This week I caught up with Matt Donnelly (Drummer) of Don Broco, one of the world’s most renowned rock bands. The group are currently touring across the States promoting their latest album ‘Technology’. Interested in finding out a little bit more about their latest album, weirdest tour experience, & life as an 80 year old? Then read on…
1. Where did you gather inspiration from for the lyrics throughout the new album ‘Technology’?
Matt: Well I must admit Rob is the lyricist so it wasn’t really me. The album title ‘Technology’ wasn’t something we had decided on at the start. When we came to examine all the songs we’d written at the end we were just looking for sort of central themes and technology for some reason just kept cropping up. Rob tends to write about people. People are what fascinate him… human nature, human relationships, the way we are, the way we interact with things and people around us. So it’s fair to say that in today’s modern day we’re totally symbiotic with technology, I mean just taking the phone in this setting is the most obvious example. It’s the first thing you look at when you wake up in the mornings, last thing you look at when you go to bed at night, and it’s just examining the positive and the negative impacts of that coz undoubtedly there are some great positives to technology and technological advancement, but also it does tend to indulge some of the worst sides of human nature. So in fact it’s looking all around us, it’s looking at how the world’s changed since we last wrote a record and just growing up I guess, and how we now look at things differently.
2. Which bands have you taken inspiration from for the music throughout the new album?
Matt: We did a live session on Radio 1 the other day and we played a cover, well we mashed up Linkin Park and N*E*R*D, and we was saying the reason we did that was coz we wanted to give people an idea of some of the stuff we were listening to. We’ve always loved Nu-metal, that early 2000s Nu-metal era was what we grew up with. Take a band like N*E*R*D, their first couple of albums, the way they would take guitar music and present it in such a different way. I mean that’s something you can probably hear referenced sonically on a song like ‘Pretty’. We just tried to make it more characterful, more unique. That’s what we’re always trying to do, we’ll always be a rock band, we’ll always be a guitar based band, but try to present it in a way that you havn’t heard before.
3. How was it working with producers Dan Lancaster and Jason Perry on the new album ‘Technology’?
Matt: It was cool. We’ve actually worked with both before so it’s kinda not a fair test, probably ground zero now. Dan recorded our first album and worked a bit on the last album, where as Jason worked on our second album, but on this album we did a bit of both. Tom actually was in a band with Dan Lancaster growing up. That’s how we met Tom on tour with their band in the early days, so we’ve all known each other for a long time. We’re friends and that can have positives and negatives in the studio. Sometimes it’s hard when people are your friends, it’s hard to get down to work, but at the same time you can easily go in and there’s no figuring each other out. There’s no getting used to each others personalities, you can just be honest straight away, and it helps to cut through and voice it a little bit in a creative environment and just say “Is this good? Is this idea cool? No? Lets move on”. They’re both amazing producers, they both have incredibly different methods. We liked a bit about working with both previously so when we had these demos, we picked which songs we thought suited them and which they would enjoy the most, and would bring the best out of us. It was great to have that experience. We’ve worked with other producers in the past as well and I think it’s a really good thing to have different outside influences coz it will force you to even contemplate things you wouldn’t have done before, and you don’t ever wanna keep just sitting in your comfort zone. They’re great, they’re both amazing.
4. Favourite song to play live off the new album?
Matt: Well it might be different after tonight. We’ve just started playing a song called ‘Porkies’ live the last few nights and it’s just something so different for Don Broco, but tonight ‘Greatness’ is gonna get its live debut. It’s a lot of fun in soundcheck so that’s probably my favourite song off the new record, I’m excited to play it.
5. Which city are you most looking forward to playing on this tour?
Matt: Tonight I think, I think Manchester. There’s something about Manchester that just feels so… it’s got a little extra something. My girlfriend’s from the North West as well, her families from Bolton so I always have a big contingent of family coming in and we’ve got a lot of friends who live up here. You can feel it in the air that it’s a music city.
6. What’s the weirdest thing that’s happened to you on tour?
Matt: The most surreal moment was last summer, was it last summer or the summer before? I can’t remember. We did a European tour supporting 5 Seconds of Summer, we went all around Europe and I think we’d played a show in Rome. Now obviously the 5 Seconds of Summers guys were on multiple tour buses. They had trucks, they had a huge production, lots of other staff and crew. There was just six of us in a small van, just driving round, driving through the night to make it work. We were driving out of the Rome show, out of this arena and security pathed this area so the van could drive through, and all the kids who were waiting outside just assumed it was 5SOS in the van. The van couldn’t really go very far coz we were still waiting for somebody to clear a barrier, and these fans just came up to the glass and couldn’t look in coz it was one way glass, and then they just started smacking the windows. It was the closest I’ve ever felt to being in a zombie apocalypse, you know tip the van. They were desperately trying to see if one of the boys was in there and we were all sat there like “What is going on? This is one of the most surreal and strange things we’ve ever experienced”. I don’t think they realised who we were.
7. Do you decide as a band what designs you’d like to see on your tour merch?
Matt: Yeah we do it ourselves. Rob and I take quite an active role in designing our merch, we come up with all the ideas. We tend to obviously take inspiration from our own songs lyrically or if we see something awesome that someone’s wearing we wonder how we can adapt it. I don’t actually own one but Si and Rob have got some really impressive cat t-shirts and one day we wanna do our own cat t-shirt. We don’t tend to actually physically draw the designs ourselves, we just tell the designers exactly what we want to see.
8. Realest lyrics you have ever wrote?
Matt: I’ve heard Rob say when I’ve sat next to him in other interviews that the song ‘Something To Drink’ on the latest record is probably the most personal song he’s ever written. It’s the most honest he’s ever been in a song, the most he’s ever laid his self bare.
9. What do you imagine life to be like as an 80 year old?
Matt: Obviously no-one ever knows how long you’re gonna live but you just have to examine the examples of people who do live to these ripe old ages. Nothing is definite in life, nothing’s an absolute. Sometimes people have bad luck, medical conditions and things that prevent them from being as active as they normally would, but to a certain degree I think it’s within your own power… if you stay active, keep going, keep your mind active, keep your mind busy. I love life, so if I grow to that ripe old age I think I’d just keep doing the things I love ’til literally someone physically stopped me. At that age, hopefully you have lots of family around you, grandkids and stuff, and just be happy.
10. Favourite film?
Matt: There’s so many. I’ve said this before in interviews and people have laughed at me, but the movie I watched as a kid that stuck with me the most was The Mask… Jim Carrey film. I guess I was the right age for the comedy in the film, it was the most hilarious thing I’d seen.
11. Favourite cartoon character?
Matt: Well I relate a lot to Dexter from Dexter’s Lab, I actually did chemistry at university so I’m a bit of a geek.
12. Favourite video game?
Matt: Fifa, it always has been. It’s the most sociable game, I mean apart from Call of Duty. It’s not the same as playing against a computer, you always wanna play against your actual mates. It’s good to be together, you get your mates round and you play. That’s what’s nice about it. I wouldn’t wanna these days, I have done growing up but I wouldn’t wanna sit in my bedroom for twelve hours by myself trying to complete a game. It’s cool when you’re playing with different people, whether it be an amazing moment, say you score an amazing goal. You share it with other people and have a good banter, it’s cool.
13. Favourite console?
Matt: I have a PS4.
14. Are you playing any games on the tour bus currently?
Matt: Yeah actually, there was a Fifa tournament that concluded yesterday. Gav my drum tech, he won.
15. What’s your highest gaming accomplishment?
Matt: Oh God, it’s somethin’ really basic like completing Super Mario Brothers on the Game Boy. I remember my older brother having a Game Boy, it was passed down to me. Black and white screen… the proper chunky ones from the mid-eighties, the white ones. I’m not sure about my high score on Tetris, but Tetris is also a classic.
16. Anything else you’d like to share?
Matt: Our new album is out now. I hope people will take time to check it out and hope they’ll enjoy it. We’re on tour at the moment, I’m not sure when this goes live but we’ll be announcing some new UK shows pretty soon as well.
Torey (Interviewer): What are your plans for after this tour?
Matt: We are gonna do some more UK dates in April and May. Then June, July and August we’re away in the States, that’s unannounced. We’re talking about some festivals and stuff but that’s way too far for me to be able to say anything about it. It’s a busy year, we’ll be busy up ’til summer and then lets see what the winter brings.