Five Finger Death Punch started 2017 embroiled in legal proceedings with record label Prospect Park, meaning they couldn’t release a new album. And then in June, on their European tour, Ivan Moody had another onstage outburst and had to go back to rehab. But the band aren’t known for giving up without a fight, and recruited Bad Wolves frontman Tommy Vext to fill in on vocals. Ivan worked his way back to health and made a triumphant return on the band’s US run in August, and their lawsuit was settled soon after.
Now they’re set to release a greatest hits album in December, featuring two brand new songs, followed by another record next year. We caught up with Zoltan and Ivan to find out how they faced down their most difficult year yet.
It’s been a tough 2017 for you, Ivan. How are you doing today?
Ivan: “I’m absolutely fantastic. I’m happy to be alive. It’s been a long road and it’s still a battle. I’ve always been up for challenges, and I’m not going to be defeated by something like this.”
It’s no secret that you’ve been to rehab. What was a typical day like on the latest stay?
Ivan: “The rehab centre I went to was absolutely beautiful. It was out in Arizona and it was within a giant mountain range, so it was out in nature, which… well, everybody knows I grew up in Colorado, so that’s a big deal for me; it’s my comfort zone. I didn’t want a hospital setting. So a typical day would be eat food, go to meetings, take pills, eat food, go to another meeting… they tried to put me on a regimen and get me back to where I was ‘human’ again. Because the rock star lifestyle really does take a toll on you. You’re constantly on the move, you’re never really at home, you don’t see your family or friends a lot.”
You were also in rehab in 2016 – what went wrong with your recovery?
Ivan: “There are more than just addictions to drugs and alcohol. I mean, there is sex, there is food – there are people who are addicted to caffeine, for god’s sake. So I don’t necessarily think it was a fail. I think it was a slip, and it was a test to see how I could live in the skin that I once did, and see if maybe it was something I made up in my head. Maybe the addiction was something I could get over and be a social drinker, so to speak – a ‘normie’ is what we call them. But I realised that it’s not me. It’s not in my blood to do that. It’s all or nothing, so that was really tough to face.”
Zoltan, when did you notice something was wrong on that European tour?
Zoltan: “Generally, we always had issues where Ivan would start the tour and he would be doing awesome. Then as the tour went on for weeks and weeks, slowly you’re starting to burn out and you’re getting tired, and that’s when the van started to go sideways. He’d be fine for the first three weeks, and slowly he’d graduate to falling off the wagon. We were in South America and we came back to the US and did a couple of shows, then we went to Europe, so it was an extended period of time. And actually, that show, when it went sideways, kind of, was a weird situation.”
What happened in Tilburg, when Ivan said it was his last show?
Zoltan: “We had a new crew, and one of them signalled to run the intro without checking that we were all in the building. The stage was set up in a weird way where I couldn’t cross to the other side behind the drums; I’d have to get off the stage and go around. So I looked around and I couldn’t see Ivan, but I thought, ‘Maybe he’s on the other side of the stage.’ The intro runs and I go onstage and start playing, and Ivan is nowhere in sight, so I’m like, ‘What the fuck is going on?’ The band is onstage, the first words are about to come, and there’s no Ivan! Literally, Tommy [Vext] has just come from the gym, and he walks onstage, still in his gym clothes, and someone threw him a microphone. He started singing some of the first song and then Ivan shows up, and he’s looking around, like, ‘Did I get fired?’ It was such a confusion! So Tommy ran off and gave the microphone to Ivan, and Ivan was laughing at first, but eventually he got more and more annoyed, and about halfway through the set all hell broke loose!”
Ivan rejoined in August, at the Illinois State Fair in Springfield, USA. What was his first show back like?
Zoltan: “Oh, it was amazing! When he went home, it was like, ‘We’ve seen this movie before and we know what happens. Why don’t you just go home and check into rehab?’ We had seven shows left and we couldn’t risk anything happening, and he knew, so he went and checked into rehab. He has these sober coaches, and when he came back it was night-and-day different.”
How was it for you, Ivan?
Ivan: “It was great. It was absolutely intense. Probably one of the first shows I’ve played in quite a long time where I didn’t have any alcohol in me. I’m nervous riding over to the venue, and of course I’ve got my manager there, and I’ve got a couple friends. And all of a sudden, Rob Halford [who previously guested on the band’s song Lift Me Up], of all people, puts his hand on my shoulder and supports me and tells me that he absolutely loves me and that he knows I can pull through it, and that stuck in my heart the entire show.”
What did you learn about yourself from going to rehab?
Ivan: “I learned a lot about myself. Things that I had forgotten. I learned what it was like to not battle myself anymore, which is really difficult to admit, because at the end of the day – and I’m sure anyone can agree with this – you’re your own worst enemy. I just got to a point where was lying to myself constantly, so I had to face up to that. It was a lot of, I don’t want to use the words ‘self sacrifice’, but that’s what it felt like. It was giving up who I thought I was and starting over from scratch and realising the man that I am was good enough.”
Zoltan, what kind of changes have you seen in Ivan?
Zoltan: “He definitely looks healthier, and he looks happier. And the thing is, Ivan was a functioning alcoholic; this guy could probably fly the space shuttle drunk and you wouldn’t even know. That was the thing with him – you wouldn’t notice that he was drunk until he’d say something really bizarre, and then you were like, ‘Oh shit, you’re drunk!’ Now we go out and the machine is absolutely precise, to the minute. He’s actually where he’s supposed to be, meaning that if we wanted to use pyro, now we can. Before, you couldn’t tell him, ‘Don’t stand there’, because he will stand there.”
So you’re less worried about him relapsing?
Zoltan: “Well, you can never tell. Jason [Hook, guitar] and Jeremy [Spencer, drums] have both been through rehab and got sober. They’ve had years and years sober, and they can help Ivan because they understand. And I can understand from them talking to me about it. You’re an addict forever, you just have to actively work on it. It’s not a habit; it’s an addiction and an illness.”
What are the challenges you’re facing now, Ivan?
Ivan: “Alcoholism is an ongoing battle that I’ll be dealing with for life. There’s no cure for it. I know some people who have been sober for 15-30 years and it’s still a constant battle for them. They always say ‘take it minute by minute’, and that’s a true statement – it never goes away. Alcoholism runs in my family. I know a lot of people who are alcoholics and I think the biggest part for me is that society supports alcohol. There’s a liquor store on every single corner, there’s a bar on every single corner, there’s always some place to get it, and it’s almost like it’s promoted to the point where they shove it down your throat, and at the end of the day it makes it really difficult to even go out and enjoy life without stumbling.”
How long have you been sober for now, and how are you staying sober?
Ivan: “I take it day by day. A friend said it the best: ‘I don’t count days anymore, I fight through the hours.’ There’s always a chance it could rear its head again – I’m just trying to fight the good fight every minute of every day.”
You have a new album coming next Spring – what does it sound like?
Zoltan: “Well, it’s like when a new Iron Maiden record comes out and people say, ‘What does it sound like?’ It sounds like Iron Maiden! By now people know what to expect, and it’s never gonna be a massive left turn from what we’re doing. But on this record I’d say there are probably three or four of our best songs to date. We’ll have a couple of slower songs… I’m not gonna use the word ‘ballad’, but in that direction. Then you have your mid-tempo and a couple of burners.”
Can you give us any hints on the themes or songtitles?
Zoltan: “Probably the first song that’s gonna come out is titled Trouble. And there’s a song called I Refuse, which is one of the ones that I think will be pretty massive. There’s a song called When The Seasons Change and one called Stuck In My Ways.”
What are the songs about?
Zoltan: “This record has a lot of emotional shades, a wide emotional spectrum, because there’s some days when Ivan’s winning – there have been days when he’s been sober for some time and he’d write a pretty uplifting song about how he’s winning – and then he falls off the wagon and he feels like he’s stumbled, so he’d write a song about that. Every lyric is either a situation that’s happened to us or happened to him. I think that’s why our fans will connect with the lyrics, because these are problems that people deal with every day. For me, I don’t have any kind of addiction other than work, so for the longest time I didn’t really understand. It took six years to learn that it’s not that simple and it is actually a real illness, and it’s really difficult to deal with.”
How are you coping with being in Five Finger Death Punch today, Ivan?
Ivan: “There’s no coping with it. I love my band, I absolutely do, and I’m ashamed that I got to the point where I was almost abusing what we worked so hard together to have, and I’m not going to blame it on one thing or another. It wasn’t just alcohol, you know? I’m human. I’ve got other things going on in my life. Again, I have family and friends, I have situations just like anyone else, and it got to my head where my band was really my only outlet and that includes communicating. We’re out on the road 10 months out of the year together. We’re more than family, so I had really nobody else to vent to and that became really complicated. I can’t even apologise to them enough.”
You’re planning your biggest UK stage show to date in December – what can we expect from that?
Zoltan: “Basically, we’re bringing our entire set that we use here in America – so it’s bigger lights, bigger stage props, everything is bigger. Everybody in this band is fans of bands like Iron Maiden and Rammstein, the bands who put on really big shows. Not so much theatrics as a bigger visual representation. And I think bands owe that to their fans when they get to that point.”
What are your plans for 2018?
Zoltan: “Well, one of them is to finally put out this record. And, personally, I’m gonna go to Africa, probably in January or February. I work with a team that’s ex-military, a non-profit organisation that’s basically anti-poaching, and they defend rhinos and stuff like that. Then probably in April we’ll start touring America. So I have ‘time off’, but you know what that means!”
What are your hopes for the future, Ivan?
Ivan: “Same it’s always been. To perform at the highest level that I’m capable of, to write amazing songs I’m proud of, and to get out there and do what I do best.”
New 5FDP album And Justice For None lands May 18.
They play Rockville in Florida on April 27. Get your tickets now.
Alcoholics Anonymous offer support to anyone struggling with addiction. Their 12 Step programme involves getting sober with the help of regular support groups. Call their helpline free on 0800 9177 650, email firstname.lastname@example.org, and read their FAQs at www.alcoholics-anonymous.org.uk. For more information on alcohol support, visit www.nhs.uk/Livewell/alcohol/Pages/Alcoholsupport.aspx