FBPO goes one-on-one with Five Finger Death Punch’s bassist in this exclusive, must-read interview!
Chris Kael is the bass player for the heavy metal band Five Finger Death Punch.
FBPO: How would you describe your musical upbringing?
CK: Well rounded. My parents instilled a love and appreciation of great music in me at a very young age. I get my musical talent from my Mom, as she’s played the flute for years. My Dad introduced me to bands such as AC/DC and Led Zeppelin, which sort of molded my tastes into the heavier stuff that I listen to and play today.
FBPO: How did you become a bass player?
CK: As soon as I saw Gene Simmons, I knew that I wanted to play music. I knew I wanted to play, but, I wasn’t sure which instrument I wanted to focus on. My Uncle Frank played guitar and gave me one to play at about the age of 13. I noodled on it for about a month, but it didn’t really click with me. At some point shortly after that, I got my hands on a bass and everything clicked. This was the instrument for me. I knew it as soon as I felt it rumbling through that old school Kustom stack. I was hooked.
FBPO: Who were your influences as a young, up-and-coming student of bass?
CK: Gene Simmons was probably the biggest influence on me, from bass playing to presentation and everything else. I live and breathe by the Gospel of Gene. Also Nikki Sixx from Motley Crue, Ian Hill from Judas Priest, Steve Harris from Maiden, Cliff Burton for his melodies and Jason Newsted from his pick attack. Lots of players influenced me in becoming the player I am today.
FBPO: To what extent would you say you were you influenced by the music you heard growing up in Kentucky?
CK: A huge turning point in my life was watching a Kentucky-based band called Nine Pound Hammer at the Wrocklage in Lexington. Their guitarist, Blaine Cartwright, said something along the lines of, “I’m up here playing guitar in a band in front of a packed house. Anybody can do this. All you’ve gotta do is put a band together and get it done.” A confidence was opened in me that lit a fire under my ass to pursue the dream. Fast-forward several years and now I’m headlining huge tours with Five Finger Death Punch. Thanks, Blaine, for the inspirational speech!
FBPO: How did you end up in FFDP?
CK: Death Punch had moved to Vegas and I heard they were looking for a bassist. I reached out to Jason Hook on Facebook, of all things, with a message basically stating, “I hear you guys are looking for a bassist. Look no further. I’m your guy. Check our mutual friends, as I’m sure they’ll all give me a positive recommendation. All I’m looking for is an audition.” Jason took a chance by responding to an unknown and I had the gig two weeks later.
FBPO: Tell me about the new FFDP album, The Wrong Side of Heaven and the Righteous Side of Hell, Vol. 2.
CK: Like Volume 1, it’s a beast! To have the amount of creativity flowing out of us during the sessions to create two incredible, well-rounded albums was a blessing. It hits shelves in November and I’m excited as hell to be touring on two releases in one year!
FBPO: Can you share at least one good “road story” with us?
CK: Just this past summer, I was able to share the stage with two huge influences: KISS and Jason Newsted from Metallica. We did three shows with KISS in Europe as direct support, which was jaw-dropping for me. To have grown up literally idolizing those guys and to now being direct support, thousands of miles away from home with huge audiences and incredible responses? Life fulfilling!
In regards to Newsted, we were playing on the same bill with his new band in Germany. I went up to him and said, “Hey man. Just wanted to introduce myself. Chris Kael from Five Finger Death Punch.” He chuckles, slaps me in the chest and says, “I know who you are, you fuck!” That moment kinda let me know that I am, in fact, carving out a name for myself as a bassist in metal. The dude whose picking technique I studied while learning to play already knew me by name before I walked up. ‘Twas very, very humbling.
FBPO: What can you tell us about your new Spector signature model bass?
CK: I’ve been playing Spector basses for years, so to have the opportunity to work with those guys on the development of my own signature bass was an absolute dream come true. It’s essentially a personal modification of the Rex4 model. It’s the Rex4 body with the EMG P-J pickups I use, Dunlop strings (130-70) and several new additions aesthetically, including a removable brass knuckle bridge. I went for matte black with chrome knuckles and a matte white, which I’ve never seen done on a bass before, with black knuckles. Quite happy with it. It both plays and sounds incredible. It’s exaclty the bass for which I was looking.
FBPO: How about the future? What else would you like to do that you haven’t already accomplished?
CK: The future for Death Punch involves a lot of touring. Come November, we’ll have both of the new albums out and plan on touring worldwide for about the next eighteen months. So, if you don’t see your city listed on current tour dates? Relax. We’re coming!
As far as something I haven’t accomplished yet? This has been such an incredible ride thus far. We’ve got a ton of support from the fans, for which I’m completely appreciative. I’m just gonna keep pushing and positively affecting as many lives as I can along the way.
FBPO: What would you be if you weren’t a bass player?