MATT HENDERSON: THE METALSUCKS INTERVIEW
Agnostic Front. Blind Approach. Madball. Guitarist Matt Henderson made his mark on all of them, and in doing so, on the still-thriving institution that is hardcore. It seems downright criminal that his name isn’t mentioned in the same sentence as Greg Ginn, given that most bands in the scene these days sound more like 90s Madball than Black Flag. Not that it matters to Matt, mind you, as I learned in my chat with this down-to-earth guy. Industry-hardened yet still affable, he’s more interested in S.O.S., the project he’s formed with members of Hatebreed, Terror, and Trapped Under Ice. The veritable supergroup’s forthcoming I Owe You Nothing EP seems like a love letter to hardcore, a respect-laden tribute to the bands that inspired and creatively challenged its membership. While we have to wait until June 21 for the Good Fight / Reaper release (pre-order here and here), Matt’s answers regarding the band as well as his place in the history of hardcore are worth reading.
Gary Suarez: I guess the obvious question to ask is with members of all these great bands and everything you’ve been in, how does a project like this happen?
Matt Henderson: The cool thing is that we’re all friends first. I didn’t know Sam [Trapkin]; I hadn’t met Sam prior to getting involved in this project, but I was aware of his band. He’s certainly friends with Scott [Vogel], Nick [Jett] and [Chris] Beattie… It’s just a matter of hanging out at shows and talking about “wouldn’t it be fun if we got a chance to do something different and work together?”
This is your first project in some time of being a full-fledged member of a band. What prompted the absence?
For me, personally, I just got tired of the touring. I’m not a huge fan of the business element of it at all. It’s not for me to try to turn it into how I make a living. I’m not about money. Believe me, I’m not doing anything now that is making a ton of money, but I never felt that I could earn a living playing hardcore. And the time that I put into it was kind of sucking the life out of me. With something like this, it’s about fun. I can do it with no other pretense or motives. I’m just looking to make the music I want to make.
This band has members in various age groups, different experiences in bands and the music industry. What’s the band dynamic like? How do you guys work together?
The cool thing to find out was we worked together really well. I don’t think that there’s a single element that wasn’t worked out collectively anywhere from the music to the lyrics to the band name. We were all excited to contribute on every level, and we’re all able to gel. Certainly there were tiffs or opinions here or there, but nothing so left field that we couldn’t come to a joint conclusion.
How do you write the songs? Do people come in with parts or did you guys work it out in the studio?
We all had parts that we all brought in, but we all actually worked together on any part brought in and turned it into a song that had something contributed to it by everybody. That was including Scott. It was a huge benefit having him in the studio while we were working the songs. For the record, we didn’t spend a lot of time on the writing process because these guys are busy with their bands and I’m busy with my family.
We dedicated a weekend–me, Scott, and Nick–to hammering out some ideas together prior to getting into the studio. The three of us had some stuff that we had done that we were able to share with Beattie and Sam before we got to the studio, and they had some pieces on their side that they had shared with us because they weren’t able to connect with us on that previous weekend. We all kind of knew where we were coming from and continued to hammer away on it once we were in the studio.
So you guys have an EP coming out. What can people expect from it sound wise?
Yeah? [Laughs] I hope so.
That’s exactly what it is and what we wanted it to be. I don’t think anyone is expecting it, and I have no problem saying it: we are not bringing anything new to the table in the sense of you have not heard music like this before. That was basically not the point. The point was we all love hardcore the way we have loved it to sound for many years now. We just wanted to put a band together with the members adding to that long list of music that’s already out there.
Did you guys write more than what’s on the EP?
No. Based on time constraints, I think there were other parts here and there that were good ideas but never really came into full songs. Something like that is put together is floating out there as a continuation or anything. What you’ll be hearing is basically what we completed.
I know you guys have various different lifestyles, you have your family, and some of the other guys are in bands that are touring almost nonstop it seems. Are you guys planning on doing any live shows?
No one can say for sure what’s going to happen. Logistics has been a big challenge up to this point that we’re able to overcome to do the EP. I think it’s exciting that we’re all about this project. We can overcome any logistics to do some live shows here or there. The possibility is definitely open. I’m not going to say that it’s going to be a primary focus with this project. Under the right circumstances, I definitely think there’s a possibility there.
One of the things that got me really excited about S.O.S. was your involvement. I like all the other band members that are part of it. Trapped Under Ice is a newer band that I’ve been really excited about, but what got me really stoked for this project was your involvement. The work that you did–especially in Madball–is extremely influential on hardcore. You go to any show these days, and the bands–especially the guitars) sound a lot more like you than say Greg Ginn or Lyle Preslar. How do you feel about your impact on hardcore?
For me, I feel like I was just . . . not paying direct tribute to the bands before me. I’ve never been unclear about my influences which were certainly predominately the NYHC bands, the classic bands that those people know very well: Agnostic Front, Cro-Mags, Killing Time, and Breakdown. Those were key elements for Madball, and frankly I think that bands that were maybe influenced by Madball, that they are ultimately influenced by those bands as well. It’s all a matter of all of us liking that hardcore style that came out of that city and that era. It’s a continuation of it really.
It definitely shows. There are some bands that really definitely seem to be taking off from your lead. I think it’s impressive. What I don’t find a lot is a whole lot of credit getting passed around.
I don’t want to state that it’s exclusive to New York because that’s certainly not the case especially when you’re talking about the members of this band. All the members of the band, outside of me, came from areas outside of NYC. I just think that the New York bands that I mentioned that I was affiliated with certainly made a big enough impact to… I don’t want to say set a standard, but defined a certain sound that people are able to really identify with and expand on. That’s the cool thing. All of us when we were working together on this music for this project, it was clear that we all had the same influences. Any time someone would come up with a riff, it was guaranteed that one of the guys in the room would be like “oh yeah, like that band”. “That record. That song”. There was no direct copying, but it was trying to capture that feel from that one song on that one record that we all love. There were various examples of that throughout and wouldn’t surprising if somebody said “yeah, that new S.O.S. record has this style or that style.” We weren’t looking to recreate it; we were looking to come out and do the hardcore that everybody likes to hear and they way that we like to do it.
I Owe You Nothing, the debut EP from S.O.S., releases this month in CD and vinyl formats via Good Fight and Reaper Records, respectively.