Jamey Jasta on Hatebreed's New Album and Why Musicians Need to Speak Out

In a culture like hardcore metal and punk, where bootlegs and bands’ early cuts reign supreme, Hatebreed frontman Jamey Jasta admits that he harbors an unpopular opinion.

“I say the best times are now. I’m not a nostalgic person, so when they all want the old stuff? I feel like the best album came out now,” he says. “It might be unpopular to say, but for us it’s true.”

"I don’t know what it is about punk and hardcore, but they want stuff that came out 20 years ago."

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For the past 20 years, the members of Grammy-nominated Hatebreed have released albums, and have had radio hits on just about every record — almost unheard of in their genre of math-infused metalcore. But the band isn't looking back. 

On May 13, Hatebreed (vocalist Jamey Jasta, guitarists Wayne Lozinak and Frank Novinec, bassist Chris Beattie, and Matt Byrne on drums), released a seventh studio album, The Concrete Confessional — and it’s hitting the scene with an adrenaline-packed punch. Working with long-time producer Zeuss (Rob Zombie, Suicide Silence), songs like “A.D.” deliver a steadfast, powerful message of the destruction of the middle class and the American Dream, and it questions what should be done for the next generation. “Looking Down the Barrel of Today” comes fast out the gate, all about keeping a positive, focused attitude each day, while “Seven Enemies” is sure to get the pit erupting with its short length and punctuated heaviness.

But right now, Jamey Jasta would rather talk about politics than Hatebreed’s new album. He’s worried about our society. Oh — and he has an addictive personality, which might explain his dozen or so ventures that all fall within the world of hardcore music: He’s fronted sludge metal band Kingdom of Sorrow and hardcore punk act Icepick, started Stillborn Records, hosted MTV’s Headbanger’s Ball (2003-2007), and created rock apparel line Hatewear. In 2011, he also released a solo album hosting a buffet of talent, including Randy Blythe, Zakk Wylde, and Tim Lambesis, and has been creating a business out of his podcast, which has made headlines more than once.

Jasta proves that one can never have too much love for their industry — and it’s clear that the industry has much love for Hatebreed, who's heading out on tour with three other known headliners DevilDriver, Devil You Know, and Art of Defiance.

New Times talked with Jasta about why musicians should speak out, the best advice he received from Tom Araya, and what he learned from hanging with Ice-T and Chris Rock.

New Times: I’d like to hear your take on what the title The Concrete Confessional represents.

Jamey Jasta: We wanted to have a juxtaposition between the two. Something that’s hard and heavy and solid and something that is honest and admission. Getting something off your chest, like a confessional. For the artwork … I wanted it to be imagery of being imprisoned by the things you want to get off your chest. It just so happened that Marcelo Vasco [known for his work with Slayer created the artwork]. And he just nailed it with the vision and the artwork. Sometimes you get lightning in a bottle and it just works. If the artwork didn’t work out, I don’t know if we would’ve stuck with the title, because we had other ideas. We’re already seeing tattoos of it. It’s crazy. People have been reacting.

This album is coming out a time when our country, and world, is in a lot of trouble politically, socially, spiritually. However, I feel like we haven’t seen a lot of support from the rock-music scene in terms of people standing up for what they know is right and disregarding the backlash it may cause. That is something that seems to be part of the core concept of this album.

I feel like people have been duped into this two-party system; this binary system, which it really is not, and also shouldn’t be anyways. And so … in order to control people you need to divide them, and throughout this whole process I’ve said, "You’d be surprised how many issues people agree on across party lines." If you go to you can see which candidate you side with on certain issues. Since punk and metal have always been more of a working-class person’s music, I really felt like we’re not being taken seriously or represented. There are a lot of social issues where it doesn’t matter what side you’re on that we can all agree upon. There’s a couple songs in there that touch on it, and it’s already gotten me a bunch of new avenues to explore. Now I’m thinking about writing different songs and [getting] different interviews. I’ve always been asked about politics, especially outside of America. European press, Australian press … they always wanna talk about American politics because it’s very popular.

Some people can look at “A.D.” and say it sounds like it’s umm … writing a more sort of liberal side, but it’s really true that the student loans aren’t forgiving. That small businesses don’t get bailouts, [nor does] the music industry. But the bank industry and auto industry and Wall Street do. So whether you’re a Republican or Democrat, it doesn’t matter. Someone like Jill Stein, who is running for president, is calling for justice; she doesn’t get any publicity, which proves that it is fixed.

We already saw it in my state: a new entertainment tax, which is a new 6 percent on top of everything else. Musicians who are self-employed and get to a certain level, it will really affect the touring. It’s already affecting the touring in Canada with how much tax we have to pay in Canada, so you see less and less tours going there. Musicians are going to have to start speaking out about it because it will affect them so much, or else they won’t have the ability to complain.

I find the track “In The Walls” really interesting. It’s about your personal experiences with night paralysis and night terrors, the fear of losing one’s mind. Can you elaborate on that a little bit?
I was trying to chart new territory lyrically, so with that one I was like, you know … I have these other songs addressing different topics, so with this one I can keep it kind of vague and make it work to fit the song. Addressing the paranoia, the feeling of turning off people for no reason or being untrustworthy. 
Is that difficult to put that personal introspect out there?
No, because every day people tell me that they appreciate that I put it out there. In some instances therapy has been writing it down ripping it up and throwing it away or lighting it on fire. It’s cyclical. Since I put out these songs, I haven’t experienced some of these symptoms, because it was therapeutic.

"Without Ice T I wouldn’t have a podcast."

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“Seven Enemies” focuses on the seven deadly sins and peoples’ vices. What is one vice for you that’s hard to shake? 
I have an addictive personality, so it’s hard to explain to people who don’t have that gene. It could be something as silly as like oatmeal, which is not a bad vice, but that I’m eating every day and I can’t stop. My mind says I could try something different but I can’t. [Laughs.] People think it’s crazy, but it’s important to then not start something that could potentially be destructive. In metal and in rock, every day whatever you want is available to you, especially when you’ve been on TV or have any sort of fame. It’s incredibly hard to stay aloof and avoid potential toxic situations that are not only free but in abundance, whether it’s women, booze, drugs, gambling, any pattern that can become destructive. It’s part of my experience and part of what I’ve been through, so it comes out to the music. There’s been times where I’ve gone to eat the same fucking piece of cake at the same restaurant every day for 30 days – people are like, what is wrong with you?

Looking back on your career so far and the longevity of the band, is there anything that surprises you about the band’s path, musically?

Not really. We come from a scene where when a band blows up on that first album, and so they stick to that style. I don’t know what it is about punk and hardcore, but they want stuff that came out 20 years ago. Even new kids that come in want the old stuff. This is probably why we’re a polarizing band, because we have hits on every record and success. Pretty much with every record we’ve destroyed the limitations and odds stacked against us, and that doesn’t happen a lot. You see the pressure from labels or outside things and infighting and lineup changes destroying bands. ... We’ve always been able to survive, and for whatever reason it makes us a polarizing band.

What’s the best advice another musician has given you?
Probably just to be yourself. Being yourself gets you to the table. It gets you in the game. Then if you have what it takes, it’s gonna happen. When I was getting a job at Headbangers Ball, Tom Araya from Slayer told me, just be yourself, and it’s worked.

I say the best times are now. I’m not a nostalgic person, so when they all want the old stuff — the best album [are coming] out now. It might be unpopular to say, but for us it’s true.

Tell me about one or two of the most memorable interviews you’ve done on your Podcast, The Jasta Show.
Kirk Hammet from Metallica was great. We were coming off doing those two big stadium shows with them in Germany and he was doing their horror fest. I set up my Hatewear booth at this event. It as so great for him to just give me the time.

Rob Halford was great. Ice-T was great. One of the cool things about his episode was that Chris Rock came over to his house, and so we paused the recording and hung out with Chris Rock. Seeing those guys reunited and talking … they have so much knowledge of the entertainment industry and of life in general. It was a really great learning experience to be sitting around with legends like that. Ice was the one who linked me up with my producer and helped me launch the podcast; without Ice-T, I wouldn’t have a podcast. I also sang on his BodyCount album.
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Lauren Wise has worked as a rock/heavy metal journalist for 15 years. She contributes to Noisey and LA Weekly, edits books, and drinks whiskey.
Contact: Lauren Wise