Interview with Jamey Jasta of Hatebreed – April 6th, 2016

By Mike Bax
Photo credit: Jeremy Saffer

Hatebreed’s seventh album, The Concrete Confessional will see its release a month from now. It’s a tightened-up overly aggressive piece of work, clocking in at 13 songs and a running time of less than 35 minutes. It’s an album that came together quickly for Jamey Jasta, Chris Beattie, Wayne Lozinak, Frank Novinec and Matthew Byrne – not because it was rushed, but because it flowed out of them with a level of ease the musicians hadn’t really experienced before.

The Concrete Confessional is utterly relentless, and should be a no brainer for fans of ultra-heavy music. The album is Hatebreed’s first release on Nuclear Blast Records and sees its release on May 13th. There are limited vinyl pressings available on the US Nuclear Blast webpage. Hatebreed will play Toronto on June 6th with DevilDriver and Act of Defiance at the Opera House. Tickets for that show are available HERE

Jamey Jasta took 25 minutes out of his busy schedule to talk with Lithium Magazine last week about the new album, it’s creation, Motörhead and social networking. Enjoy:

Mike: Only one of the 13 songs on The Concrete Confessional runs longer than three minutes. That’s like hardcore crossover metal circa 1985, man.

Jamey: Yeah. We trimmed a lot of the fat. We actually went back and listened to a couple of tracks with Zeuss and right before we left for Ozzfest in Japan and made the decision to shorten a couple of the songs. And then when all of the guys came back in (to the studio) and said “Why dont we make a bunch of these songs 2 minutes long?” And we thought why not? Satisfaction (Is the Death of Desire) was about 26 or 27 minutes long and people still like that record. It’s held up over time. We might as well do it for this one.

Mike: I think it sounds pretty cool. When the album ended and started up again, I did a double take.

Jamey: Yeah, that was kind of the point. We wondered how much is too much? All of my favourite records, especially metal and hardcore records, they all clock in under 35 minutes – pretty much, anyway.

Mike: I think society is a little ADD right now as well, they will flip onto something else easily. It’s interesting that these songs are short given the NOW of 2016, and how easily distracted we all are as a society. It will service that mentality nicely.

Jamey: Totally. I guess when I was a kid they didn’t really have a name for it. But any attentional issues that anybody has, this new album won’t affect it. They can commit for the 30 minutes whether it’s on the treadmill, or on the bus to school, or whatever, you know?

Mike: I think it’s interesting that you immerse so heavily in creating aggressive music and you are also one of the genre’s biggest supporters. Being involved with MTV Headbangers Ball, numerous appearances on Sirius XM and your own podcasts; I’m curious to know what your defining moment was as a kid that brought you into the metal fold?

Jamey: Definitely watching MTV and my local public access show that was playing heavy videos. And also we had a cool college radio station called 88.7 in West Haven, Connecticut (WNHU 88.7). Also we had a cool record store called Rhymes Records, which was literally right down the road from my house. I can remember coming home from school and seeing Sepultura’s video for ‘Territory’ and I was able to get on the Q-Bus and pay my 50¢ to get downtown to Rhymes Records and get the album right then and there. So now, if I could do the same thing just with the technology that we have in my own show; play a cool song or talk to an artist that somebody may think “I want to check out what this individual is doing musically”, they can literally link off to iTunes or YouTube, Google or Spotify, or whatever. It’s pretty cool that now everything is just more connected in this fashion. Also I had a venue near me called The Moon. They had everybody there, from The Exploited through to The Melvins to Mighty Mighty Bosstones. Everybody played there, so I’d see the punk rockers and the metal guys or the hardcore kids all lined up to go. So that would be another moment that drew me in.

Mike: I like that you cast your net pretty wide on podcasts as well. You talk to a diversity of musicians covering a diverse range of styles, and that’s cool.

Jamey: Yeah. I just feel that sometimes the narrative is similar to someone from a totally different style of music. So that’s interesting to me and it’s interesting to the listeners because even if you are not into the music particularly that that certain artist is doing, you might be into their narrative, or how they got started, or what they are into now, or what they are currently doing. I just like podcasts. I always liked talk radio, and I always liked long format interviews where you really have to get into the mind of a certain personality.

Mike: Podcasts are great. You don’t have to adhere to a timeframe for the most part. If it goes 35 minutes, it’s 35 minutes – you’re good. If it goes 15 minutes, you’re also good.

Jamey: I often bring up when I had Judas Priest on MTV Headbangers’ Ball – this was in the MySpace days, and it was a big deal with Halford coming back and I was getting a lot of messages on my MySpace page saying things like; “No softball questions. You gotta ask about Turbo. You’ve gotta ask about various different things that were going on with Judas Priest”. And I was thinking, “Do people not realize that we have to throw the videos and the commercials, so it’s not really a long show? It’s not like a full length interview.” But flash forward about eleven or twelve years later when I had Halford on, and we have an hour long conversation on the podcast. We could address all of that stuff that we’d missed along with what had happened between now and then. And there’s no need to go to a commercial or go to a video. To me it’s just more interesting.

Mike: I’d agree. It’s conversational. I liked watching MTV. And I liked that you got all of the questions and the videos and marketing preamble. But I always knew you were dealing with multiple mediums. There was no real dialogue. There were maybe three solid questions and they had to be targeted. So it’s nicer to hear two people converse about a genre or about an album without any of that getting in the way (via podcasts).

Jamey: Yeah. The way kids want to view videos now, in an a la carte way is fine. And if a video show does pop up again on YouTube or any of the platforms that will allow it, sure it would be cool if there was curated playlists of videos. Halford had his own show and he could just say, “Hey, check out Crowbar or check out this classic Flight video”. But it’s more along the lines of something where you know who’s taking care of the editorial process. Not that the programmers at MTV2 didn’t know what they were doing. Because I really thought that they did a great job. They were cool about letting me have input here and there if I wanted to play a Converge video, or a Napalm Death video, or have Cannibal Corpse on as a guest, or Sick of It All. So it was great to see that everything was represented on all of the different subgenres, whether it was power metal bands like Hammerfall or bands that were doing a post hardcore thing, like Everytime I Die. There is still a place for a curated video show and it would be cool to see. But for now, I’d much rather do podcasting where I can go out and work with the sponsors that I want to work with and share in the ad revenue, be able to talk to the guests that I want to talk to and also do it on my own schedule, which has really been nice for me.

Mike: Speaking about your schedule (laughs) you are juggling three bands, a solo band, collaborations with other musicians, and you are doing all of this stuff online. And you take questions from your fans on your website. How do you juggle all of that, man? That’s crazy to me.

Jamey: I’ve just done my first Jasta show since last August. It was funny because leading up to the show I started saying, “Why did I agree to do this?” I had two video shoots the day afterwards and two press dates and then the travel day. I had a podcast to do the following Monday. And I was supposed to be talking to Lita Ford this Friday and I’m also supposed to be doing Al Jorgensen, so there’s just so much stuff that keeps getting added to the schedule. And I’m supposed to have a Jasta show at the New England Metal Fest April 16th prior to leaving for Europe for the Hatebreed tour. Once I got there, and the place was packed, and the lights dropped and my backdrop went up, as soon as the lights hit my Jasta logo and the crowd cheered, I thought, “Well, this is why I do it.” There’s this beauty about being busy where you don’t have this idle time to worry or think about bullshit or bills or issues you have going on. Once you hit the stage it’s like an hour of therapy and then you feel much better. When I drove home from that Hartford show, especially because it was in my home state, I was really psyched. Then I went into both video shoots with a totally different headspace, thinking about how grateful I am to be doing this for a job and remembering the times when I was going to play shows and there was nobody there and questioning why I was doing this. I realize that I am in a good position now where I can pick and choose my shows and I can work to my schedule and I don’t have to be totally burnt out. Even when I’m feeling burnt out the shows end up being great. This video shoot ran smoothly and I’m starting a few press days and I’m looking forward to it.

Mike: Do you find that you allocate your days into chunks of time? Like when you go onto your webpage and you cull all of the questions that your fans are asking, do you have a preset time during the day when you like to do that, for instance?

Jamey: It used to be from 5am to 8am. I felt like during those three hours I could give the nicest most thought out answer. Or I could record at a time where it’s quiet and I just have a clearer head. Sometimes if I’m on the fan bridge I’ll respond to the person and say, “Hey, this is a good one, I’ll read this on the podcast.” And then I’ll do it right then and there. I haven’t been keeping up with it as much as I’d like. Just because I’d given everybody fair warning that a lot of the podcasts were going to be done via Skype while I was finishing the mix and the mastering & promotion of the Hatebreed record. Now, leading up to this tour that starts April 20th, I don’t really have much of a window so I just try to do as much as I can when I can. I haven’t really gone onto Instagram. I’ve been doing a little bit of SnapChat which I think is the best platform to do everything on, but the fan questions I really have got to sit down and try to find a better time. Maybe when I get to Europe the first day we have a day off I might try to just bang out as many as I can.

Mike: Yeah. There’s that adage of only being as good as your last mistake so you want to do it right.

Jamey: Well, yes. Everybody has been very involved and supportive of the podcasts. All of the listeners have recommended a lot of good guests and then point out good things to talk about. When you are trying to give back as much as you can you don’t want to rush in and give somebody some half-assed answer. You really want to make sure that all of your bases are covered.

Mike: What would say the vibe was for you, Chris, Matt, Wayne and Frank creating this album. How would you say it differed from the past couple of albums as far as writing and recording goes?

Jamey: We got to live with the material a little longer and bounced it off everybody more. It was nice to hear how everybody viewed each song, and what they heard in it, what they liked about it and what they didn’t like about it. I remember Chris sending me music – he was jamming on a bunch of different things. One of the things he sent me was pretty much all arranged – a song on the album called ‘Slaughtered in Their Dreams’. He sent that to me almost 75% arranged already. I went right in and banged it out that same day because I had an idea that I thought would really work with it. And then we sent it off to Frank and Wayne and Matt in a very rough format and Frank felt like the riff had an almost Carcass-feel to it. Then Matt came in to put the actual drums on it, Zeuss, Chris and myself, we messed around with the end part and made it a hybrid of a different riff that Chris had written. We had never written a song like that. And I’d never written lyrics specific to a song that I’d already heard and had lived with the music. So it was a unique process that went into a unique experience together and everybody agreed that it was a cool song that sounds like us but also doesn’t sound like us at the same time. I think you want to have one of those on every record, where you put it on and it sounds like Hatebreed but it doesn’t sound like every other Hatebreed song.

Mike: Would you describe yourself as a journal writer, Jamey? Are you putting lyrics together in advance of hearing music?

Jamey: It’s very piecemeal because anytime I’ve written lyrics out as one shot I can never fit them all in one song. Then I wind up having these remnant lyrics that are topically adhered to this song and I don’t want to use them on another song. Even though some of the lines I could see resonating with people, I could see being cool in another song. I torture myself a little bit. And I had to learn not do that on this record and just keep it short and to the point – have fun with it and keep in mind that a good majority of the people listening might not read the lyrics. They might not even understand what I’m saying. They might just want to stage dive or head bang or do whatever it is they do at a heavy metal / hardcore show. And that’s fine with me as well.

Mike: ‘Slaughtered in Their Dreams’ is a track I put an asterisk beside when I first listened to the new album. So it’s curious that you just talked about it. And I’m wondering if you might record in that fashion you described again. It yielded fruit for you, right?

Jamey: Yeah. I thought I only had four or five tracks that were somewhat fanned out. I’d really challenged myself and I’d really listened to Zeuss’ critiquing on them. So I wasn’t trying to hear anything that Chris had already written and arranged. It was just that I was so intensely working on the songs so that was a nice break. And it took some weight off my shoulders knowing that he was going to bring a lot of great stuff to the table. We went back and listened to Supremacy just to A and B some of the tracks together. If you listen to ‘Divine Judgement’ or ‘To The Threshold’, the parts that Chris wrote, those are really strong songs that we can still put in the set. The more I was getting ideas from him and combining them with my ideas, the more I was feeling that the album wasn’t going to take as long as I originally thought. There was a discussion during the last record where I had said to Wayne and Chris that riffs I’d done sounded like something else. They both didn’t think so, and as soon as we released the song fans were saying it sounded like a riff from earlier on. I wanted to avoid things like that on this record.

Mike: What brought you to Nuclear Blast for this album, Jamey? The Concrete Confessional is your first album on that label.

Jamey: I think being plugged into an entire audience of metal heads and hardcore guys and people who like heavy metal, it helps a band stay at the forefront. There are so many other bands. There’s so much other heavy music out there. Not that anything is wrong with Razor and Tie, it’s just their brand is not known. They have a very small social media presence. They are working with a select group of bands that don’t necessarily have a huge international reach, whereas as Nuclear Blast is working with frontline legacy bands. Even Machine Head, you could say there was a bit of time there in the nineties where they strayed from the formula a little bit. But still, they were huge in the rest of the world. We’ve never went anywhere in that regard either. A company that’s been around just as long as you have with people who are passionate about the music and know what they are doing – and again, not taking away from anything at other labels. E1 Music, I still work with through Crowbar. They are great. Razor and Tie, I did A&R for and signed some bands. If I was a manager and working with bands and they presented a great deal, I would still send bands there. I think they do great things. But with Nuclear Blast, it’s just a better fit. When people talk about Slayer, Machine Head, Discharge, Anthrax and Lamb of God internationally, those are the names we want to be in the same conservation with.

Mike: Doing the Motörboat tour last year must be kind of bittersweet what with Lemmy passing away a few months ago. In hindsight, you must be really happy that you did that.

Jamey: It was great, yeah. And then getting to sit down with Lemmy and actually do a full length podcast and not limit me on time or anything like that. He was happy to see me and was in a good mood that day. I was really psyched. Because I thought, man, at 70 (well at the time he was still 69), this is so cool. I mean, we’ve toured together. Once you start talking to other band members about being on the podcast, some of them are like “Yeah, lets’ do it” and others are like “Well, let’s do it when we have a record coming out” or “Let’s do it closer to the tour or whatever”. Lemmy said, “No problem, let’s do it.” I brought my wish list with me. My dream Motörhead setlist and he was cracking up looking at it. We just shot the breeze for an hour. Then I got see him on the cruise and thank him again. Motörhead taking us out in 1999 was a big deal. That was our first real tour. We had done other tours, but it was a tour where we took the risk of alienating our fans with a higher door price and a shorter set and earlier start. The payoff was gaining new fans and challenging ourselves. I remember one of the first nights we met Lemmy, he said, “Get out there, kick their asses and fuck anyone that doesn’t like it.” That’s what we did, and that’s what we still do. It was just really cool doing the cruise and then seeing the posts and having our name up there with Anthrax, Slayer, Motörhead, Exodus, Suicidal and Corrosion Of Conformity. It was an honour. We still think about it and it just blows our minds.

Mike: I like the gist of the intro song to The Concrete Confessional, ‘A.D.’ And if I’m understanding the lyrics accurately, it’s about news as entertainment, not being able to get off your phone and where we are going as a society. I mean, it’s about America, of course. But the news-o-tainment thing and how controlled by our phones we are as a society, I wrestle with that all the time. I’m in front of my computer all day long. I have days where I am utterly saddened by what my life is in that regard. I hear some of that in ‘A.D.’

Jamey: Yeah. How old are you?

Mike: I’m about a decade older than you, Jamey. I’m 49.

Jamey: Ok. So you remember a lot of the marketing in the late seventies and early eighties – the white house with the picket fence stuff? The dog and the marriage and the kids. This stuff was all prevalent. You were groomed to work at a desk or factory. It seemed like there was that opportunity, and that would ultimately be a very fulfilling thing, right? At least for me as a kid, I saw it. Looking at the TV, whether it was Archie Bunker or The Cosby show, or whatever – there was the idea of what a happy American life was. Whereas now, I think it’s completely different. And knowing that less than 5% of the population even has a passport. When I travel (being in a band, you do get to see a lot of the world) I see so many people that ask me about being from America. They say, “Oh my God, I always wanted to be there, I want to move there.” And it just doesn’t seem realistic anymore. It’s like we need to re-invent what the American dream is. Maybe it is starting a tech company and selling it to some bigger tech company. (laughs) And becoming rich off of that. But how many people are going to do that?

Mike: Yeah. True.

Jamey: Um, so the family dynamics have changed. The divorce rate is higher than it ever was. Unemployment is down a little bit, but that depends on who’s doing the survey, and who’s paying for the survey As far as wages goes, I really feel like we’ve been sold this idea of living outside of our means where everybody is in credit card debt and they don’t own their house and they don’t own their car. They are financing everything and working two jobs to pay for it all. It just seems so backwards to me. Having travelled and seen the world, it’s so much different here than it is anywhere else. But we’ll see. I think the song will be a cool conversation piece for people who read into the lyrics a little bit more and that is why we are doing it as a lyric video. It’s going to come up this Friday (it did indeed hit the web on Friday and you can watch that video clip here:)

I’m speaking from any side on this song. You don’t have to be a member of any political party to see either side. There is stuff in there for everybody that I think we can all agree on. It’s about time people have a civil conversation about the election coming up and if anything, this will just be a snapshot of the timeframe where people say “Holy shit, I remember when that album came out. Donald Trump was running for president. It was insanity.” (laughs) So we’ll see.

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