Ivan Moody of Five Finger Death Punch grew up here and still has a love for Colorado
Hristo Shindov Five Finger Death Punch's Ivan Moody (front, in red) grew up here and still has plenty of love for Colorado.
Five Finger Death Punch formed in 2005, when Zoltan Bathory and Jeremy Spencer started putting together their next band. Ivan Moody, a singer who'd moved out to L.A. without knowing a soul and had been sleeping in his rehearsal space, heard the nascent project's demos and ended up joining the band. Originally from the Denver area, Moody proved to be a charismatic and cathartic frontman, and the band has since gone on to become one of the most popular bands in modern hard rock and metal.
Five Finger's latest record, a double album called The Wrong Side of Heaven and the Righteous Side of Hell, Volume 1, comes out at the end of July. We recently spoke with the gracious, humble and thoughtful Moody about his love for Denver, how he's looking to move back to Colorado, and how he's living out a dream working with Rob Halford on a song for the new record.
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Westword: You grew up in Arvada?
Ivan Moody: Kind of a little here, a little there. I lived in Castle Rock a bit, mainly Arvada, but I also lived in Lakewood, Wheat Ridge and Northglenn.
When you were coming up, what music did you get into early on?
You know, from the day I can remember, I've been listening to just about every kind of music you can imagine. My grandmother was a country artist. My father and mother listened to oldies, from be-bop and swing music to -- I hate to admit it, but -- Barry Manilow, Fleetwood Mac and the Moody Blues. One of my first concerts ever was seeing Jethro Tull at Fiddler's Green, when I was twelve.
Hard rock I got into around twelve or thirteen. My uncle introduced me to Scorpions, Great White and everything rock. From there, I expanded out, and I listened to Nuclear Assault, Exodus, Megadeth, King Diamond and Misfits, of course.
How did you find out about that other stuff?
At that time, record stores were still big. Recycle Records was right off of 58th and Kipling. I used to go in there all the time, and they had that whole wall of used cassettes, and I took my allowance of twenty bucks a week, and I'd go and buy anything I could buy, anything that looked cool. I just liked experimenting with it. Music is universal, so I never really got pigeonholed in one style or another.
Back then, it also wasn't considered that weird to be into Nuclear Assault and Great White.
Absolutely. Back then, that's really what was happening. You're also talking about a time when Colorado had two major rock stations: KBPI and KAZY. They also had the Fox. You could listen to just about anything. You could turn the dial to the left and get one style and turn it to the right and get another.
Z Rock was also broadcasting back then, too.
Oh, that's right! That was based out of Colorado Springs? Affiliated with KILO?
I think so. KILO then, and to some extent now, mixes up classic rock with hard rock and metal in a good way.
Do you remember Saturday nights on Z-Rock, they used to play Dr. Demento? It was that one hour every Saturday night when I was supposed to be in bed, and I would turn the radio on and hear "Fish Heads" and "Dead Puppies."
When did you start playing or performing music of your own?
I've never played instruments. I've always been a singer or a writer, for that matter. But I started playing in bands when I was sixteen years old. I remember the first band I was in out there was at a club called the Wooden Nickel in Aurora. My first show ever was then, and they told me I could play the show but that I would have to leave right after I got off stage. From that point on, I knew that was my calling. I loved it so deeply. I played in countless bands in Colorado and eventually uprooted and moved to L.A.
As a vocalist and writer, who inspired you early on?
That's hard to say. My first vinyl was when I was six, Kilroy Was Here [by Styx]. Dennis DeYoung and Tommy Shaw were two of the first guys that really turned me on to harmonies. Then you've got Pantera, of course; Phil Anselmo made it okay for me to scream. He gave me a right to be pissed off. Alice in Chains.
There was a local singer there [Vinnie Stott] who played in Hallucinasia and Tyfoid Mary. He was one of first guys I ever saw live. They were actually from Las Vegas, and they moved to Colorado, and when they did that, it was a really big deal.
I used to go to their parties, and they'd be playing in the jam space there, and I remember all the local bands standing around their jam space listening to them. They were so unique and so rare. I remember seeing them that first time and thinking, "I want to be like that." I wanted people to be intrigued by what I was doing.
That practice space was downtown; I think it was down off Market Street. There were tons of bands there, everybody from Tread and Rogue and countless other projects. My band got a tiny space there, and we hung out at that time because we wanted to get to know everybody. Even Uncle Nasty's band, Horse, used to play there at that time.
My band then was originally called Wicked Jest. When Vince separated from Hallucinasia, they talked to me, and I played with them for a good year and a half. There was another band I was in called Less Than Zero. I dabbled in just about every kind of music you can do out there, and I think that's why I'm still so loyal and still loving of the scene. I think Colorado's just always been really unique when it comes to music.
A lot of people outside of here don't know that, so it's refreshing to hear that from someone who has had a great deal of success after going to another city to pursue making a life in music.
I used to work for a guy doing landscaping. He was in Brethren Fast. There's so many good artists out there, but people just seem to overlook it for some reason.
What kinds of places did you play out here other than the Wooden Nickel and Iliff Park Saloon?
The Bluebird. Some place called the Gravy House, which was a kitchen during the day. The Raven. Just about every place out there, minus the Fillmore before I got signed, which was the Mammoth Event Center when I was growing up.
What got you to go to L.A.? Was it a band, or did you go yourself?
You know, I really got dried up because there are so many great artists in Denver, and [it's just not recognized enough]. I did countless battles of the bands, I did that metal show with Uncle Nasty every weekend -- and I'm talking six or seven years of this drive and nothing was happening. Nobody was looking at us, nobody was talking to us. I knew in my heart that to excel at what I do, I had to go where other artists were.
Whether it was a great idea at the time or not, and the bridges I've burned, and everything else entailed with it, it was a necessary move. It's not that I regret it, but by the same token, I look back and I still kind of wonder if maybe I could have changed something locally. I think I made the right decision.
Did you have friends in L.A. before moving there?
No. I didn't know anybody out there, actually. Me and two of the musicians I was starting the project with, we rented a rehearsal space and we bought three couches. I'm not even bullshitting you. We stayed in this rehearsal space, and we played all the time. We got in the Troubadour and the Whiskey A-Go-Go, and so on and so forth.
We hung out at the Rainbow all the time. A lot of people don't understand that in L.A., they do what they call "pay to play." So they give you a hundred to two hundred tickets, and you have to sell them at ten dollars a piece. If you undersell two tickets, they don't allow you to play.
So there were times where we would dig in our own pockets and [pay the difference] and get on stage and open for whomever at seven o'clock at night. It's not what everybody thinks. It's hell on a high horse.
Hanging out at the Rainbow, did you run into Lemmy? It seems that everyone that hangs out there does.
Absolutely. Lemmy's the dude! He's got his own personal corner set up next to a little poker machine. It's awkward when I go back to L.A. because there's a lot of the same people that go there. You'd think they grow out of it, but it's one of those places like the Iliff Park Saloon because everybody ends up there one way or another.