Jeremy Spencer: "We're Five Finger Death Punch; We Sound Like What We Sound Like"
Five Finger Death Punch appeals to a particular demographic in heavy metal: Their testosterone-driven, in-your-face music is heavy and angry at all that is evil -- destruction, internal struggles, politics, war, bullying. Every friend I have in the armed services loves them. I've heard of soldiers who've approached the band and told it that a friend was killed while FFDP was blasting on their headphones.
There's no doubt that the band -- consisting of vocalist Ivan Moody, guitarist Zoltan Bathory, bassist Chris Kael, guitarist Jason Hook and drummer Jeremy Spencer -- know how to connect with its fans, old and new.
Now the band is set to unleash its most ambitious release to date, the double-album The Wrong Side of Heaven and the Righteous Side of Hell (Volume I arrives July 30). It includes collaborations with everyone from Maria Brink (In This Moment) and Max Cavalera (Soulfly) to Rob Halford (Judas Priest) and Tech 9. Catch Five Finger Death Punch at the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival this Friday, July 5, at Ak-Chin Pavilion, along with Rob Zombie, Mastodon, and Amon Amarthe.
Up on the Sun talked with drummer Jeremy Spencer about the band's tightest album yet, the instrument he wished he could play, opening for Pantera, and how Tech 9 is "the best rapper ever."
Have you changed anything in your stage show? I know I've seen you guys several times and it's always high-energy, but with a headliner like Rob Zombie, are you guys bringing anything different? Yeah, it'll be different -- we've come up with some production ideas that I think will be visually striking that we're all excited about. We're looking forward to getting up there and throwing out what we have, but I don't want to give it away.
Tell me about the first half of your double album, The Wrong Side of Heaven and the Righteous Side of Hell Volume 1, that's going to be released July 30. It has some guest vocalists on there that I'm excited about. I think it's a well-rounded body of work -- I think Volume 2 is as well. We wanted to put them out on the same date, but we couldn't make that happen. So the second volume comes out in the fall sometime.
We worked really hard on these songs; [we] were in the studio about eight months. When we got up to about 23 or 24, we needed to figure out what to do with them all, so we decided on two records because we didn't want to take any of the songs off! [laughs]
I can't wait to release it. I feel like we've been in the studio for so long just to get it out there and over with! It's like a delivery.
Okay, so it wasn't a concept album or anything. It was just that you had so much good material? Definitely not a concept album. We had started writing on the road with our portable studio. So anytime we had downtime or inspiration we would start demoing ideas. When we came of the Trespass tour last year we were pretty focused to get back in the studio. We were in such a flow we just didn't want to stop since you never know when it's going to strike.
In terms of the guest vocalists, you guys worked with Maria Brink (In This Moment), Max Cavalera (Soulfly), Jamey Jasta (Hatebreed) and Rob Halford (Judas Priest), who contributed to the first single, "Lift Me Up." Who was one of your favorites to collaborate with? Well, we also had Tech N9ne.
Yeah, we're covering the LL Cool J song "Mama Said Knock You Out," and it features Tech N9ne. We're all big fans of his. I think he nailed it! I can't wait for people to hear it.
That's awesome. I'm from Kansas City, where we both went to school, so I'll be anxious to hear that. No kidding? That's awesome. He's so talented.
I'm sure all the musicians were great to work with in different ways, but was there one in particular you were most excited for? Not necessarily. But we're friends . . . like, we've known Maria for awhile, we toured with her. And our producer is her producer, so there was a connection. But I've been a fan of Rob Halford since I was a kid, and Judas Priest, so when he agreed, we thought that was so cool.
But we dig all these guys. Max Cavalera, I'm a huge fan of Sepultura; we all are. And Tech N9ne is one of the best rap artists ever, in my opinion; I think his delivery is incredible, and he's awesome. Jamey Jasta we've toured with, and he's talented. So we were just all happy that we got these people.
Are there any tracks off the album that you're favoring right now? My favorite song right now is a song called "You," and it's track three on the album. It's one of those high energy, cool groove, get-in-the-pit songs. Laughter. I can't wait for people to hear it.
Are you playing any songs from the album on Mayhem? We are. We're playing the single, "Lift Me Up," and we're talking about doing another one. We're gonna talk about that today in rehearsal.
Comparing it to past albums, what do you feel like you guys achieved with this album that you didn't in the past? I would say that from track to track it's more consistent and better. [sighs]
I just want to say that it's well-rounded, but the songs fit well together -- maybe moreso on this record then records of the past. Certainly there are flavors of every record . . . We kinda sound like what we sound like. There's no crazy new instruments; we didn't, like, bust out clarinets or anything weird.
We're Five Finger Death Punch, we sound like what we sound like. If you liked our sound before, you'll dig this record. And if you didn't like us, you won't like this.
So you also wrote an autobiography that's due out next year, correct? I did write that, yes.
There are so many musician autobiographies about tales from the road. What do you think yours will bring to the table? You're talking about your lifestyle of partying pretty hard. Yeah, and it even stems from when I was a kid. I've struggled with my addiction my whole life. It's an inspirational thing for kids who may be starting up with a dream of going into music.
It's a whole life journey. It isn't about all the debauchery on the road -- it's a lifestyle thing of genuinely struggling with addiction my whole life, and having the dream of music, and actually fulfilling that dream and that process. It's an inspirational thing.
But like you said, that doesn't come out until next year, so I'm really focusing on the Death Punch albums; I don't want to detract from our campaign. I'll talk about the book when the time is right.
I'm glad it is an inspirational read instead of just debauchery from the road. You were named Best Drummer at the Golden Gods last year. If you could master one instrument besides drums, what would it be? Probably keyboards, actually. There's so many different voices and sounds on keyboards that help you write. I've always found that writing on a keyboard is more fun and inspirational. [And] I'm terrible at guitar. So I'd like to learn to play keyboard really well.
And you're a jazz fan, right? Yeah. I certainly appreciate the jazz drumming because it's a style I'm not familiar enough with, and I think it's really difficult. I think there are some killer jazz drummers. I'm not jamming it all the time or anything, but I love the drumming.
Did you find yourself channeling any influences like that during drumming on this new album? Definitely pushed myself on this one. Our producer is also a drummer, so he would help push me in directions I normally wouldn't gravitate toward. I mean, I've been playing for years, and he would try to get me out of my comfort zone. There's definitely some unorthodox stuff and styles that I've never done. But it's captured on that CD.
One more question: So I heard that when you were 17 you were a member of a band that opened for Pantera? That's true, yes! It was incredible. I remember I was in Indianapolis at a club, and Dimebag was actually on the side of the stage watching our sound-check. We were playing a song that was really fast -- I mean stupid fast -- with fast double bass. And after we finished he would joke around with us and tell us to play it faster. It was my introduction to Dime.
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