Hatebreed’s Jamey Jasta: “It Sucks The Way That Soundwave Ended Up”
To borrow a phrase from frontman Jamey Jasta, the new album from Hatebreed is “haaarrrrrddddddd”. He talks to Brendan Crabb about Trump, ripping yourself off, and Soundwave’s collapse.
BLUNT converses with Hatebreed’s Jamey Jasta in mid-April while the frontman is at home in Connecticut, and the US in the midst of the presidential primaries. “Even he knows he can’t be the next president now, because it’s rigged,” he offers of Donald Trump. “The system is rigged. They make it so complicated, they make it so rigged, that someone who is doing something completely different, whether it’s him, Bernie Sanders or Jill Stein, they have very little shot. I’ll be blown away if that dude gets voted in.”
Jasta suggests although Trump won’t be elected president, he’ll capitalise on the additional notoriety by earning millions via speeches and books. He also believes the business mogul is a star who the media are earning advertising revenue from while simultaneously condemning him, inadvertently heightening many members of the public’s adoration of the polarising figure.
“You’re not making him look bad, you’re not making him lose votes. You’re just making him more powerful and more famous. If you see what is huge in entertainment right now, it is to love the villain. The most flawed characters can do the most fucked-up things in entertainment, and people love it. People love Tyrion Lannister, The Punisher, Breaking Bad. There’s so many characters in entertainment that are flawed that people love. So it’s no wonder that in politics, which is also entertainment, that they’ve created a villain who it’s backfired on the media.”
The discontent and disillusionment within many pockets of America and beyond has therefore manifested within parts of the metallic hardcore mainstays’ new disc, The Concrete Confessional. It’s their seventh full-length offering and first for label Nuclear Blast worldwide. Opening track and first single “A.D.” features the singer dissecting what the American Dream means in a climate of upheaval. Jasta bellowing lyrics like “Stomach fucking turning/And now it’s disconcerting/Fight fire with fire, you’ll see everyone’s burning” leaves little room for misinterpretation.
“That’s the beauty of heavy music, it’s an outlet for all that rage and frustration. We have a voice, we have a platform.”
“I think music has always been a compass for people to be pointed in different directions in their personal life,” he says. “Whether it’s pointing you at the gym, towards the ballot booth, we don’t know. We don’t make those decisions, we just put out what we put out and sometimes it’s laser-focused on some of the problems, whether it’s in my personal life, or in the system that we have in America right now. That’s the beauty of heavy music, it’s an outlet for all that rage and frustration. We have a voice, we have a platform.
“If somebody wants to go out and make a change locally that’s positive, then great. Because that’s all you can do, right? If you’re gonna sing about politics, really, what are you gonna do? You have to go out and you start locally. I go out on a tour, I make a bunch of money, I come back, that money goes into my community. I go to the small grocer, the mum-and-pop record store, the barber that’s open on a Monday. If you were to come and interview like 10 little kids right now in America, they could name 10 huge corporate logos. But if you showed them 10 locally grown vegetables or animals from their region, they probably couldn’t name half of them. So that’s a scary thing. You can name all these big corporate logos, but you can’t name stuff that’s locally around you and affecting you,” he chuckles in disbelief.
The new record is no laughing matter, though. As previous paragraphs suggest, it’s likely Hatebreed’s most incensed effort in some time, adopting a thrashier edge within the group’s musical DNA of Slayer riffs and blood-splattered beatdowns. The band is often equally lauded and derided for lack of deviation from the blueprint. “I always say, if we’re gonna rip off anybody, let’s just rip off ourselves, because it’s a proven formula that’s worked for 20 years. We never tried to reinvent the wheel, we never went too left of centre. We’re a meat and potatoes type of band, we play to our strengths. Our playing has got better, so with this record we said, ‘Hey, do we want to up the speed a little bit? Do we want to up the intensity? Maybe change up some of the lyrical topics? Okay, are we gonna piss some people off? Are we gonna lose some people, but gain other people? Maybe’.
“But the label just hit me up, saying the response to the first single is huge, some of the platforms in the first day had 50,000 or more views. Obviously that’s a good sign, and that song is a really fast, thrashy song with a somewhat political message. That’s pretty different from what we’ve done on the past two records. So I think it’s good to try and incorporate new stuff, just as long as you don’t go too left of centre.”
Despite crafting such crushingly heavy fare Hatebreed has sold more than 1.2 million records, while their vocalist has established a recognisable personal brand. Other projects include the Jasta solo outfit and currently inactive sludge metallers Kingdom Of Sorrow. He also founded his own label, dabbled in A&R and fronted MTV’s now defunct Headbangers Ball. The screamer currently operates an online merchandise store and clothing line, hosts The Jasta Show podcast and is sponsored by Monster Energy.
Podcasting has unexpectedly birthed a new career for Jasta. The show typically features a broad range of guests including musicians, industry types, comedians and MMA fighters. It has also spawned a litany of catchphrases, such as “that’s haaarrrrrddddddd” and “loud amps in the face”.
“There’s a lane that is open for that right now and I think seeing the writing on the wall with comedy, it really helped me think, ‘Wow, this could be possible for music’. Comedy had this huge resurgence. All the podcasts that I listen to that are comedy-based are so entertaining, and people are so articulate… I thought, ‘Man, this could happen with metal’. And I think it has, with Chris Jericho’s show, Eddie Trunk’s show, my show, and the other great metal and rock podcasts. There are other ones popping up too, and I say the more the merrier.
“There’s no ill will from me towards him. I know that will piss off a lot of band members that want to see his head on a stick, but what’s that going to accomplish?”
“There’s no shortage of great content out there, and when you’re supporting creater-owned content you’re helping fuel that new thought process. I have jastahq.bandcamp.com. I put out two [solo] songs last year, they were totally fan-funded and I was able to premiere them on the podcast. So to be completely DIY, and have the podcast fuel those, I made my money back on the recording and mixing. Now, after this Hatebreed record comes out, I could feasibly go and release some more Jasta songs, and I can put out more podcasts and it’s all a cyclical power there. If fans like it, I get to do more. As long as you’re putting out content that the fans are enjoying, it keeps the lights on.”
One of his desired guests will make for fascinating listening should it come to fruition – former Soundwave head honcho AJ Maddah. Hatebreed were slated to perform at this year’s ill-fated incarnation of the festival.
“It sucks the way that Soundwave ended up,” Jasta explains. “It was a shitty situation overall. But I hope to have AJ on the podcast and really go into it in-depth, because I feel like a lot of promoters, and aspiring promoters, people aspiring to be tour managers or be in a band, I think a lot of people can learn from this situation. So I really hope that he’ll come on the podcast and do an honest, open, candid interview, and we can kind of document the rise and fall of Soundwave. I hold no ill will towards the guy. I always say it’s business, not personal. Were a lot of people left high and dry, were a lot of people fucked? Are a lot of people extremely mad? Yes. But is it the end of the fucking world? Did anybody die? No. Are we still going to be able to tour Australia? Yes.
“I think maybe after the legal stuff is behind him it’ll be possible. He said he would do it, so I hope he’ll do it. He has an open invite. There’s no ill will from me towards him. I know that will piss off a lot of band members that want to see his head on a stick, but what’s that going to accomplish?”