It’s a familiar story in 2020, but few bands feel as equipped to endure setback as Hatebreed. Guitarist Wayne Lozinak tells Knotfest how their new album came to be.
Hatebreed were one of the first victims of 2020’s swathe of cancellations and delays in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The modern day hardcore luminaries had spent those last months of normality off the road and in the studio, working on the album, Weight of the False Self that would see the light of day much later than they had envisioned.
It’s well documented the restlessness artists feel in the space between recording an album and releasing it to the world at the best of times. Throw six extra months on top, that happen to be six of the most tumultuous, exhausting and all round mind-warping on record, and you can imagine the anxiousness with which a band would be approaching things.
You remember then though, that it is Hatebreed we’re dealing with. This is the band who cram every song with gusto and vigour all focused on the central message of positive mental attitude, whose frontman could sell self-help books formed just of his lyrics if he chose to. In a way, it’s a blessing that a Hatebreed album would emerge right now.
Founding guitarist Wayne Lozinak has experienced considerable highs with the band since his rejoining in 2009, and nearing an album release like nothing they’ve undergone before, we asked him how Hatebreed are weathering this storm the way they always have.
Your new record Weight of the False Self is out on November 27th. Hatebreed’s sound is obviously super recognisable and very consistent but longtime fans will notice the slight flavours that can be on each record that distinguish them. Where do you think this record lies?
I think this one still has the same elements that you’re used to like you say, the traditional Hatebreed sound, but there’s a few songs on this where we tried to actually go even a little more metal and for us a little bit more technical. There’s the same fast hardcore songs and we don’t wanna disappoint the fans or do something that’s not really true to us, but it is a little more metal guitar-orientated, with faster metal riffs and some really crazy cool drum parts. Same flavour but ramped up just a touch.
Do you try and look for ways to challenge yourself and keep it fresh for yourself each time?
There’s actually a few more guitar solos on this album which is always cool for me because we’re not really known for that, so any time there’s a chance to do some here or there I appreciate. It’s definitely heavier and the guitar tone is much bigger. We experimented with doing more tracks and blending a couple different guitar amps to beef the guitar sound up a little bit, and I’m really happy with how that turned out.
Hatebreed albums always feel like they have at least one song that becomes the anthem and ends up as a live staple long after that cycle, like “Looking Down the Barrel of Today” did from your previous album. Do you think the title track that you released as the first single from this album could be that song?
Yeah, “Looking Down the Barrel…” is our biggest streamed song ever which is cool because some other bands, people only ever want to hear the old stuff and nothing new, but stuff like that goes to show people still want more from us. I think the other songs on the album are actually better than the singles we’ve put out as well, so wait till you hear the record. “Weight of the False Self” though reminds me of almost an “Honor Never Dies feel” with the chanting at the live shows so could definitely become that.
“The Concrete Confessional” had a few more social issues lyrically as opposed to all personal ethos and struggles. Obviously the US is in the middle of a momentous time, and while this album was written before the pandemic it’s being birthed into a world defined by massive global events. Does that play into “Weight of the False Self” at all?
For me this is the most divided I have ever seen the US. It’s just a mess, everything is a mess right now, and the album was finished before the pandemic but if you listen to it it could have been written during it. It’s basically about just starting with yourself in order to make a change, like the lyrics say. I think it talks about corrupt people in other areas, so that’s definitely a reflection of the time we’re currently going through. I just hope things start to look up after the election situation is final because it’s horrible right now. You’ve gotta be positive.
Is it strange for you adjusting to the first year in however long with no tours? Jamey obviously does his podcast, have you kept busy or creative?
This is just horrible for us, for sure, because I’m so used to touring for years constantly. I haven’t really done anything new because we were in the studio for the whole time just before the pandemic hit. We wrote a new album, were waiting for it to be released and I didn’t necessarily have anything new to start immediately then because for us when we’re at that point, that’s our focus with anything else being able to wait. We are more of a live band, we feed off the energy of the crowd, and so we didn’t really want to have people sit on the couch and watch a livestream of us playing. It could be cool, I would definitely do it if it came up, but if you’ve seen us live you know it’s not the same experience. Maybe next year if still that is the only thing we can do, because now the record is finally gonna be out and we’ll be itching to play. We do have a tour scheduled in March but I think that’s more of a placeholder. I don’t really know what to do with myself because that natural thing for me of touring and playing shows isn’t here. Even when I’m home I usually go and see other bands play which isn’t happening either, so it’s my whole world. Even doing the promo stuff for the record now with interviews and everything, that’s nice to have some of that normality, something related at least. We did come out with our own new beer as well. It’s made here in the local brewery, and we have had a couple of socially distanced events for it like beer-tasting meet and greets. That’s been the closest thing to a show setting with fans there, people hanging out and music playing, taking pictures and signing stuff for people, so that was really good for us I think to do right now. The fans didn’t have anything going on either so it’s cool that we have that one thing that came out of the pandemic. It’s only available in Connecticut right now but we’re working on being able to ship it everywhere.
Hatebreed are a band known for flying the flag for metal culture at large, in the mainstream or taking younger bands under your wing. What’s your take on how these last months have gone for the metal and hardcore worlds at large?
It’s hard all round and I respect everyone who is doing what they can. The main thing I have seen is those livestreams and it is cool to bring something to people, whether it’s a full stage show or just a Zoom playthrough or something, maybe getting together with other musicians. For me it’s just that nothing really beats the live experience, but anyone trying to do something I think is good.
Hatebreed feel like the archetypal metal and hardcore crossover band, and you’ve said in the past that your goal is to become a universal band like Motorhead. How close do you feel to achieving that?
Yeah we have always been the band who take in the hardcore and metal audiences, putting the sounds together for our sound, and so we can do full hardcore tours or full metal tours. I’m a fan of both styles so I’ve always valued that and that acceptance, for the most part, and that place you mention is the ultimate goal. I think it’s a different era now where in the 70s or 80s metal and rock were huge, the biggest music all over the place, so right now I’m just glad that there are people still listening to heavy music and going to shows in a time when other styles have become the big mainstream focus. It’s a bigger deal now when a newer rock or metal band gets to play arena shows when you used to go and see that every weekend. If things can grow and younger kids can get into playing guitar or drums, we’ll see what the future holds as everything comes in waves. I think that united vibe among the audience though you see best live. We’ll always get someone online complaining that we’re not metal enough for one show or not hardcore enough for another, but live people get it. We’re not a band who rely on pyro or video screens but just the energy. Other people who aren’t sure about us maybe will see other people in the crowd react to us and begin to think whether there’s something to this band they’ve been missing. We’ll always keep that going.
In spite of rock’s place in today’s mainstream, hardcore has arguably become more talked about than ever with talked about bands like Knocked Loose, Turnstile, or Code Orange being nominated for Grammys and playing on WWE. With Hatebreed being a band who took hardcore into mainstream territories even with things like getting onto the xXx movie soundtrack, how do you feel about where hardcore is today and your place in putting it on that path?
I love all that, and at the time of Hatebreed appearing on that xXx soundtrack I was out of the band but from the outside I saw that and I saw the band reaching all of these people. I didn’t even know “I Will Be Heard” was in there when I saw that movie but it started and was so insane to hear my friends’ band there, that I was in. I’d pick up metal magazines in stores and there would be Hatebreed. Jamey became the host on Headbangers Ball, out of everyone in the whole world, when to me Jamey was still the young kid booking local hardcore shows from way back then. I definitely think Hatebreed is a huge part of achieving that crossover. Biohazard were there before us, touring with Slayer and Pantera or getting onto Ozzfest as a hardcore band who would still play those small shows, and then Hatebreed just took it to the next level and are still going with that now where other bands have come and gone. People are still coming to the shows twenty-five years later and that’s a great thing to have achieved.
Hatebreed for a lot of people will be their ultimate go-to band for positivity and motivation, and even though you can’t tour it right now it feels right that a Hatebreed album with those sentiments should come out now. How do you balance that with what 2020 has given everyone?
Yeah, right, it’s something and it’s perfect. We weren’t even sure if it would come out because it was due back at the start of the year and when everything shut down there was no talk at all. Nuclear Blast was shut down partially and we were just sitting on it waiting for people to hear these songs, so I’m just super happy that it’s actually coming out this year. With how things are for everyone, you just have to keep focused. Social media likes to brainwash people in certain ways as to what’s right and what’s wrong and I think that you can’t listen to everyone else like that. As long as you feel good and you try to do what you know is right yourself, there’s no real formula, but you do whatever you can. In music we’re at the bottom of the ladder but in Hatebreed we still all love playing, we all still hang out on the bus listening to music, and we will as long as the people are still into it. We still get those people telling us that certain songs got them through things they faced in their lives, and we still see faces in the crowd sometimes multiple shows in a row across different countries in the same spot. We can’t be negative about that.
Order Weight of The False Self from Hatebreed is due out on Nuclear Blast Record on November 27th – ORDER HERE