Five Finger Death Punch is tearing up the main stage at this year’s Rockstar Energy Mayhem Fest (click here for a photo gallery of their set). Lead guitarist Jason Hook was kind enough to sit down with us for an interview during their Mountain View stop which covered the upcoming albums (The Wrong Side of Heaven & the Righteous Side Of Hell, Vol. 1 drops July 30), killing time on the road, their recent collaboration with Tech N9ne and more.
So obviously you guys aren’t strangers to Mayhem Fest. What keeps you guys coming back?
Well, aside from the fact that we get invited to do this thing, We think it’s the best tour going. I mean, all the other tours are kinda work tours you know. I call this tour the vacation tour. None of it’s really work but this is like a six week long party. You know what I mean?
A lot of the bands that are playing don’t get much regular radio play in the Bay Area yet an event like this is packed to the gills with people. What do you attribute that to?
Well look, people like to have fun and there are a lot of elements that this festival has that a regular concert doesn’t. There’s a lot of talent that starts early in the day. The temperature and the weather are awesome. People like to have fun and if they want to have fun they’ll come out and they’ll pay for it.
Do you view this as a great opportunity to get exposure, or is it more taking a break from the normal grind?
If it’s a Five Finger Death Punch show, we’re playing in front of people that already know us and already like us so you’re not gaining a lot of ground there. But when you play on a festival, you’re playing for music fans, you know … people that like some of the bands. So you have a chance to play for some people for the first time and that’s good for us as far as we’re still trying to collect people. It’s like rolling a snow ball. You’re trying to just roll it, roll it, roll it and get it bigger, bigger, bigger. When you’re playing for you’re own fans, you’re at zero. They love ya but you’ve already got them. On this bill, we can gain some new people.
How do you guys spend you’re time when you’re not on stage or doing interviews?
Oh. Well, this is a great question because we brought motorcycles with us this time. And me being the hoarder of the band, I brought two motorcycles. I brought a dirt bike, and a street bike. I just got back from a ride actually.
Oh, nice. What kind of bike?
I have a Kawasaki Vulcan … I have four motorcycles … I brought my Kawasaki Vulcan and my Kawasaki 140 dirt bike. They’re kind of small bikes, good for being in the back of the trailer, you know what I mean?
Do you guys go riding as a band, or …
Chris our bass player and I, we’re the only two in the band that have street bikes. Our tour manager has a bike, Jeremy our drummer has a scooter and Ivan bought a golf cart for this tour.
Dare I ask what he does with the golf cart?
Well, they have this second stage, you see. The second stage is always way off in the parking lot so everybody wanted to have some kind of vehicle to get back and forth.
Speaking of the second stage, obviously there are a lot of bands playing over there. Any particular bands that you’re excited to see this year?
Well, I really like Emmure. We toured with those guys before and they’re good friends of ours and they’re just a lethal heavy band. Really exciting stuff.
The big news for you is that you have an album coming out July 30th, “The Wrong Side of Heaven and the Righteous Side of Hell, Volume One”. Recently you posted a webisode talking about how you got Rob Halford to play on the album. He performed on stage with you at the Golden Gods Awards; was that the first time you had played with Rob?
Well, you know I met him when he came down to the studio to do his track for the song. But that was the first time, and hopefully not the last, that we actually got to be on stage with him and play with him. It was pretty cool. It’s hard not to look sideways when you’re on stage with him … one of those things that you can’t really believe it’s happening.
Other guests you have are Maria Brink from In this Moment and Jamie Jasta from Hatebreed. The more interesting one that I was going to ask you about is Tech N9ne on “Mama Said Knock You Out” which I assume is the LL Cool J track. How did that one come about?
Halford was I think the first guest and it started to run out of control like ‘Who else could we get? What about this? What about that?’ I think his [Tech N9ne’s] performance is my favorite guest vocal on the record. It’s really awesome. What he does … I mean, his sense of rhythm and what he did in the context of our metal version of this song is really exciting and very creative too. I think that’s going to be a big song.
So how did it come about?
You know, everyone was just kind of throwing their ideas into the suggestion box.
… because for a cover that you would expect Five Finger to do, I wouldn’t have picked that one.
Bad Company either though.
Actually I would pick Bad Company before I would pick …
Well look, you have to take chances, you know? It would be very easy for us to cover an old heavy metal song. To us that’s not as interesting. I think that the LL Cool J track was originally Zoltan’s idea and the Tech N9ne thing, I don’t even know who suggested that. But he did a great job. It’s really exciting. It’s a standout track.
At what point in time did you decide that you have two records worth of material?
Well, we started this thinking it was going to be one record. We had been writing songs on the road all last year. We have a portable studio with us … it’s actually set up over there today [pointing]. We travel around with a portable ProTools rig, and the idea was that we were going to try to prepare for the fourth record instead of just coming in off the road and being burnt and going ‘Okay, let’s start. Let’s get a jump start on it. Let’s get some songs prepared so at least we are not stressed out at zero, right?’ We were making a conscious effort to try to sketch out ideas every other day. And then at the end we had about ten songs … ten rough sketches. And so when we started recording the fourth record, we had these ten songs sort of recorded professionally in the first ten days. And then we were like, ‘well f***, we’re already all done.’ So we thought, ‘Let’s keep writing.’ So we just kept writing and writing and writing. I think we felt like we had a little more creative freedom on this record because we’ve had success with the last few records. This one we were like, let’s just do what we feel like doing, where we don’t have to be concerned with this or that, or ‘Is it going to get on the radio?’ We just thought, let’s just write everything and record it all and that will be truly us with no limitations or no preconceived guidelines or anything like that. So that’s what we did.
How many did you end up with?
About 25 songs.
And then when it came to deciding which go on which volume, was there much science put into that?
These things kinda have to evolve, you know? [At first] We were like, ‘What’s the idea? Do we wanna have a soft record or a melodic record, and a brutal record and that would be like the heaven and hell thing.’ When we found out that we weren’t going to be releasing both records on the same day, and they were going to be staggered, we thought, ‘well in that case let’s make sure we shuffle the songs evenly so that both records sound similar in weight so that people don’t favor one over the other.’ We want to have one big package of songs with continuity.
Yeah exactly. Balanced packages and that the second record would be just an extension of the first one.
When does the second disc come out? Do you have a release date for that yet?
We don’t have a hard release date for that yet. It’s late October, early November, I think.
Do you guys play that by ear at this point? See when the demand is there, or if it’s leaked?
Oh… It won’t be leaked. Someone will get killed.
One of the bands on the Warped Tour had a picture taken from behind during their that showed a bunch of empty Marshall cabinets. What are you’re thoughts on using props like that on stage?
That’s fine. I don’t care. I mean, Kiss did it. Everybody does it. You know what? When Rob Zombie’s dragon comes out and breathes fire, that’s not real either. So sorry, it’s show business. Any way you slice it, people come out to see something. They know what the songs sound like, they bought the record. Now they’re coming to hear the songs but they want to see something. It’s not like an audience full of blind people. You’ve got to stimulate that sense. And some people just think that a wall of amplifiers has a powerful presentation, which it does. And it’s been done by all kinds of bands for many years. Here’s a story for you. I remember seeing Dokken opening for Aerosmith back on the Permanent Vacation tour or something like that and George Lynch had these white Marshall cabinets. A wall of white. Stacked maybe two or three high all on his side. After Dokken finished his set, the roadies came and picked them up two at a time! I’m not kidding. I’m like … maybe keep the facade alive for the audience! [laughs] One in each hand! What’s that?!?!
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