Exclusive Interview - Five Finger Death Punch's Chris Kael

Five Finger Death Punch is currently co headlining the Rock Star Energy Drink Mayhem Festival with Rob Zombie. Mayhem is one of the best tour out there. This years tour features Machine Head, Amon Amarth, Battlecross, Attika 7 to name a few. I got the chance to talk with Five Finger Death Punch’s Chris Kael about their new album “The Wrong Side of Heaven and the Righteous Side of Hell Vol 1” 

If you want to listen to the interview you can do so here:

Bob Zerull (BZ): Hey Chris how are you doing?

Chris Kael (CK): I’m good brother how are you?

BZ: I’m doing good thanks so much for taking the time to do this with me.

CK: No problem at all.

BZ: So Mayhem, how’s it going? Off to a good start?

CK: Yeah it’s been great, big crowds, lots of crazy pits fired up on the lawn, we’re about six dates into it at this point.

BZ: Last time I saw you guys at Mayhem, I think it was before you were in the band, but Ivan (Moody) said that when you came you were going to be headlining Mayhem and now here you are headlining with Rob Zombie, was that a pretty big deal for you guys?

CK: Oh yeah completely. As Death Punch has grown so has Mayhem. These guys started over on the 2 o clock in the afternoon right out in the middle of the sun doing 30 minute sets and kept on coming back. Once the buzz was built up from those afternoon shows they got the chance to do opening on the main stage which was actually the first time I saw Death Punch was at Mayhem, so it’s also a big deal to me to have actually seen them for the first time on Mayhem and now doing the coheadlining thing two and a half years later.

BZ: Do you get a chance to go check out the side stages?

CK: Oh yeah, all the time. I’m the guy that is always out there on the side of the stage watching my new bands; I’m still a fan after doing all these shows. I still love going out there feeling the vibe and watching the crowd. Sometimes I’ll even actually head out into the crowd, you can usually find me on the edge of the pit getting that energy right directly from the guys…love it.

BZ: How has that worked out for you, I’ve got to imagine you’ve been recognized?

CK: Oh yeah all the time it’s cool though I’m a fan. I was a fan before Death Punch and I’ll be a fan after Death Punch, I’ll always be out there.

BZ: You’ve been in the band for a couple of years now, at what point did you stop feeling like the new guy or have you?

CK: I don’t know honestly. I’m not one that really gets worked up. I’m pretty even keeled all the time. I’m not a real high or a real low guy at all. I’m just going through the middle and enjoying the ride. I don’t really know if there was an instance, I just kind of grew into it. Probably after the first festival shows that we did, because when I first joined we were doing some radio festivals over the summer. Once I got those out from underneath me then we started doing the Share the Wealth Tour with Hatebreed and I think at that point I really started to feel like a solid member of the band. I had all the chops down, was comfortable within the band. Yeah Share the Wealth was when I first started feeling like hey I’m actually doing this.

BZ: Every couple of years we get a new Death Punch record and this month we’re getting the newest one. This is your first album with the band, how was that experience for you?

CK: It was really really comfortable, very easy. The material was coming so strong right out the gate. We brought out a mobile recording studio with us on the Trespass America tour. We were already in writing mode, so it wasn’t like when we got in the studio we had to slowly get into writing mode, we were already in it going full swing. It was very very comfortable. You guys will hear once that new album comes out July 30th. There are some damn impressive songs, I don’t want to toot my own horn, but it’s the best Death Punch has done.

BZ: What is the bands songwriting process? Do you all do it separately; do you write as a group, do you have a designated songwriter?

CK: Basically the way the process works, the musicians individually write music. Every once in a while we’ll get together and bounce some ideas off, but generally speaking we’ve all got our own recording studios at home, so we’ll demo ideas, come up with stuff that we like and fire it off to the other guys. If it’s something that they feel sticks then we collectively work on it and get together a skeleton of a song. At that point once we’ve got the music all down we send that to Ivan and that’s where the icing on the cake really comes. If it’s a song that Ivan feels he can work on top of you know that’s what he’s going to do. If it’s a song that he doesn’t feel he can work on top of then it’s of no use. Musicians write all together, fire it off to Ivan, Ivan works his magic on it and then it becomes Death Punch at that point.

BZ: I was going to ask you when you found the time, because you’re constantly touring, but obviously you had the mobile studio, but you came up with enough material for two albums, was this planned or did it just happen?

CK: You know it happened really organically. Like I said we were already in writing mode and had a couple of skeletons out on the road. Once we got focused in the studio writing really began, we didn’t have the extra work of touring and doing the interviews that you normally do. You’re solely focused on writing that record and we were really all on fire; everybody was in a real good place. Ivan, you’ll hear it on the new record, angry as hell as always. He hates being in the studio, he loves getting out and playing and interacting with the fans and doing it live, but get him on a schedule and he’s already pissed off about that (laughs). You’ll hear the shear vitriol from not wanting to be locked up in a tiny room singing into a microphone and being on a schedule.

BZ: That’s funny, the new album features several special guests, but I want to know how you landed Rob Halford and at what point did it sink in that you were playing with a Golden God?

CK: We had written the song “Lift Me UP” and we thought it had that classic metal vibe to it like a Judas Priest kind of thing. We had heard in an interview that Rob Halford had said that Death Punch was one of his new favorite bands. We thought lets go ahead and throw it out to him and see what he says. What’s the worst that he’s going to say? No? Our management contacted his management. Initially it came back saying he didn’t have the time to do it because they were starting to work on new Judas Priest stuff right now. A few days later Rob Halford called us himself after he’d heard the track and was like, ‘I really like this song, I want to be a part of it, I’d love to help you guys out.’ A few days later he flew out to Vegas to our studio and we were working with him in the vocal booth just sitting back in awe knowing that Rob Halford was singing on a Death Punch song.

If I was able to go back and tell thirteen year old me that at some point Rob Halford would be singing on one of my records I’d have slapped myself and told myself I was stupid. It was cool in the studio, but when we got to the Golden God Awards in Los Angeles that’s when it really hit me. During rehearsals for that, as soon as we got off the stage I walked over to our manager and I was like, ‘I just sand back up vocals with Rob Halford from Judas Priest. It was really life affirming at that point, letting you know that you were in the right place at the right time and knowing that all the work that you’d done your whole life had gotten you to that moment right there. It was very special.

BZ: It’s cool to hear people who still have that fan mentality even after they’ve made it.

CK: To meet him and have him be so down to Earth, because that dude is an absolute legend and he’s completely in touch with who he is, no sort of rock star ego at all. We’ve seen other bands out there that haven’t done 1/20th of what Judas Priest has done with attitudes and to see Rob Halford out there on stage with us hanging out doing sushi with us afterwards and like I said no bullshit ego whatsoever, it was incredible. Definitely a role model for all of us.

BZ: It’s been pretty much nonstop since the fans have started to recognize who you are, I get to talk with a lot of young bands who are beating their heads against the wall just to get signed or get a big tour. As soon as they get that, it’s ten times harder to keep it going. Are you guys still in the process of keeping it going, because it seems like you’ve made it to the next level of headliner?

CK: Oh yeah, our work ethic is second to none. We’re always working out here. We try to do an 18-month cycle of record to record. We want to keep things fresh, keep it out there. We love touring. We’ve got a ton of dates planned this year. Looking at the upcoming schedule the dates that I’ve seen it seems like we’re touring more in the next six months then we did on all of “American Capitalist.” We’re really gearing up for a strong push with these two new albums coming out. The minute that you rest is the minute that everybody forgets you. You want to get out there and keep plugging away and hanging out with the fans, keeping things fresh, giving them new material. As long as we have the support of those knuckle heads out there we’re going to keep on pushing. We love the ride.

BZ: Social media played a big role for you getting into Death Punch and you continue to be a heavy presence on Twitter and Facebook, how much of that is for you and how much is for the fans?

CK: It’s equal give and take for me. I get as much out of it as I think the fans do. Going into this whole thing, I really had the mindset and I would think back to my 13-year-old self. Had I been able to reach out to say Gene Simmons from Kiss and say, ‘hey man I really like the record, you’re my favorite whatever’ and then have him give even just a one line response or like that comment whatever, how much that would have meant to me. I had that mentality going into this, not that I would ever compare myself to Gene Simmons, but Death Punch does have a lot of interactive fans that want to talk to us. Everyday the first thing I do when I wake up is jump on Facebook, jump on Twitter, Instagram and do that little bit of connecting with the fans. I’m very big on positively affecting lives. If I can do it little by little spreading that karma through social networking I feel like I’m making a difference everyday.

BZ: Have that presence opens you up to the Internet trolls is that something you have to deal with too much?

CK: Not too much. You definitely got people out there that talk a lot of smack but that’s enjoyable for me (laughs). It really is, I love it. Some of the stuff I’ve read on there is hilarious. You get a lot of repetition, but there are those little jewels out there that all of us will read them and be like, ‘that one is good, got us, nice.’ It’s entertaining for us. As long as people are talking we’re making a presence out there. It’s the moment that people stop talking that you realize it’s time to step it back up again.

BZ: Last question, you mentioned Gene Simmons, you recently got to play with Kiss. How did your 13-year-old self handle that one?

CK: (Laughs) It was crazy, we did three shows over in Europe with Kiss. This year alone three life goals were met and one of them I hadn’t even planned on. Number 1, Rob Halford singing with us on the new album, number 2 that very same day we were opening up for Metallica at the Golden Gods and number 3 we did three shows with Kiss in Europe. At this point with those three things crossed off the bucket list I’ve done pretty much everything I’ve ever dreamed possible so I’m excited to see where it’s going to go from here, because the roller coaster keeps ongoing up and you never know what’s going to happen next. Meeting those guys was incredible. Actually one of the best things about opening up for Kiss that Jason (Hook) is good friends with Eric Singer, the drummer from Kiss, they both played in Alice Cooper together. He already knew Eric and Eric actually invited us up to watch Kiss from the side of the stage. So we were right there with all the concussion bombs, all the flames, pyro underneath that new monster set they got. That was incredible being up there watching them.

 BYLINE: Bob Zerull is the Managing Editor of Zoiks! Online. He writes pop culture commentary, does interviews with bands, and reviews music and stand-up concerts. He also administers Zoiks! Online's Facebook page. Follow Bob on twitter at bzerull. Email Bob at bob@zoiksonline.com.
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