(hed) p.e. Return With Forever!

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Jared Gomes, a.k.a. Jahred, is no stranger to the world of metal. As the front man of ever-evolving (hed) p.e., Jahred is an outspoken fan of music. He’s also getting ready to head out on a brief summer tour with Dubskin as the (hed) p.e.’s 11th full-length record Forever! (Pavement Entertainment) is released on July 22, 2016. Jahred took a few minutes before departing to speak with Alternative Nation.

MS: Hey, Jahred how are you?
JG: Good man. Nice hearing from you brother.

MS: I just have a few questions for you. I’ve been listening to (hed) p.e. for a long time now, and I was pretty psyched to hear you had a new record coming out. How do you explain the band’s longevity?
JG: (Laughs) (Keeps laughing). I’m sorry I giggled, but I thought you were gonna say, “I waited for the album and got it and I was really disappointed.” The band’s longevity is, well part of it, just my refusal to get a real job. The other part of it is something that might be better answered by a quote-unqoute fan’s perspective. I mean I can guess that it might have something to do with the way that the style of the music isn’t stagnant. We’re never behind the eight-ball. (hed) p.e. doesn’t have any allegiance to any one certain sound. I guess I found some resonance with my words and lyrical expressions with people, so obviously that’s part of it, right? People are resonating with the words. We’re kind of on this journey together, and it might sound corny but it’s really how I feel about it.

MS: I don’t think that’s corny at all. I can definitely relate to what you’re saying about the lyrics resonating. You have a lot to say and I know I’ve found that I appreciate you having the ability to share it with a wider audience.
JG: I appreciate that, because you know what dude? I’m kind of a self-loathing artist. I’m constantly writing and rewriting songs. I’ll write the same song four times with different lyrics and a different approach if I’m not happy with it. A lot of thought goes into and I appreciate when people can find some common ground.

MS: (hed) p.e. is often referred to, and you might hate this, as a rap-rock band. But I find many elements from many different genres of music. Especially on this record, there’s a lot more reggae. There’s some very aggressive sounds mixed with reggae. How would you describe the sound of (hed) p.e.?
JG: Definitely I think the rap-rock title ignores a huge part of what we’re doing. You know? Definitely as a vocalist I’m doing a lot more than “rapping”, you know? So that’s kind of, well, I’d never call my band a rap-rock band. What we are is, we’re just a rock band that toys with different genres. There’s a foundation of heaviness, you know, but like you were saying it’s evolved. It used to be more hip-hop and rock and now it’s hip-hop, ragga, punk rock, rock and metal. If I’m into some off-shoot of music, then I’m going to incorporate some of those elements and theories into my band, you know. Even if it’s Jamaican dancehall. How can I use Jamaican dancehall in metal? (Laughs).

MS: One of the thoughts, when listening to the new record, was how much it reminded me of The Clash. Not that I’m comparing (hed) p.e. to The Clash, because it’s different.
JG: For me, they’re the “greatest rock band ever” and I’m a huge Clash fan, so I haven’t lately attempted to incorporate any Clash elements. But I think Clash feelings, for me and my rock band, when a rock band tries to play reggae and it comes out kind of thrashy, that’s the sound of the Clash.

MS: What’s (hed) p.e.’s greatest achievement?
JG: Wow. Greatest achievement for me is just still being around. I’ve seen them come and I’ve seen them go. I mean, c’mon dude, from when I signed my first record deal and put out my first record in 1996 and now it’s 2016, I’ve seen the changing of the guard has been technology in my world. So many things come and go, so I just count my blessings that we can just load up and go play in some club in like Fort Lauderdale and, you know, make a living. I’ll be honest with you, I gotta tell you, playing at these small clubs is good for the soul. But we actually played at the Polish Woodstock last year and it was like half-million people. It was an experience. I wouldn’t say it was the greatest achievement, you know, because I don’t want to define achievement by how many people you play in front of. For me, it’s not where it’s at. But it was quite an experience in my career that had a different energy than I’ve ever felt. (hed) p.e. has played big shows in the opener’s position, but our bread and butter is headlining the club. I love that. It’s an amazing energy. Of course, whenever we’re invited to play a radio festival in a huge arena, that’s a different kind of energy too. (Laughs). It’s undeniable.

MS: Does the energy level change the way you play your shows?
JG: (Laughs). For me, I have to temper that with the nights where we’re only playing for like 100 people, you know? Honestly bro, there are some songs that I’ve written that are not intended for a lightly-attended show. Over-the-top, high-powered-music that just raises hell. That’s meant for a lot of people and you play really loud, and not intended to be something you can play unplugged.

MS: Walk me through the song-writing process of this new record.
JG: On the new record the music was written first. A lot of times I was providing beats first. I was really into this approach to start with a dancehall rhythm and then metal on top of it. So I kept coming up with dancehall beats, bringing them to my shredding guitar player and be like, let’s do this” and we’d write to that. This album was written 90% on the road, on the bus music wise. The lyrics are always written by me when I’m home, in my home studio, and then I attack each song and write the lyrics at that moment. I have a notebook with lyrics just laying around, but generally I’m trying to write to each song and ride the melody. I try to capture the energy of that moment, so it’s fresh in that moment. I may rewrite shit. I might be like, the next day, “what was I thinking?” Like I said, I’m a self-loather and have listened to other songs I’ve written and been like, “what was I thinking?” It doesn’t happen as much anymore because I’ve learned what to stay away from.

MS: So are there themes and topics that are specific to this record?
JG: I mean, yea because it represents where I am as a man and my growth. A lot of the old (hed) p.e. stuff was very hedonistic and annihilistic. The last record, Evolution, was like me saying “I’m done now and I need to change.” The foundation for the last record was not so sturdy because I was like in therapy, you know? The last album was written from that perspective and I was like, “I know I’ve fucked up.” A few years later, fast forward to this album, and I’m like “I’m an authentic man, all grown up, true to my wife and a father and I’m taking it seriously.” That doesn’t mean, you know, that I can’t still tell a few dirty jokes. There’s a foundation here where I’m comfortable saying those things because I have nothing to hide.

MS: Would you say there’s a message behind your lyrics?
JG: I think it’s more of a moral to the story. As you know, I’ve used like four or five albums to disseminate information as I saw it about shadow governments, global conspiracy, blah, blah, blah. I’m not interested in doing it as a gimmick or repeating myself either. I’m interested in analyzing the political, global scene, but I’m more interested in introspection right now. Be the change you want to see. I’m trying to say, “hey, change starts at home.” Analyze yourself. Focus on yourself. Look at the people around you and make change there. Be authentic. That’s the message.

MS: It’s an election year, and that always riles it up a bit, so who are you going to vote for?
JG: You mean, like, who am I not going to vote for? I’m not going to vote for Donald Trump. Here’s the thing, dude, when you got this cult personality of like Trump and Hillary – two blah candidates – for me the most intelligent thing to do is bypass the cult of personality and research the party platform. I say that’s the most intelligent thing to do. I hate identifying with groups and labels, for me – they may be okay for someone else, but it’s not for me – so when I look at the party platform in terms of like gay people getting married, let them get married. Mind your own business. Right there, the platforms are so different. Or like women’s rights. I’m a pragmatist, and like it would be great if women never needed abortions. But that’s not real, so if they need them then they have to be provided with the means to do it. I don’t feel like the government can get involved with women carrying births to term. What are they going to do? Put women in prison in prison until they have the baby? There again, the platforms are so different. I’m not a big fan of Hillary’s either. I gotta go by party platform, so it’s not like I’m not going to vote. I feel like Trump is dangerous. He’s not even like a dog-whistle person. This whole thing started with his “Mexican’s are rapists.” He’s feeding our people’s fears and I have a problem with that. (Laughs). I didn’t even think about it until now, but there’s a saying in the new age movement, the hippie movement, whatever, the tree hugging movement that I gladly associate with, that basically says eat healthier, protect the earth and love. We have this thing where we’re like building a bridge to the future between people, between cultures and between how we all live. All great stuff, right? And then here comes Donald with this “let’s build a wall” shit. One of the first lines on the new album is, and I swear this had nothing to do with Trump, “we came in to build a bridge and not a wall.” C’mon, dude.

MS: What bands influence you? What do you listen to?
JG: Like anybody, I have a long life of being influenced and all those influences are just gonna come through whether it’s me being into Suicidal Tendencies or Led Zepplin or Black Sabbath or Rage Against the Machine. Nine Inch Nails. Beastie Boys. All that shit is in me and will show it’s face whenever. Pantera. Most recently, though, you know, I’ve been obsessed with Jamaican dancehall and specifically, a dude by the name of Vybz Cartel. That’s my most recent thing that made me stop and listen. And then there’s this band called Medicine for the People. I’m really into that guy, Nahko. He’s like a guru, you know? A new age guru. Between those two things, that’s what I’m into. It’s funny that neither of those acts are metal, at all. Recently those things caught my attention. It becomes a part of my arsenal of expression. They get added to those bands I mentioned. On this one, the dancehall beats are like hypnotic jungle rhythms. I was like, I want metal to that. More uppity to. Now that we did it, I love it. Each song has a really deep pocket.

MS: On this record, there’s almost two sides. On the first half it’s more aggressive and the second half is more reggae and dancehall. Is this intentional?
JG: Even on the last album, the set-up on Evolution was like, I did eight metal tracks and one interlude and then three decidedly rootsy tracks. That’s how I did this one too. I don’t know why I do it, but I just do. I’m cooling down the record, like chilling music or smoking music.

MS: I noticed, The Dirty Heads just did something similar, with a day side and night side. The night side was kind of chill.
JG: See dude, that’s so funny that you say that, because a million times we’ve talking about doing that with the first half being the heavy songs and the then the second half of the same songs played in a reggae version. It makes some of them work even better. We actually took “Killing Time” from Broke, and people love it when we play it, but it’s roots reggae on the verse and ridiculously heavy on the chorus and then back to roots. It kind of hilarious. I love it.

MS: Any plans for a video off this record?
JG: We’re actually shooting one a week from Sunday. I’m leaving for a short tour, only two weeks, tonight which will lead us over to our video shoot in Chicago. It’s pretty much the first proper video I’ve shot since like 2012.

MS: As you head out on tour, what’s the live experience of a (hed) p.e. show? What’s the experience like?
JG: You know, hopefully, our shows are a vibe. Even if it’s heavy metal. It’s not like death metal, but more like life metal. At a (hed) p.e. show, it’s all about embracing life for sure. It’s a Unity vibe too. Now more than ever. We get the Bob Marley vibe. There’s always the proper balance of females and males at the show. It’s just a good vibe night, even with a pit, and skankin’ to the beat of the dancehall.

MS: Any favorite tracks for the band to play live?
JG: Wow. There’s so many (hed) p.e. songs now that we’ve got to the point that we only play the one’s we enjoy or else we won’t even fucking play it. There’s such a repertoire that we don’t have to play what we don’t enjoy. Ask the musicians and they might have a different opinion because they might like shredding a particular song. I actually like the whole spectrum.

MS: That’s great because so many artists seem to become jaded by playing the same songs over and over, or complain that some tracks that they love aren’t even being heard.
JG: Hahahaha. (laughs more.) The artist that becomes jaded, huh. I don’t feel sorry for that guy. He should count his blessings.

MS: Your voice has become so much a part of the (hed) p.e. sound, like another instrument. Any thoughts on that?
JG: I appreciate that you recognize that. Especially on the last album, I was able to let the music breathe a little and let the vocals just become a part of the artistic expression to where I didn’t have to sing with a hardcore voice all the time. I’ve learned to leave some space to let the music breath. Again, I’m super critical of myself and I want to blend the music. I remember when the first albums came out, kids would be like, “how come I can hear what you’re saying all the time?” That really bothered me. That’s because they mixed my fucking vocals too low. Some bands, that works, like Deftones the vocals are meant to be a part of the soundscape. But we’re more like a Rage Against the Machine. You gotta know what I’m saying.

MS: Any desire to record with other artists?
JG: There always is. I mentioned Medicine for the People. That guy Nahko, I’d love to have him on a (hed) p.e. track. The keyboardist for Tribal Seeds, I’d love to work with him. There’s different people I’d love to work with but tough when it comes to scheduling and financing. Those are the two magic words. Sooner or later, maybe these things will work themselves out.

MS: You’ve mentioned this before, but do you have any plans for a full solo record?
JG: I would love to do that, but you know the hustle that’s going on with (hed) p.e. right now is all encompassing. Again, I’m working with a new manager and it will give me more time to create. That’s what it’s all about for me, creativity is king. I’d love to do a solo joint, but right now my energy is to keeping (hed) p.e. afloat. There seems to be some light at the end of tunnel, and I’ll stick to that.

MS: What are you looking forward to for (hed) p.e.?
JG: I’m looking forward to playing some new tracks. The new album comes out this Friday. I already have them and we can sell them. It’s been done for like five months. I’m so excited for people to finally hear it, because form what I can remember it was the shit!

MS: You’ve been around for like 20 years, any advice for new artists?
JG: Wow. I guess for the unsigned artist it all starts with the demo. You’re going nowhere until you have a demo that you can play without any question, no embarrassment and no excuses for your friends. For the signed artist, I would say watch every penny. You should know where every penny is going. It’s your money. That’s my only advice. Everybody’s experience in the music industry has been unique.

MS: It hasn’t always been an easy ride for (hed) p.e. either. Forced to make a name change, label issues and even personnel changes. What’s the future hold for (hed) p.e.?
JG: You’re right. It has not been an easy ride. I’m looking forward to it becoming a little easier. We have some good representation now. You can have the greatest band or even brand in the world, but if you don’t have the means to get it to people than you’re stuck. The business has changed. I’m not seeing any more publishing checks because it’s about streaming and YouTube, you know? So, I’m working in that new frontier. I’m looking forward to reaching a wider audience.

MS: Thanks for your time today and good luck with the new record and tour. Anything you want to say?
JG: Yea man. www.hedpeforever.com. All the lyrics are there. Thanks for time today man.

Album review:

FOREVER! isn’t a rock album, a nu-metal record, rapcore, or thrash. Give it the only label it deserves: (hed) p.e. Long-branded as the genre melting aggressive theme to life, (hed) p.e. defy simpleton definition. Sure, there’s everything on here: metal, thrash, hip-hop, dancehall, reggae, and even an original movie-theme soundtrack worthy instrumental (The Higher Crown), but ultimately cranked up on any stereo and FOREVER! will prove to be the long anticipated accompaniment to your soul.

Since everybody loves lists and the comparisons that they elicit, let’s compare. Ten records into a 20-year career and everything has changed while not a damn thing has changed for (hed) p.e. except its name, record labels and band members. FOREVER! is a far cry from (hed) p.e.’s critically acclaimed and most commercially successful record, 2000’s Broke, but 16 years later and the band has grown. (hed) p.e. is the epitome of progress and growth and the often politically-charged Jahred would agree that progress is king for the opposite of progress must be congress. FOREVER! exudes progress, while staying fresh to death with aggressive guitar riffs, bombastic rhythms, and Jahred’s ultra-intuitive worldviews rapped, growled, and melodically delivered over the soundscape of your dreams and nightmares.

Here’s a trip into FOREVER!:

Liv!: Remember that dream you had with Michael Myers slowly stalking you through darkened woods, only to wake realizing it was your subconscious screaming at you to stop running away and live the life you want without fear and anxiety? Liv! comes in with a twisted marching band rhythm courtesy of drummer Trauma at the front lines of the war on complacent rock music mixed with Gregzilla’s horror movie-esque guitar and ambient sounds ala the Halloween theme that crescendos into the blustering overture with lead singer Jahred unleashing his poetic call to arms for people to wage peace, together through unity. In his own prophetic delivery, Jahred proclaims, “We come in to build a bridge/Tear down the wall.” http://hedpeforever.com/category/lyrics/liv/

Pay Me: Daily grind with nothing to show for it? You must be one of the countless Americans scrounging change to keep the electricity from being shut-off. Join the club. A swirling and intoxicating ode to getting paid what you’re worth, what you’re owed and what you deserve. Rockstars included… http://hedpeforever.com/category/lyrics/payme/

 Closer: The closest rendering of a dancehallstyle beat underscoring the straightforward heavy rock that (hed) p.e. have become notorious for on the last few albums. Straight musical stress to match Jahred’s aggressive intonation and melodic chorus. “Its better to have lived and loved/Than to live and die in vain.” http://hedpeforever.com/category/lyrics/closer/

 Hurt: Sometimes Jahred makes it difficult to know if he’s singing a love song or some psychopathic verse to serve as a warning. Hurt is that song. Gregzilla plays an edgy fuzzed-out blues riff, while bassist Kurtis and Trauma amp up a thumping skull crusher rhythm. Jahred screams through his rap, alternating through love and hurt in a ragga delivery. http://hedpeforever.com/category/lyrics/04hurt/

It’s You: Straight (hed) p.e. rock banger. Distempered rap, melodic chorus. Damn dense drums, especially during the bridge. It swells, hard, and then recovers into a slow and mellifluous apology from Jahred. http://hedpeforever.com/category/lyrics/05itsyou/

Waste: Precise and syncopated punk thrashcore beauty. Jump into the pit or start your own in the comfort of your bedroom. Under two minutes and yet Jahred still manages to sell his brand of progress: “It’s not a crime/to try and save the human race/religion, division and hate/are just a waste of time…/fucking useless…” http://hedpeforever.com/category/lyrics/06waste

JahKnow: It’s no secret that Jahred has a reggae/raga/roots/dancehall side. He’s also an avid reader, watcher and interpreter of information. He ingests and redistributes. On JahKnow, which has defined dancehall-esque lyrics and delivery over a live band hip-hop beat and aggressive guitars, (hed) p.e. invoke the spirit of everyone’s favorite punk-reggae fusion band, Bad Brains. But the song also acts as a bridge for the record. Tracks one through six are unswerving and unnerving belligerent “G-punk” bangers, while JahKnow begins the transition to the mellower (can’t believe I just wrote this about (hed) p.e., but it will make sense once you pick up your copy of the record) side of the record. http://hedpeforever.com/category/lyrics/07jahknow/

One of a Kind: There is nothing simple or complacent about (hed) p.e. On One of a Kind, the dancehall riddim beast track, one might slip away on a cloud of smoke. Until, of course, the signature confrontational sound of (hed) p.e. crashes in on the chorus. You’ve been warned. http://hedpeforever.com/category/lyrics/08oneofakind/

The Higher Crown: The instrumental soundtrack to that scene in your dreams when you go from white-belt karate knucklehead to full-fledged lone wolf ninja-assassin. http://hedpeforever.com/category/lyrics/09thehighercrown/

Shadowridge: Jahred and Co. express just how diverse their musicianship and influences are. On Shadowridge, a mature look into Jahred’s transformation from the punk bad boy to the loving husband and father, the roots reggae sound system is precise and talented. http://hedpeforever.com/category/lyrics/10shadowridge/

Together: The reggae sound that the Jedi Assembly relax to on Corsucant just prior to daily meditation. http://hedpeforever.com/category/lyrics/11together/

Always: Dancehall and roots reggae to re-up the soul. True mystic lyrics that incorporate Jahred’s political fascination. Ultimately, Jahred admits to his spiritual growth and that living authentic – through any soundscape – is in accordance with being a real man… human. “Livin a life authentic/I’m a man of my word/Ya feel the fire in my heart/Always burn…” http://hedpeforever.com/category/lyrics/12always/

 Ganja: ‘Nuff said.

FOREVER! isn’t a “look ma we changed our sound” record. It’s been a long time coming and it seems to cement (hed) p.e. as a king of the underground sound without compromise or apology. The record is a bid for peace, love, unity and harmony through any means of approach necessary. Support independent artists, pick up the record and be seduced into the world of (hed) p.e. (hed) p.e. is on tour now.

http://www.hedpeforever.com