The Los Angeles/Las Vegas-based heavy metal act Five Finger Death Punch has quickly risen up the ranks since forming 2005. It’s now considered one of metal’s premiere acts and is currently headlining Metal Hammer’s Trespass America tour that comes to Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica at 5 p.m. Sunday. Guitarist Jason Hook recently spoke about the tour and the band's most recent studio album, last year's American Capitalist.
The European magazine Metal Hammer is sponsoring this tour. Is Europe more into metal than the States?
I think they’re into the heavy heavy stuff. That’s their culture. It’s not a commercial music society over there. I think the Europeans, that’s the way they are. Women have hairy armpits and the people like the heavy heavy. We’re bigger in the States now but you see bands like Machinehead headlining arenas over there.
I was just talking to Sebastian Bach, who said he had recently seen the band perform and was blown away. Where would he have seen the group play and did he tell you guys he liked your performance?
It was one of the festivals we played together. I can’t remember exactly where it was because we played ten in a row. He had been on earlier in the day. He was just being Sebastian and hanging out in everybody’s bus and telling stories and drinking red wine. We spent some time talking to him. During the show, Ivan, our singer, said something about how it’s cool to be on the same stage as Sebastian. We played a little bit of “18 and Life.” That’s how we role. We’re friends with everybody.
You wouldn’t expect that from a band with a name like Five Finger Death Punch.
True, but the truth is we’re all pretty easy going guys. We’re very friendly with people. That’s important regardless of what kind of music you like and how you present the band.
You didn’t found the band but you’ve been playing with the guys for a few years now, right?
My ego would like to tell you that when I joined, everything turned into gold. I got very lucky because it was something that I wanted and it was something that I could have missed quite easily. I feel very fortunate. I had known those guys for a long time. They had another guitar player, but it wasn’t working out. I was the next choice and had he worked out, I would have never had the opportunity. It’s a very good thing.
The band started in Los Angeles but you all live in Vegas now?
Yeah, we all moved to Vegas over the course of the last three years. It has mostly to do with the fact that we started in L.A. but when any band starts operating on an international level, you’re never home and you’re always traveling and touring. In Vegas, we all secured these great houses for half price. The city can be in complete disaster but all we need is an airport. It seemed to make logical sense. Getting to L.A. from here is no big deal.
Did you play the L.A. circuit early on?
L.A. is an industry hotspot, and it helped getting noticed. They didn’t have to do a lot of local gigging. It was maybe less than 20 shows, I don’t know. It’s not like they beat the band into the ground.
Talk about what it was like playing shows in Iraq?
Well, we have been there twice. We went to Kuwait the second time to cheer up a bunch of our friends who work for the military. It’s designed to be a morale lifter and they get a sense for what the guys want and we were on the top of the list. We’re happy to donate our time to make those guys feel better. That’s not on the regular beaten path of any circuit. It’s a rare opportunity for us to see something you don’t normally get to see.
What did you try to do differently on American Capitalist?
We stretched out a little bit sonically, could partially be my fault because I like to dabble in different textures in terms of guitar tones. Our primary goal is to have some good songs. It doesn’t matter what the fuck you do with sonics because if you don’t have good songs, it’s not going to work. If your songs are crap, it doesn’t matter how good the record sounds. That’s the primary focus.
Do you all contribute to the songwriting?
Yeah. I’m writing songs all the time. That’s what I like to do. I’m a studio rat. Everyone has a home studio set up and we’re carving up little ideas and then we come together and pick through stuff. As soon as we have tracks we can show to Ivan, he makes up stories and writes the lyrics.
Are the songs written about the country’s economic collapse?
Not really. We just like the mentality of capitalism. Everyone is trying to get ahead and trying to strike it rich or come up with an idea and trying to capitalize. Some are better than others. I think it’s a good thing. The people who are successful don’t accidentally fall into the successful hole. It usually comes from motivation, intelligence and hard work. Those are the people who inspire me. I don’t relate to the guy who sits on the sidewalk with a sign that says “I’m getting screwed.” For me, I’m from Canada, so I busted my ass trying to learn and grow and take chances and risks. To call the record American Capitalist is saying we’re A-type personalities and that’s supposed to inspire.
Are you Republicans?
I don’t mix my politics with rock n roll. I’m Canadian so I’m not qualified to comment.
You working on a new album?
Oh yeah, I got the portable studio set up today and we’re working on new material all the time. We like to keep the content fresh. Regardless of whether you are on break or on tour, if you’re making songs, you have to keep that muscle in the gym and keep it tight.