Artist Snapshot: Andrew Mathews
“Don’t be picky, just play. Play music with others as often as you can, because that is where you learn to communicate and collaborate.”
Guitarist/bassist Andrew Mathews leads by example when it comes to this piece of advice. At 29-years-old, Mathews plays in five bands here in our region. I sat down with him recently to learn more about the metal and hardcore scenes in the Roanoke area, and what drives him to stay so active.
“Playing on stage is better than any drug. I’ve come off of a day when I just received some devastating news, but then I’ll get up on stage to play, and it all melts away.”
Mathews two biggest commitments are to the bands Human Infection and Rotting Obscene. He also plays with Beaten With A Pipe, Cyberlunacy, and War Criminal. Each band has a different central focus, but each has an intensity and authenticity that keeps it interesting for Mathews, and entertaining for the crowds.
Human Infection is a traditional death metal band that Matthews started in 2009 that is currently recording a new album. Matthews characterizes Human Infection as his baby and main project because it has the best mix of complicated compositions and very primal sounding notes as well. On the other hand, Mathews characterizes Rotting Obscene as a joyful challenge for his bassist skills because of the highly analytical, process-minded, and very complicated music that the bands plays.
These two bands have allowed Mathews to tour the Richmond, Raleigh (NC), and Roanoke circuit, with occasional runs to more distant venues in Boston and New York.
Mathews, originally from Lynchburg, moved to the Roanoke region in 2012 because he wanted to be closer to more like-minded musicians. “Roanoke has a strong punk scene. Punks tend to have more fun and be less judgmental of other people. I love metal, but some folks can be judgmental [of other genres] and that can hurt the scene.”
We talked about how stratified the Roanoke music scene can be, in which musicians and fans can move around each other and never know about the different scenes. “It’s bizarre, it is almost a caste system. It’s easy to get wrapped up in when you first start playing with a band because you cling to certain scenes to find musicians that want to do what you’re doing. But I never liked that, because I’ve always felt there is something to learn off everybody. That is why Brian Gray is so special. He moves right through those strata because he has no preconceptions about the different styles.”
Matthews sees the other big challenge to the punk and hardcore scenes is finding venues to play in. Booking gigs can be difficult because club owners are often concerned about moshing. The reality is that while aggressive dancing does happen, the fear of it is overblown. He credits places like The Coffee Pot, Backstreet Cafe, and The Bazaar, as well as Screamers (Radford), and Ceritano’s (Blacksburg) for being willing to take the chance and support the scene.
The difficulty of booking hasn’t diminished his enthusiasm, or his level of professionalism when he does coordinate a show. He puts his strong organizational skills and professionalism to work to make the events successful. “I make sure the bands all know as much as possible about the show details and logistics. Where to park, who will be paying them, it is stuff like that which makes for a good show. If the bands aren’t stressed about all that stuff, they can be relaxed and be ready to perform.”
Mathews hopes to produce a big event featuring 15 metal and hardcore bands, tentatively titled “Big Lick Deathfest,” to highlight the talent in our region. He is currently looking for a venue open to holding an event of that scope.
You can catch Mathews with Rotting Obscene this Friday at the Coffee Pot where he will be sharing the bill with Domestic Terror, Forest Wars, Unnerve (a stellar local hardcore band), and Relic Of The Adversary.
Follow him on Facebook to find out where and when you can get out to see him in his other projects: Beaten With A Pipe (a grind-style hardcore band), War Criminal (upbeat hardcore), and Cyberlunacy (very technical death metal).