What the fuck is going on with Five Finger Death Punch?

Five Finger Death Punch2016

In 1888’s Twilight Of The Idols, philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche wrote, “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.” For the past six months, the members of Five Finger Death Punch (vocalist Ivan Moody, guitarists Zoltan Bathory and Jason Hook, drummer Jeremy Spencer and bassist Chris Kael), have been forced to take stock of why they do what they do amid pulverising setbacks. The dawn of 2016 saw them enjoying hard-fought status among the world’s most bankable arena rock outfits, and their sixth record, Got Your Six, debuted at No.2 on the Billboard 200 chart.

The train shot off of its rails in March, however, when Ivan entered a rehab facility to address unspecified substance abuse issues, forcing the band to back out of a slate of Australian dates opening for Black Sabbath and a couple of their own headlining shows. They’d already cancelled two dates on their European tour at the end of last year, due to the Paris terrorist attacks, after Anonymous revealed that 5FDP might be a target next. Then their label, Prospect Park, filed a lawsuit against them, alleging breach of contract and “shamelessly attempting to cash in before the anticipated downfall of their addicted bandmate” – something the band vehemently deny. The quintet have now hit the road for US dates before heading to Europe for summer festival season. We caught up with Zoltan, who told us that they won’t be broken…

HOW DID IT FEEL TO MISS OUT ON PLAYING WITH BLACK SABBATH?

Zoltan Bathory: “It’s friggin’ Black Sabbath, you know what I mean? And this was their farewell tour. We have a lot of fans in Australia and our fanbase has been growing there, so it was a bummer for the fans and also for us. But the most important thing is the band. You have to make the right choices and you have to win the war, not the battle. We could have possibly won this battle but lost the war, but first and foremost it’s about the health of the band members and the health of Ivan, our lead singer. We couldn’t fight this one, but we could keep fighting tomorrow.”

JUST HOW ROUGH HAS IT BEEN FOR IVAN?

“He’s been battling his demons, and when you’re in a rock band, it can be really difficult to be on the road. If you have any kind of addiction or addictive personality, everybody wants to hang out and party. People are going to come up to you and say, ‘Hey man, let me buy you a drink!’ or ‘Let’s hang out!’ For them, that’s a big thing. They came out to this show and it was a big moment for them, and they want to party; they don’t realise that to us, it was the same thing yesterday, and the day before that, and the past 300 days before that. But you don’t want to be rude – it’s just hard for people to understand that. You have to change the habits on the road – what happens, what’s on the rider. You have to take off all the alcohol; even mouthwash. It’s about trying to eliminate all of the triggers.”

WAS THERE ANY INDICATION THAT IVAN WOULD BE GOING TO REHAB?

“This is Groundhog Day for us, to a degree. Groundhog Day for me means training martial arts, going to the gym and doing the things that I do, but if you have some kind of addiction, it can be bad and detrimental, and the temptation’s going to be around you all the time. It’s not a secret – everybody knew that Ivan had a lot of problems.”

HOW DIFFICULT WAS IT TO SUPPORT HIM?

“I don’t have an addiction and I’ve never had these problems, so personally, I didn’t understand these problems for a long time. I was like, ‘What the fuck? Why can’t you keep your shit together? Jesus fucking Christ, man…’ I just didn’t get it. But now I know that this is an illness. If someone has a horrible disease, everybody will come out and try to help you. But when somebody’s an alcoholic or drug addict, people are like, ‘Oh, you’re a fucking loser.’ It’s a completely different attitude, and I was guilty of that, too. I didn’t understand that if you’re an alcoholic, you actually can’t just stop. If people who are alcoholics just stop, they could very possibly get a seizure and die, so they do need professional help to get them off of it. People who are completely sober can’t understand this, and I couldn’t; it took me some time to realise that it’s not as simple as stopping.”

WOULD YOU SAY YOU GUYS LIVE A ROCK STAR LIFESTYLE?

“Everybody has a vision of what that is, and it usually comes from things like the movies. But I think the ‘rock star thing’ has changed. Personally, I do a zillion things; I race monster trucks, I’m into boats, I’m yachting around, and I’ve learned to fly. To me, that’s the rock star thing. Anybody with a lot of eyes on them knows that what you do becomes the ‘rock star’ thing, which means you’re also in a position that gives you the power to change what that is. So, if you decide that it’s knitting, that’s probably not going to go over really well, ha ha! But if you do something interesting, you’ve got the ability to cast that activity as the next rock star thing.”

Ivan and Zoltan are like brothers

Ivan and Zoltan are like brothers
(Image: © Travis Shinn)

YOU GUYS ARE A BIG NAME NOW. WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED AFTER THE PARIS ATTACKS, WHEN ANONYMOUS LISTED YOU AS A TARGET?

“We got some private messages from Anonymous, and I had very good reason to believe that they were the real deal, telling us that they had cracked some communication. It wasn’t a band-specific threat, but whatever band would have been playing this particular venue, at that particular time, would have been a target. So the target wasn’t us, the target was the venue. We weren’t sure if it was a five-year-old kid or if it was serious, but the next day it was in the news, so we were like, ‘Oh shit, this is for real.’ Some people were saying, ‘Come on, don’t be pussies! Play the show!’ Yeah, that’s cute to say from 10,000 miles away. Here’s the thing – if we did the show against the warning and something happened, then we’re assholes. We put our fans in danger. Can we do that? Absolutely not. One hundred and thirty people died in Paris a couple days before, and my crew were personal friends of the guys who were killed. So can we put our crew or ourselves into danger? No, of course not.”

UNLIKE OTHER US BANDS, THOUGH, YOU GUYS DECIDED TO STAY ON THE ROAD…

“I’m not going to reveal how our security works or what we have, but it’s probably better than most bands have ever imagined or heard of. We have a little bit of a different way we roll. Immediately, we were getting intel from every source you can possibly imagine. Fill in the blanks – we were getting intel 247 about what was happening and why. And then we talked to the venues, the local police and the local counter-terrorism units. At some venues, we realised the security was way too lax. When we saw that local police weren’t fully understanding the magnitude of the events, were were like, ‘No, thanks.’ So that’s how we assessed every single show.”

YOU’RE CURRENTLY INVOLVED IN A LAWSUIT. HOW DOES IT AFFECT THE BAND’S ABILITY TO CREATE?

“You know what? You’re not a real band until you’ve been sued, ha ha. You’re not a rock star until you know what ‘subpoena’ means. Ha ha. But yeah, I can’t discuss any pending litigation.”

JASON HAS SAID HE’S ALREADY COMPILED THREE ALBUMS’ WORTH OF MATERIAL, SO HAS THE SONGWRITING PROCESS BEGUN AGAIN?

“Technology rules the world these days, and for a band to write and record new material is fairly simple. When you go on the road and you have an idea, you hash it out, record a couple of riffs, and maybe put some other instruments in, like drums or whatever, and it turns into a piece that could be something. Jason always noodles. You never see him without a guitar in his hand, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he has two or three albums’ worth of riffs and ideas. It doesn’t mean that he’s necessarily got the songs, but he’s got the seeds of some interesting things to start working on.”

WHERE DOES YOUR SOUND GO FROM HERE?

“Since we have six records, I think now is the time when technically we could do any kind of album. This is the moment where we can sort of experiment. We have a couple of ideas floating around. One of them is to make a little bit of a retro record, just to have fun and do a thrash metal vibe, and then there are new ideas that are completely different, involving elements that we’ve never had before. Both directions are exciting, so we’ll have to make a decision.”

YOU’VE GOT READING & LEEDS COMING UP – HOW ARE YOU GOING TO PLEASE 80,000 BIFFY CLYRO FANS?

“We’ve played between 311 and Snoop Dogg, so it’s not the first time that we’re going to be exposed to a different crowd than we’re used to. We have 16 top ten hits, and it comes down to the songs and the performance, and that’s our thing. We’ve seen different crowds over the years and we’ve won them over. Every time we’d play a festival, the next time we’d drive through that city on our own tour, we’d notice that our audiences would almost double, because these fans, who’d never seen a metal show before, saw us by accident. We love the chance to win over new people.”

WITH ALL YOU’VE BEEN THROUGH, HOW TIGHT ARE 5FDP THESE DAYS?

“I’d say probably better than ever. When it comes to the music, what to do in the show, we’re super-tight. Personally, we’re very different. We joke that we’re like five fingers – they all point in a different direction, but if you piss off one, it’s going to become a fist, because the five fingers stick together. We protect each other, probably on an extreme level, and that way we’re like brothers. Nobody runs, everybody fights. That’s not a mandate from the band – that’s how we operate.”

5FDP PLAY LEEDS FESTIVAL ON FRIDAY AUGUST 26 AND READING FESTIVAL ON SUNDAY AUGUST 28

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