Matt Greiner of August Burns Red Talks Christian Metal, Drumming And Faith!
August Burns Red has been tearing up the metal scene for the better part of the last decade. They’re not your typical CCM band: they thrash and bash ferocious metal but with Gospel-driven lyrics and Scriptures. Some fans might say they are the Godzilla of Christian rock music. Their relentless touring schedule seems almost superhuman, but it has produced a dedicated fan base. Although Matt Greiner, their drummer, is too humble to admit it, he is arguably the best drummer in their genre of music. Watching him play is like watching the Incredible Hulk tear into the drum set with behemoth strikes. While still in high school, the band formed in 2003 and practiced on Matt Greiner’s family farm in their old egg house and basement in Manheim, Pennsylvania. Despite being very busy with touring, drumming workshops, and his new drum company Greiner Kilmer, Matt paused to talk with me a little about life in August Burns Red:
Rockin’ God’s House: Where did the name August Burns Reds come from?
Matt: We got our name because in high school one of our best friends, Jon Hershey — who was also our vocalist at the time — was dating this girl named August right before he joined the band. And the relationship got a bit out of hand, and he really wanted to end it. So he ended the relationship and instead of getting just sad about it, she got really really really angry. Jon at the time had a dog named Redd. It was an Irish setter, and it had red fur and everything. So she got really mad, went up to his house, and burned his dog Redd alive in his dog house. The name and everything comes from that because the next day the headlines in the newspaper in the local news was “August Burns Redd,” and then we just kind of went with it. It really affected Jon, so when we were picking a band name, that was one that stuck in his head.
Rockin’ God’s House: Does your background living on a farm contribute to your quickness and strength as a drummer?
Matt: Living on a farm taught me a very strong work ethic because if you are able to apply yourself to a trade or a hobby or whatever it is and really invest yourself into it, then it doesn’t really matter how much natural talent you have; you will see improvement as well as some degree of success in it. With a lot of work ethic you can go a long way. I learned a lot on the farm, getting up early, doing everything from taking care of the animals as well as lots of chores that wouldn’t be typical of someone who lived in suburbia.
Rockin’ God’s House: Tell us about your drum company Greiner Kilmer?
Matt: In 2011, I met a gentleman named Caleb Kilmer at church, and he was excited and ambitious about showing me a drum that he had made out of drum sticks. He also thought that I would like to see what some of his designs were. So we met over lunch, and over the course of the next couple of weeks, Caleb showed me how to build drums. I financed the venture and took on the business side of things. We started Greiner Kilmer in 2012. We ship a lot internationally, but as of right now were are only making custom snare drums. You can learn more about the process at http://www.greinerkilmer.com.
Rockin’ God’s House: Does August Burns Red get much scrutiny from other Christians because of your unique sound and your lead vocalist’s screams and growls?
Matt: YES!!! Christian music sounds like this pointing in one direction, and August Burns Red sounds like this, pointing in another direction. And society, using some sort of deductive reason, says you can’t be a Christian band. Christian music is a very weird term. Music is just music. The person playing the instrument and the intent and message behind the music can be very powerful. So what actually matters in the end is not the sound of the music, but the person creating the sound. We have been straying away from the label of Christian band because it is just too confusing. It’s a better term just to call ourselves a metal band. And if people want to press us about our faith, that is something we all will do. We will answer any and all questions concerning our faith. I would rather stand before God one day and have him look at me and say, “I am glad you were able to have done what you did and not abuse and manipulate my name,” rather than him say, “You used me and my name to increase your success by calling yourselves a christian band.”
Rockin’ God’s House: You have shot music videos with director/drummer Daniel Davison (Underoath, Norma Jean). What was it like working with him?
Matt: He is hands down the best director we have ever worked with. Without a shadow of a doubt, I would shoot a music video with him tonight if I had to, and I don’t enjoy shooting music videos at all. He is a great editor and director. He makes the process enjoyable. He is very organized. He has a vision and includes the band just as much as he needs to. He has everything thought out and the final product is just so well done. He is a story teller! He creates stories and turns music videos into movies. He is just amazing!
Rockin’ God’s House: How do you keep your drumming style fresh so that you’re always continuing to recreate your style on every album?
Matt: Each record we put out is almost like a painting of what I’ve learned and the colors that I’ve found. During the entire recording cycle, I think of new ideas, new experiences, and I practice new things. When fresh ideas come to me, I just have to sit down, practice them, and figure out the way I am going to apply them. It’s nothing that I turn on all of the sudden. I’m always going to create the product. I use everything I have and everything I have learned, and I try to incorporate it in a way that is new and exciting for me and hopefully the fans will enjoy and relate to it as well.