Hed PE frontman Jahred Gomes is fed up with people who think they've got his number.
"I have kids that don't like me, and they don't know me; that's an interesting statement, right?" asks Gomes, who is currently celebrating his 20th year leading the melodic rap-metal SoCal combo. "You think you're going to break my balls, but you're not, because we're not that level of friends, bro."
Last July at the Gathering of the Juggalos, the rapper/singer leapt into the audience to confront an insistent heckler. The heckler was calling for him to play songs by his somewhat embarrassing '80s New Wave band, The Clue. He bristles even when I make a small joke about the band.
"I wasn't a young guy who was a gifted songwriter. I had to really hone my craft. I'm an older cat, too. I would watch genres come and go."
Hed PE rode the rap-rock wave from their 1997 self-titled full-length debut on Jive to their final album for the label, 2003's Blackout, still their biggest album to date. Around the same time they got dropped, the band finally blew to pieces. The genre, meanwhile, began its kamikaze descent. (Where is Fred Durst these days?)
A girl running a fan site dissuaded the then-Internet-challenged Gomes from following his impulse to start over. So he reloaded with a new drummer and guitarist Jackson Benge, who's been with them ever since. The hard-headed guitar crush is in full force on their latest, Evolution.
"We were calling it doom-core, because it's a dark, menacing sound," he says. "It's a good, heavy rock sound with the subtle influences that Hed PE always has: soul, hip-hop, reggae, R&B. I'm a self-loathing artist. A few months after I finish an album I'm generally wondering what I was thinking. But I like this album. I listen to it and it doesn't bother the shit out of me."
After years of writing about the Illuminati and the "secret society shadow government" and "secret history of the planet," Gomes put the conspiracies on a back shelf. Evolution is a much more personal album, from the id-appeasing throbber "Lost in Babylon" to the funky, prog-tinged meditation on self-delusion, "2 Many Games" and the angsty power-ballad uplift of "Never Alone."
"For years that was my focus and the focus of the lyrics," Gomes acknowledges. "But after assimilating all that knowledge, now I'm at a place I'm more introspective. Armed with the knowledge of all these esoteric things, I find it comes back to knowledge of one's self."
Gomes also figures that if his biggest problems are being a famous and, to some, infamous musician, he's got it made. Because there's a flip side to young punks thinking they know you from your music.
"That's why a guy can come into town and hook up with random groupies," he explains. "Chicks think intimacy before sex, and they hear your records and they feel like they know you."
All in all, it's not such a bad life.
"I haven't had a real job in 20 years, right?" he chuckles. "We got motherfuckers out here doing roofing and drywall and all kinds of shit to make the same money as me, or even less. So there's no secret to why I keep doing it. If someone has a check, I will get to the show in a wheelbarrow and collect that check."