When the Los Angeles metalheads from Five Finger Death Punch arrived in Norway, they understood the origin of the country’s infamous cultural bastard child, black metal. “Anyone would be pissed off if they had to live in a place this cold!” concluded FFDP, while enduring the skin-shattering weather. However, even the northern latitudes couldn’t affect their high spirits as the band toured Europe in celebration of their 2009 release, War is the Answer – once they took over the US, it was time for the rest of the world to experience the “death punch.”
We met FFDP bass player, Zoltan Bathory, who was in a magnificent mood in spite of the freezing temperatures and ready to talk about his up-and-coming music project.
How did you all meet and how long did it take before you formed the band?
That’s a long time ago. We started in 2005 and I recruited the rest of the members. Unlike other bands, we didn’t know each other before we started the band. I specifically looked for people who could fulfill my musical expectations. I saw Ivan [Moody, vocals] at Ozzfest while he was a member of his previous band and the first thing that hit me was, “I want him to be a member of the band”; he was awesome. Same thing with the other guys – they were also in different bands at that time. We started recording immediately. We weren’t even interested in making a demo, all that was in our minds was this is what we want to do. So the first recording was self-produced.
Tell me about the name, who came up with it?
We have a ridiculous band name, and when people hear it they think “Whaaaaat?” I’m a really big fan of kung-fu movies, but the idea originally came from “Dim Mak” the “death punch”. Legend has it that you could get killed by only one punch and that’s always been a theme in Hong Kong kung-fu movies. It was after I saw Kill Bill we decided that this would be our band name: Five Finger Death Punch. We were dangerously close to changing it. When we first started creating the music, we received so many positive reactions from the audience and the first thing we thought of was that we might get big and then we’re stuck with this stupid name. But all-in-all I’m very happy that we chose this name, and I’m certain we made the right decision.
What were you doing before Five Finger Death Punch? Did you have a day job or were you in other bands?
I was a part of a band called U.P.O. I studied graphic design and animation, but I left it to pursue my dream of being in a band.
How is life on tour with FFDP?
With this band it’s crazy. You sometimes feel like killing each other. We’ve been touring almost nonstop since 2007, so that’s 9 years… or no, wait, 3 years [laughs]. It feels like nine sometimes.
What do you miss the most while you are on tour?
Well, right now I miss the sun and the palm trees. I live in Vegas where the weather is nice. When you’re on tour, you want the simple things like sleeping in a regular bed and not in a bus that’s driving 90 km/h, and homemade food, not McDonalds and gas station food at 4 o’clock in the morning. When I’m at home I feel the itch to go back on stage again. It’s “the grass is always greener on the other side” kind of thing, I guess.
What was the source of inspiration behind War is the Answer?
You always want to improve more and more, and of course, evolve. There are way too many bands out there that claim that the second album is “the heaviest ever” while we go the other way. We wanted to make a record that was a bit different than the first one; we didn’t want to repeat ourselves. Many bands find something really good that sells and they ride the train for as far as it goes. As a musician you always want to become better than what you used to be. On our first album, it was mainly me who did most of the work while on this album the others contributed a lot more.
What’s your favorite track on the album?
That would probably have to be “No One Gets Left Behind.” Musically I like the balance we created between “aggression” and melody; lyrically there’s a military theme throughout the entire album.
There is a line in that song, “Politicians bathing in their greed, no idea how to be all that they can be.” Would you say there’s a political undertone in the lyrics?
Yes, “be all you can be” has a been a recruit quote for the United States army for many years, and we took that quote and turned it into something of our own. The song is mainly about the individual who becomes a military recruit. They have a mission that they have to complete no matter what the war is about. He didn’t get recruited to become a politician, he got recruited to become a soldier and he has to honor his oath no matter what the politicians say. The message behind this song is that you can’t blame the soldiers. They’re merely just doing their jobs, all-in-all doing what the politicians make them do. Just like when the guys came back from Vietnam, they had to put up with all kinds of shit from people, even though they were just doing their jobs, that’s the theme behind the song.
You did a music video for “Hard to See.” Do you think the message behind the lyrics reached the public?
We saw a lot of outtakes on other ideas, but this one begins with our vocalist, Ivan, getting hit in the back of the head with a shovel, and we liked the idea so much that we ended up doing the video. We laughed our asses off when we saw the video and thought, “Hmmm, we just have to do this one,” and what kind of shovel should we use. It just looks really cool to be quite frank with you.
What does it feel like to know that the music you created is being played on the radio?
It’s really weird. When I lived in Hungary, I was always reminded that I could never become what I wanted to be. Metal was, first of all, a sign of rebellion. I remember I had to run from the police because I had long hair, so it was my way of showing society the middle finger. It’s surreal because I’m doing now what they told me then that I couldn’t do.
How does the music-making process go in FFDP?
We have a special way of working. Ivan is never present, so we put together the music first while we’re jamming, then Ivan writes the lyrics based on the music.
What are your plans for the future?
Taking a break, then going back on tour.
What advice do you have to other people who would want to form a metal band?
Don’t give up. Never give up. There is an old saying that I read in a boxing club. It said, “You become a champion by fighting one more round,” and it’s a wise saying. If you want to succeed, you have to keep going.
Text: Linda Nur Chbib