Ivan Moody of Five Finger Death Punch and Jesse Leach of Killswitch Engage Talk "Trespass America"
Mon, 06 Aug 2012 07:00:16
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Five Finger Death Punch can pretty much do whatever they want.
They've rightfully risen to the top of the modern metal crop the old-fashioned way. The quintet slogged it out on the road and built an army via mind-blowing songs and shows. However, they always clung steadfast to the foremost fact that they're unequivocally and unabashedly a metal band. They don't shy away from it. Like Pantera, Slayer, or any of the other legends before them, they embrace the genre tightly. That's why they built their Trespass America festival as the quintessential 21st century heavy metal bill. With a bill featuring Killswitch Engage, Trivium, God Forbid, Pop Evil, Emmure, and Battlecross, fans are getting a brutally brilliant gig.
In addition to Five Finger Death Punch's biggest and best performance yet, Trespass America boasts Killswitch Engage reunited with original frontman Jesse Leach. Leach proved seminal to the group's classic Alive or Just Breathing, and it's a special moment to see him back at the forefront of the band. It's also extremely momentous seeing Five Finger Death Punch create an all-encompassing and totally immersive experience for fans on this tour behind American Capitalist.
In order to truly get to the heart of this Clash of the Titans, ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino sat down with both Ivan Moody of Five Finger Death Punch and Jesse Leach of Killswitch Engage to discuss Trespass America, the state of heavy music, potential collaboration, and so much more in this exclusive interview.
When did you first two meet?
Jesse Leach: I actually first met him at the Trespass America press conference we had in Los Angeles. He looked over from the table and was like, "I'm glad you're back!" I thought, "This guy's alright" [Laughs].
Ivan Moody: Well, I was always a fan first and foremost. So, getting to meet him in general was awesome. You never know what to expect from people, especially in the music industry. He just came across as such a humble cat. Getting to watch him every single night is amazing. I've told him this, but he brings a whole new element to Killswitch Engage. His energy is radical, and his crowd control is superb. He's a stellar guy.
Jesse Leach: He has a good vibe, and he gives me dude-hugs every day [Laughs]. They're tough guy hugs.
Do you feel like Trespass America hearkens back to this big metal package tours of the '80s and '90s? Is there a parallel?
Ivan Moody: Yeah, there are always elements of that. That was the intention—especially bringing on Metal Hammer. I didn't sit at a table and say, "Let's do Monsters of Rock" or anything like that. I wanted to do something that was entertaining for the ticket price. With the way the economy is right now, money is thin so we put this project together. It's a radical bill, and I'm just happy to be a part of it.
Jesse Leach: Number one, what I really enjoy is it's a metal and rock tour and you're getting diversity so not everybody sounds the same. You get a cross-section of fans. It's great exposure for the younger bands. It's even great exposure for a band like us because some of the Five Finger Death Punch fans may not have gone to our shows previously, and I know we've gained some fans because of this tour. It's cool. It's like a big summer camp out here, and I love it. I definitely feel some of the old school vibe. Bands who may not have toured together previously are out on the same bill. I hope this opens up more doors. It's a great opportunity to bring new music and a great show to fans.
Ivan Moody: I totally agree, dude. That's the biggest part. There are a lot of Killswitch Engage and Trivium fans out there who may not have taken a second glimpse at Five Finger Death Punch—considering the mainstream popularity comparative to what Killswitch Engage has done in the underground. Killswitch are iconic when it comes to the metal industry. To have that mixture of people and that diversity in the fans is fantastic.
Lyrically, you're both very emotionally honest. You write personal messages that are simultaneously universal. It's a similar approach for both of you…
Jesse Leach: I agree with that!
Ivan Moody: Wait until you hear their new stuff, man. They've been playing new material during the set. I was sitting on the stage about three nights ago, and I looked over at Jeremy and told him, "This new shit is exactly where they needed to go". Jesse is an emotional, honest writer, and his energy is par for the course.
Jesse Leach: There's a message saying, "I'm down and out. I've got my issues, but I'm going to beat this". There's always a positive spin. Even if the song starts out dwelling on something that's painful, there's a feeling of overcoming at the end. That's what we both definitely share. I see that in Ivan's performance. You can see it on his face when he's out there singing. It's great.
What bands provided that release for you both? Do you share any influences?
Jesse Leach: I grew up more in the punk and hardcore scene—small clubs and small bands. I got that a lot from hardcore bands, even local stuff. As a kid, I'd go to the clubs near me. It's not super mainstream-influenced. If I were to point one person, it'd probably be Philip Anselmo when I was younger and the earlier Pantera material. That was what hit me most.
Ivan Moody: The closest I got to punk was Henry Rollins and The Misfits. I never really dug in as deeply as Jesse has. Philip Anselmo was a huge influence as well as Mike Patton.
Jesse Leach: Definitely Mike Patton…
Ivan Moody: Then, I go back to Sepultura and stuff like that. Those are metal references. There's so much I listened to growing up that I couldn't pigeonhole myself one way or the other.
Jesse Leach: I totally agree with that.
Was there a moment or epiphany that got you into music for life?
Ivan Moody: I don't really remember a single moment. For my entire life, I've always loved music. I don't think there was one single moment that stands out above any other. It's universal for me. It's been there forever through good and bad.
Jesse Leach: I was raised around music. Even as a baby, there are photos of me with old school headphones on attached to a record player. It was always in my life too. My cousin took me to my first hardcore show when I was 14-years-old, and seeing guys who were close to my age, just a little bit older, playing really passionate stuff and screaming I had the bug. I had a lot I wanted to scream about being an angry teenager. That's how it started with me. Then, I found out how to turn that anger into something positive. That's been my journey.
That catharsis is why this music will always resonate.
Jesse Leach: Yeah, it forces you to listen as well because we play it loudly. It's in-your-face. You can't ignore it, and that's what I love about aggressive music. If you're in the club or the area where we're playing, you have no choice but to listen. That's what's beautiful about heavy music. The great thing is you can put a message there. When we were growing up in the '80s, the whole joke was, "Kill your mother. Kill your father". A lot of heavy music these days doesn't have that message. There's a lot of positivity that comes through. Kids who have come from broken homes or messed up lives have found a way to turn their lives around and spread that message. Kids need somebody to tell them it's going to be alright, especially at a young age. That's what I've taken upon myself. I know what it's like being screwed up, heavy into drugs, and forgetting your place in life. It's nice to have someone who's a little older say, "Hey man, you're going to get through it. I've been there and done that".
Ivan Moody: Absolutely! I couldn't agree more.
On American Capitalist with songs like "Coming Down" and "Remember Everything", you've been able to pull the listeners in closer with your lyrics, Ivan.
Ivan Moody: Starting out with my roots, I've learned the more you open your chest, the more relatable the music is. It's like Jesse said. Honesty is what made metal so pure and beautiful for me. It was so honest. At the end of the road, there's that light. You can overcome this; you will overcome this. Let me show you the example of myself. That's a huge part of it.
You've both played in various bands. How important is that diversity for you creatively?
Ivan Moody: I refuse to be pigeonholed. I love metal, but at the end of the day, I listen to everything from The Cure to Depeche Mode. There was a barbecue the other day, and Adam was cranking Huey Lewis and The News. Music is bigger than me. I love experimentation, and I love seeing how I far I can take my limitations and push myself as an artist.
Jesse Leach: Agreed! I've always told myself, "Don't get stuck! Don't get stagnant!" I love performing metal. However, I admittedly don't listen to a lot of it. If I were to put something on, it'd most likely be The Clash, some good reggae music from the '70s, or trip hop. I really like mellow, easygoing music that soothes my soul. I get all of my aggression out on stage so I'm kind of a mellow guy. I would imagine, as I get older, I'd like to have some projects that are a lot mellower. I love bluesy acoustic music too. What we listen to outside of heavy music helps define us and motivate us as vocalists to bring different styles and try new things.
It wouldn't be much of a stretch for either of you to tackle any of those genres.
Jesse Leach: I think reggae would be a little tough for both of us. I don't see either of us becoming Snoop Lion, but we'll see what happens [Laughs].
Have you gotten the chance to interact with fans at Trespass America?
Jesse Leach: I have a little bit. For the most part, I've been exhausted [Laughs].
Ivan Moody: I swear to God I was going to say the exact same thing. I love going out, shaking hands, and meeting the kids. It's been exhausting, but it's definitely worth it.
Ivan, when did you first hear Alive or Just Breathing?
Ivan Moody: I do! When that record came out, I was just splitting away from Motograter and doing my Ghost Machine stuff. It was early on. At that time, Killswitch was really an East Coast thing. I was a West Coast-based kid. There was a competitive nature between the East Coast hardcore scene and the West Coast "new school" scene. I thought Alive or Just Breathing was so unique though. I grabbed onto it like there was no tomorrow. I totally remember hearing it, and I thought it was fucking brutal.
Jesse Leach: That's awesome…
Jesse, when did you first hear Five Finger Death Punch?
Jesse Leach: I was aware of them, but I never really understood the impact of it until I saw it live the first night of Trespass America. I am a huge Ivan fan for sure. He's a great frontman with a great voice. Admittedly, I hadn't heard them until this tour, but I love watching them do their thing. The lighting on this tour is insane.
You're still waving the flag for real heavy music.
Ivan Moody: That was the intention. It hits that spot.
What's the art of constructing a set list?
Jesse Leach: For us, it's a matter of knowing the sound of a song, how it hits, starts, and ends. It's about really having a grasp of the material. Justin crafts them, and we'll literally all agree that it works perfectly. It has a lot to do with how the material sounds. You put a song that may be more ballad-y next to a heavy one. It comes from years of being a performer.
Ivan Moody: True that!
Is there any chance you two might ever collaborate musically?
Jesse Leach: I definitely would not rule that out at all. For sure!
Ivan Moody: I'd love to. That'd be fantastic. I'm really looking forward to having an ear to their new material. That song you've been playing, "No End In Sight", is incredible. The chorus is just fucking epic. I really love it. It's got that punk rock vibe to it with the way you hit the lyrics. When that chorus kicks in, it's jaw-dropping.
Jesse Leach: I'm trying to create a fist-pumper. These guys stepped it up and wanted to make a more vicious, fast, emotive, and in-your-face record. I'm trying to make fist-pumping anthems.
Ivan Moody: You nailed it. I can't wait for the rest of the world to hear it.
Do you have any favorite cities to play?
Ivan Moody: Hometowns are always a favorite for anybody. Everybody has been really receptive so far. Any city that will accept us is cool with me.
Jesse Leach: It's all about the audience. If they're right on, it becomes a good place to play. I love food and good beer. Anywhere there's a good brew pub, I'm there. I love going to Portland, Chicago, New York City, and Boston. Even down in San Antonio, there were some good tequila joints. It's about food and good drink. That's what keeps me sane out here.
Ivan Moody: Wine and spirits!
What's next for you?
Jesse Leach: Two weeks of sleeping [Laughs]. Then, I get to be with my wife before I have to go into the studio and write another record. That's my life.
Ivan Moody: I'm with him on both of those: two weeks of sleeping, a cold toilet seat, and no worries…
Jesse Leach: [Laughs] That's hilarious.
Ivan Moody: I just want a toilet seat no one has been on before me. I'd be stoked.
Have you seen Trespass America yet?
Visit the tour's official site here!