Dear Guitar Hero: Guitarists Zoltan Bathory and Jason Hook of Five Finger Death Punch

Here's a Dear Guitar Hero feature with guitarists Zoltan Bathory and Jason Hook of Five Finger Death Punch. All the questions were provided by Guitar World readers.

Q: How do you two split up guitar duties in the writing and recording process? Who is playing what on American Capitalist? -- Tom Chen

ZOLTAN BATHORY: I play most of the rhythm stuff and Jason plays most of the leads. Jason is a really, really good lead player. I switched to baritone guitars a long time ago. My string gauge is, like, 13 to 66 now, so it's retarded. Rhythm-wise, I've come up with techniques that are almost impossible to do on a regular guitar unless you have really tense and heavy-gauge strings. When it comes to the crazy, low-string rhythm patterns, that's usually me because that's my specialty.

JASON HOOK: Pretty much anything that's played past the seventh fret is coming from my fingers. [laughs]

Q: Zoltan, I love my B.C. Rich ASM Zoltan Bathory Signature guitar. How did it come about? -- Jean-Michel Keaton

BATHORY: To tell that story, I have to explain how I came to play B.C. Rich guitars in the first place. I was visiting their office with a friend who was a big B.C. Rich player. While he was talking with them, I grabbed a guitar (a B.C. Rich Outlaw PX3] off the wall, and as I was playing it, I thought, Oh, my god! It was just right for me. After that, they couldn't twist it out of my hands. I left the office with that guitar. I told them they would have to fight to get it back. That was my main guitar for two years. Eventually, B.C. Rich wanted me to do a signature guitar, so I expanded on that particular guitar. I enlarged the headstock to give it a little bit more sustain, and I have a big brass block in the Floyd [Rose tremolo] to give more resonance. I also made the back of the neck a little bit faster. It's a really fast, really balanced guitar.

Q: Your video for "Under and Over It" is pure debauchery. What went on when the cameras stopped rolling? -- Ben Fiorello

BATHORY: We had a lot of fun making that video. For our last video ["Hard to See"], we had these industrial-sized fans blowing dirt at us all day. I found pebbles in my ass crack for a week. It was horrible. So we decided that the next time we shoot a video, we would go to a tropical island and have hot chicks and margaritas. We said, "It's that, or we don't shoot a video." Everybody at our label was laughing, because they didn't think we'd actually do it. It's kind of tongue-in-cheek, though. We tried to copy every stupid move that you can find in any debauched hard-rock or hip-hop video. We were like, Do we have Lamborghinis? Check. We have hot chicks? Check. Pool? Check. Oh, we need a booty shake. Can somebody booty shake? [laughs] We went through the checklist. But at the same time, it was fun to make.

HOOK: The cameras never really stopped rolling. We could have made 30 videos from the footage we shot that weekend. People have asked me, "Are you guys going to release an R-rated version of that video?" And our answer is, "What you're seeing is the R-rated version. It's the triple-X video that you'll never see." It was crazy. At the end of the shoot, the producers were asking us to leave the set.

Q: Jason, you've primarily played in rock and metal bands, but you also recorded and played live with pop singer Mandy Moore. What made you take that job, and did you ever feel like you were selling out? -- Charles Richards

HOOK: [laughs] I don't want people to think I can't own that. I made a very specific pact with myself when I moved to L.A. I said, I'm not going to get a regular job; I'm going to play guitar. I knew I could play guitar, so why would I back up and learn how to sell shoes or some other job? So I started doing anything and everything imaginable that I could by playing guitar, and that got me into studio session work. Eventually, I met a guy who was a guitar player in Mandy's band, and he said, "They're looking for an acoustic guitar player. I think you would be perfect for it. Do you have an acoustic guitar?" I was like, "Oh, yeah." But I didn't. I went down to Guitar Center and bought an acoustic with the idea that I would return it if I didn't get the gig, but I got the gig. I've learned a lot from each situation I've been in. Whether the music was up my alley or not, I believed that what I was doing had to be done well and that it was my job to be a professional and to be great, no matter what outfit I had on at that time.

Q: Jason, which Five Finger Death Punch solo are you most proud of, and what is your favorite solo of all time? -- Scott Oberheim

HOOK: For Five Finger, I'd say maybe "Bulletproof," from the War Is the Answer record. It just seemed to be a nice blend between the melodic stuff and the faster stuff. As a piece, it just worked out really well. It's not technically difficult, but it speaks well. As far as my favorite solo of all time, I'm a huge Van Halen fan. I love the solo on "So This Is Love?" [off Van Halen's 1981 album, Fair Warning], and the one in "Secrets," off [1982's] Diver Down was awesome. It's just real bendy, real emotional, one-guitar playing. Edward spoke with his instrument. It wasn't theory. It wasn't school. It was just, "I've got a cigarette and a beer."

Q: What are your primary guitars, amps and effects on your current Share the Welt tour? -- Liam Green

HOOK: I'm rocking Gibson Explorers. I love those damn things. I have four or five of them now that I've customized. I take a little wood off here, a little wood off there. For the seven-string stuff, I have two of the Ibanez Xiphos guitars. I picked those because they sort of have a similar upper contour as the Gibson Explorer. For an amp, I've been using a Rocktron VooDu Valve preamp. It has a lot of flexibility. There are a lot of gadgets inside the box: effects, a programmable noise gate, all sorts of tube gain stages, and speaker simulated outputs on the back. And for effects, I'm still using the TC Electronic G-Major 2 [rack unit].

BATHORY: I play my signature guitar, but I have maple guitars and a couple of mahogany ones. The mahogany ones sound a little bit darker. I just pick up whichever model I'm in the mood for. For amplifiers, I'm using a Diamond Nitrox. It's a brutal-sounding amp. It has a big transformer. The transformer has to be big, because low frequencies draw more power, especially with fast staccato riffs. A lot of amplifiers are not fast enough for me, or just fart out completely. This particular amp responds almost like a solid-state, however it's still tube, so it's not soulless. My effects come from a TC Electronic G-System [floor pedal]. The cool thing about the G-System is the pedal board controls my entire rack. Plus, this particular unit can switch channels on a head the analog way, so there are no patch bays or that shit, and there's no delay time. Other than that, I have a Dunlop Custom Shop noise gate, and my wireless unit is a Line 6 XDRgs. I'm not using too much stuff.

Q: Zoltan, you have some awesome dreadlocks. But I've heard that dreads can't be washed. How do you deal with cleaning them after you get them sweaty during a long night's performance? -- Liv Goodman

BATHORY: That's not true. You can wash dreadlocks the same way anybody washes their hair. Whoever said that is a lazy, dirty person. I wash my dreadlocks every two or three days, otherwise they'll stink. The girls like it. It smells good.

Q: Zoltan, have you ever listened to the black-metal band Bathory? -- Graham Fleischaker

BATHORY: I'm not really a big fan of black metal. I want to hear a singer . I was more of an Iron Maiden kind of guy growing up. I like bands on the melodic side. I think Five Finger is like that. My name is just a coincidence. That other band is named after Elizabeth Bathory, who was a Hungarian Countess [circa 16oo]. She used to bathe in virgins' blood because she thought it would keep her young As for my name, I don't think I'm related to her. Zoltan and Bathory are very common names in Hungary. If you Google them, you'll find a hundred of them at least, maybe more. I can only be cool in America with that name. At home, nobody will notice. [laughs]

Photo: Travis Shinn

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