Q: When you got the call from M. Shadows and Avenged Sevenfold asking you to record and eventually tour, what was that initial conversation like for you, then leading into the recording process?
A: Well, my contact with them began before Jimmy passed away. I had been in touch with Jimmy. He had been sending me e-mails because he’d been a big fan of mine. Then I became friends with M. Shadows. As soon as Jimmy passed, I called M. Shadows and expressed my thoughts and told him I’d do anything I could. I was supportive of what I could do on a personal level. After the funeral, I got a call from their manager, then M. Shadows, and they asked me if I would finish the album. I was completely honored, and luckily, my schedule was open. We met in L.A. and went to dinner and hung out, and those guys were deep in the grieving process. It was a very heavy, heavy process. It’s a big family. But I went in and did the album, and we had an amazing time musically and personally, and they welcomed me into the family.
Q: How challenging is it to balance an attempt to do Jimmy justice on the album while still putting your own stamp on the project?
A: I didn’t even want to put my own stamp on the project. That was not my objective. I was called in to bring Jimmy’s parts to life, not bring Mike Portnoy into Avenged Sevenfold. That being said, that’s what my job entailed. I spent a tremendous amount of time taking direction from the band. I’m not used to being produced. Normally, when I go into sessions, I go in and do my own thing, but in this case, I took direction. Every once in awhile, though, they would say, “Hey, do your own thing.”
Q: And you didn’t take long to get a tattoo of the Avenged logo, right?
A: After spending 10 days in the studio — you know, they have a family spirit. It’s their crew members, girlfriends and wives, and toward the end of the session, I knew I had to get a death bat to commemorate being a part of the family. It was not just a recording session. It was an emotional experience for me.
Q: Where did you put it?
A: It’s on the inside of my left arm. Me and (rhythm guitarist) Zacky (Vengeance) got matching ones. His is on his right arm.
Q: Will you be doing more shows after the Avenged tour either with HAIL or any of the tribute bands?
A: Well, I had plans to do other stuff this year, but once Avenged asked me to tour with them, that pretty much pre-empted everything. I did have some other ideas, but we’ll have to wait and see.