“Napalm Death continue to be a positive force in my life”: Hatebreed’s Jamey Jasta on his relationship with Napalm Death

For our new Napalm Death special issue, we caught up with Hatebreed vocalist Jamey Jasta to talk about the grind legends. Why? Because Jasta sung guest vocals on two tracks on Napalm’s The Code Is Red… Long Live the Code, which we inducted into our Hall of Fame in the issue, which you can buy here.

Due to the limitations of print, we could only print a very small portion of our chat with Jasta in the magazine. But he had a lot to say about his relationship with the grind legends. Here is our complete chat with Jasta; sit back and enjoy what the hardcore lifer has to say about the grindcore lifers.

“It’s cool to see Decibel magazine honoring this album,” begins Jasta. “It’s a game changer and came out at time when death metal was coming back to the forefront of heavy music. From a personal standpoint, The Code Is Red, Long Live The Code is super important to me. Not only because I got to sing on two songs on the album, but because I feel like in a weird way my love for Napalm Death as a teen manifested itself into me working with, touring, and eventually being friends with them and getting to sing on this record. Whether they even know this or not, they are and continue to be a positive force in my life. It started at age 15—I saw Napalm Death play live, and, believe it or not, it helped give me the confidence to say to myself, ‘I can do that at that level, too; I want to do that too, and it will be my career.’ Sounds crazy for a 15-year-old to think like that, but I did. Keep in mind this was music that, at the time, people in my family and in some close-friend circles didn’t even consider music. This was also at a time when being in a heavy band didn’t exactly have a lot of perks. I was in a local band, had been to hardcore and punk shows, I had even booked a few shows myself at this point, but I was 15 and I looked like I was 12—no one took me seriously, and I was having a hard time at school and at home. That’s a story for another time, but I’ll tell you how I fell in love with Napalm Death, and how it eventually led me to being on tour in the UK with Hatebreed, getting a call asking me if I would like to do a guest spot, and then getting picked up by Barney [Greenway, Napalm Death vocalist] in a little car to drive three hours through green rolling hills with sheep roaming everywhere to a remote studio, where I got to be part of death metal history.”

“Flashback to early 1992. I purchased an Earache Records promo cassette compilation for $1 in the used section at a store called Rhymes Records. Growing up in New Haven, Connecticut, this was the go-to spot to for all the records with the cool covers and crazy sounds. I would see photocopied flyers for shows hung on their wall, since I was there putting up flyers for my band’s shows. Connecticut is sandwiched between New York and Boston; we would get a lot of bands traveling through. One of—if not the most—important show I ever attended was the life-changing Campaign for Musical Destruction tour at Toad’s Place on September 21, 1992. I saw the flyer at Rhymes and couldn’t wait to attend the show. It was about six weeks after my 15th birthday. I remember this because a friend kept telling me it was 16+ to get in and they’d be checking IDs. This made me extremely anxious and worried. I had felt this feeling before, dealing with school and family problems; all those feelings would be washed away when I would put my headphones on and blare Napalm Death in my ears. It was and still is the perfect remedy for me. So, back to the show, I was hoping and praying that I would be let in, since I was only 15, and, like I said earlier, I looked like I was about 12. The lineup was Napalm Death, Carcass, Cathedral, and Brutal Truth. I had loved Napalm’s song ‘Mass Appeal Madness’ on the cassette sampler so much that I went back to Rhymes to purchase the albums Utopia Banished and Scum. I was hoping to hear tracks from both albums, plus my favorite song, ‘Mass Appeal Madness,’ live at the show. I was also eager to see the person behind such a deep and menacing growl.”

“I remember when the day came, school felt like it dragged on forever. I overheard this kid Timmy, who had one greasy clumpy dreadlock, say he was going to the show early to check out Brutal Truth. So as soon as the last bell rang I took the city bus home, grabbed a snack, changed into my black band T-shirt that I thought would look cool—I think it was a White Zombie tee!—and got back on the city bus heading downtown. I got off the bus and headed over to Toad’s Place, where I saw a tour bus. I remember thinking hardcore and punk bands don’t travel in tour buses, at least not that bands that I saw. People were already in line; I joined the queue and when the time came, I walked up to the club, gave the guy at the door my cash, and, to my surprise, walked right in! It was still light outside but the club was dark; as my eyes adjusted, I was so relieved that I got in with no issues. I saw my friend, who I immediately bragged to about getting in. I remember seeing punk rockers, guys with shaved heads, hippies and long-hair metal dudes, plus a couple of cute girls wearing leather pants and Carcass shirts—I remember this because one of them eventually started dating the old drummer of Hatebreed. Anyway, the show was awesome, Carcass and Napalm completely destroyed, and that was the first time I ever saw Toad’s Place become one big mosh pit.”

“I remember going home and thinking, ‘I hope to god one day I can play a show like that, and have fans from all different scenes like that! And, better yet, tour in a bus!’ [laughs] Flash forward four years and Hatebreed would get to open for Napalm Death and At The Gates at 7 Willow Street in Port Chester, New York. By this time, some death metal fans had moved on; Napalm had changed their sound only slightly on Diatribes but fans back then were very fickle. I was still a diehard ND fan so I jumped at the chance to be on this show and traveled far and wide across the tri-state area to promote it. I think Sick Of It All and Subzero were also on the bill; could you imagine that lineup now? Anyway, Napalm crushed that night, we played in front of some death metal kids from Long Island who said we should get booked down there, and we sold a bunch of tapes and shirts. We also heard some people who worked for Roadrunner saw us but they had no interest in signing us at that time. That show would become one of many where we were able to play with different styles of bands and promote unity within the subgenres.”

“Flash forward almost 9 years, Hatebreed has three albums out, we’ve been nominated for a Grammy, we’re on Universal Records, I’m the host of Headbangers Ball and I’m on tour in the UK playing arenas with Slipknot and Slayer. Life could not get any better, but when you become successful, a lot of people thumb their noses up at you; sometimes it’s fans and members of other bands, especially when you’re not their cool, underground, easily accessible band anymore. Another thing that happens is that you get numb to things. The grind—pardon the pun—of the road can wear on you. Certain stuff just isn’t as exciting; so when I get an email from Barney asking me to sing on a few tracks, not only was I surprised, suddenly I was that 15-year-old kid again, giddy with excitement! We worked out a time, he came to pick me up, and we made the long drive to the Foel Studio in the Welsh countryside. The whole way there I tried not to fanboy out. We talked about a bunch of different topics—his travels to Japan, his musical tastes, his political views. Barney is a very intelligent guy and I’m somewhat of a caveman, so I can only imagine what he thought he got himself into. I couldn’t stop thinking about how cool it was that Napalm Death would have me on their album, but I didn’t want to be what I refer to overeager fans as—a ‘punisher’ [laughs]—so I tried to play it cool. I was also somewhat curious of the direction of the material—it was a different time now, bands could be completely brutal and heavy and be big bands with large draws and massive fanbases. Lamb of God had burst onto the scene and Headbangers Ball was playing everything from Cannibal Corpse to Agnostic Front. It was incredible, but the 15-year-old kid in me was hoping for Napalm’s new material to be a ‘Mass Appeal Madness’ part two. I remember driving there and seeing so many sheep on the countryside; the drive felt like it took forever. I kept thinking, ‘Who would record death metal out here?’”

“We arrived at the studio and met Russ [Russell, producer]; he had worked with Dimmu Borgir and other heavy-hitters. He was cool; he told us a story about him dying his hair and getting some crazy infection where his whole faced swelled up and his skin peeled off! It was hard to forget; since then I warn everyone about that when hair dying comes up in conversation. Anyway, he started to play me some tracks and I was so pumped. The material was everything I wanted it to be! I think it was ‘Silence Is Deafening’ that just comes out of the gate with a crushing blast of d-beat fury, and the hairs stood up on my arm. Then they burst into this maniacal grind part and [guitarist] Mitch [Harris]’ back-up screams—which are second to none—pierce my ears and, as a fan, I could not be any more pleased. Toward the end of the track, the most Sabbathy of death metal riffs ever comes up and Barney yells, ‘I melt back into indifference,’ before his trademark ‘Ooh’ flies outta the speakers at me. Right then, the big mosh part comes on and, again, I’m like a teenager imagining every person in Toad’s Place beating the shit out of each other to this song. Napalm had done it again. I can’t say I thought it was an instant classic, but I knew it was a banger and that the fans were gonna love it.”

“Since then we’ve toured the whole world over together many times and made careers out of playing music that we were told by some ‘wasn’t even music.’ So now, like the song ‘Mass Appeal Madness’ says, ‘We’ll just sit back and laugh.’”