Hatebreed frontman Jamey Jasta has gone from underground hero to the face of extreme music and back again. This year was his busiest — if not best — yet. The deceptively named group has been refining a reliable formula of circle-pit beats, metal riffage, positive messages and lion-roar vocals since 1994. Hatebreed's full-length debut, 1997's Satisfaction Is the Death of Desire, led to a deal with major label Universal Records. In addition to some of Jasta's renowned, tireless work, it gave him the edge in a successful campaign to host MTV's reborn Headbanger's Ball from 2003 to 2007.
The Connecticut band has since downsized to an indie deal with E1, the emerging metal powerhouse that morphed from the rap-centric Koch network. In 2009 Hatebreed released the concert DVD, Live Dominance, a strong new self-titled LP and the covers LP, For the Lions, which surprisingly yielded the band's first mainstream success. Jasta talked to B-Sides about his full plate of Hatebreed releases and side bands.
B-Sides: What are you listening to lately?
Jamey Jasta: I like the new Black Dahlia Murder, the new Slayer. New Megadeth. I really now have just gotten my teeth into the new Mastodon. I like the new Skarhead — it's haaard. I really like the Shadows Fall record. Every Time I Die's new one is really good. It's a good year for music.
Do you listen to anything besides metal, hard rock and hardcore?
Yeah, I listen to everything. But I usually just say the harder releases because I don't feel like getting messages like, "Why are you listening to this or this?" People want to think that I'm blaring Sodom all day, and that's fine.
So, are you into Christmas music?
Well, I'm blaring The Polar Express all day, because my daughter is ten, and she's not old enough yet where it isn't cool. Charlie Brown Christmas, The Polar Express — those are good.
You did some real singing on this album.
With this record we had to get people talking, even though it's only three or four lines on the record, everybody's like, "Jesus, he's singing!"
Is that something you'd like to explore more in some of your other projects?
Yeah. I sang on [Agnostic Front guitarist] Vinnie Stigma's record. I sang a lot of the backups and melodies. I do it on other records where I don't publicize it.
Because you have an image to uphold?
Not even that. I do it for myself. I'm not out to win public accolades for it.
You recycled the cover of Metallica's "Escape" from the covers album to the new record. Was that your favorite or just the one that fit on this album?
It was getting love at commercial radio, which we've never gotten before. So we figured, "Let's not have kids going to the store and be confused. Let's offer it on both releases and be safe."
On the new album you write about losing your grandfather to cancer.
That whole experience influenced other songs as well. I just talked about it mainly in "Hands of a Dying Man." I left it open to interpretation. I've had guys that come back from Iraq and Afghanistan who have dealt with losing someone, who have latched onto the song. It just deals with, "Can you make a positive out of it in any way?"
How does the E1 deal work?
It's great. It's similar to how we worked it at Universal, where we were able to hire out people and do a DIY thing and [to advertise, we can] go to fanzines and webzines that you can't do with a major or a big indie that has too many projects at one time. Plus, we benefit directly from every sale of every DVD, every covers album, every studio album. It's really important that the fans know that.
Is the new deal doing what you wanted it to?
We originally didn't sign on for a new studio album. After the DVD went [to] No. 1 and the covers [album] performed really well, we decided it's a little over-ambitious to put out three releases in a year. But the way our fans are, they were really hungry for a studio album. And with the way things were with E1, with them doing the right thing, [we decided to make a record] while everything seems to be right. I'll probably end up doing the Icepick record with them, if I can get that out late next year, if I can get all the guest appearances together. If I can get the Kingdom [of Sorrow] recordtogether, I'll do that with Relapse. I'm very happy [with that label]. Then we're on contract with Roadrunner for the rest of the world. Who knows? Maybe we'll do another E1 one.