FIVE FINGER DEATH PUNCH: Why We Decided To Cover LL COOL J's 'Mama Said Knock You Out'

June 3, 2013

Metal Covenant recently conducted an interview with guitarist Zoltan Bathory of Las Vegas metallers FIVE FINGER DEATH PUNCH. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.

Metal Covenant: What's new about [FIVE FINGER DEATH PUNCH's forthcoming fourth studio effort, a double album that the band will release in two installments, "The Wrong Side Of Heaven And The Righteous Side Of Hell Volume 1" and "The Wrong Side Of Heaven And The Righteous Side Of Hell Volume 2"] and what are your expectations for these coming releases?

Zoltan: Well, you know, we were in a situation when this is our fourth record, right?! In every record we do, we progress somewhat. The first record was pretty heavy and I pretty much wrote the record by myself, like 95 percent. You have to start somewhere. Then we became sort of a real band and started to record the second and third album. That was the progression of everybody's writing. We even had a couple of member changes and everybody's influence was shaping the music to what it became. The first record is always your ticket in, to see if people like it or not, and the first record was extremely successful, so obviously that meant that we could stay around for a while and make a second record. The second record will be an answer to the question if this was a fluke or are these guys really good. The second was even more successful, so that sort of answer the question if we mean this and for the third record comes the question if we still have something to say. We did "American Capitalist" and it was even more successful than the previous one, so obviously we had something to say. Then comes the fourth record, and that is the motherfucker, because this is what happens. We already have three records and even though there is progression, this is our sound. This is about the time people may get bored with what you do or you have to do some kind of a change or some kind of a progression. It's kind of a damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don't scenario. If we don't change and just keep doing what we do, people are gonna go, like, "Okay, I've heard this three times before. Do I care for another frigging record of the same band?" So you have to progress, but if you progress, where are you going? If we going to progress into maybe more commercial, then people would say, "Oh, that's their sound now, they've got money and wanna do and whatever." If we go heavier, then they're like "They're losing their commercial edge. They don't get radio time and this band is going down. They don't have songs now." So whatever you do, people are going to think something's wrong. So for us, it actually came out in a really interesting way, because we said we can't really care about much and we just have to do what we do. So we kept on writing and writing, and we were, like, "Just write everything that comes to us and then decide what ends up on the record," and we ended with 20 or something songs. So when we are looking at these songs, we sort of realized that there's nothing we wanna throw away. This is all good stuff, there were no fillers. We gotta put all out, and that actually brought us a really interesting opportunity that this will take away that stigma, because we're not doing what we always do. So the fourth record is a double record and two things happen with this. One, it's interesting because this is a double record, which is not the norm. Second, when you have 24 songs, you can experiment, because if you have 10 songs and you experiment with three, that's one third of the record and immediately people are gonna go, like, "Oh, they're changing their sound. What is that shit about?" So simply you don't have enough slots on the record to experiment, but when you have 24 songs, it's enough material to "sacrifice" 5-6 songs and expand in directions that I normally wouldn't do, like covering a hip-hop-song, which is very unpopular in these days. So we can do things that people will raise their eyebrows to, and we can do it because we have enough songs and enough slots for two records and people are not gonna question that we change. We won't change, we're just branching out. We are the same band, the same guys with the same music. We're not gonna play jazz fusion; it's not gonna happen. We are FIVE FINGER DEATH PUNCH, but we can do these interesting things, so that's what this scenario gave us and that's where we are with this.

Metal Covenant: [JUDAS PRIEST's] Rob Halford. It's rather unusual to have a guest vocalist on the opening track ["Lift Me Up"]. They usually end up somewhere around track 7 or 8 or something.

Zoltan: Well, this was another thing again, you know. We don't wanna do or don't care what's the norm. I think it's a good position we have, to really do whatever we wanna do. It's funny though, the lyrics to the song is "we just do what we do," so we'll do what the fuck we wanna do, and that's actually the lyrics to that song. We heard somewhere, somehow, I think it was on TV, where he said that FIVE FINGER DEATH PUNCH was one of his favorite bands. So when we wrote that song, I think maybe it was me who said that this sounds like old-school JUDAS PRIEST, you know. That kind of clicked, like, "Wait a minute, what if we could get Rob Halford to sing this since it's already kind of old-school JUDAS PRIEST?" We reached out to their management and originally they said "No, he doesn't have time and he's recording." But then Rob heard the song, because the management still passed it to him, and he was, like, the one who called us. You know: "I'm singing on the fucking track," so he really liked the track. A week later, he was in Vegas recording with us. That's kind of weird. You know, this is fucking Rob Halford — are you kidding me? He's in the studio, singing on our song. Jesus! It was very cool, yeah.

Metal Covenant: What about the other guests, like Max Cavalera [SOULFLY], Maria Brink [IN THIS MOMENT], etc.?

Zoltan: Everybody is good friends with us. It was only Rob we didn't know personally, obviously. Max has already sung with us before. He came out and sang one of our songs when SOULFLY was supporting us on a Canadian tour. During that [tour], we became friends and he came out and sang our song live, so that was kind of obvious to happen and Ivan [Moody, FIVE FINGER DEATH PUNCH singer] loves Max. Ivan's a big fan, so we reached out to Max. [HATEBREED's] Jamey Jasta, same thing — a good friend of ours for a long time. We have toured together many times. And then Maria from IN THIS MOMENT. Actually, we just needed a female voice for our low piece and we thought, "Just get Maria." She's a friend and she can do it. But then she came to the studio and we said, "Sing these parts too." She ended up singing more parts than what we actually wanted and it then became a duet instead of the low parts we wanted, because it was so good and we wanted to keep it. And then the last one was [American rapper] Tech N9ne. Today it's not okay to collaborate with anybody in hip hop. 10-15 years ago, that was the norm and then we wouldn't have done it. Now, when it's not okay, when it's taboo, I wanna do it. That's the point — when you rebel, when you give that middle finger, because today this is a sacrilege. You don't touch hip hop, but fuck that, we're gonna and we did it. We had an idea to cover [LL COOL J's] "Mama Said Knock You Out". We thought it was the irony of FIVE FINGER DEATH PUNCH, when people said "Mama Said Knock You Out", it just kinda went hand in hand. LL Cool J was always somebody who was cool. Even metalheads are okay with him. Everybody's heard that song and everybody knows that one and people are down with him. He's cool, he's okay, right? He's an artist that everybody accepts. Then we made the song heavy and when Tech N9ne came in, we thought, "Oh yeah, this is happening. Fuck it, Let's put it on the record."

Read the entire interview from Metal Covenant.

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