Q&A with Jamey Jasta of Hatebreed!
The contrast between Jamey Jasta, normal guy relaxing, and Jamey Jasta, frontman of crushing metalcore latter-day legends Hatebreed, is striking. Onstage, the compact 29-year-old is a man possessed by righteous rage, lathering up a roiling pit of burly guys who pressure-cook just short of a full-blown melee. Often rocking a hardass-style tied bandanna around his skull, pacing the edge of the stage with animal energy, he looks as ready to throw down as he is to, um, bro down.
But as a regular guy, lounging in the back of the tour bus, Jasta is, well, kind of sweet. He’s articulate, friendly, smaller-seeming, almost boyish. (I had to suppress the urge to either give him a hug or rub the downy surface of his tawny, peach-fuzzed head).
Cofounding Hatebreed when he was barely 16, Jasta has morphed from hardcore-scene cult figure to a leading figure in contemporary hard rock at large. He’s accomplished this by leading the band through the d.i.y.-inspired, stay-true-to-yourself-ethos he inspires, and by constantly experimenting with new ideas, sounds, and collaborators. As such, Hatebreed is, five albums in, one of the few underground bands to poke into the mainstream while still retaining the loyalty of most of its original fans.
I caught up with Jasta exactly a week ago, when Hatebreed rolled into town to headline this year’s edition of the six-years-running Jägermeister tour series. (Okay, supposedly the band was “coheadlining” with Type O Negative, but Hatebreed played last, and that’s what counts.) We chatted about his various side and solo projects, his studio production work, and the surprising ease of playing for mixed-bag metal crowds. And don’t worry, he also revealed a timeline for new Hatebreed material – it’s about time, and sooner than you think. – Arielle Castillo
New Times: So how long has this tour been going on so far?
Jamey Jasta: Just the past three days.
How have the first three shows gone?
Great, great. We knew it was going ot be one big party, ‘cuz we did the Slayer Jägertour, and it was insane. That was back in ’03 or ’04. So then when they asked us to headline it, we were like, Alright, our record’s really old. We really should be doing a new record, do we really want to do another tour?
But people wanted it. I think maybe going away for four months to work on other stuff made the anticipation more for us to come back. Because when we did the first three shows I couldn’t believe the reaction we got. It was insane.
When you say it’s one big party – how much does Hatebreed party?
Well, this tour is very low-key. Nobody’s partying at all. But I mean like, as far as the crowd goes – the Jager tour, you show up, and people are already bleeding outside. There’s girls showing their tits at like 10 in the morning. It’s insane. Like, there were girls out here this morning before we even pulled up.
Yeah, waiting for Type O.
Wow, I mean, it’s so early now – It’s 6:00 p.m. and it’s bright-ass daylight outside.
I know! But there were people. I got here late, but there were guys out there saying, There’s already 20 kids out there, we signed all their shit, they’re drinking Jager. People tailgate at these shows and stuff!
It’s funny because, when I first heard Hatebreed over 10 years ago now, I would have never thought that in 2008 you guys would be playing with bands like Three Inches of Blood and Type O Negative.
I know, I know!
You’ve done a lot of more metal-type shows, but do you still encounter resistance from the crowd?
Yeah definitely, because it’s so different. But you have to branch out. And I notice now that a lot of our friends don’t want to be beaten over the head with the same style all night. I think there are more eclectic types of shows people are more amped on going to because it’s not the same old, same old. Plus, we’re getting an older audience on this tour where there are a lot of the same fans for Type O and Hatebreed. So it’s worked out kind of good. I was a little wary at first, but we do a meet-and-greet, and I’m signing everybody’s stuff that are wearing Type O shirts.
Is that weird for you, coming from the scene you come from?
Well, it’s weird going on after them. You know, because I used to go see them and wait outside to talk to them and stuff. And I remember giving them our demos. We opened for them in like ’95 and I remember waiting to talk to them. So it’s weird to be headlining the tour. But other than that, I’m really psyched, because I’m a big fan.
When do you do the meet-and-greets?
Well, we do two now. Because we have our own As Diehard As They Come fan club that signs up, that get their own meet-and-greet. And then we do the Jager meet-and-greet. It’s cool, because you get to really get an idea of how the show was, and where the people have been coming from.
So it’s after the set.
Yeah. It’s a pretty crazy schedule on this tour so far, but it’s good.
What about your old fans? Let’s say, the basketball jersey kind of dudes. Are they showing up for this tour at all?
Yeah, yeah! Like Providence, it was crazy, because I thought, Oh, there’s not going to be much of a hardcore crowd, because it was the same night as this big hardcore fest. And then also, two blocks down the road was Negative Approach, Death Before Dishonor, and Wisdom in Chains. But we had a ton of people headwalking! And I’ve been seeing Earth Crisis shirts everywhere. They just did a reunion tour so a lot of the hardcore guys got out of the woodwork to go see Earth Crisis, and now are coming to this tour.
I think because we’ve stayed so vigorously on point with our sound, we never really lost any fans like a lot of bands did when they changed their style or tried to go for mainstream success. We’ve actually probably gotten more hardcore. So it’s good to see that when we go do a show – especially in Providence, which is like our backyard, when there’s a ton of Agnostic Front and Madball shirts in the crowd, you know that these are people that have still been around. Especially when it’s the old shirts that are like, gray, and dudes are like, I saw you with Skarhead in ’98!
So what’s going on with the crowd when they’re mixing with, say, 16-year-old Type O Negative fans?
Well, you know, surprisingly it’s just a very mixed audience. Like I’ll go out into the crowd – I did it in Allentown at the end of the show, and I’m taking pictures with guys with Casualties and the Unseen shirts on! So you’ve got the guys that are into Dropkick Murphys, you’ve got the guys that are into Social Distortion, you’ve got the Rancid fans…. There’s all sorts of walks of life that come to these shows. And then you’ve got the guys who like Dimmu Borgir and Behemoth, and they’re there in the front row with the long hair headbanging.
You’ve stayed pretty true to your sound like you said, but it has changed a bit over the years. I was reading your Myspace and it says you’re trying to do a more traditional punk/hardcore thing now with your side project Icepick. What made you want to do that – how is this new Icepick album going to differ from the last one?
The last Icepick one I did completely drunk out of my mind, and I don’t remember a lot of the recording of it. So now that I go and I listen to it – it’s tuned up, so it’s not as heavy. To me it’s not as metal as Hatebreed, because it is tuned up, and it’s more, I don’t know, traditional hardcore.
But with Hatebreed, like with the last record, we did straight Cro-Mags/Mötorhead-type parts. There’s a fast part in every song; it’s a very old-school sounding thrash crossover record like our first record. Our first record, our influences were like, Entombed, Bolt Thrower, Integrity, Earth Crisis, All Out War, Marauder. So if anything, our first record is more metal than our last record. Our last record I think is more hardcore.
But with Icepick, the next one is totally in the Murphy’s Law, even almost going more towards, I want to say like Judge, almost, in a way. It’s faster, New York style.
What made you want to make that change with that project?
Just because it’s a studio record, and I can get musicians that get it, you know. We’re doing a lot of guest appearances. Like Zoli from Ignite is singing on a song. Jimmy from Murphy’s Law is singing a song. Hopefully Pete Steele [from Type O Negative] is going to sing on a more Carnivore-sounding type song. Vinnie Stigma from A.F. is on a song that’s kind of more, like, fast Dropkicks style. It’s a studio band, so I can do whatever I want.
How much of the personnel is the same between the first and second Icepick albums?
Well Zeuss played everything on the last one, and Derek from Unearth played drums. But on this one, Nick from Terror might play drums, and then Frank [Novinec, Hatebreed guitarist] – because he wrote like three songs – will probably play guitar. And then Zeuss will probably do bass. And then me and Ezec are going to coordinate all the guest appearances. Ezec’s signed to Epitaph; he’s doing his Danny Diablo record, so he’ll coordinate the West Coast stuff. Like we’re trying to get B. Real on a song; we’re trying to get Tim from Rancid on a song. We’re really trying to combine the styles and make it a really eclectic, different type of record.
Speaking of B. Real, I was going to ask if you were still trying to work on the remix album of the first Icepick record.
I am. I finally got Necro on a track; I finally got Big Left and Ice T on a new track. See, I’m in the studio, I have a studio, so I’m in the studio all the time. And I’m so scatterbrained, I’ll work on one record one day, another record another day, another record another day. I’m so spread across the board. Like the other day, I was working on Mindless Self-Indulgence remixes.
And I was working on a DJ Khaled remix, which is out, with T-Pain, and Trick Daddy. And now I’m working on Jim Jones…. People don’t know! I work on all kinds of clients at my studio.
When I have time, I just do what I can do, you know? So with the Icepick record, I’ve been chipping away. One day I’ll go in and track a song, and that’s what I do. Like Ezec was out here for a video shoot, so I got him in the studio, and we’re getting Ill Bill on that track with him; we’re getting John Joseph from the Cro-Mags on that track. So it’s like, as the schedules permit, we’re chipping away at the final product. But that record – The first record sold over 25,000 copies with nothing. No video, no tour, no nothing. So the street buzz is huge with that band, so we’re just going to try to really make it insane for the listener the next time around. So people can look at our track list and think, Oh, I gotta hear the song with John Joseph, and go through it.
Right – when you set out to do a remix of a song with someone like John Joseph, how do you work with him on it?
Well, what we’re gonna do is, I think it’s gonna be packaged as one CD, so the remix of the first record will be there, and then it’ll be all new songs with the guest appearances. Like I was just e-mailing back and forth with Keith Caputo with Life of Agony. I have this total Life of Agony-sounding song, and I was like, I don’t really want to sing it, because I’m not really going to do it justice. But then he said, Yeah, I’d love to do it. So him and Ezec are going to go back and forth on that song, so that’ll be one I don’t sing on.
Have you worked with John Joseph at all before, though? Because that’s got to be someone who’s really influential on you, right?
I wrote some stuff for his book, like a quote for the foreword. I distributed the Bloodclot CD. So I’ve worked business stuff with him, but never on a record together. But he sang on the Skarhead record, and he’s really good friends with Ezec, and I’ve become friends with him. Like he just came to see my other band, Kingdom of Sorrow, play in New York City, and all the guys in the band were all freaked out that he was there. They were all happy to meet him – he’s like, the sweetest, nicest guy.
Yeah! It was so cool, because he’s part of the reason why I sing in a band.
You mentioned Ill Bill and people like that, and I also read that you were trying to work with Jedi Mind Tricks. How did you meet a lot of these hip-hop guys? I’ve actually interviewed Vinnie Paz from Jedi Mind Tricks before, and we talked about how he’s a huge hardcore fan.
Yeah, he used to come to shows and stuff. A lot of those guys just went on a different path. Like, a lot of people are into the music scene, and then they find something else. Like Necro and Ill Bill were into hardcore and into metal, and their path in life was to go more into the hip-hop world, but they respect it and like to collaborate. And I do to, which is why I’ve done – I’ve been in Ill Bill’s video, I’ve done tracks with Necro. And we’re doing more stuff.
It’s the same stuff, you know? They do aggressive music, it’s just a different genre. We’re all friends, and we respect each others’ art.
So you know them from back in the day?
Well Necro, I didn’t realize how much history he had had in the music, having been in a band that opened for other bands and stuff. But we were just fans. Like me and Sean [Martin, Hatebreed guitarist] heard [Necro’s song] “I Need Drugs,” and I was out actually in like, Kansas, and I saw a [Necro] T-shirt, and I got it for Sean. And then we were in Metal Hammer magazine or something, and Sean wore it, and he saw that we were fans, and that’s how we got a hold of each other.
What about Jedi Mind Tricks?
I was actually at an Ill Bill show, and I met Vinnie. He came up to me and was like, Yo, I was at this show in ‘97, and we hit it off. And I was like, Yo, I have some of your songs, I have a couple records.
I also have to ask you about the DJ Khaled remix since we’re basically in Miami.
Yeah. Now that these rock remixes are popping up and they’ve had success – like, Travis Barker did one for Soulja Boy – and people know that I work with hip-hop artists. Like I’ve done tracks for M.O.P in the past, Necro, and various other guys. And it got offered to me, and I said, Let me submit a track, and it went on the front page of iTunes. It’s a remix of “I’m So Hood.” And it came out cool, and people are liking it – it’s got like 20,000 downloads or something. I mean, when I do studio work, I’m down to work with anybody. I put out country records, I’ve worked with metal dudes, hardcore, punk. Some diehard metal fans don’t like the idea of people stepping outside of the box, but I just try to work as much as I can inside the studio, and it gives me knowledge of what to do.
Have you gotten to meet Khaled or any of them?
I never met Khaled, but I’ve met Akon, T-Pain, Jim Jones, all the Dipset dudes.
The VMAs, Grammys, other events.
You mentioned you’re always working on different projects, so how do you decide, Today’s going to be an Icepick day, or Today’s going to be a Kingdom of Sorrow day….
I only work when I’m inspired and it feels good. That’s the only time I’ll do it. Otherwise it’s forced. So sometimes those moments are few and far between, but when I’m inspired, I work. Like this Mindless Self Indulgence remix, who knows if it’s going to end up on their remix album. It was something that was brought to my attention and I said, Yeah great, let me submit a track. I like the band and I want to check it out. But like, will it meet their schedule and will it make it on the record? I don’t know, but I’ll do it, and I’ll work on it. It’s just a matter of being inspired and making it sound good, you know? “Issues,” it’s called. The song is called “Issue.”
For you, when Icepick is a studio band, and Kingdom of Sorrow is yet another band, how do you decide what song is going to go with what project? Especially when the sound of an individual project changes from record to record.
I have a vault of songs that I do in tunings. So with Icepick, everything was in E, E Flat, or D. So all the riffs that I had in E, E Flat, or D, I put in the Icepick folder. So then there were hundreds of riffs that I went through.
So there will never be an Icepick song in another key.
Well, there is: “Onward to Victory” is in B. It’s really low; it really kinda doesn’t fit the record. But because it was Andre Orlovsky’s theme song for UFC, he was champion at the time, and that was his intro music, I thought it should go on the record. And then “Born to Crush You” was in C. That was on the UFC soundtrack, and it was just too Hatebreed-style. Everybody said it just sounded like Hatebreed with Danny Diablo on guest vocals. I didn’t want to dilute what I was doing; I wanted it to be totally different.
But with Kingdom of Sorrow, that was all slow – there were acoustic parts, stuff tuned to A and B, stuff I would never use for Hatebreed. And then Hatebreed’s all C, and with Hatebreed Chris [Beattie, bassist] contributes, and Sean contributes, and on this next record Frank contributes.
So your solo shows are just so you can play whatever you want?
The solo shows are, I play songs from all three bands, and then I have the kids vote online for the rest of my set. Like, I just did Pennsylvania and Taunton, Mass. And Pennsylvania was very much a more old-school hardcore type of show, so they voted for Agnostic Front, they voted for Madball, so I do those songs. And my band can play anything. And Taunton, Mass. was more of a metal show. They wanted to hear Sepultura, Pantera, Slayer.
You mean songs by these other bands that you’ve guested on? Or covers?
Yeah, I’ll do whatever they vote for. And then kids write in, and we add it to the poll. I’ve only done six of these nows. So it started out in Delaware as a benefit for the American Cancer Society. We had 400 people there, it was awesome. Carl from Earth Crisis came out and did Earth Crisis song. We did a bunch of covers – Skarhead, Agnostic Front. People loved it – we did Hatebreed hits, Icepick songs, Kingdom of Sorrow.
So then they flew us out to Austin to do this Monster energy drink showcase, so it was Texas, right? So we had to do Pantera. And the crowd went wild. So it’s just really depending on the place. But it’s fun because, like, this little one we did in Mass., we had like 500 votes on the poll. So I thought, Man, this is gonna be a big show. And when we showed up, it was good, it was like 250 kids, but these kids were diehard – they were on there, voting multiple times to make sure they got the set they wanted. So it’s kind of like, by the people for the people.
But I am doing a solo record and it will come out next year!
So when are you working on that?
It’s almost done! I’ve been like, ahead of the game, really! We did a Kingdom of Sorrow record two years ago, but that just came out in February. People think that that’s new, but it’s really been done for two years.
Why did you sit on it for so long?
Because of red tape with the label. Because Down’s label – Kirk [Windstein, Kingdom of Sorrow guitarist and vocalist] is in Down, and that’s a huge band. And then with Hatebreed, the label said, No, Down’s a priority, and Hatebreed’s a priority, so those records have to come out first. So Hatebreed’s record came out in August of ’06; Down’s came out in September. So it was actually good, because then everybody was really hot on those records, and it gave this record time to breathe. But then the Kingdom record’s done – I’m doing Ozzfest with Kingdom, and a little tour. And then the Hatebreed DVD is going to come out. And then the Hatebreed covers album is going to come out, which has Metallica, Misfits, Cro-Mags, Judge – all these cool covers. So we can go do a tour and do these cover songs. And then my solo record.
How did you pick the covers?
The record’s called “For the Lions.” All the artwork is based around all these different stone lions, and it’s basically because each band is like a lion in their own game, like a leader. So we tried to think of each genre and subgenre, and grab a band that really affected us. It’s coming with like a 20-page liner booklet with stuff from each guy about when we got the record, when we heard the band, how it affected us. And we chose the Misfits, Metallica, Judge, Cro-Mags, D.R.I., Negative Approach, Agnostic Front, Madball, Sheer Terror, Obituary….
So we did a lot. And only 12 are going to make it on, because that’s like, the industry rule or whatever. We wanted to make it more, but…. It came out great. It’s new vocal territory for me. I worked with an engineer who is very, like, hard on me to get everything right. I didn’t use any vocal effects or anything. It’s like, real singing on Metallica and Misfits. People are going to be like, Is that even Hatebreed? They’re not even going to know. It’s tuned down, it has our touch. We Hatebreed-ized every track. Like, the Misfits track is crazy, I play it for a couple people and they were loving it.
Which song is it?
“Hate Breeders!” Which is where we got our name. And when we were in L.A. last, Glen [Danzig, original Misfits frontman] came out to the show. And he gave us big opportunities. We played here with Danzig. We played the whole Danzig/Samhain reunion tour – and this was when we were still in a van, all sitting on top of our gear because we didn’t even have a trailer. And this guy’s giving us money every night, giving us food, hooking us up. So that was the number-one song we wanted to make sure we did justice, to pay homage to him.
What about new Hatebreed material? It’s been a couple years. Why do a covers record now?
Because we basically lucked out, and we are free agents, so we can do anything we want. We’re not on Roadrunner –
What about Koch, don’t you have a deal with them now?
With Koch it’s three projects: It’s a DVD, a covers album, and a live album. And the live album we record on the 27th, and it’s recorded, produced, and engineered, and will come with a mini documentary of the show, all done by Vinnie Paul from Pantera. And that’s a totally different thing from the DVD we just shot. And then we have the covers album. So that gives us time to find a label who really believes in it, who really wants to push it like a real project. Not just a contractual obligation – like a lot of these bands do DVDs, and put a couple thousand copies in the store, and that’s it. This is a real release. It’s not just something we’re giving to the label as a bonus. We did this deal with Koch specifically because it’s going to be everywhere – it’s going to be at Wal-Mart, it’s going to be at Best Buy. We’re going to tour on it. It’s going to be a real thing, not just a piece of catalogue.
So are you working on any original material?
How long before it comes out?
It’s going to be another six months. Not that much longer.
You said your deal with Koch is just for these three projects. So what’s next?
Well, I imagine we’re really just going to wait for the right producer. I still think that the sky’s the limit, and I would work with anybody who we could all agree was going to take the band’s sound to a different place. Like if they said Rick Rubin, I would like, freak out! But if they said Ross Robinson, I’d be open to discussing that; if they said Bob Rock, I’d be open to discussing that. But the way that the industry is right now, a lot of bands are doing records themselves. Maybe we’ll do the record ourselves. I don’t know. It’s all in discussion.
Who else is on your producer wish list besides Rick Rubin?
I don’t know, I just want to work with somebody that’s just more or less a song person. I don’t care if it’s a metal person, a pop person. Like, Zeuss is a great producer, a great engineer, and I love the tones on the last two records; they’re my favorite production. But then there’s records I like the production of – like, I love System Of A Down’s production. They’ve got a great, clear, clean production – when it’s heavy, it’s heavy; when it’s melodic, it’s melodic. We don’t have that type of sound, so I don’t know how it would translate with us, but I’m willing to try. I’m willing to try stuff.
We’ll see. I mean, we’re not going to go too crazy; we’re not going to fix what isn’t broken. But I want the people who hate us now to fully despise us when they hear a new record, you know? Because that way the people who really love it will really love it even more!
The last thing I want to ask you about is, you guys are playing the Wacken Open Air festival in Germany this summer. How did you get on that, and how do you feel about playing to that crowd? That’s a serious metal crowd, lots of death metal people….
Yeah! Well, everybody’s wanted us to play forever. And the promoter was like, You’ve got to play the Maiden day with Carcass and At the Gates. And they’re giving us a really good slot; we’re shooting a DVD.
Over in Europe, and even here – we’ve taken out all these bands. We’ve taken out Hate Eternal, we’ve taken out Six Feet Under, we’ve taken out Cephalic Carnage. We’ve put Behemoth on shows. We’ve always taken out extreme bands. The first reviews, the first demo and 7” reviews were in extreme metal mags and extreme zines.
So people from that scene always had respect and dug it, especially in Europe. We’ve done shows with Satyricon where people in corpse paint are wearing Hatebreed shirts! It’s just different there. There’s way more, I guess people are more open-minded. But we just did this last Ozzfest last year, and Behemoth was on there, and us and Behemoth, every day, side-by-side at the merch booths, people would be buying both.
It’s all aggressive music, you know? It’s people that overthink it on the Internet and stuff who make that there’s all this separation. But there really isn’t. But once you get out to the show and see kids in a shirt and talk to the kids, you realize that just because there’s four guys posting ten times each, it’s not reality, you know? There’s not as much separation as everyone thinks.
Here's a video for "Destroy Everything," off their last album, 2006's Supremacy.