With over 20 years behind them, Hatebreed have become standard-bearers of metal and hardcore. And through it all, frontman Jamey Jasta has been a communicator. Whether as a onetime host of MTV’s Headbangers Ball to more recently, the host of a podcast, he’s had a voice outside of the one that’s been shouting about injustices since the band’s 1997 debut, Satisfaction is the Death of Desire. With their seventh studio album, The Concrete Confessional, coming out on May 13th, Jasta spoke to us about what motivates his lyrics after two decades, his podcast, and the decision to sign with Nuclear Blast.
Hatebreed has been around for over 20 years. Where do continue to find the anger, the rage that is evident in all of Hatebreed’s music?
In writing this record, If I didn’t have a topic for the song, I would open a newspaper or turn on the TV. Especially when you’re traveling, what you see in the newspaper or on TV oversees is so much different than what we see here. Obviously the U.K. is similar, Australia is similar. When you’re going to other countries and you see some of the stuff that’s happening, there’s no shortage of things to be frustrated about. You feel powerless, there’s so many causes that I would want to support. Where do you start? In my situation, I’ve donated to these charities, I’ve done things for them and then you find out that the people are arranging this stuff are corrupt and they’re taking the money and it’s not going to the people that it’s supposed to go to.
This constant theme that I’ve been seeing over the last two years that really lent to this lyrical approach for this record, we talk about that, we talk about corruption in the government. There’s two songs that people could say are political, we’ve never really had political songs. It’s not we’re choosing aside, it’s more like a commentary, a snapshot. People could look back on this time and they’ll say “oh I remember that, that’s when the presidential election was going on, the primaries and stuff. Every album I think is like that for us, people remember
So were there songs, specifically written about the 2016 presidential primaries?
No, but there were stuff that’s going on that lent for some of the thoughts in there. The opening track “A.D.” It’s kind of like a criticism of how the american dream was pitched to my generation and the idea of having a white picket fence, marriage and college education and the kids and the car. Now, college education you’ll be paying off for 20, 30 years and marriages end in divorce, and the cars are going to get financed and you’re lucky to get a mortgage, things like that. You look at this presidential election, and you look at celebrity worship and the worship of wealth and power and those themes can be heard on this record.
Yep, I bought into it.
Its even gotten worse! I remember on the Rise of Brutality record, half the employees at Universal got canned and I remember a bunch of them had moved to New York and bought an apartment, because they signed an employment agreement and they thought they were good for a year or two. Fast forward to 2009 with the housing market crash and all of those people that got screwed. The average student doesn’t a bailout, they don’t get their loan forgiven. The auto industry, the banking industry, they get the bailout. But the music industry, we lose all our stores, we lose all our record labels all our staff and we don’t get a bailout. That type of frustration comes out on the record. If we can be a compass, if anyone will do anything about it, I don’t know. You’re not picking up a Hatebreed record to hear love songs.
So you would say your worldview has changed in the last few years?
Yeah, Its a little more negative. People will listen to a song like “From Grace We’ve Fallen,” maybe they’ll think of it as a religious song, but really its more about the destruction of the earth and nature. We were in southeast Asia, we went to countries where kids on the streets are naked, huffing glue, bagging garbage in the streets, no clean water.
There’s probably a lot of places in the United States like that too.
That’s a good point, look at Flint. A song like “From Grace We’ve Fallen” could be about Flint in a way. These are people that the public elected to protect them, at least look out for them or have their back. Come on, the least they can do is make sure that the water is safe for the kids. All those people should be put in jail.
I know you’re not a uniquely political partisan kind of person, but do you have thoughts on the current election cycle?
This is the first election where I learned about all the candidates. actually looked into it. It’s funny- if you go to isidewith.com, and put in what’s important to you, it’ll show you at the end which candidate you most agree with. I liked this lady Jill Stein, and talking to my friends- I have friends who are really conservative, some who are kinda liberal, and some who are moderate, and they’re all like “if you vote for Jill Stein, that’s a wasted vote”. It’s just interesting talking to people about it. When I was growing up, it was always it’ll be Democrats for four or eight years, and then the Republicans can try, and for me, under a Republican presidency, heavy metal and hardcore did very well.
It’s like, okay, as someone who’s self-employed, and paying all sorts of entertainment taxes, and various bills because I’m self-employed- maybe I would make more money under a Republican presidency, and talking to a guy like Jake from Converge, and he said that depending on how much you’re making in which state, you might want to think about a candidate like Bernie. It might be better for the next generation. Yeah, I might feel it in the wallet for the next 4-8 years, but this kid might have a better opportunity or education that he wouldn’t have under somebody who might shake things up. I’m still undecided, I liked a lot of things Jill Stein had to say, but I don’t think she’s still in the race.
What made you get more interested in politics?
The laws in Connecticut don’t protect the self-employed, and the musicians and independent contractors, and seeing my grandmother deal with insurance laws. Like, I want to take my grandmother down a natural path, and not have her be on some pharmaceutical drug the rest of her life. Let’s go the natural path, not for something serious. Obviously, big pharma is good for a lot of serious ailments. There’s a lot of good pharmaceutical drugs that can save people’s lives. But depending on the price, especially for seniors; they get jerked around by pharmaceutical companies a lot for natural paths. Insurance companies in the state of Connecticut do not cover natural paths. But that’s something that can be changed by voting locally. These are the reasons that I will look into voting locally, and see who’s going to back the bill to get natural paths covered by insurance companies.
Let’s talk a little about your podcast. It’s pretty quickly become of the biggest metal podcasts. What made you want to get into that?
It still seemed to be doable. I thought the more, the merrier. We all do something different. I’ll talk to anyone. I’m expanding to Country artists, MMA and wrestling. Going back to being self-employed- wrestlers are self-employed, independent contractors. You always have to be learning and expanding. I couldn’t do that interview with Rob Halford at Headbanger’s Ball, and throw to commercial or a video. I don’t even think MTV would have let us talk about him being gay, or the positive effect it’s had on people – that they feel more welcome at metal shows. That they could be out, and not be judged, and you don’t want to limit that conversation to a three minute window.
That conversation was great, a lot of people listened in and loved it. To be a fly on the wall in a conversation between two people you like, it’s always interesting. This author Johan Yari wrote a book on the war on drugs, and I asked him to be on my podcast. I think there’s less of a disconnect now.
Do you think people will hit a saturation point, since there’s only so many hours in a day to listen to stuff?
It’s at that point. I’ll probably do one a week. I could have 150,000 downloads in a week – but it’s old episodes. I get this on my Twitter all the time, like “oh my god I just listened to the Chris Adler episode.” That was from like last August or September. Everybody will quote me on social media on something I said in my own podcast, and I’m like ‘what podcast was that?’ and it’s like the Howard Jones episode last year. I think less is more to a certain extent. We’ll see, I want to be on more podcasts. I’ve been on a couple, but I want to be on more. I really think that’s gonna be the way to get music out faster, and to people that wouldn’t have considered the music before. Like, I’ve heard of bands I never thought I would’ve liked the music of, but I heard it on a podcast, checked them out and I did. I really think that’ll be the future of reaching people without it just being a music show.
Have you thought about releasing Hatebreed music with your podcast?
Yeah, I have. I played a nice little three song teaser. But I think it aggravated people more than anything. We did that with a Jasta song on the Kirk Hammett episode. And so many people tuned in that didn’t even know who I was, but they heard the Jasta song and went and bought it on Bandcamp. And it was a great test for me, you know, I could be a completely DIY artist and sell a couple thousand singles on Bandcamp. I talked about it a lot, Bandcamp is a really cool platform.
Are you making money off the podcast?
Yeah! It was better when I had bigger sponsors like Squarespace and labels. Right now I have Adidas and I really want to thank them for supporting us. I had a nice run with Rebel 8, and all my coupon codes still work. If Rebel 8 sees a jump in revenue, they’re always welcome back. It’s nice to give myself a salary. But I have other sponsors like Monster Energy Drink, who’ve been with me for like 10 years prior to the podcast. I’m interesting in creating other types of advertising. Livestreaming, or doing it monthly or weekly from a studio, we could do product placement. It was so great to get the support that I did. I was told I’d only get 100 listens, but some episodes I have 50-60 thousand downloads. Just on one episode. Corey Taylor, Randy from Lamb of God- Kirk Hammett was massive. Real papers wrote on that.I was really appreciative of all the sites picking that up.
You mentioned Jasta putting out stuff on Bandcamp. Why not release Hatebreed’s new album on your own this time? And why so many labels?
Why so many labels? For one, you can do a new deal each time. I don’t know how much I can talk about our Roadrunner deal, but I will say that some people that are no longer with the company were making some financial decisions that were not in the best interest of the band. I’ll give an example just so I’m not misrepresenting anything. If I remember correctly, they wanted to cut the budget for the DVD. And the DVD was really important to us. The DVD market was going down the tube, and sales were going down. And we said, “we have a cult following, and they want this DVD. “ So they (Roadrunner) said, “Ok, we’ll give you half the budget.” Well if we had said, ‘we’ll give you half the songs,’ you would have said no. That’s not what the deal is. I have nothing against them; we had a perfectly fine relationship with them. Supremacy was great, we still play songs off it. It’s the most tattooed artwork we see on fans everywhere. If we had given them the DVD (on Roadrunner), we wouldn’t have gotten the deal we did with eOne and a number one DVD with eOne. We did the right thing by withholding that, getting out of that deal, signing a new deal, and just thinking about the freedom we had with that new deal. We did the self-titled album, For The Lions, and for a covers album- it sold like some bands’ studio albums. I don’t think Roadrunner would have been able to do justice for that record. At eOne it was a priority. Posters and advertising everywhere, plus we did the DVD with them. Yeah, would it have been nice to stay with Roadrunner, if they believed in what we were doing and we knew the staff was going to stay. But once we got into that self-titled album, people started losing their jobs and offices were closing in Europe and UK. Now a lot of those people now work for Nuclear Blast in Europe and America too. I just love when people get new opportunities and are staying employed in the music industry. So I think a lot of people understood why we had to protect ourselves.
So yeah, why not self-release?
So when talking to Clutch, it works for them because they can micromanage everything and it’s just Clutch. They’re a band with awesome fans that want to buy the vinyl and go to the show and buy the shirt. It works for them. If could work for us too, but I would have to give up – and I’ve given up so much of my personal life already. I’ve been so available and in the public eye for so many years, and now with this deal with Nuclear Blast, I can balance the podcast and the sponsors and the clothing line and not have to kill myself running the label. I’ve had distribution deals, I’ve been an A&R guy- I know I can’t do a good of a job as Nuclear Blast.
What’s the separation between Jasta and Hatebreed?
With Jasta, I can take a song I wrote for another band 10 years ago that’s been sitting on a flash drive, and even though it’s something I would have never done, like “The Fearless Must Endure.” Originally, I wanted to give that song to Sebastian Bach, and one of the riffs I ended up using on the song, and I got Zakk Wylde to play on that song – and it actually charted on radio. I played it in Hartford the other night and the whole place was singing it and had their hands in the air, and I was so happy I kept it! Some Hatebreed fans scoffed at it, others liked it, but I liked it. It doesn’t have to be for just Hatebreed fans, and that’s the difference.
If you listen to a Hatebreed record, you know it’s a Hatebreed record.
A Jasta record should be more of a compilation. If I get around to the next one, I want to be more of a ringleader than a songwriter. I want to take that hat off. With eOne it was cool, they’re a real record company that can send statements. If I use an outside writer, that writer will get a check. Like our self-titled album. And that record sold pretty good, like 20,000 copies worldwide. Which was nice, the people that were doing the writing actually got a check. With me doing Bandcamp, it’s just too difficult. If I had 20 writers on one record, with E1 it’s just much easier.
With Mayhem Fest going away, and the rise of one or two day festivals, do you think touring for metal and hardcore bands is changing?
It’s changing a little bit, but if you can get around the radius clauses, and team up with the right amount of bands in each city that’s not in competition with five other shows that night, it can be done. You just have to be strategic. I’m sad to see Mayhem Fest go, and would like to see Knotfest become a touring thing. I’d love to see Ozzfest come back one last time too. And you make the metal stuff more palpable and less scary, and you let the friends and kids come along with parents, you’re creating new fans. It’s like “we’ve seen the scary stuff, but now we’ve seen the show and we feel uplifted. We feel good.” We’ve had so much positive response from Rock on the Range and other festivals like that with so many new fans. The analytics on our Facebook page show we got 10,000 new likes within a month. There are people on the fence who like Chevelle, or Evanescence who could become Slayer, Lamb of God or Hatebreed fans. It’s just got to be presented right. They want to see it on a festival side stage, standing in the back asking what it is. Then as the set goes on, they come closer and then they’re coming to your signing with your shirt on. It’s a great thing to see.