Beastwars vocalist Matt Hyde discusses his triumphant battle against cancer and how his illness helped reunite the band and inspired their epic new album IV.
Revered Kiwi doom rockers Beastwars have a lot to feel good about with vocalist Matt Hyde overcoming cancer, and the Wellington four-piece back touring to celebrate the release of their brilliant new album IV.
It's a far cry from a couple of years ago when the group had broken up, their unfortunate demise followed by the grim news of Hyde's battle with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
Now savouring life in remission, the 48-year-old explains how he turned his living nightmare into a creative source that helped him reconnect with his bandmates and direct what little energy he had into making music.
"When we decided to make this record, it was something for me to hold on to," Hyde explains.
"I held on to music to get me through. The whole thing was about trying to take a very hard time and make it the best I could and make some art, which I've always loved.
"Even though the album talks of a desperate, urgent time, there's a lot of positives that came from that, a lot of great lessons about appreciating life.
"That's what the record really is about - to make your moments here better if you can."
Hyde's diagnosis in mid-2017 came years after he began detecting symptoms. Pain had become his companion, but he initially assumed the constant soreness through his stomach and legs was due to years spent working on his feet.
"I just put that down to growing old and working kitchens all my life," he said.
"It was quite hard for [doctors] to find my cancer - there's no indicators in the blood, really.
"But when they actually did find it I was really relieved, because it sort of vindicated me…that I wasn't crazy."
That relief quickly turned into more stress and anxiety as Hyde began to contemplate how long he had left to live, before the brutal cycle of chemotherapy treatment got under way.
"Every 21 days I'd go to Oncology and do my chemotherapy for eight hours.
"You're very ill for seven to 10 days and by the time you're feeling good you have to go back and do the chemo again.
"It's a real roller-coaster ride. Trying to hold on to hope, hold on to your inner strength. Some days you just don't want to get out of bed."
Hyde's harrowing experiences are cathartically detailed throughout the eight tracks on IV, and glaringly apparent in song titles such as This Mortal Decay and Sound of the Grave.
"The Traveller was a low point. The nausea of chemotherapy is a horrible state - that line 'demons are real and I see them in the light'…that was a horrible time."
The support and company of his friends and loved ones, including his young daughter, was integral to him remaining positive: "She's been so inspiring. She gave me lots of great words of encouragement, which is crazy hearing from a 10-year-old, at the time."
Sunday afternoons hanging out listening to records also helped repair connections with his bandmates Clayton Anderson (guitar), James Woods (bass) and Nathan Hickey (drums).
"I found that very healing, to have your friends around you because especially as you're getting older, it's very easy for guys to forget their friends.
"It's very vital for mental health, to rely on your network of friends and you have to keep friendships alive. That's something I've learned from my treatment.
"I have school friends that I'm making conscious efforts to go and see now, and I notice they are too towards me, and it's a great thing."
Thankfully, Hyde's ordeal came to an end early last year, although he now lives with the prospect that the illness could return at any point.
"My cancer can't be cured. So it will come back. It might not come back for 20 years or it could come back next year. So I live a life now where exercise and diet are a very important part of my life.
"I'm just thankful. The secret is, I think, just to appreciate your days and to try and do as much as you can."
Following the release of IV last Friday, the band's vinyl stocks are all but exhausted, and that's before they reach the midway point of their celebratory transtasman tour.
Hyde's story has resonated with many others affected by terminal illnesses and he has been moved by the amount of love in the air during packed shows in Wellington and Auckland.
"It's been amazing, it's been received so well. It's a common story that affects a lot of people and families throughout the world and New Zealand.
"As recording artists, when we release a record it's such a huge feeling. We're up to album four - not many people get to do that.
"It's pretty special and it's exciting. It's good to be excited at 48."