Being Thrown Off Warped Tour Was The Push Into The Metal World We Really Needed”

Jamey Jasta reflects on his memories of Warped Tour, as it draws to a close on its final cross-country run.

Hatebreed are Warped Tour veterans. In a manner of speaking. Or at least their Warped Tour experience is notable amid the slew of bands who’ve passed through the festival’s ranks. The first time they played was in 1998, just three years after Warped began. But that was also the last time they played it for almost 20 years – Kevin Lyman kicked the five-piece off that year for being, well, somewhat drunk and disorderly, banning them from playing it ever again. 

As years passed, the Bridgeport, Connecticut metalcore outfit buried the hatchet with Lyman, and even joined his Mayhem Festival in 2010 and 2011. Then, last year, Hatebreed were finally allowed to return to Warped Tour almost two decades after they first featured. This year, the band went back for just two of the dates rather than the whole tour, but, as frontman Jamey Jasta explains, two farewell appearances were better than none at all. And even though getting banned from Warped Tour was a kick in the teeth back in the day, it ended up helping them find out who and what they really were. 

Let’s start in the present then move backwards. You just played two dates on this final Warped Tour. How was it?
It was great. I missed one of the New Jersey shows last year because my grandmother had passed away, so they had a bunch of different singers do some songs for me: Vincent from The Acacia Strain, Josh and Jesse from Stick To Your Guns, and Frankie from Emmure and some others all joined in so we didn’t have to outright cancel. So we wanted to make that show up and I wanted to go there and give the good people of New Jersey a proper set. And with the Camden show, which is basically Philadelphia, it was downpouring tornado-style winds with thunderstorms and rain, and there were about 300 people who waited for us to play and it was like, Okay, we’re going to have to play’ and the stage manager said, If you want to play you can play’ so we did – and Frank’s guitar this huge gust of water and wind into the back of his rig and we ended up having to do the show as a four-piece, even though the set was amazing. We just wanted to do it as a full five-piece. So we chose those two shows and it was great to at least be part of the last Warped Tour in the sense where you get to see everybody: the staff, the security, the stage managers, people we made friends with last year and thank them for their hard work in putting on this crazy show every year. And also for the fans, some of whom were in their teens or 20s when they saw us on the 98 Warped Tour. They got to see us now in their late 30s or early 40s – and they’re bringing their kids now, too, which was really great to see. 

Hatebreed, I Will Be Heard

So what does Warped Tour mean to you?
It’s a way for you to just go and have music invade your thoughts and your emotions and have this fully immersive experience in music for the day. Everyone who’s gone to Warped Tour has said, Wow, I discovered this band’ or I got this CD sampler at Warped Tour where I discovered a band’ or I met someone from the band.’ I watched the lines for all the various signings at the Camden show and it was so cool to see someone meet one of their favourite artists and get their photo with them, walk away from the line and try to play it cool and then when they’re five or six feet away they start high-fiving their friends and smiling and laughing. And that’s what’s it’s all about. It’s very meaningful and it’s cool to see that it’s going out on a high note – the shows we played were sold out and the enthusiasm, even though it was blisteringly hot out, was still there, so Warped got a nice sendoff. 

It will leave a big hole in the alternative music scene. Do you think something replace it?
I think what’s going to happen is independent promoters will step up and start doing smaller festivals at non-traditional venues – and maybe create an opportunity for a different touring festival to pop up. It would be nice to see some artist-owned or band-owned festivals pop up because of this void that needs to be filled. The opportunity is there and the fans are going to want it so we’ll see what happens, but I don’t look at it as glass half-empty. I feel like it’s glass half-full. We may not be able to go to every corner of the country that Warped was going to in its heyday, but we’ll try to at least route in the places where these festivals could become a burgeoning, happening thing. 

What about newer bands who have been using Warped – and its in-built audience – as a crutch? Especially in this day and age, when it’s much harder for bands to sell records and they have to rely on touring and selling merch. 
I think the ones that are very ambitious and have a real drive to branch out and do different types of tours that might bring them to new eyes and ears will adapt and overcome. As far as the training ground that Warped Tour is, there will be regional and local shows that will pop up more. You’ll see, around Warped Tour, is that promoters – if they’re really on their grind – will set up a show two weeks or so after Warped Tour and they’ll go to Warped Tour and promote it there. So maybe they’ll lose that opportunity to get a couple of thousand fliers out, but at the same time during that lead-up, you might more shows popping up because they’re not in competition with the Warped Tour, and people might book bands on a summer tour that they wouldn’t normally book because it’s too close to such a big event that’s going to eat up a lot of the potential showgoers. 

Jasta, Chasing Demons (featuring Howard Jones)

Now let’s rewind a little. Last year, Hatebreed went back on Warped for the first time after you were thrown off and banned in 1998. Presumably, bygones are now bygones with Kevin Lyman, but what do you remember about that happening, and how do feel about it?

It was a learning experience and it helped us be less drunk and more professional. And it opened us up to the metal audience. Because I think back then we were very bitter and salty and being the band that was too metal for the punk and hardcore scene, and too punk and hardcore for the metal scene, we needed to find that middle ground. So from Warped Tour 98 to then completely reinventing the band to then Tattoo The Earth 2000 and Ozzfest 2001, the metal world was a mixture of nu-metal, the surviving 90s metal bands and metalcore and the hardcore bands that were crossover, but were almost too heavy for Warped Tour – and we were one of those bands. Warped is a festival that’s throw and go – you get a quick line-check, you get out there and rock some faces off, whereas Ozzfest helped us realise we could work up to the main stage and have production and lights and CO2 jets and we could become one of those bands – and we did. By the time 06 and 07 rolled around, we ended up doing the main stage – so it was more of a breeding ground for us to become a professional band – and without Tattoo The Earth and Ozzfest I don’t think we would have gotten all the Slayer tours that we did. It really helped us get into that upper echelon of the metal world, so it was almost like being thrown off Warped Tour was our push into the metal world, which was what we really needed. So I don’t look at it as a lost opportunity – I looked at it as a new beginning. But I did feel bad for years that we caused Kevin a hard time and an unneeded headache. But we eventually became friends again and he gave us an opportunity with Mayhem Fest and then last year we did the whole Warped Tour in its entirety. So it’s all’s well that ends well. 

And, however unintentionally, it worked out well for you. 
Right. Now we can look back and in the rear view this is all a collaborative effort. There’s a ton of moving parts and an extreme amount of pressure and hard work that the entire Warped Tour staff and Kevin put in. It’s 23-hour days sometimes, and the bands should realise now how lucky they were to be involved. You know what they say – you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone, and you’re going to see that a lot over the next couple of years and a lot people will be like, Ah man, we should have done Warped Tour.’ But that’s life – you live and learn and move on and hopefully you start something new and fresh that will be as impactful as Warped was. 

Hatebreed, Destroy Everything

As one of the more metal bands on Warped, did you feel welcome as part of that community or more like outsiders?

In 98, we were the outcasts. Us and Kid Rock, and there were a couple other bands. Don’t get me wrong – it was great and we had great crowds, but we weren’t from that West Coast punk rock, old school world. We grew up listening to Cro-Mags and Entombed and Agnostic Front and Napalm Death, so while we respected pop-punk and felt like we could gain their fans and unify those worlds, we were different-sounding for that time. Though it was an eclectic year – there was Deftones, Rancid, Kid Rock. We were just still figuring it out. 

Were there any highlights of these two shows Warped shows you just played?
It was great as far as the energy. I really feed off positive energy and it was great to see the crowds going back and forth between stages and the enthusiasm and all the young faces. I said, Who’s seeing Hatebreed for the first time today? Be honest.’ And to see 500 hands go up, I’m like, Welcome to the crew. You’re now as diehard as they come’ and everybody’s cheering. And that’s great. Because every year I think this is someone’s first show and that’s cool. Because you’re changing someone’s life, or at least giving them a fun memory that I remember having as well. And that part of it is amazing. It makes you feel like you’ve had a little bit of purpose in all of the craziness.

Words: Mischa Pearlman

Warped Tour runs until August 5. Jasta & Friends play Bloodstock Festival (August 9 – 12) at Catton Park, Derbyshire. For tickets and more info click this link. Check out the latest single, 13 Appears below.

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