Exclusive Interview with
Jahred Gomes

by Jesse Seilhan

Few bands escaped the tumultuous 1990’s alive. SoCal’s (hed)p.e. did so by playing to their strengths and never allowing genres and buzzwords to define their raucous sound. Blending a verity of musical loves, lead singer Jared Gomes cemented himself as a vocal force to be reckoned with, singing, screaming, and crooning with the best of them. I had a chance to talk with Gomes about the band’s history, their stellar new album, and how quickly fans can turn.

RUKUS MAGAZINE: I’m going to start with the legacy question: How does it feel to be 20 years into your music career?
JAHRED GOMES: Wow, what a great question to open up with. I feel so blessed, you know. I just can’t believe, obviously I’ve got a legion of new fans who were maybe not even born when I started. Jesus, the character arc from ‘94 to 2014 is massive. I feel really blessed, because I’ve seen them come and go and I’m still able to put food on the table with this music thing, so I’m lucky.

RM: When you started out, the term “rap rock” was a positive label that was attached to you, but not so much anymore. I doubt you guys classify yourselves in that way…
JG: You would have never heard me say “Oh, we’re a rap rock band!” When (Hed)p.e. first got together, there was no rap in it. And then I went to some show with the Beastie Boys, Rage Against the Machine, X, and I was on mushrooms and after that show, I was like “I think I’m going to try and rap a little bit.” So after that I started writing rhymes, but I grew up, obviously, before there even was rap. I was mostly into rock and roll and heavy metal as a kid. So I only started rapping late in my life and then, to be called rap rock, I didn’t appreciate, only because I enjoyed singing so much, so to me that term took away from the fact that “Hey, this dude can sing!”

RM: Your new album Evolution sounds more mature than prior releases, more focused and methodical. What was your vision for the album?
JG: Yea, that’s definitely what it is. So many of the (Hed)p.e. albums, vocally, are like...how many guys are singing on this album, because it doesn’t sound like the same guy? So on this album, I’m going to fucking make sure I sound like the same guy throughout the album. And my use of anything hip-hop was very subtle, you know, I wasn’t interested in the old “Rap on the verse, yell on the chorus” shit. I just wanted to make any hip-hop influences just kind of be very subtle.

So the album was thought through pretty well and conceptualized musically for sure. Then my guitar player (Jaxon Benge) just came with the beautiful magic, amazing riffs. Dark, groovy riffs. So I’m well aware of my ability to completely ruin a good song with my shitty vocals, right? So I’m like these are some really good fucking riffs, I’m not going to fuck this one up. I took two years to do the vocals, but I’m fucking loving it. I’m a self-loathing artist, normally I can’t even listen to my albums because I’m like “What the fuck was I thinking?” This one, I have to admit, I put it in and of course I’m scared to hit play, but when I do hit play, I actually fucking like it.

RM: Jaxon absolutely fucking slays it on this album. How has it been working with him for so long now?
JG: It’s a work of art. In talking to him, he kind of had the same approach I did in the way that, and this is kind of his words so I’m paraphrasing, but before he would write this type of song and this type of song. On this one, it was like let’s write all of these songs that have a similar foundation or theory. That’s what he did musically, and what I did vocally, and people are resonating with it and so am I.

RM: Personally, I got into your band after Broke was released, which was like a soundtrack to my high school years. How do you feel about that record looking back? It might not be your favorite...
JG: I’m not mad at that album, you know, I like that album. It’s okay. Uh...it’s an okay album. I was a definitely an amateur in my approach, vocally, but lots of people like it so it’s more up to other people to say. In my perspective, there is some good stuff on it. For me, I can not be objective because I’m always trying to improve. Then there’s the whole...I’m not even the same guy I was. That guy was like trying to be a pimp and on all kinds of drugs and chasing strippers and all kinds of dirty shit. Now I’m trying to be a father and a husband. Not an easy transition, but one worth fighting for. And that’s reflected on the album. Like you said, there is a certain maturity and seriousness, that’s because, as a man, I’m seeking a life that’s built more on integrity than just narcissism and pleasing my wants.

RM: That’s probably why you’ve stuck around. If you look at the bands that were big when you guys started, very few of them exist anymore. I think that’s because they try and recapture those same feelings, year over year. They are 36 talking about getting girls even though they have two kids and a wife at home. How do you even believe them?
JG: (laughs) Dude, that’s hilarious. You know, that’s good for you to say, in your position as a journalist, and I would agree with you. For me, yea, I have to let the music reflect where I’m at personally or else it’s not...I have to be excited about the music or else I can’t get on stage and fake it, you know? I’ve always got to be writing about whatever I’m passionate about within those moments of the album being written.

RM: After you announced your sobriety, did you get any weird backlash from fans that associated you with a drug culture?
JG: Yea. There’s this culture around hardcore music that’s a bit annihilistic that just wants to say “Fuck you” and ‘Fuck this” and “Fuck the government” and “Fuck Obama” and “Fuck everything.” Those people, as soon as you don’t go along with their “Fuck the world” thing, they go “What happened to you?” You can’t please everyone all the time. I was surprised, yea, because when I really came to the crossroads in my life and had to detox for awhile, yea, some people like turn marijuana into their religion. They go “What do you mean you’re not smoking weed?” You know, it’s like get the fuck out of here.

People are always trading one mind-control thing for another. They think they are so liberated when they trade in their belief in the government for somehow violently destroying the government. That’s just another mind-control thing. I kind of back away from that stuff, it’s scary to me.

RM: On the positive side, did you start to feel any physical healing or differences in your singing ability?
JG: Oh yea. I’m on a big time health kick: I’m juicing vegetables, running, just taking care of myself. The vocals I do now are way more hardcore than in the Broke days. Just in terms of physicality and deliverance, it’s on another level from those days. But, you know, it’s something that I do and it’s worth doing, it’s still a physical thing. I don’t drink on the road, ever. I just don’t drink on the road anymore. I don’t do any of those drugs, dude, Jesus, I used to do all the pharmaceuticals, the powders, all that. I’m not proud of it, at all, it’s just a fact. So I’m not doing any of that, so I’m a family man now. But when I’m on stage, I still feel pretty hardcore.

RM: Evolution ends with a couple of reggae jams. Could you see the band doing an all-reggae album?
JG: No, not a (Hed)p.e. album. I wouldn’t do a (Hed)p.e. all reggae album, but I would do an all reggae album under a different name. For (Hed)p.e., the bread and butter and foundation is rock and roll. In different shapes and forms, but I would not put out a whole reggae joint. At our live shows, we’ve been closing with reggae and roots, so I want to do that on the album, since we’re doing it at the shows. Now that I’ve introduced that, it may just go off and be its own thing. But I’m not sure yet.

RM: Last question: if this is the Evolution of (Hed)p.e., what are you evolving into?
JG: Evolving into a galactic man, as opposed to just an Earthling.

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