Five Finger Death Punch drummer Jeremy Spencer remembers clearly when rock first took over his life.
"I got a KISS record when I was 6 years old and I just stared a the cover in absolute horror and disbelief and excitement, and I was so enthralled I couldn't take my eyes off of it," says Spencer. "Then I got a drum kit shortly after that, $80 drum kit that my grandmother bought for me. From that moment on I was a member of KISS as far as I was concerned."
Spencer didn't have to join KISS to conquer rock. He was recently named "best drummer" in the 2012 Revolver Magazine Golden Gods awards. After two gold albums and a third nearing the gold certification mark, Five Finger Death Punch is preparing to record its fourth album and is on the Trespass America Tour. And, the group's new single, "Coming Down," just hit No. 1 on the Billboard Active Rock chart.
After buying that KISS record (actually Gene Simmons' solo album) for $1 in the cut-out bin at a Service Merchandise store in Indiana and beginning on drums at 6, Spencer took a few years to become decent on the skins. By 13, he says, he had gotten pretty good. Around that time he had begun hearing metal drummers with double-bass kits — Dave Lombardo of Slayer and Lars Ulrich of Metallica among them.
"I heard 'Master of Puppets' and 'Reign in Blood' and I was just like 'Wow! You can do that with your feet?' And I became obsessed with all things double bass and other forms of music."
By the early 2000s, Spencer had moved from Indiana to Los Angeles and had played with several different rock acts that went nowhere.
"I thought maybe it was not in the cards for this to make a career so I better start figuring something out," he says. "I never stopped, but I thought it might not be for me, so I was going to keep my eyes and ears and heart open to where I needed to be led to next."
He answered an online ad in Music Connection placed by guitarist Zoltan Bathory who was looking for a drummer to start a new group with. The group became Five Finger Death Punch.
Spencer sums up the band's history like this:
"We met in '05, got signed in '07, first record ("The Way of the Fist") came out in July of '07. First two albums are gold and now the third one is almost gold and we're about to start record number four. People don't buy records anymore. They steal 'em, so the fact that they're buying our record is pretty good.
"Even before we were signed, we put some songs up on MySpace and we had a lot of people come on board and they were fans right out of the gate, before we had a deal. They've been with us ever since and it just continues to grow. We've been real fortunate to have success on radio, too. People aren't going to shows as much as they did or buying records, so radio exposure has been really good for us. That's why we have gold records."
He says groups that developed in the Internet age have a different set of challenges than older acts.
"We're kind of like in the first wave of bands that have to deal solely with this Internet problem. Bands like Metallica and stuff that we grew up with, they didn't have to deal with the Internet until Napster. Every day everything is just so accessible and available that everybody can steal it. And you've got haters online. People can just log on and slam your band and not be held accountable for anything. So we have to figure out how to deal with that. It's just another thing you gotta learn how to deal with being in this business. And being a young band today would be really tough!"
While double-bass drummers are what really impressed him, he says he still loved jazz greats Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa, as well as drummers in other genres.
And there is one level of success of being the drummer in a top-selling band that any drummer can appreciate.
"I'm so grateful I don't have to load my new kit! It's huge. I have three bass drums, four rack toms, two floor toms. It's massive!"
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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