Guitar World's "Future Of Hard Rock" Interview With Syn Gates & Zacky V Available Here. - Avenged Sevenfold

Guitar World's "Future Of Hard Rock" Interview With Syn Gates & Zacky V Available Here.

While running some errands I came across the Sept 2011 issue of Guitar World with Zacky Vengeance and Synyster Gates on the cover. Unfortunately I couldn’t get it and scan it but I did type up the entire interview for you guys to read. It really is an article regarding Mike Portnoy, Arin Ilejay and the future of Avenged Sevenfold so I hope you guys enjoy it. Pictures of the cover, inside photo and the Brian Ewing-illustrated poster can be found here as well. Make sure you head out to purchase your copy or you can get it here.

“Jimmy would have shit his pants at some of the shows we’ve been playing this year,” Gates says. “They’re just gigantic. Donington was awesome, we did Rock Am Ring in Germany and that was insane. We closed out the show with “Unholy Confessions,” and there were probably 10 circle pits, and the place was filled with 80,000 kids, as far as the eye could see. We’ve never had a response like that, ever. So it keeps getting bigger. And to see how the fanbase has grown and just how supportive they are has been amazing. We’ve very lucky and very fortunate to not have stopped yet.”

It’s late in the afternoon on a Tuesday in June, and Avenged Sevenfold guitarist Zacky Vengeance is relaxing in a cafe in Paris, enjoying a bottle of wine. “So life doesn’t suck too bad,” he says with a laugh. In fact, life has of late been very good to Vengeance and his A7X bandmates. At the moment, they’re on a whirlwind blitz through the European festival circuit, performing in front of rabid audiences that occasionally number in the hundred thousands. Several days earlier, they appeared second on the bill at the U.K.’s Download Festival, playing on the mainstage just before the recently reunited headliner, System of a down (an “amazing experience” says co-guitarist Synyster Gates, who counts SOAD as one of this all-time favorite bands). From France it’s on to megafests in Scandinavia, Italy, Spain and Belgium, followed by a slew of Australian dates and another go ’round in the U.S. as the headliner on the Rockstar Energy Drink Uproar Festival. As Gates says, with a bit of understatement, “We’ve been keeping pretty busy.”

In the world of Avenged Sevenfold, keeping busy is a very good thing. Particularly in light of the fact that, following the untimely death of the band’s founding drummer, Jimmy “The Rev” Sullivan, in December 2009, the surviving members – Vengeance, Gates, singer M Shadows and bassist Johnny Christ – were not so sure they would continue on at all. As Gates told Guitar World in early 2010, “It seemed like maybe it was time to throw in the towel.”

Instead, the band enlisted one of Sullivan’s idols, Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy, and headed into the studio to record “Nightmare,” a haunting, anguished ode to their fallen friend and bandmate. The album debuted at Number One on the Billboard charts upon its release in July 2010, and A7X, with Portnoy in tow, hit the road for a remarkably successful world tour that is ongoing and continues to build momentum.

“Jimmy would have shit his pants at some of the shows we’ve been playing this year,” Gates says. “They’re just gigantic. Donington was awesome, we did Rock Am Ring in Germany and that was insane. We closed out the show with “Unholy Confessions,” and there were probably 10 circle pits, and the place was filled with 80,000 kids, as far as the eye could see. We’ve never had a response like that, ever. So it keeps getting bigger. And to see how the fanbase has grown and just how supportive they are has been amazing. We’ve very lucky and very fortunate to not have stopped yet.”

Which is not to say that all has been smooth sailing in the Avenged camp. Earlier this year the band was embroiled in a somewhat messy spilt with Portnoy, who had abdicated his own spot in Dream Theater, reportedly in hopes of continuing on with A7X. Says Vengeance, “We’ll always be grateful to Mike for what he did for us during a really tough time, but he wasn’t the right for us for permanently.” In his place, the band drafted a 23-year-old unknown named Arin Ilejay, who had previously manned the kit for Christian metalcore act Confide, and headed back out on the road.

They also recently hit the studio to record a new song, “Not Ready to Die,” for the Call of Duty: Black Ops video game. But as for further new material, that track is as much as fans can expect to hear for the immediate future. According to Vengeance, “It’s still not business as usual with us since the loss of Jimmy. So right now we’re just concentrating on playing live, and getting to every spot on the planet where our fans want to see us. There’s still a little but of life left on this touring cycle before we can think of anything else.”

On a day off in France, Gates and Vengeance sat down with Guitar World to reflect on the past year and a half in the life of Avenged Sevenfold. The two spoke candidly about the events surrounding MIke Portnoy’s departure, how they came to find new drummer Arin Ilejay and what effect the loss of the Rev might have on the band’s music going forward. They also discussed how, after a full decade into their recording career, Avenged Sevenfold’s influence on both the sound and look of modern metal is beginning to be reflected in a new crop of heavy acts. “We see it a little bit.” Gates says. “But if people are taking anything from us I hope it’s the idea of being fearless in your approach. Don’t follow any scenes or any trends, just play what you want to play. That’s how the best music gets made.”

GW: Prior to the release of “Nightmare” you both spoke to the fact that you couldn’t imagine playing live, much less launching a full tour, without the Rev. But since then you’ve been on the road pretty consistently. Has playing live again acted as a form of catharsis?”
ZACKY VENGEANCE: It has, but at first the idea of doing it seemed unfathomable. And truthfully, on the way to Montreal for the first gig with Mike Portnoy [for Heavy MTL festival on July 25, 2010], I remember sitting on the plane for the first time in my life wishing it would crash. Just so we wouldn’t have to play the show. I was absolutely distraught. Even in the seconds leading up to going onstage all I could think about was the end of Avenged Sevenfold. Because we could have walked out on that stage and it could have gone either way. We could have put down our instruments and that would have been it. But something was there to guide us and support us, and from that moment on it was like, “Okay, maybe we can do this.”
SYNYSTER GATES: And now especially with Arin onboard, it’s really enjoyable again. It was really fun with Mike Portnoy, but it’s awesome to see this young kid and the enthusiasm he has for getting the chance to do something really cool. He’s been enjoying it, and that’s given a new life to the band for sure.

GW: Do you believe it was Mike’s intention to stay on with the band?
GATES: I think he definitely wanted to. And it would have been nice. He’s a great guy and a great drummer, and we consider him family. But it’s just… he’s “Mike Portnoy.” He’s established. He makes a lot of money. More than we can really dish out, especially at this point. And my whole thing after Jimmy died was if we were ever going to do this, I wanted to give a young kid a chance. That would be a dream come true, to breathe some new life from a death. And so this feels right. And unfortunately, Mike made some decisions that I don’t know if he’s super happy with at this point, and that weren’t very conducive to his well being.
VENGEANCE: When Mike first came on for “Nightmare,” he was sincerely genuine in the fact that he was there to help us fulfill Jimmy’s legacy, and for that we’ll always be so thankful and appreciative. And, truthfully, he was really the only man for the job. But I think he was also searching for new things to do, music-wise. I know for a fact that he was starting to lose the romance of Dream Theater for a little bit. That had been going on from before he knew us. And then “Nightmare” came out and it was a Number One album, and the tours were huge, and I think it was exciting for him. I think his intentions were pretty clear that he wanted to be a member of Avenged Sevenfold. But we weren’t ready to have a new member. And truthfully, he’s not the right fit anyway. When he went and quite Dream Theater, the was something we had no say in, because he’s a grown man and he makes his own decision. But we had urged against it, fully knowing we weren’t ready to commit to him. But it’s his life.

GW: He enjoyed being a part of Avenged Sevenfold.
GATES: Yeah, we had a blast. I think he liked the young energy. Mike’s an outgoing, rockstar type of dude, so he was definitely enjoying the part. Because it’s a different atmosphere than Dream Theater. When those guys play, it’s a very intense thing that requires a lot of concentration. It’s a different vibe with us.

GW: How did Arin come into the picture?
VENGEANCE: We decided to take one day to try out some different guys, knowing there was a chance that things wouldn’t continue with MIke. We weren’t willing to do open auditions or any of that shit, but what we did was asked our producer, Mike Elizondo, if he knew of anyone young and up and coming, and we asked Jimmy’s drum tech, Mike Fasano, if he knew anyone. Then we also auditioned one kid we saw on YouTube playing some of our songs who we thought was awesome. Arin was Mike Fasano’s guy, and he was the second guy we tried out. He came in and was probably the skinniest, most nervous kid I’ve ever seen. We’d never heard of any of the bands he played in, knew nothing about him, but he sat down and just started wailing. it reminded of of John Bonham or something. We all had these huge smiles on our faces.
GATES: Arin just absolutely fucking nailed it. He came in and played os fucking tight and knew Jimmy’s parts perfectly, all the little nuances and grooves and techniques. It was amazing.

GW: Do you think there’s a possibility he’ll become a permanent member of the band?
GATES: It’s hard to say. But one thing I can say that he’s been with us for half a year, he’s done three tours with us and it just keeps getting better and better. We love the kid. He’s just as sweet as it gets, as humble as it gets, as talented as it gets. He’s enjoying it and we’re enjoying it. So there’s no plans or thoughts of there being any more changes at this point.

GW: Arin also appears on “Not Ready To Die,” the first new Avenged track since “Nightmare.” How did that song come together?
GATES: We did that near the end of March, during a weeklong break from tour. And it was basically hell week, because we usually take a long time to write – longer than most bands, at least. But we had to write and record that one quick because we were heading to South American, and we wrote it from scratch, to fit the “Call Of Duty” game. We went in and kicked the thing out in, like, four days. We made sure it sounded good in the home studio, and then we did a couple days with Mike Elizondo at his home studio. It’s not the greatest Avenged Sevenfold song ever but I think it turned out pretty cool given the time frame. I’m pretty proud of it.

GW: Stylistically, it hearkens back to your metalcore roots.
VENGEANCE: It does have a bit of “Waking The Fallen” or even “City of Evil” feel to it.

GW: Could you point to that as a direction any new material might go in?
GATES: No, not at all. We definitely had an idea of what we wanted to do with the song, something that would fit with the vibe of the video game. It was pretty stylized in terms of how it was written.

GW: Has there been any work on a new album?
GATES: Nothing. We’ve just been so busy touring that it’s hard for us to focus on writing. We’ve brought Pro Tools rigs out with us on tour before and they haven’t been used once. We just cannot blend the two sides. We don’t have the focus for it.
VENGEANCE: I know that whatever direction we do go in, I want the album to be a musical adventure. Because all of my favorite banes, their records always took the listener on some sort of journey. I think the new album will be influenced by where our heads have been at and everything we’ve experience over this past year and a half, and how we feel about it. It’ll be interesting to see.

GW: Jimmy had a huge hand in the band’s songwriting. How do you think his absence will affect future material?
GATES: It’s hard to say. Because the thing with Jimmy was that event hough he wrote a lot, he was kind of a lone warrior. He did his own thing and then came to us with the songs. He wasn’t as into collaborating as the rest of us. So as far as the way we write as a band, things shouldn’t change that much.
VENGEANCE: It wasn’t until the self-titled album that Jimmy really came into his own. He wasn’t writing that much on “City Of Evil.” But when he started to write, he was phenomenal. I never could have imagined a song like “A Little Piece Of Heaven” [From “Avenged Sevenfold”] would come out the way it did, or even be written in the first place, for that matter. And I think it’s stuff like that that really set us apart from a lot of other heavy bands.
GATES: The fucked up thing is Jimmy’s song, like “A Little Piece Of Heaven” and “Fiction” [from “Nightmare], were some of my favorite shit. And that’s stuff that I don’t think will be there anymore. I was always very proud of the fact that I don’t think many bands, especially metal bands, could pull off those types of songs. and the fact that we were able to do it was totally because of that guy. It’s who he was. He was just an eccentric, crazy fucking madman. And I’m sad because some of those eccentricities will probably no longer be there.

GW: I always credited some of the more theatrical, Danny Elfman-type of material to you as well.
GATES: I have that side, but at some point I started to focus more on the Avenged sound and went that route with my writing. Jimmy was just more fearless. So I’d love to continue to experiment with that type of stuff, but it definitely can’t be faked.

GW: So that aspect of the band’s sound will be a little less pronounced going forward?
GATES: It’s definitely possible.
VENGEANCE: I just think it will be different. It’s one of those things where you never really know how the music will be affected. We’re very lucky that we do have all the music Jimmy did contribute, but I don’t think we would ever try to write something just to mimic his style. But by the same token, anyone in the band might come up with something extremely theatrical. No one has one style or formula of writing. That’s what makes this band unique. But the saddest part is just knowing what Jimmy was capable of and knowing we’re not going to have that anymore.

GW: Whatever the next chapter is, your band has certainly evolved in many ways over the decade since you released your full-length debut, “Sounding The Seventh Trumpet.” At this point, you’re almost the elder statesmen of the current crop of metal acts.
GATES: [laughs] Yeah, we’re getting old!

GW: A lot of heavy bands coming out now seem to have taken a page from the Avenged playbook – the big hooks and melodies, the duel guitar harmonies, a turn back toward singing rather than screaming, and also the heavy stylized look. Do you see elements of yourselves in any of these new acts?
GATES: I guess a little bit. We’re so involved in what we’re doing it’s hard to be exposed to new bands. You get a little more distant from that stuff. But there’s definitely a lot of cool bands out there, and if they have a little but of the Avenged thing in them, great. I’m glad that people are taking a turn towards melody, and also focusing on image. Because I think that’s important. All my favorite bands wrote incredible music and they also looked incredible playing it. And I think that’s the way it should be. You should write to the best of your ability and you should perform to the best of your ability, and now water anything down.
VENGEANCE: I do see some Avenged Sevenfold in some of the newer bands. And I think that’s great. Why else would you want to be going, play in a band, travel and make music if you can’t fucking go crazy with it? The thing that’s interesting to me is back in the day we didn’t get a lot of respect. People looked at us like we were a bunch of clowns. But we didn’t give a fuck; we were having fun. And seeing these younger bands come up that have nothing but nice things to say about us is great. We played the “Revolver” Golden Gods awards recently, and one of the members of Asking Alexandria came up to us, and he was a genuine fan. He was excited and wanted to get a picture with me and Syn. And that was awesome. I wish them the best. And I see lots of references to us with Black Veil Brides. A lot of articles about them mention Avenged Sevenfold and point out similarities. I haven’t had a chance to meet those guys, but I see them at festivals. I think what they’re doing is cool. Some people love it and some people absolutely fucking hate it, but at least it’s exciting and it makes people turn their heads.

GW: You could say the same thing about Avenged Sevenfold.
VENGEANCE: Exactly. And in my opinion that’s always been one of the greatest things about our band. I mean, to this day the idea of Avenged Sevenfold still makes some people so fucking irate. And that’s fine, because I don’t think you can truly be a rock band if you don’t piss some people off. But the fact of the matter is we love what we do. We still love playing music. And we still feel that pressure to deliver something great to the fans. And I think that will always keep us driven. Without Jimmy here it’s been a little more difficult, but we always have the four of us. So even though it might be a little less fun doing it without him, we’ll do our best to still make something great come out of it.