I Knew Jasta When 

Homage to Hatebreed

A black eye here, a busted elbow there, but growing up I still frequented shows at an oft-vacant joint in Connecticut called the Tune Inn. The reason I kept forking over eight bones for hardcore shows started with pure intent; the intensity of the music blew me away. But the reason I first got hooked was lame: a boy. (Cut me slack please, I was a teenager.)

I had two distinct celebrity crushes while growing up. One was MacGyver. The other was a freckly-faced blond boy who grew up a few blocks away and shot me with water pistols in the summers. He was just Jamey back then. His older sister worked at an ice cream place and his younger brother is still one of my sister's closest friends.

Jamey wasn't a celebrity at all, but come high school he was the front man for a band called Jasta 14. That's when I revisited my crush. Several years later Jasta 14 fell apart and Jamey found a new band. You see where I'm headed? My Jamey is none other than Jamey Jasta, singer for Hatebreed and King of Hardcore. And where the hell is Richard Dean Anderson now?

Jasta's internationally notable as the aggressive, asylum-escapee-styled vocalist for Hatebreed. He's also accrued fame as the host of the MTV2 show Headbangers Ball (you can get this sans cable here in Boise). Plus he owns Stillborn Records, manages a handful of bands and is the Webmaster for several online destinations.

Next year marks Hatebreed's tenth anniversary. And the band hopes to have their tenth album out by then as well. Their newest album, The Rise of Brutality, was released on Universal Records in 2003.

Though the band released other albums since Satisfaction Is the Death of Desire, the disc that shaped them as international juggernauts, Brutality is a return to a more familiar hate-bred sound that feels like those earlier fists to the solar plexus. So sentimental.

Long ago (about 10 years back), in a place far far away (New Haven, Conn.), Hatebreed holed up in basements and fought the clock to record demos. Hatebreed is consistently referred to as one of the hardest working bands around, constantly playing shows, being their own street team and never missing an opportunity. It was not for naught; they've come a long way since the Tune Inn.

The early albums were all indie projects. Then came the big time. And according to Jasta, working with the Universal team has been fantastic for the band. "There's better exposure," he says, "You can find our CDs everywhere ... There are no minuses."

Jamey wanted it this way. "I wanted to have the most maniacal voice." It's pretty maniacal all right, and it's not hard to believe the stories of recording sessions with so much heavy duty screaming that he woke up bleeding from his mouth.

His talking voice is gruff. I am on the phone with Jasta, finally, 19 years after I learned to do a flip off the diving board solely to impress him. This time it's business, and he speaks in and out of Jamey Jasta persona. Some responses are canned but even when he reverts to water pistol Jamey, he's articulate and concise.

I ask about his pipes, has he gotten any brain aneurysms yet? He laughs, "No. Not yet."

"Well, it's a muscle," he says. "In 2003 we did over 300 shows. We played 50 nights in a row."

The continuous work keeps him in shape and it's not too bothersome. It's after the breaks that he gets soft. "We took three months off and when I got back I was like (coughing sounds)."

Despite the seditious name, the aggressive vocals and punishing guitar, the band doesn't breed hate. Jasta's vociferous about driving that home, insisting he'd never want to inspire a hate crime, that "hate at someone else's expense isn't cool." But that's pretty obvious if you open the CD and read the lyrics.

Hatebreed's anger is energy and inspiration; Jasta notes that it's particularly positive for him, in life and in song. Jasta's lyrics are vague enough for anyone to pull personal meaning and poignant enough that you know what he's feeling.

He laughs when I compare them to OutKast, though in an antithetical way. Where OutKast sings graphic raunch in a poppy upbeat way, Hatebreed conveys sentimental and completely un-negative messages in a painful scorch. And the kids all over the globe can associate. "Kids come up to me at every show, all over the world—even in places where English isn't the first language," he says.

World, shmorld. They're coming back to Boise. The last time Hatebreed played here was several years ago during a side trip from a multi-band tour. As a matter of fact, the stop in Boise is actually the final show of the tour and Jasta is ready to close up the circuit with a helluva bang. Maybe just a water pistol bang, but trust me, it will sure make you feel special.

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