Interview: Hatebreed guitarist Frank Novinec gives us The Concrete Confessional

FRR: You guys just got back from Europe, I think last weekend, was it? How was everything?

Frank Novinec: Sunday, we got back. Everything was great! It was great to be on the road again. We had a very long break with the cancellation of Soundwaves festival in Australia. I think if you went back eight or nine months, we only did four shows. Two of those were on the Motorhead tour, so it’s hard to count that. Then I think we did Ozzfest in Japan, which I think was one show, and we did a pit stop in Honolulu on the way out. So there was only four shows, and you’re talking about a band that sometimes does three hundred shows a year. So it was good to be back out playing, especially with new songs.

FRR: Yeah, speaking of the new album- man, these songs are brutal. They seem like they would fit really well live. Obviously, I haven’t seen them live yet, but I can only imagine they go over ridiculously well. Have you had a chance to play any of the new stuff with the few shows you’ve been able to do?

Frank Novinec: Well, we did two as of now. I mean, the record drops tomorrow, but you know, it’s hard to do so many new songs even when the record’s out. So we’re not that kind of band where we’re going to get you a half-assed record and everybody’s going to love it, we just don’t got it like that, and they do, and that’s something else. But one great thing about Hatebreed is the songs are short. If we’re headlining a show and we’re playing at least an hour, we can hit you with three new songs off the record, and still play everything else everybody wants to hear. That being said, I would say three would be the most new songs in the set now. We’re already doing “A.D,” we’re already doing “Looking Down the Barrel of Today,” and I think “Something’s Off” is going to be put in the mix, and also “Seven Enemies.” So it’s a start. And many people know, and probably most that don’t- we don’t use a set list. Jamey’s got a list on the drum riser, it’s a list of songs, and that’s the only list on stage. When we go on stage, we decide what the first song that’s going to be is, and after that, I have no idea what the next song is. So we’re playing a different set every night, always. It’s fun, and I wish my favorite bands would do that, but that’s not the case. So we’ll see. It’s interesting to see how that translates with the new songs. Jamey will always gauge a crowd and see what records they know. Or, if you want to shout out songs you might want to hear, most of the time, we’re able to play it. We’ll see how that coincides with the release of the record and the new songs.

FRR: The new album, The Concrete Confessional, the album title alone says you guys had a lot of stuff you guys wanted to say on this record. Is that accurate? What did you guys want to do, accomplish, and say with The Concrete Confessional?

Frank Novinec: Hatebreed has always been, I feel like, has always been in league of our own. You can see the big fish and the small pond.I guess it’s both, but I think it’s a universal band, for sure. When you look at the list of bands we tour with, Slayer, Slipknot, Korn, Five Finger Death Punch, then bands like Napalm Death, Exodus, you know what I mean? It’s like, how many bands can pull that off? How many bands can do Warped Tour and Ozzfest and Mayfest? We’re blessed in that sense, but we always want to be Hatebreed. You’re always going to get positive lyrics. One thing that’s cool with the positive lyrics with the meta that we’ve broken into is that they don’t get that a lot. It comes from our hardcore roots, and I think that’s what draws a lot of people to the band outside of the hardcore scene. Or people that like Rock music, and a band like Hatebreed is the most extreme they’ll go. They feel like they’re more one with us than we’re some rock star guys. I always want to portray that with ever record, personally. Jamey, he’s pretty pissed on this record—not that he’s not always. The lyrics are pretty pissed, and he got a little political on “A.D,” and a lot of people hat their two cents on that, all positive of course. It’s election time, and if we can get some young person that only cares about music and nothing else, or so they think in their eyes, but maybe they can get out and use their voice. It’s always up for interpretation, too.

It’s funny: the things that piss us off these days, and when we first started this band or got into this music were some jerk at school or our boss or something, but now it’s somebody’s dog sitting on our lawn, or the IRS. But we’re still angry! Just different things now. But I think the title is about getting something off our chest, for sure. It’s tricky when you’ve been a band for 22 years and every song title has been used, and every lyric has been used. And now, we have to make people who like punk, and metal, and rock, and hardcore happy. It’s not just the, basements of America now, the hardcore scene. And we have to make ourselves happy. It’s art! Fortunately, we’re only doing it every three years now, instead of every year like some bands are. With as much as we tour, and we certainly play everywhere we can go, per record. Here’s where we’re at in 2016.

FRR: Oh, absolutely. It’s a Hatebreed record through and through. It’s brutal, and it’s melodic at the same time. It’s done perfectly.  I feel like seven albums in, you guys have an idea of what you want to do when it comes to making a record. You guys have used Zeuss, I think since Rise of Brutality, and he was the producer on this one, too. Going in, do you guys know exactly, musically, “this is what works for us, and this is what we want to do, and the fans love it, so we’re going to switch it up a little but not too much”?

Frank Novinec: That’s exactly it, man. You hit the nail on the head. I’ll tell you what: People complain even now. People will tell you it’s so different from the first record, and then other people are like, “wow, they really played it too safe on this record. They’re not a band that goes outside the box.” It’s funny to hear. How many bands can say that people say that about their [favorite band]? “Oh, it’s not like their old stuff,” “It’s just like their old stuff, they keep making the same record.” I don’t know whether that’s good or bad, I just know this is where we’re at now. Wayne is a great, great lead guitar player in the band, exceeds WAY beyond anything we would call for in the band, so if we want to showcase him a little, sure! Matt is a great drummer. There\’s people in the band that can play, and I think this far in the game, you learn from other bands. Jamey\’s so embedded in the industry when it comes to managing bands, which he does, he has a podcast, he\’s hosted the Headbangers’ Ball, he\’s played shows, he has a clothing line.

Not everybody\’s going to be along for the ride anymore. Sure, you have those hardcore fans like, \”oh, they\’re not real,\” you know, and I have my own answers for those people too, but you can\’t make everyone happy. There\’s no point in making yourself miserable trying to do that. Again, we have a fan base, we\’re a universal band, we have to make something that\’s going to appeal to everybody, and still make ourselves happy. That\’s the mentality when we go into the studio, anymore. I think this record is very comparable to the last one, as far as even the look of the artwork and the variety of the kind of songs on it. You have fast, hardcore stuff, you have metal songs, you have some melodic, even some like singy, punk parts on there. It’s all part of the Hatebreed vibe, if you will. Obviously you want to breathe some fresh air into the band every time, and I think we do a good job of it every time. I really appreciate the people who have stuck with the band from the beginning, and the people who have come aboard recently and continue to support the band. We really do care about it, and we really do put our heart into it.

FRR: Yeah, like you said, it\’s working. The last album, Divinity, it hit #1 on the Rock charts. You guys were with Razor and Tie on that record; you guys were with Nuclear Blast on this one. With a record that hits #1, do you feel any pressure to follow that up? Or does it help with relieving the pressure knowing that you know what works?

Frank Novinec: To be honest with you, we built quite a buzz with this record. I think the setup for this record is beautiful: the songs we released first, the videos we\’ve made, the lyric videos and everything– those are songs that people love. People are loving those, and right now, I see the song on Amazon is number four, iTunes is top ten. We\’re hoping that it tops the last record. It\’s funny, if you go back and look at the history, we\’re always charting around the same position, but the number of units sold has completely dropped, because you\’re talking about going back to Rise of Brutality and Perseverance and stuff. I think it\’s hit that flat line with the last record– the people who are going to download it are going to download it for it, and the people who are going to pay for it are going to pay for it.

I think the decline is over. I think the music industry and the downloading thing is at rock bottom. I think you saw the decline from when people were buying CDs 15 years ago to now, but I think in the last few years, it\’s hit that flat line where the numbers are always going to be around the same, in terms of units sold. I might be wrong; I don\’t pay that much attention to it. But I feel like this one will do better than the last one did. I don\’t think there\’s a lot of country and rap stuff coming out next to us, or tomorrow I should say. That\’s always going to play a huge part of it, because that rules charts. At the end of the day, it doesn\’t matter, the people who love the band and want to get involved in the Hatebreed world, they\’re always going to be there. A number on the chart doesn\’t matter. We\’re always going to go on tour, we\’re going to play everywhere, whether it\’s a festival with 90,000 people or a club with 250 people. This is what we do, and it\’s what we\’ve been doing for 22 years. If it doesn\’t chart as high as the last one, so be it, but I\’ll be surprised. I think the setup for this one has been great, and the buzz surrounding it– all the press we\’ve been doing for this record, which is a lot more than the last one, and the push from satellite radio, everything we\’ve done surrounding it– we couldn\’t do any more. I think it should do okay, but it\’s not the end of the world, for sure.

FRR: Right. Speaking of touring, you guys tour a lot. Everyone knows this year, there\’s no Mayhem festival, the traveling festival. They\’re not around right now, so does that open the door for more opportunities for you, in terms of touring? Do you think that could hurt or help as far as touring for bands?

Frank Novinec: We spend so much time in Europe in the summer. We\’re a band who– and I\’m not exaggerating– will fly back and forth from Europe from May to September five or six times. We were just over there for two and half weeks, where we got festivals on the weekends. It was a little bit of a touring festival that we were on. Even when the Mayhem fest and Ozzfest were around, what we\’re going to make on one of those festivals, we can go to Europe and do in a weekend, instead of spending months doing it. But that\’s the money aspect of it. We have to show our faces. If Ozzfest wants us to close the small stage, or play on the main stage, or Mayhem, or any of those, we\’re going to do it. It\’s a good look, and you have to show your face in a big manner in the states anyway. It\’s unfortunate that those traveling tours aren\’t around anymore, because #1 they\’re a lot of damn fun. I probably took about ten years off my life at Ozzfest that we\’ve done because of the partying that goes on during those things. At the end of the day, it\’s like summer camp– it\’s just a blast, it really is. I think nowadays, as Americans, we\’re very jealous of the European festivals that go on over there. I think now, they\’re starting to pop up everywhere. You\’re seeing them everywhere. We have two of them coming up on this tour, with the San Antonio and Rocklahoma festivals back-to-back. Then you have things like Carolina Rebellion, Welcome to Rockville, ISF in Chicago, we\’re expanding out of Vegas into places like Denver.

So I think that that\’s happening a lot, but somebody said to me the other day that I\’d never thought about. I did an interview in Europe about a week ago, and somebody said: \”do you think that festivals are killing touring?\” I’d never thought about that, and that\’s a possibility. We don\’t tour as much as we do before we started hitting the festivals. We would go in the off season and do five, six weeks long in the winter time and play our club shows all over Europe, and we\’re just not doing that anymore. We\’re playing Hellfest, and Download Festival. So it could be. A lot of people want to spend their money and come see you with 40 other bands, and then they don\’t have money to see you in a club, and they\’re like, \”eh, I just saw them, I\’m not gonna go.\” It\’s good and bad I guess, I don\’t know. We\’ll see. It\’s tough– there are so many damn bands, and so many shows. Even in these B markets, you\’ll go and there\’s a couple shows a week. So it\’s tough.

FRR: Yeah, and they just announced two more festivals. They announced the Open-Air Festival in Chicago and Houston this summer as well. So I think maybe they\’re trying to model after the European festivals now. So that\’s interesting. Tomorrow, the album comes out, and I think you\’re hitting the road tomorrow as well, with DEVILDRIVER, Devil You Know, and Act of Defiance, I believe, for a big tour. Going out on the road with those guys, that alone has got to be a fun tour you guys are looking forward to.

Frank Novinec: Well, it stops in my hometown of Cleveland tomorrow. I moved from there several years ago to Florida, so tomorrow is a huge day for me. The record comes out, it\’s a hometown show, my family and friends are there, it\’s the first day of tour, it\’s Friday the 13th, so it\’s a big deal to me. So yeah, it\’s good! And DEVILDRIVER has a record coming out tomorrow, too.

FRR: Oh yeah, they do! You\’re right.

Frank Novinec: Yeah, so it\’ll be cool. Hatebreed and DEVILDRIVER have never toured together, ever, ever, ever. You would think that we did at one point, but aside from Mayhem fest and Ozzfest, we haven\’t. I\’m hoping it draws well. I know we\’re hitting Cali, where they\’re from, and we have our Connecticut show where Hatebreed is from. Unfortunately, we aren\’t coming down here to Florida, which I wish we were. It\’ll be good to tour the States again though. We haven\’t done a tour in the States that was a month long in, I want to say at least five years,

FRR: You did the GWAR tour three or four years ago, I think.

Frank Novinec: Yeah, but that was like a week or two weeks. We did a run with Terror, Job For a Cowboy and Every Time I Die a few years back, it was at least a few years. That was like two and a half weeks. We haven\’t done a full US run in a very long time. I think this\’ll be good to show face again, especially with two bands that\’ll have records coming out. Devil You Know is [is fairly new] and Act of Defiance has a buzz going as well, so we\’re looking forward to it. The weather should be decent, and it\’s nice to be back in the States after touring overseas for so long. It\’ll be odd for me to be back in the States, even for a month, but it should be great! It\’s a decent bill, and hopefully it\’ll get everybody out.

FRR: Yeah man, it\’s gonna be awesome. The new album is brutal man, good God it kicks ass. Frank Novinec: Love it.

Hopefully you guys will hit Indianapolis on this tour so I can go out and see the show. You\’re here once every cycle, it seems like. Cannot wait.

Frank Novinec: I appreciate it, glad you like the record. I just did an interview with someone before I was on the phone with you, and we spoke about the same thing. I said, \”just because we\’re not hitting the market on this first run doesn\’t mean we won\’t be back.\” Hatebreed is a band that will play everywhere we possibly can play per record. So we\’ll probably be back more than once before we do another record. So sit tight everybody, I know it\’s been a minute since we\’ve been there, and we certainly will be there. I\’ll tell you what, our Ozzfests and Mayhem Fests there are always the best ones. They\’ve got the most people, they\’re sold out, the people are crazy. I\’m from the Midwest myself, so I get it man. It\’s rock and roll, always has been, and there are huge supporters of music in the Midwest. I hope we can get back soon, and check out the record if you haven\’t. Preorder it, it comes out May 13th, Concrete Confessionals, we\’re very happy with it and there\’s something on there for everybody.

FRR: Absolutely. Dude, have a great afternoon, good luck on the road, stay safe, and hopefully we\’ll see you down the road sometime soon.

Frank Novinec: I appreciate it, thank you!