**This interview was the cover story for the very last ever issue of the now-defunct Hails & Horns Magazine. It’s special to me because I found it nuts that I got to do a cover story for a magazine, specifically on someone I have so much respect for. Jamey was a great interview and fun to chat with, so I’m very happy how this one turned out.**
Over the last ten years or so since the release of Perseverance, HATEBREED have proven to be one of the most important crossover bands in metal today. One of the main reasons is the drive, passion and professionalism of their vocalist Jamey Jasta, as well as their bludgeoning mixture of old school hardcore and thrash metal. Over the Thanksgiving break, Jamey and I chatted about their new record The Divinity of Purpose, the mixture of hardcore and metal in their sound, their propensity for metal tours, as well as his time hosting Headbangers Ball. The Divinity of Purpose comes out in January on Razor & Tie.
You guys just got off tour with LAMB OF GOD and IN FLAMES earlier this week, and before that you did the “10 Years of Perseverance” tour. Are you looking forward to going back out on tour in support of the new album, or are you a bit burned out right now?
I feel pretty good; I’m looking forward to the tour. I think we’re going to make the announcement this week and the record comes out on January 29th, so it’s going to be good to get out in support of it. I think we’re going to play a lot of the cities that we didn’t play with LAMB OF GOD, and a lot of the cities that we didn’t play on the “10 Years of Perseverance” tour; places we haven’t played in a long time.
How was your Thanksgiving?
It was great. I got to make the rounds and see my grandmother, my father and his wife, and my sister and her kids, so that was fun. We finished the tour in Florida, and then flew home just in time for Thanksgiving, and it worked out perfect that we got to be home. Tomorrow I go to Europe for the press tour.
Your new album is called The Divinity of Purpose. Could you give a little background on why you chose that title for the record and what it means?
I just wanted to spark a thought within people, and try to get the gears turning as far as what we want to say with this album lyrically. I feel like throughout my life, I’ve been able to rediscover my purpose or find a new purpose. Whether it’s been becoming a young parent or doing music, there’s been a lot of really great experiences that I could have only experienced by finding what I felt was my purpose at that time in my life. So it’s just trying to keep with a positive theme, and trying to spark a thought in someone’s mind, or point them in a different direction or a new direction.
So would you say that your lyrics are kind of an autobiography of your life?
That’s pretty close, yeah. This record is very representative of the last year or two lyrically. There’s no real deep past stuff that I’m delving into, it’s all kind of been a snapshot of the last year, or year and a half.
One of the songs on the album that stands out the most to me is “Own Your World”; tell me a little about how you guys created that song. I am particularly curious about the motivational speaker-esque gang vocal part in the intro that leads to that bone crushing thrash riff.
We used to do a back and forth thing with the audience, where I would ask them a bunch of different questions, and the answer was “no one”. So I just figured I should turn it into a song or something like a song, and when I was writing the lyrics for the song, I thought “wow, we should open the song with this”, and it just came out cool; and it kind of goes with our themes that we’ve had before with me kind of being a drill sergeant in my own ear. That’s what I like to do, because it keeps the song timeless for me, so when I perform them, It’s like I’m talking to myself. If I go to the gym, or go for a run, I’ll put on my own music, especially when I’m demoing the songs, and if it gives me a charge I try to use it. I felt like with that song, the riffs all came together. I co-wrote that song with Chris our bass player, and he wrote the bridge part which is like a thrash riff. It’s kind of a new arrangement style for us, but it’s also still anthemic, it still has the gang vocals and the mosh part, and everything that I think people expect and want from HATEBREED.
As far as the sound of the album goes, it has the signature HATEBREED sound, but there seems to be more of a return to your hardcore roots, particularly on “Indivisible” “Bitter Truth” and “The Divinity of Purpose.” Did you guys go into the recording session with the mindset of giving the album a bit more of a hardcore sound, or did that just happen organically?
Yeah, we definitely kind of made it a purpose to just have more of the old school hardcore influences. Like to me, “Bitter Truth” is influenced by LEEWAY, and “Divinity of Purpose” is kind of like KILLING TIME or SICK OF IT ALL. Different songs have different kinds of old school hardcore influences. On The Rise Of Brutality and Self-Titled, some of the hardcore fans whined about the record being too metal, but you can’t please everyone. We mostly play to metal audiences, so we want to have a good balance of both, but we’re a crossover band, so there’s always going to be that old school hardcore influence. But, we all listen to a lot of metal, and we mostly play on metal tours. I listen to more like SLAYER, SEPULTURA, BOLT THROWER and ENTOMBED, so my taste just leans more metal, but there’s definitely a good representation of our hardcore influences on there.
The album was co-produced by Zeuss, who’s had his hands on every HATEBREED album since Perseverance. What is it that you like about working with Zeuss so much and what role has he played in the crafting of that signature HATEBREED sound?
We co-produced this with him and Josh Wilbur, so we had two ears on it, and Zeuss is good to tell us “this riff isn’t so good”, or “this vocal isn’t so good”. He’s good to have to give it to us straight. We tried to make this a “meat n’ potatoes” record; so if you like HATEBREED, we keep the recipe pretty intact, and he helps with that. Josh helped us add some new ingredients here and there, so it’s not so redundant and it’s not so reminiscent of older albums, but at the end of the day, that’s what people want. A lot of fans are very resistant to change, they don’t want the recipe to change, ya know. If you’re a SLAYER fan, you want to put on a SLAYER record and you want to hear something about Satan within the first two minutes, or it’s got to be about death and destruction and the world going to shit or whatever. So with HATEBREED, you want to hear fast parts, breakdowns, gang vocals and things like that, and that’s fine, we’re always going to deliver.
Another HATEBREED signature is striking album art, and I have to say, the artwork for Divinity is SICK. It’s got that iconic feel that makes you want to stare at it for hours while listening to the record. How did the concept for it come about?
Now that everything is digital and photoshopped and we live in this digital age, we just thought “let’s go back to how it was when we were kids when you’d get a record cover and it was a painting.” We’ve never had a record cover that was an actual painting. I love Eliran Kantor’s work, and he’s done work with SODOM, TESTAMENT and ATHEIST, and we wanted to have that iconic, old school cover that really tells a story. The main character there could be anybody, we all feel sometimes that we’re in a tug of war with the good and the bad, or the light and dark, and sometimes you have to go through a lot of darkness to see the light, and sometimes you don’t get an opportunity. So we wanted to create that, and again, create a question in somebody’s mind, make them really look at it and go “wow, what is this?!” Like you said, I feel it’s really striking, and I want someone to pick up the vinyl or cd and look at it, and know that somebody really put their hard work into that, and it’s not something that we feel should be taken lightly, or shouldn’t be considered.
Divinity is your first album to be released by Razor & Tie, but what I found funny is the fact that dating back to Rise of Brutality, each of the last four HATEBREED albums have been released on a different label. What has played a role in the record label roulette, and what made you choose Razor & Tie to release the new album?
Well, I think for the most part, we’ve always tried to do things that were artist friendly to us. For us, I don’t think the fans should care what label it’s on, that doesn’t matter. As long as it says HATEBREED on the front, you know what you’re getting into. We’ve been very lucky that we haven’t been tied down to one label in very deep contracts, we’ve never done a 360 deal, we’ve always retained all creative control and that’s important for us. I feel like Razor & Tie is a great, great company, with great people and a great staff. We’ve been fortunate that every label we’ve worked with has had a great staff, but as the music industry gets smaller, it’s important to protect yourself and go with a company that really cares, not people who are scared for their jobs.
Earlier, I mentioned that the new album has a bit more of a hardcore feel to it, but you also said that you listen to a lot more metal. Since you started out in the hardcore scene, do you still identify with it like you used to, or have you grown away from it?
We were always a crossover band. Early on, when the demo came out, we would play with NAPALM DEATH, SIX FEET UNDER and MACHINE HEAD, but it was hard to get on those shows and tours. We were lucky that the hardcore shows and the hardcore scene really embraced us; like when we would play with bands like STRIFE, SNAPCASE, MADBALL and AGNOSTIC FRONT. We’ve always tried to maintain a balance. If anything, as we got more popular, and as we started touring more, I would say we just leaned more towards the metal tours, just because we’re playing to so many more people. We did a tour with FIVE FINGER DEATH PUNCH, and it helped us gain so many more fans. We played arenas, and it’s always like “the bigger the better.” For us, the bigger shows we can play, the more people we can play in front of, that’s what we want to do. We’ve always felt like that was the best way to grow, and it is. Just having done this LAMB OF GOD tour, we played a lot bigger venues than we’re used to playing in some of these places. In St Louis for instance, we played The Pageant, we haven’t played there since 2003 with SLAYER, so it was nice nine years later to play a big venue like that. We’ll usually headline Pop’s, or an 800 or 1,000 capacity venue. So it’s all about growth, and getting to as many ears as possible out there, and that’s why I feel like some of the bigger metal tours are best for us.
One thing I’ve wanted to ask you about–partly because of how much it meant to me in high school–is your time on Headbangers Ball. Looking back, that was a show that introduced a lot of people, including myself, to a lot of amazing new music. What are some fond memories you have from doing that, and was it weird being in a smaller band, but also being an employee of MTV?
I always feel like if you work in any facet of music, you need to have a backup plan. Back then, not only was I interested in possibly helping my own band, but also helping my label and other bands I was working with. I just felt like TV, or some sort of media job could be a good backup plan just in case. At that time, the Perseverance album was huge; we were selling just as many records as SLAYER or MEGADETH and other big metal bands, and I thought this would be a good way to branch out and expand my horizons. It was great to help a lot of smaller bands, and play videos that probably wouldn’t have ever gotten played and book guests. Whenever I pushed for guests like NAPALM DEATH or CANNIBAL CORPSE, or SICK OF IT ALL or whoever, it was fun to do that, and when we would have bigger artists like METALLICA, MARILYN MANSON, GODSMACK or JUDAS PRIEST, their fans would tune in and be exposed to the videos that they saw from smaller bands, and so and so forth. Overall, it was a great experience. MTV is owned by Viacom, so I was an employee of Viacom, and they have a bunch of other networks like Spike and Nickelodeon, so it was cool to see how network TV works. There were a lot of people there back then that really were metal fans, so it was a great environment.
Did you have a lot of say so in what videos were played on the show?
There was a programming person, but yeah, I was on their ass every week. It helped to have my ear to the street, because there were a lot of videos I pushed for from more aggressive bands like DECAPITATED, CONVERGE, MASTODON, SHADOWS FALL, LAMB OF GOD and bands like that. So it was great to see when they would really start to bubble up, that there was this big groundswell of music happening. I feel like it really helped launch careers for bands like AVENGED SEVENFOLD, AS I LAY DYING, ATREYU, LAMB OF GOD and KILLSWITCH ENGAGE. HATEBREED were also hugely popular at the time, so it also helped us on the Rise of Brutality album, because we were on Universal, and we were able to make two videos. At that time, Universal had fired everybody who worked on our Perseverance album, so it was nice to actually get some HATEBREED videos played too, because we didn’t know what the future was going to hold. Especially during that time from 2003 onward, the record industry really started to go downhill.
When you were just a kid singing along to SEPULTURA and METALLICA in your bedroom, did you ever dream that you’d be in the position you are in today touring constantly and writing songs that impact people all over the world?
No, it’s crazy, but I’m very grateful. I thank my lucky stars every day, and I try to help people, and treat people with respect, and treat people the way I want to be treated. I just feel like the times that I met these bands and they gave me respect, it built me up and it’s a cyclical power, ya know. SEPULTURA are one of the first bands that really struck a chord with me in the heavy underground metal scene, and then to tour with them in the states and Europe, and to be buddies with Andreas, Paulo, Derrick and Igor, and to tour with SOULFLY and Max, it’s just really cool. It just shows that if you work hard and you try to treat people with respect, and if you put your nose to the grindstone, there are a lot of opportunities out there, you just have to be willing to sacrifice and do the work.
What are some goals that you’d still like to achieve with HATEBREED?
I’d really like to get a US tour with METALLICA. They’ve taken out MACHINE HEAD, LAMB OF GOD, GOJIRA and VOLBEAT, and I feel like one of these days we might get the call, it would be awesome. You never know, but we’ll see what happens, that’s kind of on the bucket list still. I’d also like a US tour with MEGADETH; we’ve tried in the past, and for some reason or another, it just hasn’t worked out yet. But other than that, it’d be great to get another Grammy nomination or win a Grammy, but we feel very proud of what we’ve done in the past, and we’re excited to get this new record out and hit the road.