Interview with Jamey Jasta
Undoubtedly he hardest working man in metal, Hatebreed/Kingdom of Sorrow/ ex-Headbanger’s Ball host Jamey Jasta returns to the road for an action-packed summer in 2010 where he’ll be the first frontman to play two of the biggest summer tours (Ozzfest and
How did you come up with a title for the new album?
We wrote the song in St. Louis at this place called Pops when we were on our headline tour in ’08. I had experienced night terrors and sleep paralysis as a kid, and I would write stuff down after it happened., like what exactly I had experienced. So eventually, I wanna do a record all about that. But it was very terrifying for me, especially as a teenager. I kind of blocked it out of my mind, but this is a good way to confront it and tell myself they're not coming back. But in one of the night terrors, I had a figure, a female like black substance, eye sockets with no eye, and I just thought, “Okay, that would make a cool title, behind the Blackened Tears.
The artwork is stunning. Talk about who did it.
Well, we did two different covers. We wanted to stick with the same as the last record. This one leaves it open. We just wanted something very metal.
It’s totally metal.
Orion from Relapse did the standard version and my buddy Marin who had done, like the last four Hatebreed albums did the deluxe edition cover which is also called “The Night”. It came out cool. That’s what everybody’s been talking about. They really like the art. So, that’s cool. Everybody likes to think that no one cares about the art anymore and people just feel the record. But I do consider each CD, like a piece of art. I have a CD library with thousands of album covers.
It’s totally a lost art. Talking about the songwriting of Kingdom of Sorrow, I never knew you played guitar. How do you guys go about writing songs? Do you collaborate, do you bring finished product? How does the process work?
Well, I’ve written the majority of the Hatebreed material throughout the years. But I always felt like when I was growing up and I liked bands, I always just thought of it as more of a band process. I never knew that in a lot of bands there’s a chief songwriter and people that contributed. So, I guess over the last few years, it just felt okay with taking it public that I did most of the writing. But with Kingdom, I just jammed so many riffs, so many ideas, and we’ve got so many ideas over the last two years that I kept giving Kirk ideas to the point that I thought, “Maybe we should do another record.” I really liked the stuff I was doing, I kind of like the fact that the majority of the public thinks that we both wrote the record, in its entirety. It kind of takes the pressure off me a little bit. I mean, that’s why I was kind of kept that on the down low with that. I'm not a good guitar player, I don't want to do interviews about the writing. I'm more into talking about the lyrics and talking about the meaning behind the song. Once Kirk got up here, he did what we call Kirkifying, making things just massive. So, it came out really cool. I'm really proud of it.
Kirk’s singing or in this band it seems a little more prominent this time around than last time. How did you get that to happen? I know he was kind of adamant from what I read and when I spoke to him last time about not singing in Kingdom of Sorrow.
Yeah, he doesn't wanna sing, but I had to make him sing on this. I envisioned him singing all these parts.
He didn't have a problem then?
No. We were in a better working mode this time around and it was just much more relaxed and much more just on. He did such a great job with the guitars and vocals. I was really happy that he was doing that.
Doing a schedule for you guys must be a nightmare. Just you. Forget everybody else.
What’s the itinerary looking like for this time around, as keeping up with you is totally ridiculous and always has been. What’s the game plan?
I really don't know. I don't even wanna make any plans this year because everything is so up in the air for the next year. I mean Hatebreed is my number one priority. We're killing it on this record and even though we just took a little break, we're going deep into it now. There’s already talk in Canada, the UK and going back to Europe after we do this Europe run, because it’s just a festival run. I mean there’s a lot… a whole South Pacific run, with, like Malaysia, Indonesia, I mean so many places that we haven’t been. So, I really don't know. It sucks… I wish that there were more hours in the day and more days in the year. Kingdom had to turn down so many tours and I just don't wanna do that too much longer. But I have a feeling that Down is gonna get back to work and their record is gonna come out at the end of the year. It’s gonna be probably too crazed.
Have you ever considered maybe doing a double or triple bill with Hatebreed and Crowbar and Kingdom of Sorrow or some kind of permutation of that?
I don't think it could happen just because of the logistics and trying to have a band play in between and give Kirk a break with the singing-- and yeah, I just don't see it happening. I mean, we might do a Crowbar/Kingdom double bill where we have a band play in the middle so he gets a break. But we could probably never do Hatebreed on the same bill. If Hatebreed plays, we do like an hour and 15, or an hour and 20 and I don't want to do two sets. I’d kill myself. I think people would rather a headliner came out, Kingdom would come out and do a long set, with material from both albums and die hard Hatebreed fans – I mean even the last couple of times, we took out support bands, our fans complained about our set being too short. We’re just trying to give the support band a long set, so they can play for their fans. Yeah, we’ll see. This Mayhem tour, the set is short. So, we're gonna have to come back and do a full, proper headliner.
Your vocals have a very distinct style. How do you stay in shape vocally and is there a different process for each band??
With Kingdom, I don't try to bang out as many tracks as I can in the studio. With Hatebreed, it’s kind of like go wild with it, really get amped, drink a lot of water, get a lot of sleep, and do pushups in between my takes, just really push myself. But Kingdom’s more laid back. I just try to do a song a day or a song and a half or two songs at the most a day. I actually might try that with the next Hatebreed record. I like songs to have similar tones and sometimes the tone changed if you've gone too hard and then you try to go the next day, you just don't have as strong of a tone, so I try to do as much as I can with Hatebreed while I have it or else I burn myself out.
It must be awesome working with Zeuss like that, because you guys have such an established relationship that you can really have the leeway to take a day off?
Yeah, totally. He knows what I'm going for and he’ll tell me when a take sucks or when I'm crapping or I sound weak or whatever. I really like the tone on the last three records. I really like the tone on Perseverance and Satisfaction, so I feel like I'm finally getting where I wanna be.
FOR THE LIONS, the album of covers Hatebreed put out album is rippin’
The cover album is a good experimentation because I’m dealing with playing on the registers, and not going hard then going so fast and so crazy, but it was a good learning experience.
What’s your favorite Crowbar song?
Well, right now, I was actually just designing a shirt for them and I was listening to “Self-Inflicted and I was trying to cover that when we did the Kingdom tour and I put on the back of the shirt All The Pain Self Inflicted. Probably that song, or I really like “Slave No More”. I thought that was a really cool growth for them. Those two right now are probably my favorite songs.
Talk about how you guys got into the Ozzfest festival.
Well, we heard Ozzy was going out again and I didn't know the time frame, but I told my agent, “Man, it would be crazy if I was the first frontman to do two different summer tours with two different bands.” He was like, “I don't know if it can happen, let me talk to the camp.” And I reached out to Sharon’s camp and they loved the last record. And we did the one Ozzfest with Metallica and Ozzy played, so they know what we're about. That was a great show for us. We had a great reaction at that and they said, “Let’s do it.” We’re gonna miss the first show,” because I’ll be ending with Hatebreed on Mayhem on that day.
How do you feel about the growth of the summer festival in America compared to Europe? Do you see it on an upswing, going in the right direction? Maybe it’s too much competition?
I think it’s going in the right direction. I think there’s room for both. You know, Warped kind of did the right thing and took more of the MySpace type of band. Which I think is smart to really cultivate that younger audience. I think that younger kind of pop-punk audiences are way more respectful to the heavy MySpace bands than they are to the older Ozzfest era bands. And with Mayhem, I think that they made the right decision going for bands with a little bit more history and bands with a little more of a dedicated, die-hard fan base. And obviously, the way that the tickets are selling right now, they made the right decision. Especially when you put Korn and Zombie together, say what you wanna say about those two bands, but they have die-hard dedicated fans. And Korn has reinvigorated themselves a little bit on this record. Zombie is bigger than ever.
Rob’s got a hell of a lineup behind him .
We’re going to see Joey play with him. And then Lamb of God is bigger than ever. So, just those three bands is enough to pack places. And then with the second stages, the more mainstream kind of heavy metal Atreyu is very popular still. And we’re headlining the Jagermeister Stage with Chimaira, Winds of Plague and Shadows Fall which I think is a great lineup that would pack theatres all over America alone. This is gonna be huge. I think the majority of the shows are sold out.
I know this may be tough, but talk about what’s going on in the metal world recently with all the people passing away. Do you have any memories of Ronnie James Dio, Peter Steele or Paul Gray you’d like to share?
It’s just really sad. It put a lot of things in perspective and makes you wanna appreciate the heroes and the people and the friends and the family that are still around and do it while you can. Because you never know when someone’s gonna be taken away. It’s really tough for the fans because it brings back so many memories of childhood and growing up and going to shows, listening to bands and feelings that they’re trying to give you.
What else do you have in the pipeline? I mean obviously Hatebreed and Kingdom of Sorrow, but you don’t rest there’s still Stillborn Records. You’ve probably got a bunch of new signings and what not so talk a little bit about that.
We’re gonna announce the new signings at the end of the summer. Right now we're just doing a compilation that’s gonna be given out for free at Mayhem and Ozzfest. I got The World Be New and Thy Will Be Done and Strength for a Reason and Abolish are kind of like my four releases that I did over the last year. And I have all new Hatewear stuff coming out, all new apparel for the summer and fall. That’ll be available at festivals and my new web store launching at the end of July. Then once we figure out the touring, we’re just gonna record during the breaks. But it’s gonna be a busy end of the year. But it’s good, it’s a good problem to have and we’ll keep working on my books. I’m gonna get my books out next year.
One’s gonna be a book of lyrics, is that right?
Yep, that’s coming along. I had a little block on it but now I'm good so that’s coming out good.
Was the block due to a design snag or was it about content?
The block was like what to include and what not to include. I kind of wanted to give it a spin and make it a little more inspirational and show people writing down dreams, and writing down goals and then writing down poetry and eventually evolve leading to writing lyrics and picking up guitar and not having any musical experience evolved into being nominated for a Grammy and doing all this crazy stuff all over the world. So, I kind of wanna make it from my perspective and also, tell the stories behind the road.
Any ETA on that?
I would say the beginning of next year.
And the other book you're working on?
The other book has The Headbanger’s Ball stories, the crazy travel and all the behind the scenes stuff. And that is gearing up to be done by next Christmas. It’s probably gonna be all my own stuff, different diaries and journals, writing stories about the interviews and stuff that people might not know that couldn't go in the interviews on TV, but we’ll see.
Try and keep up with Jamey @ www.jameyjasta.com and check out BEHIND THE BLACKEST TEARS by Kingdom of Sorrow available on Relapse Records now.