Hardcore As Hell: A Chat with Jamey Jasta of Hatebreed
Mike Hess
6/2/2002 4:18:02 PM

"You’ve got to live in the moment"

Being the frontman for the only hardcore band to ever successfully release a genuine hardcore album on a major label is something to brag about. But Jamey Jasta doesn't. He doesn't complain about being in a band that until recently, hardly anyone knew about unless they were in the hardcore scene. In fact, aside from the perpetual throat problems that plague him, Jamey doesn't have a whole lot to complain about lately. Just check out what he had to say about life these days.

What was the main objective while recording Perseverance? Were you looking more at keeping the power you guys put out, or the production quality and other aspects?

It was definitely a mix. We wanted to have it crush, but I wanted to have different vocal registers and have the vocals come out more maniacal. We also wanted the drums and guitars to be huge, and not have to sacrifice any brutality. We wanted it to be over-the-top.

Now, I know you guys always put out a positive message, but lots of people aren’t really familiar with Hatebreed yet. Do the media and other people automatically give the band a bad rap or negative image from the name?

It’s weird, because when we were dealing with the business aspect of this record, one of the biggest initial orders for the album was from Target stores, who didn’t judge us by our name at all. They got the record, liked it, and they wanted to have it on sale, whereas Strawberries wasn’t feeling the records, didn’t like the name and didn’t want to take in a lot of copies. You hope people won’t judge a book by its cover, but it happens every day. We’ve also set ourselves up for a lot of the negativity, you know, we’re not angels in any form. We’ve had bad fights at our shows, and we’ve had a violent stigma surrounding us, and been banned from clubs all over the country. We try to let people know there’s a bigger better cause out there, and hopefully people can appreciate what we’re doing.

The lyrics are very inspirational and about finding and healing one’s inner self. Was writing them in fact a healing process for yourself, or is it more you reaching out to fans and giving them something to latch onto and believe in?

Both. At the end of the day to look at yourself as an entertainer, especially coming from the hardcore scene, and always just being in bands and going to shows because it was cathartic and it was a release and a temporary escape from all the problems in my life. But, a lot of our shows, people just want to have a good time. It’s a release and the people are going crazy, and they’ve had a bad day or bad week, and the show is an outlet. But as far as the listening experience for the record, I wanted it to be both inspirational as far as getting what you can get from the worst and not alienating anybody, but also just being a release for me, so that when I do go perform it, it is an intense experience.

Also, the vocals on the album, while still hardcore and abrasive, are very understandable, whereas a lot of hardcore lyrics out there is impossible to understand. Was that a goal?

Yes, definitely. We wanted everyone to be able to discern the words and understand what I was saying. I think that’s what sets us apart from a lot of other bands, and it’s what people like about our first album (Satisfaction Is the Death of Desire [Victory]), and it’s one thing I’ve heard over the years from fans and critics and people all over the world. But also, I didn’t want it to be as monotone as Satisfaction, so there’s different registers and different screams.

Lots of the lyrics seem very relevant to 9/11, especially those of “Hollow Ground” and “We Still Fight”. Were these written beforehand, or were they inspired by 9/11?

Everything was done prior to that. It was weird, when Matt Hyde actually got the pre-production tape, it was on 9/11 or the day after. By the time we got into the studio it was ironic that a lot of the songs could sound like they were inspired from that. Espeically “Hollow Ground”. It’s funny how a lot of the things you learn growing up that you realize are bullshit and how people in general take for granted our safety. In “We Still Fight”, a part of the song written prior to 9/11 now seems completely relevant. (referring to the closing lyrics “For those who fought for our rights & for those who gave their lives. And for the families whose loved ones died. It’s their honor for which we still fight”)

Yea man, but that’s what makes a good song. It can be related to something that it was never intended to be.

I agree totally. I’ve had songs affect me in different ways, but when I’ve asked the musicians about it, they say “that’s about this and not that”, so I want people to be able to interpret whatever they need to interpret as long as it’s something with a positive result.

How was it working with Universal Records? Did working with a big label take away any freedom?

Not at all. They just kept going out of their way so we could do what we wanted to do. They told us do what you do, and let us know how we can help you do what you do better. They came in the studio when it was all said and done, listened to the record, and they absolutely loved it. We were surprised cause they’ve never had anything that sounded like us, so it was like a first-time thing for them. There ain’t a store in America that isn’t carrying it. Distribution isn’t a problem at all, there are ads everywhere.

What was it like to see Hatebreed on the Billboard Top 200?

I freaked (laughing). It was cool cause we lasted 7 weeks on it. We sent out a big email asking everyone to get on it, just for shits and giggles to see what happens, and then to enter at 50, it was wild. I don’t think anyone saw number 50 coming.

Are you guys ready to rip the 2nd stage at Ozzfest again?

We’re just psyched to be in a better slot this year. Co-headlining with Down is going to be cool. Those guys have been around forever, and we’ve paid our dues too. For someone as big as Sharon Osbourne to recognize that, and to see the reaction we were getting last year, it feels good to be asked back.

There’s so many young kids out there. Even now, you’ve gotta think between last year and this year, so many kids have just gotten into metal, and how many more kids we’re gonna be exposed to. And these kids, they think Adema and Linkin Park are heavy, and we go out and tear their heads off. It also helps to expose other bands and it helps our whole genre.

Do you think being on Ozzfest last year without a new album out helped or hurt you in the longrun?

You’ve got to live in the moment, and we were playing songs that weren’t released, and people knew them anyway. There’s always new bands, always new records on sale and there’s always somebody else that’s going to come along. We’ve been a band since 1995, so we’ve seen the explosions of Korn and Limp Bizkit and Slipknot, bands who in a sense use little teeny-ass specks of hardcore, punk and metal, whereas we do the same thing but keep it totally destructive and heavy with a positive message. To want to be out there and affect people and be as big as you want to be, you have to look and see what the nation is grasping onto. To feel like you missed that chance, it’s costly. You’ve gotta realize music is changing now where some real, REAL heavy bands will be able to get some success.

I just saw the “I Will Be Heard” video on the web. I’m loving the way it came out. Was the focus of the video shoot to get more of the crowd reaction or the performance?

It was hard because I tried to tell the director that we just want to capture the energy, and what it is about us that would draw 1500 kids into a place to want to even be in the video. They knew, but they didn’t, ya know? The video crew came to the show the night before in Scranton, PA and saw the dancing, saw the singalongs and the stagediving, and I tried to tell them the video shoot is going to be different. There’s going to be a barrier in front, kids who don’t want us to play for the tape, kids who don’t want us to make a video for MTV or M2. But they said ‘Well, this is what we have to do, this is a major budget video, yada yada yada’, but we made the best of it. They were able to capture some really cool scenes of the singalongs, stagediving, headwalking* and all the dancing. It is what it is, it’s not different from what we always do live, and it’s a great way to show what we’re all about.

We had to play the song playing over the tape, cause in Penn, we played it live, and played the video of that back, we realized that we play it about twice as fast live compared to the tape, and we didn’t want to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to synch up the edit. We didn’t lip synch, we just played over the tape. There wasn’t a lot of footage we could use to synch up, but there was enough of the individual shots where it synched up.

Was the crew hesitant to get into the pits? They’re right up in the thick of things.

Yea man, the director got his nose split (laughing). Oh well, though.

*Headwalking is a hardcore form of crowdsurfing, and pretty self-explanatory. You get raised to the top of the crowd, and walk atop people's heads.

I highly, highly encourage anyone to go to:www.hatebreed.com, and watch the video in the Multimedia section. You’ll see all the dancing, singalongs and energy that goes down at a hardcore show.


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