By: Brady Lavin
In 2007, a Jason Hook-less Five Finger Death Punch released their debut album, The Way of the Fist, and immediately won recognition from the metal community. When gearing up to write and record their follow-up, co-founder and guitarist Zoltan Bathory finally got the chance to bring in guitarist Jason Hook, who took over the majority of lead duties.
When FFDP started in back in 2005, the idea was the Hook would shred alongside Zo’, but he was tied up with commitments to tour and record with several acts, including Alice Cooper, Vince Neil Band and Mandy Moore. Wait, wait… One of these names doesn’t belong. Seriously, Mandy Moore?
Turns out the sick, super heavy guitarist of Five Finger Death Punch, purveyors of testosterone-filled fucking metal, is versatile as hell. It makes sense, though, because Jason Hook has been playing the guitar since the age of 6, so he probably has experience with other types of music. His stint with Mandy Moore is just the most jarring example.
Since all those commitments have run their course, Hook now has the time to fully devote himself to FFDP, and according to him, their new record, American Capitalist, is just the beginning. Keep reading to see what Jason had to say about the new album, the writing process, their new music video (read: naked girls), and what he learned from working with Mandy Moore. There’s also a surprise appearance by FFDP drummer, Jeremy Spencer!
Brady Lavin: First of all, how’s your back feeling? [The interview had been postponed due to Jason's back pain.]
Jason Hook: It’s definitely better, but not completely. We shot this video, what was it a week ago? And it was one of those situations where you go like full blast for a minute then stop, then full blast again when they’re like “Action!”
I’ve suffered from like a whiplash thing going down my back, I’ve had that from gigs before, but this one won’t go away. Usually they’re gone by now. It’s really uncomfortable, it’s like a stretching pain. You know when you reach down and touch your toes you feel that uncomfortable stretch behind your knees? It’s like that, but on the right side of my neck and back, and it won’t stop. It’s this uncomfortable stretch. It sucks.
Brady: Well I hope it works itself out! The new album, American Capitalist, is coming out October 11th, right? Can you shed some more light on any album details, like what it will sound like, how it progresses from War Is The Answer, any guest spots, etc.?
Jason Hook: It sounds to me like a continuation of War Is The Answer. This could have been Side C and D of War Is The Answer. We sort of made a conscious decision to make a heavier record, but for some reason the melodic stuff always ends up creeping its way in. It’s like a balance. There may be a higher percentage of heavier material on here, but there’s certainly still a balance like War Is The Answer has.
Brady: The first single, “Under and Over It,” is basically a big, fat “Fuck you” to haters, which is very fitting for the really aggressive sound of Five Finger Death Punch. Lyrically, what does the album look like, does it go with the theme suggested by the title, American Capitalist?
Jason Hook: Well, the lyrics are pretty much 95% Ivan Moody. Even though we try to feed him concepts of the record, the overall concept, we only usually get one or two or three songs that fit with the concept. The rest of it, from where I stand, seems to be whatever is going on with him emotionally and personally. I believe the opening track is the title track to the record, and it’s one of my favorites actually.
Brady: You split guitar duties with Zoltan, but neither of you is designated as the “lead guitarist” per se.
Jason Hook: I play the leads, not that Zo can’t, but I believe it’s one of my strengths.
Brady: Oh, ok. I read somewhere that you guys split the duties. So do you do all the solos on the new album?
Jason Hook: Yes, and on War is The Answer (with the exception of one lead run at 1:28 of the instrumental Canto 34 – that’s Zo). Recording an album takes a lot of time and work … doing the leads is time consuming … Zo does a lot of the rhythm work, so that’s kind of how we split the duties.
Brady: How do you guys write, do you write the leads and he writes the rhythm parts or what?
Jason Hook: I’m writing songs pretty much all the time regardless of what’s happening with Death Punch. I have a home studio, and that’s what I like to do. In this scenario, I started working with Zoltan and Jeremy and I had maybe four or five song ideas prepared at the top of the record, just to have more material to pick from ends up being a smarter approach. At the end of the day regardless of where the idea came from, everybody adds their ingredient to the mix, and the end product ends up being Five Finger Death Punch.
But ideas have to come from some source to get the ball rolling. Knowing that, I think everybody was cooking up their ideas at home and sort of brought them in that way. I know Zoltan had a bunch of stuff he had been working on, the 3 of us (Jeremy, Zo, Jason) would get together 3-4 times a week and toss the ideas around until we had a completed sketch of a song …. That’s really how it starts.
Brady: So somebody will have an idea and somebody will add their own parts to it, it’s not like, “Play this the way I’m telling you”?
Jason Hook: Everybody has input and freedom. I think we have developed a nice system. Each person has a role and not all of the weight is carried by one individual. I think that’s going to be really helpful when it comes down to squeezing out records 4, 5, 6, and 7. Just trying to get an album built and completed is a tremendous process.
Brady: So you guys are in this for the long haul? You have definite plans to keep it going for albums 4, 5, 6, and 7?
Jason Hook: Yeah! There is no better job. Be careful what you wish for. My last job was playing for other people, and this is much
more passion-driven than any hired-gun type work that I’ve had.
Brady: You were with Mandy Moore for a while, how was that?
Jason Hook: Oh it was great!
Brady: I imagine that would be very different from being in Five Finger Death Punch. Not just musically, but being in a band with some camaraderie. With Mandy, were you just playing what you’re told, or what?
Jason Hook: It was professional, but it was loose at the same time. Basically, when they had their records, they had to go out on promo campaigns and they needed a bunch of musicians to be the background music, so things were changing all the time. It’s hard, it’s like “Thursday, we’re gonna take just the guitar players and the violin player and play on MTV Beach House” or something like that. I would be like “Ok, what song?” and I would prepare it. You have to be able to respond quickly. It helped me as far as being disciplined and getting used to that type of work environment.
Brady: I read that at last year’s Download Festival, you guys had to cut your set short because too many people were crowd surfing… How does that happen? Isn’t that the point?
Jason Hook: What we found out was that in the history of the festival, that has only happened one other time, and that was for Iggy Pop. I can’t remember what year it was, but the one other time the festival has been stopped was Iggy Pop, and it was probably for the same reason. I guess he just had too many people going berserker.
We have a section of our headlining show where we play“Dying Breed,” which is the opening track on War Is The Answer, and we invite everyone to crowd-surf to the front and shake our hands. It always goes crazy, and there’s a lot of bodies that start flying forward. It’s really fun for us, but when you got 70,000 people at a multi-million dollar festival with insurance policies, I don’t think they appreciated it that much.
Brady: Well maybe they should have done their research!
Jason Hook: Well now we have a reputation, so when we’re booking a show people are like “They’re not gonna do that one part, are they?” Well now that you mention it, we’re gonna play it twice! LOL just kidding.
Brady: Over the years, Five Finger Death Punch has toured with a bunch of different bands. What group or artist has been your favorite to tour or record with and why?
Jason Hook: [Asks someone in car with him] Who’s our favorite act to tour with and hang out with? Well for me personally, the Mayhem Festival was probably the most fun. Last year, we were on the main stage with Lamb of God, Rob Zombie and Korn. The Lamb of God guys are a riot. They’re pretty down to earth, friendly and cool guys. So I’ll take them. I pick choice A. Lamb of God.
Brady: Who’s in the car with you?
Jason Hook: Jeremy Spencer, our drummer extraordinaire. We had to go to, what do you call it, an audiologist? We’re getting molds for our in-ear monitors for our headlining tour.
Brady: Yeah, what do you call that, the “ear-molder”?
Jason Hook: Hah, ear-molder. It’s pretty trippy when they stuff this cotton down your ear and inject your ear with expanding liquid foam. So that was new.
Brady: I was looking at your gear and you only use Voodoo amps, right?
Jason Hook: It’s interesting how that’s been skewed. Voodoo amps I met a couple years back. I have a Marshall endorsement, so I’m kind of a die-hard Marshall guy. But if you’re into Marshall heads, most of the time in this heavy, high-gain music, they need to be modified to fit the style.
Voodoo is a company out of New York that had a reputation for doing the best modifications, so I developed a friendship with those guys. Then they pretty much got their fingers and did their magic, and everything that I have with a Marshall logo on it has been tweaked by Voodoo. They’re very talented anal-retentive tone guys over there. Trace Davis is the CEO, and I can tell him I want anything and he can pretty much make it happen. They also make their own amplifiers, which I’m looking forward to trying some out. Maybe I’d be impressed enough to play them exclusively.
Brady: What would it take for an amp to change your mind and make you play it exclusively?
Jason Hook: I don’t require a lot, I just like something to have lots of head room and lots of available gain as far as being able to get plenty loud without running into difficult problems like feedback and squeals. I like it to have plenty of headroom and enough gain where… I think my type of playing, high-gain does not really run away on me. It’s kind of like Eddie Van Halen. He likes insane amounts of gain because they way he holds and touches the instrument; he can control it. I’m kind of the same way. I like high gain because I’ve learned how to control it.
Brady: I recently read that Zoltan uses 13 gauge strings on his BC Rich guitars, which I found odd considering many metal players use lighter gauges to make it easier to bend and vibrato. Do you know why he likes the heavier gauge more?
Jason Hook: Well I’m using .13 to .70. We’re in baritone tuning, so I’m using a Gibson Explorer which is a shorter scale than the Fender scale which is 25 1/2, Gibson being 24 3/4, so it takes a tighter string, a heavier gauge to get up to pitch.
So I went to the wonderful people at the Jim Dunlop string manufacturers, they had me take out… I went through every string individually to find the correct gauge for bending and wound up with a custom set that goes from .13 up to .70. It’s quite heavy, its almost like a bass string.
Brady: What was the video you were shooting? What song was that for?
Jason Hook: The video we just shot was for the first single called “Under And Over It.”
Brady: Do you know when that video’s gonna come out?
Jason Hook: It’s gonna be ready August 25th, so a few more days.
Brady: Wow, that’s a pretty quick turnaround for production on that.
Jason Hook: I wanna say that the producer or the director was the director of Machete. Ethan… Ethan… Cool McDude Sauce [actual last name: Maniquis]. He directed [Jeremy corrects him], I’m sorry co-directed Machete. He came to us, or at least his manager did and said, “I love this band, and I would love to offer my services if there’s any way I can get involved with a video or anything.” We were like “Ok, that’s cool.” I mean any time you can mix it up with Hollywood its kind of a cool thing. You get some special treatment from the big dogs.
For me it was one of the highlights of all the things we’ve done so far. That was really fun. Basically we just doused the set with super expensive cars and naked girls [Laughs] We had a private jet fly in, we shot some segments inside the jet. And more boobs, legs, butts, you know all that mature, credible stuff. [Laughs]
Brady: So is there gonna be an R-rated version of the video?
Jason Hook: The R rated version is the one we’re releasing, it’s the XXX version that we were fighting for! [Laughs]the label was like … aahhhh no.
Brady: One last question: Can you shed some light on former bassist Matt Snell’s exit from the band?
Jason Hook: First of all, I’ll tell you that I really like Matt Snell, and obviously we wish him the best. He was asked to leave the band, just to clarify. We can’t legally talk about the reason why, but we’re moving forward with our new bassist Chris Kael and all is well!