May 19, 2018 Interview – Zoltan Bathory of Five Finger Death Punch
Keep your eye on the prize, ignore naysayers, never stop trying, and the odds are you will go far. As cliché as it sounds, it is the damn truth, and who is more solid proof than modern Metal behemoth’s Five Finger Death Punch. Adored by a massive following and despised by haters, there is no denying the staying power and influence of 5FDP.
Dishing out one top-selling album after another, defying the odds and laughing in the face of critics, it seems nothing can stop this band. Still, with something to prove and never complacent, they return with a vengeance offering up their long overdue new album And Justice For None. Eager to bring it to the people, the ever busy and driven Zoltan Bathory took the time to talk about the chaotic success that is Five Finger Death Punch, the story behind their latest album, and remaining hungry for more.
CrypticRock.com – Five Finger Death Punch has been one of the most successful Metal bands of the last decade, topping charts with each of your albums and touring the world over. First tell us, what has this wild ride been like?
Zoltan Bathory – When you are in this, you sort of live by the day. You don’t really notice what’s happening because it happens really fast; there is so much going on everyday, you have to live in the now. Your days are really about the present, and the time to look back on what happened to say – “Wow, we did seven records in 10 years” – doesn’t really cross your mind. You look at the next task, such as the challenges of the day – you are playing this arena, and our stage set is so big it barely fits in there – so you deal with what is happening at the moment. Sometimes, if you sit there for a moment, that’s the only time you can really reflect to say, “Holy shit, we have come this far and have done seven records!” Crazy stuff has happened, definitely; it is a tornado really, you just live in the eye of the tornado and move forward. (Laughs)
CrypticRock.com – It certainly has been a great ride that continues. Let’s briefly look back on the past, 2007’s The Way of the Fist celebrated its 10th anniversary last year, and that album really caught many people by surprised. Looking back all these years later, were you taken back by the fanfare that debut received?
Zoltan Bathory – That record was actually a completely homemade record. A lot of people don’t know that: there are a lot of misconceptions out there because this band became big fairly quickly, especially if you look how long it takes a Rock/Metal band to get anywhere. Because of that, there is this misconception that this band was sort of put together with a major label operation with truck loads of money spent – that is absolutely false, it couldn’t be further from the truth actually.
The Way of the Fist, we recorded it in my living room, literally. Every single guitar, bass guitar, everything that was recorded, was done in my living room in California – probably in my bathrobe and coffee in hand. (Laughs) We rented a studio for the vocals and drums, and a friend recorded it.
The record was completely done, we didn’t have management, a label or anything, and we started to put a couple of songs online and it took off from there. We were getting massive numbers of downloads and streams; that is how everyone started to know us. Everyone was saying, “Who the fuck is this band?” We were having much bigger download numbers than all the major label bands of that time. Eventually, we got signed to an independent and we are the only band on that label. We have been on the same label for last 10 years and we are the only band, that is it – they have 3-4 employees, it is a small operation. This perception that this was a major label operation with a truck load of money, as I said, nothing is further from the truth.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, the band has always come across as a proudly self-made act, regardless of what some may say.
Zoltan Bathory – The band never had tour support. We had great fans, and we sold merchandise because the fans loved what we did. It is actually a completely self-made band in that aspect. That was the opener that got us going, and we are really proud of that record still. Especially now, because at the time we were not getting the recognition for it, but now, in retrospect, people talk about it.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, it deserves it. It was a different sounding record for the time.
Zoltan Bathory – You’re right. It was a different sounding record from anything else on the scene at the time; it had a different sound and vibe. In fact, publications/magazines told us at that time, “With a stupid fucking name like Five Finger Death Punch, and with this music, there is not a chance in the universe you will ever get on radio.” Now, 10 years later, and here we go!
That record is actually a gold record. So any band out there struggling out there and fighting the good fight, it is fucking possible! We did it in my living room, and it’s a Gold record today. We didn’t have brillant equipment or anything, we just did it, we just wanted it. It is possible for anyone!
CrypticRock.com – That is great and very inspirational. Since then it has been full speed ahead for the band, and now you are back with your seventh studio album, And Justice For None. What was the writing and recording process like this time around?
Zoltan Bathory – This wasn’t an easy birth. I joke about it that this was a c-section: we had to fight for this. The record label never interfered with the recording process, we just always did what we wanted to do. As I said, back to the same theme, this band has always done what we want to do. This time around, we had a different opinion about some things. Not necessarily musically, but they wanted to do a Greatest Hits and we thought it was not time for that yet.
We got into a legal battle and that took some time. That is how the title came about. Even if you win a lawsuit, you never really win – it is aggravating, expensive, and it takes forever. Ivan was joking, “What about And Justice For None?” We always knew if we were going to keep that as a title we were going to piss off all the trolls online, which is always fun. We love pushing buttons and we love the haters – we have a history of pissing them off, we enjoy that!
Anyway, this record was tied up in the system for about a year or so, and now it’s out. Basically, it finally happened. We have waited for this, the fans have waited for this, and it seems we are having a great reaction. It is a very diverse record: we recorded it as a time capsule of the things going on around us. The 2016-17 year was a pretty rocky year – struggling with Ivan’s addictions to alcohol, people were getting sober and whatnot; all that crazy shit going on around us, it’s all in the record. That makes it a diverse record, because the ups and down, hopes and struggles, everything is there lyrically.
CrypticRock.com – It is quite diverse and you can hear all the anxiety, frustration, and struggle in the music. That is what makes it also potent and real. The band is on the road now with Shinedown, and then later this summer with Breaking Benjamin. Life on the road can be a lot of fun, but also quite exhausting. At this point, how do you manage the time on the road being away from home?
Zoltan Bathory – I personally do a lot of things – I have a list of things I always want to do. Pretty much everything in my life is scheduled to the max; I am trying to get as much out of 24 hours as possible. That includes everything I ever wanted to do – fly airplanes, jiu jitsu, drive monster trucks. Everything I have ever wanted to do, I try and make those things happen. Everything has to be into 24 hours, that is the challenging part; I try and maximum every minute I have. That also keeps me sane and structured. That is how I look at it like pushing forward and accomplishing everything you ever wanted to accomplishment. That keeps me busy.
CrypticRock.com – It is good to be productive and busy. Some people are best when they are busy.
Zoltan Bathory – To tell you the truth, I did try and do things like go to Hawaii, lay in a hammock, have a margarita and chill. It doesn’t work for me, in an hour I start to say, “I have to do something.” It is what it is. When you fight so long, you work so hard so long, you become the person. For me, the lucky part for me is I love working: I enjoy the chess game, the planning, and building. I am addicted to the work and I learn to enjoy the fight.
There is not really a destination, there is not typically a point where I come from A to B. In a second, you have to come from A to B, then you will find there is nothing else to do in life. When you have this idea that well, “I know this direction I am going,” but I don’t put a cap on it.
There is no point B, it’s infinite. I am just going that way and there are these ideas that I want to do and accomplish, I will just get to it. Then your whole life is sort of rolling forward – you have milestones but you don’t have a destination. To me, that makes sense and that is what keeps me sense. So, when I am on the road, it is just part of the journey.