Music can affect us profoundly—the most powerful works offer exposition of feelings, a cleverly captured essence of our time, and enable us to connect with ourselves through song.
Such artistic expression and massive appeal is found across all genres—think of Green Day, NWA, Pink Floyd, Bruce Springsteen, among others—the acts that take us on a culturally connected journey through phases in time.
These artists create the records that serve as the soundtrack of our times. Our time has been captured. Enter Hatebreed and their newest record, The Concrete Confessional, an album that eventually will act as a representative relic, explaining the nuisances facing society—the plagues of a recent past—the hurt and suffering of our time.
Vocalist Jamey Jasta, bassist Chris Beattie, drummer Matthew Byrne and guitarists Wayne Lozinak and Frank Novinec, mark their first release on Nuclear Blast Records. The Concrete Confessional follows 2013’s The Divinity Of Purpose, which debuted at #1 on the Hard Rock Albums chart. The album was recorded in Connecticut, produced by long-time collaborator Zeuss (Rob Zombie, Suicide Silence, Whitechapel), and mixed by Josh Wilbur (Lamb Of God, Megadeth).
The multi-purpose metal is an accomplishment for Hatebreed, as they dug deep into their emotional arsenal to create and present an inspiring piece of art. The album embodies a soundtrack to society—boldly uncovering the emotional stones of our culture, such as the troubles of anxiety, human disconnection, and politics. It’s the ultimate hearty, heaping plate of sweet and sour metal.
The opening track “A.D.” initiates the intensity with haunting howls, Jasta wails: “It’s time to rethink this dream that they call American/Corrupt system of beliefs some will call their heritage/It’s time to rethink this dream that they call American/So one day it can mean something real again.”
On the brash bass track “Something’s Off”, the band delves deep into anxious waters and personifies panic and fear as Jasta chants: “Pushing off fingers from the ledge of sanity/Like a thousand leeches feeding on your wits/Making something meaningless seem significant.”
The writer behind the poetic lines is Jamey Jasta, the multifaceted frontman who also hosts his own podcast, The Jasta Show, and plays in the bands Icepick, Jasta 14, Kingdom Of Sorrow, and Necro.
Jasta stepped away from the hype of album release and touring chaos to talk about the new record. The interview is somewhat of a full circle moment for Jasta: “I would drive to Jersey to see shows and grab The Aquarian, look in the back and call all the clubs on the ads so I could get my own shows,” he reflects. “That’s how we got booked at the Pipeline, because I saw their ad in The Aquarian and I incessantly called their promoter.”
He shares his inspiration for the lyrical content, offers sage advice for aspiring bands, and spills his hopeful podcast guest list. An excerpt from the interview follows:
The Concrete Confessional achieves the signature Hatebreed sound—good clean metal with bold lyrics and musicality. How is this record representative for you?
To have the juxtaposition between the two words in the title The Concrete Confessional I wondered how to explain something that’s hard, heavy and solid and at the same time is an admission of things or sharing of feelings, the way that you get something off your chest as is done with a confessional. I kept asking myself what I hadn’t sung about in the past. The producers had brought up a couple of times. On my podcast I’m jokingly critical of a lot of bands, the “lyric police”—that was a good motivator to touch on different topics. Also maybe say things that aren’t currently being said or haven’t been said on previous Hatebreed records. That made it fun and challenging throughout the recording process but I think that’s healthy. It’s easy to complicate things but it’s hard to simplify.
I’ve sung about addition before but I haven’t sung about addition from the place of being 12 years removed from ever touching a drink and now seeing a lot of people die, get injured in DUI arrests, overdosing, being put in jail. All these things gave me an updated take. We haven’t sung about politics. Politics is so divisive with the rhetoric, instead of coming from one side or the other, why not come from a non-partisan angle. [I also wrote about] recent questions that have been raised in great American poetry and literature. My generation has been sold a bill of goods that is not really achievable. You’re going to get a house, a kid, a couple of pets, a mortgage, a marriage, a car, and that’s becoming less and less attainable. For those who are attaining it, they’re working two or three jobs. Their marriages are ending in divorce, their kids are hooked on ADHD drugs, the car payment is past due.
Something like only 5% of the country’s population has a passport. They’re locked into the country. People are isolated. They’re arguing with each other on Facebook. There’s less and less real interaction. Less civil discussion about issues, so how do you voice the frustration? You do it on a record and that becomes a compass—you hope it points people in the right direction. If the record served you for just head banging and moshing and blasting music in the car on the way to work, that’s fine, too. The whole process of delving into this lyrical content is fun because you can expand on topics you’ve covered and you can visit new topics as well.
The topics you wrote about on this record are personal and are easy to relate to, such as the anxiety you describe in “Something’s Off.” Was the writing process cathartic for you?
In the past I was always worried about addressing personal issues like that, because I didn’t want people to read too heavy into things. I really felt the weight of other people’s issues after I did the Supremacy record .
I’m not going to share as much because in that case it was too much of a weight to carry. There were tours where I waited by the bus and talk to 200-300 people—they’re crying, they’re hugging, they’re showing us our lyrics tattooed on their bodies, and it got to be really heavy. I tend to shy away from the spotlight, especially being off of TV, my life has been much easier. With this record I thought I’m back in a healthy place where I can share some stuff that’s not too heavy but I don’t want to do anyone a disservice who really is suffering from severe anxiety or depression. Sometimes a song can’t help with that. Maybe a song can be a compass for you to get professional help but I always tell people to get professional help and THEN find the books, movies, records that help you get to a better place and give you a feeling of ease and inspiration or motivation.
For this record I thought “Something’s Off” would be one of the more personal songs. I thought people would be more willing to accept something musically and vocally different as long as the message was really well thought out and from the heart and was a “confessional” of things. Now I feel like that song is therapeutic because it’s out there in the world. It’s off my chest and now I can revisit it at the live show or listen to it when I want.
When I started writing that song I was in Norway. I didn’t want to play the show. I didn’t want to meet the fans. And I didn’t know why. It was no reflection of my appreciation for them. I just had this feeling of dread. After I wrote some of the words the feeling went away and it came back like a year later after a show we did in New York. I had to do the Irish goodbye—I couldn’t look at or speak to anyone. People were trying to talk to me and take pictures and I felt like I had a vice on my head and didn’t know why. Now when I speak to people who have social anxiety I have empathy. I’ve only had it in little bursts, but I know the feeling. It’s something you can’t explain or put words on it. It manifests itself in different ways. There are different triggers.
Hatebreed has weathered through many years of personal and professional development and successes. What kind of advice would you offer up-and-coming bands?
Music is the great equalizer. You can be big and famous and have sold-out shows, and a lot of money and royalty checks, and you can be happy, and something can still be off. It needs to come from a real place. It needs to not be a competition. Some healthy back and forth is okay with local bands, but you have to check your ego at the door and always stay a fan. Once you’re not a fan, I don’t think you can be successful anymore.
If you look at the real legacy artists, long-term successful guys that are still kicking today, they always embraced new bands, even bands that have maybe a lull or a valley in their careers and it wasn’t always peaks. A band like Machine Head—at one point you could have said it was over for them in the States. They refocused their craft. They made it personal. They always embraced other styles of music and other bands and would talk about bands that inspired them in interviews, just like Slayer did for us. Giving somebody a co-sign and not just being about your own band is the way to go.
The only bands that are going to break out now, especially in the social media age, are bands that are part of a community that will start their own scene, or build on a scene that already has a foundation but doesn’t have someone willing to take on a leadership role. A lot of times bands won’t take on that weight because it’s daunting—designing the merch, writing the songs, booking the shows—it’s a lot. If someone will take on all of it, or if it’s divvied up, you create a partnership, define your roles and build up everyone around you.
If you’re on a show with four other bands and they can’t draw lint to a belly button, that won’t work. You need people who are out there, promoting the show. If you’re building everyone around you up and inviting different bands from other cities, maybe they’ll give you a gig in their town. That’s why the connections are important. We’re still playing with bands that we played with 20 years ago, but they’re still kicking ass. Just because you’ve reached success doesn’t mean you stop working.
Who would you love to have as a guest on The Jasta Show?
I’d really like to get James Hetfield or Gene Simmons—working on both of them. You have to cast a really wide net with podcasting. When you get some of the bigger named artists they’ll be bringing people in to podcasting who don’t even know what it is. I noticed that with the episode I did with Kirk Hammett. It was one of my biggest episodes and it got reported on all over the world because he gave me an exclusive and I talked to him about losing his phone with all these riffs in it. A big story like that can really change the landscape for a podcast.
Hatebreed will play Underground Arts in Philadelphia, PA on June 3; Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, NJ on June 4; and Upstate Concert Hall in Clifton Park, NY on June 8. Their new album, The Concrete Confessional, is available now through Nuclear Blast. For more information, go to hatebreed.com.