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INTERVIEW: Chris Kael of Five Finger Death Punch, July 2013

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Every once in a while you get the chance to speak with a really down to earth guy who loves his metal as much as you and can’t wait to hit the stage to please the fans.  I got such a chance in Detroit during the  Rockstar Mayhem Festival to speak with Five Finger Death Punch bassist Chris Kael.

ToddStar: Thank you so much, Chris, for taking the time out for 100% Rock magazine today. We really appreciate it.

Chris: Thank you brother, good to see you.

ToddStar: We got Chris Kael here from Five Finger Death Punch. The album is out Tuesday.

Chris: Yes.

ToddStar: I was lucky enough, I’ve been able to hear the whole thing.

Chris: Oh very nice, and what are your thoughts?

ToddStar: I fucking love it.

Chris: Very cool.

ToddStar: It’s the best thing you guys have done so far.

Chris: I keep hearing that and that makes me feel incredibly good.

ToddStar: I like the fact that you guys stayed true to what FFDP is, you stayed with the hard, heavy, but there’s some stuff on there that could probably wind up on some mellower rock stations, the mainstream rock stations, and people will go, ‘What the hell’s this?’ not knowing that it’s you guys. Listening through the album a few times, I’m picking up little nuances here and there, but for your fans who listen to it once or twice and say, ‘Yep, I just love it because its Five Fingers’, what kind of things can you tell us about the album that you might not get first or second time through?

Chris: You know, the biggest thing to me is, particularly when you get to the bonus tracks with the guest vocalist on there, I’ve always thought Ivan had a heavy voice, and then to hear him paired up with people I grew up listening to, Max Cavalera from Sepultura, Jamie Jasta from Hatebreed, and you have that in your mind how heavy those guys are, and to hear Ivan paired up with those guys, you really see how heavy Ivan is. The dude’s got an inner anger, and the voice comes from somewhere deep inside. I’m more of a chest and throat kind of singer, and his comes from the gut. It’s very impressive to hear just how heavy Ivan Moody can get. And on the counter side, some great melodies on this thing. Ivan does not like the studio. To have a schedule and have to get in there at a certain time, and you know, ‘dammit I gotta wake up at five to be in the studio at six. This is bullshit.’ Then we throw him into a little small closet where he’s got to do his vocals, and it’s claustrophobic in there, and the anger definitely came out on this thing. So, yeah.

ToddStar: From a writing standpoint, what kind of approach did you guys take as a band to kind of lay underneath his vocals? Did you guys dissect or just do what you do.

Chris: That’s what I was going to say, we just did what we do. At this point this year, albums numbers four and five. Obviously the name of the album is The Wrong Side of Heaven, The Righteous Side of Hell Volume 1 & 2 that comes out next Tuesday. Death Punch have been doing this for five or six years now, and we’ve always done what comes naturally. I’m the new guy in the band, so I got to see the whole process this time around, and they’ve got a sound. They stick to it while also pushing that envelope at the same time to grow for themselves, because if we keep on churning out the same stuff over and over again, you’re going to get tired, the audience is going to find you tired, so it’s nice to watch these guys always pushing boundaries. For instance, the cover of Momma Said Knock You Out, who the hell would have thought we’d ever do that, you know? But we’ve always extended a middle finger to the expected, and that’s no different on this album whatsoever.

ToddStar: Well thank you for the segue way. Before the band did the cover of Bad Company, but that could be expected. They could almost be pictured, but for someone to say FFDP is gonna cover Momma Said Knock You Out, these guys were lucky enough to hear it on the way here for the first time today, and they both loved it. Who’s idea was it?

Chris: It’s been years, I want to say it was Zoltan who mentioned it at first, and when I first heard it I was like you guys, I was like ‘What the hell is he thinking on this one? Not into this at all. The fucking rap rock shit is dead.’

ToddStar: So you guys aren’t taking Crazytown out with you on the next door?

Chris: Lord no, no. No disrespect to Crazytown. But yeah, when they first mentioned I was like, ‘I don’t know’, and then Zoltan came in with the main riff, and again going back to Ivan’s vocals on this thing, do not expect a rap song out of this, it is heavy. His voice has got a different kind of flow to it, but it’s still that guttural Ivan Moody heavy, heavy voice, and then have Tech-Nine come in there, which is one of our favorite rappers, it turned out incredible. I think this is going to be a beast. Definitely a beast that I didn’t expect it to be.

ToddStar: It’s the only rap song out there I’ll listen to.

Chris: Nice.

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ToddStar: Word on the street is that you have a new line of basses coming out through Spector.

Chris: Yeah, been working with those guys for years. Long before I joined Death Punch, and once I got into Death Punch we started developing my own signature line. Originally I was playing the Rex Brown RB-4, and I had already switched the pickups in there, and was doing a couple of different modifications just to make my own personal sound that I needed to be able to cut through all the low end going on with Death Punch stuff. So this is different in the sense that it’s got my own E and G pickups in there. Also it will come with my own Dunlop strings as well. So if you get the bass that comes out, I think it’s in October when it actually comes out. We’ve announced its coming out, but the actual bass that comes out in October, if you buy that one it’s the exact same that I play up on stage. A lot of hardware put in there, and it’s got the little brass knuckle bridge on there that we came up with as well, kind of give it a little bit of an attitude as well.

ToddStar: Okay, so you’ve got this big album coming out, you’ve got a second one coming out later this year. You guys have just announced a big headlining tour. Does life get any better for Five Finger at this point?

Chris: You know this year has been a crazy, crazy year for me. A lot of bucket list items have come up. Obviously signature model bass guitar, huge for me. Had Rob Halford sing on a track with us, and doing the Golden Gods, and doing it live. That same day we opened up for Metallica at the Golden Gods. Then we did three shows with KISS in Europe. So I’m pretty much on top of the world at this point. Let’s compare!

ToddStar: (As we compare KISS tattoos) Oh we’re going to compare KISS tats? Oh fuck, the Gene tat, that’s awesome.

Chris: Exactly, always supporting.

ToddStar: (As Chris shows me his KISS Love Gun belt buckle) The Love Gun album.

Chris: Yep, circa 1977.

ToddStar: You must have loved being in the crowd more than me.

Chris: Oh yeah.

ToddStar: Okay, but that all being said, where do you guys go from here? You guys are at the top. Is the second album going to blow those of us who love this album away?

Chris: You know, we put a whole lot of effort into making sure that both albums were incredible. Not shitting out some bullshit, oh we gotta write out 24 songs and get it done. This whole thing happened naturally. We got in the studio in September. We’d actually had a mobile recording studio out with us on the road, so the writing process was already going, and I’m telling you, you’ll hear this first album that’s coming up Tuesday, that’s a beast.

ToddStar: It is.

Chris: November: another beast coming. The fans are hungry. We appreciate all those guys, you know they’re always wanting more stuff and luckily we always write. With being on the road, every one of us always write, and to be in a position where each album we’ve had has gone gold so far, and to be able to have that kind of support in a time where people really aren’t buying albums, particularly heavy albums, you know, and we got the no. 1 single on Active Rock right now, with “Lift Me Up” we are hard workers, we continue to work hard. Every single thing you see with Death Punch has our fingers all over it, everything from merchandising to picking the bands we go out with on this headlining run. We are pretty much workaholics and it’s not a word but I’ll create it now, we’re creative-aholics, in the sense that we’re always looking to expand and write, and come up with new ideas and stuff. We’re not letting our work ethic slow down by any stretch of the imagination. We’re going to be touring until the end of the year. I’ve already seen a bunch of dates coming up for next year that are being worked on right now. We’re going to be holding strong pretty much to the end of next year, and then at that point I’m assuming we’ll probably start writing again.

ToddStar: You said you played with Metallica, you played with KISS, I mean if you had… wow, shit.

Chris: Got a bit of a rainstorm coming down here in Detroit.

ToddStar: If you had to handpick a tour with Five Finger either supporting or headlining, your ideal tour?

Chris: The one tour that I would really want to do is a full, I don’t care if its European, if it’s the United States, whatever, I want to do a full tour with Metallica. Go out with those guys. Growing up, that was the band to me when I started getting into heavy stuff and those guys are masters of it. They’ve been doing it for a long time, they have a huge organisation. I want to be able to go out on the road and learn from those guys. We’re at a point now where things keep getting bigger, and bigger, and bigger for us, and for us to be able to kind of sit back and learn directly from those guys, under direct support, that would be an incredible feeling for me and James, call us. We’re ready. Let’s go.

ToddStar: I’ll pass the message along. If there were one song in the history of time, Chris, that you wish had your stamp on it; whether you wrote it, played on it, what would it be?

Chris: I’ve answered this one before; Happy Birthday.

ToddStar: Happy Birthday? Why?

Chris: Can you imagine the royalty checks on that damn thing? Good Lord. Everybody sing that. We’re doing okay, but I would like to have that Happy Birthday money.

ToddStar: 2013, again, new album dropping in two days now, on Sunday, The Wrong Side of Heaven, Righteous Side of Hell Volume I. You’re on the biggest package tour of the year, hands down. You’ve got a huge headlining tour coming that is going to be a monster. You’re going to hit all the cities. At this point in time in your life and in your career, what is the meaning of life for you now?

Chris: You know, it’s always been… I’ve always known that I am here to positively affect the lives of others. I’ve known it from a very young age. I didn’t know exactly what direction, I always wanted it to be in music, but even growing up I didn’t think I had the chance to reach as many people as we are in FFDP, so you know, from everything to working with Fuck Cancer out here on the Mayhem Festival, to dealing with Southern Nevada Pug Rescue back in Vegas, I’m always here to continually push, to positively affect the lives of as many people as I possibly can. You can read that on my Twitter, on Facebook, Instagram. It’s all about doing things big, reaching bigger audiences, and continuing to make people smile for me.

ToddStar: Excellent. Here at 100% Rock we love the album, can’t wait to pull this review, we haven’t been allowed to, the gag order. But again, we love the album, we love what you guys are doing, and we really appreciate you taking time out of your schedule, we know you’re a busy man. Thank you.

Chris: Even in the downpour here. Rain will not stop us talking to you guys!

Todd ‘ToddStar’ Jolicoeur

Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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