Exclusive Interview with Chris Kael – Bassist with Five Finger Death Punch

ck2Many of our Maine Music News regulars are well aware that Five Finger Death Punch will be co-headling with Rob Zombie for this year’s Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival at Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion on July 17th. What a show that is going to be! To start the celebration a little early, MMN caught up with 5FDP’s bassist, Chris Kael, for a chat about music, touring, and pugs. This is a tough job, folks, but somebody has to have the fun – and we’re happy to do it!

MMN – So here you sit getting ready for the Mayhem Festival Tour to start on Saturday, co headlining with Rob Zombie. Are you excited to get back out on that tour again?

CK – Oh my god, Mayhem is the one that everyone looks forward to each year. All the way back in January, people were already hitting us up on Facebook, and Twitter, asking, “Are you doing Mayhem?” So, not only are we looking forward to doing Mayhem, but literally that is the one concert that everybody seems to want to go to all year long.

MMN – Do you ever get time to go check out any of the side stage bands sets during Mayhem? Who are you looking forward to seeing play on this tour?

CK – Oh ya! I am the guy that is always out watching the other bands. Be it from the side stage and sometimes I will actually come out in the crowd and catch that vibe a little bit as well. However, ya, I will be watching everybody out there. I’m looking forward to seeing Battlecross, Amon Amarth, Mastadon, and Machine Head. I will be out there all the time checking out the bands. That is one of the cool things about Mayhem – being able to see a bunch of bands all in one spot and kind of picking and choosing whom you want to see that day.

MMN – You guys had Battlecross with you last year on the Trespass America Tour.

CK – Dude, their new drummer Kevin Talley, oh my god, the dude is brutal! He played with Dying Fetus, Misery Signals, and Chimera as well. Incredible drummer, the dude is amazing. I liked the other guy they had, but this guy is top notch professional. Having him is going to step up Battlecross quite a bit.

MMN – Are you seeing any new trends with metal/hard rock music that you think are important or exciting?

CK – As far as trends go, it seems to me things are going quite a bit heavier and focused on the metal side of things. For a while, radio was going in to more of a hard rock kind of thing, which I have nothing against. However, it is nice to see the change. Take the new Stone Sour album, it has some heavier tracks on it. Back in 2002, those guys had the Spiderman song “Bother” which is admittedly pretty light. The first couple of singles on the last two albums have been pretty hard. I hope that is a trend that is going to continue. I am a big fan of the really heavy stuff. Being able to interject some of the really heavy stuff into some sort of commercial viability is something that I am hoping is a new trend.

MMN – You just finished a European tour, where you not only played the legendary Download Festival at Castle Donington, but 5FDP opened up a few nights for KISS. I know you are a huge KISS fan. Can you talk a little about both Donington and working with KISS?

CK – Donington was amazing! One of the biggest crowds we have ever played for. I am guessing there were probably 90,000 people out there. Incredible pits, I think at one point I looked out and there were four different circle pits going on right out in front of us. There were fans singing along, doing the Five Finger Death Punch chat. It is an amazing feeling to go that far away from home and still hear that familiar chant “Five Finger Death Punch, Five Finger Death Punch.” It is incredible knowing that the music that you are creating is having that sort of reach, even all the way across the pond.

As far as KISS, Gene Simmons is the reason I am a musician in the first place. I saw him on a kids show when I was three or four. To have that feeling when I saw him first and being at that young age knowing that is what I wanted to do when I grew up and then being able to shake his hand as his opening band in Munich and Berlin, Germany. Full circle. That is what that event was for me. Jason Hook is friends with Eric Singer from back in their time when they both played in Alice Cooper’s band. Eric invited us to watch KISS from the side of the stage. We got to watch all the happenings, we got to see that big stage show they have. Felt every concussion bomb. Felt the heat from the flames. All while watching them from the side stage. It was incredible.

MMN – You still have that grin on your face don’t ya?

CK – Oh ya!! Completely! That is never going away. Perma-Grin!

MMN – What can we look forward to on this tour? Any special treats? Possibly a collaboration with Maria Brink of In this Moment on “Anywhere But Here?”

CK – We are talking about it. We start rehearsals tomorrow, and we will get everything nailed down. There is always a chance of doing some collaboration, particularly when you have that many bands out there on the road. We are all friends so there is a good chance you may see something like that out there.

What you can definitely plan on is that we are going to be up there playing a heavy Mayhem-type set to get the crowd going and to keep those circle pits inspired.

MMN – What do you do to keep from going stir crazy while on tour?

CK – A lot of working out. I always have to try to find an hour or two to get away. Be it hitting a gym, doing P90X, or Insanity. I also spend a lot of time on the social networking sites to keep people updated on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I like to keep in touch with the fans out there on the road as well. Particularly with Instagram since it gives them backstage access through photos and captions. Going into it, I always wanted to make sure that I was able to reach out to the fans. With technology the way that it is, using social networking sites you can keep everybody up to date and develop a personal relationship with each fan.

Those are the big two for me, always trying to find time to work out and keep the fans updated via the social networking sites.

MMN – What is your take on social media and it seemingly providing an opportunity for anyone to publish their opinion, the good, the bad, and even the hateful?

CK – I joined the band two years ago, and of the important things for me when joining the band was to utilize social networking in a way that would positively affect lives.

For me, back when I was growing up, to be able to reach out to Gene Simmons to say ‘Hey man, I really like that song, love to see you in Kentucky,” and for him to have a one word response or to “like” that status, some sort of reaction, I cannot image the effect that would have had on me. Not that I am comparing myself to Gene, but there are people that are huge fans of the band, and it is great for us to be able to reach out directly to those people and positively affect lives in whatever way we possibly can.

Even today, every single day Facebook has the birthday section on the side. Every day, if I have internet access, I go through that list and wish everyone a happy birthday. It takes just a little bit to get my day started, I answer some questions, do the birthday section, and that goodwill goes a long way and spreads a bit of positivity throughout the world.

MMN – 5FDP has a new album “The Wrong Side of Heaven and the Righteous Side of Hell Vol. 1” coming out on July 30th. Considering that we live in a digital music world where fans seem to gravitate to singles, can you talk a little bit about the decision making process that went into deciding to do a double album and release it in two phases?

CK – There really was no decision-making process. It just happened naturally. We got in the studio and initially cranked out 14 songs. Everything was flowing nicely, and we got to the 14 and thought, let’s keep on pushing and see what we can get. Then we ended up getting up to 26-27 songs, all great songs. We tried to figure out, what do we do with these? Do we hold on to them? Do we cut some of them? The problem was we loved everything we had come up with. So, we figured that the fans are worth it, and they are going to enjoy this. Originally, we thought of just releasing two albums where they both came out on the same day. However, we decided to stagger it a bit so it is not all thrown in at one time. You get the first release on July 30th. You can actually pre-order that right now on fivefingerdeathpunch.com. We have all kinds of different packages available. We have lunch boxes, bobble heads, all kinds of different stuff thrown in with these advance pre-orders. The second album will come out later during the year.

When we released American Capitalist, as soon as it came out, like four days later, everyone was saying how great it was, but they wanted more.

Rather than trying to force feed everybody all at once, we are giving them the first album on July 30th and the next one later in the year.

MMN – The first single off the new album “Lift Me Up” has exploded on the charts. Can you talk a little bit about this song, and how it was working with Rob Halford?

CK – Working with Rob Halford was another of those surreal experiences. I don’t think it actually hit me until we did the song live with Rob Halford at the Golden Gods Awards earlier this year. Literally, once I got off stage I walked over and my manager was standing right there and I said, “I just sang backup vocals for Rob Halford!” It is amazing the things that are happening to me now. If I could go back and tell 13 years old me “Relax, everything is going to work out just fine, it is all coming together.” Full circle moments, so many of them.

Working with Rob was great. We wrote the song, and then we heard that Rob Halford had mentioned that Five Finger Death Punch was one of his favorite new bands. We figured we would see if we could get him to sing on the new single. We sent him a message through management and initially he declined it. However, the next day, after he listened to the song he got back to us directly and said, “Hey, I really like this song, it’s a great track, and I want to lend my voice to it.” We all jumped around and high-fived each other and looked forward to the experience.

MMN – Can you talk a little bit about your musical influences?

CK – For me it is kind of all over the place. If you are talking about bass player influences, clearly Gene Simmons is a huge one for me, both performance and playing-wise. I have learned a lot from watching him. Cliff Burton, obviously his melodic style, just the way his playing complimented the guitars of James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett. Ian Hill from Judas Priest is another, I am a huge fan of his. He is a very underrated bass player. I like that he writes for the song, and he makes the song drive forward. He may not be the flashiest player by any means, but he definitely works well within the song format.

Musically, most of the stuff I listen to when I am at home, on the road or working out, is generally really heavy stuff. This morning I was listening to Misery Index. Generally speaking, if it does not have some sort of yelling in it, then I am not into it. I have to have a lot of angry music to counterbalance the nice guy that I am. It keeps me being nice by listening to all that angry stuff.

MMN – Considering you mentioned being a nice guy, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that you are a dog lover and have two Five Finger Death Pugs. We have three pugs that I now refer to as the Maine Chapter of the Five Finger Death Pugs. Do you ever get to take the girls out on tour with you?

CK – Very nice, we have Five Finger Death Pugs all across Maine then, very cool! As far as taking them out on tour, they are both getting pretty old. Both are right around 13 years old. Roxy had back surgery a couple years ago. I don’t want to say she is bed ridden, but it is definitely more effort for her to walk around. I would love to take them out on tour but I don’t think they would like the travel that much. They are very much lap dogs that enjoy the air conditioning and the couch. I have one that can barely walk and one that can’t see. Combined between the two pugs, I have one working dog.

MMN – What is up with all the haters out there? Can you talk a little about that?

CK – In general, if you are doing something that inspires a reaction -whether it is love or hate – at least you are doing something that matters and gets a reaction. I would much rather do something that is polarizing than something that gets ignored. Death Punch is one of those bands that either you really love us, or you really hate us, and we will take both.

MMN – We have noticed over the years the seemingly open atmosphere your band, and metal bands in general, have with fans, media, and photographers. Can you talk a bit about this?

CK – I think it all has something to do with the music itself. We are all fans of the music. I have been out to shows, bonded with fans, spent time in the circle pits, did stage diving, and even done crowd surfing. We have all been there. It is more of a community feel as compared to other genres. I don’t have a problem with other genres, but it is a different vibe with metal and hard rock. We are all of the same ilk, just some of us have gotten luckier and written songs that affect people and give us the opportunity to get up on the stage. That is the only difference. We are up on the stage rather than out in the crowd. Like I mentioned before, I still go out in the crowd at our shows and watch the bands right along the edge of the pit. That’s where you will find me.

MMN – Let me add that as a photographer, it is an absolute joy when a band works with us, as you do. It makes our job so much easier, and it is always fun making that connection with a band. Thank you!

CK – Well, you guys are kind of an extension of the fan at home that is not able to be at that show. By us interacting with you, you are pretty much the medium between us and the fan at home that does not get to experience that live show. We both have a very important job working together to give the person that is not able to be at that show a chance to experience that show as well. So, from us to you, thank you as well.

 

MMN – Man, YOU GET IT! You really get what we are doing, thank you! I have always felt that one of my jobs is to capture great images so people that can’t make the show or those that are in the back of the venue can see what is going on up front, and perhaps next time they will purchase a ticket up front so they too can be part of the experience.

CK – Exactly, and I will add that if you are up close, we are one of those bands that throw guitar picks, over and over again. You won’t get those from the lawn seats. If you work your way to the front, there is a good chance you are going to get a guitar pick from one of us. We toss them out as much as Kiss does.

MMN – That pretty much covers what I have for questions. I’m really looking forward to covering the show on July 17th here in Bangor. Let’s hope the weather is better than the last time you played in Maine. Man, did it rain that night! The water was up to my ankles in the photo pit, it was crazy wet! We are credentialed to come interview the band during Mayhem as well, and I have an 8×10 print for each of you (well except Jeremy, I could not get a clear shot of him with all those damn drums in the way) that I shot at the Scarborough show last year. I’m looking forward to meeting you. Cya in a few weeks.

CK – That is the story of Jeremy’s life. You are very welcome, Chris, and please pass along my love to Evil Robb as well. It was a pleasure Chris, and I will see you in Maine soon.

ck3

About the author

Christopher Joles

Christopher Joles

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Concert photography done through the eye of an award winning studio portrait artist. Chris can be found in photo pits throughout Maine and his wife Ann is usually not to far away writing a review of the show. Chris is also one of the house photographers for Waterfront Concerts and a freelance photographer for The Maine Edge. If you are looking for a freelance photographer to cover your band, feel free to email us . Rock On!! \m/ \m/