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Anthony Morgan
August 2013

Five Finger Death Punch (l-r): Chris Kael, Zoltan Bathory, Ivan Moody, Jeremy
Spencer and Jason Hook

Los Angeles, California-based metal outfit Five Finger Death Punch embarked on the Share The Welt tour across North America from mid-October 2011, the dates in question organised to promote the issue of third studio full-length American Capitalist. The group penned and demoed several track ideas while on tour in support of that record, using a portable studio as well as a computer to do so.

“When we then got off of the Trespass America tour in the summer of 2012, we had kind of a stockpile of stuff,” recalls Jeremy Spencer, drummer for Five Finger Death Punch. “We went in, and started tracking right away. We’ve always gotten done what we’ve set out to accomplish, but this time I would say we were in more of a flow. Certainly more material materialised (laughs). I would say that we’ve never really had a problem writing songs or coming up with songs for an album, or for a deadline, or anything like that, but this time there was a real flow. We got up to about 24-26 songs, and just decided ‘Hey, you know what? This stuff is sitting really well together, and we’re growing attached to them. We don’t wanna stockpile them, so why don’t we just release two albums?’ That’s what we ended up doing.

“I think there will be some leftover tracks from these writing sessions as well, tracks that’ll probably be used for maybe soundtracks, or video games, or something like that. There are certainly not many, but there are a few.”

The resultant material partially surfaced on July 2013 outing The Wrong Side Of Heaven And The Righteous Side Of Hell, Volume 1, the rest due to emerge on November counterpart Volume 2. “I would say Volume 1 is pretty well-rounded, even both volumes,” the sticksman critiques. “We always want to take the listener on a journey – whether it’s brutal, fast songs, or songs with a simple groove or a ballad. We want to not have ten songs that sound the same, because that gets boring for the fans and for us. I think it’s a well-rounded record. There are some similarities there with American Capitalist, but there’s also some stuff that doesn’t sound like Capitalist. There’s definitely a flavour that reminds me of some stuff that could’ve been on Capitalist, and there are also flavours that sound like they could’ve been on War Is The Answer (September 2009) or The Way Of The Fist (July 2007).

“I think it probably touches on a little bit of all of them, but there are some different flavours as well. I wouldn’t say that there’s anything completely, drastically different, but yeah, there are some flavours that have not shown up on other records that I’m looking forward to people hearing. I don’t really wanna give too much away, mind. In this day and age where every track is previewed on iTunes and you give away the whole record, I wanna keep a little bit of mystique (laughs). I think we pretty much sound like what we sound like at this point, though. If you were a fan of the previous records then you’re probably gonna dig it, but if you weren’t then you probably won’t (laughs).”

Frontman Ivan Moody mainly authors Five Finger Death Punch’s lyrical musings. “Ivan just writes from the heart,” Jeremy observes. “He writes about kind of whatever he’s feeling at the time, whether he’s going through a relationship thing, or whether he’s angry about something. He’s pretty much a no BS guy; he writes whatever he feels, and you get what you get with Ivan. I think that a lot of the time, they’re very relatable topics that a lot of people can liken to situations that they can relate to – stuff that they’ve gone through. I think that’s maybe why they can relate to Ivan’s lyrics.”

Recording sessions occurred at The Hideout Studios in Las Vegas, Nevada with producer Kevin Churko. “Recording with Kevin is a relationship that’s very special to us,” the rhythmist enthuses. “We’re lucky to have a guy like Kevin. He helps us, and makes everyone feel really comfortable. He’s really creative with what he does. He pushes you to give your best performance. He’s exceptional with ProTools, and at producing records. It was a lot of fun, man. He’s a drummer, so he and I especially bond, and can relate to one another. He helps push me with my takes. If I stumble upon something, he’ll say ‘Whatever that was, do more of that,’ or ‘Why don’t you try something like this?’ He’ll pull out a rhythm, because he’s a drummer and a talented drummer. It’s really great that he can push me and say ‘I like that,’ or ‘Try it like this.’ It really just makes it a lot of fun, because you know that you can trust that guy. He knows what he’s talking about. He’s a real pleasure to work with. That’s why we still work with him, because it’s been great every time. We push each other to do better, and we all get on really good.

“It took us about eight months to track both records. We were in there, and worked really hard. It does get a little tiring at times. Certainly doing anything that long that’s the same, you start to go a little crazy (laughs), but we’re glad to have made it through it. I think they sound really good. We’re excited to get back out now, share this music with the fans, and interact with some people again, because we’ve been cocooned up in the studio for quite a while.”

A virtuoso performance doesn’t happen to be Jeremy’s favoured drumming style. “I would say my drumming is for the song,” he submits. “I’m usually not one to try to be some flashy drummer just for the sake of flash or overplaying, or trying to be cool, or trying to be wowed by the playing. I want to play for the song. If it requires some shredding then I’m all down for that, but I always want to enhance the song and work around the vocal, and things like that. I’ve always been a song guy first.”

The percussionist’s influences are of the hard rock / metal ilk. “Certainly growing up, Lars Ulrich from Metallica,” he cites. “I always thought he wrote great song parts – I thought his ideas were great. Dave Lombardo with the fast beats from Slayer was a big influence on me as a kid. I also dug Tommy Aldridge, and Deen Castronovo. Different drummers from different genres, to name a few.”

Lars Ulrich’s ability is routinely criticised in certain quarters. “There are always critics for everything,” Jeremy offers. “You can’t make everyone happy. He owes nothing to anyone. He’s exceptional, and is in the biggest metal band of all time. I’m sure he has a lot of critics, but I think he’s awesome. He’s been a huge influence on me.”

Lead cut ‘Lift Me Up’ includes a guest performance from Judas Priest vocalist Rob Halford. “That was awesome,” the drummer shares. “We’re big fans of Rob Halford, and big fans of Judas Priest. The song had a singalong, kind of 80s chorus vibe going for it, anyway. It was like ‘Man, it almost sounds like something that he would do. Why don’t we see if we can get him?’ Our management reached out to him, and sent him the song. He got back to us, flew in, and recorded the song in the evening. He put his part down really good. It was awesome, really fast. He was very professional. The guy’s a metal god; he’s the guy, the real deal. He was a very humble guy, a very nice guy. We got to go out and have dinner with him, and got to know him a little bit. We then thought we could take it one step further, and see if he would perform it with us at the Golden Gods Awards. He agreed to do it; he came to LA, and performed with us at the Golden Gods. It was just awesome, to watch this legend step up on the stage with us and belt out his heart. It was really cool.”

In This Moment frontwoman Maria Brink appears on a rendition of ‘Anywhere But Here’, both ensembles having recorded material under the guidance of Kevin Churko. “We’ve toured with In This Moment,” Jeremy informs. “We’re friends with Maria. We know her, and we know her talent. It’s true in a way, more or less. Yes, and no. It was Kevin, but we also know Maria and we’ve toured with her. It was a no-brainer to try to get her. She’s great.”

Soulfly’s Max Cavalera lends his voice to the composition ‘I.M. Sin’, meanwhile. “I love it, man,” the sticksman compliments. “He sings in Portuguese, and it was really cool. I’m looking forward to people hearing it.”

Five Finger Death Punch (l-r): Chris Kael, Zoltan Bathory, Ivan Moody, Jeremy
Spencer and Jason Hook

And as well, Jamey Jasta of Hatebreed notoriety supplies vocals to the number ‘Dot Your Eyes’. “He did a great job,” Jeremy commends. “We’re friends with Jamey; we’ve toured with him, with Hatebreed. So yeah, there are a lot of cool things on this record – cool surprises as well. I guess they’re not really surprises now now we’re talking about them, but we look forward to the fans hearing this record.”

Originally written by rap artist LL Cool J, a cover version of ‘Mama Said Knock You Out’ (from the August 1990 album of the same name) additionally features. “We were fans of that years ago when that came out,” the rhythmist remembers. “It seemed like it was appropriate for a band with a name like Five Finger Death Punch to record a song called ‘Mama Said Knock You Out’. We thought it could work for us. It turned out really cool, I think. We also had Tech N9ne – a rap artist – guest vocalising on that one, and he nailed his part. His rhythms are really cool, and his delivery. We’re fans of him and his work.”

Of the tracks included on Volume 1, ‘You’ is Jeremy’s favourite. “‘You’ has this really cool kind of rhythmic vocal thing Ivan performs, so it stands out to me as being one of the stronger ones,” he reckons. “It has an overall cool vibe to it, a cool groove, a cool middle section breakdown, heavy, good rhythms. We didn’t really put a song on there that we didn’t like (laughs), but if I had to pick a certain moment as a runner-up as well, then it would be ‘Watch You Bleed’. It has a lot of different dynamics, and guitar stuff that’s unique. There’s a brutal guitar riff. I really like the hook, and the overall vibe of that song too. I would pick that as being one of my favourite songs as well.”

Greg Capullo handled cover artwork duties. “That was hooked up through Zoltan,” the percussionist divulges. “He’s a big fan of his work, and has gotten to know him. He’s an exceptional talent and has done great stuff, so we were really honoured to have him be a part of these albums. I think the covers turned out really cool. I’m really happy with his artwork – it’s great.”

Volume 2 is slated for issue during November. “I would say between 10-12 songs will be included, but we’re not sure yet,” Jeremy explains. “I don’t think it’s anything drastically different than the first volume – I think it’s a well-rounded record. There are gonna be some guest vocalists on there which I won’t name yet, because we’re not ready to talk about Volume 2. There is a cover song on Volume 2 as well, but I’m not quite ready to talk about that yet either. It’s coming out in November though, and we’re excited about that record.”

The Wrong Side Of Heaven And The Righteous Side Of Hell Volume 1 was released in Europe on July 29th, 2013, in Japan on the 31st, and on August 2nd in Australia, all via Eleven Seven Music. The album’s North American release occurred on July 30th through Prospect Park.

Interview published in August 2013.

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