» C. Kael - Five Finger Death Punch
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Interview conducted June 06 2015
Interview published June 27 2015

"We are five alpha males in one band. All jocking for attention."

American quintet Five Finger Death Punch made their second appearance at Sweden Rock Festival and they also release a new album called Got Your Six on August 28th and Metal Covenant therefore had a little chat with bass player Chris Kael. This man looks kind of dangerous at first glance with his shaved head and braided beard, but I can assure that he's actually a really nice guy, whose laughter and great mood is quite contagious.

Tobbe: Your new record is slated for an August release, so besides the usual Five Finger Death Punch approach, what can we expect of it?

Chris: This one is a very heavy record. We were going for a kind of a raw energy feel to this one. We had a lot of success with, you know stuff like Coming Down and Remember Everything and I think we're all out of that mindset at this point. You know, we wanted to come out with something real heavy and deliver kind of a hard one-two punch. So this new record; it's got a lot of heavy stuff on there. We delivered it to the label and they were like "Can we please, please get one pretty song?". And we're like "Fuck. Fuck, all right.". But, you know, we did the pretty song in our way that we do things. Yeah, so we're pleased with the entire thing and ready to roll. There's one song in there. I don't wanna give away the title, but remember the chorus; "Click clack, reload. Click clack, unload.". That's one of my new favorites. It's heavy. [Laughs]

Tobbe: This is, obviously, your sixth album and does it get harder and harder now to come up with things that you haven't done before?

Chris: You know, I don't know if it's harder to do things that we haven't done before, 'cause we are who we are at this point, you know. We've got a lot of support from the fans and they've been right there with us through every album and it just seems like things are getting bigger and bigger and bigger and momentum continues to grow. With Five Finger Death Punch, we write all the time, so it's not a matter of, you know, trying to hurry up or come up with material. By the time we get into the studio, most things have been fine-tuned and ready to roll at that point. So nothing's forced. You know, we've been out there writing for… God damn, for me it's been 20 years of writing at this point, so the muscle is well flexed and ready to roll. [Laughs]

Tobbe: Today's business is kind of tough for smaller bands. Maybe not for you, you're a little bigger band. But do you discuss sales figures and downloading issues?

Chris: It's something that we're well aware of. Honestly, we are lucky in the sense that, in an age where people aren't buying a whole lot of records, we still have support from the fans, who know that in order for us to be able to tour the world, to come all the way here to Sweden, and to be able to put on the big type of shows that we have, that's an important part of the entire puzzle, and fans are well aware of that on our end. And, you know, they support us and are chomping at the bit, waiting on August 28th for that new record, to get out in the stores and buy it. [Laughs]

Tobbe: You know, Five Finger Death Punch has a certain style, but you have taken steps sideways like with Mama Said Knock You Out and stuff. Is this something you will do more frequently in the future, you think?

Chris: It kind of depends. I mean, really we do what we want, honestly, you know. It's whatever we're happen to be in the mood and whatever feels natural. And nothing's forced. It's a matter of, you know; we wake up in the day and want to feel the best about the stuff that we do, and as long as we can go to bed at the end of the night knowing that we've done everything possible to make ourselves better and to further enhance the band experience. That's all we're focused on. [Laughs]

Tobbe: With hand on heart, how big will your band eventually become, you think?

Chris: How, God, I don't know…

Tobbe: Hand on heart. Be honest now. Your inner thoughts.

Chris: Ah, fuck. Oh man. That's one of those landmine questions. "Bigger than whoever, you know.". Aah. I don't know, man. I mean, we're at a comfortable level right now, but I mean, obviously you're always looking to expand. Again, we continue to see crowds getting bigger and bigger and bigger, you know. We've got this great tour coming up in the States. Us and Papa Roach and we're doing some big venues over there and we're hopefully coming back over here towards the end of the year.

We've got actually a fan vote online right now, trying to get people to let us know where at in Europe they want us to come. We did it for the Papa Roach tour in the States and it worked really well. So, yeah, get online, let us know you want us there, and we're coming. But as far as how big, you know, that's kind of up to you guys, you know, I mean, the fans and the media. We've always had strong radio support, so as long as we can continue to have all those 3 things in place, you know, the sky is the limit and we're ready.

Tobbe: So am I correct when I say that you're really trying to reach solid ground on the European market nowadays?

Chris: Oh yeah. For sure, yeah. I think the strategy in the beginning was to make sure we had a strong audience in the States, so that we've always got that to come back to, you know, and then slowly get over to Europe. And my God. Some of these festivals that we're doing right now; people have told me over and over again "You're the reason we're here." and that blows my mind, considering some of the other people that we're out there playing with. You know, bands I'm fans of, like "Fuck Us! That's what I wanna go see, you know. Get me off the stage, so I can go and watch that band.". So yeah, you know, that's the target now. We've got the States. Those guys are behind us a hundred percent and now slowly starting to build up in Europe and developing that thing. This tour is taking us all over the place. Obviously we're here in Sweden right now and we end up in Moscow and St. Petersburg. We're anxious to get back here again. I love being over here. From just from a tourist standpoint for me, you know. I mean, there's so many new things to see and waking up every day is exciting. So yeah, my job does not suck. [Laughs]

Tobbe: No, definitely not. You have a great job actually. I feel my envy is growing here. [Not too be taken seriously]

Chris: There we go, there we go. [Laughs]

Tobbe: So if we look back at the 2 records you released in a short span. [The Wrong Side Of Heaven And The Righteous Side Of Hell, Volume 1 and 2] Did that pan out as great as you hoped for?

Chris: Oh yeah.

Tobbe: Of course it's a little risky having such a short span between them.

Chris: For sure. We are super close to having Volume 1 go gold, so that will be the 4th one in a row to go gold. And, you know, the other one, Volume 2, selling strong as well. We've got a lot of anchor tracks on there that's keeping that one going. Going into something like that, you really never know how it's gonna go. I mean, most bands just put out one album, but we had so much material and so much confidence in that material; "Fuck it! Let's go! Let's put out two!". Our expectations are high and I don't think it ever can reach our expectations, you know, 'cause we always shoot high. But yeah, I think they're very solid and we're pleased with them, for sure. Got some great songs on there that we're playing live. So, that's the gauge.

Tobbe: This is your 4th record with the band and as a unit, how does this band differ from when you first started?

Chris: When I first started, honestly it was a pretty chaotic time when I joined, you know. They had just lost the other bass player [Matt Snell] and we're getting ready to come up on a touring cycle. You know, you're introducing this new guy, into the band, who basically came from bartending in Vegas. You know, an unknown into such a big project like Five Finger Death Punch. So I think it was a bit chaotic at that point, but they were very welcoming and very professional. It's been very cohesive. I feel now, instead of me being like kind of on the outside trying to get in, I think we've all kind of gelled and work well together at this point.

Tobbe: Each and every band member does interviews. Is this something you do to spread the workload or do you guys really love being in focus, each and every one of you?

Chris: You know, we talk about it all the time. We are five alpha males in one band. All jocking for attention. I mean, you don't do this job without wanting some attention, you know. Nobody that gets up on a stage plays guitar, just to play guitar in the rest of their life, you know. You like getting out there and I feed on it, man. It's nice to have a job where every single day you go in and people are excited to see you. We're definitely all alpha males and very well-versed and public speaking, so it's one of those things that works out well.

Tobbe: It's a kind of special job you have, like, you know, pat on the back and everyone says you're great, but actually on the internet, a lot of people go like "Oh, Five Finger Death Punch. They're not even metal.". What's your opinion on that?

Chris: I haven't heard that at all.

Tobbe: You haven't?

Chris: No. People say that stuff?

Tobbe: Yes. "Five Finger Death Punch isn't metal."

Chris: Well, I mean, fuck.

Tobbe: Then what are they?

Chris: Yeah. "What's your definition of metal?". I mean, there's so many different genres of metal, subgenres and what not? I get it, man. Had I had the internet when I was growing up as a teenager… It didn't really start come about to like my 20's I guess …you know, I would have been the same dude, online, talking shit, yeah. Back when I was growing up, it was us talking amongst friends, about "Fuck that band! Fuck them! That's not metal! Fucking real metal is this!", you know. At the end of the day, we do what we do. You look out at the crowds that are out there; That's who I'm playing for. I don't give a fuck about the other people. [Laughs] Anything in my life that I've ever done that I've listened to other people…has failed. That says something right there. [Laughs] I don't listen to anybody.

Tobbe: Is it important to stylistically separate yourselves from other bands?

Chris: I think what our focus is, is just songwriting, you know. I mean, we all grew up listening to metal. Huge fans of like Kiss and Iron Maiden. I got into the bands like Obituary and Deicide. You know, the real heavy shit. I think it's a nice blend of everything for us. 6 albums into it now, I think we definitely have forged that sound that you associate with Five Finger Death Punch. You know, it's what we do. Either you're gonna like it, or you're gonna hate it. We're one of those bands that's a lightning rod. There is hate, and love. Nothing in the middle. You're not like "Ah, Death Punch are okay.". No, it's like it's either "Fuck that band!" or "I love this band.".

Tobbe: So what goals do you have for the coming years? Obviously you have a new album coming out.

Chris: More touring, more expansion. You know, trying to get into different markets. Really focusing on Europe. I mean, like I said, things are starting to go really well over here. We're getting a lot of support from radio and from magazines. A little bit of everything over here. So the momentum is starting to build over here real strong for us. So continue to do that. Like I said, we've got an August 28th release for Got Your Six. Lots of cool packaging that we're working on right now for that. We always try to, you know, work out something different. That's what we're really trying to do; different stuff, you know. To have the people buy the physical product, rather than stealing it off the internet, you know. We try to give you something special that's worth the money that you're putting into it. I mean, who knows honestly? We talk so much about, you know, plans. We're one of those bands and we already have plans 18 months down the road and we'll see where it goes from there.

Tobbe: How do you try to develop your own personal bass play nowadays?

Chris: You know, people always ask if I do practice a lot. I spent countless hours in my attic up in Kentucky, going over techniques and all that. I mean, I do a lot of scales, you know warming up and that kind of stuff, but as far as trying to get better as a player, I'm real comfortable with where I'm at, you know. You got people like Cliff Burton, and Steve Harris. You know, those dudes. Fucking just incredible, ripping bass players, you know. I know I'm never gonna be a Cliff Burton. That's fine, but I have my own thing; I get up there and shake my beard for the art of Death Punch. [Laughs]

Tobbe: So lame.

Chris: No, but you're always trying to do different things that kind of expand. My role, live with Death Punch, I do a lot of background vocals too, so I'm always focusing on making the voice better, making it heavy and being able to nail those harmonies that we do upon stage too. So there's a lot of focus just on being the best Chris Kael I can possibly be and that being bass, vocals, showmanship, songwriting. All that stuff, you know. I wake up every day and like I said, just trying to be a better me. I'm hoping it's working. Feels good.

Tobbe: So why did you first start playing the bass?

Chris: God, I think I picked up my first bass at about the age of 15. When I first saw Gene Simmons, like at the age of 3, I was like "Fuck! I don't know what he's doing, but that's what I wanna do.". So years on down the road, my uncle had a guitar and I was like "You know, I kind of wanna learn how to play.". So he gave me the guitar to kind of figure out, you know "Is that what you wanna do?". And I played it and I was like "Nah. I don't really know if that's what I want.". And then I had a friend down the street from where I live. His dad had a bass guitar and as soon as I picked up that bass guitar I was like "Aah". That's what I was going for. That deep tone. So age 15 [snaps his fingers], life changed.

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