It’s not every day that Metal Hammer gets a lift home in a bright orange Lamborghini. But then, it’s not every day that we hang out with Five Finger Death Punch in a Las Vegas recording studio wallpapered with their gold and platinum discs. And it’s certainly not every day that we get such a candid insight into the band. We begin with the simple premise of guitarist Zoltan Bathory (owner of said Lamborghini) and vocalist Ivan Moody asking each other questions – everything they’ve always wanted to know about each other. We end with tears, and a bond so strong you could use it as superglue. Here’s what happened...
Zoltan: Do you remember the first time you met me? What were your first impressions?
Ivan: “The first time I actually met you was when I came to LA to audition. You and I had been talking via email, on MySpace of all things. You’d sent me Salvation, The Bleeding and Meet The Monster, and I came out with no expectations, not really wanting anything to do with the music industry, and you just took me under your arm the second I came in.”
Zoltan: “You turned around and showed your back!”
Ivan: “Yeah, ’cos I was nervous. I remember you sitting there texting already, and I was like, ‘Oh, I blew this one! This is gonna suck!’ But you were already telling people that I was the guy. Then we went to the Rainbow and you bought me dinner.”
Zoltan: “[To Hammer] I’d already heard him sing, so I knew he was the guy. But it took some time to get him to LA. I actually bought him his plane ticket and cancelled the ticket back, so he was stuck with us! I always have to trick him into shit. By the time he realised he was a prisoner, we were seven songs in! We had great conversations. He’s a lunatic, which is something you can’t fake. I had a megaphone in my car and he was hanging out of the window, screaming at people in Hollywood.”
Ivan: What’s the stupidest thing you’ve ever read about us?
Zoltan: “Jesus Christ, where do I start? Well, we didn’t have a record label, a manager, or a booking agent, and without those things we were already getting big. Then we were on an independent label with a shoestring budget, and people were like, ‘These big-money, corporate bands!’ Our first record was done in my fucking living room! It doesn’t get anymore DIY than that, but we’d get this corporate thing, as if it was contrived.”
Ivan: “I’d have to agree with you. That’s one of the most irritating ones for me, too.”
Zoltan: Why do you hate doing press so much?
Ivan: “I’m glad you asked, because we’ve never really talked about this. It’s not that I don’t like being interviewed, it’s that every time I talk, things are taken out of context, and they put all capitals on something that was a minute piece of the interview. I feel like I’m exploited a lot. It’s like they want me to fuck up, because that’s how they get a good story. You guys have a great gift of gab and great filters; you’re less emotional. I don’t Tweet or have Facebook, I don’t do any of that stuff. If you read anything on Blabbermouth, they fucking hate me, and I’ve never done anything wrong to them. TMZ has done so much shit about me! But I love doing interviews when I’m not being taken advantage of.”
Zoltan: “I’m like Spock and he’s like Kirk. You’re all emotion, because you’re the singer. So it’s easy to get to you because you react. But I don’t read the garbage on Blabbermouth, and when I do it’s funny. I don’t like the lame ones like ‘Five Finger Donkey Punch’. But sometimes people say incredibly rude things that’s really funny shit, and you’ve got to give it to them.”
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Ivan: What’s the biggest thing that drives you crazy about me?
Zoltan: “[To Hammer] Well, thank God, the thing that drove me crazy is now solved. When we got together, I felt like we were unbeatable, and I loved that feeling. Then, when Ivan started drinking more and more, I felt like there was an unpredictability. Which is great in some ways, but it started to happen in a way that was like, ‘Is he gonna fall off stage? Am I gonna get woken up one day and he’s dead in his bunk?’ I felt like it wasn’t fair that he was putting the rest of us in jeopardy and it wasn’t fair that he was making me worry about him all the time.”
Ivan: “It took me a long time to believe that I belong here.
I always thought other singers were better than me, and I felt like I didn’t deserve it. It was self-sabotage, and it took the longest time for me to get my head out of my ass. It makes me want to cry, actually. But I realised that it was never just about me, and it was selfish to think that way. For the longest time I figured I was gonna die from drinking. But once I stopped, it was different. Now I don’t know how I’m gonna die. I’m curious, actually. But anticipation of death is worse than death itself, and that was something I was avoiding, because I’m scared. But anyway, on to the answer for me… there are very few things that I dislike about you. You sometimes overwhelm yourself, because you’ve got your hands in so much stuff, the monster trucks, martial arts… sometimes it gets to be too much, because I miss the days when it was just Death Punch. But that’s just me being selfish. There’s really nothing I dislike about you.”
Zoltan: What’s my worst habit?
Ivan: “You are a control freak, to some degree. You have a tendency, if something doesn’t go the way you want it, to chop it off at the head. But you don’t really have any bad habits: you eat well, you have the cleanest dreadlocks I’ve ever seen…”
Zoltan: “But I’m quick with the execution?”
Ivan: “Yeah, if you don’t like it, it’s a duck and you shoot it out of the sky!”
Zoltan: “I can see that. But it comes from looking three moves ahead…”
Ivan: “That’s how he drives, too! He drives like Tetris! I’m really nervous in cars, more than nervous, I hate other people driving, and I drive like a grandma! Zo was doing almost 200mph to LA, and I started noticing that he was looking two to three cars ahead. But the control freak…”
Zoltan: “But I can see three moves ahead! See,
I cut him off because I knew what he was going to say! I calculated what he was going to say! But I can see why that frustrates the shit out of him!”
Ivan: What’s your favourite and most hated lyric that I’ve ever written?
Zoltan: “That’s a good question. Crossing Over was really powerful, with great lyrics. I also love Wrong Side Of Heaven. With Ivan’s lyrics, I either absolutely love it or I absolutely hate it. But I speak with my instrument and he speaks with his voice, and I have to respect that. If he’s angry, you’re gonna hear it, and you’re not gonna be all Shakespearean. You’re gonna be ‘Fuck you!’ as loud as you can. We get a lot of criticism for that, but that’s real emotion.”
Ivan: “Remember the song I wanted to call ‘Cunt’?”
Zoltan: “That song had at least 28 ‘cunt’s in it! I’m like, ‘Dude, you already hold the record for the most ‘motherfucker’s and ‘fuck’s!’ There was a list of songs that had the most profanity and we were Number One by far!”
Zoltan: “What riff or piece of music that I’ve written have you hated?”
Ivan: “There is one on Way Of The Fist that I didn’t dig at first, but we’d just got together and the material was all new to me.”
Zoltan: “For me, it was Never Enough.”
Ivan: “Yep! Zoltan hates Never Enough. Never liked it, never will! We actually almost quit…”
Zoltan: “We were almost fist-fighting!”
Ivan: “Our manager had to separate us! We were recording at Korn’s studios in LA and we were working with this guy – I’d rather not say his name – and he came up with this idea that we should do a poppier song. I started writing to it, and Zoltan came in like, ‘This is complete shit!’”
Zoltan: “I was like, ‘This is everything I despise! This is exactly what we promised we’d never do!’ It was the only time in our career that a third person from outside the band was involved.”
Ivan: If you had to describe me in three words, what would they be?
Ivan: “Wow! That’s the first one?”
Zoltan: “Grenade without pin!”
Ivan: “I like that!”
Zoltan: “He’s the middle finger of this generation, but that doesn’t fit in three words.”
Zoltan: What three words do I get?
Ivan: “For you, I’m gonna say ‘creative’, ‘logical’, ‘genius’. I was gonna say ‘handsome’, but that’s four words.”
Zoltan: “Can we have four words? I wanna be handsome!”
Ivan: “I’m not kissing your ass. You’re very logical. You’ve never gone out of your way to hurt anyone, but if it’s right, it’s right, and if they don’t like
it, fuck ’em. Especially in business. And you are quite humble once people get to know you.
And genius is not to be used lightly, but you’re premeditated in just about everything you do.”
Ivan: When was the moment that you thought you could never work with me again?
Zoltan: “That point never came. I’m a solution guy and there’s always an answer. Moments came when I was like, ‘Fuck, I don’t know the next move’, but we figured it out. I guess the first time we had to stop the tour because you were becoming dangerous to yourself. I’m not gonna watch you fucking die! I felt helpless. [To Hammer] He’s a singer and his life revolves around those two hours on stage, so the only thing I could do was take that away from him. But it was a bluff, because he’s my brother and my singer. I was worried that if I bluff, then I have no cards left. That was a dark time, because I usually have the answers, but I didn’t, other than, ‘You have to go to rehab and you have to go now!’”
Ivan: “I wasn’t happy about it, but I did it. Anybody who’s ever dealt with addiction knows that it’s a lifetime goal, a war with yourself. I got lost in the bottom of a bottle, and that’s all there is to it. But I’ve always wanted to tell you, and the other guys when they read this, that you guys never gave up on me. You stood by me, even when my own family didn’t. So, I thank you guys, and I love you for it.”
Zoltan: “This is like therapy. Probably the shittiest I ever felt was when I said we were gonna fire you. I didn’t mean it, but I felt like I was out of options.”
Ivan: I have one more for you, and then you can ask me anything you want. What do you want to leave as your legacy?
Zoltan: “I spent almost a decade with Buddhist monks, so I have a different way of looking at life and understanding that we are a flash in this world, and when it’s gone it means nothing. I entertain myself with buying things that
I thought I could never have – cars and stuff – but that’s not what makes me happy. What I get joy from, like when you got sober, is doing things for other people. When I can help the other guys, or the work we do with the veterans, and we get letters that we changed their lives… that gives me satisfaction. So the legacy is that we were more than just a band.”
Ivan: “So, what’s your question?”
Zoltan: Do you understand, after all that’s happened, that you’re the guy, you’re our singer, and nobody could ever replace you?
Ivan: “I’ll answer that by saying that I appreciate it. In my household, I was constantly told that I was fucking crazy, and I was never going to amount to shit. I grew up in detention centres and jails, a couple of mental institutions, and this is all before I was 18. I was never expected to live past 21, so for a long time I had what I call the ‘why me syndrome’. Because I see people I think deserve it, and they don’t have it. I’ve been a horrible human being in the past, and a lot of my wounds were self-inflicted, so I started thinking, ‘Why do I have all this power and these great guys surrounding me?’ It never sank in until this last time in rehab, but I admitted to myself that I am worth it and I can love me, even if the rest of the world does not. It’s taken a long time for me to feel successful, but I am the perfect imperfection.”
This article originally appeared in Metal Hammer issue 310