Apebreed turns 20
Positivity from scary bald tattooed Hatebreed guitarist Frank Novinec on their 20th Anniversary; Crock-pots on tour; Kiss Army tattoos, and Sticky Fingers!
HMA: Let’s start with the latest album, ‘The Divinity of Purpose’. Where did the inspiration for the title come from?
Frank Novinec: I don’t know. That’s a question for Jamie I guess because he came up with it but I think it pretty much was just about having a purpose in life and at what point in your life you figure out what that is. I think he maybe had a kind of revelation or something at this point in his life. Ya know, some people realise and they know… But it’s open for interpretation. You can interpret it however you want. But I think for him it was more like having a purpose in life and what it is and wanting to make the best of it and follow through with it and things like that so I think it was a very personal thing for him actually. It’s a nice title and the album itself has been a good one for us. We’ve been touring on it for a couple of years.
HMA: If you look at the lyrics to the title track on their own they’re quite powerful… obviously you didn’t write them but they do seem of a somewhat religious nature. Is Jamie religious do you know?
Frank: Not really but I think a lot of people ask about that song ‘is that about your daughter? Is that about the music?’ Another thing that can be taken however you want. I think it’s more about the music in us as people, and what it means to us in our lives. To me, music, I never really cared about who was the best player and how great somebody was as a musician because it’s all about the song to me and music is all about the feeling and about how it makes me feel. That’s what the song reflects a lot about I think. You have to stop and think sometimes what your life would be like if we didn’t have music.
HMA: Are there any songs that are particularly inspirational for you or have a deeper personal meaning?
FN: Lyrically, no. I mean, I just know that all of our lyrics are really positive, which is funny because of the name. If you don’t know anything about the band and you see these five scary guys with tattoos and they’re bald and it’s called Hatebreed, you’d think the worst. But the lyrics are really positive and we get that from the hardcore scene. Cos in the hardcore scene that Hatebreed is born from, there’s a lot of singing about positivity and things like that and I just don’t think the metal community is so used to that. So when Hatebreed was able to break into the metal community years and years and years ago…
HMA: It’s your 20th anniversary this year right…?
FN: It is, it is, but I think that it was 2002 that we signed with a major label, Universal and started doing tours with Slipknot and Ozzfest and things like that, and taking the band all over the world… I think that the metal people got some exposure to what Hatebreed was and wasn’t so familiar with that positivity and that strong connection between the band and the fans like a friendship bond. It wasn’t anything like ‘these guys are up on stage and they’re rock stars and they’re gods’ and all that.
HMA: No disrespect but is that maybe because you’re not as big as some bands? It’s easier to maintain close relationships with fans when you’re not as well known, but if you’ve got 10 million fans it’s obviously hard to keep track of them…
FN: I think that a lot of it has to do with our positive lyrics: People come with our lyrics tattooed on them and stuff, all the time; lyrics of situations in their life where they’re maybe going through some hardships. Maybe the loss of a family member, or a disease, or somebody’s in the military and going away… all the things that our lyrics maybe help them get through. I think that’s where the personal level comes in. You know, with social media now and Facebook, and Twitter, it is very easy to be approachable if you will – to have a conversation or to be able to connect with the fans. Which is good. We try to view them (social media feeds) as much as possible as well.
HMA: Does it affect you when you hear their stories; when they come to you and say that a particular song just made them feel a certain way or helped them get through something…does that inspire you to carry on writing such music?
FN: Well I never get tired of hearing stuff like that. It just reminds me of myself because we’re all fans too, and we’re all fans of bands. I’m a huge Kiss fan and I was just on Kiss Kruise (www.thekisskruise.com) and I’ve got the tattoos and all that and when I meet them I get that same feeling so I know what it’s like. Paul (Stanley) signed one. And of course, I’ve got my Hatebreed tattoo.
I get that feeling when I meet any of the bands that I love. It doesn’t matter if it’s a band that’s way less popular; I still am a fan of them. So when those people that are fans – diehards we call them – that are into our band come and we meet them and they have those stories to tell us, I never get sick of hearing it because it makes it that much more special after 20 years to be able to have an impact on somebody’s life like that. But not only that, like I said, we’re fans as well.
HMA: You said about your KISS tattoos, what made you choose to get band tattoos done? Is there a story behind them?
FN: KISS has been a huge influence on my life. When I grew up in the ’70s, in America, they were the biggest thing there was. I mean I’m not just talking about music: everything. You’d go to the store, you’d turn on the TV – it was just everywhere. And for the younger fans today it’s hard for them: they might think that KISS is a joke, but for kids that are into Slipknot now it’s really the same thing… They (KISS) had an impact on me, I saw them and I had the records when I was 6 years old and it just made me know at that age what I wanted to do for a living.
I was like, I’m never going to be able to be a musician for a living – that’s a one in a million thing – I’d better think about something else. And I really am into cooking, and I was like ‘I’m gonna become a chef’ and I worked towards doing that. Yet here I am however many years later in Hatebreed and I’m doing my trial and error cooking on the side whenever I can.
HMA: So you’re still into being a chef?
FN: I try. I mean I would like to go to culinary school at some point and really learn how to do it.
HMA: Have you published or do you have plans to publish any cookery books?
FN: No, but I have a few recipes and that’s something I would like to do in a few years’ time. When I’m home, my time is my time. Jamie is into so much stuff; he has the podcast, and he manages, and he has the clothing line, and he’s got Kingdom of Sorrow and Jasta… When I’m at home I go to the beach and I go to Disneyworld and I go fishing. I live in Florida, and I’m just enjoying every minute that I can at home. But something different though, besides music, would be cool. Maybe just a YouTube channel where I just show myself cooking in the kitchen…
HMA: I’ve got a book called Mosh Potato’s www.facebook.com/moshpotatoesbook a heavy metal cookbook. Every recipe is done by a metal musician or band…
FN: I think Jamie might have something in there. Even on the road, we try to cook. When we’re on the road in the US, I bring a Skillet, a crock-pot and a George Foreman grill. And I have them all on the bus. I get up in the morning and throw something in the crock-pot and by 5 in the afternoon before we prep for sound check, dinner’s ready.
HMA: How do you maintain your health when you’re on the road – especially on such long tours? Do you manage to exercise?
FN: It gets harder the older you get. I quit drinking for a while and I recently picked that up again so I’m sure that’s not helping my cause one bit. Our bass player brings his weights with him but I don’t do anything on the road. I just try to watch what I eat. Where I live down south, where it’s warm all year, it’s easier to get out and walk or run and just be active. So it’s easier for me to be outside all the time and just be more healthy, as opposed to the rest of the band who live up north near Connecticut and New York, where they’re gonna go home to snow.
HMA: How much input do you have into the band’s artwork? Into album covers or merch design or anything… Do you, or the band, have a say, or is it farmed out to designers?
FN: To be honest with you it’s mostly Jamie. If it’s not broke don’t try to fix it! I don’t mess with their (the bands) formula – They’ve been doing it for twenty years successfully, sold a couple million albums, had a Grammy nomination even before I was in the band so I’m not here to change things for sure. I have a great life because of Jamie and Chris… but you know artwork for records, of course, that’s something we all go over. Nobody wants to have a record out when they don’t like the cover and they’re in the band.
HMA: Can you tell us about the latest album cover?
FN: Well it’s something different from us for sure. It’s a painting for starters and this is something we haven’t really done before. We wanted something different and obviously, the artwork comes out before you hear the songs usually, and I think a lot of people thought ‘Oh, metal, metal, metal’, judging just by the cover, but that’s not the case. I mean, it’s a record that’s a crossover, which is what we are. We appeal to a lot of fans; metal fans; hardcore fans; punk fans, and we keep a little something for everybody on the record. But at the end of the day if you take all the Hatebreed CD artworks they all make sense. I like the new one because it has that red and black and white to it which is pretty much our traditional logo anyway. So it works. We’re here to try some different things ya know. This was Jamie’s idea – the design and everything. [The artist Eliran Kantor is famous for Testament covers and other artworks too. www.elirankantor.com. Read Eliran Kantor HMA interview.]
HMA: The other tattoos you’ve got; are there any stories behind them?
FN: I just got one recently and I’m a huge fan of the ocean, so there’s some sea-life here; a squid on my hand, a lobster and sea turtle… and an alligator. Ya know I wanted to get something different – people get Dolphins and Sharks, and things like that but I just wanted something different. I think I might put in a crab too.
HMA: For most metal fans, tattoos play a big part in their identification, who they see themselves as. So what do you think is the relationship between music and art, especially heavy metal and art? Why do you think the community seems to, or why did you feel a need to get inked up?
FN: Well people always ask me ‘what’s the name of your band?’ and every time I say Hatebreed they go ‘Apebreed?’ and they can’t figure it out. So I always just pull my shirt up now and I don’t say anything.
All the guys in the band have Hatebreed tattoos so I was like, you know what, I’d better get mine. I’ve been in the band 8 or 9 years now and I’ve known them since they started the band. I kinda feel like I’ve been there since the beginning so I thought it was time. Ya know artwork and things like that with music it’s just another way to add to the expression of what you’re trying to portray too. And I think that people like to look at those kinds of things. When I was a kid we’d have records and we’d look at the record ALL DAY! While we listened to the record we’d look at the cover for hours; the back, read every little thing on it if it was a gatefold…
HMA: What album covers particularly stand out for you?
FN: KISS Alive II where you’d open it and inside it’s them. That was the ultimate for me. You’d open it up and it’s 1977 or whenever it was and it’s just them up on top of the LA Forum and it’s just all fire and sparks and all that stuff and no band to this day still does that, so that had a huge impression on me, but there are all these classic record covers that are just classic. I mean, you think about Rolling Stones “Tattoo You” with the face with the tattoo, or their “Sticky Fingers” cover with the zipper on it – ya know the cool things that bands would do back then. Led Zeppelin always had something cool about their records. I think one of their ones – “In Through The Out Door” – where you’d open up the sleeve – and I didn’t know this for years, and I had the record for years – it’s a watercolour. So if you took a paintbrush with some water on it, all the colours would appear. And they had the Wheel on “Led Zeppelin III” (Edit: holes cut into a gatefold album with a spinning wheel that showed different images in each of the holes. Check www.youtube.com/watch?v=LCsUY3Pfszc to see it)… just cool stuff like that. That was awesome. Obviously, that doesn’t exist too much anymore.
HMA: It sounds like you miss that aspect of the music. Have you thought about doing something like that with Hatebreed covers?
FN: Well we did a picture disc with our last record. And coloured vinyl. And a gatefold. And things like that. We definitely still do cool things like that. I think in order to sell a record any way you have to do something cool. Plus, you know that the people buying vinyl are true collectors, so why not make something special you know? They’re going to enjoy it either way. I still have hundreds and hundreds of records.
HMA: After twenty years how is the core sound of Hatebreed maintained? You still sound very similar to the earlier material. You can hear the progression but it’s still definitely Hatebreed.
FN: Jamie and Chris are always writing music and they’ve been in the band since the beginning. Their formula, it shines.
HMA: Is it still pretty much the same writing process now as it was then?
FN: Oh yeah, absolutely. We try different things here and there but nobody wants to go to the store and buy an AC/DC record and play it and not have it sound like AC/DC. I’m such a strong believer in that. I’m not a big fan of change when it comes to bands. I feel like, if you love a band you want them to keep doing what they do. You don’t want anything different. And why risk it? Twenty years in for us… why would we risk something like that, that could end our career? We just feel like we’ve seen other bands make those bad decisions and ruin their careers and we definitely attributed us being successful for twenty years by making this decision to keep the sound the same… Simply put I just feel that if you’ve created a fan base and made people happy with what you have done so far then why change it?
HMA: Why indeed!
Hatebreed are touring throughout 2015, including the US, South Africa and Europe with more dates to be added. Check their website for locations/dates:
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Interview by Sable – Copyright 2014 © Heavy Music Artwork. All rights reserved.