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hatebreed jamey jasta

Face-to-face interview with HATEBREED vocalist Jamey Jasta.

Hardcore for the masses

Hatebreed is one of the few hardcore bands which managed to become a sort of mainstream for the wide heavy music audience. Due to their experiments with classic thrash metal elements Hatebreed became the forefathers of oh-so-popular nowadays metalcore, however the guys are still able to keep the image of extreme American “muthafuckas”. It's not by far the first time for Hatebreed to visit Finland but the hunger of their fans rose from intolerable to crazy since the last visit in summer. You could tell that watching the mass of people who came to the show at Helsinki Old Ice Hall that day; they were ready to give their best and make the show unforgettable for the band and of course for themselves.

Hardcore guru and Hatebreed singer Jamey Jasta met us a few hours before the gig to discuss the latest developments in Hatebreed including the release of the band's latest self-titled album in early autumn together with the predecessor cover album “For the Lions”

It is quite apparent that modern hardcore music has stepped quite far away from the original idea of hardcore punk: it is organized and it brings money, thus it’s not much of punk anymore. How would you define modern hardcore? Is it just a set of techniques?

There are still all sorts of punk and underground hardcore and crust and grind and all those scenes are still thriving all over the world. In our early days we toured and did all those small basement shows but now we grew out of it. I like it both: I still like to do smaller underground shows. What is happening now – I think it’s the best future we could have planned for Hatebreed. Now we are a global band that can come and support Slayer and Machine Head, for example. We can go on tour with punk bands and we can play big festivals. For us it is a good balance when we are even going beyond our own expectations.

What would you tell to some hardcore fans accusing you of becoming too much commercialized and loosing the main idea of hardcore?

Everybody can think whatever they please. You know what I mean. We’ll never be doing anything just to make someone change their opinion. Every time people think what they want regardless of the facts. It’s out of my control; it’s their problem, not mine.

The two scenes: metal scene and hardcore scene have been growing together - but still…: hardcore fans are bragging about “the gay metal fans”, and the metal fans go like: “Oh, that stupid, moronic hardcore crowd”. How are you feeling about that when you see that fans are being so intolerant and narrow-minded, while you're preaching the exact opposite?

We have always been much of a crossover band. Even back in the day, some of our first shows, we did them with Machine Head, Stuck Mojo, Type O Negative … . So we always played shows in the both worlds and people have always been telling we were a cross-over band.

How did you pick up the songs for For the Lions? Were those your all time faves or something else? It seems that you wanted to cover more or less whole metal history timeline from Misfits to Subzero.

We just made sure there was everything we were playing well. We did some stuff which was more technical and required more work, for example, we did a Slayer cover. All the stuff we did was kinda global and also from most of the bands we played with and which we like. We wanted to be sure we paid our tribute to them. More or less, it was a historical timeline of hardcore music. Jerry Only from Misfits – when he heard Hatebreeders, he really liked it. It was fun to do and we had a really good time doing it. And actually it is still selling pretty well in the States. It’s cool for us because we didn’t think everybody would care for that this much.

By the way, do you think there is a place for humor in modern hardcore, for example, something like Misfits did?

Well, yeah. I just checked out Municipal Waste and I thought they were cool. Sounds like boner party and thrashing out the graves. It was in Norway and they were speaking about burning churches and stuff, so they were thinking of bringing on stage a church model and burning it. It was pretty funny. Our songs are pretty serious and we don’t have humor in the live shows. We are just having good time. We want to be sure that people are having good time too. Thought the thing we do is not always one hundred percent serious but there isn’t a lot of humor in Hatebreed shows.

Are your lyrics very personal?

They totally are. In some songs I tell about something very serious, it’s not about amusing experience. Very often the audience has a clumsy experience when they come to the show, you know – they are there just for headbanging and moshing and we wanna actually to deliver the show in a serious way.

Aren’t you feeling a little bit too much exposed to the audience putting personal stuff into lyrics?

No, not at all. People can interpret the lyrics how they want. Some people think songs are about the stuff which is totally different from what they are about in fact. And it’s totally fine. Even looking at the painting not everybody sees the same thing.

Do you yourself always follow the directions you're giving in your songs?

Oh yeah, definitely I do. Now I’m trying to think positive, I’m trying to see self-making holes in every dark cloud, I try to motivate myself through my own words. Most of the times it’s like me speaking to myself and trying to motivate myself. It’s almost like me being my own coach and it’s like making a record that I myself would like to hear every day. If I get a feeling that I wanna go and listen to my own record, it means I’m doing something good.

By the way, what are you listening to now in “Repeat” mode?

I’m listening to final Kingdom of Sorrow mixes because as a band we signed a relapse and I just want to keep on listening to it. It’s a good sign right now. It’s not like: “Oh I’m done, I don’t wanna listen to that anymore.”. I finished the last song weeks ago and I keep on listening to it over and over again. I still have time to change the order of the songs. I might change the place of one song and then I might change some of the bonus tracks in the Japanese edition, but I don’t know yet if I’m making any changes. We did a cover of a band Running Wild from Germany. So I might make this a bonus track for Europe because I think people in Germany will really like the song.

In the latest albums you have less of that primal roughness which we could hear on Beholder Of Justice or Everyone Bleeds Now . Are you planning on stepping away from it or is just a temporary tendency?

I would say yes, the album is more reserved, groovier and not that animalistic compared with our previous works. I'm not sure if we will go on in that direction, but it was what we felt like doing for this album.

In what way do you see the band's further development? Are you planning to do any projects with guest musicians and other bands?

I'm not sure yet, because at some certain point I decided to take a break from guest appearances – there was too much of me everywhere, on all records. But I might go on with this later this year.

According to which criteria do you choose the bands for your own label?

I never wanted to make money or anything. I started my own label to help young bands in finding their way to the audience. But lately I'm taking this really slow: if earlier there were tenths of bands now it's like 2-3. People are buying the CDs really poorly and now I have piles of CD's in my storage which will never be bought and people will never hear them. So now I work with quite few bands.

Don't you think at times that there is way too much stuff going on for you: label, clothing line, music projects?

No, I'm fine with that. Yeah, I might be tired every now and then, but then I take a good break and spend a lot of time with my family like I did recently and it helps me to relax and to recover. And, by the way, clothing line is much more profitable business than the label so I'll definitely keep it going.

Purely hypothetically, if Tom Araya quitted Slayer and the guys invited you to do vocals for them, would you agree?… .Well, definitely, no. It would be too much of responsibility and pressure. He is an awesome musician and then everybody would be judging me as someone who is trying to be him. It would be too much of pressure and expectations from Slayer fans. No, I wouldn't ever take this.

Interview: Victoria Maksimovich | Photos: Jana Blomqvist

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