M. Shadows, Synyster Gates, Zacky Vengeance and Johnny Christ have written letters to their younger selves for Kerrang! magazine.
If you’re reading this, then I know you’d probably tell me to fuck off and do the opposite of what I say. Life’s a crazy journey and you can never predict it, but everything happens for a reason. To get to this point, there’s a lot you’ll learn along the way.
The most important thing is to respect your bandmates. The sooner you learn that these are all human beings with individual likes and dislikes, the sooner you’ll be better off; on the road, in the studio and when you’re writing music together. Even though you’re good friends, people rub each other the wrong way the longer they’re together, so take a back seat every once in a while. The band will become a democracy and that’s healthy, but it’s something you’ll need to adapt to as a human. Let people be themselves. Don’t get upset about little things.
At the moment, I know your main ambition is to get out on the road because that means you’re not at your parents’ house. Get any opening slot you can. Living in a van through Warped Tour is going to be cool. But through all that, keep playing music for the right reasons. It’s not to get a nicer house or have money, it’s because it’s all you want to do. Good things will happen for you.
Things are more simple for you now, so please enjoy it. Enjoy rolling into a room with minimal crew and getting onstage to play music for passionate fans. Selling out 400-cap rooms brings the same feeling as playing sold-out shows at The O2, and you should be just as proud of both. Remember that your shit does stink. You’re not cooler than anyone because you’re in a band.
As you get older, it’s not all going to be easy living. When you have kids, your focus and attention will be on them. Nothing is more heartbreaking than being on the road for weeks, and they can’t come with you because they’re at school. That’s the career you chose, but know that it gets a lot tougher on the heart. Also, having your girlfriend as your tour manager cannot last, because she is not going to want to live on the road selling your merch for years!
Try everything while you’re young. That’s the time to do it. As human beings, we like to experiment and I highly advise that you do, but try to make sure a problem doesn’t arise. Enjoy being in a van with your best friends to the fullest, but at some point you have to grow up, mature and be a part of society in a respectable way.
Keep that chip on your shoulder. You’re always going to be sceptical of people in the industry, but you need to be even more sceptical than you thought you needed to be. A lot of them aren’t musicians and all they care about is the bottom line. Be cognisant of the fact that doesn’t necessarily mean they have good ideas for you, artistically. You need strong personalities in the band. Always be true to your vision, no matter how many people get mad at you about it. Remember you’re the one that has to put your head on the pillow at night and be proud of what you do. You have to man up and take on the fights you have to for your art.
Lastly, don’t change a thing. Write the music you want to write, and don’t take success for granted. Bands come and go, but not every band can continue to grow. Keep your head on your shoulders, continue to write what’s in your heart and people will connect with it.