Interview With Five Finger Death Punch - 9th February 2009
Photo Of Five Finger Death PunchWe sat down with Five Finger Death Punch’s founding member, Zoltan Bathory in their tour bus before a sellout show in Belfast’s Mandela Hall supporting Lamb of God. 5FDP have all but conquered America with their crossover hardrock/metal sound and now it’s time to unleash on Europe.

Thank you Zoltan for taking the time to speak to us
No Problem
So you were in London performing a couple of nights ago
Headlining gig in Islington, The very start of your European dates
Yeah, it was the very start
How was it?
It was very good, it was sold out. It was a small place, you know but here we are new. Here we have to start from the bottom rung again. In the States it’s been a long time since we played a small stage but it was cool.
Did you get a good reaction from the fans?
Oh yeah
Singing along to your songs? Mosh pits?
Yeah well they’re not really allowed to mosh or stagedive but it happens.
So it’s your first time over here?
Yeah well I’m European so I’ve lived here for a long long time but for the band it’s the first time here
First time in Ireland?
First Time in Ireland, first time in Europe.
Are you being treated well?
We’ve been here for 3 or 4 days and so far it’s really good. It’s really interesting because the record just came out here but in the US it came out over a year ago but people know the band already, people are aware of who we are. We’ve signed a lot of cds which were imports so they have been buying it before it came out here.
When was it released here?
It came out here on January 19th
And we can buy it anywhere?
Yeah yeah
There’s a lot of swearing on the cd, can we get a clean version?
Oh, I don’t even think there’s a clean version, we’re a dirty band <laughs>

So where did the name of the band come from? Who first suggested it?
Well you know, I came up with the name. I am a big martial arts fan, I love Hong Kong cinema. Old kung fu movies and what not so it was inspired by that. Kill Bill had ….. you know the movie Kill Bill?
Kill Bill had a reference but even that, the five finger lotus punch or whatever the hell it was, it was coming from old Hong Kong cinema. That’s where they got it. We figured it’s a weird name. People either hate it or love it but they remember it. It’s interesting because there’s two things a name has to do. One, you know what kind of music it is, you know it’s not a Jazz band with that name. Two, you remember it and it creates a reaction.
And Knuckleheads?
Knuckleheads yeah <laughs> you know that came from the whole theme of the thing. I mean you should see our fans in The States. They are fucking crazy, we can’t play without barricades now. We’ve played a lot of festivals and one of our songs got on the radio.
That was The Bleeding?
Yeah, The Bleeding got on the radio. You know, the band is way heavier than what the radio normally plays. So what happened is this song became really successful on the radio and we would play radio festivals but they put us together with other bands who are successful on the radio. It’s night and day. We’re really heavy and we’re there playing with bands like Nickelback, Kid Rock and Seether. They are more rock and we’re more metal. What happens there is there’s a big arena, 30,000 people. The security never expects that there’s one band who are really heavy and our fans are there. You have 30,000 people and out of that you have 4,000 heavy hardcore metalheads. When we come onto the stage they all come into the middle and the moshpit starts. The security are never ready for that so it’s like a complete riot because they can’t control the crowd. There were so many times that our set was cut short because they lost control. So we have these barricades now and that’s the only way we can play.
Barricades and lots of security
Yeah. It was always funny because we would have to say to our fans to cool it because the security were pissing their pants <laughs> but they don’t, they just go fucking crazy. So it’s kinda funny, they are our knuckleheads because they are crazy. This band became successful because of them, we are a band that the fans carried. We fall into a weird category, we’re not extreme heavy who the underground press cover but we’re too heavy for the mainstream press who cover Nickelback, Seether and all the other radio friendly rock. So we’re in the middle with no press and no coverage but the fans were carrying the band and it all spread by word of mouth. We are so proud of our fans for that and so grateful. We hope it will be the same here.

So when does your own European headlining tour kick off?
We do this with Lamb of God, there’s one more in Dublin. Then we go back to England and we’re gonna play 5 Metal Hammer shows with Dimmu Borgir, Lamb of God and Unearth. Then we go to the continent.
And that’s what you’re really looking forward to?
All of them, it’s all fun. When we play a triple bill situation or a festival, a lot of people will come who have maybe never even heard of us. It’s an opportunity for us to show these people what we’ve got and possibly gain more fans. It’s fun for us with new fans just to see them when they don’t expect what we give them. On the other hand when you have a headlining show, all the people there are your people. So both are fun in different ways.
Ok cool, who’s coming along with you on tour?
We’re taking bands who are local, from the area. Basically it’s changing, we’re not taking a band with us all the way.
Ok sounds good. Let’s talk a bit about your music videos. How many have you made so far?
Music videos, umm we did 3 of them. The first one was for The Bleeding because it became really popular on the radio. Then the video got on MTV and got into the top 5 videos so that was hugely successful. Then we released another video for the song Never Enough. It was interesting because the label wanted us to make the Never Enough video and we made this deal with them. We said Ok we’ll do that video if you also let us do another one for The Way Of The Fist which is our favourite. It’s a heavier song and represents the band, or shows another side of the band. Within the album we cover a lot of territory. Between The Bleeding and, let’s say, The Way Of The Fist it’s fairly wide. Obviously both are our songs and recognisable as being in the same genre. But there is a gap between the two so we wanted to show the extreme side of the band as well. We did that video and it became really successful too.
Were the videos fun to make?
Yeah they were really fun. We did The Way Of The Fist in a cage, like a fighting cage. It was really cool.

Some of the lyrics of your songs are very raw and emotionally charged. Are they all based on reality, from personal life experiences?
Yeah you know, there are bands who sing about dragons or themes of history and whatnot. First of all, like those bands, we are a heavy metal band. No one can expect that we’re gonna quote Shakespeare or whatever. To me, heavy metal should trigger some sort of a primal thing in you, you know what I mean? It’s always been a kind of a rebelling thing. Showing the middle finger to the government, establishment, teachers. Just whoever it is you want to rebel against. Another thing is, humans as a species are hunters, fighters, survivors. We are the dominant species on this planet and people live their lives in cubicles working under fluorescent lights. They completely forget that they should be out there actually living. Heavy metal should give you that jolt, like, “wake the fuck up man! You are the dominant species here, you’re not supposed to sit in a fucking cubicle!” All those things come together.Ivan writes the lyrics and it’s mainly his personal experiences. He’s a pretty raw guy, you know. He has never really had a family, he lived and grew up on the streets. He never knew his father. He fought for his life, literally.
Just listening to the lyrics of the songs, you know that a lot has happened to him in his life.
Yeah, if you really listen to the lyrics. For example, The Bleeding is very personal to him. It’s about one of his relationships that was dear to him and it fell apart. It became, I wouldn’t say a ballad, it’s a hate song. It was one of those relationships that was just bad bad bad. You get addicted to the pain that a relationship like that causes. You get addicted to the drama, to the pain. Then you have Meet The Monster which is about a band he used to be in that screwed him over. It’s like “Fuck you, meet the monster you have created”. Basically it’s all his personal issues, about his family who disowned him, about him growing up on the streets. You know, in America there are so many of these kids who have completely dysfunctional, fucked up families. The divorce rate is out of fucking control. People who have these type of families all relate to the lyrics because they have the same kind of life. They look at this guy and say “he was a homeless guy who had no family, had nothing. He barely had any education and here he is in a band touring the world. If he can do that maybe I can too”. It gives hope.
And what about Salvation? That obviously fits in with his personal experiences. It is Ivan saying that religion didn’t help him, he helped himself.
Yeah, pretty much. It’s interesting that you pick up on that because that is exactly what it is. He went through his life and the songs are parts of that. You look at Salvation and that would part of that.
Salvation would be Ivan’s own experience and not a general attack on any religion?
Yeah it from one perspective, his own experience because you can’t really speak for other people. You know, we can’t judge religion because it helps some people, it may not help others. You can experience religious events, you can maybe go to a religious school, a catholic school or something. You might see it as hypocrisy, or maybe not. But if your experience is that, you might say that this is complete bullshit. You know, if it works a certain way then I shouldn’t be judged or tossed aside. If I’m going along with the foundation of the whole thing then why am I being judged on how I dress, on how I look? I should be able to think and say whatever I want because that freedom is given to me. If you restrict me then explain this foundation again. You talk about acceptance of all then you try to twist my arm. How does this work? It doesn’t work. That’s his experience, there are people who have a completely different experience.
Yeah, everyone is different.
Exactly, but that was him and there are many others who are the same so they relate. Like I grew up in a religious school or I grew up in India where I was told who to marry. You know, how the fuck is that freedom?
Basically what he’s saying is you can help yourself?
What he’s saying is the only faith you can really have is in yourself. It’s like whatever religion you’re exposed to, the most important thing is that you believe in yourself. You can’t really just go and look for a religion, or even lets say a pact. Like Buddhism is not really a religion it’s like a pact, a lifestyle. It’s not necessarily loaded religiously. I’d say, by reading the Buddha’s teachings, he’d be pretty pissed off by how they try to organise and even call it Buddhism. He originally prohibited his teaching being written down because he didn’t want it to become a religion. Even if you take those teachings, not necessarily religiously loaded, but with a central figure that’s supposed to decide your fate. Even in that situation it is like help yourself, get strong on your own. You know what’s wrong and what’s right. Even without an education, everyone has that. The song Salvation is about “I will find salvation no matter what God accepts, or doesn’t accept me”. Even like if there is five different religions, which one is right? That’s crazy you know. Who got it right? Who’s God is in charge? Yours, mine? Look, everyone can believe what they want to but the foundation of it all is if you don’t believe in yourself, it’s not gonna work.

On stage do we see the band’s own personalities or is it just performance?
You know, we are all very passionate about our music. Before Ivan writes the lyrics, we write the music and give it to him. Music, even without words, should push you some way emotionally. It’s like a soundtrack for your life. It has to trigger something. Classical musicians didn’t have singers. They had to write music that would put you in a certain mood or try to tell you a story. I believe that still has to happen. A beat that is pushing will create anxiety, a laid back beat will relax you. You can play with those emotions. You can create a lot of pictures with the music alone. You then have a vocalist who understands those things and taps into it. You have music which creates a picture, then you have a vocalist who understands that picture and writes the lyrics that go with the music. That is a really powerful tool. The music will hit you emotionally, the words will hit you mentally. We have the song Death Before Dishonor. In America there is a big thing about the troops. We would never exploit an issue like that. The individual person who goes out to the front line knows that the bullets are coming. Bullets have no names, they get you or they don’t. They don’t know which it will be. That has nothing to do with religion, a cause or politics. It is just you alone. You will live or die. That is tremendous individual strength. They have the balls to go out there. Maybe as a soldier they have a belief in something, defending your country or whatever. That is fine but you go out and you know you may not be coming back so you have your own strength, your own mind. Within the song, the lyrics are talking about not giving a shit about politics and all that stuff. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter to me. “Just bury me like a soldier with my dignity” is the chorus. That means I’ll go do it because I said I would, I’m a man of my word and I’ll do this. That’s what I am, a soldier. It’s aggressive but we get so many letters from soldiers telling us it got them through something in a sandbox somewhere. They listen to the lyrics and if one guy sends me a letter or email saying that he survived a fucking war because he had the strength and he listened to us then we’re not just writing the music for entertainment. You are there saving someone’s life to some degree.

What about new material, are you showcasing any on this tour?
Well sometimes we’ll drop in a cover or something. We are working on new material but since we haven’t played in Europe yet, it would be unfair for the fans not to hear us play and tour the first record. If you drop in new unfamiliar songs now it will take away from their experience a little bit.
So it is like you are starting over, touring the album for the first time?
Pretty much though the difference is, in America we had to fight for every foot of ground. People think that this is a major label band with major label marketing but the truth is we recorded and paid for this album on our own. We had such an underground buzz and gained fans so fast that people started hearing about us. The labels were like “Who the hell are this band?” We would play shows that were sold out, mosh pits were out of fucking control. On the internet we had like five thousand downloads a day, number one in the charts. They were all like “These guys are number one, they don’t have a record deal. Who the fuck is this band??” That’s how the labels started to come to us. And that’s how we signed to The Firm, EMI. We signed with the conditions that we are our own band with our own fans. The only way we’ll give a shit about a record deal is if you don’t fuck with us artistically. You will put out the record as it is. No fucking tweaking. We are a heavy metal band and this is our sound, you won’t be messing with it. They were like no, America loves you. This is working, this is great. We will put it out as it is. We wanted to work between the genres, between heavy and not so heavy. Heavy metal was, at one point, sort of mainstream. Like when Iron Maiden was on top. In America, the heavy metal band is underground so you don’t really see them in the media, on tv. I feel it is an honour that I’m influenced by Iron Maiden and all those great bands. This generation doesn’t get that because they aren’t exposed to that music. It’s almost unfair. Our mission is to pull this music back to the mainstream. If we were playing death metal, we couldn’t do that. I would never be able to touch people, I’d be talking to a really small segment of fans. My personal taste is when you have a real singer and people who can really play. You write real songs. It’s very important that when you play a song, it’s a song. It has a chorus, you remember it. It’s not just about me on a mission to bring metal to more people, it’s also what I like. It just so happens that this is what I like and at the same time it’s a mission.

Your music does cross the boundaries between what’s mainstream and what’s heavy. I know a lot of non metal fans who like it and on the same hand I know real metalheads who like it also.
Yeah, because we are on the borderline of what is acceptable as heavy, we are pushing the envelope as to what is mainstream. Although the mainstream was opposing us at first, after The Bleeding got on the radio it was like the fucking wolf in sheep’s clothing. That one song went in and just exploded, it went top ten really fast. Radio was like what the fuck?? My answer to that was always that they were underestimating the kids. The kids are ready for this kind of music. They are ready to hear heavier music. Here is the proof, the song went top ten and stayed there for 7 months

From my own experience on a local level with music, that is very true. Fans do want to hear heavier music but they are just not served because venues and promoters are afraid to take a chance or whatever.
Exactly. What we saw was the media wasn’t giving it to them. Our song stayed top ten for months and the DJ’s were like “What the fuck? What is up with this?” All the other stations were playing it and it just went crazy. That opened the door for us and we were exposing heavier music to people who never really listened to it. They would come to the shows and they were like “what the fuck? What is this?” Normally they would never go to a show like this. We’re basically recruiting people to heavy metal. At the same time, old school guys are there too. We look out and see 14 and 16 year old boys and girls and 40 year old metalheads. These guys grew up on Judas Priest and Iron Maiden. They can recognise that to some degree we are traditional heavy metal. We write traditionally with melodies, that’s what they like. We also get the hardcore guys who like the darker stuff. Mix that with the kids who listen to the radio and we cover a pretty good cross-section. We are recruiting people to metal. They listen to us and then maybe they move on to Slayer or Lamb of God, who knows? I think it’s great. Personally I get lots of emails from people picking up guitar. I was looking at like Adrian Smith from Iron Maiden. I was looking at Accept. I wanted to play guitar because of those guys. For me it is an honour that now I’m getting emails from kids who are picking up the guitar because of me.

What about Darrell, what happened with him leaving the band?
Well, we recorded this album completely and we needed a second guitarist because of the live shows. We had a guy who we weren’t completely sure of so at the last minute we got Darrell. He used to play with our drummer, Jeremy. Darrell was in W.A.S.P. for five or six years and Jeremy was hired for like a single tour. They knew each other from there. When we needed a guitarist, Jeremy was like hey, Darrell’s available. He toured the world, he’s a professional. That’s how Darrell came in. His influences never really got into the band because we were already done with the record. We toured with him for a year and a half. There’s a difference in a good guitar player and a good band member. There needs to be a chemistry between band members. We never really had that with him. He was a really good guitarist but never became a part of the family. I don’t think it was because he was the new guy, there was never a new guy syndrome with him. The family was open for him, something just wasn’t right with it all. We parted ways as friends, the whole band came to the conclusion that it wasn’t going to work. It was alright but why would anyone settle for alright? You want great.
So the “great” you are looking for is Jason?
Jason has been Jeremy’s best friend for the past 15 years. They were in four or five bands together. Jason has a couple of solo records, I played on them so we’ve all known Jason for a long time. When we needed the guitarist in the beginning, it would have been Jason but he was on tour with Alice Cooper, he was not available. We had Darrell and we never developed the close relationship with him that we would have liked. We said to him maybe he should just go and do something, maybe start his own band. It was obvious who would be the first choice to join us. His contract was just finished with Alice Cooper.
So it was just a smooth transition into the band?
Yeah it was just like that. The interesting thing, even musically, is that we are very close to each other. Darrell’s guitar style is more a blues style, I’m very European. Jason doesn’t have blues influences and he’s much closer to my style. When we play together it’s much closer, much tighter.
How many gigs has Jason played with the band?
This will be the second one. He’s a crushing guitarist, just unbelievable. The thing with Jason is that he was always the hired gun for big big projects.
Everything from Alice Cooper to Hilary Duff.
Yeah, everything. There’s two thing’s you’re gonna know about hired guns. If he makes a career out of being one means that he’s been hired and rehired again and again. He has a personality that he can work with so many different people. It’s the music industry, many people are fucking crazy and difficult to deal with. He can interact and go eye to eye with a lot of different people. Second, you don’t get hired all the time for these high paying gigs unless you’re really fucking good. We’re talking about a high paying top of the hill job. People like Alice Cooper put out the word in L.A. or wherever and all the best guitarists come and audition. If you are being picked over and over then you are the best of the best. So, this guy can fucking play anything. I don’t look down on that, if you are a musician you just want to play so you will play anything. You can work in an office or a coal mine, there’s so many things you can do for a living. If you are being offered a job as a musician, I’ll take that before I take a fucking office job. He’s got to the point now where he wants to do what he’s excited about. He’s the happiest fucking guy right now because he is amongst his best friends doing what he loves to do. Before he was just getting paid to do a job.

What plans do you have for after the European tour?
We’re gonna go back and start recording the second record. In the summer we are gonna come back and probably do the festivals, Download and all that. During June and July there are several big rock and metal festivals. We’re 99% sure we will come back for those. When the second record comes out we’ll tour The States and Europe. I dunno when that would be, maybe the Fall.
And come back to Ireland?
Oh definitely, we’ll probably come back two or three times to Europe. It’s special to me because I’m from Europe.

And Ivan is now a movie star?
Yeah, he’s a character. The guys who did Texas Chainsaw Massacre, they produced a new movie called Bled. They hired him to be the monster in the movie.
How long ago was that?
Maybe about a year or something.
And it’s coming out now in the next few months?
Yeah, the movie industry is very slow moving. He was hired as a monster. I think he’s gonna get a lot of these because he’s just that character. In the movies it’s like action, take, doesn’t work, retake. He can bring to the table that there’s no retake on stage. You are in front of maybe 10,000 people when you’re on stage and you just can’t fuck up. When you take a person that has to do that night after night and you drop him into the film industry, then to him it’s the easiest fucking thing. It’s a very relaxed environment because it’s not live. Even if it was, he could perform because he does it for a living. He’s a natural talent because he does it every fucking day. I don’t know how much he’s on screen but there’s no other monster, he’s the villain. I saw some previews and it looked really cool. He loved that whole thing.
Yeah, something different to do.
Yeah, he will go back and do a bunch of movies I think. He likes to do it and people like him. He has a natural talent.

Well Zoltan, I think we will leave it there for now. Hopefully we can talk again in the future.
Ok, now you need to go and decipher my accent <laughs> good luck.

Interview By Craig Young
 Band Members

Ivan "Ghost" Moody (Vocals)
Zoltan Bathory (Guitar)
Jason Hook (Guitar)
Matt Snell (Bass Guitar)
Jeremy Spencer (Drums)
 Latest Releases
Five Finger Death Punch - The Way Of The Fist
Release Date - 19th January 2009
1. Two Birds Stoned At Once
2. Is It Progression If A Cannibal Uses A Fork
3. Lexington (Joey Pea-Pot With A Monkey Fork)
4. Bulls Make Money, Bears Make Money, Pigs Get Slaughtered.
5. A Lettere From Janelle
6. I Didn't Say I Was Powerful, I Said I Was A Wizard
7. ...And The C Liver Screamed 'Help!'
8. We Swam From Albatross, The Day We Lost Kailey Cost
9. Life Is A Perception Of Your Own Reality
10. If I Cut My Hair, Hawaii Will Sink
11. Smitten For The Mitten
12. Intensity In Ten Cities
13. The Undertaker's Thirst For Revenge Is Unquenchable (The Final Battle)
14. I Didn't Say I Was Powerful, I Said I Was A Wizard (Bonus Track)
15. A Ltter From Janelle (Acoustic) (Bonus Track)
 Band Related Links
Five Finger Death Punch Myspace