most recent studio album, Nightmare
the group's fifth to date - is the first from the band without drummer James The Rev Sullivan
, who sadly passed away in December of 2009. The album features former Dream Theater
drummer Mike Portnoy
on the drum stool. The group has been busily touring the album with Arin Ilejay
playing drums on all the group's live dates. During a stopover in Australia, Joe Matera
spoke to Synyster Gates
about the new drummer, touring and Avenged Sevenfold
's influence on the next generation of up and coming metal bands.
UG: I want to start the interview by asking you how has the dynamic changed within Avenged Sevenfold having added new recruit Arin Ilejay on drums?
: Well it is hard to say. I mean there are a few different things definitely, compared to the dynamic we had with Jimmy and the dynamic we had with Mike Portnoy, so it is different. Also Arin is very young and it is more about us taking him under our wings at this point where as with Jimmy, things were absolute insane and the guy was mad man, very funny and we were all friends, so it was a much crazier time for Avenged Sevenfold.
I also think since The Rev's passing, we've had to grow up quite a bit and I think Mike helped us to get through our period of grieving. I mean playing with Arin now is definitely a lot lighter kind of atmosphere than the moments we had with Mike Portnoy at that time. And not because of Mike, but because it was a lot closer towards the passing of the Rev. But now, I think we're into the healing process and it is a breathe of fresh air to have this really young talented kid out with us, that is so humbled by this experience and very deserving of all the things that are going to come to him.
So have you begun the writing process for next album yet?
We don't have any plans right now, as we are just really focused on touring. A lot of new cool places have opened up and we are really excited to come and see all our fans, both old fans and new fans, and go out and just play for all these kids, that haven't seen us or have seen us in awhile. And that is what is exciting to us right now. When we try and blend the two together, the songwriting and the touring like we did before, it doesn't really work. We tend to become very focused on what we are doing. And we tend to be a little bit one track minded. We're very much perfectionists so when we're putting on a huge show and want to play to the best of ability, we rehearse intensely. And I have a guitar pretty much in my hand for at least five hours before doing a show. I'm just noodling and mucking around and working on some of the songs here and there.
Avenged Sevenfold are still touring behind the group's most recent studio album Nightmare?
Yeah and we definitely still have tons of touring coming up for the rest of the year. We are very fortunate to still have a lot of the world opened up to us and that we are further developing. We are continuing to develop a broader fan base across the globe. And it is just cool to be able to come to places like Australia for example, and draw a few thousand kids, it is definitely a dream come true for us.
Do you enjoy all the touring involved?
Touring is my favorite part of doing all this music stuff. Especially being able to go over to different countries and experiencing different cultures and playing for kids. It is a lot more gratifying being onstage and seeing the kids and all the shit that you worked hard for, right there in the moment. Than as opposed to being in a fuckin' studio, thinking about how it will affect kids when it is done. It is much cooler experiencing the effect first hand.
For the current tour, what are you using guitar wise?
It is pretty much my Schecter Synyster Gates Signature model for the entire show. It is the custom thing that Schecter did for me. It has got these hot pickups by Seymour Duncan, and it is very conducive to a broader approach to metal and rock. It is a very versatile guitar. We've been playing Schecter pretty much ever since we started working with Mudrock [producer] on Waking The Fallen
. I just really like those guitars and I have played them way before we were even endorsed by them. They are a really great company too and when we started doing the endorsement deal with them, they were really quick to make signature guitars as I was really into that at, as I always loved that Dimebag had his own brand of guitar that looked pretty much like no other guitar. And so I wanted my own thing too. But though certain companies are down to making you something, they're not necessarily going to make you a really good quality instrument. Yet these guys definitely spared no expense on what I wanted. On top of that they make other great guitars which make for a great company all round. And they really support you during the album making process.
And what about, when it comes to amps?
Amp wise it is pretty much Marshall at this point.
Is it a specific model in particular?
I don't know man. All I know is that it is a multi-channel thingI think it is the only one that has all the Midi stuff, and comes with a couple of different cleans, and a couple of different dirtys. It is a very multi-purpose wide range amp.
Would it be the JVM model?
Yep, that's it, you've got it.
How do the guitar parts break down between you and Zacky?
I guess it depends on who wrote it. If I wrote something, then I will probably be the one playing it. But usually Zacky plays the lead lines, all the melodies regardless, be it my idea or his idea. I usually kind of orchestrate the harmonies and stuff like that. But I am usually playing the harmony parts most times. So that's how that works with the band frame work. So whoever comes up with something, we will always work around that and that it from there.
Do you think your guitar technique and approach has remained consistent over the course of your career with Avenged Sevenfold?
I don't know, I just try and always approach my solos and guitar playing from a harmony songwriters' standpoint, where I will always try and make it melodic number one and fun, number two. It has to always be fun and never too fuckin' serious. I never do technique for the sake of technique. I much prefer a kid to laugh at my solo than to fuckin' have his jaw drop. I much prefer to inspire different emotions than just, oh shit that guy shreds' I definitely always try and keep up with the times too and what the kids are doing, the little whippersnappers. I like to see what shit they know that I don't know. It is cool because you can go onto the internet now and pretty much all the mystery is revealed to you which is a cool thing. It is definitely going to be inspirational for kids to take it to the next level.
Your father Brian Haner Sr, who is also a well known guitarist in his right, contributed guitar on a couple tracks on Nightmare. How much of an influence was your father on your own playing growing up?
He influenced me a lot. I grew up in a household that had a lot of classic rock and jazz and fusion around. But I always had an insatiable itch for metal techniques and stuff like that, so I later went off in a heavy music kind of direction and got into bands such as Pantera, Dream Theatrer and Guns & Roses. My influences go from The Beatles and Led Zeppelin for the rock stuff to The Yellowjackets as far as the fusion influences go.
Any plans for a solo album or maybe being a guest soloist on some other person's album, along the lines that M Shadows did with Slash for his solo record?
I don't have any plans right now, like I sad, we kind of get pretty busy and self absorbed when it comes to the task at hand. I wish I was like where I could just go out and fuckin' do a million different things all at once. But if I am not doing Avenged stuff, I tend to be a fuckin' couch potato and drink too much beer at multiple times during the day. But who knows? Maybe I will grow out of that stage and start drinking a lot of fuckin' coffee instead and go and fuckin' do a collaboration and write some awesome stuff.
A lot of new bands are taking a leaf out of Avenged Sevenfold's book and copying some of the elements, how do you feel about that?
Well we certainly weren't the first band to do it. There have been many before us and there will be many after us, so I certainly don't think we pioneered anything. If anything I give ourselves credit for maybe bringing some of those elements back and kind of doing our own thing with it. But it is definitely cool to hear bands focusing on songwriting and musicianship these days, those are my two favorite things and in that order. We are a band that focuses on writing good music, melodies, dynamics and songs that go places. Songs that don't fuckin' just throw in something when it comes time to write the bridge. Musicians are becoming more focused on all aspects of the music now, and then they go out and play their asses off. It is really cool shit to listen to.
What do you think of bands such as Black Veil Brides who are taking the whole 80s glam thing and putting a modern twist to it all?
It is definitely a cool thing. The first time I saw those guys, I hadn't heard anything about them previously, and we were just doing festivals, and I was like, oh wow this is pretty crazy, I have got to definitely check them out' purely based on their look. I was pretty much expecting it to be a scream-y hardcore or a popp-ier sounding band trying to be like Motley Crue. But they're extremely talented dudes and I love the image and I think they are really a great band.
Last question, the turning point both musically and commercially for Avenged Sevenfold came with 2005's City Of Evil. How do you look back on that album today?
We pretty much had decided on that record that we were going to pretty forget about any guidelines or rules or regulations, and that we would create any form or type of music that we wanted, and so pretty much we threw out the rule book and went in and wrote an album that we were and are very, very proud of. It is a very musically adventurous album and it saw us delving into different types of music, music that we hadn't previously done. And it was a cool time to explore all this type of music.
Interview by Joe Matera