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Q+A: Jeremy Spencer of Five Finger Death Punch talks living in Las Vegas, tour, tattoo removal

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Erik Kabik / ErikKabik.com

Five Finger Death Punch at The Joint on Friday, Oct. 24, 2014, in Hard Rock Hotel Las Vegas. Drummer and co-founder Jeremy Spencer is pictured here.

Five Finger Death Punch Rocks The Joint

Five Finger Death Punch at The Joint on Friday, Oct. 24, 2014, in Hard Rock Hotel Las Vegas. Launch slideshow »
Click to enlarge photo

Five Finger Death Punch at The Joint on Friday, Oct. 24, 2014, in Hard Rock Hotel Las Vegas. Drummer and co-founder Jeremy Spencer is pictured here.

Metal heavyweight Five Finger Death Punch is amid a 2015 tour with co-headliner Papa Roach. The tour began Sept. 4 in Lexington, Ky., and will make its round to the Joint in the Hard Rock Hotel on Saturday night.

Five Finger Death Punch co-founder and drummer Jeremy Spencer formed the band in 2005. Spencer’s 10-year career with Five Finger has been vast, receiving numerous accolades as a drummer, publishing his autobiography “Death Punch’d” and most recently opening the tattoo removal shop Phaze in Las Vegas.

Spencer, 42, answered questions over the phone last month in anticipation of their new album “Got Your Six” and tour, discussing life in Las Vegas, the evolution of Five Finger Death Punch and his book, new business and living as Jeremy Spencer:

Five Finger Death Punch is considered to be a Las Vegas band. How did Five Finger Death Punch end up in Las Vegas?

Yeah, you know, we started the band in Los Angeles. We had all come from other places. Just like so many other musicians or whatever, everyone goes to L.A. or New York.

Once we got the record deal and started touring a lot, we were like, “How come we’re paying all this money when we’re never at home? Let’s go out to Las Vegas and get houses where there’s hardly any population compared to L.A. It’s a fraction of the size, and the housing is so much more inexpensive.”

So we all came out here and got houses. You couldn’t even get a doghouse in Los Angeles for what you pay here.

Are all members of Five Finger Death Punch still living in Las Vegas?

Yeah, we’re all here except for our singer, Ivan (Moody). He lives in Colorado, but I think even he’s moving back here.

Do you guys like living in Las Vegas?

Yeah, it’s really cool. I’ve been here since 2009, and I’m gone on tour a lot, but whenever I’m not, I’m here. I live away from the Strip, so I’m not around all the chaos, but, if I want to go get in it, obviously I can.

But usually when you’re on tour, you’re around so much crazy activity that any down time you get, that’s the last thing you want to do. At least for me. It’s cool, though. I like Las Vegas.

What do you like to do in Las Vegas?

Well, I’ll go see Las Vegas shows. I usually just kind of nerd out and go to movies or dinner. It’s pretty chill stuff. As far as going out to clubs, partying or going to shows … I really don’t go to rock shows that much anymore just because I do that every day of my life.

I’m getting older, I like to chill, I like to relax, I like to have alone time, but you know I’ll go out. I’ve seen a lot of the Las Vegas shows, and I think they are really cool. But any time I can, I will sit at home on my couch and absorb all of it, hang out with my dogs, because you don’t get that when you are on tour.

As one of the founders of Five Finger Death Punch and seeing it evolve, what has the experience been like for you?

Well, it’s been an incredible ride. You experience a bit of everything. It’s been everything I thought it would be and nothing like I thought it would be. You have a fantasy about what it’s going to be like, but you really never know how it’s going to be until you get in it.

Just the fact that 10 years later we are still doing it with a band name called Five Finger Death Punch, that’s pretty impressive in itself. We made a record, the first record, without any help. We just wanted to make a record that we wanted to listen to. We started shopping around, put some songs up on MySpace, and we started getting fans before we even got a deal. Then things took off fast.

We played like six shows, and we got signed, released our first record, and from there it took off on radio, and every record has gone gold. So it’s been one heck of a ride. We’re headlining arenas now, which was always our goal, just to play big rock shows. We’re doing it, man. Everything we’ve set out to do, we’ve done.

I really don’t know what’s left. I just want to keep doing it until it doesn’t feel good anymore. We’re grateful and very blessed to be in this position and sell records in a day and age where people don’t really buy them anymore.

How do you think the synergy of the band has evolved since Five Finger Death Punch started?

When we first started, we didn’t really know each other. We were looking for like-minded guys who had the same goal in mind. So it was almost like we weren’t friends at all. We just jammed together and were more like acquaintances with a goal. Then we formed this business called Five Finger Death Punch, and you spend a lot of time together on the road. You learn a lot about each other.

There have been a lot of ups and downs, and there have been times when if somebody is slurping their coffee the wrong way, you want to smash them. And other times when you love them and they’re your buddy and you can trust them with any secrets. It’s a marriage, it’s like any relationship, there are ups and downs, but right now I think we are in a pretty decent place.

We’re getting ready to gear up and go on a huge headlining tour with Papa Roach and finish out the year in Europe, so we’re just going to be busy doing what we do, and right now things are good in the camp. I hope it stays that way, and we’re looking forward to getting started. I would say, all in all, things are good.

Five Finger Death Punch at the Joint

Five Finger Death Punch, with frontman Ivan Moody, performs at the Joint in the Hard Rock Hotel on Friday, March 23, 2012. Launch slideshow »

Five Finger Death Punch at House of Blues

Five Finger Death Punch at House of Blues on Saturday, June 28th Launch slideshow »

Papa Roach, P.O.D. and Lit at Rock of Vegas

Papa Roach, P.O.D. and Lit at Rock of Vegas on Fremont Street on Friday, July 4, 2014, in downtown Las Vegas. Launch slideshow »

What made Five Finger Death Punch decide to go on tour with Papa Roach?

Well, I think they are a great live band first and foremost. We’ve done some shows with them in the past, and we’ve become friends with those guys. We never really could do a proper tour because it never lined up until now. It’s just the perfect time. We’re both available. I think they have a lot of strong songs. I think Jacoby (Shaddix) is one of the best frontmen I have ever seen perform live.

I think the fans are going to dig it, they are going to get a night of memorable songs and high energy. I think that’s what you are looking for when you go to a show. You want to sing along to the songs and get rocked, so I think that’s what’s going to happen.

We leave here around the 30th of August, and we’re going to go to Rupp Arena in Kentucky where the first show is, so we’re going to do a lot of production there, and we’ll get to play around in the arena for a couple days, which will be a lot of fun.

Five Finger Death Punch used a Demand campaign where Facebook users voted for the 2015 tour locations. Whose idea was the campaign?

That was a management thing. It’s an experiment. It’s a work in progress as it was the first time, but I think for the most part it was pretty successful. There were a lot of people who voted. People were disappointed that their town didn’t win, but we’re just trying to tell people, “Look, this is the first leg of the tour. We’re going to be doing a lot more touring next year, so don’t get discouraged if you didn’t win the first time.”

Five Finger Death Punch has a new album, “Got Your Six,” coming out Sept. 4.. The first single from the album is “Jekyll and Hyde,” which has a slightly different flavor from other Five Finger songs. What can fans expect on this album that’s different from past FFDP albums?

You know what, there’s not a whole lot of difference. I think “Jekyll and Hyde” is the most different thing on the record. It still sounds like Death Punch to me. That’s just kind of a different groove for us.

It’s kind of a high-uptempo record, high-energy record, straight to the point meat and potatoes songs. Anything you want to know about Five Finger Death Punch is on the new record.

You wrote an autobiography published in 2014 titled “Death Punch’d,” which discussed your experience as a musician, drug addiction and recovery. What kind of feedback have you received from your book?

It’s been really positive. A lot of people send me messages saying, “Thanks for writing, thanks for sharing. It’s helped me take a look at things I need to take a look at in my life or made me want to stop drinking or quit partying.”

They can relate to the struggles I went through as a musician and as an alcoholic-drug addict. It’s always good to hear people say that your life story helped them in some way. That’s really a cool thing.

I wrote the book as an outlet for myself, and I never really expected it to do what it did, but it ended up becoming a New York Times bestseller, which I still laugh about that. To this day, I never saw that coming, but it happened, and I am really grateful.

How has becoming sober changed you as a musician?

Well, I certainly feel a lot better onstage. I never played impaired, at least. I would be hung over, and I wouldn’t enjoy it at all, that’s for sure. I would really struggle up there being like, “Oh, I just don’t feel good.” Now I have a lot of energy, my mind is clear, I just feel better. I look forward to it instead of dreading it.

You just opened a tattoo removal shop, Phaze. What was your inspiration for opening the business?

Yeah, I’ve added hair removal, too. I’ve had some laser removal done on some of my old tattoos that I got when I was a kid. I just didn’t think they looked good anymore, and they’re too dark to really cover, so you have to lighten them in order to go over it with something better that you like.

I’ve run into a lot of people who are like, “Man, I wish I wouldn’t have gotten this tattoo, or I wish I could lighten part of it and get something better,” so I thought, “Hey, why not open a shop?”

I know a thing or two about tattoos and obviously I’m covered in them. I’ve had experience getting laser, and it’s improved a lot since then. I’m using really great technology, and so far it’s been really cool. Being a business owner is something I never really thought I would do, but it’s happening. Life is good, you know, so I think it’s really cool.

Do you have any tattoos planned in the near future?

Yeah, I’m finishing my back. I’m getting my whole back done right now, and it should be done before the tour starts, so I just have to squeeze in stuff whenever I have time. It will probably be more like Oni mask demonic, Japanese masks and things like that. Demonic faces, I usually gravitate toward those.

What made you decide to play the drums?

Well, I started playing drums because I got a KISS record when I was really young, and I was just staring at the album cover blown away, and I was thinking this is the coolest thing in life. What else is there besides this?

The drums just happened because my grandma bought me this little, rinky-dink drum kit from Sears. It was like an $80 special, and my life was never the same. From that day forward, I was in KISS as far as I was concerned.

I tried other instruments. I tried to take piano for a while. I took it for three years. I was just too impatient to sit there; it’s just not enough of an outlet. Drums at least you can use all of your limbs, you know? Rock out more.

I started discovering bands like Metallica and bands who played double bass drumming, and it was so exciting to me. I thought, “Man, I’m going to make this my life.” So from there on, I made it my mission to become this double bass metal drummer.

It’s the most stimulating form of drumming to me. I tried playing guitar; I’m terrible, I can’t play. I wouldn’t even put myself in the same sentence as a guitar player. Drums are it for me.

You were awarded Best Drummer in the 3rd Annual Loudwire Music Awards. How does that feel?

Well, just to be nominated with those guys who are in the category, that was awesome, very cool, very humbling. I never gave that stuff much thought, but obviously the fans did, and I’m very grateful and appreciative of that. Any time you get recognized for doing something that you love, I think that’s very cool.

I never really set out to achieve a best drummer award or anything, but it’s very cool, and you know if it never happens again, I’m grateful that I got to do it once, so that’s awesome.

Was there a certain point in Five Finger Death Punch’s career where you felt that you made it as band?

Yeah, I remember the first Mayhem Festival in 2008. I think our second single, “Never Enough,” was on the radio, and I could tell a huge leap in crowd attendance from when we were playing, and I thought something is happening here. You could feel a buzz in the air, so I could tell something was shifting there.

Then whenever our first two records went gold, that was pretty much the stamp for me, “OK, officially we made it now.” The other records have gone gold since, which we’re very fortunate, but I would say 2008 is when I first thought, “Yep, something is happening here.”

What is it like to be Jeremy Spencer?

It’s cool, you know. I get to do what I love to do every day. Sometimes like anything else, like any other job, you get tired of it, you want to be left alone. But you know people come up and say, “Your music affects me positively. I love you guys, I love you as a drummer.” Who wouldn’t like that, you know? I think that’s pretty cool.

Sometimes whenever I’m eating, and it happens, and I have like a hamburger in my hand and I have to put it down to shake somebody’s hand, that’s when I go, “OK, if you can just wait 30 more seconds, then I’ll shake your hand.”

It’s all positive, man. I can’t really complain about being successful and doing what I love to do, so I’ve been blessed, and it’s very fortunate.

Final comments?

I think the show is sold out, so obviously people are excited. Thanks for your continued support here in Las Vegas and everyone who comes to the shows. Our record comes out Sept. 4, so go pick up 25 copies, and hopefully we can sign them for you.

Five Finger Death Punch headlines the Joint in the Hard Rock Hotel on Saturday night with Papa Roach. Doors: 8 p.m.

Melina Robinson is a Las Vegas-based freelance writer.

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