Five Finger Death Punch has taken their share of knocks while fighting their way to the top of the charts. The Las Vegas-based metal band now has three gold records – 2007’s The Way of the Fist, 2009’s War Is The Answer and 2011’s American Capitalist – and their latest, The Wrong Side of Heaven and the Righteous Side of Hell Vol. 1, debuted at Number Two this summer while they co-headlined the massive Mayhem Festival. But none of it has come easy. Battling their way out of Los Angeles’ cutthroat rock scene, where each of the band’s founding members saw multiple past projects fall by the wayside, 5FDP have always made music about toughness: physical, emotional, spiritual, and financial. Yet even with all their success the band’s demons aren’t behind them as frontman Ivan Moody recently revealed his ongoing struggles with alcoholism right as the band prepared for the release of their second new album this year: The Wrong Side of Heaven and the Righteous Side of Hell Vol. 2 (due out Nov. 19). Just days after launching their fall headlining tour, Recoil talked with 5FDP drummer Jeremy Spencer about why the band decided to release two new discs this year, why he decided to write an autobiography about his own history with addiction, and why our troops overseas throw down some of the craziest mosh pits he’s ever seen.
Recoil: You guys just kicked off your headlining tour. After doing the Mayhem tour this summer, how does it feel to be out doing your own tour now?
Jeremy Spencer: It’s really great. When it’s your show you get to have all the production that you want. More set time; stuff like that, so we get to play more material, and new material off the new record which is cool. So, so far so good. Last night was sold out. Tonight is sold out. Everyone’s enthusiastic, and we’re trying to continue this thing, and get it rolling.
R: What was your favorite moment from this summer’s Mayhem tour?
JS: Uh, I always like playing the drum solo. I get a couple minutes just to let loose, and I get to rise up on that riser that elevates up like sixteen feet in the air, so I always like doing that. That was really cool. And I always like seeing other bands, too. That was a lot of fun. It’s just overall good times at the Mayhem Festival.
R: Yeah, and you guys have such a history with Mayhem, playing the first one on the side stage back in 2008. How do you look back on that first Mayhem now, and all your experiences with the festival?
JS: Well I look back at the Mayhem Festival, that’s when I notice a really substantial growth in band popularity. We had a song out called “Never Enough” at the time  and it was Top Ten on radio, and the buzz started catching on. We were playing two or three o’clock in the afternoon, no lights, no production, but the crowd was into it, and that was a big thing for us in terms of just people knowing who the band was. So, I’m grateful that we got to do that first Mayhem because it helped propel us to where we are now.
R: You guys have always brought out a bigger and more badass stage show every time you’ve toured. What should fans expect from what you’ll have onstage with you this time?
JS: Well we always try to outdo ourselves, and I don’t want to give away anything specific, so just come and check it out. We always try to aim for shows that when you leave you go, ‘Wow, man, I was there! You have to go check this out; it was awesome!’
R: How much fun do you guys have plotting out just what your stage set up will be like?
JS: It’s great, but it’s awful stressful because you want to make it good and more critical, and we want it to work. [Laughs] Like it’s got to physically work and financially work, and everything. It’s cool, but I like it better when we’re finally up and running; and we are, and now we just get to enjoy playing with it every day.
R: You’ve announced that you’ll be releasing your new album, The Wrong Side of Heaven and the Righteous Side of Hell Vol. 2 on Nov. 19. How much do you plan to premiere from that disc on this current tour? How much will you balance material from both of your new discs this year with all the material you have to pull from now?
JS: Yeah, like you said Vol. 2 comes out Nov. 19, and we are playing a song, which is the first song and single off the record, a song called “Battleborn,” and we are playing some songs off Vol. 1 as well as some of the older hits. We just try to keep it well balanced. We don’t want to bombard people with too much new stuff. They’re there because of the songs that they’ve already grown to like, from the past or whatever. So we try to balance it. We definitely get some stuff off the new record, but you don’t want to focus solely on the new record because people will be disappointed that they didn’t get to hear songs that they came to hear, you know.
R: What’s your favorite song off the new album to play live?
JS: Probably… I like “Lift Me Up,” the first single [off Vol. 1]. That’s just a lot of fun to play, but we’re certainly playing more songs, which I won’t give away right now. Anything new is fun, but I enjoy playing all of it. We always wrote songs that we wanted to listen to, so it’s not like I don’t like those old songs. It’s just the newness of the new stuff is fresh and it’s great.
R: When you first started writing for these albums, I’ve read that you guys wrote more on the road leading into this album than you had before. How do you think writing on the road led you to coming up with so many songs and give them the kind of energy they have?
JS: Well I don’t know if they’re more energetic or whatever. We wanted to keep our creative muscle going, because when you stop using that, it’s tough to rev it up again. And then when you have album deadlines… we always want to be prepared. And then there’s a lot of down time on the road, when you’re not doing press and stuff, or playing the shows, you’ve got hours to sit around, so we figured we might as well put it to good use, because we always like to be working. So if we’d ever got inspired we’d get in the portable studio and lay down ideas, and when we came off the road we had a handful of good ones. And then we went into the studio really focused and hungry to record, and then we got up to twenty-four, twenty-five songs. So then it was tough deciding which ones were going to make the record. We didn’t want to take any of them off because we felt they fit so well together, and they’re so well-rounded as a body of work that we decided, ‘Hey, you know what, let’s make it two albums.’ So that’s what we did.
R: Yeah, I’d read that when you guys were first coming up with the you wanted to release both discs on the same day as two sides to the same album. Why did you ultimately decide to stagger the release of each disc across this year?
JS: Yeah, twenty or twenty-five songs at one time is a lot of information for the listener to digest and process, so we decided to stagger release them that way so it’s a little bit more – it’s not so much to have to take in at one time.
R: Vol. 1 had a ton of guests on it from Rob Halford, obviously, on “Lift Me Up,” to Jamey Jasta, Max Cavelera, Maria Brink, and Tech N9ne. Why did you decide to work with so many different people?
JS: It was cool. It all just started lining up at the same time. Ivan would come up with, like, ‘Hey, we should try to get this guy to guest vocal on this song!’ And we’d try it and they’d agree to do it. [Laughs] So many of them we’ve been friends with, or we’ve known or toured with for years, and seemed really to just all line up perfectly. And to have somebody like Rob Halford on your album is a dream come true. That was an incredible moment for me as far as accomplishments, musically, in my career, because I’ve been a fan of his work my whole life, from when I was a kid until now.
R: What was it like having him come out to record with you guys in Vegas in person?
JS: Well, I mean, it’s awesome, you get to see a guy who is incredible at his craft and work, and he was just fast and efficient, and then we got to go out to dinner with him and hang out and get to know him as a person. He’s just this super humble, nice guy. Very intelligent, very down to earth, and he’s actually a fan of the band. So it was a great overall experience.
R: What did it mean to you as a band to have Vol. 1 debut at Number Two [on the Billboard 200] when it came out in July?
JS: Oh, it was awesome. Any time heavy music gets recognized on that kind of a scale, it helps to open the door for all kinds of other bands that are heavier and stuff like that. For people to buy our record in this day and age, when people really aren’t buying records – they’re either stealing them or downloading them for free or whatever – it’s an honor, we’re grateful, and we don’t take it for granted. I’m just thrilled that people are into the band. It’s given me a career. It’s awesome.
R: With all three of your previous records going Gold and Vol. 1 doing sell, what do you say to all the people who say that nobody buys albums, especially metal albums, anymore? Clearly your fans have proved that wrong.
JS: Well, I mean if they want to look on my wall there’re a couple big plaques hanging, so somebody’s buying our record. [Laughs] Overall sales are down for everyone, without a doubt, and the Internet has done that to the industry. But you have to adapt, and it is what it is, and you just try to make the best record that you can, and the records that you make are honest, and hope that people buy them. Get out there, get in their faces, do shows, interact with them. Do whatever you can to sell your record. It’s tough, but you’ve got to do it.
R: Yeah, that seems to have been your approach since day one, just getting out and playing for as many people in as many places as you can, just doing hundreds of shows every year. Do you think that continues to be the groundwork that helps you continue to get even bigger and bigger now?
JS: Um, yeah, every time you can get in front of people who haven’t heard you, or may have heard you, they can spread the word. Social media is a big part of it, which we try to interact with fans online, and any time we can meet fans we try to do it. Any time you can meet people or be exposed to people, you just have to do it because there are so many people trying to do the same thing.
R: You guys have built a lot of personal connections with our troops, having done two tours with the USO, playing shows in Iraq and around the Middle East. What did it mean to you personally to do those USO shows and be able to support the troops in that way?
JS: That was awesome. A lot of people don’t really know what happens over there, and what those guys and gals go through. They sacrifice a lot for us, so when we went there to play it was like they were so excited because they don’t get a lot of entertainment. Those are some of the craziest mosh pits I ever saw! [Laughs] People were jumping into the pit with like their guns on; it was crazy! I had a blast. We really enjoyed the whole process, and I’m sure we’ll do it again. We’ve done it a couple of times, and any time we can we do it, so I’m sure it will happen in the future as well.
R: You guys just released a preview video for “Battleborn” featuring footage from the video game Battlefield 4. Why did you guys want to premiere the song that way? Do you guys play games like Battlefield while you’re on the tour bus?
JS: You know what, I’m gonna have to get a copy of that, because I’m definitely curious. It looks cool from the trailer, so I hope to play it for sure. And yeah, sometimes I play video games, but we’re really trying to work and get stuff done for the business [while on the road]. But, yeah, I’m gonna check that out.
R: Since we’re based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, I also wanted to ask about how I’ve read that you grew up out here in the Midwest, in Indiana, and you guys have always made a point of playing not just the big cities, but places like Grand Rapids. What does it mean to you to play in smaller towns?
JS: I love it, man. I love the little towns. It’s fun to just walk around and soak up the vibe, and the weather’s perfect right now. I like playing everywhere, but there’s just a vibe about small towns. I grew up in one, and everyone’s real nice and respectful, and some of the smaller markets are great shows for us.
R: Even though the band started in L.A. and you’re based out of Las Vegas now, how do you think growing up in the Midwest influenced you as a musician?
JS: Well it made me grounded. It made me hungry, because I worked really hard practicing and stuff. And then I had to ultimately just make a decision about what I wanted to do with my life, and I gave up everything and moved out West where I thought the music scene was. It took a lot of years of struggle to finally have a breakthrough. A lot of bands that didn’t go all the way, and finally Death Punch happened and we learned a lot along the way. All of us were in different bands before Death Punch, trying to make a breakthrough, and it finally happened for all of us in Death Punch, and I don’t take any of it for granted. I wouldn’t change one second of the journey because it was all part of the process that led me to where I am right now.
R: I’ve read that you’ve written and are going to release an autobiography that celebrates your sobriety that you have now. For you, how do you look back on that experience, and what was it like going through those times again when you were writing the book?
JS: Well I basically started writing the book right after I got out of rehab, kind of as a therapeutic thing for me. I just started writing every day, and it started to shape up into something that was actually pretty decent. [Laughs] And then it caught the attention of Harper Collins Publishing Company, and they decided that they wanted to release it. So it’s basically kind of like an inspirational story for anyone that’s decided to be a musician, or anyone that’s struggled with addiction, basically my whole journey of my whole life of trying to become a successful musician while struggling with addictions and things like that, and how I’ve overcome them and dealt with it, and had a breakthrough with the band. So it basically covers my whole life’s journey.
R: Ivan has also recently revealed publicly that he’s also struggling with addiction. How much have you been able to support him with what he’s been going through with that?
JS: We all try to do what we can, but ultimately it’s up to the individual in whether they want to do the work, and if they’re really serious about doing it or not. You can’t really make anyone doing anything. All you can really do is offer your support and be as respectful as you can and be as encouraging as you can. You know, some days are better than others, and I think we’re in a pretty good place right. I think that we’ve all grown stronger as people, and we’re where we are, and I’m grateful to be where we are.
R: Looking ahead to the future, with the two new records, how do you think you’ll approach future singles? Will you bounce back and forth between the two?
JS: Yeah, basically we’ll just alternate back and forth between the records so that we can continue to promote each album. When the time comes we’ll pick the single. We don’t have it all mapped out yet. But right now we just released “Battleborn” which is doing pretty well on radio already. So we’re happy.
R: After this tour ends later this fall, you’ll be heading to Europe with Avenged Sevenfold and then you’re going to end the year playing in Russia. What are you guys most excited about getting to play in Russia? What do you have planned for 2014?
JS: Yeah, Russia of course I’m excited. I’ve never been there and we haven’t played there, so it’s going to be a great opportunity. And 2014 we’ll be touring all over the place, so just touring, touring, touring, my friend.
Five Finger Death Punch will hit the Orbit Room Oct. 6 and The Fillmore in Detroit Oct. 8. The Wrong Side of Heaven and the Righteous Side of Hell Vol. 2 comes out Nov. 19. Vol. 1 is in stores and online now. For more, click over to fivefingerdeathpunch.com.