When you watch some of these hard-core bands in action, you can't help but
wonder what they are like off stage. Is their music a good way to vent
frustration or do they have a serious anger management problem? I have been
following Hatebreed for several years now and, to be honest, I wasn't sure in
their case, so I was extremely pleased when I managed to snag a few moments of
lead vocalist Jamey Jasta's time.
Jasta is one busy boy. He hosts MTV's "Headbanger Ball," owns and runs
Stillborn Records and has a couple of side projects. But his main focus is on
Hatebreed, which is rounded out by guitarists Sean Martin and Frank Novinec,
bassist Chris Beattie and drummer Matt Byrne. The band's new effort,
"Supremacy" (Roadrunner Records), hits the streets on August 29. For the
unfamiliar, Connecticut-founded Hatebreed performs hard-core metal that could
easily be called ultra-aggressive, yet the lyrics are positive.
"In 1993, '94 I was 15 and I was playing around in a local band and I was
setting up my own shows and some of my own demos and I was really super into
music and the scene. I had a falling out with my old band and I was looking
for some new guys to play with," Jasta begins.
He hooked up with Chris Beattie and drummer Dave Russo of another band,
Frostbite and they ended up getting together just about every other day to
hang out, have fun and write. From this, in 1995, Hatebreed was born.
"We recorded a demo and started circulating it underground." Jasta adds, "We
sold 3,000 copies of it ourselves locally. We started doing gigs and set up
our own shows."
The band went on to snag shows throughout the East Coast and Midwest. In 1997
they signed a record deal with Victory and their first effort was released.
"That record exploded and brought us all over the world. We toured for four
years on that record and played with everybody from Danzig and Sam Hain to
Motorhead and Murphy's Law and Agnostic front and all our heroes. That was the
real building time for us," Jasta says.
As my usual stead, I ask Jasta about his childhood.
"I wasn't in any music programs," Jasta replies. "My family liked some music,
but it was not a musical family. I started learning how to play guitar on my
own at age 14 or 15, but just very basic stuff, no professional level. My
father gave me an acoustic guitar that he had somehow acquired."
"I always went to shows. I think around 12, 13, 14 I was going to shows and
watching the bands thinking, 'That's so cool, I've got to do that one day.'
Certain bands I wanted to emulate and certain singers that I liked inspired me
to write." Jasta continues, "When I hooked up with my first band, just before
my thirteenth birthday, I was just hanging around the band practicing, I kept
getting on the mic and eventually they just had to let me sing."
"I barely made it out of the ninth grade and when Hatebreed started. I was
working as a prep cook. I was trying other jobs, but I knew I had to get out
of there and get on the road. We had been selling a lot of demos and 7-inches
before we got our deal in '97 so I knew there was potential, I just didn't
know how much potential," Jasta goes on. "Luckily we started getting a
reputation locally for being able to draw a lot of kids early on. That was a
great time for hard-core and more metallic style hard-core because there was a
great network of bands."
The group also had a network of bands throughout the East Coast.
"We were able to play Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday every week and sell
merchandise and sell demos." Jasta recalls, "We were able to cover a lot of
our expenses, driving and the practice room. We saw that potential early on
and used the money to put back into our project. When we started touring I was
like, 'I'm done with this job. I can't do this and play shows.' That was when
the drive started going from Chicago to Denver, Denver to Arizona, that was
when the money dried out.
"It's not for everybody." Jasta confides, "So many bands break up and I
understand why. It's a life style that really only the strong survive. I've
slept outdoors, we've broken into places and slept, we did things that I don't
think normal people would be able to handle."
Jasta's tough and he's also smart. He used to skateboard, but hurt his knee
and realized that an injury could affect his music career so he stopped
skating. Currently, he has put any hobbies aside, as he's so busy with his
music, Web site and television show.
I'm curious about Hatebreed's writing process.
"This record ('Supremacy') was a little different because Beattie, our bass
player, and me were writing separately and when we got together we were
throwing back and forth ideas," responds Jasta. "We did some pre-production
stuff, but we were all in the studio writing and demoing because we were in
the process of getting out of our deal with Universal and signing to
Roadrunner. It was all sort of crazy and thrown together at the last minute
that we actually got into the studio to do the record. The material was done
and the songs were pretty much arranged and everything was ready to go, it was
just that we didn't have our deal done and we didn't have a producer and we
didn't know how much was going to change once we got a producer."
Originally Hatebreed was supposed to record in Vancover and that fell through,
so they toured Australia with Korn. Later they went into the studio where they
did their last record with their previous producer.
"It wasn't like a normal situation, getting together in a jam room, jamming
out all the ideas," comments Jasta.
Jasta explains to me that his lyrics are positive, although people don't
always seem to get this concept because of the group's aggressive sound. He
then shared his source of inspiration with me.
"Every day life. A lot of it in this new record is about the last two years of
my life. But if you go back and listen to our past three albums, that's for
the people who don't understand, it's a very simple concept. It's about
dispelling negative energy to try to achieve a positive solution to whatever
problems you have to face whether it be something completely simple as
dreading going to work or something like facing an illness or a disability.
"Through my life, when I've been depressed or when I've felt alienated or when
I've felt problems have really built up, I look to music to escape." Jasta
goes on, "As a child music brought me amazing relief. I would go to shows and
I would go crazy and sing along and dive off stage and I would leave and feel
like a new person. The problems that I faced during the week were gone. That's
why I was drawn to punk and hard-core in the first place because it was a
community that was non-judgmental, it was a place that I could relate to and
it was something different than what everybody else I knew was into."
I remark on Hatebreed's very evident popularity.
"I think that negativity in your life can't be aimless," Jasta responds
returning to his previous thoughts. "If you have negative stuff in your past
you have to move on, you can't let it drag you down. That's always been my
motto, sort of my mantra, accepting things that you can't change and moving
on. But this last two years, the two years that inspired this new record, I
found myself not living by own advice and feeling completely burnt out and
depressed and over the whole being on the road, being in a band thing. A lot
of it had to do with us losing our manager, he died of a brain tumor, and
losing some family members and having some close friendships and relationships
that I really held close, they had deteriorated.
"Making this record, I had to make a lot of positive life changes for this
record to even happen. I got totally back on track and the music started to
flow and the inspiration started coming back to me and the creativity started
coming back to me and it really reinvigorated why I started the band and why I
first became a vocalist. I felt like the music was giving me that therapy
again; that release again. That's why I think a lot of people have been able
to identify with it.
"I think we're what the people's made us," Jasta finally answers my question,
sort of.. "The people have made this band what it is. Our supporters have been
with us ten years and especially the people that have been with us the last
five years and have seen the band go from driving to the last four Ozzfest
shows in different cars, jumping on people's buses because we had not a dime
in our pockets, eating other band's food to being one of the biggest metal
hard-core bands in the world. The people made us this way.
"We've never tried to put ourselves on a pedestal, we're always there for our
fans, we're still DIY after all these years, we do our own shirt designs, we
print with the same guy. We've really tried to give our success back to the
scene. We still set up shows, we still help the smaller bands, we're still a
major force in the hard-core community, but we've also been accepted and
respected in the metal world from our favorite bands like Sepultura and
Slayer," Jasta goes on. "That's part of the reason we try to do Ozzfest,
because Sharon and Ozzy gave us an opportunity early on and Slipknot helped us
as well. And it helps us bring our genre to our kids, it gets the word out and
makes everybody more successful."
I ask Jasta to tell me a bit about his other projects and we begin with his
label, Stillborn Records.
"All the money that I make from the label goes back into the label and
promoting bands. If I see someone who is doing something positive or a band
that I like, I try to help them." Jasta explains, "It's how we started this
band, trading records and trading shows, I just don't want to lose sight of
that and that's one of the things I always try to do. I put out records that I
like whether or not it's going to sell, that's a different story, but it's
something that I've always done and it's fun. It's all I really know."
Hosting "Headbanger's Ball" for the past three years Jasta notes that he's
seeing bands that were obscure now reaching stardom and he credits the show
Jasta has also recently self-released a record called "Icepick" featuring
songs not used for Hatebreed. He wanted to do an old school hard-core approach
dual vocal thing and sought out Zeus (producer of Hatebreed) to played guitar
and bass, as well as his friend Ezec, who sings on the effort.
"It's really something I just had to get out of my system. I'm just glad it's
out, it's a very fulfilling thing. I went to Target and they had it there. It
made me feel good that I was able to do that on my own. I completely funded it
myself and it was a fun project," Jasta says.
I tease him that it's always a good thing when you spot your work on the
regular shelves and not in the 99-cent bin and we both share a good laugh.
Jasta is in Kingdom of Sorrow too, a project with Kirk from Crowbar. The music
is heavy tuned-down Southern rock meets metal and a release is in the works
for February 2007.
"It's still brutal, I just think it's closer to Pantera or Down than it is to
Hatebreed," notes Jasta.
I can't help but comment that he's soooo busy.
"I sleep about four or five hours a night depending," Jasta confides. "I've
been trying to get more rest because I've been feeling really run down,
especially trying to finish this Hatebreed album."
On a new label and working as a five-piece again, Hatebreed has planned to
spend one year touring.
"This is like a new beginning for us in a way," says Jasta. "We're really
excited about this music, there's new life breathed into the band and I think
this is going to be our best, most energetic, most focused year of touring."
I offer Jasta an opportunity to share a few final thoughts.
"The record is called 'Supremacy.' The basic concept of the record is trying
to be the best self that you want," Jasta replies.
He tells me that the cut, "Horrors of Self," is about how he woke up and felt
that he didn't know the person in the mirror. "Supremacy of Self" is about
Jasta trying to get back in the right frame of mind, better health and a
And lastly, he has a few words for Hatebreed's fans.
"The most respect and sincere gratitude to everybody who's contacted the band
and stayed with us through the years and all the ups and downs and highs and
lows," Jasta says. "The fans wrote me amazing inspirational words of
encouragement, how they derived positive messages from our songs and used them
in their lives, really reinvigorated my love for writing songs and I think it
shows in the new record."
Then he surprises me this another nod, "I know this is going to sound weird,
but it's great for us to have a publicist and a label where we can go out and
have these opportunities for people to read about us because we didn't have
that three years ago."
Oh, Jasta, I tell him, I've been trying to speak with you for those three
years. I understood.