Building the Concrete Confessional: an interview with Hatebreed
On the heels of the release of Hatebreed’s new album “The Concrete Confessional”, I spoke with bassist Chris Beattie about the album’s genesis and the hardcore veterans’ new tour which has a scheduled stop in Montreal on June 5th at the Corona Theatre.
Since every Hatebreed record begins its life inside Beattie’s computer, I asked him to describe their songwriting process. “Jamey (Jasta, singer) will send me some ideas,” he explains, “And I’ll write riffs to go with them. We’ll go back and forth until we have a song.” He’ll then flesh out those demos in Logic Pro, sometimes creating drum parts (he’s a big fan of the EZ Drummer software), sometimes leaving that task to his bandmate, drummer Matt Byrne. The band then comes together to rehearse and polish the arrangements, and each member will add their input.
The band is known for its hybrid thrash metal/hardcore sound, a combination that mirrors Beattie’s own musical taste. “I was into metal,” he explains, “But when I heard hardcore for the first time I was floored by the reaction from the crowd.” Beattie cites bands like Celtic Frost (a major influence on the band’s sound), Slayer, Biohazard and Cro-Mags as vital ingredients in the evolution of Hatebreed’s sound and he is quick to point out that each member shares that hardcore/metal background which helps the band remain focused in their approach.
“The Concrete Confessional” is a solid, no filler album (read my review here) but I wondered if there was one song that might hold a special place for him. “That’s a tough question… if I had to pick one… I’d say ‘Looking Down the Barrel of Today.’” The song’s message of grabbing the world by the balls and making the most of your life is a familiar trope in metal, and it is a vital ingredient of this album as well as frustration with the state of modern society. Songs like the opening track “A.D.” (for American Dream) express the band’s disenchantment with modern politics and a society that seems to have left behind a large portion of its citizens. “People have been failed by elected officials,” he adds. “As an example, young people study for four years to get a job and in the end the only thing they have is a gigantic debt. It makes no sense.”
The conversation takes a lighter tone as it soon turns to baseball, a sport Chris loves. “Whenever we’re on the road Frank (Novinec, guitar) and I try to catch a game when we can,” he explains excitedly. “Sometimes we’ll catch a few innings then go do the show. I have a lot of good memories of seeing Blue Jays games in Toronto. I don’t think I ever got to see the Expos before they moved from Montreal though.” He sounds mildly disappointed when he learns I’m more into hockey than baseball, but quickly recalls a past tour stop in Denver where the promoter took them to see an Avalanche game. “We were right by the glass and I was amazed by how skilled these guys are on skates, and by the intensity of the game.”
Hatebreed’s been around for more than 20 years, quite a feat in these times where fanbase loyalty and trends can be fickle. “We’ve been lucky to have done so much and to have stayed together all these years” Beattie says. “We have loyal fans and we can play anywhere in the world. Really, we couldn’t ask for much more.” The band returns this loyalty to their fans by making sure the concert experience is as good as it can be. To prepare for this tour, the band has rehearsed close to 50 songs and rotates the songs in setlist nightly. “We’ll always play stuff from every record but the songs will change every night, but we’ll try to always play 3 or 4 from this last record.” Songs are kept sharp by being played in turn at sound checks. “If a part isn’t tight we’ll work on it until it’s back to being at its best. Sometimes Jamey will call a song in the middle of the set that’s not on the setlist so we have to stay on our toes!” he says laughing.
“We’ve been on the road for a few weeks and we’re back to being super tight. And I can’t wait to play Montreal again and have a poutine.” I like a man who has his priorities straight.
Hatebreed will play the Corona Theatre with Devildriver and Act of Defiance on Sunday June 5th 2016. Tickets are on sale here. “The Concrete Confessional” is out now from physical and digital retailers.