"To look at our band now as a global arena headliner, I think it would give a lot of hope to other musicians to see just how far we’ve come." - Zoltan Bathory
Eight albums in and still swinging, Five Finger Death Punch are back to doing what they do best. With a new sense of clarity, the band's new record 'F8' finds them at their most honest, open and optimistic and the world is once again there for the taking.
We caught up with guitarist Zoltan Bathory to find out how the last few years have inspired their most cohesive work yet and what he hopes the legacy of the band will be when they are gone.
What do you feel like ‘F8’ represents both for Five Finger Death Punch but also for you as an individual?
“It seems as though the album is doing exactly what it’s supposed to be doing - people are actually understanding what this album is. For me, I feel like it’s a milestone. It’s the monolith that stands out in the middle of our career as probably the most important record, or what will be the most important record, we’ve ever made. I think that’s because of a couple of things. This is our eighth record, and for any band to do eight records is huge. Especially considering this is our eighth in 13 years, that’s a lot of touring and recording and touring and recording. We work hard. This band didn’t get to where we are because we did things by half. We’ve worked our fucking asses off. It’s not some major label puppet bullshit. This is a real band with real problems that we hid from the world as much as we could. But we became an arena-headlining band even with all of the crazy shit happening around us."
"So two years ago things escalated to a different level. We were on tour with Sixx:AM, Nicki Sixx’s side-project, and Nikki came over to us and said, ‘I don’t know what to say. I’ve done a bunch of dumb shit in my life, I’ve died twice, but you guys need to slow down’. From Jonathan Davis to Rob Halford, everybody had the same conversation with our band. So two years ago was when we hit the wall. Ivan had to stop and go to rehab. Everybody set about getting sober. So with that, this record is the first record where everybody is focused and completely sober and wanting to prove a point.”
So for you guys the progression comes from the substance of your songs and what they mean rather than what they sound like?
“Exactly. For us this record happened organically. We are the same people in the band as before so the same music was coming out as the seven times before. But because the guys got sober, a sober mind is completely different. So we managed to infuse these new ideas with this new behaviour. Even the work ethic of the band got amplified. All of those things brought a new lease of excitement. We have all these gold records that we made while everybody was out of their minds, so what can we do when we’re not? This is what this band was always supposed to be.”
When you’re able to find the time to take that step back and learn new things from each other even though you have been doing this for nearly 15 years, it can completely change your perception of things…
“There are so many factors that affect the music you write. You know when you’re a club band playing in little venues, it’s not very likely you’re going to write an arena anthem because it’s not in your perspective and it’s not something that’s affected by the audience you have. Then once you’re an arena band, you’re going to think like an arena band. You’re probably not going to think about how good strings will sound on a song if you’re a hardcore band playing in CBGBs. Your circumstances do dictate what you do. It’s inescapable."
So after the things that you've done on this record, how have the things that you want to achieve changed? Is it in parallel with how things were for you while you were recording it?
"Obviously the work is never done. There’s always a bigger mountain to climb and another challenge to overcome. Though this is a quite a complex question because it could have about 17 different answers. There are so many different factors to take in as well. Ultimately as a person, what do you want to leave behind? People built the pyramids because they wanted to leave behind a mark. It’s genetically inside of us. We have this consciousness inside of us that knows we can create and change things around us. So what happens when that consciousness dies? That thing inside of you knows that you have to do a cave painting of sorts so people who come later can find it. So there's always that feeling of wanting to leave something behind. I’m not sure if it’s a main motivator but it never really goes away."
"So then there’s the motivation to have these different experiences. There are things that money can’t buy and can’t be taken away from you. So for example, I always wanted to be a rock musician. I always wanted to be doing exactly what I’m doing right now. I’m experiencing that. I’m in it and feeling it and I want to continue building on that. So that’s a personal thing."
"Then there’s the motivation to right some wrongs. There are a lot of misconceptions about this band and a lot of untruths and a lot of disrespect. So if we continue then our true story will then start to be heard."
So what do you want the legacy of the band, or even your own legacy within it, to be?
"I produced the first record that we made in my living room on a shitty computer. That record is now almost a platinum record. We were also on a small independent label for basically seven records and they only had four employees. We never had tour budgets. Everything was DIY, all of the time. Everything we have done we have done on our own. So to look at our band now as a global arena headliner, I think it would give a lot of hope to musicians to see just how far we’ve come. It shows them that they can climb the mountain and do anything they want, just like we did."