Rene Mata of ReachNYC on new single ‘Back From The Dead’, depression, and his friendship with Chester Bennington

ReachNYC’s story is one of redemption. Coming to prominence in the early 2000s hard rock scene, the band has returned with a fittingly named new single ‘Back From The Dead’ featuring Papa Roach frontman Jacoby Shaddix, their first one in 17 years.

Formed on Long Island in 1996 by ex-bassist for Sick Of It All, Rich Cipriano, the band consists also of vocalist Rene Mata, bassist Dan Martinez, drummer Dante Renzi, and guitarist Nick Cavagnaro. Active on the New York scene and performing with future notable bands such as Papa Roach and System of a Down and at Warped Tour, they were signed to Lava/Atlantic Records by president Jason Flom after a label showcase. They emerged from the studio with their self-titled debut in the summer of 2003. 

Despite this success, the band disbanded in 2004. However, the circuitous journey doesn’t end there. Mata kicked off a successful behind-the-scenes music A&R career once ReachNYC disbanded, working at various record companies and now managing producers at A4M. Before being signed with ReachNYC, Mata orchestrated a band called Kara’s Flowers (later known as Maroon 5) singing to burgeoning label Octane Records. They eventually released their hit album Songs About Jane. Throughout the years, friends such as Chester Bennington (of Linkin Park) encouraged Mata and the band to come back to music. Over dinner in NYC with Bennington and members of Papa Roach, Marcos of POD, and Rob Caggiano from Volbeat, Bennington pressed the idea of a tour with Linkin Park, System of a Down, Limp Bizkit, Korn, Deftones, and Papa Roach, with ReachNYC serving as the opener. Sadly, Bennington passed away, and these plans never materialized. 

In 2019, they played a show in NYC to open for POD, their first show since 2004, and realized that music is the force that keeps the band together, no matter the passage of time. The loss of Chester Bennington had a profound impact on Mata, and ‘Back From The Dead’ serves as an anthem for taking your life back after battles with depression. Sounding like a mashup of Papa Roach and Smile Empty Soul, ‘Back From The Dead’ relies on heavy vocals and riffs as well as huge choruses for its makeup. With this song and a new EP slated for 2021, the rock vocalist has a lot happening professionally. 

We chatted with Rene Mata over the phone to discuss ‘Back From The Dead’, his band’s upcoming EP, mental health, and the enduring, fun friendship that he shared with Chester Bennington. 

‘Back From The Dead’ is your first single in 17 years. What prompted the comeback? 

It’s not like we’re trying to conquer the world or anything. Many things happened in a few years: I was in a depression; I lost a few good friends. My buddies from POD were like, “can you guys come back and play?” It was mentioned to me by a lot of my friends. We started the band in ’98 with Cipriano, the bass player for Sick Of It All, and then me, Dante Renzi, and Danny Martinez. We’re like brothers, and we like hanging out with each other. We got a record deal in 2002 with Jason Flom; Dante left the band a month before. So, there’s unfinished business, you know? It was more about the love of music, and I was so depressed, and it helped me out a lot. It definitely did. And then it was like, “let’s play another show,” and then all of our friends just kept on asking. And then we were like, “let’s put something out.”

How did the collaboration between Jacoby Shaddix (frontman of Papa Roach) and yourself come together? 

[Jacoby and myself] became such good friends so fast, and they took us out on our first tour. Jacoby sang on our debut record on Lava. This song was actually demoed a while back before we put it out, and then we updated it with a bunch of new stuff. Jacoby had sung on it for a little while back already. Then we just updated his vocals, and my vocals were mixed in. it was like, “let’s just mix it and update it.” It came out because Jacoby is one of my best friends, and [Papa Roach’s] former drummer, Dave, is also one of my best friends. Just the whole band—Tobin, Jerry and Tony. We’ve just been good friends for years, and Jacoby was like, “let’s put it out, man.” It just felt right, especially because Dante didn’t get to take that ride with us the first time, and he was such an important part of the band. We added a second guitar to the lineup, Nick—we’ve always played in bands together and have been friends since we’re 17, so it felt right to bring him to the table. Rich has that guitar sound that you know it’s him. So, we had a little help from our NYC friends. We also had Chris Trainor from Busch, people from all of these New York bands that we loved growing up. 

‘Back From The Dead’ is about taking your life back after darkness. What do you want people to know about depression now that you’ve written this song? 

You know what? I had written the song beforehand, and it brought a new meaning to it. It’s definitely about my depression and all that stuff through the years. When we updated the vocals and stuff, it was more about, “I wanna break out of everything.” It definitely references my depression and wanting to live again. Without a doubt, it’s not something you choose or something you can just shake off. When it hits you, it hits you, and you just have to ride it out and believe it’ll be better.

Chester Bennington was a significant influence on you, both professionally and personally. How do you plan on carrying on his legacy? 

Chester was one of my best friends in the world. It definitely hit me hard. I had no clue. Like, that’s the last thing I’d ever thought he would do. I had spoken to him, and he said he was going to play Citi Field the following week, so he would stay at my house. We literally made plans to BBQ before the show. I mean, real detailed plans. It was just a shock. When I found out—I talked to him on Tuesday, right? He told me he was in Arizona with his family before his big summer tour. I said, “Alright, all good, man.” We were supposed to be with each other for the next two weeks. He wanted me to go on a bunch of shows he was doing and have a feast for the road. I remember it was that Thursday night. I literally parked at Essex, and I was about to walk over, and I didn’t call Chester, thinking I didn’t want to bug him. I’ll be with him all next week. It was the first time I stopped myself from calling him. I swear I feel like I could’ve made a difference if I talked to him. But I don’t have any control over that… *sobbing* Sorry, telling that story always gets me fucked up. I miss him a lot. He’s a friend that always inspired everyone. I didn’t even listen to Linkin Park. He was one of my best friends, and I just loved the guy. 

I was happy for all of his success, and for a few years, we weren’t as close. Like, the last two years of his life, I just got my friend back, and we got close again, and then he was gone. You know what? The last day we spent together was amazing. Me and Marcos of POD, he was staying at my house, and Chester came in. There happened to be all of these people in town, so we had this humongous dinner in NYC. It was me, Chester, Marcos from POD, Rob from Volbeat, Jacoby, Tony and Tobin from Papa Roach, and Matt Sorum from Gun n’ Roses. We had a long-ass table at Emilo’s on Houston in NYC, and we just had the greatest time ever. He’d joke that he was the biggest Reach fan ever. He was my biggest fan, outside of Jacoby. For the first Reach record, he stayed with me every day while I recorded my vocals. We planned it out that Meteora and Reach would both record at the same time in the same studio in LA so we could hang out all summer. All three of us (Jacoby, Chester, and myself) were great friends; we just love each other. I remember that night that I had an idea for a tour that following summer. We were all at the table, and the guy paid for dinner for like 20 people. We were like, “are you sure, dude?” It was like $2,000. With the tour, he wanted it to be Linkin Park, Korn, SOS, Limp Bizkit, Papa Roach, POD, and he wanted us to open up. We were going to do humungous stadiums.

Can you tell me about any plans for the new EP that’s to be released in 2021?

The next song is called ‘Automatic’. It’s a banger. It’s coming out in the third week of January, and my buddy, Marc Morton from Lamb of God, plays a solo on it. Josh Wilbur, the producer of the past four Lamb of God records, the last two Korn records, Megadeth, Papa Roach, A Day To Remember, is on this record. We also have a track called ‘Six Years’, but this is an updated version. We had two records on the first version and the rest of the songs people have never heard.

ReachNYC have shown that one’s path doesn’t have to be straightforward to be successful and that bumps in the road are inevitable but can be overcome. With a new EP in 2021, Rene Mata and company plan on continuing to give people hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel and the feelings you have on the journey towards that light are valid, whatever they may be. Although the members moved onto other projects over time, ReachNYC shows that music is a binding force for us all—no matter where life takes you. 



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