Interview: Hayden Menzies of METZ

METZ (Photo by Norman Wong)

Hazy Eye Music Media is proud to post another interview in a series of interviews I’m currently conducting with some of my favorite artists. This time I was fortunate enough to chat with Hayden Menzies — drummer of the phenomenally talented noise-rock band METZ.

METZ recently announced the upcoming release of their fourth full-length album, Atlas Vending. Along with this announcement, the band released a new single and accompanying video for the song, “A Boat to Drown In.”

In this interview Hayden discusses the new album, single and video — and talks about art, drumming, and recording Strange Peace with Steve Albini. Continue reading below for my full interview with Hayden Menzies. All images copyright and courtesy of Sub Pop Records & Oblique Artist Management. Pre-order Atlas Vending on METZ’ Official Website or METZ’ Sub Pop Page. Also check out some of Hayden’s artwork HERE.

Hayden Menzies

AJ: Hi Hayden! How are you?!?

HM: Pretty good. As best as can be during such a stressful and emotional time.

AJ: For those readers who may not know, can you tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do professionally? How would you describe yourself? Who is Hayden Menzies?

HM: Well you know my name, so that’s a start. I play drums in the band METZ and I dabble in painting and design work on the side. I’m a pretty anxious and reserved person most of the time. Always have been I suppose. I think a lot.

AJ: Any METZ news or updates you’re able to share?

HM: We just announced our new record, Atlas Vending! It will be released on Oct 9th, 2020. The first single and video for the albums closing track “A Boat to Drown In” are available now for viewing and listening. There will be more news, music, visuals, over the coming months we’re excited to reveal but can’t just yet!

METZ: Atlas Vending

AJ: Can you tell us a little about the new album, Atlas Vending? When and where was it recorded? When is it going to be released? How long did it take to record and what was the recording process like?

HM: Atlas Vending was recorded in Pawtucket, Rhode Island last November at Machines with Magnets. It was co-produced by Ben Greenberg and it was engineered and mixed by Seth Manchester. We stayed at the studio for 2 weeks to track and mix the entire thing. It was a really enjoyable experience. It was our first time working with Ben and Seth and they were a pleasure to be around and helped curate a really fun inclusive environment for us to capture these songs. The fact that we were all living there under one roof (with the exception of Seth) really gave the whole process a collective focus on making the best record we could.

AJ: Did you take a different approach or change anything about the way you had previously been playing when recording the new album? How do you feel about the way your drums turned out?

HM: I’m really happy with how the entire record turned out. The drums sound amazing to me too. They have weight to them but aren’t as washed out from to many distant room mics as some previous recordings. I don’t think we changed too much in terms of playing the songs in a studio setting, but every record is different and we try to be open to new things rather than sticking to a mold that may not suit every album. We certainly had fun doing it and I think the positive atmosphere helped create a natural flow when tracking takes.

METZ (Hayden on left)

AJ: I love the new music video for the single “A Boat to Drown In.” Can you tell us a little about the song and process of making the video?

HM: Thanks! We love it too. The song evolved over time into something that kind of merged 2 different styles of songs together. It’s one of the examples on the record of songs that required a little more patience than we’re used to and we tried to revel in that rather than fight it. The video was shot in Detroit so we weren’t really a part of it other than fine tuning their treatment and seeing photos and rough cuts of their progress. It was directed by Tony Wolski at Former Co. and he and his amazing team did an incredible job making it happen while adhering to COVID limitations.

Watch “A Boat to Drown In” on YouTube

AJ: Any other singles or videos being released before the release of the new album? Are you able to say?

HM: We have some other stuff in the works. That’s all I can say.

AJ: Any particular songs on the new album stand out as your personal favorites?

HM: It’s difficult for me to pick a favorite. As cliche as it sounds, each song has its own role and they each serve different purposes on the record as a whole.

AJ: Any METZ shows scheduled for 2021? Any plans for an upcoming tour in support of Atlas Vending?

HM: We have some tour plans that will be announced soon, but everything is somewhat up in the air at the moment with the state of the world. We’re very anxious to return to the stage when it’s safe.

AJ: When and where was the last METZ show? What do you remember about it? Anything particularly interesting about your most recent live performance?

HM: The last show we played was in Los Angeles with Refused. We did a west coast US tour with them just as news was starting to break about the pandemic. The show was great, as was the whole tour, but it did have a strange mood to it as you could tell people were starting to get concerned, stressed, and anxious – not in a disinterested way, just pensively cautious.

AJ: What are some of your favorite METZ songs to play live?

HM: I can already tell that some of the new songs will be favorites of mine/ours to play live, but from the older songs, Eraser is always fun, Spit You Out, Pure Auto…

AJ: Can you give us a little background info on METZ? When, where, and how was the group formed?

HM: The band technically started in Ottawa with Alex and I, but it didn’t really become a real band until we moved to Toronto and met Chris. There was an undeniable chemistry between the 3 of us. That’s what we consider the start of the band and we’ve never looked back.

AJ: Why name your band METZ? Is there a concept behind the band or significance to the name? How did you settle on the name? Was there a process of elimination?

HM: It’s a pretty boring response, but it really doesn’t have much meaning to us. If there was any intent when deciding on a name, it was most likely that we didn’t want some type of meaning or affiliation with it that could become dated or embarrassing later on. It’s short and can’t be abbreviated, and looks good on paper. What else do you need?

AJ: When did you start playing drums? Are drums the only instrument you play?

HM: I started to play drums around 14 years old. I dabbled in piano for a while. I actually regret not pursuing that further as it was my mom who was teaching my brothers and I in our own home. It didn’t require much effort other than practicing and I sort of just got lazy and didn’t keep it up.

AJ: What’s your current setup look like? What does your drum kit consist of? Anything unique or new drum gear you use?

HM: I play a pretty standard setup. Ludwig 26″ bass drum, 14″ rack tom, 18″ floor tom, 14″ black Beauty or Raw Brass snare. İstanbul AGOP cymbals, 15″ hi-hat, 22″ crash, 24″ ride, all Medium Traditional. Los Cabos 5B Intense White Hickory sticks. I like stuff that’s simple and sturdy. Not to mention working with the people at these companies has been very encouraging and supportive. I’ve also learned from touring so much that rare items and unique components are hard to replace on the road, so if it’s essential to your setup, you gotta have a back up or make it a fairly generic choice that can be found easily around the world.

AJ: How in the hell are you able to continuously play live with such fierceness and accuracy? Seems like an intense physical and mental workout.

HM: It’s certainly both, and it takes its toll. I’ve had to learn to sit back on some songs to conserve energy, but more importantly to serve the song better and help add dynamics to the set wherever possible. Luckily I don’t have too many physical health problems that have arisen other than some joint issues. The energy truly comes from excitement and nervousness.

AJ: When and how was METZ signed to Sub Pop? What was that like?

HM: This has also been shrouded in mystery. We had sent demos to them but didn’t hear back for a while, which wasn’t surprising. We ended up doing a string of shows with superheroes, Mudhoney, and suspect they may have put in a good word as we hit it off quite well on the tour. It’s been great ever since. We consider the people we work with family and can’t imagine another home for the band.

AJ: When and how did you meet Steve Albini? What was it like recording with him for your album, Strange Peace?

HM: I think we had crossed paths a couple of times with Shellac over the years and had reached out to Bob Weston about mastering the previous record (although he was unavailable). We hadn’t really met officially though. He was great to work with on Strange Peace. He’s an articulate, funny guy, who knows his equipment so well and has a great work ethic that it made for a really smooth experience. We stayed at the studio and would reconvene with coffee in the morning, listen to the previous day’s takes and then off to the races!

Stream Strange Peace on Spotify

AJ: Did you take a different approach or change anything about the way you had previously been playing when recording Strange Peace? How do you feel about the way your drums sound on that album?

HM: I think the collection of songs for each album is what predominantly dictates how they are played and what type of sound they are calling for. The foundations are all fairly similar but I do my best to do what the song needs. Ya, the drum sound on Strange Peace is great. I’ve always wanted to hear them recorded that way for at least one record.

AJ: What’s your musical background? What sparked your interest in music and being a musical artist? What bands would you say shaped your taste in music or heavily influenced you?

HM: My parents always had music on in the house and encouraged any type of artistic endeavors, but I really got into music after moving to Ottawa and started to go to local shows with my brothers. Although I still loved different types of music, the local punk scene felt like it was mine, not my parents’, not my peers at school who were part of different scenes, mine. It also felt like it was achievable. Not that what I was witnessing was easy, far from it, but it felt inclusive and didn’t adhere to an antiquated rule-book. You could play in a basement, a community center, you could save up and buy a crappy van, you could book your own tours…it didn’t rely on the larger than life fables of classic rock days of yore to get permission to play live music. A lot of those early shows and bands are what shaped my taste early on. Bands in the world of Dischord, SST, Sub Pop, Touch and Go…

AJ: Is it true that you have a degree in fine art and you design a lot of METZ artwork?

HM: I do have a degree in Fine Art from Concordia University in Montreal. I floundered around for a few years at Carleton University in Ottawa doing everything from biochemistry, to environmental conservation but eventually decided to switch to Art. I still love science and nature, but I figured that if I was constantly doing art based stuff on the side, it was clearly something that I was drawn to and maybe I should give it a bit more attention than just a hobby. It still is arguably a glorified hobby. I do some stuff for METZ. I don’t have a lot of design or technical skill. I’m mostly familiar with painting and drawing, but I do what I can and whenever possible we work with amazing artists who are better suited to the medium in question.

Artwork by Hayden Menzies

AJ: What’s your art background? What sparked your interest in art and creating your own art? Are there any particular artists or styles that shaped your taste in art or heavily influenced your art?

HM: Technically my art background is a BFA Honors, but is debatable how accurate that is in terms of its application or my taste in art. Strictly speaking of the visual arts, I love dense, twisted, distorted, eerie things.  Alberto Giacometti, Heronimous Bosch, Francis Bacon, Egon Schiele…but I’m a huge fan of rubber hose animation, editorial comics, and wartime propaganda posters. I’m not claiming that I can thrive in any of those worlds artistically, but they’re certainly influences. I think the initial interest in art came from classic cartoons, but I also lived in Europe for a few years when I was a kid and got to see some amazing artwork up close which I’m sure had a lasting effect. Current artists like Travis Millard, Matt McCracken, Louis Alexandre Beauregard, Rick Froberg, Geoff Peveto, Ryan Duggan, Rosie Lea, Julie Fader, Sara Cwynar, Kadir Nelson, Robert Reis, Igor Hoffbauer, Polly Nor….the list goes on.

Artwork by Hayden Menzies

AJ: Other than musical projects, how else have you been staying active and sane since coronavirus altered our world? Have you been making new art?

HM: To be completely honest, the first month or so of lock-down I didn’t do much of anything. I enjoyed a little bit of a government mandate respite at first, although I never lost sight that there are many, many people who are suffering outside of my little home bubble. It gave me time to go easy on myself, put some personal demons in check, and take stock of some things. It cleared my head a little. More recently I’ve started running again after a long hiatus, working on a new series of paintings, writing a screenplay with a close friend. Trying to stay inspired and stimulated but not overload my sense of obligation which fuels my anxiety.

Artwork by Hayden Menzies

Check out & purchase HAYDEN MENZIES ART

AJ: I mainly cover shows in DC, Maryland, and northern Virginia; and most of my readers attend shows in the DMV. Are there any particular venues in this area you’re fond of? Any good memories or interesting stories from the DMV?

HM: Absolutely. I don’t recall a lot of venue names, but a good friend Brian Lowit who runs Lovitt Records is in the DC area and is one of the more genuine people I’ve met in my time. We visited the Dischord office/house a while back which is punk mile-marker. I also toured with some Richmond, VA bands a long time ago that I still keep in touch with. Engine Down, Denali, 4oo Years…a long time ago.

Artwork by Hayden Menzies

AJ: What have you been listening to lately? Any particular artists and/or albums you’ve recently discovered or revisited?

HM: Much to the shagrin of my friends, and I’m sure my neighbours, I’ve stepped back in time a bit and been listening to a lot of things that are easy to cook to.  Bob Seger, Marty Robbins, Willie Nelson, Dean Martin, Patsy Cline, Cher, Redbone…

Artwork by Hayden Menzies

AJ: Are you a record collector? If so, what are a few of your most loved/valued records? If not, do you collect something else?

HM: I gotta say, I used to love collecting records, but over time it became something that kind of stressed me out. I would either spend way too much money, or I couldn’t think of the key albums I’ve been on the hunt for until I’ve already left the store. They can be hard to travel with as well. All I collect now is memories, pal.

AJ: If you could collaborate w/ a couple musicians of choice, who would it be and why?

HM: That’s a doozy. Firstly, I get to collaborate with 2 of the best musicians/people out there on a regular basis, so I’m not missing anything, but I would be curious to see the inner workings of other bands though. Whether it be a fly on the wall, or writing a record. I’ll have to think about that.

AJ: What are a couple of your best memories/proudest moments of being a musician?

HM: I’m pretty lucky to be able to report that the vast majority of notable moments in my privileged career are recent. Almost too current to call them memories. There’s no hay-day for me. We’re still in it as far as I’m concerned.  We’ve had challenges and tough times on the road, but we’ve been able to play shows, festivals with amazing bands, meet and become friends with our heroes, travel the world and experience beautiful cultures on the back of rock and roll, write our own music and still love each other throughout it all. If I can’t be proud of that, I’ve got more issues than what my shrink tells me. P.S. I saw Mick Jones on a golf cart once.

AJ: Any embarrassing or awkward moments playing live you can share?

HM: Plenty. I’ve missed qeues, dropped sticks, started the wrong song… I think I even got up to try my hand at stand up comedy while one of the guys changed a string at a show in the UK very early on. I won’t be pursuing that any further.

AJ: Scariest moments playing live?

HM: Scary in terms of nerves is still a real thing for me. It’s a fuel I try to channel positively. Whether it be while playing to 10,000 people with our friends IDLES, or genuine fear while watching torrential rain pour into the semi covered venue in Bangkok submerging every electrical socket in sight.

AJ: Favorite bands you’ve been on tour with?

HM: This is tricky because just like record shopping, I will list some that come to mind at this moment, and I will forget many more as soon as I hit send. Mudhoney, IDLES, Young Widows, Hot Snakes, Bully, Protomartyr, Uniform, FACS, Crows, Drahla. Many more.

AJ: Can you name a few of your favorite drummers and/or drummers that influenced you?

HM: Jon Theodore, Mario Rubalcaba, Carla Azar, Simone TB, Stewart Copeland, Chris Farrell, Max Roach, Dale Crover. Many more of course. I envy drummers with taste, versatility, restraint and power.

AJ: I love METZ, but my friend has never heard of them. Which album would you recommend for a first time listener and why?

HM: Atlas Vending. Because it’s our best one and they can always go back and listen chronologically from there if they like.

AJ: Any advice for struggling/aspiring musicians and/or artists?

HM: We get asked this from time to time, and I try to take it as a form of flattery in that they must think we’ve got it all figured out! In reality, we’re still tackling it all as it goes. Goals are a tricky thing, they can be motivating, but they can also dictate what “failure” is. If you fall even an inch short of what you’d aimed for, it’s a miss. Don’t look too long term. Be open to the beauty of spontaneity and fucking up. There are no guarantees, no formula to it, even if you work your ass off. The only thing for certain, is if you stay humble, stay hungry, stay open, stay respectful, stay accountable, you will never question the work or the art that you’ve made. You may question how it’s received or how you present it, or some of the decisions you’ve made along the way, but you can always rest assured that YOU made what YOU wanted to make and the value therein is immeasurable.

AJ: You have your very own personalized “I’d rather be” bumper sticker. What does yours say? I’d rather be…?

HM: “I’d rather be alone”

AJ: Is there anything you would like to add? Any final words for the readers?

HM: Be good to each other.

AJ: Thanks Hayden! Fin.

METZ (Photo by Norman Wong)

Be sure to pre-order METZ’ forthcoming album, Atlas Vending HERE or HERE and watch the video for their newest single “A Boat to Drown In” on YouTube.

Stream these other METZ albums on Spotify:

https://open.spotify.com/album/5hEGDneCq8aLnOq7BNGCkl
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