Five Finger Death Punch releases its new album, Got Your Six, Friday. Formed in 2005, 5FDP has released five albums that have sold millions of copies; four of their releases have gone gold in the U.S. The Wrong Side of Heaven and The Righteous Side of Hell, Volumes 1 and 2 both debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard album chart within a four-month period in 2013, spawning three No. 1 radio hit singles: “Lift Me Up” featuring Rob Halford of Judas Priest, “Battle Born,” and “Wrong Side of Heaven,” the video to which has more than 38 million views.
The band headlined North American arenas to great success last fall, and is about to co-headline the Fueled By Monster Energy tour with Papa Roach, featuring support from In This Moment and From Ashes to New. Bass player Chris Kael made time to speak to Uproxx about the new album, the band’s rabid fans and their ongoing support of the men and women serving in the U.S. military.
What does the title of the new album, Got Your Six, mean?
It’s a military term that is talking about having someone’s back. Imagine you’re flying in formation, in the Air Force, and then imagine the face of a clock. Twelve o’clock is directly ahead of you and six o’clock is right behind you, so it basically means that the person behind you has your back.
We’ve had huge support from our fans over these years; we’ve had all kinds of messages from our fans saying that we’ve helped them get through whatever troubles they may have been having. And though there may have been some people saying that we’ve helped, I like to think that we were the soundtrack to them getting themselves through whatever kind of trouble they were going through. In the end, they’ve got our back and we’ve got theirs, and it made sense for us to go with that since this is our sixth record.
5FDP has a very special relationship with your fans, maybe more so than most artists.
It’s a new day and age in heavy metal rock and roll. Before Death Punch, I was a fan of music, and I’m a fan of music now, and I’ll continue to be one after Death Punch is long gone. It’s a nice, tight-knit community, and when we’re doing shows, if I want to see another band that’s playing with us, I’ll throw on a hoodie, tuck my beard inside, pull the hood up and go into the crowd to watch. So, if you see a tall shadowy looking figure in a hoodie out there, it’s a good chance it’s probably me checking out the opening bands. And we’re 100 percent approachable; people will recognize us and we’ll say hello and take pictures with them.
Your fans are called “Knuckleheads,” is that correct?
Oh yeah! “That’s our knuckleheads out there!” We have very supportive people who come out and see the shows – you can see our attitude, as well, interacting with people on our social networks every day – Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, any of our individual pages that you follow is all run by us and comes directly from us. It’s not like we have some PR people putting out bullet points on our social media; it’s all us. We’re very actively involved. People think that because we’re on a major label that we have a bunch of people running everything for us, but we are very hands-on, very DIY. Very punk rock in that spirit. Everything that comes out has our hands all over it, even the merchandise that we put out.
You have a lot of fans in the military, and 5FDP has been very supportive of U.S. servicemen and women, and veterans. How has this effected you personally, and what can you share about this special relationship with the armed services?
Well, all of us in the band have family that either have served or are serving, so we have close personal connections with our family in the military. The main thing that made us aware of the effect we were having on those in the military was the response from the crowds at shows. [Singer] Ivan [Moody] would always ask, “How many people have served or are serving?” and a ton of hands would go up. We’ve done USO tours, from Kuwait to Okinawa, all kinds of shows at bases, and the reaction we get there is incredible. We were told that once they announce these shows, everybody there is waiting to see us. It’s kind of an organic thing that, whatever it is we’re doing musically, has touched a nerve with those people who are serving.
The band demonstrated this with a video campaign a couple of years ago.
We have a unique opportunity with our audiences to raise awareness and be a positive voice and shine a light on things like PTSD and veterans coming home from war and being homeless. So, on “The Wrong Side of Heaven” video that we did, we were able to do a fundraiser and ended up raising a quarter of a million dollars to help with PTSD and homeless veterans. Our job is easy – we have a big voice and a big platform – those boys and girls have a far more difficult time than we do, so any time we can use our voice in a positive manner, we’re going to step up and do it.
Do you build that into your tour cycle, playing for the USO?
It depends on what our schedule is and what they have available, but we will go out of our way to get over there – wherever – and play and make them feel like they’re back home, if even just for a day, to take their minds off of whatever it is they’re going through while they’re serving. We have some shows we’re lining up, but with stuff like that, for security purposes, they don’t let us talk about it at all. But we will continue to do those, for sure. So, if you’re serving out there, sit tight and we’ll be out there to entertain you shortly.
How is the new record different for 5FDP?
The new record was written with the intent of playing these songs live. We’ve got some huge hits with “Wrong Side of Heaven,” “Coming Down,” and “Remember Everything,” but that’s kind of slower fare. With this album, we kind of wanted to focus on hard-hitting, heavy stomping four-on-the-floor metal anthems, basically. “Jekyll and Hyde” was the first single we had come out, and one of the interesting things about that one is that the verses were actually taken from a voicemail recording that Ivan left on [guitarist] Jason Hook’s telephone. And the response so far has been overwhelmingly positive; like I said, we do read those Facebook comments!
What are some standout tracks for you personally?
One of my favorite songs on the album is “No Sudden Movement.” I just love that one. It’s got kind of an updated thrash feel to it. I grew up listening to Testament and Forbidden and all kinds of stuff like that, so it’s nice for us to touch those sort of vibes. “Boots and Blood” is one of those anthemic metal songs that’s going to be one of the songs that goes down really well live. I’m looking forward to seeing the pit when we play that one! I don’t think there’s a better song to get into a pit for than a song called “Boots and Blood!”
Lamb of God (VII: Sturm und Drang) just debuted at No. 3 and Disturbed (Immortalized) at No. 1 on the Billboard charts for their recent albums. Do you see this as a popular resurgence of metal, and how do you think Got Your Six will do in its first week?
As far as metal coming back… that would infer that metal has gone away, and metal has never gone away. Metal lost support from outlets like MTV, but, then again, MTV plays no music. As it is, it’s about reality television shows. But anybody who has ever gone to a metal show recently can tell you that it has never gone away. We see the crowds.
We’ve had two Billboard No. 2 albums and I think a No. 3, as well, so with Got Your Six, I really want to call the Knuckleheads to arms! Let’s get this thing to No. 1 – it would make my own boyhood dream come true of having a No. 1 Billboard debut. We’re very fortunate that, at a time when people aren’t buying as many records as they used to back in the day, we still have a very supportive fan base hitting iTunes or buying physical copies of our music in record stores, and I fully expect that we’re going to come out swinging and join our brothers in Disturbed with a No. 1 album, as well.