Interview with The Fifth and Cultus Black bassist Jake Tripp

Date: April 3, 2022
Interviewer: Jeff Onorato
Photos: Jeff Onorato

Make note of the name “Jake Tripp”. You’ll likely be hearing it often within musical circles for years to come. Like countless other musicians in the climate of today’s music business, bassist Jake Tripp burns the midnight oil in not one, but two bands as he juggles touring and recording with both The Fifth and Cultus Black. On the heels of a jam-packed itinerary that included The Fifth’s ‘Calm Before The Storm Tour’ and Cultus Black’s opening slot on Overkill’s ‘Wings of War’ jaunt in March, I caught up with Jake for a briefing on how he balances multiple music projects and his vantage point on being a working musician involved in the dual worlds of rock and metal.

Sleaze Roxx: March was a very busy month for you, touring with Cultus Black in support of Prong and Overkill and then your headlining run with The Fifth. Other than the stylistic differences in the type of music that you play in those respective bands, what is the biggest shift going from a tour with Overkill to headlining shows with The Fifth?

Jake Tripp: March was a wild month for sure. By far, the biggest difference in the two environments was the size and intensity of crowds. Going from playing 5,000 plus-capacity national concert theaters to smaller, more intimate clubs was definitely an adjustment, but for me a welcome one. I’ve certainly enjoyed having a more relaxed vibe each night of this tour and doing things on our schedule.

Sleaze Roxx: I caught The Fifth’s show in Halethorpe, Maryland in late March and was blown away at how great the band is sounding live — really heavy, aggressive and in-your-face. In hindsight, what were some of the high and low points of the tour?

Jake Tripp: Thank you so much. The best parts have definitely been performing and seeing people enjoy themselves. I’d like to think this line-up is the tightest the band has ever sounded, and the new songs really seem to be going over well with everyone. My personal low point — for not only this tour but my previous one as well — has been the weather. In the last three weeks alone, I’ve seen white-outs and eighteen-wheeler crashes happening right in front of me. Being from North Carolina, snow just doesn’t jive with me [laughs].

Sleaze Roxx: The average music fan might not realize everything that goes into a tour. It’s not just driving from city to city, loading in and playing. Murphy’s Law often comes into play and throws a curveball. What are some of the craziest things that you have encountered while out on the road?

Jake Tripp: Aside from the dangers of some winter weather phenomena, this tour with The Fifth has been extremely relaxed.  My previous tour [Cultus Black opening for Overkill] seemed to be absolutely riddled with ghosts in the machine. One notable example was the bus generator broke down just five days in and we basically had to endure the rest of the tour with no power or heat. Looking back, it’s somewhat cathartic though. That tour was a massive success for the band, so in a strange way the constant setbacks were worth it.

Sleaze Roxx: The Fifth were out supporting the new self-titled EP, which has been out since late September. I thought that the new songs sound even heavier live than they do on the CD. Of course, they kind of take on a life of their own in a live setting. In particular, “Coming To Get You” has such a monstrous bass groove. How has the fan reaction been to the new music?

Jake Tripp: Long-time fans of the band really seem to be digging the new EP. It’s also very humbling to see everyone welcoming the new line-up of Justin, Gary and myself so warmly. And that makes us even more excited to work on the next record this year!

Sleaze Roxx: I recently picked up a copy of the new CD and was blown away at how great it is. For only having five songs on this release, it covers a wide spectrum stylistically. None of the songs sound the same. You gave a party anthem in “Shake Little Sister”, the ballad “Home”, and grittier tracks like “Coming To Get You”. Was it the band’s goal to cover as much ground possible sonically and incorporate a variety of sounds into the finished product?

Jake Tripp: More than anything, I think our goal was to finally unleash this line-up to the fans. Everyone really brought their A-game, especially the frickin’ beast of a guitarist that Justin Womble is. We wanted to write a really fun, organic rock record that people relate to. I’d like to think we nailed it, and that the final product is, more than anything, a precursor of what’s to come.

The Fifth‘s “Shake Little Sister” video:

Sleaze Roxx: Where did the band record and about how long did it take for the songs to come together for the new EP?

Jake Tripp: We recorded with Andy Pow at Digital Wave Recordings in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Andy has a very old school approach to engineering that I was initially not expecting. Tracking everything in single takes, using minimal overdubs, ensuring each collective take is as perfect as organically possible… Totally old school. I think tracking actually took less than a week since everyone was already familiar with the demos. Knowing the material prior to entering the studio is crucial to being as efficient as possible.

Sleaze Roxx: Your direct support act for this tour was Offensive, who hail from Essex, Maryland. With their music delving more into the extreme side of metal, what was the reaction to them from The Fifth’s fanbase?

Jake Tripp: The Offensive dudes are really good people in general. Their music is definitely edgier, but we all dig their stuff. I think The Fifth fans are enjoying them each night as well.

Sleaze Roxx: With Roy [Cathey] being so well known as the singer for Cold Sweat, is there any chance that we might hear a song or two from that band in The Fifth’s set at some point? I think “Four On The Floor” would be killer. 

Jake Tripp: Absolutely! We usually add “Long Way Down” and “Crying Shame” into practically every set. I play along to the ‘Break Out‘ album at home a lot and would definitely love to see us perform more of their songs eventually. “Four On The Floor”, “Fistful of Money”, and “Let’s Make Love Tonight” are all bona fide hits that would make for great fan-service.

Sleaze Roxx: The first single and video from the EP is “Shake Little Sister”, which was directed by Jaiden Frost and can be found on YouTube. The treatment turned out really well and you worked with him again more recently on the “Nevermine” shoot for Cultus Black. What can you tell us about the making of those videos?

Jake Tripp: Jaiden is an incredibly creative individual with nothing but passion for what he does. He has such an attention to detail not just with music videos, but film in general. Everytime I work with him, I learn something new about film, and I find it sometimes even changes the way I watch movies in general. The filming of “Shake Little Sister” was a ton of fun for everyone involved, even if the “party rock” synopsis could be considered a bit of a far cry from his usual style of darker horror elements. I’ve been involved with several projects that have brought him in for video work, and he and his wife Rubella are always a class act to work with.

Jaiden really brought the vision behind “Nevermine” to something bigger than we had originally imagined. There were so many incredible shots that he captured — great performances, artistic still scenes, even some that could be considered more avant-garde. There was so much unused B-roll footage that he could make entire videos utilizing just that. I’m extremely proud of that song, and Jaiden’s involvement was the icing on the cake. He’s actually done multiple film projects with Cultus Black, including our brand new single “Killing The Beautiful”, which just debuted on Wednesday as a matter of fact! His approach to filmmaking, specifically in the realm of horror, meshes exceptionally well with the vision that Cultus Black had from the very beginning.  It’s been a very visually-oriented project since day one, and he was pivotal in bringing those visuals to life.

Cultus Black‘s “Nevermine” video:

Sleaze Roxx: The Fifth are also one of the first signings to Ron Keel’s RFK Media group. How did that partnership come together?

Jake Tripp: Roy and Ron go way back, being that Keel featured Cold Sweat’s guitarist Marc Ferrari. The two of them reconnected during Cold Sweat’s reunion on the 2020 Monsters of Rock Cruise. Following the pandemic, they stayed in touch and we were offered to be the first band he signed. Ron is a great guy with a zeroed-in business mindset, who has nothing but confidence in what The Fifth has in store. To be working with someone so genuine, in an industry seemingly filled with anything but, is a truly refreshing concept. We feel that Ron is the guy to lead this band into an extremely bright future.

Sleaze Roxx: Having joined the band after they had been around on the scene for a few years, what are some of your favorite songs from the catalog to play live? I would imagine “No Going Home” is up there on the list since that song has such a cool bass groove….

Jake Tripp: No doubt that one is fun to play. Anything that involves me and Gary cohering as a rhythm section is always a plus in my book. “Confessions of Man” is probably my favorite of the whole night. The movement of the riffs is very reminiscent of early 2000’s rock, and Roy’s delivery during the chorus is massive. Our iteration of “Crying Shame” is also one of my favorites since the bass and drums also carry that song.

Sleaze Roxx: You’ve been in the band since 2019, just before the pandemic happened and shut everything down. What kinds of musical projects did you work on [during quarantine] to keep yourself busy and keep your chops up?

Jake Tripp: 2019 was the year my career really started getting busy. Cultus had just launched, and the buzz was spreading extremely fast. We were set to immediately start touring in early 2020, but then of course the pandemic hit, and everything stood still. With The Fifth getting ready to enter the studio, I had entered sort of a “lull” period where I didn’t have to travel much. If I’m being perfectly honest, I didn’t mind it that much. While most musicians spent all of 2020 lamenting over live music being temporarily halted, I was ecstatic to actually have some time off. It wasn’t that I didn’t miss it, but after being in working bands for 13 years at that point, I was in dire need of rest and relaxation, so having the year off of show obligations had a very positive effect on me.

Sleaze Roxx: You guys landed a coveted opening slot for Foreigner at one of their outdoor shows last summer, which to me seems like an optimal pairing. What was that experience like?

Jake Tripp: That one single show was like experiencing all of the most amazing parts of being in a band in one day. Private catering tent, a team of stage handlers doing all of the work and heavy lifting, being escorted by our own military police detail who are there to keep us safe, getting to work with an awesome production team like DBI, and finally looking out to see 20,000 people having a great time for their fourth of July celebration. And the Foreigner guys sounded incredible. I don’t think any of us will ever forget that show.

Sleaze Roxx: For those that don’t know, you also play bass in the metal band Cultus Black. The sound and vibe there is a little darker than the melodic hard rock that you play in The Fifth. Is it difficult to switch gears going from performing with Cultus to playing in The Fifth?

Jake Tripp: It’s certainly strange walking in both of those worlds sometimes. Those bands couldn’t be more different artistically, but both are hungry to achieve their vastly differing goals. The Fifth is a fun, in your face band where everyone’s personality contributes to what we do. Cultus Black is a bit more nuanced. In a similar vein to bands like Ghost, the identities of the individuals take a backseat to the art itself. Although maybe strange to some, it’s a concept that I’ve grown to love and revere. The album we will be releasing eventually is probably my favorite recording work to date, and I can’t wait for it to be heard it in its entirety.

Sleaze Roxx: Cultus Black have not one, but two new singles out in “Nevermine” and “Killing The Beautiful”. The latter having just been released on March 30th. With the band opting to release individual singles (as opposed to a full-length album), what is the process for recording? Do you record everything at once and spread the releases out or do you get together to record when you have something that you feel is on the mark and up to your standards?

Jack Tripp: Cultus is very much a “modern” band, which is reflected in how they create music.  Everyone creates demos in their own time (basically all of us have small recording setups in our homes), and we bounce ideas back and forth.  There isn’t much of a process where the band has to get together in a room and jam; but for what we’re creating, there doesn’t really need to be.  Our upcoming full-length was recorded with James Wisner, who has worked with several notable rock artists over the years — Paramore, Underoath, Dashboard Confessional, the list is nuts. After seeing his impressive resume of critically acclaimed gold records, and hearing what he produces, it’s no surprise that he’s in the league he is.

Cultus Black‘s “Killing The Beautiful” video:

Sleaze Roxx: The practice of solely releasing singles works well for some bands in that you’re not saddled with physical product to move and it generates fan interest over a longer period of time. Is there a plan to release a CD or LP at some point?

Jack Tripp: Both bands will undoubtedly have physical stock for the upcoming albums. CDs may seem like a dead format to some, but I don’t think they’re going to be going away anytime soon. They are the most requested merch item at just about any show I’ve ever done, and I think people appreciate the instant gratification of being able to see a great band live and then immediately jam their record on the drive home while the show adrenaline is riding high.

Sleaze Roxx: Cultus Black have a strong visual element that I think would work well with the packaging and physical release of music. But in this age of streaming / downloading, is a tangible product even a viable venture for an up-and-coming band?

Jake Tripp: Tangible products such as CDs and vinyl are still very much in demand, and probably will be for years to come. There’s a great convenience to streaming in that it satisfies the immediate demand to hear your favorite songs, but there’s always going to be the collector’s aspect that comes with actually owning it. Album artwork is so much cooler up close. You can really appreciate the detail that goes into designing the image in a way that you just can’t really get on a small screen when streaming it. For an up-and-coming band, it can be tricky. There’s a tendency in this day and age for music to be viewed as more of a consumer product. Once it’s been consumed enough, the listener is hungry for more. The business model of releasing singles can sometimes be more advantageous in an age where people’s attention span seems to be at an all-time low. To break out as a new act, you have to keep feeding the listener a little at a time in order to keep them hungry for more.

Sleaze Roxx: On the opposite end of the spectrum, a lot of legacy artists are no longer releasing new music due to the time and financial investment involved in creating it. Their stance being that “fans just want to hear the hits”. I can see that side of it. What are your thoughts on that business model?

Jake Tripp: If an artist is satisfied with their creative output, and the fans love what they’ve created prior, then I personally believe the artist should reserve the right to do what they feel is best. I don’t believe everyone should obligate themselves to be in a creative mindset 100% of the time. Most legacy artists have families, hobbies, and other things in life that they value as well. At the same time, some fanbases have a tendency to create a real “rock and a hard place” — pardon the pun — for the artist. If they sit on their tried-and-true hits, then they’re considered ‘lazy”. If they try something new and it doesn’t quite stack up, then they “lost the magic from their prime years”. At the end of it all, you can’t please everyone. Create what you love, because you love it, and your real fans will appreciate that you’re still here doing it.

Sleaze Roxx: What are some of your favorite album releases of the past few years, and what were some that you’ve used as a beer coaster after hearing them?

Jake Tripp: Tetrarch is one of my favorite newer bands. They have a very “Korn” sound and I grew up on that style. Their latest album was incredible, and I think they’re going to be huge before long. I also enjoyed Twelve Foot Ninja’s new LP ‘Vengeance’. They have a wide range of genres that all converge into a down-tuned modern metalcore sound. For a beer coaster?… I’m not sure if I’ve heard any that I would say were that bad.

Sleaze Roxx: Weigh in on the debate…. CDs or vinyl?

Jake Tripp: Both still have their place as far as I’m concerned. CDs are still easy and relatively cheap to produce. Vinyl may be more expensive, but they’re great for sentimental value.

Sleaze Roxx: Who are some of your all-time favorite bassists that made you want to start playing and also some of your favorite up-and-coming musicians?

Jake Tripp: There are so many awesome bassists that it’s always so hard to narrow it down. There are so many that I appreciate for different reasons, whether it’s the way they play, the way they write, their tone, or their choice of gear. John Entwistle, Jason Newsted, DD Verni, Billy Gould, David Ellefson, Victor Wooten, John Paul Jones, T.M Stevens… There are seriously so many I could name that have influenced me, that I’d be typing this list all week. As far as up-and-coming musicians, I’ve really been digging this artist Becko. He incorporates a modern pop sensibility with electronic rock music in a way that I find pretty tasteful.

Sleaze Roxx: Thanks again for doing the interview Jake! Between The Fifth and Cultus Black, you’ve got a bunch of new music out there for people to check out. What are your plans for the remainder of 2022 as far as touring and recording goes?

Jake Tripp: The pleasure was all mine! After this tour, I’ll be taking a couple weeks off to re-acclimate to normal life. The Fifth will have some great one-off shows coming up in the summer. We anticipate getting started on our next full-length album sometime this year as well. Additionally, Cultus Black will be preparing a few more releases, as well as gearing up for our tour with Static-X and Fear Factory in March 2023. That tour is going to be massive. Thank you guys so much! Hope to see you next time around!

The Fifth‘s “No Going Home” video: