Jeremy Spencer Pounds Five Finger Death Punch
First And Ten
“I love studying it — I’m a total dork,” Spencer sheepishly admits. No, the percussive powerhouse isn’t referring to plotting out the perfect drum solo, or honing his blazing double bass technique to an even higher level (if that’s humanly possible). Rather, Spencer is referring to the one activity that rivals his passion for drumming — football (the American variety). He’s so into the sport, in fact, that he aims to coach someday. “I’ve bought books on it. I love the small details that nobody really sees, like blocking techniques.”
Just don’t look for Spencer himself to be grinding it out on the gridiron anytime soon. “I stopped [playing] before high school,” he confesses. “Everyone else developed real big in their body and I didn’t, so I was getting smashed. And I’m like, ‘You know what? I can be in a rock band and still get the cheerleader.’” Sage advice for any conflicted teens out there — choose drums.
In Spencer’s case, the drums chose him. He grew up in remote Boonville, Indiana — situated just north of the Ohio River and neighboring Kentucky. With a population of roughly seven thousand, Spencer is quick to quip, “Definitely not the hotbed of music, if you know what I mean.” Luckily, he had the good fortune of growing up in a musical family — Spencer’s mother was a music professor (and ex-drummer) and his father wrote country songs. As far back as he can remember, Spencer was certain of his life’s calling.
Like many young rocker hopefuls his age, Spencer was an early enlistee in the Kiss Army. Around age six, his Grandmother bought him his first set of drums — a $79 kit from Sears. It wasn’t long before the budding basher was performing for neighborhood kids — complete with Peter Criss Catman makeup. “It was important to me to be as authentic as possible,” Spencer laughs. “I was into it. As far as I was concerned, I was a member of Kiss.”
One such concert ended with an adrenaline-charged Spencer chucking his sticks out into the audience and hitting his ever-supportive grandmother square in the head. “Not exactly a cool thing to do to the person who bought you your first drum kit,” Spencer laments. Though he’s quick to add, “She’s still alive, actually, so it didn’t affect her that much.”
Stints in the school band and drum corps followed, and while Spencer never really took to reading music, he credits these experiences as being vital in honing his stick work and improving his Kiss-fueled flair for theatrics. “You learn how to do some really cool visual stick tricks being in the drumline — I still use some of that stuff now.”
Undoubtedly, the most indelible impact on Spencer’s musical trajectory occurred when he heard Lars Ulrich’s punishing double-kick work with Metallica. “Master Of Puppets changed my life,” he says. “I was like, ‘Wow, listen to what you can do with your feet — I never even knew that was possible! Hearing Slayer’s Reign In Blood with Lombardo’s playing, and Charlie [Benante] from Anthrax — all those records were like a whole new world of drumming. At that point my passion shifted towards double bass and I made that my goal.”
It certainly didn’t happen overnight. Spencer spent years woodshedding before he was able to replicate the dual-kick licks on his favorite records. “One summer it just clicked,” he says with a snap of his fingers. “Then I started playing to a click track and it kicked in to where I could play the shredding double bass stuff in time — with groove and feel. It made me a better drummer and that’s pretty much where I am now. I’m constantly playing to a click during our shows — it keeps everything solid every night, no matter how much my adrenaline is going.”
While he had spent his teenage years cultivating the talent to back a legit band, Spencer soon discovered that it takes more than sick chops to break into the music business. He relocated to Los Angeles after high school and beat the streets, playing in struggling groups and lending his skills on session gigs for lesser-known artists. The determined drummer eked out a living working various day jobs — everything from construction to telemarketing — while pursuing his metal muse.
After getting what he thought was his first real big break, Spencer was quickly humbled. “I was hired to do a European tour with W.A.S.P. I remember rehearsing with them and being like, ‘Wow — sounds like W.A.S.P.! This is pretty neat.’ But it became pretty obvious that they didn’t want to do the work that it takes to bring in a new guy. The old [drummer] was calling, saying ‘I wanna come back, I wanna come back,’ so I was out after about two weeks. I never got to play with them live.”