See also: Lamb of God's Randy Blythe Set Free; Five Finger Death Punch Weighs In See also: Five Finger Death Punch's Jason Hook on American Capitalist, Playing For the Troops, and Spending the Night in One of Saddam's Palaces
Five Finger Death Punch has been called a lot of things: overzealous, angry, a sell-out, fake (guess that sort of thing can happen when you name your third record American Capitalist during a period of economic turmoil). But forget it. FFDP knows how to rock and truly cares about the causes it stands behind.
American Capitalist likely will be the Las Vegas-based band's third gold album, moving serious units since it came out last fall. This weekend, they are swinging through the Valley of the Sun as part of the Trespass America Festival, along with God Forbid, Pop Evil, Killswitch Engage, and Triviu.
Up on the Sun spoke with guitarist/backing vocalist Jason Hook about set list arguments, why the band (at least most of it) is staying sober, the band's next album, and its involvement in suicide prevention.
Up on the Sun: I've heard that this show is supposed to be much more than just a concert, that you guys literally sat down with a pen and pad of paper and came up with ideas that people have never seen before to include in the show. Can you elaborate at all on that?
Jason Hook: Nope! [Laughs.] We. . . it's tricky. It's a challenge. Everybody has seen a rock concert before, so the challenge becomes, "What can we do that will set our festival apart from everyone else's?" So we tried to build stuff, and we spent some money on some things that bring a unique element . . . and I don't want to give it away, but there's a lot of visual stimulation happening.
So you're talking about light shows, graphics, pyrotechnics? All of the above?
Everything you can imagine. We tried to get some stuff around the arena too, so you're not just looking forward, you're looking all the way around.
We can play whatever we want all day long, but we want to make sure fans are getting what they want. So why not ask them directly for the concert? -- Jason Hook, Five Finger Death Punch
How do you guys go about the set list to provide a fresh show for fans?
We actually took a poll on Facebook not too long ago. You know, we always argue about what songs we should play and how to handle it. Old songs? New songs? Half of us believe that the fans are anxious to hear new songs, the other half think that's not right. So we decided to take a poll, in order to create the ultimate Five Finger Death Punch set list, utilizing four songs from each of our three records. And it we lucked out. There were a couple songs in everyone's list, from fan feedback, that we had never thought to put on the set list. So we thought to learn those songs. So the fans spoke, and we responded. How's that?
That is a good way to go about it, in my opinion.
Well, it's for them. We want them to come out and be satisfied. We can play whatever we want all day long, but we want to make sure fans are getting what they want. So why not ask them directly for the concert?
Exactly. I think you have to keep the show fresh, especially the set list. You know, I've seen you guys several times, and I love the energy and everything, but I do notice that Ivan [Moody, vocalist] usually does the whole calling kids up on stage and talking about how "Last time our band performed here we got shut down early." Is he sticking with that stage show or is he mixing things up?
You know, we talked about maybe dropping that part of the show. But as far as the kids part goes, you just see this glow on everyone's face. I mean, everyone loves their kids and loves the idea that we involve them, you know? And it's also heavy metal; most bands don't have the balls to do that at a heavy metal show. So that part is still in the show, but we changed up other things. You know, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. I go watch KISS and it's verbatim the same show that they've been doing now for 20 years.
American Capitalist has some great momentum going on right now, but I know that Five Finger always has a ton of projects going on at once. Are you guys working on any new material?
[Exasperated groan] Yes, I was just writing songs this morning actually. Every day we set up our little portable studio. You know, we're sober now. There's no alcohol, drugs, or those shenanigans. So we're workaholics now. Sobriety and a strong work ethic get us out of bed pretty early in the morning. So that's what we do, really. Our next project is album four, and it better be freaking great, so we want to get a good head start.
So this is the first time that you guys have all pretty much not been partying while writing?
Well . . . Ivan is still sleeping in. That's all I'll say. [Laughs.]"Coming Down" is the next single, and the music video is for suicide prevention. You're also donating every dollar of the tickets to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Can you tell me a bit about that? Have you had close friends that you've lost to suicide? Or is that just close to the band's heart?
Well, I haven't personally, but it goes like this: You write the song, record the song and everyone gets excited about it being a potential single. And Ivan writes the story, so he comes up with the concept [about] suicide. But it's supposed to be positive and not negative . . . people working through it, right? So it becomes a potential single, and people say we need to make a video and ask us about the concept. So we think, let's have a mini-movie and not even be in it. It will be more effective, and at the end of the movie put the number for a hotline. So when people think we're being helpful, we decided to jump on and really help people by donating money from sales instead of just having a video.
That's a badass decision for you guys to make.
Well, listen. The world revolves around people interacting with other people. We're very specific about that . . . you know, kind of like our motivation. We play for the troops; we donate our time. Because at the end of the day, it's music, [but] what's really important is affecting people in a positive manner. That's how we feel.
A lot of musicians end up losing sight of that at some point.
Oh, hell yeah. Your popularity can turn on you. You start to think it's all about you and the dumbest thing, like the air conditioning going out, can make a guy furious and you yell at people. You can leave good trails or you can leave bad trails. And people who leave bad trails don't go as far, ya dig?
You've worked with a wide range of musicians, from Alice Cooper to Mandy Moore. In regards to good trails and bad trails, who sticks out in your mind as being someone you really enjoyed working with?
Well, you know, I always tell people that...people obviously focus on the Mandy Moore thing [like] "How does that fit in? How is a guy capable of playing heavy metal [and also playing with Mandy Moore?"] When people ask me, I own it, you know? I always believe that no matter what you do, do it to the best of your ability and be great. There is something to be learned from every situation in my opinion. Whether you're crazy about it or not, what can I learn from this person or this situation. Then, when you think about things like that, you tend to put more value in it, or take it for what it is, because you'll find something to learn there. I learned about being professional and being able to respond to last minute questions. I have to do [that] as a guitar player, learn material quickly, so I thought it was helpful.
Now, as far as most enjoyable, outside of this band . . . I really enjoyed playing with Vince Neil. I played with him for a couple of years. And all I can tell ya, the whole bit about the "girls, girls, girls" is not a myth. [Laughs]
You still constantly do stuff on your own. Your solo album, Safety Dunce, was awarded an L.A. Music Award for Best Instrumental Record in 2007. When can we expect the second one, American Justice, to be out?
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I like that! I'm hoping for the end of this year. 99.9 percent finished. I just have no time. I'm just Death Punching every minute of every day, and it's all important stuff, [but] it's hard to fill anything else into the cracks.
Five Finger Death Punch is scheduled to perform Sunday, August 26, at Comerica Theatre.