FIVE FINGER DEATH PUNCH’S ZOLTAN BATHORY, JEREMY SPENCER AND JASON HOOK
DISCUSS THE BAND’S NEW ALBUM
‘THE WRONG SIDE OF HEAVEN & THE RIGHTEOUS SIDE OF HELL – VOLUME 2’
RELEASED NOVEMBER 19 VIA PROSPECT PARK
Q: What are the biggest differences between ‘The Wrong Side Of Heaven And The Righteous Side Of Hell, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2’?
Zoltan Bathory: When we were separating the songs into two records, we had a certain criteria. We wanted to make sure that we separated all 26 songs into two batches where fans almost couldn’t have a preference between them. That was the goal. Vol. 2 may be a shade darker and heavier, but just a shade. There are no drastic differences because it’s the same time capsule, recorded in the same time. We had a creative flow, and we ended up with a lot of songs that we thought were great and we wanted to release them all.
Jeremy Spencer: Basically, we tried to space out the records evenly and base it on a feeling. We wanted to make them well-rounded and take the listener on a journey rather than put ten songs that are identical on one and ten that are identical on the other. We tried to space it out evenly and let it have a good flow. That’s what we wanted to accomplish with that. We started compiling lists. One guy would start, and we’d go, “Oh, that’s pretty good. Maybe I would switch that song to the other album!” so on and so forth. I think the sequencing is cool. There are always times where you think about it later like, “Perhaps we should’ve done this.” You have to accept an ending point and turn it in eventually though [Laughs].
Q: Do you feel The Wrong Side of Heaven & The Righteous Side of Hell, Vol. 2 is heavier than its predecessor?
Jason Hook: Ah, honestly, I thought the first volume would be considered heavier. That’s good though. It’s fun. The idea was to make it as difficult as possible for people to choose one over the other [Laughs]. It’s basically supposed to be one massive volume of work spread out over too discs. To be totally honest, we shuffled the deck pretty evenly to try to continuity between both records. In other words, we didn’t want to have the second volume sound like it took a drastic turn in direction.
Q: How did you actually curate the albums?
Jason Hook: We didn’t actually get around to splitting these records up until the very last second. We worked on all of this material, not even knowing which songs would end up where. Obviously when we figured out that Vol. 1 had a deadline which needed to be met before Vol. 2, we had to figure out what songs would be on each. We were just writing like maniacs. We had so much material that we had two choices either release all of it in some way or put half of it away for something else.
Q: Did that expanse foster experimentation?
Jason Hook: Yeah, because these were our fourth and fifth records, respectively, we knew we had better do something that was interesting. We couldn’t just release a “fourth” record. We wanted to release both albums on the same day similar to what Guns N’ Roses did back in the day with Use Your Illusion 1 & 2. It just wasn’t going to happen. The label was all freaked out. So, we decided to break it up.
Q: Is there anything left over from the sessions?
Jeremy Spencer: There was nothing left over. We just got in a good groove, and everything was flowing really well. We basically said, “Let’s not stop at fourteen songs. Let’s keep going until we don’t feel like going anymore.” When we got up to twenty-four or twenty-five songs, we didn’t want to take any of the songs off so we decided to put out two albums. We just got into a good flow, and we didn’t want to question it. You never know when that’s going to strike. We’ve done three albums and we thought, “What can we do next that will keep things fresh and exciting for the fans as well as us?” It was two records.
Q: Is it difficult to write on the road?
Jason Hook: The truth is we stopped partying. We’re sober now. Jeremy and I are. When you’re sober, it forces you to redirect your energy and interests into something other than working off a hangover. You find yourself with a massive amount of extra time on your hands because you’re not screwing yourself up every day. Because of that, we figured, “Well, we’re in the music business. Let’s write music so we’re prepared for the next time we have to make an album in a hurry.” To answer the question, it can be difficult to write on the road. There are a lot of distractions coming around like meet-n-greets, interviews, and things like that. We try to treat it like a job. We get up and go to work like everybody else does.
Q: Did you always know you would complete it on the road?
Zoltan Bathory: Basically, what happened was we did record both albums at the same time. It was done so we started to separate them. We had 26 songs, and we were like, “Let’s make them into two records.” Then, we hit the road. While we were on tour, we wanted to make some changes. A piece of music is never really done. You always keep polishing it and adding to it. You’re perfecting it up until its deadline. Since Vol. 1 was done, the deadline had passed, and we submitted it. We were still on the road so we decided to mess around with some songs for Vol. 2. It might’ve been two or three. We ended up changing the guitar solo and also some of the lyrics. There are two songs where you can hear the lyrics are fairly angry [Laughs]. It’s because Ivan Moody had to record on the road. He had already recorded 26 songs. Then, we told him, “Hey bro, you have to fix these few!” He was like, “Oh fuck!” You can hear it. One of the songs is “A Day in My Life.” That’s why it’s like that. He essentially said, “Man, I’m on the road. I finished both of these albums, and I can’t party or hangout. I have to go to the studio instead!” There were a couple of extra angry things on the record because of Ivan. Think of it this way. Someone tells you, “You just ran the marathon, and you won!” Then, somebody else goes, “Hold on, there are 20 more miles to go.” You’re like, “Fuck! Really?”
Q: What song from Volume 2 resonates with you the most right now?
Jeremy Spencer: I really like the opening track “Here to Die.” It’s got an old school thrash feel, and it’s got a good feel for opening the album. It might even be a good concert opener. It nods to classic thrash, which I’ve always had an affinity for. I like that song a lot. I also like “Battle Born.” That’s one I connect with, and I think a lot of the fans are connecting to it as well. I had my hand in them too. “Here to Die” was this riff Zoltan Bathory had on my computer at home. I just started drumming across it. I turned that into a thrash-y beat. That song ended up living. It was one of many riffs he sent over in an email, but it jumped out at me as something could be potentially special. I helped with the arrangement as well. “Battle Born” is something Jason Hook and I were jamming. We came up with that in the portable studio in the dressing room back on the Trespass America tour. That song’s been around for a while.
Q: How did the “Agony of Regret” instrumental come together?
Jason Hook: That was something I had written in home at my studio. Like most of the things I bring in, I expect the other guys to shoot them down. However, we had talked about having an instrumental interlude on Vol. 2. So, I went to work on it. I brought it in sort of finished from my house. We cleaned it up a little bit at the studio, but that’s just me doing my thing. With two records, it gives you some landscape to try things you may not want to try if it were just one record. Over 26 songs, one can be a cover, one can be an instrumental, and one can be an interlude. It broadens the rulebook.
Q: What are you most proud of on Vol. 2?
Zoltan Bathory: In my opinion, it is the best material we’ve written to date. When Vol. 1 came out, I already thought, “Okay, this is probably our best record. This is the crystallization of what we were for the first three albums.” It’s almost like we know who we are and we know how the band works like a machine. That’s our strength. We looked at the past and asked, “We’re five years older, what do we like today?” We liked elements of the first three albums. When we were working on The Wrong Side of Heaven & The Righteous Side of Hell, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, we weren’t going back and copying those elements. However, there were things we loved that worked for us a band, and we used that direction, polished it up, and codified it. This is the crystallization of who we are today. The first record is much heavier, but I didn’t have Jason at the time who is more of a hard rock guitarist. This is how we sound together. I’m more of a metal head, and he’s a hard rock guy. The two of us together sounds exactly like this record. If people think the second is better than the first, fuck yeah! Then, I’m really proud of it. It means it’s really the moment for this band to come to its peak performance. These are our strengths. We’ve spent so much time on the road that we really know each other. This is the moment. This is what Five Finger Death Punch is today.
Q: Is it difficult to come up with ideas on the road?
Jeremy Sepncer: It’s not any easier, but sometimes we have a lot of time on our hands. We like to have our studio with us so that way we can jam in the dressing room or mess with ideas. Certainly when you’re at home uninterrupted, that’s the best time [Laughs]. It’s cool to pass the time out here with that though.
Q: What are the biggest departures?
Zoltan Bathory: Vol. 1 had “Anywhere But Here” with Maria Brink from In This Moment. That was a very different song for us. Even the title track, I wrote that piece a long time ago. I’ve had that musical piece for at least twelve or thirteen years. We never had a situation where we could use this nice cool little piece. It didn’t fit. It was too different. At the time, we could try it now. From Vol. 2, we have “Cold.” It’s got piano and all of that. That’s probably a song we would not do if we only had one record. There distant pieces. Some songs are more hard rock. There are distant pieces. Jason Hook brought hard rock-ish things to the table. It fits though. This band is in between metal and hard rock somewhere. It’s hard hard rock or whatever the fuck [Laughs].
Q: How has the dynamic between the five of you improved?
Jeremy Spencer: Well, I think the trust is there. We’ve made a few records together now so we know what everyone is going to bring individually. Usually, the end results have worked. I think there was more of a trust factor here this time. Everyone was in a good headspace going into this. It’s not like we weren’t for the other albums, but for this particular record we got into this great flow. The energy was right, and it all lined up. I don’t want to question it. I’m really grateful we got all of this great material.
Q: Are we all on the Wrong Side of Heaven And The Righteous Side of Hell?
Zoltan Bathory: Yeah, we always pick titles that push buttons and piss off some people—even those who consider themselves rebels. It’s like, “Dude you’re a black sheep, but you’re still a sheep.” Whoever it is, we like to push their buttons. The Way of the Fist meant, “We are coming!” We’re going to get in. You have to let us in the door no matter what. We put out War is the Answer in the middle of the Middle East conflict and American Capitalist in the midst of the financial meltdown. We’re not preaching or necessarily telling you what to do, but we’re pushing the buttons and pointing things out for you to decide. Look at everything from different angles and both sides of the coin. If you look at the world, politics, and society, everybody has an opinion because there is an internet that allows you that. Everyone tells you what’s right and what’s wrong, and they’re all so fucking serious about. They’re not realizing something that may be okay for you and completely socially acceptable would be a taboo in another country and vice versa. Everybody’s all gung-ho about God. Well, who’s God is this? Are we talking about the Buddhist, Hindi, or Christian? Which God are we talking about? There are all of these different opinions, but they’re all just fucking opinions. Whatever you say, you’re using the tool of language to describe something indescribable. You can’t describe a real experience. You’re using a crude tool—language—to tell me what you mean. Right there, you’re off, but you take it so something seriously. We wanted to push that button. Whatever you say is right for you and wrong for somebody else and vice versa. What you say is not one-hundred percent true because somebody has a different opinion. Who are you to decide your opinion is better than theirs? Who makes that decision? You or them? That’s what the title says.
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