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At the age of 48, Beastwars vocalist Matt Hyde was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. With a cloud looming over his very future, the Wellington sludge unit effectively disbanded as their singer endured the treatment that would eventually save his life.
MORE: THE HYST LIST: Unearthed Artists Proving Rock Hasn’t Gone Soft // CLOWNS: Anarchy In Melbourne // WAAX: Announce Debut Album Big Grief // FREEDOM OF FEAR: Release Purgatorium REVIEWS: MEMORIAM: Requiem For Mankind // BEASTWARS: IV
During the second half of his therapy, however, Hyde became inspired to create one more Beastwars album, a recording that has become part of the catharsis and healing that allow him to continue to walk and breathe on this planet.
In some way it must be extremely surreal to be talking about a new album now. There was never a plan for this album once you entered treatment, was there?
It wasn’t even thought about. It was only thought about halfway through my treatment. We decided to do something. I don’t know, it’s been a strange journey, but I’m also thankful we recorded anything at the time. We could not have made a record like that unless it was that time.
IV is a very dark and abrasive album, but also very life-affirming and strangely positive under all that sludge. It’s definitely very much the product of a band going through a very tough time.
There was definitely a lot of soul-searching, and I think I’ve actually been blessed by having been sick, and having a look at life at a very serious level now rather than waiting until I’m 70 and having to do that. I think I’m lucky to be able to do it in my 40s, because it changes your perspective on life. It’s a dark record. But there’s light in there! Give it a chance.
Many of us have been fortunate not to have had to go through an ordeal like yours. Cancer is something that certainly can lead to a lot of life changes. What changes has it brought about in your life?
A lot of positive changes. It’s incredible how much greatness there is in the world, and how much we take it for granted. Especially playing heavy metal music, you can spend a lifetime trying to destroy yourself, and it’s very easy to go down that track. Anyone can get caught up in that, I suppose. Making this record was all about living! I might be talking about death or dying, but it’s actually about life, and live well, and be positive and do some great shit! Do some great stuff, people! Go and do it, because every day is precious.
I suppose it would be fair to say there was probably a time when you didn’t think you were going to be around to make any record, much less one like this. From what you just said, have you taken a lot of positives away from your experience?
I’m just thankful. I’m just loving seeing my daughter grow up. That’s the thing that haunts me the most about all this. She was only 10, and I was only 46 at this stage. She was only 10, and I thought, “If I go, that’s too young! Too young for both of us!” And that was the thing that really upset me. There were so many negatives, but I’m thinking of it now because I’ve changed again. I’ve changed as a person. I can’t drink anymore. If I do, it’s a disaster. I just have to accept that part’s gone. It’s over. There’s heaps of great things that come out of that. There’s many advantages: I’m young. They got it at stage three. It was treatable. They had a diagnosis, they had a treatment … This is like winning! It’s win, win, win. I’m ticking all the boxes here! It’s just that the chemotherapy is really shitty. It’s such a horrible experience, and also, they feed you with so many different types of drugs, like anti-anxiety, then opiates, then you’ve got your anti-nausea and then after you start getting over it enough, they give you this spray that’s kind of like cocaine that numbs all your … you start losing your mind, because there’s so many different … that’s on top of the chemo drugs they’re giving you. I don’t think anyone’s ever going to be normal … your senses are going to be heightened, either by “Oh my god, that sunset’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen!” Or the depression’s going to be so low.
Making this record was all about living! I might be talking about death or dying, but it’s actually about life
[ Matt Hyde ]
What sort of effect has it had on your live performance now?
My lungs aren’t as strong as they once were, and I can’t run around as much anymore. You know when you’re running a marathon—well, I haven’t run that many marathons, but what I assume you do—you call upon the final energy to get you through. When you’re doing live music, it’s something that I could always count on. It was always there. But now I have to conserve my energy through a show. I just have to mentally cut it up into parts and go, OK, do this. It’s come about more about having to think about it. It’s no longer about having six beers and jump on stage. That time’s over.
Did you think about recording the album, but then not doing the band live anymore?
Oh no, because that’s a whole part of it. We couldn’t have released this album straight away, even if we’d finished it a long time ago. I have to be conscious of my limitations. I like to go to other cities. We only do it once a year, or once every two years, go to Australia, so that’s always exciting. Even in New Zealand we’re only active in the winter. Maybe a couple of shows somewhere. This is our time, because it gets cold, there’s snow and there’s heavy metal!
Beastwars is coming across to play at the Dead of Winter Festival very soon. That’s definitely a show that seems to fit right into the Beastwars aesthetic.
It’s awesome to be asked, and then we’ve just found out our slot. It’s 7 o’clock, so it’s a great time. We’re really happy we were asked. That’s fantastic. When you live in NZ, you never know what’s happening in Australia, really, so it’s always good to be asked to go and do this stuff.
The clip for Storms of Mars has just been released. That’s a song that very much sounds like what you would think a storm on Mars might be like.
Something I do when I can’t sleep is visualise a spaceship. I’ve always liked science fiction, and when I came up with those songs, that music, that’s the vision I saw straight away. That’s what I felt. The lyrics reflect that, and obviously things get built upon, built upon and built upon until they get to the stage where we released it.
There’s also Like Dried Blood that uses a piano. It’s a very different kind of song for Beastwars.
It was done at the end of the session, and it worked well. We always want to try something new.
So what are you thoughts on the album now? How does it compare with other Beastwars releases?
I think they’re all so separate because they’re all done three years in between. There’s a lot of living done between all of them. This one … I’m really proud of this one. I think it’s really, really good! I’m glad we made it. It would have been a wasted opportunity not to do it. Not to make a record at that moment—to grasp the moment. Because you can forget … eighteen months later, I’m not the same person I was at that time. So that’s why it was important to make that record. It had to be made at that time. It was part of the healing for me.
Is there a plan to continue making more music now, or was this something final to help with the healing process?
I’ve seen a few demos already turn up in my gmail. I think people are pretty excited about the new record coming out. They’re excited about touring. I’ve noticed the band have started buying new guitars. Whenever I see guitars being bought, I know new music’s coming.
Catch Beastwars at the following dates:
CHRISTCHURCH // Friday 5th July // Blue Smoke
DUNEDIN // Saturday 6th July // The Cook
SYDNEY // Thursday 11th July // Crowbar
MELBOURNE // Friday 12th July // The Espy
BRISBANE // Saturday 13th July // Dead Of Winter Festival (Tickets)