On their seventh full-length offering, The Concrete Confessional, Hatebreed have once again bolstered their reputation as hardcore heavyweights at the top of their game. Newly signed to Nuclear Blast, the guys have once again tapped the formidable talents of production/mixing duo, Zeuss (Rob Zombie, Soulfly) and Josh Wilbur (Megadeth, Lamb of God). Since their formation in 1994, Hatebreed have amassed a multitude of fans worldwide, headlined and occupied the main stage slots on countless international festivals, and risen to the ranks of hardcore and metal elite with a Grammy Award nomination for Best Metal Performance for the epic Live for This from The Rise of Brutality. Thanks to our good friend, John Howarth of Nuclear Blast, we recently got to speak with singer, Jamey Jasta, about everything from the new album to his podcast series, his thoughts about the American Dream, and his interest in the MMA scene.
SR: You worked with Zeuss and Josh Wilbur again on this release and must have a really comfortable relationship with them by now. Can you describe your working dynamic and how it applied to The Concrete Confessional?
JJ: Yeah, we have a good dynamic. I think it’s good to have somebody who can look you in the eye and say, ‘That sucks – make it better.’ So, even though they might not have an idea of what it will take to make it better, you can come up with a bunch of ideas and they can tell you, ‘Okay, this is better…this is better…this is better.’ Then you can decide on it. So, when it came to writing this, I know my riff style and my playing — and I know I’m limited in my playing. But I know that if I can get the basic idea down – it might take me an hour or it might take me six hours – but if I can get that basic idea down and show it to Wayne and Zeuss…if they can make sense of it and they can play it, and then I can put my words over it, then we can structure a demo and Chris can come in. Chris sent me a bunch of great parts and a lot of the lyrics I was writing fit well over his parts and flowed well. There were parts where I would have like half a song and was hitting the wall and I couldn’t really get it to how I wanted it. Then I’d listen to Chris’s stuff and say, ‘Well, here’s a part of his that’s going to fit perfectly.’ And it would fit and we’d be like, ‘There it is! We have a song.’ And our parts would fit seamlessly. My words would go over seamlessly, and it’d just click. So, I feel like if we’d worked with another producer, I don’t know that we would’ve had that same chemistry.
At least Zeuss can look objectively at our back catalogue and say, ‘Wow, this stuff stands up with stuff that you’ve done prior, and these words are going to resonate with people, similar to the stuff you’ve done in the past.’ You want to have someone you can trust and who’s close enough to it, but not so close where they’re going to go through the motions and be a yes-man.
SR: The rage is palpable on this release, which I read was your reaction to watching the news and the general direction society’s taking. You cover that on A.D., which stands for the American Dream. How has your outlook changed about the American Dream, over the years?
JJ: Well, at first I thought, ‘Well, I don’t want to alienate listeners outside of the U.S, but everyone’s heard of the American Dream outside the U.S. And I know so many people who have come from all over the world who have started lives in America based on what they thought was the American Dream. So, I needed to address a bunch of topics in one overall topic; and, in order to do that, I needed to be non-divisive. I think that when you talk about the American Dream, you can’t do it without talking about politics, but politics has been so divisive in America. Because, when you make it more divisive, you can control people. The more divisive the politics is, the more control the government has over the people. I think I just needed this song to kind of be a compass to point people in the direction of maybe a new way of thinking or to spark a new thought. Like, really, why does the two-party system work? It doesn’t work. And how could the founding fathers have predicted that we’d have science and the Internet and automatic weapons and all these different things that they couldn’t have known about when they wrote the Constitution?
And even if you look at stuff from 2009 to now with the housing crisis, and with the insane amount of interest that students have to pay on student loans…I mean, an education isn’t supposed to be something that you’re paying for your entire life, but your wages are garnished for it. So, it depends on what your societal standing is and what the status quo is that you’re forced to meet or that you’re told you have to meet, in media and books and magazines and what you hear on the radio. I mean, I really do think that it’s time to change the American Dream. Why do less than 5% of Americans have passports? I mean, think about that. If you’re so shut off to this idea of going out and seeing the world and thinking for yourself, then what are your options? Your option is to buy a house, which you’re going to pay an extremely high amount of interest on…You’re going to have a child… I mean, you’re going to get married, right? What’s the American Dream about? The house with the white picket fence and the three kids and the dog, with the nice car in the driveway. Well, all those people who are trying to attain that have student loans, a mortgage they can’t pay, a car payment with an outrageous interest rate, a dog from a pet store that came from a puppy mill. And marriage? I think the failure rate’s like 87%. It just seems like such a ridiculous thing that people are trying to achieve when, really, I think the new American Dream should be to get as much knowledge as you can, travel the world, meet as many different people from as many different cultures…educate yourself…don’t be isolated…don’t be ignorant. I mean, we’ll see what happens.
SR: In Something’s Off, you talk about anxiety. What makes you anxious?
JJ: You know, I think anxiety’s the only term you can use where people all over the globe have a kind of translation of what it kind of is. I’ve been all over the world and people say, ‘Your songs help me.’ I guess it’s a general term for this kind of unease or this feeling of doubt or questioning your life’s purpose. Or it’s just not even being able to function. There have been days where I’ve gotten up out of bed and I’ve thought, ‘I don’t know if I can do this today’. Then you go to a friend or family member and they might say, ‘Go see a doctor’, or ‘go see a therapist’, or ‘get out and take a run.’ You know, everybody faces life differently. So I thought, ‘How do I put this in a song?’ You know, when you put it out there, it’s almost therapeutic and you share your pain and you become stronger in the broken places. And so, I just thought, ‘How do I do that?’ That was one of those songs that was like writing my fear down onto a piece of paper, ripping it up, and throwing it into the garbage to have a sort of symbolic cleansing.
SR: Speaking of putting things on paper, do you write specifically for albums, or more regularly, to get ideas down and feelings out?
JJ: I write regularly in order to establish a cadence or establish a flow, and sometimes that will lend itself to the riff or the bass line or drum beat. And sometimes it won’t. Sometimes I’ll have a line that I feel is really important to me, that resonates with me. I don’t know where it’ll come from. Sometimes it’ll come from a book, or sometimes it’ll come from a movie, or something I hear on a podcast or radio show. And I’ll say, ‘Wow – this is something that really touched me, in a way’, right? I was listening to the motivational speaker…it was a TED talk or something. It was a woman talking about this fear of writing. I wish I could remember her name right now because I’d like to give her the credit. But basically, in her TED talk, she had said that she would read the stuff back and would feel something just wasn’t right. — that she had gone off the path. And so, I just jotted down ‘something’s off’, and I know that feeling. I know when something’s off. Sometimes you have to revisit something, and sometimes getting to a place of clarity requires repetition. And if you look, in life, at any discipline, anything great requires an intense amount of discipline… Like, people who get a black belt in a martial art, or people who’ve written a novel and gotten a Pulitzer Prize, or someone who’s directed a movie and has put a lot of time into a collaborative effort – it takes repetition. And so I thought, ‘This song is going to be one of these songs where it’s repetitive but I’m going to have to play it live, so it’s going to have to be something that the crowd can react to and remember.’ And so, it all just kind of worked together, from the concept to the release of the song.
SR: What’s behind the title The Concrete Confessional, and how would you describe the album in three words?
JJ: If I had to describe the album in three words, I would just try to describe the juxtaposition of the two. So, ‘solid’, ‘honest’, and ‘admission’. It’s a juxtaposition of something that’s heavy, firm, and solid, but it’s also honest and it’s an admission. You’re sharing your shortcomings and your frustrations: your anger, your grief, your regret. You know, a confessional doesn’t always have to be something that you’re ashamed of.
SR: You’ve done Headbangers Ball and now you’ve got your podcast series, so you’re pretty accustomed to interacting with fellow musicians and other celebrities. Was that something you always wanted to do?
JJ: No, but I think that’s another way of me tackling my social anxiety. It’s forcing myself to be social. And then, when you’re being social and you know other people are going to listen to it, and critique it and agree or disagree with it, you’re almost forced to be your authentic self, no matter what. Because you can never truly edit or censor yourself if you want to continue to do it. At the 100th episode mark of Headbangers Ball, I remember being like, ‘Look – I am who I am. If you don’t like it, don’t watch.’ And I knew, going into it, that people were going to comment on my hair or comment on my t-shirts or comment on my sneakers. I knew it because I saw it every day, especially with Myspace. Every day was, ‘Why did you wear this band’s shirt?’ or ‘What sneakers are those?’ And so, I thought, ‘You know, it’s so weird with these really minute details that people focus on and obsess over.’ So, when podcasts came about, I thought, ‘Man, this is a great way to actually have people listen.’ They don’t care about the fucking t-shirt or the sneakers or what Jonathan Davis did with his fucking hair, or what jeans Sully Erna was wearing. I remember I got this message about somebody wearing $200 jeans on Headbangers Ball. I was like, ‘Did you fucking watch the video? Did you listen to the fucking lyrics?’
So now, with the podcasts it’s nice because an intelligent audience listens to podcasts. It’s not for everybody. It’s for people who can formulate a sentence and who can formulate an opinion, and that’s what I want. I don’t want to listen to people being wishy-washy and beating around the bush and trying to be politically correct. People know, when they come on the podcast, look – we’re going to talk about tough situations. We’re going to talk about people making mistakes. We’re going to talk about people in the industry. We’re going to talk about ideas. Are you afraid to talk about ideas? Are you afraid that someone’s going to steal your ideas? Well then, you know what? You might not want to come on the podcast unless you want to talk about it. So that’s why I like it. In a way, it’s like whipping myself into shape too, because I’ll talk about an idea on the podcast and then I’d better put in on a t-shirt, or I’d better put it on a record, or I’d better launch it, whatever the idea is. Because there’s going to be some other entrepreneurial person that’s going to take the ball and run with it.
SR: I know you’ve had some huge names, like Lemmy, on your show. Have you ever been starstruck by any of your guests? Do you still have heroes, at this stage of your career?
JJ: I do. Definitely I have heroes. But you know what? The reason I love podcasts is because heroes are flawed, right? And now we’re in this age where the flawed personalities in art are some of the most beloved people. So you’re seeing that musicians now are finally becoming comfortable with showing their flaws. And it was something that used to bother me, growing up. I think that’s why I gravitated to punk and hardcore – because I could see through the bullshit. I could always see the bullshit with the glam rock and pop and alternative crowd. I appreciated that people worshipped the Kurt Cobains and the Mötley Crües. I appreciated it and got it and I genuinely liked some of their songs. But knowing the commerce, knowing the business, knowing the bullshit…
SR: You just couldn’t buy into it.
JJ: Yeah. And now, you look at someone like Metallica. I commend them. They put out this movie where they show all the flaws. You know, you see these guys who are in their fifties, you know? And I went, ‘I’m going to learn from this and I’m going to apply this to my life so that I can be a better communicator and so that I can be a better person.’ Because I see this stuff that’s happening with Aerosmith and AC/DC – and not that I’ve ever been at that level or experienced that amount of being under the microscope – but I have been on TV and I have been in the public eye enough to know that my shit doesn’t stink and I need to keep my ego in check. And I need to be a good communicator in order to keep the ball rolling and keep putting out killer records and keep going on awesome tours and being able to leave it all onstage without all the fucking baggage. It’s like everyone’s got so much fucking baggage, man! It’s crazy!
SR: And speaking of awesome tours – you’ve got a set of dates coming up with DevilDriver which will make your fans very happy. When did you get those guys on board for the tour, and what’s your history together?
JJ: Kingdom of Sorrow and DevilDriver toured together for Ozzfest. And then Coal Chamber took on my project, Jasta. So I was like, man, Dez has always been so cool to me; but, for whatever reason, it’s never worked out for Hatebreed. So, you know what? We’ve got to get them on this tour. And it just worked out perfectly, the timing. We both have albums coming out the same day. It’s really what the fans want. There was a time where you could go on iTunes… I don’t know if it still does this with the new iTunes. I haven’t been on iTunes for a while. But I just got a gift card, so I’m going to go on later today and get the new Amon Amarth that just came out.
So there’s this thing that says ‘users also bought’ underneath certain albums. And there was a time, for about five years (laughs), that, when you went on the Hatebreed iTunes page, it’d say ‘users also bought’ and DevilDriver was always there. It was usually Lamb of God, Machine Head, Soulfly, Six Feet Under, Chimaira, and DevilDriver – those were always the bands. I think back and maybe around The Rise of Brutality, it was more Killswitch Engage, Shadows Fall, Lamb of God…But then, into Headbangers Ball, when the Chimairas and the Bleeding Throughs and the DevilDrivers all came into their own careers and their own popularity, Hatebreed was still in that mix. And even though we came before those bands, we had a lot of the same fans. And we took out Six Feet Under, we took out Shadows Fall, we took out Agnostic Front, we took out Dying Fetus, we took out Carnage. I mean, we took out so many bands and then, into 2010 to now, we really started to be a support band more. We supported Five Finger Death Punch, we supported Lamb of God, we supported In Flames, we supported Black Label Society, we supported Slipknot. So now, we go, ‘Well, fuck, four years have gone by! We’ve got to do a headline tour!’ So now we get to do that and it’ll be great.
SR: That’s fantastic. You were talking before about discipline and you mentioned martial arts. When did you first get into MMA and who are some of your favourite fighters?
JJ: I first got into it in the nineties because it was like this forbidden thing. It was kind of like hardcore punk, in a way, or like really underground horror movies. It was this thing that only the crazy, outsider people liked. It’s not that I enjoy violence. I enjoy the narrative that leads up to a competition, where one guy’s going to win and the other guy – win or lose – left it all in the cage, right? So I think it’s the risk-taking aspect of it, and also, back then — because it was an underground thing — I felt like these were people like me who… They didn’t have a lot of options in life, and one of their options was to get in a cage with another man and beat the shit out of each other. And that was like heavy metal and punk rock. We got in the pit, we beat the shit out of each other in the pit, we dove off the stage — and for that hour, the bills didn’t matter, the taxes didn’t matter, the suicide and depression and jail…you know? The family members in jail and the family members in the psych ward… Those things didn’t matter for that amount of time. And so, being a kid who was bullied and who was constantly fighting, you would see somebody on the screen and go, ‘Wow, man! This guy’s got the balls to lay it all out on the line and risk his life for our entertainment.’ And, for whatever reason, it always resonated with me. So now that it’s a sport and athletes can make money out of it, it doesn’t have the same feeling with me. But when the narrative is good, and when the personality is there, and when the personality and narrative resonate with me, I’m even more into it. But, you know, having been choked out and having been punched in the face, I’m so happy that I don’t have to do that. I don’t want to train in it…I don’t want to do it…I just want to scream my head off at the show and do music. I’m very lucky to do music. And I know a lot of guys who fight and it’s not a long career.
I was just talking to Uncle Creepy, who could’ve been the flyweight champion — I think that fight actually happened in Australia. I think the first fight was a draw. For whatever reason, it didn’t happen and now he knows he’s got to transfer into other businesses. He’s going to start a podcast. I was like, ‘Look, I’ll help with the podcast.’ He’s been on my podcast a bunch. But, for me, coming from the hardcore scene and going to shows and getting in scraps, he’s someone who, when he fights, I would follow what he does and appreciate the narrative. To me, it’s not about the belts and the sport of it as much as it is the competition and the narrative.
SR: When can your Aussie fans expect to see you back down under and do you have a message we can send out to your fans ahead of the Concrete Confessional release date?
JJ: I think we can get it done soon. I think we can lock it in soon. I think the best chance for it is if we get really good word of mouth for this album and the fans really mobilise and buy the album. If we chart in Australia and have a good showing and some serious sales, I think that’s really going to help us leverage a great tour. And I say this everywhere, because it’s not just about the record sales — it’s about our previous touring history. I think if the fans don’t show up, there is no way to come back from that, right? If you look at a Warped Tour of Australia, right? (Laughs). Do you think you’ll ever see another Warped Tour of Australia? Probably not, right? So, if we can really get the buzz going and spread the word of mouth for this Hatebreed record – if we have a good showing and people really support this record – we can probably put together our own package tour, instead of having to rely on a festival tour. We know that there’s always going to be Hatebreed headline tours, but we don’t know if there’s always going to be certain festival tours.
SR: Well, we love the album and feel really lucky to have had an advance copy to listen to. We’ll do our best to get the word out for you.
JJ: Oh, thank you so much. I’m really happy that so far, so good. Everyone seems to be digging it.
The Concrete Confessional drops on May 13 and you can buy your copy here!