Jason Hook by Anne Erickson

Five Finger Death Punch guitarist Jason Hook is on top of the rock world. After all, not only is his band co-headlining the 2013 Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival with Rob Zombie this summer, but the group is also releasing two albums this year: “The Wrong Side of Heaven and the Righteous Side of Hell,” Volumes 1 and 2.

Even with all the Death Punch momentum, on the phone, Hooks seems most stoked to chat about his new signature Gibson M4-Sherman.

“I was so impressed that when I went to the Gibson headquarters to put the final touches on my signature guitar, we went out to dinner with a bunch of staff members and a bunch of the guys from the warehouse, and at the end, I said, ‘I’m going to go put a Gibson tattoo on my hand tonight, and I’m prepared to pay for anybody else who wants to join me!’” Hook told Gibson.com.

“I got three guys from the warehouse to do Gibson tattoos!”

We caught up with Hook to talk more about his new Gibson model, the new albums and, of course, Mayhem. He also took some Twitter questions.

How did the writing and recording process for “The Wrong Side of Heaven and the Righteous Side of Hell” differ from how you went about creating your previous release, “American Capitalist?”

We did a lot of preparation for this record. I remember at the start of the “American Capitalist” record, we came off the road, and two weeks later, we were getting back together and trying to come up with the first song. I just remember thinking, “Hey, it would have been great if we could have done some preparation.” So, for this record, we started writing songs last year. We have a portable studio on the road, and we were deliberately trying to prepare in advance to have something to pick from when it came time to start working on the new album. It turns out that we had about 9 or 10 songs ready to go on day one. Those songs were recorded pretty quickly. Not completed, but the basic tracks were recorded, and then we just started writing more material, and before we knew it, we were at 20-something songs.

Jason Hook by Anne Erickson

Tell me about the decision to release the album in two separate installments.

The conversation turned to, “What should we do? Should we whittle this down to 12 songs?” We’re getting better at making records, so now, we’re kind of looking at all this material and saying, “I like all of it! I don’t think there is any weaker half of the batch.” We thought, “Well, let’s release all of it. Let’s make two records.” So, that’s what we did.

What should we expect from Volume 2 of this release, and how does it fit with Volume 1?

That’s a good question, because Death Punch have two kinds of distinct flavors. There’s the really brutal, heavy metal, face-peeler stuff, which I like. And then there’s the more aggressive, melodic blend, like “Coming Down” or “Bad Company.” We certainly could have made two different records, and the title would have made sense, meaning one record being the brutal record and the other record being the more melodic record. But, we decided against that, and what we ended up doing was spreading the material out evenly across both records so that it wasn’t black and white, night and day. We decided to shuffle the songs equally so both albums had the same potency. We didn’t want one record to outshine the other or to have one record be heavy and one record be soft. We wanted it to be one evenly spread out, potent package. We wanted it be one consistently spread out group of songs.

You have some cool guest appearances on this album, including Rob Halford on the single, “Lift Me Up.”

He’s such an awesome guy. I still get a little nervous when a living legend walks in the room, and you’re like, “He’s Rob Halford!” What happened was “Lift Me Up” was a song I had started and one of my ideas. I brought it to the band, and everybody liked the song, and someone mentioned that it sounds like an old Judas Priest song. They were like, “I wonder if we could get Rob Halford to do guest vocals? That would be cool!” We’re kind of at the level now where we’ve sold some records and we have some plaques, and we’re kind of doing stuff that’s fun again. Just whatever we want to do. Kind of like when you do it the first time: You’re not thinking of business or record deals. So, we sent him the track. Turned out he loved it. He thinks, “It’s a hit,” and he wants to come to Las Vegas and sing the second verse. So, we were all thrilled.

Let’s talk about the upcoming Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival, which Five Finger Death Punch is co-headlining with Rob Zombie. Who are you most looking forward to checking out on the tour?

To be honest, I’m so engulfed in Fiver Finger Death Punch, that I don’t allow myself to look too far to the left or right. When you work so hard to create something that connects with people, when it actually starts working, it’s way more exciting to be focused on that than to be looking around at what the other bands are doing. I do like Rob Zombie. He has an amazing show, and everyone is going to be fascinated with him. He’s an amazing performer, and he has lots of great visuals. I’ve seen it several times. I know I’m looking forward to seeing some of my friends up there. I heard Emmure is on the bill. We took them out on the Trespass America Tour, and those are fun guys. There’s another band called Motionless in White, and they’re pretty cool, and they’re going to be on the side stage.

Switching gears to guitars, Gibson just launched your signature Explorer, the Jason Hook M-4 Sherman model. What did you set out to create when you and Gibson put this guitar together?

I was very specific. I wanted to take a classic instrument and hot rod it into a shredding machine—a high performance racecar. I always liked that. I always liked the modern guitar player that did his thing on a classic instrument, like Zakk Wylde. Certainly, there are many other B and C-level companies that would love to have us play their instruments, but I always thought that there wasn’t anything better than owning a Gibson. It’s an American-made guitar with the finest craftsmanship and the finest quality of materials. It’s a legendary, world-famous brand. It’s respectable. I’ve always liked that. I played Les Pauls for many years, and I still own many Les Pauls. It’s the most common Gibson guitar…. I was looking at the other Gibson guitars and thought, “Maybe the Explorer would be more comfortable because of the way the top of the guitar is shaped like a V.” So, I switched to playing Explorers years ago, and I’ve been glued to that guitar ever since. I love it. It’s my favorite guitar.

How does it feel like to have your own Gibson model?

It’s always been a dream. I always thought that I’d love to have my own Explorer. I was very patient. Every other guitar manufacturer tried to approach me, and I said, “You know, but I play this guitar. It’s my favorite guitar. I don’t want you to make me something like it. I just want to play it.” So, eventually, I lucked out where I met the right people at Gibson who said, “I think we can make this happen for you.” I met Henry (Juszkiewicz). They said, “We’ll make it exactly how you want it. No limitations.”

We asked our Twitter fans if they had any questions for you! Nancy Dagata (‏ @CTDags23) asks, “How many total notes do you think you play during a show?”

[Laughs] Absolutely no idea! Yeah, I really don’t know.

Stephanie Garas ‏(@StephanieGaras) asks, “How many outdoor venues/festivals have you played and how do they stack up to indoor gigs?”

I like outdoor, because it’s less frequent, and the way the sound travels outdoors is a cooler thing. Indoors, you’re always going to get that gloomy, boxed-in reverberation sound, but with outdoors, sound travels. Especially when you have a nice wind, and you can feel the heat and breeze. It’s a cooler vibe.