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Cover Story: Jamey Jasta on Milwaukee Metal Fest, Solo Music and The Future

| April 30, 2024

Hatebreed – L to R: Matt Byrne, Frank Novinec, Jamey Jasta, Wayne Lozinak, Chris Beattie

By Kelley Simms

One of the country’s most nostalgic metal festivals was resurrected in 2023 and will, thankfully, return for a second straight year.

Initially founded in 1987 by Jack Koshick (also the founder of March Metal Meltdown), the Milwaukee Metal Fest has a storied history and was once an annual global metal music tradition up until 2004, then returned for a one-off in 2007.

In 2022, Hatebreed frontman Jamey Jasta purchased the rights from Koshick and relaunched the festival the following year to worldwide fanfare. With the upcoming second year of the reformation, Milwaukee Metal Fest continues to grow into the powerhouse it was once known for.

The Milwaukee Metal Fest takes over The Rave/Eagles Club in Milwaukee for three sweat-inducing days, beginning on Friday, May 17 (including the pre-party on Thursday, May 16). This year’s festival has the most diverse lineup but also honors the spirit of the original fest. Some of the major highlights of the festival include thrash legends Testament—who have been the festival’s most requested band, two unique sets by Death to All covering two of Death’s most prominent albums and a Friday night set from Swedish power metal legends Hammerfall. Some of the veteran bands who represent the old guard of the festival include Heathen, Deicide, Destruction, Atheist, and Possessed. Up-and-coming and newer bands, such as Paleface Swiss, Belushi Speed Ball, Bleed From Within, and regional favorites from Madison, Casket Robbery, will also be performing. Unfortunately, Marduk and Metal Church had to cancel, but in their place will be Overkill and Doro, respectively. The eclectic mix of bands this year bridges the gap between the death, thrash, hardcore, classic, power metal and even the rock genres.


Jasta initially hatched the idea to reboot the festival from a conversation with The Black Dahlia Murder’s Trevor Strnad on Jasta’s popular podcast, **The Jasta Show. The two discussed resurrecting the festival and curating it as a team. However, after the passing of Strnad in 2022, Jasta felt the urge to see their vision through and relaunch the festival. “I thought it was a criminal injustice that the festival had been dormant since 2006 or so,” Jasta explains during a recent Zoom chat. “It crashed and burned kind of badly. I knew it was going to be an uphill battle to bring it back and get people’s minds changed. I went to some of the people first who I knew who had gotten pretty burned (by Koshick), and that was Obituary, Deicide, and a couple of others. Those were the two big ones that I wanted to have play either the first year back or the second year back. Luckily, we were able to get Obituary for the first year.”

According to Jasta, Koshick always treated him and Hatebreed well. However, a lot of the bands Jasta was speaking to refused to play the rebooted festival if Koshick was involved in any way. “Jack has been nothing but cool through this whole process of handing over all the assets and the domains,” Jasta confesses. “I also got March Metal Meltdown from him in the deal. We’re doing a documentary, and Jack’s going to be heavily featured in the documentary. I appreciate his candor and his willingness to say, ‘Hey look, I took a big gamble and I lost, and unfortunately I burned some bridges.’ But for the most part, we’ve been able to heal a lot of that stuff. Not necessarily with the Rave; obviously, they don’t associate with Jack in any way.”

With over 60 bands on three stages—indoors and outdoors—the festival has a lot to offer to metalheads, young and old. Jasta successfully has the 2023 fest under his belt, but planning and curating set lists, schedules and travel itineraries are his least favorite part of organizing the festival. “That was the worst part of it,” Jasta exclaims with a chuckle. “That’s the thing that keeps me up at night and gives me anxiety. We’re still tweaking it. This year we had way less complaints about the lineup. I think the complaint was that there were all of us, mostly USA bands that people had seen already last year, at least people who were traveling. But I think not having as many clashes was important. Right now, we still have a five or 10-minute overlap here and there. We still might tweak it a little bit to try to get rid of some overlap, but we are giving the bands longer sets this time around, so that also plays into it.”


With this year’s headliners, Jasta took a bit of a different approach from previous Milwaukee Metal Fests by injecting it with some European power metal from Blind Guardian on Friday, May 17, oddball death/thrash cult favorites Mr. Bungle on Saturday, May 18, and Russian deathcore champions Slaughter To Prevail closing out Sunday, May 19. “My thinking was, let’s branch out and let’s do a different style of metal,” Jasta explains. “Mr. Bungle absolutely crushed at Riot Fest, and Blind Guardian hasn’t been in the States in a while. And those two you would never expect to see on Milwaukee Metal Fest. So I thought the rest of the bill can be all the classics and all the bands that you’ve seen at Milwaukee Metal Fest before, like Autopsy, Possessed, Overkill, and Testament. These are all Milwaukee Metal Fest alumni. But the headliners hopefully bring somebody different who will maybe then discover Possessed or Eternal Champion. It was a big deal for us to get Slaughtered To Prevail and Avatar, especially with them both selling out shows everywhere all over the country. I think bands like that could be the future headliners of a lot of different festivals in the States. So why not give them the chance?”


This year’s festival also brings a slew of special album sets and a reunion performance. Autopsy will rip through a special 35th-anniversary set of Severed Survival on Friday, while the reunited Soilent Green will play on Saturday, with I am Morbid (featuring ex-Morbid Angel bassist/vocalist David Vincent) playing Morbid Angel’s seminal album Alters of Madness on Sunday. However, according to Jasta, one of the most anticipated special sets is undoubtedly Death To All’s Sound of Perseverance set on Saturday and Scream Bloody Gore on Sunday. “I really wanted to see the two different Death sets because they haven’t done these yet,” Jasta exclaims. “When we heard the tour was getting announced, it was a no-brainer, as Death was such a huge part of the original Milwaukee Metal Fest. So to have them come and have members from those two album cycles, and some who even played on the albums like Gene (Hoglan), to me, it was a no-brainer just to have something different. If you saw Death To All on this last tour, and now you’re going to see them at Milwaukee, you’re going to see a different set.”

Mr. Bungle (appearing Saturday, May 18)


On Thursday, May 16, the festival unofficially kicks off with a special pre-party with Jasta’s solo band, featuring various guests, including Overkill’s Bobby Blitz, Exodus’s Steve “Zetro” Souza, and Biohazard’s Bobby Hambel. Also on the bill as opening acts are Sheboygan’s Toxic Ruin and Milwaukee’s H1Z1. This is a free show for anyone who purchased the three-day festival pass, or it can be purchased separately. According to Jasta, it’s a great way to kick off the festivities. “Last year, I think we had 500 or 600 people who had three-day passes, of which we put like 400 in the little Rave bar, and it was great,” he says. “But this year, we already have almost double that, so we’re moving the pre-party into the bigger room. And it’s my CD release party for the new Jasta album, which is coming out on May 17th called And Jasta For All. It’s a love letter to thrash. I have Chuck Billy on the album, I have Zetro on the album. I have Phil Demmel on the album. I figured in the spirit of thrash being such a big part of the festival and the history of the festival, this would be a great way to start off. It’s just a fun way to get everybody into town and get the festival kicked off. If you bought a three-day pass, you get a bonus, and you get your first crack at merch before everything’s picked over and sold out.”


Compared to outdoor European festivals, US festivals don’t quite match up. However, there have been ample amounts of fests in the States over the past decade that are establishing a stronghold in this geographic market. “I think the main difference with Europe is that they don’t really do a lot of the radio rock bands,” Jasta explains. “It’s mostly traditional metal and death metal and thrash and grindcore stuff. But keep in mind, (Milwaukee Metal Fest) is (held at) a ballroom and a club—it’s a hall and a theater, basically. So we’re not a multimillion-dollar corporate stadium festival. So it’s kind of funny when people treat us like that because I go on my Jasta Facebook page, and people are asking, ‘Why can’t you get Mudvayne?’ Or ‘Why can’t you get Slipknot?’ (Because) we’re not that type of fest. Maybe we will be one day, but right now, I’m happy to keep it in the spirit of the original fest.”

Hatebreed will be playing on Saturday night. However, there is no news on a new album just yet, as Jasta is focusing on his solo album after the festival and gearing up for Hatebreed European dates. “Luckily, we’re in this position where I can do both bands, and it doesn’t really take away from each other because they’re on different schedules,” he says. “So I have the pre-party at Milwaukee Metal Fest, and I have two big East Coast shows with Overkill that got announced today, which I’m thrilled about because I didn’t know if I was going to be able to do a bunch of touring with Jasta. Obviously, we got the 30th-anniversary stuff with Hatebreed. Then, in August, we go back to Europe to do all the big festivals like Bloodstock and Alcatraz and a bunch of others. And we even have a weekend in July where we’re doing Barcelona Rock and some big festivals that we don’t normally get to do with Hatebreed, especially with the classic metal bands. We always find that we do really well when we support KISS or Judas Priest. We’ve supported Judas Priest in Germany, we direct supported Kiss in Holland and Belgium. It’s a great way to get to new people who have never heard of us or maybe have seen the logo or have seen the shirts at all the shows but never heard the band or never saw the band live. So, 30 years in, to be able to do that is a big deal, and we don’t want to miss those opportunities. But it’ll be nice to have September off because I’ll probably do a lot of writing before we leave for the 30th-anniversary tour. Maybe we will have some new songs in the can by the time we leave for the tour.”

For more information, including ticket prices and band lineup, visit

For a wide selection of special meet & greet packages, visit


Friday, May 17:

Blind Guardian


Symphony X


Marduk (replaced by Overkill)


Metal Church (replaced by Doro)


Eternal Champion




Belushi Speed Ball

Night Demon




Ancient Entities

Illusion of Fate

and more

Saturday, May 18:

Mr. Bungle




Death to All (Unique set #1)



The Red Chord

Soilent Green (Reunion)


Martyr AD



Internal Bleeding



Embryonic Autopsy

Eyes of the Living

and more

Sunday, May 19:

Slaughter To Prevail


In Flames

Death to All (Unique Set #2)

Lacuna Coil

Paleface Swiss

Bleed From Within


It Dies Today


Casket Robbery


Errors of Humanity

Amerakin Overdose

Beyond Threshold

and more

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