Takes More Than Five Fingers to Play Drums - Jeremy Spencer of 5FDP

Five Finger Death Punch has broken the curve for a band's acceleration, going from niche act to headlining phenomenon in fairly short order. Now standing aside Rob Zombie at Mayhem Fest and on the verge of a double release, I sat down with drummer Jeremy Spencer to talk about the band, how they got here, what it feels like, and what to expect from this album.
M.DREW: I don’t know if you would remember this, but we met briefly a couple years back in the Albany airport at some God-awful hour in the morning. At the time, you were opening for Godsmack and Ivan [Moody] and I talked about how you guys could barely get a twenty minute set. Now, here you are on the marquee of Mayhem Fest. What does that feel like as an accomplishment?
JEREMY SPENCER: It’s awesome because now we actually get to break a sweat on stage [laughs]. It’s cool, man. We’ve watched this thing build since the beginning and even before we were signed we put songs up on MySpace and there were a lot of people coming on board, becoming fans. That got the attention of our management, and to watch this thing built to where it is now, where we’re co-headlining with [Rob] Zombie, to have our production and to play for an hour and play at nighttime, it’s just really awesome. When you start out as a kid, you always dream of the ultimate tour like this and now we’re living it.
M.D: Having gone through all that, what’s the lesson that you try impart on the bands at the bottom of the bill at Mayhem Fest:
JS: You know what, Mayhem is where we had our breakthrough, I think. We played that second stage back in 2008, we had a single in the top ten at the time called “Never Enough” on radio and that’s when I saw the biggest breakthrough, it was the first big breakthrough for us. There were a lot more people coming to shows and we only got to play twenty-five minutes, but it was a very important summer, an important stepping stone. So, if you play your cards right, Mayhem can be great for you.
M.D: Let’s get the controversial question out of the way: “The Wrong Side of Heaven and The Righteous Side of Hell” is going to be released in two parts and I think there’s going to be an opinion that this is a cash grab to make everybody buy it twice. What’s your response to that?
JS: It’s not, because if we released it at once, you would charge more because it would be two discs in one package. So it’s the same thing, we’re just spreading it out. There’s a lot of material to digest, you wouldn’t want to bombard people with twenty-four songs in one day.
M.D: Do you think of the album as one album, or do you consider it to be two different pieces?
JS: I think of it as two albums. I never wanted it to be perceived as a double album. The title is the same, but it’s twenty-four songs that are different. They work together as a body of work, but nobody’s gonna put them all on one disc. So we were like ‘well, what songs do we pull off, and scale it down to a twelve disc record? Let’s don’t. Let’s make two records.’ We thought it fit, we though it’s well-rounded and we grew attached to those songs. We like them, we wrote them when we were focused and everything was flowing. We’re happy with it, we just want to put it all out. And I think the fans want to get more material, because when we released “American Capitalist,” a month later people were asking ‘when’s your next record coming out?’ We just freakin’ put a record out, you know?
M.D: Despite being in two parts, is there a common theme of “Wrong Side of Heaven and Hell” that stretches from song one to song twenty-four?
JS: Not really. Ivan writes about what’s he’s feeling at the time. So if it’s relationship based or he’s pissed off or he’s happy or he’s going through a breakup or whatever, he writes what he’s feeling. Usually, I find a lot of people can relate to his lyrics because a lot of them are relationship based, that’s a popular topic with people, man. They’re relatable.
M.D: Speaking of Ivan, I think when Five Finger Death Punch started, there was this impression among some that it was going to be a side-project band following the collapse of Motograter. How long did it take you to feel like you’d grown out of that perception?
JS: Well, I never felt it. To be honest with you, I had never heard of Motograter at the time. I had never listened to them, I didn’t care. I went back and heard it and thought it was cool, they were talented. We actually went and did a show with those guys, and Ivan did his finale show with them, and I thought ‘wow, they’re a good band, they play good live, they’re interesting.’ But I had never had a feeling like they overshadowed what Death Punch was doing.
M.D: I’ve seen in other press where Zoltan and others have said ‘we started writing this album and just never stopped. We got to twelve songs and we’ve still got more material.’ That’s rarefied air to be in, what’s the feeling like when you just can’t miss as a songwriter, and have you ever felt that before?
JS: Yeah, not on this level. While we were in a flow, we were just so busy that you never stop and think about it. Then you sit back and review all the stuff and you say ‘wow, we’ve got a lot of stuff. Let’s keep going, it’s still flowing.’ That’s a great feeling. You can never have too many songs in my opinion.
M.D: As you go to release twenty four songs as a two-part record, is there any fear that the product will be diluted, that not all twenty-four songs will live up to fan expectations?
JS: No, you can’t. Because, you’re never gonna please everyone. We try to please ourselves first and foremost, that’s honest. That’s when you know it’s honest. If it’s hitting you in the gut and it feels right, that’s all you can control. And that’s what I’m happy about. I play music for myself, but we honor the fanbase, because we get why they’re fans, so we try to keep it in the zone. We’re not gonna come out with a bunch of clarinets and shit on our recordings. We just honor what we feel and that usually translates to the crowd.
M.D: What’s that feeling like when you look at everything you’ve done – I mean, everybody knows you write an album and then there’s things at the end you decide you don’t want to run with. What’s it like at the end when you decide you love everything and you have to find a way to release it all?
JS: We still tweaked stuff up to the last second when we were turning it in. We’ll always find something wrong, that goes with being a perfectionist and wanting it to be as good as it can be and feel good to us. Records are forever, man. Once you turn it in, that’s it.

M.D: Is there a point at which you tinker and tinker and tinker, and then you just realize that you have to let it go?
JS: Yeah, oh yeah. Sometimes it takes other people to go ‘dude, quit freaking out over this, it’s good.’
M.D: I’ve heard from other artists that that point comes at the deadline.
JS: Hey, you give Death Punch a deadline, it’s gonna take ‘til the deadline. That’s just how we work. I like to think we put out product that speaks for itself, and I think people are connecting with it, which is a great thing.
M.D: These records are going to be loaded with collaborations. What does it mean to have somebody like Rob Halford take time to be with you in the studio?
JS: It was really cool because all of us were huge Priest fans growing up. I mean, I love Judas Priest, they’re one of my favorite metal bands. So when he agreed to do it, he flew down to the studio, knocked out his part in a couple hours. Super pro, he’s a metal god, he’s got it dialed. When out to dinner with him; he’s a super nice guy, really humble, really chill. And he’s a fan of our band, which is flattering. He likes Death Punch. It’s like a dream come true. He’s one of those guys, like Ozzy or KISS.
M.D: The one that jumps out as I look down the track list is the LL Cool J cover with Tech N9ne. Is this gonna be the new Anthrax and Public Enemy? What made you say you’ve got to do that?
JS: Zoltan came up with the idea to cover “Mama Said Knock You Out.” I think he messed around with it years ago in some different projects or whatever. It didn’t sound like it does now, but he had a feel for how the guitar could go. We’re all fans of Tech N9ne, he’s one of my favorite rap artists, I think his delivery is incredible. He just came in and just killed this track, I can’t wait for people to hear it. I love it, dude. And really, we thought Death Punch can probably get away with a song called “Mama Said Knock You Out,” it fits with our band name and stuff like that.
M.D: Was there a collaboration you really wanted to do for this record that fell through?
JS: We tried to get James Hetfield. That didn’t work out. It would have been a dream come true because Metallica is another one of my favorite bands, but I get it, that’s alright. It’s James Hetfield, he doesn’t have to do anything he doesn’t want to do [laughs].
M.D: As you look around at Mayhem Fest, it’s loaded with European-style metal and American death metal, yet you and Rob Zombie stand at the top as straightforward, rock and roll based groove metal. It seems like there’s less and less people making metal like that, what draws you two it? What makes you stand out from everybody on this tour?
JS: We’re fans of bands like old Metallica, Pantera, straight up metal. Bands that had the whole package. Solid songs, good albums, cool artwork, cool merchandise, cool live shows. We strive to bring all of it, because we want people to leave our show going ‘dude, you have to see what I just saw! You have to go see these guys!’ We just strive for that, we’re fans of that stuff, we want to leave a mark on people.
M.D: Who’s one of the young bands on the tour this year that you really like?
JS: Battlecross. Their new record just came out, and the first track on that record is serious. We jam the hell out of that on the bus. I’m a fan of a lot of bands on this tour like Machine Head and Zombie, but of the new bands, Battlecross and probably Motionless in White. Butcher Babies, too, man, they’re cool.

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