Interview: Hed PE Guitarist Discusses Black Sabbath, Nu Metal, & ‘Evolution’ Album

Hed PE is an alternative rock/metal group that fuses musical styles of punk, rap, and reggae. The band formed in 1994 and has gained underground success with the release of US charting records Broke and Blackout via Jive Records. Since then, the band has released five more LPs as well as their most recent record, Evolution, on Pavement Entertainment in 2014. Click here to purchase/preview the album. We recently spoke to guitarist Jaxon, who joined in 2004, about the new album, nu metal, and their upcoming reggae project. Check out Alternative Nation’s interview with Hed PE guitarist Jaxon below.

16206_928473553831320_7552518517215352138_n Promotional poster for Hed PE’s 2015 tour with Powerman 5000

You’ll be starting your tour with Powerman 5000 this month. What can fans expect when they go out to see you live this go round?

Jaxon (guitarist): They’re going to catch a lot of the stuff we normally do, some new energy, and maybe some new music. What we tend to do from tour to tour, even though we may be playing the same songs, is tweak them and change different parts so we give people something a little fresh. And from show to show we try to switch up the setlist depending on the energy of the crowd.

You guys have also recently toured alongside SOiL, American Head Charge, Mushroomhead, Nonpoint, and many more. Are there any other bands that you’d really like to tour with or a group you’d like to hit the road with again with?

Jaxon: All those bands that you listed are guys that have become our really good friends. So any of those bands, we’d be totally excited to get back on the road with. We haven’t toured with Mushroomhead in a while and I know a lot of people have been asking for another Hed2Head tour. At this point, Mushroomhead have a lot going on and their profile is quite high while they’re pushing their latest record. But that’s not to say that we won’t be touring with them in the future.

And in the same sense, are there any musicians you’d like to collaborate with for future releases?

Jaxon: Yeah, there’s so many. That’s one of the great things about going out on the road and touring with so many musicians. If I had to narrow it down to some bands, I would love to do something with Smile Empty Soul or SOiL. Also, American Head Charge is another band that really inspires me in a big way. I actually got to jump on stage with them and play “Ridicule” while were out on tour in Europe with SOiL.

hed-pe-evolution-album-cover Cover artwork for recently released LP, ‘Evolution’

Hed PE released their ninth studio album, Evolution, last year. Looking back to then, can you discuss the writing process and if it differed to previous recordings?

Jaxon: It was similar in certain ways and different in other ways. We kinda have a non-traditional way of putting records together in the sense that we don’t typically go into the studio and write or record exclusively there. It’s done in fragments and we utilize technology in a big way. For example, myself or Jared [Gomes, vocalist] will write music on our own in demo format at home and send it over to the other band members.

Was there a specific musical or lyrical message you guys were hoping to convey with this album?

Jaxon: Jared speaks from the heart so whatever message you get it’s genuine. What the goal for this record was to show people how we’ve evolved as human beings, not just in the band but in general.

Were there any artists you were listening to as inspiration for the material on Evolution?

Jaxon: For this record, I tried to soak up a lot of the classic stuff. Black Sabbath was the band that I really tried to find as much material as I could like documentaries, live concerts, and songs I’ve never heard before. I was just studying them and more specifically Tony Iommi’s riffs. We wanted to go for a kind of doom metal route. I know for Jared, vocally he was still going down the classic rock road like The Doobie Brothers and Robert Plant. There were some other influences in there like Rob Zombie, Alice in Chains, and Soundgarden.

Official music video for “Renegade” off 2009’s ‘New World Orphans’

There are elements of hard rock, metal, punk, reggae, and more on this record. What musical styles do you plan on exploring and experimenting with for the future of the band?

Jaxon: There are only a few musical styles left for us that we haven’t conquered. The obvious one that most people would think of is country or maybe even classical. I’m not sure exactly how that would fit in with the Hed PE repertoire, but I’m not saying it couldn’t work. I do like to mess around with different styles here and there. A lot of the stuff we’ve already done, I’d really like to continue doing. I really love thrash and metal. I’d be interested in trying something along the lines of the style on Ozzy Osbourne’s Diary of a Madman.

Throughout the early years of Hed PE, many rising nu metal bands claimed your group as one of their main inspirations. Is the term nu metal something you relate to your band nowadays?

Jaxon: Well the phrase “nu metal” has been around for over fifteen years now, but it is a category I hear associated with Hed PE quite a bit. I don’t own the rights to what people associate our music with. It’s subjective to the listener. Personally, I wouldn’t call our band nu metal necessarily anymore because there is so many nuances that we don’t showcase in our music that maybe Hed PE showcased in the past. But if people do hear that sound, than that label is totally valid. When I think of nu metal, I think of bands like Korn, Limp Bizkit, and Disturbed. Hed PE’s music on their first three albums definitely had those sounds, but I don’t feel that is quite the case with our music now.

Official music video for “Suffa” off 2007’s ‘Insomnia’

Besides the upcoming tour, what does Hed PE have coming up?

Jaxon: We’re looking at pushing the next single, which is going to be “No Tomorrow.” We’re really excited about this song and it seems to be getting the best reaction and feedback from our fans, so if you ask you shall receive. We were planning on possibly putting together a music video for it. On top of that, we do have some other tours coming up. We’re looking at maybe going on the road with Alien Ant Farm and possibly with Nonpoint. There’s talk of maybe going to Europe and Australia. A lot of this stuff is still getting worked out and nothing is confirmed yet. We also have another project in the works that we’re messing with which is an alter-ego of Hed PE, called Dred PE. We’ll be focusing more on reggae and island music and maybe even changing up the style of older Hed PE songs.

Do you guys have any material or musical ideas for Hed PE’s next album?

Jaxon: We’re constantly being inspired by people we tour with. There’s always ideas coming around and it’s just a question of if we record it. I always have sketches and little rough drafts of riffs floating around in my head or on the computer. We haven’t put any ideas together yet while we focus and spread the word on the Evolution release. But the time will definitely come and it will come a lot sooner than Evolution did because that album took awhile to come out.