» J. Hook - Five Finger Death Punch
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Interview conducted November 04 2015
Interview published November 10 2015

"The more you blend into the sound of everybody else, the less focused the attention will be on you."

Five Finger Death Punch is definitely starting to become one of the bigger acts in metal. The band is currently on a European tour with Papa Roach and Devil You Know and in Stockholm, Sweden, a crowd of 6500 [Estimated] came down to see this package. Before the show, Metal Covenant talked to guitar player Jason Hook about their new album Got Your Six [Street date: September 4th], but also, among other things, about how they are trying to come out original and how they are trying to make it to the absolute top of the staircase.

"We completely say, with a clear conscious, that we're doing exactly what we want to be doing…"

Tobbe: It's been 2 months since the album release and perhaps it's too early to answer this question at this point, but how do the songs stick up to the old material?

Jason: I think so far, so good. I think that, as you would expect, nearly new material is not as well known and therefore not as well received live. But I think that people like this record and so they kind of know it. I think it's been well received and when we play the songs, they seem to know it. You'll see tonight.

Tobbe: I think the record basically follows the footsteps of your previous work. I mean, there aren't any major changes musically and it's a Five Finger Death Punch record to 100 percent. Was that what you were aiming for, to come out with?

Jason: That seems to be the stuff that people will expect from us and that people enjoy. It's just the real good meat and potatoes metal, you know. We kind of decided; let's make a real potent, high-energy record.

Tobbe: Without being patronizing - how many records can a band release before you have to make some adjustments to your sound?

Jason: I don't know. I mean, we'll find out. But I think it's good that we've established a sound. You know, you don't wanna take too many turns on the way there. Right now I think we have established a sound and if we branch out from here, we always have that core 6 albums of catalogue, you know, that people are used to.

Tobbe: Do you guys talk about if it's important to come out pretty original?

Jason: Yeah. I think if you have your own style and your own sound, then people will go to you. If people like it, they get it from you, and only you. The more you blend into the sound of everybody else, the less focused the attention will be on you. I always thought that the bands that were unique, like Pink Floyd or, you know, like one-off kind of bands, could really capture that audience, 'cause they were the only band that sounded like that.

Tobbe: Again without being condescending, why do you always include a couple of ballads on each album and not going heavy all the way?

Jason: Well, you know, sometimes stuff happens. We write and something comes out in the creative process that we feel good about and we just kind of let that happen. I think that, on this record, it never really gets full ballad. I think that there's just some moments of relief, but within that song, it's always mixed with some heavy moments.

Tobbe: When you start the songwriting process or start to think about the new album, do you feel like you kind of enter a comfort zone nowadays?

Jason: I don't think being comfortable is necessarily the best thing, you know. I think the magic happens slightly outside the comfort zone. It's just like pro athletes. They have a coach that's yelling at them and telling them to "Run 4 laps!", or "You missed the pass!", or "Give me a 100 push-ups!". And these are world leader athletes that are paid millions of dollars, but they still have somebody pushing them outside of their comfort zone. So I think comfort can be dangerous.

You know, we work as a team and we're accepting that the team is pushing each other and criticizing, or critiquing, each other. That may not feel comfortable, but we accept that. It's good for the end result.

Tobbe: I was talking to Chris [Kael, bass] this June and I told him that many loud people on the internet don't even consider Five Finger Death Punch being metal…

Jason: Isn't metal… Okay. You know, I don't take any offense of any of that stuff. We completely say, with a clear conscious, that we're doing exactly what we want to be doing, and whether it fits somebody else's perception of what they think we should be and generate, you can't control that and you can't worry about that. I just think that it's important that we're true to ourselves and that we do what feels normal and natural.

Tobbe: You're getting closer and closer to achieving your goals, I guess, 'cause you're getting bigger and bigger for each record. So is it possible that you're starting to take things more lightly, since things are getting smoother now?

Jason: Well, you know, we like to work hard, so it's kind of a double answer. We're not taking our foot off the gas, as far as our goals and things that we wanna do, but I think that we are going a little easier on each other, as far as, you know, letting go and understanding that this thing has taken on its own momentum, and enjoy it as it's happening.

You know, sometimes you're expecting things all the time and then you set yourself up for disappointment and I think happiness comes from how well we manage our expectations. And, you know, just things amongst us personally. I think that we've kind of learned to relax a little bit. That's nice.

Tobbe: How many years will it take until you'll be the top name on the posters at bigger festivals?

Jason: I don't know. I mean, I think some of that stuff just takes time, you know. It just takes time. There is a certain pecking order, as far as bands that are big and been around for a long time. I don't know how much of that you can rush, but we're certainly trying. [Laughs]

Tobbe: So what you're saying is actually that you think the absolute biggest dinosaurs will probably have to finish their careers before it's time for you?

Jason: Well, I think it sorts itself out the way it's supposed to. All we can do is focus on the things that we can control, which is making good music, good records and putting on good shows. Those are the things we can control. Everything else, I think, will fall into place.

Tobbe: What does your music have, exactly, that other bands aren't able to do, which gives you more radio-time obviously?

Jason: Well, I think that our music found a specific opening that nobody had filled yet, as far as the blend between really aggressive, harsh sounding heavy metal and the blend of melodies and musical sections that are really, you know, not aggressive or abrasive. And that blend, that push and pull, seems to be a combination that has made it a little easier for us to get accepted at radio.

Pure metal is, for the most part very heavy and very abrasive, and it functions to a specific audience. It creates that feeling of real aggression, but you never get let up. It's just all the time. But we kind of shift gears throughout the music, so it appeals to more people perhaps.

Tobbe: So how much of your success is because of people behind the scenes and how big part, of that same success, is due to your personal hard work and talent?

Jason: Well, I think it's both. All great success is made out of a good team, I think, but we're also very hands on as a band, you know. We get up, we go to work. Whatever needs to get done, we just try to do it. Instead of relying on other people, or trying to get things done that way, we've always been very hands on; in the studio, marketing, everything, and I think the results are there, you know. It's like we focus on it and work hard on it. If you want something, you gotta work for it, you know.

Tobbe: About working hard. How much do you try to develop your guitar playing style nowadays?

Jason: Well, it becomes less and less actually. I mean, I played guitar every day, for hours and hours and hours, when I was growing up, and even up to recent years, that was all I used to do. I was obsessed with it. Ironically, when you start to move at the pace that we're moving at, there's a ton more things that have to be done. But I love playing guitar. I work very hard at it and it's very important to me, but I also wanna learn new things.

I am obsessed with recording. I have a full studio at my house and I love it. I spend every day in there, trying to learn how to get better at capturing my sounds and recording me. 'Cause that to me is cool and something that I'm not very good at. But I've been able to do a lot of the work, that we need to get done for the band, at my place, because I just put the facility there and then figured out I'd practice getting better at it, you know. So it's kind of cool. That's kind of what I'm into now. Just being a studio rat.

Tobbe: How many picks, guitar picks and bass picks, do you guys throw out to the crowd each gig? You got a number?

Jason: Yeah, um, thousands. But thankfully, our dear friends at the Jim Dunlop company, and my personal friend, Scott Uchida, at the Jim Dunlop company, have been very gracious and they help support our addiction of throwing the guitar picks out.

Tobbe: Will you return to Europe next summer for festivals?

Jason: I've heard that that is the plan, yes. It's great that we get to come here. I can see things growing, developing and it just proves that we need to always make sure that we're here as much as we can be.

People like to interact with the band, they like to see that you're there, they wanna buy the ticket, they wanna tell their friends, they wanna come and hear the records live, and if you don't come here, they kind of go "Well, maybe we'll get interested in something else.". You have to kind of feed that. It's important to be present, you know.

Tobbe: What is most important for the band at this point, right here, right now?

Jason: I think the most important thing for us is to probably take care of the fans and make sure that we don't screw it up. You know, we're very grateful that people like it and people support it and with that comes a responsibility. There's a lot of people that are emotionally attached to something and we just wanna make sure we nurture it and take care of it.

See also: review of the album Got Your Six

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