Congrats to Five Finger Death Punch for winning SONG OF THE YEAR for "Lift Me Up" at the 2014 Golden Gods Awards. Here, Zoltan Bathory talks guitar in a 2012 Guitar Player interview...
“I arrived in the United States with one guitar,
a bag of clothes, and no idea how to speak English,” said
Hungarian-born Zoltan Bathory. “After starting about 35
bands, I finally threw everything I love about heavy metal
into Five Finger Death Punch. I wanted plenty of ’80s-influenced
solos, Bay-Area-style and technical German thrash
elements, and old-school songwriting with dynamics and
What was it like growing up playing guitar in
your home country?
"It took extreme determination
just to get a guitar, because communism
was still raging in Hungary when I
was growing up. The average adult might
have made $100 per month. Imagine how it
felt to discover big rock bands such as Iron
Maiden—I was so impressed. I decided to
be a guitar player, but decent instruments
were not available. At age 13, I acquired
a beat-up, secondhand guitar. I removed
the basically unplayable bolt-on neck and
replaced it with one I made from a coffee
table. I painted it military green because
we lived on an army base. Eventually, I
acquired a playable guitar, and once communism
started collapsing I came to America."
What’s the crux of the Five Finger Death
Punch guitar sound?
"Playing in the baritone range,
which is from B to B rather than E to E.
I fell in love with the baritone’s massive
sound as soon as I first heard it about a
dozen years ago, and I made the switch.
All the scales and chords translate. I used
to play a true baritone guitar, which has a
longer scale length so that the string tension
is not too high. Now I play guitars that
have regular scale lengths with strings like
ship-towing cables—Dunlop Heavy Cores
gauged .013-.066—to get the right tension."
What are the other gear items essential to
getting your tone?
"The Diamond Nitrox head has
monster transformers that can handle aggressive
rhythms in the lower range. I also use a
Nitrox 4x12 cabinet with two higher-wattage
and two lower-wattage speakers in an 'X'
pattern. I don’t use too much gain because
thick strings produce a strong signal, and I
use passive pickups because I like the dynamics.
If I play hard, the signal will overdrive
my amp into a creamy tone and the notes
will ring out. When I play a fast rhythm pattern,
I use a lighter touch so that each note
is pronounced. 'The Way of the Fist' is a
good example of the two dynamics. I barely
use any gain in the studio because I usually
triple or quadruple the same part, and with
too much gain that leads to chaos. If you roll
back the gain and play the same pattern four
times, it sounds beefy as hell."