Hard-rock band Five Finger Death Punch might have started out in LA, but its members have subsequently made Las Vegas their home base, and since moving to town FFDP has become one of the biggest acts in rock, with massive arena tours and chart-topping albums. We spoke to guitarist Zoltan Bathory ahead of an October 28 T-Mobile Arena concert, part of a tour supporting 2015 album Got Your Six.
On creating an arena-ready spectacle: “The whole idea is that visual and audio go hand in hand. Concert-goers want to see something spectacular. These days, when the music industry’s not as strong as it used to be, a lot of bands opt to take away those elements, because touring became very expensive. But I think it’s a mistake. I think you do have to bring the visual. I’m looking out of the window from my bus right now, and I see, like, 10 buses and about 12 trucks full of gear. This is a massive stage, a massive show, the way rock music was meant to be played.”
On what inspired him to move to Vegas: “I was the first one [in the band] to move to Vegas, around 2008. I lived around the world, in different places, and I was always looking for the town that’s my pace, the town that never sleeps. I really thought, it’s going to be New York, and it wasn’t. I didn’t like the weather too much. I moved to Los Angeles, and Los Angeles is really not that town that is open all night. I just liked Las Vegas. There is something always moving. There is this 24-hour feel of this city. And once I realized that it’s not just the Strip, once I saw how the suburbs of Vegas are awesome—palm trees and pools everywhere—I was like, okay, this is it. And I can have sushi at 5 a.m.? I like this!”
On how he convinced his band mates to join him: “Once I moved out, the rest of my guys saw that as well. Everybody ended up moving out there, and we became a Las Vegas band. Our singer, Ivan [Moody], was moving back and forth between Denver and Vegas, but he always had a place in Vegas, and lately he’s in Vegas. The entire band, the producer, our assistant—everybody’s in Las Vegas.”
On his favorite local hangouts: “I train a lot. I train in jiu-jitsu, so when I’m home that’s my important thing. Gracie Las Vegas is the jiu-jitsu club that I go to, and they have a bunch of different locations. The main location is on Charleston, so generally I’m there. I’m pretty health-conscious, so I look for restaurants that have healthy food, and Vegas is starting to have more and more health-conscious restaurants, vegan places. So I’m always searching for good food.”
On his work with local charity the Home Deployment Project: “The Home Deployment Project is basically an organization that local combat veterans started, trying to get the homeless veterans off the streets, trying to get them jobs and places to live. We do food drives and water drives. It’s something to help out the vets. It’s so important to me, and I think it should be important to everyone in America. It’s insane to me that you can mention veterans and homelessness in the same sentence.”
On working with Vegas-based producer Kevin Churko: “It’s very important that the producer sort of becomes a member of the band in some way. It comes down to personalities and taste and direction. So we all have to be aligned. We all have the same goals. A producer has to be somebody who brings the best out of you, and his personality was just the perfect personality for us. He’s this super-calm guy. We don’t argue much, but when artists are in the room, sometimes logic goes out the window. So then you have a producer who’s kind of the final judge. When two of us think it should be this way, the other three think it should be that way, then the producer says, ‘Well, I’m going to go with group A.’ And then we just accept it. So it also preserves the balance.”
On the place of rock in the current musical landscape: “Rock music in the late-’80s, early-’90s was the center of attention. The rock bands were the biggest acts in the world, and that changed. Basically now, rock music is just a small fraction of the music industry, just a small fraction of the fans. You can be the biggest rock band, you can play arenas and still not be mentioned at the Grammys, not be mentioned on television. It’s just not where the world is, as far as mainstream media goes. However, by the same token, the fanbase of the rock bands is really loyal. Once you become an arena band and you tour the world as an arena band, these fans are lifers. They’re going to be there forever.”
Five Finger Death Punch With Shinedown, Sixx: A.M., As Lions. October 28, 6 p.m., $46-$66. T-Mobile Arena, 702-692-1600.