Exclusive Interview: Jason Hook from Five Finger Death Punch

By on April 5, 2011

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Jason Hook first made his mark in the early 90′s when his original band, MonkeyHead, got signed to Elektra Records out of NYC. In 1993, Jason relocated to Los Angeles to plant himself in an environment to pursue new, creative musical situations.

During this time, Jason worked on many different projects – one of them included an original film score for Blacktop Afternoon. Shortly thereafter, he was involved in an original project that would introduce him to drummer, Jeremy Spencer, in 1994. Together, the two began writing and recording material, some of which would end up being Jason’s 1st solo disc entitled, Safety Dunce. Safety Dunce went on to win ‘Best Instrumental Album’ at the L.A Music awards in 2005.

Since then, Jason has donated touring duties to such artists as Alice Cooper and Vince Neil. In early 2009 he joined Five Finger Death Punch as a full-time member. The band released their second album, War Is The Answer, in September 2009.

The guys are now writing new material for the follow up to War Is The Answer. We caught up with Jason during one of his writing sessions to talk about his songwriting process, how he stays creative and what he thinks about a few names from his musical past.

Hey Jason, it’s great to catch up man. Tell me what you guys are up to.

We are in Las Vegas writing songs for the third record. We thought we would keep the gap between records shorter. We don’t want to break the momentum and we like the idea of keeping things fresh and working hard without taking too much time off.

It kills me when a band hits a hot streak and then they’ll wait two or three years before their next release. Attention spans are shorter than ever these days and you just can’t do it like that anymore.

It’s a different environment for sure. Music is so readily available and so many people are flooding the marketplace that you risk losing people’s attention if you make the gap too wide.

With today’s technology anyone can record a killer sounding record in their bedroom. I love the fact that it gives everyone the opportunity to be heard but at the same time it opens the door for a lot of shitty music. You really have to be good and do things differently to stand out from the crowd now.

Having new music is important and we have to accept the fact that we have to go in and record another record without getting too freaked out about it. We’ll just let the cards fall where they may.

Tell me about the writing process when you guys work on new material.

Everybody kinda starts off in their own corner. Everyone has home studios. We’ll start assembling segments and starter ideas. It may be two riffs back to back or it may be three different sections. For me personally I’m trying to put myself on this schedule where I wake up first thing in the morning, get a coffee and get into my headphones with my guitar and computer. I try to put down one idea a day. They may not all develop, but that’s OK. If you want to find gold you must first wake up, go to the mountain and dig.

Do you cut yourself off from listening to music when you’re in songwriting mode?

Not at all. For me, it’s the opposite. I have a playlist I’ve assembled on iTunes. I call it the “soak” list. I need to absorb some flavors, some beats, some energies. Anything I’ve listened to over the years that I like I stick it on this playlist. When it comes time to make new music I try and get in the head space of these 20 or 25 songs. I’m not trying to copy any person or anything. You may hear a drumbeat or a breakdown or a fill or a melody – anything that inspires you to get that new idea. By the time our record is on the shelf no one will ever link the two. It’s just about what you use to get motivated I guess.

What are some of the songs on your playlist?

Recently I put a band called Switchfoot on there. I loved one of their records years ago. There was a couple of moody, dark, melodic songs on there. The guitar player from Rammstein has a solo album that he gave to us when we met him backstage at a festival last year. It’s full of badass grooves and heavy guitar work. There’s a band called Red that I pulled a song from that I like. Thousand Foot Krutch. I don’t typically tell people about the soak list, so feel privileged!

Do you find it easier to work on new material as time goes by or do you find yourself being more and more critical?

It’s like developing a muscle for me. If you want to get good at something you have to practice. If you want to learn how to be comfortable being creative then you have to practice. I don’t get freaked out by it or find it difficult. There’s a certain part of the creative mind that has to be trained to flow freely. Set a routine to do it the same way every day.

You’ve got a couple of solo records out there. I know you’ve got a full plate but are you planning on another Jason Hook record soon?

At the moment my priority is the band. It’s a tremendous amount of work. I’m a Jeremy’s house, our drummer, and we’re working on music today. We’ve already had a conference call and now I’m on the phone with you. There really isn’t too much time left over for anything else. Quite honestly, the two records I made were for me to have an outlet. Now that I’m in this group I have that outlet X100.

Just for fun I’m going to throw a few names out there and you tell me the first thing that you think of.

Oh these are always fun. (laughs)

Let’s start with Vince Neil.

I knew that was coming first and I already started to prepare! Sex. Not with me, though! Vince loves girls, man. That’s all I can say. I love Vince. That was one of the most enjoyable bands I’ve been in. I like him a lot better when he’s not completely hammered.

Alice Cooper.

Alice is an inspiration. He’s a role model. Here’s a guy who has had a tremendous amount of success and is obviously a legend. He has so much energy – almost on a freaky level. This guy will get up at 6AM, go to the mall, meet us to fly out at the airport, and go to the movies after we land. I wish whatever he’s got that I could get some of it. He’s been sober for 25 or 26 years and I just look at a guy who’s made good choices. He’s extremely generous and pleasant to people. It’s an inspiration to see how he’s living his life.

Damon Johnson.

My brotha from anotha motha! He’s a fantastic guy – very talented. It’s funny. People still get us confused. I’ll get pictures emailed to me that say “Great show last night” and it’s pictures of Damon! When I joined Alice Cooper’s band I had a full beard. When he left he grew a full beard. A lot of people think we’re the same guy.

Keri Kelli.

What can I say? He’s very good at what he does. He’s played with everybody under the moon. We all had a great time while we were in Cooper’s band.

Marq Torien.

He’s an extremely talented guy but I’ve never met a more self-destructive human being. I’m not talking about drugs or alcohol. I’m talking about behavioral choices. I’ve never met anyone that stands in their own way more than that guy.

Is that with band mates or just business in general.

I think it’s just life. Some people harness success and turn it into a way to open doors and opportunities and get to more success. Some people use success like a sledgehammer so now they can go back and smash anybody that’s ever pissed them off. Marq Torien is one of those guys that doesn’t understand the consequences of his actions. Not to mention he stole $500 bucks from me. Those types of people I usually stay far away from.

Jason, I definitely appreciate you taking time out for this. What would you like to say to wrap everything up?

If you’re inspired by this group or the individuals in this group, whatever you decide to do in life – make sure you do it better than everyone else!

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