On Saturday, Oct. 11 at 6:35 p.m. PT/9:35 p.m. ET, Yahoo Live will live stream Five Finger Death Punch's show from the Arena at Gwinnett Center in Duluth, GA. Tune in HERE to watch!
For most, Veterans Day comes once a year. But for hard-rockers Five Finger Death Punch, concern for our troops and veterans is part of everyday life.
"Basically, with the band from the very beginning — I'm talking about before we even had a record deal — it just so happened that a lot of our fans were military guys," explains Five Finger Death Punch guitarist Zoltan Bathory. "We've always have had songs that have had military themes. It's just something that's close to us. It's a special kind of person who signs up and does what these guys do, and we have a fight-for-yourself and stand-up-for-yourself attitude, because none of us was born with a silver spoon in our mouths. We have to fight for everything we have, so our lyrics our similar to their mindset. They can't run away. They have to do their job, so we're kindred spirits, so to speak."
With that sort of connection, it was only natural for the band — which also includes singer Ivan "Ghost" Moody, drummer Jeremy Spencer, and relatively new recruits guitarist Jason Hook and bassist Chris Kael — to begin playing gigs for the troops at military bases around the world, including Iraq. During those visits, the band began to form a special relationship with their brothers in arms. "It became a symbiosis," Bathory explains. "These guys are our fans and became sort of our families. We heard their stories and saw what was happening to them. And once we heard these stories, we started to research PTSD [Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder] and found out how common it is and how serious it is. There's staggering numbers and statistics. We figured the best way to deal with this is to help raise awareness."
To do that, the band focused on that theme in the video for its latest single "Wrong Side of Heaven" and launched the website 5fdp4Vets.com, as well as selling a custom 5FDP4VETS "No One Gets Left Behind" jersey, designed by Bathory, on Indiegogo. The campaign has raised more than $225,000 to date, with funds going to organizations that raise awareness about PTSD.
"We found the best way to do this is not throw anyone under the bus," Bathory adds. "We don't have to throw the VA under the bus. They might not have the budget or the manpower to do what they need to do, and we're not attacking any politicians or political parties, it's about raising awareness that we have hundreds of thousands of military vets that are having major issues and the only way to help is raise public awareness and bring it to the surface so everyone knows it's a problem, then it can be addressed."
The video, directed by Nick Peterson, features the harsh urban realities faced by many veterans who return to the U.S. and find themselves living on the streets. "I don't think the word 'homeless' and 'veteran' should exist in the same sentence," Bathory says. "Not in this country."
"We could have done another music video of us standing on a mountain top with our hair blowing, but we wanted to do something to help these people who are our friends and our family," he adds. "We definitely wanted to do something with the reach we have today. It has to be used for something more than chest hair and hair blowing in the wind."
For Bathory, who was born in Hungary, the freedoms our troops fight to protect may even be more meaningful. "I was born on the other side of the Iron Curtain," he says. "I grew up without the First Amendment and the freedom of speech and the Second Amendment to protect myself," Bathory says. "You guys who are born here have had these rights. You have freedom that you don't realize because it's always been there. You've never been without. I have, and it means much more to me. When I came here, the Statue of Liberty actually meant something to me. 'OK, I'm in a place, I can't get f--ked with. I have basic human rights. I can say my opinion. I have the right to follow whatever the hell religion I want.'"
With the recent success of Five Finger Death Punch, whose two albums released this year (The Wrong Side of Heaven and the Righteous Side of Hell: Volume 1 and Volume 2) both peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard 200, you could say Bathory is living the American dream. However, he wants to make it perfectly clear that the band is no overnight sensation.
"You don't just get to this level from nowhere," he says. "It's like the Olympics. You don't win an Olympic medal without winning a state championship first. Those overnight success stories that you see are usually 20-years-overnight success stories. This was a lot of work and years in the making, but from day one, we have the conviction and we believed in ourselves. We knew it was going to happen because of that conviction. I don't want to be too much a tree-hugger about it, but that's kind of how it works. You have to have absolute conviction and absolute faith and remove all the people from your life who don't believe in you. That's one of the major keys to success."
That kind of conviction and confidence allowed the band to release two albums this year a mere four months apart and paved the way for the band to hook up with one of their heroes: Judas Priest frontman Rob Halford, who appears on the rock radio hit "Lift Me Up."
"We were listening back to it and someone just said, 'Hey, this kind of sounds like old school Judas Priest,'" Bathory recalls. "All of a sudden this lightbulb goes off: 'Hey, we just heard on TV that Rob Halford in an interview said that one of his favorite bands from the new generation is Five Finger Death Punch. So we know he likes our band. It's still a longshot, but let's reach out. Let's see if he'll do a guest vocal on our song.'"
So the band sent Halford the song. "He loved it and he called back and said, 'Hey guys, I love the song, I love the band, I definitely want to be involved. I'm going to come out to Las Vegas and record it with you guys.' That was unbelievable, because he could have done it in a studio anywhere."
The band got to hang out with Halford and exchange tour stories, he also later joined the band onstage in at a date in his hometown in Birmingham, England and at the Revolver Golden Gods Awards. "Sitting in the studio with somebody that influenced your musical past, who is a hero of yours, standing in the vocal booth and singing a song you wrote, I don't know what I can compare it to, but it's a pretty amazing experience."