. Kinda in and out today.
MTB: I noticed when I was looking at the show times, there’s a little bit of a conflict. Between Mastodon and Gojira there’s like five minutes to get to the next stage.
Matt: Right, right. It’s a quick turn around. I think people need to pick want they want to see. They commit to that and then hopefully it’s a good show and they didn’t miss out on other stuff.
MTB: Have you ever played Rock Allegiance before?
Matt: No. This is our first time.
MTB: You guys are in for a killer show. The crowd is always awesome here.
Matt: Awesome. I’m looking forward to it.
MTB: Recently, you guys went on tour for Messengers with Protest the Hero and In Hearts Wake. I actually got to see you guys. You guys played at Starland Ballroom. Kinda funny- you guys are coming around again to Starland Ballroom. Do you guys usually do that?
Matt: Yeah, Starland Ballroom is one of our better markets, one of the best venues. We typically play there once every year-year and half. We frequent that area.
MTB: How was the tour in general?
Matt: The tour is amazing. We did something like 35 shows on that Messengers run in the states and then we did another 28 shows in Europe. So, all in all, we played that set off a whole lot of times.
MTB: Do you ever get tired of the songs?
Matt: I did get tired of a couple of the songs. Some of them are more fun than others to play and some songs weren’t just a better crowd reaction. Overall, it was pretty awesome to play a CD from 10 years ago and have people have come out like they did, hear it, see it, listen to it.
MTB: Time flies right?
Matt: Yeah, you’re not kidding.
MTB: Do you have any fun stories you would like to share from that tour? Fans? With Protest the Hero, In Hearts Wake?
Matt: Every single night we had a great time. We had a drum solo at the end and Dustin, the bass player, he would come out and he would pick up a pair of sticks and play along with me on another kit. So that was always a fun part, to see all the cell phones go off, and we start the drum solo and we just start hitting stuff. People really liked that. It was a lot of fun. It kinda broke up the set. We did Messengers then the solo and then we went into our encore.
MTB: It doesn’t bother you that people bring out their phones? I know some musicians hate that and some people love it, like they don’t care.
Matt: Nah, I think it’s great. I think if anything, it could be a disservice to a fan, in a way. They are living through their cell phone screens instead of watching the show but if that’s how they want to relive it later on, that’s awesome.
MTB: You guys just released a new album, Phantom Anthem, I think it came out yesterday right?
Matt: It did!
MTB: Killer album. You guys already released two tracks, “Invisible Enemy” and “The Frost”. So you have two music videos for that. Do you guys have a plan for a third one?
Matt: For a third video? Not at this point. But we should probably make plans for that. The record came out yesterday and has been well received so far.
MTB: Are you guys happy to have it out finally? Are you excited for people to listen to it?
Matt: Oh yeah! We recorded that record back in March, so it’s been 7 months we’ve been sitting on that music. After that long you’re just waiting for people to hear it.
MTB: When you have the album or that long, do you show your friends and try to get some feedback from that or do you keep it nice and isolated?
Matt: I think each of us are different. I showed a couple of my friends, family members but overall my friends and family have been following so close to the band for so long, it’s not that they’re not interested anymore but I don’t get as excited as I used to to show them songs. Be like, “hey check out our new song we just did. It’s awesome. Can’t wait for you to hear it”. Whereas 10 years ago it was like, “Hey we just got done with these songs, I can’t wait to show you”, because it was new and fresh. Now we’ve been doing this for so long, it’s like we’re putting out another record, you’ll hear it when it comes out if you want to. My family and friends are supportive. They are however, 13, 14 years older since we started the band and I think musical interests kinda vary at this point.
MTB: Yeah, many genres have come along in that time span.
Matt: That’s right.
MTB: Were there a lot of tracks left over after writing and recording?
MTB: So, it was a very concise album?
Matt: Very intentional songwriting. We’ve always taken forever to write songs. It takes us a long time. So, I once heard a band like Weezer would write 30, 40, 50 songs and then narrow it down to 10. That’s not us. That would take us years to do. We right 13, maybe 14 songs. We record all of them and we take the best 11 and put it on regular release and then the extra two we put on a deluxe edition.
MTB: Like the Best Buy special.
Matt: Yeah, that’s right.
MTB: What is your favorite track (off “Phantom Anthem”)? Or the one you are most proud of?
Matt: I would say…Personally the one that I’m most proud of is “Coordinates”. It’s not a song that came out early, it’s not a single. I wrote the lyrics for it, I like the lyrics a lot and it’s just a fun song.
MTB: Do you think you’re going to start playing it live?
Matt: I hope so. It depends on what fans want.
MTB: That’s how you guys pick your set?
Matt: Yeah, we usually gauge what our fans like and if there is an overwhelming response for a song then we say, “Hey we should play that song. Let’s learn it”.
MTB: You know how a lot of bands have been ranking their albums? Recently, Brann from Mastodon did that. Where would you rank this new album, Phantom Anthem, with your other six or seven records?
Matt: At the top.
Matt: Yeah, yeah for sure. I like to think that we do that every time we put out a new record. I know for a fact, personally, Phantom Anthem is our best musically and lyrically. That’s not to say it’s the most special record. I would say Messengers was the most special for me because of the amount of time I put into it, where I was at that point in my life, how it was our breakthrough record. Phantom Anthem is different in that regard but musically speaking and artistically and thematically, it’s our best.
MTB: For anyone who hasn’t picked it (Phantom Anthem) up yet definitely pick it up!
Matt: Yea, please!
MTB: To put it at the top of the list, it’s very important.
Matt: Yup that’s right.
MTB: During my show I have three random silly questions, are you ready to partake in that?
Matt: Yeah, absolutely.
MTB: This one is really random. It can kind of be a little dark. Question #1: What was your closest run-in with death?
Matt: With death? Oh man. I had a lot of those. Well, I live on a farm and when I was 15, I was in a home school group and one of our requirements for English class was to write a 10-page paper. My thesis was something about ax safety. All to say, there are a lot of ways to get hurt on a farm. So, actually right now, brother and dad are shelling corn back in Manheim and I’m sitting here at a metal festival. There are a lot of ways to get hurt and there’s been a lot of close calls. One of which was, I was mowing down at our meadow–we have about a 4-acre meadow with a pond and I had our 550 tractor hooked up to a bush hog, which is a pull behind mower and it’s powered by a PTO, which is a spinning mechanism that powers the mower. I was on a pretty steep hill and I start sliding off the hill and I felt the left half of the tractor come up on two tires and there were cars coming in the opposite direction. So it was like the perfect storm. Thankfully, I was able to get down from the bank but there have been a dozen like that where you have to be really, really careful and think ahead for possible scenarios and what could happen.
MTB: So you’ve got to be quick on your feet?
Matt: Yeah! And smart and patient. Not try to push something faster than it should be.
MTB: Having patience is always helpful in any aspect. Well, I’m glad you’re okay.
Matt: Thank you, me too!
MTB: Question #2: If you could make one of your albums into a movie, which album would you choose and who would star in it?
Matt: That’s a good one. I would say “Phantom Anthem”. The name of the record has to do with the idea that there are subtle things about everyone that can’t be seen on the surface that make them special and significant. I was reading, I was actually studying the Old Testament and I was thinking about the disciples in the New Testament about how a lot of them were in prison and they were writing the bible. You would look at these people and be like these people are nobodies. These people are outcasts and yet look at the significance of the work that they did. I carried that out into modern day and I just think about when I’m walking down the street or interacting with someone, you don’t know much about that person just by looking at them. Too often we make a lot of judgments about them based on the little that we can see. “Phantom Anthem” is about seeing deeper than what’s just on the level of the surface to the thing that makes that person significant. So, if that was made into a movie it could be pretty neat, that concept. I would say someone like M. Night Shyamalan would be awesome at creating a twist where you think you know who this person is throughout the movie and then by the end you find out that it’s not at all the case. One of my favorite actors is…well yeah, Tom Hanks. Tom Hanks is my favorite actor. He’s in some of my favorite movies. That would be amazing-Tom Hanks directed by M. Night Shyamalan, “Phantom Anthem”.
MTB: Would he be the guy?
Matt: He’d be the guy. He’d be the guy who you think you know who he is and what he’s about and then in the end you find out it’s completely different. In a good way.
MTB: That’s an awesome concept. Maybe you guys can get a script together and send it out. That’d be awesome.
Matt: Yeah! That’s not my skill set but that would be cool to hand that idea over.
Jesse (My friend): It’s kind of like “Unbreakable”. The M.Night Shyamalan movie because Sam Jackson was supposed to be the good guy but at the end you find out he was the evil one all along trying to cause havoc and Bruce Willis thought he was a friend.
Matt: Right! Exactly right.
Jesse: There you go. August Burns Red version of “Unbreakable”.
MTB: Question #3: What was the grossest thing you ever witnessed on tour?
Matt: We were on tour with Haste the Day and their drummer, Devin, was telling me, I’m glad I didn’t see it but just the description is horrible. When you’re in a band in tour typically you don’t have the luxury of being able to make a lot of bathroom stops because of just time, being what it is, you have to get to the venue, sound check, load in. So they’re in a van and trailer, like we all were 10 years ago and one guy had to pee, so he went, in a pizza box for some reason and then he had to go number two and he went in the pizza box and it grossed someone out so much that he vomited in the pizza box. Just this story is horrific to me and you can imagine it, being it a band. Maybe you can’t if you’re not in a band and don’t tour know what that’s like in a van but there are things you do because you have to do it. It’s not that gross but in that case it was just over the top.
MTB: I heard about bottles and that. I never heard of a pizza box.
Matt: No! They must have been out of bottles. At that point just pull over and be late to the show. I would say that’s probably worth it.
MTB: That’s crazy. Thank you for partaking in the Random Silly Questions segment. You gave some interesting answers.
Matt: Yeah! You bet.
MTB: So after your show tonight and after Rock Allegiance, what do you guys have planned?
Matt: We don’t have a whole lot for the rest of the year. We have one more show in California, festival. Then Jake and I are going to the Loudwire Awards a couple days after that. I’m doing some drum clinics on the side, beside from the band.
MTB: A lot of people do that now, they do clinics.
Matt: Yeah! Yup, it’s a neat what to teach what you’ve learned and kill some of that off-time.
MTB: Well, thank you so much for doing this interview I greatly appreciate it and best of luck on your show tonight.
Matt: Yeah thank you.