After the release of 2013’s Wrong Side of Heaven volumes one and two, rock collective Five Finger Death Punch strikes back with its latest, Got Your Six, which bows at No. 2 on the Billboard 200. To honor the LP, lead guitarist Jason Hook and guitarist Zoltan Bathory speak on the thought process behind their new project.
Why did you release Got Your Six so closely after the Wrong Side of Heaven albums?
Jason Hook: Well, I think we’re overachievers by nature. We can’t sit still. I think we have a problem; even when we have time off there’s no time off. We’re just doing stuff all the time. I think that’s one of the things I really love about this band is we’re just motivated to keep grinding, and it’s not work. It’s just what we do. We looked at our schedule, and we only have a certain amount of breaks, like Christmas, spring. Those are kind of dormant periods when we’re not on the road. So we’re talking to management and we’re having discussions, “If you guys really want to put the pedal to the metal, you might want to think about going in and at least getting something done during that break. Even if it’s half a record, it puts you half ahead of schedule.” Well, we’re just so used to grinding these things out, we got the whole record done and that’s the way it goes.
Zoltan Bathory: It’s pretty funny because we just did two albums, right? But we all came in excited. “Let’s do another recording!” Everybody was writing, everybody has something to say, so we came in with a lot of energy. It’s a more high-energy record.
Do things just flow out of the band?
Hook: Yeah. I mean, I have a whole studio here in my house. I’m always writing and recording music anyway, so at any given time I’m ready to go. I’m the kind of studio rat of the group. You can never have enough, soon enough, so I just learned early on to always be preparing so when it comes time to pull the trigger we could go in and track eight songs pretty much right out of the gate and start writing a few more and, boom, the record’s finished.
Was there pressure on 5FDP after the success of your past two records?
Bathory: Well, the pressure is self-inflicted, really. We have a lot of fans that are expecting a certain quality and expecting certain things from us. That relationship between us and them is important, but the pressure is not necessarily coming from there. The pressure’s coming from us. “How do we make it better? How do we still keep stepping up. How do we develop as songwriters? How do we put on a bigger show?” It’s sort of a democracy within the band; we vote on something, and if there was a tie ever there is a producer. So we really go through every song and really beat it up and everything. We do actually vote on it, like, “What do you think, A or B?” That’s just what happens.
What’s the story behind your single “Jekyll & Hyde”?
Hook: That was interesting. Ivan [Moody], our singer, he’s not an electronically savvy individual. He doesn’t really have any devices that capture ideas in the middle of the night. So I told him, “Whenever we’re in a record-making mode, I’ll leave my voicemail on so whenever you come up with an idea call me and leave it on my voicemail.” So every once in a while I’d wake up in the morning and there’d be two messages from Ivan, and I’d hear these songs ideas he would just leave on my voicemail. So “Jekyll & Hyde” ended up being one of those ideas and we were looking for another song to record and I was going through these voicemails hoping that something would pique my interest, and that was one of his and I went, “Wow, that’s really cool.” So I wrote a little music around it and I sent it to the band. When we got to recording it in the studio, the original voicemail was still in the song as the first verse, and we started talking about, “Well, he should re-do that or re-record it or write more words.” Then it turned into, “Well, why don’t we just leave it,” ’cause how many times have you had an iPhone voicemail be part of the lead vocal? So that’s the real deal; what you’re hearing is the voicemail I got at three in the morning.
Do you consider Got Your Six as a modest achievement after releasing two albums nearly simultaneously?
Bathory: That’s funny. Ivan was like, “I don’t have to do 30 [lyrics]?” That last one was a lot of work. Ivan has a hard job; you have to write 15 songs and you can’t always write about the same thing. The lyrical themes have to make sense. One day we were talking about it with Rob Halford, and we told him we were doing a double record and was like, “Oh my god, that’s a lot of lyrical stuff. Call me when you have 25 for me!” I think the vocalist has the biggest challenge; he doesn’t have to come up with a new melody like on the guitar, but you have to have something to say, and how many things can you say after five, six albums?
An edited version of this article originally appeared in the Sept. 26 issue of Billboard.