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Five Finger Death Punch’s Zoltan Bathory Discusses Double Album, Mayhem Fest + More

Zoltan Bathory Five Finger Death Punch
Kathy Flynn, WickedGoddessPhotography.com

These are fruitful times for Five Finger Death Punch, who are set to unleash the first volume of their double album ‘The Wrong Side of Heaven and the Righteous Side of Hell’ and are currently co-headlining the 2013 Mayhem Festival.

Loudwire spoke with guitarist Zoltan Bathory at the kickoff of the 2013 Mayhem Festival in San Bernardino, Calif., and he opened up about what goes into making a recording as ambitious as ‘The Wrong Side of Heaven,’ how the star-studded guest list came into play and what the band intends to offer as part of Mayhem this summer. Check out our interview below.

First off, how in the hell do you get all of those amazing guests on the new part of Five Finger Death Punch album?

First and foremost, it’s important to say that we finished our record first, so we had the record completed. So all of those ideas of ‘let’s get some guest vocalists’ came after. It was kind of like here is our record, this is us and then all of the guest vocalists were going to be bonus tracks. So you got to hear the original track as is and one with the guest vocalist. We wanted people to understand that this wasn’t some gimmick. It was something that was really fun.

I mean, any kind of instrument you want to put into your music, you can. If you want to put a f—ing grand tuba in our music you can, it’s easy. However every vocalist has a signature. When you hear Rob Halford singing three words and you know who it is, right? Or Max Cavalera or any of these guys; they have their own signature. You can’t really barter with that because that is their signature. So when you get to this point where we could actually do this, it was a very fun thing. That is pretty much how it came about.

Rob Halford is a metal god; he is a legend and a founding father of the genre itself … We can jump to the other guys. We all toured with them. Max Cavalera came out onstage before — he sung ‘The Way of the Fist’ with us; Jamey Jasta was on tour with us, same thing with Maria [Brink of In This Moment]. Tech N9ne, you can’t go wrong with Tech N9ne. If you don’t like Tech N9ne, then something is wrong with you. Ivan and all of those guys are fans of Tech N9ne. Tech N9ne loves heavy metal so it was just the perfect storm. It was just the fun part. How many times do you get to do this kind of thing? We are blessed that the band got to this level. We can call Max Cavalera like, ‘Hey man, would you do this?’ and he is like ‘F— yeah, bro!’ That just doesn’t happen.

I’ve got to ask about ‘Burn MF.’ I have only heard a snippet of it but from first listen I thought that has to be part of your set when you play onstage.

Yeah, it is going to be. We just came back from Europe so it is really difficult to fly around and do all of that stuff that we have to do, finishing the record, get ready for pre-production, build the stage set. I don’t know if you saw it but it is insanity how big this thing is and we have to get ready to play the songs. ‘Burn MF’ is one of the songs that is going to get into the set, probably the third or fourth show on this tour.

A show has to be stable, the show has to be seamless so we usually eliminate the variables, meaning right now we are figuring who stands where, what, who, where. It is just what it is and I wanted to make sure that songs comes off like a horse kicked you. We are still figuring who plays what part, what happens, where back up vocals are. So as we go we are rehearsing it basically on the go. We are probably going to add it to the set within the next couple of days.

This is a double album. You guys have all this stuff you wanted to get out there. What is the litmus test for what makes it onto the record?

There’s a long answer and a short answer. First, the idea that we ended up with two records from perfect alignment and a perfect storm. We just happened to be in a creative mood and we were banging out songs better and better so we kept writing. The way we write, we are songwriters first and foremost. Every one of us can play. We are technical players. When it comes to songs, there’s a difference between just shredding and showing of or writing songs. That’s a different talent. First and foremost, the song has to be a song then you start to think about yeah, let’s add a guitar solo. But a song, the core of it has to be the song.

It has to be something that makes you feel some way. If a song is just blah then we don’t care. You have a big pallet. A song can make you feel different ways. A song can make you aggravated. A song can make you feel powerful or a song can put you in a melancholy mood. A song has many ways to affect you emotionally or your mind state. When we write a record we try to dabble into old feelings.

Recording two albums actually gave us a really interesting opportunity. When you have 10, 11 songs on a record. If I start to experiment and start to do something progressive, that’s almost stepping away from our sound. Because you always have to push it a little bit. If I do two to three songs, that’s one third of the record. A lot of fans will say what are they doing? So it doesn’t really give you space, 10 songs. You don’t have enough space on the record to experiment.

We have 24 f—ing songs. Now we can. Because this is the thing. If we do something progressive then you’re damned, because where are you going? That’s not our sound? If you don’t, well you always sound the same. You can’t f—ing win. We thought the same thing on the fourth record, you have three of our records, and we’re the same band so it kind of sounds the same. So, now if we derive from that we’re damned, if we don’t we’re damned. So, here’s two records. There’s plenty for everybody, we could experiment a little bit. We could push the envelope a little bit. We could put some progressive pieces and our typical brutalizing licks that we always do. It opened up everything for us.

It’s a perfect move for us. When we were done with the 24 songs. We already had that many. That’s what we told the label. We want to do a double record, they said no. They said pick your best 11 songs and the rest are bonus tracks. We’re like, ‘OK I’ll make you a deal. Here’s 24 songs, you pick the 11.’ A few days later they called us back, head scratching, OK well I guess it’ll be a double record. That’s what we thought. That’s what will happen.

We’re talking before you play the first show here but I saw the Amon Amarth Viking ship stage down here, which is insane. You recently mentioned staging. Can you talk about what we should look in terms of what you guys are putting on for Mayhem?

It’s always been a goal to like, even this we talked about years ago. There are bands that are comfortable with, they jump on stage, play their show and there’s nothing wrong with that. A t-shirt and camouflage pants and this is what you do, it’s all about the music. Fine. But then there are bands — Rammstein, Iron Maiden. They bring the visuals. I think it’s — again, I’m not criticizing anyone else, we just do what we do. But, I think it’s like, you leave a lot on the table if you’re not bringing a visual element. It’s supposed to be a full experience — the audio, the visual altogether, because that has much more of an impact.

We’ve always tried to do bigger and bigger shows. When you start to talk about a show that — you don’t say anymore, I see a show. You say I was there. Remember this conversation we had way back when? I can say that you created an experience, people feel a part of it and it’s one big tribal experience. That’s where music came from. We started with sticks and stones; stones are in the fire ready to f—ing hunt down some animals. Music was there to pump you up. Or when you’re done with the hunting, this was relaxing you. Now you’ve got it, and now you celebrate. That’s what music was originally. And the lights and all that stuff is basically the modern version of the fire and what we do is the modern instrument version of the tribal experience and you have to bring that. So this is important. It’s always important that we build a big show and when you look at us it’s substantial. You feel that. OK everything here is just machined all of me and f—ing stainless steel. Not just some background painted canvas that feels fake. It has to be heavy, substantial and well built. So when you look at the stage you understand, oh, some time and energy went into this.

Five Finger Death Punch’s ‘The Wrong Side of Heaven and the Righteous Side of Hell, Vol. 1′ drops July 30. Pre-orders are currently being taken at Amazon and iTunes. ‘Vol. 2′ is set to arrive in the fall.

Next: See Photos From Five Finger Death Punch's Opening Day Mayhem Set

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