By Cameron Cooper
Not many bands can boast the kind of continuous output that Five Finger Death Punch can. Cameron Cooper chats with Jason Hook about the new album, Got Your Six, and his unconventional approaches to writing and recording.
When Five Finger Death Punch released Way Of The Fist in 2007, their impression on the international metal scene was, as their name foretold, a rather brutal punch in the gut. Here were five dudes who had been working damn hard, unable to catch a break and having one more primal, ferocious go at it, which paid off. Big time. It would be a couple of years before Jason Hook would join the band on guitar and help take the group to the next level, but – as the Alice Cooper and Vince Neil alumnus points out – he was there from the start.
“I’ve been best friends with Jeremy [Spencer, drums] since the mid ‘90s and we were always hopeful that we were going to be in a band together. We had started many bands, but it just never panned out and eventually I went one way and he went the other,” Hook explains. “When he started the Death Punch thing I thought it was awesome and had all the potential in the world.”
Happy for his friend’s new and clearly unique band but unhappy he wasn’t a part of it, Hook supported the group in every way possible, rocking up to everything from BBQs to rehearsals.
“When it turned out they wanted to make a change, I was right there wanting the same thing. Had it not worked out it would have been pretty hard for me watching Jeremy become so successful when we were supposed to do so together. I mean, it would have been great either way, but I’m really happy with the way it turned out.”
Six years into his tenure with the band, Hook and the boys are set to release their sixth album. Hook describes Got Your Six as a departure from the long, entwining and varied sound of 2013’s The Wrong Side of Heaven, and The Righteous Side of Hell double-album.
“With Wrong Side of Heaven… we knew we had to do 25 songs or whatever, so we were like, ‘Anything can live, because we need a large volume of material’, but with this one we just wanted to make a real smack-in-your-face record,” Hook says, beaming with enthusiasm. “I think we achieved our goal. It is a fun record and really potent. I’m happy with it and I’m excited for people to hear it!”
The album’s in-your-face and straight-forward approach is made evident by the lead single, Jekyll and Hyde: running in at a little over 3:20, the song is a four-to-the-floor groove metal rumble that harkens back to the band’s earlier releases, kicking off with singer Ivan Moody’s distinctive aggro-grunt, straight from Hook’s voice-mail.
“Ivan – as brilliant and talented as he is – is also very simple and kind of like a caveman. He doesn’t have computers or recording devices, he has no electronic interest. He has nothing to capture song ideas, so he writes everything on napkins and shoeboxes! So he used to send me a text in the middle of the night saying ‘Don’t pick up your phone, I got a song idea in my head and I gotta leave it somewhere, I’m going to leave it on your voice-mail!’ So I got in this habit that whenever we are in record-mode, I just turn my ringer off after midnight and let him dump it on my voice-mail.”
Looking for new ideas for Got Your Six, Hook trawled through his old hard-drives and found the song’s opening lines.
“So I made a little demo out of the voice mail and sent it to everybody thinking no one would really take it seriously and it turned into what it is! His lead vocal from the beginning of the song is actually the audio I took from the voice-mail.”
Unconventional writing to keep the momentum going is something afforded to the band by Hook’s personal studio, allowing the band to write and record without the usual time and financial pressures, helped along by the hard working ethos that the members all share.
“The great thing about this team is we can prepare stuff separately or together which makes the process go quite quickly as you have different people working in different corners. Many pistons in the engine!”
Hook’s unconventional and unending approach to music doesn’t stop at songwriting. Always on the hunt for new gear to help craft his unique tones and sounds, he took to performing some out-there operations on his guitar for the new record.
“I hate to give away my secrets, but there is an old BOSS pedal called the PS5 pitch-shifter. There is one function on it called the tremolo arm and if you just stand on the pedal it dive bombs down or whammies all the way up. It is like a whammy bar, but you don’t have to work it manually. So what I did is I took the pedal, cut a hole in my Explorer and mounted it inside my guitar. I used that on the Got Your Six solos and I’ve started to tour with it.”
Finding unique uses for his expansive array of gear is an important part of Hook’s process.
“I’m always experimenting. You think you have the best of everything but some company is always trying to beat it, and if you don’t go looking you won’t find something that could make you a little happier!” He states. “There are a lot of little things out there that I’ve found that nobody else will because I look deep.”
Got Your Six is released on 28 August via Eleven Seven/Sony Music.