|Crossroads: (hed) Planet Earth Vocalist Jahred|
Pivotal moments in musicians careers propelling them from obscurity to infamy
by Mark E. Waterbury
The world of bands that combines rap and metal or hard rock styles has grown at a prodigious rate over the years. Perhaps starting as far back as the Beastie Boys, continuing on to Rage Against the Machine and gaining more widespread acceptance through the likes of Sugar Ray, Kid Rock and Limp Bizkit, this unholy marriage of styles has become one of the most viable forces in the heavy rock scene for a number of years. Southern California's (hed) Planet Earth is a hard working purveyor of that hybrid that is scratching for even more attention. Perhaps one of the most intense of these bands musically, they are also even less commercial. Even though they got signed fairly early in their careers they have to keep pounding away to reach out to more potential fans. They have managed slots on prestigious tours, solid sales of their first two albums and decent radio airplay. Now, with their third album "Blackout" being released in March of this year, they are ready to hit the road again to keep cultivating the buzz and growing it further.
While growing up in Huntington Beach, California, vocalist Jahred went to a lot of concerts and performed in several garage bands, but at first never really thought of being a professional musician. "It took awhile for me to decide that I really wanted to write my own music," Jahred recalls. "I guess I was looking for the right situation to find me, a more serious venture." That situation crossed paths with Jahred in the mid 90's when various friends in the area who were in other bands decided to get together and form another band. Guitarists Wes and Chad, bassist Mawk, drummer B.C. and DJ Product 1969 got together with Jahred and formed a band with the unique moniker (hed) Planet Earth. The band became tenacious live performers in their local area right from the start. "There are lots of ways to skin the cat, and for us it was playing out live in Huntington and causing quite a buzz in Orange County. It was kind of a magical thing, and somehow we touched a nerve with people in that area, and...it was on!" So intense was their show and the amount of times they played out in any given week that the buzz they created resulted in some serious label interest after only about three and a half months together. They eventually signed with Jive Records, although even with a record deal to get their self-titled debut album out to the masses, they had to keep up the pressure themselves to gain attention beyond SoCal. "Usually labels will piggyback similar bands together on the same bill for a tour," Jahred notes. "And we have to get out on the road because we are not a mainstream band that has tons of radio support, so we have to do it door-to-door. But Jive was more of a hip-hop and rap label, so we had to forge our own friendships. It was not the label power that got us out on our first U.S. tour. It was us getting out and making those contacts." So (hed) Planet Earth hit the road supporting Korn on a nationwide tour, which introduced many rockers to their music and launched moderate radio success for the single "Serpent Boy." After that tour, their management helped them get onto the second stage of the Ozzfest Tour in 1997, which Jahred likened to a "heavy metal summer camp."
In 2000 after an exhaustive tour supporting the debut, (hed) Planet Earth returned to the studio and recorded their follow up "Broke." This sophomore effort produced the song "Bartender" which did fairly well on Active Rock and Alternative charts, and the album itself went on to sell over a quarter of a million copies. Another hectic tour followed, including slots with bands like Metallica and Papa Roach. But when the band entered the studio in early 2002 to record their third album, they encountered a bit of a stumbling block. "We finished the album and it sat around for a year. The label told us it was a very competitive market and, even though they loved the album, they did not hear a song to go to radio first. So it was back to the drawing board." Jahred had been working with another band called Phoenix Jones that he was producing in his home studio. He had written a song for them called "Blackout." That song became the title track and single for the new (hed) Planet Earth album, and persuaded the label to release the album in mid March, 2003. "I'm just a songwriting fool and I'm all about creativity. Even after the album was in the can, I started picking up the guitar and kept writing songs and programming. But 'Blackout' is not a party album talking about everyday life on the outside. It's more about inner demons, and lyrically it is more introspective. It's a selfishly personal album, and everything is very natural about it. I'm proud of it. It really touched me."
Just after the recording for "Blackout" was finished, one of (hed) Planet Earth's guitarists Chad decided to leave the band. Sonny Mayo became his replacement as the band readied itself to hit the road for a tour sponsored by Jagermeister that included (hed) Planet Earth and Saliva as well as other bands. The tour actually started in early March, a couple of weeks before "Blackout" was released. But the reaction so far has been great, even though a lot of the fans had not yet heard the new tunes. "It feels excellent to be out there with the new music. People are bringing us a lot of love out here, and it's really a positive situation. Everyone in the band is so good at their instruments and the music really has layers to it which makes it interesting. I think people really feel connected to the emotion and honesty of the music and the lyrics." So it's back on the road for (hed) Planet Earth, another band that has to bust their butts to get their music out to the masses because their style just doesn't fit with commercial radio. Jahred knows that is how (hed) Planet Earth has to stay afloat in the stormy seas of the music industry. "It's not any one thing, and if it was so easy to figure out how to be successful in music you would have people like Albert Einstein - really intelligent mathematicians or scientists figuring out how to put out a top-10 hit every month because they figured out the formula. It's not like that, and I could not even get into what goes on in the business side because that would be too much like sour grapes. Years ago it used to bug me a bit but nowadays I'm more liberated from the rat race of the music industry. My whole power comes from music creation, and I feel that we have established enough contacts, and, that no matter what happens around us, we can forge on and be artists and feed ourselves."
Jahred's advice for musicians: "The first thing is you need a demo that sounds the way you would want it to sound before someone is going to spend a million dollars to use on you to record your album. Be happy with your own material before you play it for someone else."