This week, Vegas-based rockers Five Finger Death Punch released their new music video “The Wrong Side of Heaven” with a party and meet-and-greet at Nellis Air Force Base. The event not only reached out to the band’s many military fans, it also served as the launch of a new campaign focused on raising awareness about veterans’ issues.
The Weekly spoke with 5FDP’s Zoltan Bathory about looking for the city that never sleeps, playing on U.S. bases around the world and how the campaign reaches out to both civilians and soldiers.
So, how many of you live here in Vegas? We used to live all five of us, but right now Ivan [Moody, lead singer] moved temporarily to Denver. He is coming back to Vegas, so we will be five again, but right now temporarily four.
You’re from Hungary originally. What brought you to Vegas? Well, I’ve lived in America for a long time. I lived in New York for a while; I lived in Los Angeles for a while. Then I moved to Vegas because I was always looking for a place that never sleeps and, believe it or not, it’s not New York, it’s Vegas. I wanted the life of the city and LA shutdown at 2 a.m., New York at around 3:30-4 it was dying down, so Las Vegas was the only place that really had that life, that buzz. As a musician, we live in the fast lane, so we always need the adrenaline. Either you find it racing cars or playing shows or something, and Las Vegas gives that to me. I live on the Strip, so I look out my window and I’m like, “Okay, this is alive.”
What is the campaign that you launched recently along with your music video release for “The Wrong Side of Heaven”? So basically, we, as a band, we’ve always been very close to the military. Literally, half of our crew is military. We usually hire veterans if we can for whatever position we can give them, and all of us have personal friends, many, many friends who are close to us and are either still active military or past military members, veterans. I guess this came about because our lyrics always had a specific kind of theme to them. …“We don’t take a step back, don’t give up, keep pushing and shoving. You don’t stop digging three feet from gold, you keep digging, digging, digging. You just don’t give up, you stand up and fight one more round.”
Does that draw a specific audience? The people who really gravitate toward these kind of lyrics, this kind of music, this kind of attitude, you’re gonna find military, law enforcement, fireman, people who really live that life. People who are achievers, fighters, people who go to the gym. Many, many times we are pigeonholed as “Oh, this is music for the muscleheads,” but you know what? To become a musclehead takes so much dedication, so much work. So, I don’t view that as a negative. We are talking about people who achieve, people who really go and kick ass and don’t take no for an answer. You’re going to find many of those guys in the military, so naturally, we acquired a huge fanbase from the military. We ended up touring the Middle East, we did a bunch of tours. Anytime you see our schedule and there are no dates, it’s probably because they’re not public. Usually, we play military bases. We go to military hospitals from Japan to Germany, wherever—Middle East, Kuwait, Iraq, we’re pretty much playing in code secret shows, non-public shows specifically for military.
What’s that like? We see them going through stuff that is actually mind-blowing. That’s how this campaign came about. In the two conflicts [in Iraq and Afghanistan] there were over 2.3 million soldiers deployed. On any given date there are 300,000 veterans on the streets homeless, about 460,000 who have PTSD (they are assuming, only about one quarter of them are seeking help), over 200,000 who have traumatic brain injury (TBI). There are 1.4 million who are at the risk of becoming homeless, and the most astonishing number is this one: Over 5,000 veterans take their own life every year, thus every two hours a veteran dies. That is f*cking insane, excuse my French. … When we started to look into this and saw our own friends and how their lives are disintegrating after coming home, we realized that there is a huge issue here and the issue will only be solved if there is a general public awareness. The campaign is about bringing awareness to these statistics, because this should, to a degree, shame America.
So how is this campaign going to raise awareness? How can people get involved? My band has an instant reach of probably like 8 to 10 million people, that’s already a crowd. Through word of mouth, this can spread to even more people and everything can change from the pressure on the people. We are launching a website, 5FDP4Vets.com, which is going to be the headquarters of this campaign, and the campaign will have multiple arms. One of them is launching our [music] video entirely dedicated to PTSD and TBI. I know the problems that affect the soldier and it is both reaching the public and the soldier themselves, because many of these guys don’t ask for help because they are soldiers, they were not taught to ask for help. They view it as weakness, not realizing that, look, a brain is an organ. If you get shot, you go to the medic; if you get psychologically injured, that’s okay; you’re doing a job nobody else has the balls to do, but you have to go to the medic, as well. … Trying to ride on the popularity of the band, we also started a campaign where we designed a jersey we call “No One Gets Left Behind.” That’s the code name of the jersey, and we will put it up as a fundraiser, and every single dollar, 100 percent of it, will go to organizations that are making a difference in veterans’ lives. We are also starting a Wall of Heroes. We noticed that a lot of soldiers were starting to throw their dog tags on stage, so we started to have a lot of them. So, from this we had this idea: What if instead of having a 60-by-40-foot backdrop of a band logo, what if we collect the dog tags and make the entire backdrop out of these and call it the Wall of Heroes?