Persevering: An Interview with Hatebreed

Though hardcore has always had an aggressive edge akin to its cousin heavy metal, the crossover between genres hasn’t always existed. The classic 1998 movie SLC Punk illustrated the classic rivalry between subcultures, with metalheads and punks fighting relentlessly with each other. This used to be the case until and early 2000s, where we started to see the rise of bands that truly crossed genres, bringing punks and metalheads together (peacefully) into one show.
One band that can be seen as a front-runner to this cross-pollination is Connecticut’s Hatebreed, who have been churning out brutal punk-meets-Slayer moshpit anthems since 1994. We recently got the opportunity to chat with drummer Matt Byrne and guitarist Frank Novinec at the River City Rockfest about Hatebreed’s new record, tour with DevilDriver, and the changes in the scene that they’ve witnessed.

We’ve really stuck to our guns with every record

Metal Blast: When we reviewed your new record, The Concrete Confessional, one thing that kind of stuck out about it was that it had a little bit more of a punk rock vibe throughout than can be heard on some of your previous records. Did you specifically go in with the mindset of making a more punk or hardcore oriented record?
Matt: No, I don’t think so. This is an album where just went right in and said “let’s do a solid Hatebreed record.” We didn’t really set out to experiment with anything; we just kind of played upon our strengths. There wasn’t much diversion from that, really. We had the fast stuff, the more metal-tinged stuff, just like on previous records.
Frank: Well, at this point it’s like a melting pot and, at the end of the day, the goal is to still have it sound like Hatebreed. The band has branched out to so many people, it’s not just in the basements of America’s hardcore scene anymore.
I think that if you look at the song “Indivisible,” off the last record, it’s certainly pretty punk-oriented. We definitely have people that are into punk come out to our shows, especially in Europe. Overall, though, it’s all aggressive, whether it’s metal, punk, or hardcore, or whatever it is, it all fits into the Hatebreed agenda, so why not? Why not add a little element of punk in there? 

MB: Yeah, I mean Hatebreed have toured with a lot of bands of varying styles, even some death metal bands, so it’s cool seeing the mixed crowd. I remember being a part of the hardcore scene a few years ago, it was just barely getting to the point where punks and metalheads weren’t beating each other up at shows.
Frank: Right, we’ve played with bands like Dropkick Murphys
Matt: Five Finger Death Punch, Napalm Death
Frank: yeah, and The Exploited
Matt: We’ve just kind of covered the map of all sorts of heavy music, we can just kind of fit in anywhere.
Frank: Yeah, it’s a very universal sound we play.

(L-R) Wayne Lozinak, Matt Byrne, Jamey Jasta, Chris Beattie, Frank Novinec

MB: To kind of piggyback on that theme, how is the tour with DevilDriver going? I’ve been to quite a few tours with mixed bills, where fans of, say, Anthrax are completely uninterested in a band like Deafheaven.
Frank: Well, I feel like DevilDriver fans and Hatebreed fans are pretty much the same people, if they’re there to see them, they’re there to see us. Or if they’re there to see DevilDriver, they’re going to stay to see us. It’s been a really cool tour, to be honest. It has exceeded my expectations for sure, because we haven’t toured the States in a full tour since 2012. I know that Dez has a whole new lineup in DevilDriver, except for one other member, I think, so it’s kind of a newer band. I was optimistic about how the shows were going to go, and they’ve been amazing! They’ve really been awesome, there have been sold out shows, both ours and DevilDriver’s new records came out the same day, which was on the day the tour started, Friday the 13th. Both albums have been doing very well, and we’re having a really good time. It has really worked out.
Matt: Yeah, it’s funny. We’ll play in some really rural places like Lincoln, Nebraska on a Tuesday or Wednesday night, and the club is STILL packed. The fans are definitely coming out for BOTH bands, and staying all night; the crowds have been great. A lot of the shows have been sold out, or nearly sold out, and there has been a lot of good buzz about this tour, plus having our albums come out the same day, it’s really cool.

MB: That’s good to hear, it’s like what I was saying about the metal and hardcore scenes converging. I mean, DevilDriver have a bit more of a melodic death metal sound going on, while Hatebreed are pretty much just fast, pissed off hardcore.
Frank: Right. If you come out to a Hatebreed show these days, the majority of the people are metal people, without a doubt. There’s no denying that fact, so the bands we tour with, it just works.

MB: You’ve maintained a pretty consistent tone over the years, and have kind of stuck to your guns, despite being on some pretty big labels. Have you ever had any label pressure to try to push the band’s sound in a more mainstream or “marketable” direction?
Matt: Yeah, with Perseverance, specifically. It goes back to the early 2000s when Linkin Park was huge, and I remember there might have been a few suggestions, like “now that you’re on Universal Records, maybe you want to do a sing-songy chorus, or throw a rap line in there.” But we were like, “that’s not us, come on.” I mean, if you want to see fans turn on a band immediately, we could go and do something like that. We never wanted to lose the identity of the band, and I think we’ve really stuck to our guns with every record, you know? We’re just a solid metal/hardcore crossover band, it’s what we do. We’re not really trying to go outside of those lines too much and try to rap, or trying to do a super melodic chorus.
Frank: And then there are the people that say we’ve ventured too far away from the original formula, so I mean, you can’t keep everybody happy. We’ve done a couple of experimental things, like the instrumental track on the self-titled record that had piano in it. Jamey has had a couple of parts where he actually sings in the songs, and there’s guitar solos, so it’s not like we haven’t ventured out of the bubble at all. We have to, like I always say, breathe some fresh air into the sound, and yet still really make ourselves be Hatebreed at the end of the day. It’s hard to do that though, because everything’s already been done. You just want to have something that’s catchy, and sounds like the band, but try new stuff at the same time, and still try to make a great album. I think that’s one of the reasons it takes three years in between the records. Well, that, and obviously we tour a whole lot! [laughs]. We tour everywhere we can possibly go, PER RECORD. Some of these big rock bands go to some of the places that we go per record maybe twice in their entire career. We feel the fans should really get a chance to see us after a new record comes out.

Hatebreed2016d

MB: And a lot of bands lose sight of that, the connection with the fans. It’s so much more personal when you get to see your favorite band in a live setting, there’s a real chemistry there.
Frank: Exactly, and we’re a pretty personable group of guys.
Matt: Yeah, we’re approachable. We go to parts of Russia that nobody goes to, and we’ve been to South America a bunch of times, places that some other bands might go to once, maybe, in their career, and we love seeing the fans. Those are main stops for us, every tour, after every record.

MB: Something that has always interested me about Hatebreed is the positive vibe around the band. The music is obviously pretty aggressive, as is the name, but the lyrics are usually pretty uplifting and empowering, and the crowds at the show take on an almost family-like quality.
Frank: Coming from the hardcore scene, you get that a lot. The bands we’ve played with in the metal scene, they’re not really used to that, I think. I feel a lot of the metal fans grasp Hatebreed for that reason alone, because they feel that they’re one with us. We’re not just a bunch of rockstars, we’re sweating it out with them. We like to bring some kind of positive vibe to them. Don’t get me wrong, though, I like more “negative” bands, and I listen to that stuff too. Sheer Terror, Integrity, and stuff like that, but I feel like this is Hatebreed’s thing.
Aside from just the heavy riffs and giving the people something to headbang to, if you can somehow make someone’s life a little better with some positive lyrics or coming to our shows and getting to meet the band, I think that’s pretty cool.

MB: Awesome, well thank you for your time!
Frank: Our pleasure, thank you!
Matt: Thank you!