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Jamey Jasta of Hatebreed
You can always count on Hatebreed to issue hard-hitting albums, and 2013's The Divinity of Purpose, was no different, as the group's now-trademark hardcore-metal is front and center throughout (and as expected, is 100% ballad free).

Hailing from Bridgeport, Connecticut, and originally formed in 1994, Hatebreed has been fronted by shouter Jamey Jasta since their inception, and has subsequently supplied soundtracks to numerous violent mosh pits throughout the globe. In the process, they've issued such popular albums as Perseverance, The Rise of Brutality, and Supremacy.

Jasta chatted with us about The Divinity of Purpose, as well as the stories behind several Hatebreed classics. We also got into some metal ancestry in an attempt to trace the originators of Hatebreed's style.
Jamey Jasta of Hatebreed
Greg Prato (Songfacts): Let's start off by talking about the latest album, The Divinity of Purpose.

Jamey Jasta: Sure. We wanted to follow up Self Titled [Jamey refers to their 2009 album Hatebreed as "Self Titled"] with this lineup. The album had so much success, especially internationally. We went to so many places we had never been, as far as Russia and to a lot of Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia and South America. We wanted to follow up with a record that was on par with that album, but also expanded the influences with more punk and hardcore, but also with more thrash and metal influences.

We started compiling all the riffs, and in 2011, we did a big arena tour and a lot of huge theaters with Five Finger Death Punch. That was a good tour to gauge what songs the audience really loves best and play to our strengths and say, "We have this sound that we want to expand on." And not lose our base: give them what they want, but also incorporate some new stuff so it keeps it interesting for us. So that was a good learning process in 2011.

And then in 2012, we did a lot of work, but also got the record done and did a lot of writing. So by the time we got out in November of 2012, we were already playing new songs on the Lamb of God tour, and had seen the reaction and were able to gauge the audience.

We had songs that we'd want to add into the set, but they had to go into the set seamlessly. And I think that's a really good thing when you've been a band as long as we have. We're going on 19 years. When you can do songs from every record and they fit seamlessly and they don't sound completely different, that helps explain our longevity, because you go to a show knowing what you're going to get, and we always deliver a similar style.

Songfacts: How does Hatebreed approach songwriting? Is there a set formula for most of the songs that are written?

Jamey: I think up until Self Titled there was, and then with Self Titled, we incorporated more riffs. So instead of having two or three riffs in a song, we would have four or five. But with this record we pulled it back and had more of a formula for the arrangements, and that was mainly due to working with Josh [Wilbur] and Zeuss together. Because Zeuss in our early work and Josh has worked with bands like Lamb of God and Avenged Sevenfold, so he has a different outlook on structuring the songs.

And I'm always about repetition and brevity. I really feel like everything that is good in my life comes from repetition and I like for songs to be that way, especially because of how and when I listen to music. If a part is really catchy or if a part just really gives me a charge, I like to hear it more than once.

So we just kept these songs short and to the point - there's not too much excess on this record. I think with Self Titled we had too many songs because we were trying to please the label and please the retailers. And with this record, we really set out to just please ourselves and have it be a nice short, to-the-point record where all the topics get touched on that I wanted to sing about and all the riffs and all the parts that really jam got on there. And that's important. I want people to remember the riffs and remember the words.

Songfacts: I see. And speaking of words, you write all of Hatebreed's lyrics, right?

Jamey: Yeah.

Songfacts: Who would you say are some of your favorite lyricists and also songwriters?

Jamey Jasta of HatebreedJamey: I like Corey Taylor. I like Kerry King; he writes a lot of lyrics for Slayer. One of the things I like about Corey is that the songs don't always have to make sense or be about something, but the first time I ever did that was on the Self Titled record and on this record. Even though now the way things are when you put out the record, everybody wants to micro-analyze every lyric, and there isn't really an air of mystery. ITunes wants you to explain the words and you have to do a bonus liner notes. A lot of times there's no way to get around that, because you have to play ball, because this is a business for a lot of people. And Hatebreed sells a lot of records, so people want that exclusive info.

But I just want to write about stuff that is important to me and not have to really overanalyze it. And I think the beauty of this record is that the songs can be about anything you want them to be about. A lot of people ask me what "The Divinity of Purpose" is about, a lot of people think it's about a person. I think in the liner notes, because I had to write something, I might have alluded to that. But it could be about music, it could be about your dog, it could be about an ex or a family member. But I like to have it be open to interpretation, which is kind of why I like a lot of Corey Taylor's lyrics.

With Slayer, with someone like Kerry King, he's always finding new ways to write about Satan or war or death, and he's pretty stoked on it. I'm sure that's what people want. When you listen to a Slayer record, you don't want to all of a sudden hear them singing about an ex-girlfriend. You want to hear about Satan and war and what Slayer sings about. So that was something that I took into consideration when I wrote this record. I just tried to have it be more open to the interpretation of the listener and not so written in black and white.

Songfacts: Let's talk about some of your songs. I'll just name a song and if you want to think back to the writing or recording of it, just anything that pops into mind to just discuss, that would be cool. Let's start with the song "Honor Never Dies." What do you remember about the writing and recording of that song?

Jamey: That's the first song that I suggested we do two different guitar lines and a different bass line - and never follow everybody playing the same notes. And I think it gives an interesting sound - we've never done that before as a band. It gives an interesting temp change and mood shift from the riff in the verse to the chorus.

With the lyrics, I wasn't coming from a place of anger, but I'm screaming in this aggressive way. I just wanted to have it represent the passion I felt about the topic.

When things can come together like that and it works, it's a great feeling in the studio. I knew in the studio right then. Every day when I would work on it and we would listen to it, I knew that it was going to resonate with people, because it resonated with me.

I was excited to be able to go out and perform it. Even last night just going on stage opening for Gwar, a lot of people don't know us and within two minutes of the song they're singing all the words and going crazy. It's just nice to know when something's going to work and have that confidence. Now every night when we play the song, it's actually one of the songs we close with. It translates well live and it's really enjoyable to play because it's different.

Songfacts: And what about the song "Everyone Bleeds Now"?

Jamey: "Everyone Bleeds Now" started as a joke. We were going through a transitional phase as a band and there was a lot of talk about violence at our shows and how we were this troublemaker type band, where everywhere we go there were problems and stuff. I thought that was weird, because I felt like coming off the Supremacy album that we were in a positive place. Even though we lost our guitar player, there was a lot of really good stuff that had happened: we had a #1 EP on the Billboard chart, we had a Top Ten grossing tour in Pollstar - it was a really successful time for us. We had sold almost 200,000 records worldwide on Supremacy. This is at the height of downloading and everything.

So when I started hearing different negative things about us, I said, "Let's just live up to everybody's expectations, then. All these people that think negatively of us, let's just have a song about that."

I had the riff and I said, "We're going to do a drum intro and I'm just going yell something crazy, and then we're going to kick into it." And I was like, "Well, what can I yell at that part that the whole audience would yell?" Because at that time everybody was saying that when we would get done with the show, there would be blood on the floor of the club every night of the tour, and blood in the bathrooms. People would Twitter us pictures of blood in the sink of the club bathroom or blood on the floor or at the theater or the club or whatever. So I said, "I'm just going to yell that."

And then Zeuss was like, "Just keep it. It's great. People will love it." It ended up being a video and a staple in the set. The video's got two or three million views now.

You know, I changed the lyrics so that it would be a little more meaningful, but the initial thing that I yell is what everybody latches onto. Hopefully, they read the lyrics and they know that it's not just about violence.

Hatebreed has seen their share of members coming and going over the years. Jasta has been a constant member since the band's 1994 inception (as has been bassist Chris Beattle, while guitarist Wayne Lozniak was also an original member, leaving for a spell, and then reclaiming his position in 2009). Another integral member was the late Lou "Boulder" Richards, who supplied guitar from 1996-2002, and is often credited with helping craft Hatebreed's trademark "metalcore" sound. Sadly, Richards committed suicide on September 13, 2006 - less than a month away from what would have been his 36th birthday.

Songfacts: And what about the song "I Will Be Heard"?

Jamey: "I Will Be Heard," I remember going to the practice room and showing everybody that. It was funny, because our old guitar player, God rest his soul, he's not with us anymore, but he didn't like that riff and he didn't like the direction of the song. At the time I felt like maybe that was a good thing, because he didn't like a lot of the stuff that the rest of us in the band liked. And that's not a knock on him at all. I had a really good feeling about it and I knew that it was going to be a career-changing song for us, so I wasn't going to change it just because he didn't really enjoy it.

I knew it was definitely different from what we had done on the first album, and I knew that we'd have to grow as a band and get away from some of that stuff that we did on the first album so that people would take us a little more seriously.

We did the demos up in upstate New York, and I had sent the demos around to various major labels because I knew at that time we really needed to get out of the indie label world. We had an amazing response - we started getting offers from every major label and meeting with major producers. I interviewed probably 10 or 11 major producers.

So all the labels said this song is a hit, this is a career-changing song, and this is going to be a big song for the band - it's going to really resonate with our fans and with other young people.

It's a good message, and that made me feel just amazing that people believed in my lyrics and the music that I was writing. Because I'm not really an accomplished guitar player. I actually wrote that song on a guitar that my father gave to me when he was in the hospital, and I wrote it on that acoustic guitar. I thought, "Man, if this sounds heavy on acoustic, it's going to be crushing when we really play it."

And sure enough, we signed to Universal, and it changed my life forever, that song. It took us all over the world. We hadn't had a record out in four or five years, so it reinvigorated our fan base. People really related to it. Everywhere I went there were people with the words tattooed on their bodies.

And it got into a major movie soundtrack [xXx]. We also did a video with Marc Webb, who directed Spiderman, and did videos for 'N Sync and Green Day and AFI and all these huge bands. It just literally just changed our lives completely, and it's still in the last three songs in the set that we close with. So just writing it and performing it for that whole album, everything leading up to it, everything is all good memories.

Songfacts: I'm not sure if you're familiar with the band Madball, but I interviewed their guitarist Mitts, and I asked him who he thought the first bands were to merge hardcore and also heavy metal. I'd like to ask you that same question: who do you think were the first bands to merge those two styles together?

Jamey: Probably Cro-Mags, Agnostic Front, Crumbsuckers and D.R.I.

Songfacts: It seems like the band Crumbsuckers never gets the credit. Because now that I think about it, they were doing it back in the early to mid '80s.

Jamey: Yeah. A lot of New York bands: Sheer Terror, Leeway. That's a question that a lot of people have different bands that they would cite. You can say COC, for instance, or some of the earlier '80s bands. Even a band like Raw Power from Italy who kind of had a metallic tone, as well.

Songfacts: And also the first Suicidal Tendencies albums.

Jamey: There you go. Right there you've got kind of a melding of almost punk, thrash, metal, hardcore.

February 14, 2014.
For more Hatebreed, visit hatebreed.com. Jamey is at jameyjasta.com.

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