Hatebreed is one of the few hardcore bands who have managed to become somewhat mainstream for the heavy music audience. Thanks to their experiments with classic thrash metal elements, Hatebreed has become one of the forefathers of the oh-so-popular nowadays metalcore. However, the guys are still able to keep the image of extreme American “mothafuckas.” 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 their last visit in the summer. You could tell that watching the mass of people who came to the show at Helsinki’s Ice Hall (Jäähalli) 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 moved away from the original idea of hardcore punk; it is organized and it makes money, thus it’s not exactly “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 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 the fans who accuse you of becoming too commercialized and losing 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. Everytime people think what they want regardless of the facts. It’s out of my control; it’s their problem, not mine.
The two scenes – the metal scene and the hardcore scene – have been growing together. However, the hardcore fans are talking about “the lame metal fans,” and the metal fans talk about “the stupid, moronic hardcore crowd.” How do you feel about that, when you see that the 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 us that we were a cross-over band.
How did you pick up the songs for For the Lions? Were those your all-time favorites 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 that 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 a 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 a good time too. Though the thing we do is not always 100% serious, but there isn’t a lot of humor in Hatebreed shows.
Are your lyrics very personal?
They totally are. In some songs I talk about something very serious, it’s not about amusing experiences. 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 the feeling that I wanna go and listen to my own record, it means I’m doing something good.
What are you listening to the most right now?
I’m listening to the 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 that we could hear on Beholder of Justice or Everyone Bleeds Now. Are you planning on stepping away from it or is just a temporary style choice?
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 tens of bands, now it’s like two to three. People are buying the CDs really poorly and now I have piles of CDs 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, with the label, the clothing line, and the 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 a much more profitable business than the label, so I’ll definitely keep it going.
Purely hypothetically, if Tom Araya quit Slayer and the guys invited you to do vocals for them, would you agree?
Hmm… no. Well, definitely no. It would be too much responsibility and pressure. He is an awesome musician and then everybody would be judging me as someone who is trying to be him. There would be too much pressure and expectations from Slayer fans. No, I wouldn’t ever take this.
Interview: Victoria Maksimovich | Photo: Jana Blomqvist | Ed: Amy Wiseman