July 30, 2013 | By John Parks
Five Finger Death Punch guitarist Jason Hook is a busy guy these days. The band is once again out on the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival tour and the guys are readying the release of not one but two albums. ”The Wrong Side of Heaven and The Righteous Side Of Hell part 1″ came out this week and part two of the 24 song set comes out a little later this fall. The band, and it’s loyal fans, have a lot to get excited about this next few months and the touring is just starting to heat up for the new releases. I recently spoke with Jason briefly while the band was on the Mayhem tour and talked about the new records, the fanbase and more, read on….
LRI: Thanks for talking with us Jason. You’ve been with FFDP for a while but prior to that you had a lot of other guitar work, both studio and live, on your resume including some time with Vince Neil and Mandy Moore. Do you think that all your past experience helped shape your approach to your instrument in the band now, despite FFDP being a vastly different style?
Jason Hook: Yeah. I always thought that no matter what situation I was in playing guitar for other people or different bands, I always thought there was something to be learned from each situation. It would go through my mind, “What am I supposed to be learning here?”. That sort of keeps you in the right headspace. Every situation, whether live or in the studio, I would walk away with a little more knowledge than I had before going in and I would always be asking a lot of questions and trying to learn new stuff because really…..that sort of is your education. Some people go to college or university, I just had to go through a lot of different situations musically, played on a lot of different people’s records and gained my education as i went along.
LRI: What I’ve heard of the new album via youtube sounds great. You’ve obviously heard it backwards and forwards, are you excited now that it’s finally time for everyone else to sink into it?
Jason: Oh yeah. July 30th has been circled on our calendar for a while now, we are beyond excited. It is so weird, it’s almost like a court date, you’re just waiting and waiting and dying to find out what’s going to happen, you don’t know what’s going to happen because the jury’s still out and we’re waiting for the verdict.
LRI: I am a KISS fan so I am always obsessed with packaging and merchandise and all that stuff and it looks like you guys have a number of different options with the new album and special collectibles and all that. Is that something that always appealed to you as a fan?
Jason: Oh yeah. Absolutely. A lot of that stuff really does stem from a few of us being diehard KISS fans. You know, KISS tapped into a few things, a few formulas, as far as collectible items and the way they’re presented with vibrant colors and packaging. That kind of stuff really kind of sparks the interest or strikes a nerve inside the collector. I actually told Gene Simmons, when we toured with KISS in Europe, I told Gene that we had a lunch box and that it had never been done before, it was the first time in rock and roll (laughs).
Volume 1 of “The Wrong Side Of Heaven and The Righteous Side Of Hell” is out NOW
LRI: You’ve been with the band for a while now and become a rock star in your own right but do you still kind of have those “fan” moments sometimes when you meet a guy like Gene or have someone like Rob Halford come in to do vocals like you did for the new song “Lift Me Up”?
Jason: Oh yeah, I don’t think that ever goes away. I think when we see these guys up close, certainly with me and KISS, it triggers these memories that can only be from your youth. When you see them up close like that it just takes you right back and it is such a trip. I still feel that way, I’m like “Holy Shit, I’m actually talking to Gene Simmons right now”. It’s a little surreal and I actually try to remind myself….”Put yourself back to that moment where you had their posters ALL over your wall as a younger kid” which sort helps me enjoy those moments even more.
LRI: Now you’re out on these Mayhem dates and you’re seeing the fans faces light up to your stuff. Does that “15 year old kid feeling” enter your head then too?
Jason: Totally, and it’s really fantastic because I was such a huge music fan growing up. I think that makes me treat our fans with extra special love and care because I know it is so easy to make them happy. I know what kind of little things you can do to make them happy which makes it hard NOT to do those little things.
Jason Hook- 2013 Mayhem Festival- Detroit, MI
LRI: This is not your first time on the Mayhem tour visiting these cities, for a lot of fans seeing FFDP on the tour has become something of a tradition. How is it for you going on this extended traveling summer camp tour…is it fun, is it work ? Is it a little bit of both?
Jason: The Mayhem tour is the best tour out there, in my opinion. I kinda call it the vacation tour. It’s like having a six week, all day backyard barbeque party (laughs). We actually brought our Harley’s out, all of us. So we’re towing around our motorcycles in the trailer. The first thing we do when we get up in the morning is get up and go to Starbucks on our bikes and it’s really awesome.
LRI: What time do you wake up? Around 2 p.m.?
Jason: It gets a little later as the tour progresses. I try to wake up at a reasonable hour. I’m still on the civilian schedule when the tour kicks off and wake up at 8 or 9 but it seems that the longer the tour goes on and the later you stay up at night, that changes.
LRI: Five Finger’s plan of putting out a full album and then following it up a short time later with another full album sounds like a good idea to me with short attention spans being what they are and fans wanting as much music as possible….as a fan you feel like you are getting a bit more. Also it seems like the band is taking even more chances with tracks like “Mama Said Knock You Out” and the guest appearances, does right now feel like the right time to sort of throw caution to the wind and do exactly as you please, band wise?
Jason: Yep. We are actually just hellbent on having a little more fun with it, having guest appearances and segues and doing whatever we feel like doing on these albums. We have a couple gold records now and the immediate pressure is off as far as seeing if we can sell records. Certainly everyone wants to do well and nobody wants to fail but it’s always interesting to branch out and have some fun and do exactly what we feel like as opposed to offering up another ten straight forward metal or rock songs. I think you will see that on these records, there is a little something extra, another level of experimentation and fun to go along with the rock.
Five Finger Death Punch- 2013
LRI: One of the good things of having that stable fanbase is the ability to try things and FFDP fans are fiercely loyal. It seems like as the band’s star has risen the fans have gotten even more loyal and the naysayers on the internet or nonbelievers have gotten more vocal as the successes stack. Is that polarization, the extreme love or hate from people evidence that you’re striking a nerve or is that something you even pay attention to?
Jason: It doesn’t affect me either way. I’m doing exactly what I wanna be doing in this business and in life in general and there aren’t too many people who can say that. It’s fine with me, I think it would be nice to be globally accepted by everyone across the board but I think that as soon as you achieve a certain amount of success or popularity people do become divided or polarized. I mean, a lot of people knocked Michael Jackson when he wore the glove but he didn’t care, you know what I’m saying??
LRI: Going back to Gene, he is famous for saying the secret to success is to offend the greatest number of people. Ruffling feathers pays off in the long run.
Jason: Yeah, it’s okay. When KISS came out, I remember going to school my first day in fourth grade or fifth grade and wearing a KISS t-shirt and there were a couple of guys making fun of me because their older brothers were Led Zeppelin fans. I didn’t get it, I was like “How do you NOT like KISS?” and they were like “Oh, we like real music”. For some reason it wasn’t cool to like KISS but you know what? KISS is very successful and they make a lot of people happy and that’s all I wanna do. I wanna be happy and I wanna make other people happy. All the people who don’t wanna be a part of it or don’t wanna enjoy it should just stay away.
LRI: Do you think that the band’s lyrics reinforce that “Don’t put me down, don’t bring me down” line of thinking and that’s part of why the fans embrace FFDP so much?
Jason: Yeah, I think so. All of our lyrics come from a real place, stem from real things. The stories are about things that are happening with us or things that are happening with Ivan (FFDP vocalist) and if anyone else happens to feel the same or relates to them, I think that reality is what resonates with them. Because it is not just unfocused aggression, it is about real stuff. I like the idea of “Lift Me Up” because it’s about staying positive in a seemingly negative environment and I think other people can feel that too.
LRI: Thanks for taking a few minutes to talk with us and good luck with the albums and tour, you’re gonna be out there for quite a while aren’t you?
Jason: Oh yeah, we are just getting started. It’s going to be a fun ride.