Zoltan Bathory of Five Finger Death Punch Talks Guitar

In honor of Five Finger Death Punch's winning "Song of the Year" at the 2014 Golden Gods Awards, we're republishing this 2012 interview with guitarist Zoltan Bathory.

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 real choruses.”

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."