Exclusive interview for hellfest.fr: Frank Novinec (HATEBREED)
“You won’t hear me in any other interview saying something else. Hellfest is EASILY the best festival in the world” – Frank Novinec – Le Cabaret Sauvage, Paris – 05/04/2016
Primordial’s Nemtheanga recently told me that, in his opinion, festival culture is killing touring. Is that your point of view as well?
I don’t know, maybe. I’ve never really thought about it, you know. Because the festivals have always been there. We have festivals like Hellfest, Graspop or Download popping up in America now, all over the place. We didn’t before. For heavy music, it was Mayhem Fest or Ozzfest, which were travelling tours that were going for 2 months. But now, we have these weekend fests popping up all over the place. Maybe it is killing touring: maybe people just want to see all the bands in one shot and spend the big money and that’s it, when they come to town. It’s tough, you know, the way the music is. Bands survive by touring, it’s no longer about CD sales. It’s hard and I’ve never really thought about that. It could be, though, as I know that we don’t come to Europe and do as much touring as we used to: we’re doing festivals more. We’re flying back and forth, 4-5 times a year to Europe sometimes, just to do festivals and some smaller shows in between. We’ll see… But hopefully not! (laughter)
You’ve got new album out soon (The Concrete Confessional – out May 13). A bit anxious about the fans’ reaction?
No, because it’s out for all the reviews and we’ve released 2 videos already so the feedback’s been great: people are loving it so I think that’s a good start, you know? I’m not afraid that people won’t like it because we’re not a band that changes it sound too much. I don’t think it’s good to drive people away from what brought them there in the first place. You don’t want to go to the store and buy a Motörhead CD and have another sound than Motörhead. So I’m a firm believer in sticking to “If it’s not broken, then don’t try to fix it”. So I think that the response’s been great. It comes out on May 13 and we’re excited. We’re not one of these bands that put out a record every year. We’re like an every 3 years because we go on tour all over the world each record. So when we do put a new one out, it’s an exciting time for us and hopefully and exciting time for the people who support us.
What’s the idea behind the choice of such a title for the album?
Well, it’s about getting something out of your chest, coming out and saying something. I think that’s what Hatebreed is about. And what underground music is about: having something to say. The people who are involved in underground music, the fans, the people who play in the bands: they’re different from your normal society, from your normal world. We should have something to say. I think it’s a pretty fitting title for the band and I’m very happy with the title, the artwork the whole package of it. If you have something to say, say it, get it out of your chest, let your voice be heard. Especially now in America: it’s election time so everybody should use their voice. Especially the young kids. Maybe they don’t so much…
What do you think is the added-value of that new offering?
I mean, if we can continue to put out records and tour the world and still play festivals… We’re still in a tour bus, we’ve been around 22 years… I mean, I think it’s a lot. To have an extra time, to keep putting out records and having the people come, playing festivals and charting well: all these things are important. And the reason why the band has done so well is because we try to make smart decisions. I think that in these days and age where it’s all about social media and downloading, things like that, sure they’re plenty of bands – look at all the bands playing the show today (Impericon Fest – 10 bands). But with this band, we’re around for 20 years. Will they be around in 25 years? You don’t know… But we got lucky because we were around before that “the shit hits the fan” – I like to call it – with the music industry. And Hatebreed was a household name before that. So I think that every CD that we can add to our discography and still have people supporting the band is huge. Especially with what I said before when we’re only popping them out every 3 years.
I haven’t had a chance to listen to the new album yet but I just had a look at the track-listing. The songs are rather short. Was it an ambition from day one for that album?
(laughter) No, no. In all fairness to the record, a couple of songs are just under 3 minutes. A couple of more seconds and they would have been over 3 minutes. Typical Hatebreed, typical hardcore, fast aggression, to get the point out and be done with it. But it’s a good representation of what Hatebreed is in 2016, I think.
You just mentioned the word “hardcore”. I don’t know whether you’ll agree with this but it seems that Hatebreed is more and more linked to metal, especially if you look at the art covers, the merch… To which extent do you think Hatebreed is style linked to “hardcore punk”?
Well, Hatebreed is a band, to me, that represents hardcore, metal, punk rock, rock… We’re all of these things. We play with all of these bands. We want everyone to be unified. There’s not enough of us to divide everybody, you know? And we come from the hardcore scene and we’re always gonna be positive, we’re always gonna have that from the hardcore scene with us because we’re always going to play shows to 200 kids or 100 kids sometimes. If that is not being hardcore, I don’t know what is, you know? We’re taking bands on tour, Jamey (Jasta – vocals) has a podcast and he interviews hardcore bands and he was a host on Headbangers Ball and he got videos played, he manages bands… We’re definitely still having our hands in the hardcore scene. But we have to be Hatebreed at the same time too. And Hatebreed is a very successful band and I feel confident in saying that this is the most successful hardcore band ever to break in the metal scene. And those fans love us too and we love them too: I love metalheads. I’ll always be a skateboarder, I’ll always be a punk rocker, I’ll always be all those things, you know? This is just who we are, what the band is right now. We can only continue to do what we do and hope that the hardcore kids still embrace us. If they don’t, then what can you do? You can’t make everybody happy and there’s no point in making yourself miserable trying to.
There’s another issue I wanted to discuss: these meet and greet packages. Is it something you are at ease with?
Yes, we are. In America, people really want to do the experience with the bands. I think it means a lot to them to have the picture taken with the whole band. But what we do is: we charge money for the stuff that you buy and you get all kinds of stuffs: a laminate like this, a t-shirt, a poster, a little bag, guitar picks, pictures with us, etc. All that stuff is worth more than what they pay for the meet and greet. So we try to make it like that. So it’s not like you pay to meet the band: we’re giving you more stuff value that you’re paying for the meet and greet. Then, you’ll also get your picture taken with the band and we’ll sign all your stuffs and hang out. So it’s pretty cool like that. Now, I know that some rock bands charge $200 for meet and greet, you know what I mean? So this is a little bit different! (laughter) We just try to give the people enough products so that they’re happy with it. Sure you could hang out by the bus and hope to catch all of us but you’re probably just going to get one of us and you’re not going to get all that stuff as well. So I think that if some people want to spend extra money, then they can do it. In the States now, they have all these different options: you can buy a meet and greet, you can buy a meet and greet plus the ticket to the show, you can buy a meet and greet plus the ticket to the show plus the download of the CD… I think that is what bands are trying to do now because in the States there is no CD sales anymore. Your money is on the road and you have to think outside of the box. It’s very popular in America, especially with the metal and rock bands. Over here, it doesn’t translate so we don’t do it. People over here don’t seem to be grasping on it so… It’s fine, you know. I understand, no worries. (smiles)
I saw Hatebreed live for the very first time as part of the Resistance Tour, back in 2002. You were not in the band at the time but you were already close to the guys. What’s the main difference between Hatebreed 2002 and Hatebreed 2016?
Not as drunk! (laughter) Not as fighting so much. And very smart as far as the music goes. But I loved the Resistance Tour, I love the Persistence Tour. I think it’s great! We’ve done them a lot. We’re doing festivals now and we want to play in front of a younger crowd. Hopefully some will stick around but… It’s cool. It seems to be that the Persistence Tour is always the same couple of bands every year. So you have Suicidal Tendencies and Terror one year and Agnostic Front and Stick To Your Guns the next year! (laughter) So we’ve tried to stay away for a few years now, to give it a little break so we can maybe jump back on it… But Hatebreed 2002, I mean… It was a big time for the band: the band signed on a major label, the band was Grammy nominated, in 2006, I think… So you see all the stuffs that’s going on with this little band from a basement in Connecticut, all the way until now… I think that nowadays the music industry changes so much that we just want to continue to be a band and continue to be relevant, to continue to keep playing. Back then, the band was up on a rise. You were not thinking about “OK, the people are not gonna buy CDs anymore and it’s gonna be harder for the band to survive”. You’re not thinking about those things when the band is going from a small hardcore band that sells 100,000 records on Victory Records and then is signed to Universal and… When you’re on up like that, you’re not thinking about those kinds of things. Obviously, when you’re older, you’re wiser. In 2002, I was, let’s see… 30-31 years old. And I’m smarter now than I was then, that’s for sure. I was talking the other day about Kurt Cobain and Jim Morrison and all the people who died when they were 27 years old as we were watching this documentary. We were like “Man, when you’re 27 years old, you don’t know shit in the world, you really don’t”. You might think that you do when you’re 27 but now, I’m 44 years old and I know so much more now. And that’s really it: the difference is that we’re wiser now, more than anything.
And what’s your favourite Hatebreed record?
Either Satisfaction Is The Death Of Desire or The Rise of Brutality, yeah. I’m not on these records, you know? But I was a fan of the band before I was in the band and I’m still a fan of the band to this day! (smiles)
A date now: 06/22/2007. Does it ring a bell?
…We were in Europe?
Yes, you were.
… You’ve got to help me with that…
You were in France. At Hellfest 2007. The very first time you played at Hellfest…
Was it where there was wind and they almost didn’t have a show? (laughter) I remember that! There was Slayer too and we played while some other bands cancelled… It was wild! But Hellfest is my favourite festival in the world. And I’ve said that in interviews all the time. You won’t hear me in any other interview saying something else. Hellfest is EASILY the best festival in the world. For somebody like me. Because there are bands like Deep Purple or Kiss, bands I idolised growing up and I still love them to death! (showing his Kiss tattoos on both arms) You’re there with your friends, you’re playing with Napalm Death, then you have the great bands like Monster Magnet… There’s something for everybody. For somebody like me who listens to all different kinds of music, you can’t top it. And what Hellfest‘s grown into from that very small thing that it was… One that was called what? It used to be called something else…
Fury Fest, yeah! And I think that Agnostic Front played the very first one… (That’s correct! In 2002!) To see what it’s grown into… I wish we could play it every year! But I’ll take every 2 years! (laughter) But I remember the show in 2007. It was scary. The wind was blowing, Slayer was playing, Korn was supposed to play… Sometimes, when you have outdoor festivals, the weather unfortunately plays a part… I remember that pretty clear, considering how much I’ve drunk since then! (laughter) I love Hellfest and I’m really excited that we’re playing it again this year. I’m really excited that we’re playing with Turbonegro as well. I know that the Melvins are on our day too. Sunday is I think the day: Slayer, Black Sabbath, King Diamond, all these bands… But, hey, to complain about it would just be silly: it’s just great to be back.
Would you say the festival has lost some of its original spirit?
I don’t see that, you know? But it’s hard for somebody like me to see that: I go there, I play the show and enjoy it and I run from stage to stage to check out bands. But I’m not in the crowd. But I still go to the Extreme Market and get t-shirts. We’re only there one day every 2 years: it would be hard for me to see that. I guess that is with anything that gets big, you know? Especially when people love something when it’s small and nobody knows about it. And then everybody starts to love it and it’s “Nooo!”. It ruins it for them. But I get it, I understand that mentality. It’s still a great festival and I really hope that the people who go there – not just people for France because I know that people come to Hellfest from all over the world – realise how special it is and how unique it is. Sure, Download’s great. But it’s all rock bands. Sure, Wacken’s great. Playing before 100,000 people is amazing. But it’s all metal bands. You know, Hellfest is really, really, turning into something special and I hope the people appreciate it.
Le Cabaret Sauvage – 05/04/2016
Many thanks to Valérie (Nuclear Blast) and Marcus (tour manager)