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Interview:
Five Finger Death Punch, Volbeat tour was years in the making
 

By GARY GRAFF
Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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Of all the tours on the road during the fall, this one is unquestionably one of -- if not the -- loudest.

The Five Finger Death Punch and Volbeat co-headlining package has actually been "years" in the making, according to the leaders of both heavy rock bands. "We've tried to do this, actually, for two years now," clarifies FFDP guitarist Zoltan Bathory. "We've been playing festivals in many places together, but when we try to do a tour it's always like they are in Europe, we're in Europe, we could just never get it together.

"So finally this is actually happening, but we've been taking about it for years. And we have the common goal of 'How do we make this tour the biggest possible rock tour of the fall, or hopefully the whole year?' We'll see."

Volbeat`s Michael Poulsen, meanwhile, says friendships -- with FFDP as well as opening act Hellyeah -- made the tour particularly attractive to the Danish quartet.

"We're all good friends with Five Finger," Poulsen, 39, notes. "They're great guys and we like each other, what we're doing (musically). It was about time to do something about it and tour together. And we've been good friends with Hellyeah for a long time; they're such great guys and a great band."

The tour, which wraps up Oct. 24 in Las Vegas, amounts to something of a victory lap for both headliners.

For FFDP it ties a bow around the cycle for its ambitious pair of "The Wrong Side of Heaven and the Righteous Side of Hell" albums, both released during 2013. Each debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 and topped the Hard Rock Albums and Rock Albums charts. They also spawned four No. 1 Hard Rock singles, including "Lift Me Up" with Judas Priest's Rob Halford and a cover of the standard "House of the Rising Sun."

It was a gamble that paid off, but Bathory says that for the band the victory was getting to release a large cache of material it had built up and was proud of.

"With 20-something songs, we can sacrifice four, five, even six songs for something really progressive or experimental or something we wouldn't do otherwise," Bathory, 36, explains. "If you did that on a single record, then it's half the record or a third of the record and it would make it less coherent and people would scratch their heads, like 'What the hell are they doing?!'

"But when you have 24 songs, if you make six songs very progressive or very different it still gives you 15, 16, 17 songs that you expect from the band. So it allowed us to take a step forward and a step in another direction without changing drastically or upsetting the fans -- but we had to have both records out to accomplish that.

"That was our main concern. We really didn't think about, 'Omigod, where's it going to be on the charts?!' But we can't complain. It panned out good."

FFDP has been on the road promoting the albums since the 2013 Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival, but it's managed to accrue more new material during that time thanks to recording gear on the tour buses. Drummer Jeremy Spencer confirms that FFDP has been in the studio already "recording some stuff" and plans to return after the group comes off the road in late October. "It's different," he says of the new songs, "but it's not drastically different, like Celtic dance music. It's just experimenting with some different sounds and stuff."

Bathory says a new album could come as soon as the spring of 2015. "We definitely want to have something out before next summer for sure," he says. "In this environment I don't think that bands can allow themselves to stay in a studio for two, three, four years and wait and try to write some masterpiece. In four years people are going to forget about you. You have to put out records.

"Thank God we have plenty to say and plenty of material. We don't struggle for material -- obviously."

Volbeat isn't struggling, either; in fact, the group is coming off its most successful album on these shores yet. "Outlaw Gentlemen and Shady Ladies" debuted at No. 9 on the Billboard 200 -- not only the group's first Top 10 album in the U.S. but a whopping 140 chart points higher than 2010's "Beyond Hell/Above Heaven." Volbeat rocked radio with "The Hangman`s Body Count," "Lola Montez" and "Dead But Rising," and frontman Poulsen says the group has achieved its goal of making more friends this time around.

"The American fans are so dedicated to Volbeat," Poulsen says. "That's a good feeling to wake up and know ticket sales are strong and people have been waiting for the shows for days and months. That feels good. It's a dream come true that we can travel outside of Europe, and we appreciate that the American fans are showing up every time we're here."

Nevertheless, Poulsen adds that "there's still a lot of work to do...still new doors and chapters to take care of," and to that end Volbeat too has already started work on what will become the group's sixth studio album.

"We've been trying songs out in sound check during this tour," Poulsen says. "I have a few songs that just need some lyrics. It's always great to hear it loud; you don't really hear it in the dressing room coming out from a little amp or something. If you're playing it over the P.A. you can see if it has the right vibe and sounds heavy enough." He expects the group to be in the studio early next year, and he doesn't think fans will be hearing much that they haven't heard from Volbeat to this point.

"It's too early to say what's going on or what's going to happen. I can only say it's going to be a Volbeat direction," Poulsen says. "We're not changing anything. We like every album to stand out for itself and have its own legs and elements we haven't touched before. But at the end of the day it's going to sound like Volbeat; we've been doing this long enough to know that."

Five Finger Death Punch, Volbeat, Hellyeah and Nothing More

Wednesday, Oct. 8. Doors open at 5:30 p.m.

Compuware Arena, 14900 Beck Road, Plymouth

Tickets are $45 floor general admission, $39.75 seated general admission

Call 734-453-8400 or visit www.compuwarearena.com

Web Site: www.compuwarearena.com

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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