(hed) PE/PDHM/Weapons Of Mass Belief Live at the Camden Underworld, London, 5th April 2006 By James Willcock I arrived at the Camden Underworld about the time the doors opened, knowing that I was on the guest list and having been informed I had an interview with (hed) PE, but didn’t know who with, when or where, only that I was to contact Jahred. However, as Jahred is the front man for (hed) PE, I really wasn’t sure how I was going to achieve this. I consigned myself to the fact I probably wasn’t going to get the interview. Soon after I made my way in the first band of the evening, Weapons Of Mass Belief, took to the stage in front of a virtually deserted floor. At this point, I have to pause in order to try and describe WOMB as best I can. First, imagine a good garage punk band (as in a band that practices in their garage, not some weird genre crossover) that has made it as far as opening for a bigger band at a smallish venue. Then, add the most politically correct vocal line up you can (a white guy, who looked more than a little like Geordie comedian Ross Noble, a black guy and woman). Then, get all three vocalists to trade off in sub-Beastie Boys style rap. Finally, get the female vocalist to high kick, grind up against her fellow band mates and generally try and attract as much attention to the stage as possible. No, really, that’s what it was like. I honestly cant say that they were good in the conventional sense, as they did seem a little rough around the edges and, in opening for (hed) PE at the Underworld, a little out of their depth. That said, they went above and beyond the call of duty to try and get the crowd warmed up, their style was nothing if not innovative, and the performance was such a sight I had a smile on my face through much of the set, although that might have been all the vodka I’d had. It was after Weapons Of Mass Belief that I took a little wonder around the Underworld to see if a couple of friends had made it. I couldn’t see them, but did see someone on the merchandise stand who looked familiar, chatting to quite a lot of people. Oh wait, that’s Jahred. Seizing my chance like the intrepid UM reporter that I am, I wondered over, introduced myself and said, “I think I’m supposed to be interviewing you”. “Oh yeah”, says Jahred, “we can do it after the show if you want, just meet me side stage”. Fucking winner, I couldn’t believe my luck. Now very contented, I went to go watch the other support act, PDHM (which, apparently, stands for Pretty Damn Heavy Metal). I’d heard positive things about them from a friend of mine (coincidently the same friend who was supposed to be there that night- Si, you and Fran better have been damn “busy” if you two didn’t go), but hadn’t actually heard anything by them. As it turns out, they play a fairly straightforward brand of metalcore, with two vocalists, one handling all the heavy vocals, the other singing all the clean vocals, in a roughly even split, accompanied by metal with enough breakdowns to keep the hardcore kids happy. I can’t say it was anything revolutionary or spectacular, but the band played well, appearing at ease and comfortable on stage in front of an increasingly large crowd. Although they did seem to attract a lot of people towards the stage, the crowd seemed somewhat lazy, and despite the efforts of a half dozen others and myself, a mosh pit never really kicked off, but kudos to the band for a decent set anyway. After that came the main event, (hed) PE themselves. Kicking off with Represent, the crowd immediately responds in the only way they know how- going ape-shit. The band too, especially Jahred, who went crowd surfing several times, got stuck right in, bouncing around the stage as much as they could in the somewhat restricted confines of the Underworld. The most notable feature of the set was the way the set-list broke down- a collection of songs from their previous four albums, mostly biased towards Only In Amerika with a healthy dose of material from Broke. Songs played (I think) included The Truth, The Box and Raise Hell from Only In Amerika, Killing Time and Waiting To Die from Broke, as well as the classic, crowd-violence inducing classic Firsty from the self titled album. However, interspersed between these songs (along with the now nearly obligatory shot by a band at George W. Bush) were sections of songs that I didn’t recognise, mostly with a reggae or relaxed hip-hop style, which may be from the new album, as well as covers of songs including NWA’s Fuck The Police and Rage Against The Machine’s Wake Up, which only the first verses were played. These sections were played in between the recognisable songs, usually to take the pace down a notch or two before kicking in with the next song. An interesting and fairly bold move, that mostly paid off, although it may have been better if, for some of these chilled sections, they had played one of their more relaxed numbers from one of their previous albums, such as The Meadow or Other Side, so the fans knew the material being played. The set climaxed in suitably rabid form with one of the contenders for most un-PC (hed) PE song ever, CBC. A good set, but I think it suffered from a lack of older material and balance between albums therein. I give the gig 7/10 After the set finished, I waited around in front of the stage and was relieved when after a few minutes Jahred came back out and started signing things for fans while chatting to them. Telling me I’d “have to hang out for a while”, he then spent the best part of quarter of an hour wondering around the Underworld, meeting the fans, talking to them and signing tickets, album sleeves, posters and the occasional female breast. I was quite impressed with the amount of time he gave to the fans. After that, we wondered back stage, and began the interview in a somewhat informal arrangement, in that we just stood around backstage and had a bit of a chat. Unfortunately, I lost my (or rather Russell’s- again, sorry about that) dictaphone in the pit (and my watch as well- black dial with markings but no numbers on a black leather cuff strap anyone?) and was forced to try and write down Jahred answers on paper, so the following interview may be paraphrased to some extent (he talks quite a lot), but the gist is there. You have a new album (Back 2 Base X) coming out in May, how would you describe it? It has an earthier, more natural sound, with no samples or computer tricks. It’s also more punk than metal. How does it compare to your previous albums? It reminds me most of bits of Churches of Reality- a raw sounding punk and hip-hop fusion The new album was recorded live in the studio. Why did you decide to do this? I’ve been listening to a lot of old stuff- The Sex Pistols, The Clash, Ray Charles, Curtis Mayfield. That kind of stuff was recorded on a two mic set up. We wanted to avoid the hi-tech stuff and create something more soulful. In a way this album has brought it all full circle back to the beginning of the self-titled album. There’s only been a short gap (about a year) between the release of the last album (Only In Amerika) and the new album. Why is that? Well, we’re a hard working band. The tracks on Only In Amerika had been around for a while. Signing to a small label (Koch Records) allowed us to release that album. With the new album we’re moving on from the other material. How does (hed) PE go about writing a song? There are two ways. Either the whole band jams together and creates something at the same time, or one of us writes something at home, records it and then the rest of the band add to that. You’ve changed the bands line up recently. Is the band gelling well on the new material? Yes, Only In Amerika was the first album with the new album and was a little rough around the edges, now we’re really starting to feel it on the new album. The new album is your 5th release on your 3rd label. Why all the moving around? There are a lot of things about the “music business” that make life difficult and don’t make sense; in the same way that George W. Bush can be president. Changing labels allowed us to put out the music we wanted to. Suburban Noize is an underground label that has launched a variety of acts. Why did you choose this label? It’s a lifestyle label that I think is on the verge of something big, there are a lot of smart people working there What are you major influences? For me, Rage Against The Machine, NWA, The Sex Pistols, The Clash…. (At this point Jahred is interrupted but I feel the list could have gone on) The first album came out ten years ago as nu-metal was really kicking off, and there are obvious comparisons to your material and rap-metal acts. Why do you think you’ve outlasted other bands and trends? We keep on changing and evolving, we’re more than a scene and we like to stay ahead of the game. The band has a life of it’s own and we have no allegiance to a sound. (Jahred grins widely) Damn, I’m coming up with some good answers tonight, make sure you get that one down. How did you discover your large vocal range and variety of styles? Well I grew up with a lot of white friends, listening to punk and metal. Then I started listening to hip-hop, which changed my life, before I got interested in reggae. I’m known as “The man of a thousand voices”, but without being, well, corny. The new website has an interesting design, with fans joining up and earning points for different activities which can then win them prizes. Who’s idea was that? That was the labels idea, it’s very innovative. I’m trying to get more involved in it and expand it; a monthly newsletter should be coming soon. What are the best and worst aspects of touring? The best thing is getting out there and seeing all the fans, face to face and interacting with them. The worst, hmm (pauses to think, then starts asking other people), I guess that would be going without a soft bed. What are the best and worst gigs you’ve ever played? The best was tonight! As for the worst, all gigs have something, even a bad experience can teach you something. I can remember one gig that didn’t go well, but then that led me to write a song that the fans now say they really like. (DJ Product pipes up from across the room) There are no bad gigs! As a footnote, I think it’s worth mentioning that Jahred came across well, coming across as genuinely happy and enthusiastic during the interview (quite probably still buzzing after the gig), and more than prepared to talk to me despite the crap organisation. Cheers dude.