Being the singer in a successful band has its perks. M. Shadows is a mad game player and when he had a chance to spend time with Treyarch, the company that makes the Call Of Duty: Black Ops games, he jumped on it. He was introduced to Treyarch as a fan and recently Avenged Sevenfold cemented that relationship by writing a new and original song for the Zombies series. "Not Ready To Die" was written specifically for the new map and is according to Shadows "More soundtrackish than a typical Avenged Sevenfold song." If you can find the song in the gameprompted by a woman's voice saying "Sounds like music to kill zombies to,"the song's eerie pipe organ intro swells in the background and to the accompaniment of Avenged Sevenfold, you can now destroy, pulverize, and wipe the world clean of the walking undead.
M. Shadows is really proud of the new track and he took time recently to talk about it. Shadows and his bandmates also swept the April 21st Revolver Golden God Awards by taking home four trophies for Best Album, Best Vocalist, Best Drummer, and Best Guitarists. We spoke to the singer about the awards and what it meant to be recognized by peers and how life with new drummer Arin Ilejay is working out.
UG: Avenged Sevenfold have an unreleased song for the new Call of the Dead: Black Ops Zombies game?
M. Shadows: We recorded a brand new song that comes out May 3 and it's called Not Ready To Die and no one's heard it yet and we wrote it specifically for Zombies. The song is a new thread in the map so if you find the song, you play to that song. So you're gonna be killing Zombies while you hear that song. What we worked on with the new song, Not Ready To Die as a Zombies map is just scary as shit. You get in there and you have all these zombies that are trying to kill you and it's actually freaky if you're playing it at night by yourself; it's a scary game. I love it; I think it's fun and it's great.
Can you describe the song a bit?
It's a mixture of what we grew up listening to music-wise when we were playing video games like Transylvania-ish/devil-is meets Avenged Sevenfold. We wrote it a little more storytelling but we feel that our kids and our fansI don't wanna call em kinds because they're not all kidsare gonna enjoy it as well as being able to work in the game. So I think it does a little of both and it's pretty cool.
Can you talk a little bit about how you first got involved with Activision?
My relationship with Activision goes way back from doing Guitar Hero-type stuff. But I think this whole thing with Call of Duty started with a relationship I had with Treyarch; the company that makes Call of Duty and the Black Ops series. So, yeah, I was a huge fan of that franchise so I got an introduction from a couple different people and I was such a fan of it that I emailed the president of Treyarch and he said, Sure, c'mon on down. I went in there and saw how it was all done and we started talking about, Hey, maybe we should do something in the future and this whole thing came about so that was kinda cool.
The first song you did for Call of Duty was Welcome to the Family. How did that happen?
We were comin' out with a new record and at that point we didn't actually have a relationship with Treyarch. Black Ops was done and it was coming out and there was a company called Machinima that is like the biggest video gaming website where they make videos and Top 5 Killcams of the Week and they do all these crazy things. And we actually had a relationship with Machinima who were doing promotion for Black Ops and so were like, Hey, why don't we team up and make a video with our new song. At the same time we can promote Black Ops while they promote our song because we're both fans of what we heard of each other.
So you were a serious game player?
We all played the Modern Warfare series, the World at War series, and then we were gonna get into Black Ops so it felt like a good fit. Not only are we into it but we know a lot of our fans are into it so it was a nice way to introduce the song. So at that point with Welcome to the Family, it was more of a Machinima thing. It was later on that we got to meet the people at Treyarch and actually work on new music for new maps.
Welcome to the Family was actually a perfect song to be connected to the Black Ops game because the tag line of the track was You can't win this fight. It had the whole war/killing thing built right in.
Totally; it did all fit. It was good for us because we ended up not doing a video for that song. So people kind of put those two things together and still go that video and that montage as like the video from that song, which is cool.
So Not Ready to Die is the first song with your new drummer, Arin Ilejay? And you've also been touring with Arin for a while now?
He's a shredder; he's awesome. He's been playing all the parts great. I think one thing about this new song is we're really looking forward to getting into the studio with him and seeing how we gel with him and see what he brings to the table as far as writing goes. That was a great experience for us to be able to do that (Not Ready to Die) just so we don't go into the next record completely blind; how he is in the studio.
It's been a learning experience for the band?
It's the first song that he drums on and he's been killin' it on the roadand he's a really nice guy. He's one of the nicest guys in the world, which is more than we could ever ask for so we're really excited about it.
What were you looking for in a drummer to replace The Rev?
What we were looking for was someone that was young and someone that was unknown. We wanted to give someone a chance that wasn't completely jaded; we didn't want them to feel it was a job. We wanted him to be a fan of the band and a fan of music and wanting to be out on the road and view this as their dream like all of us. One thing we didn't want was some older session guy or some guy that just saw it as a gigcause it's not a gig, it's like our life. It's what we want to do for a long time. So basically we wanted a nice, young person that could obviously have the chops to play everything that's been laid down before but also we wanted them to be able to have their own style. It's gonna take years for our fans and for people to understand what Arin's style is and we're still figuring it out ourselves. But he needed to have his own style and be his own drummer but at the same time be able to play everything (Mike) Portnoy and The Rev laid down. So far he's got two of those down and now we need to work on bringing out his style and what he can bring to the music.
"We're really looking forward to getting into the studio with Arin Ilejay."
Had you heard Arin play in Confide, which was his band?
No; I didn't know who he was. We talked to our producerMike Elizondoand we talked to Mike Fasano who was Jimmy's in-studio drum tech and we said, Hey, do you guys have anyone you could suggest? And they both sent somebody down and we went and jammed with em both and they were both great and Arin came in and just killed it. That was the first time I'd ever heard of him or seen him or met him and he came in and he was super skinny and small and he hits the drums like a beast. And it was like, Whoa. We were all kind of smiling like, Wow, this kid's got every chop down. Not only has he played everything right but he's also transcribed everything right. Which is good to us because you have to have an earyou have to be able to hear what people are doing. He played everything Portnoy and Jimmy were playing to a tee. And we were like, Wow. So we had a couple more sessions with him and he was just the perfect fit right off the bathe just really blew us away and impressed us.
You must have been blown away by winning the recent Revolver Golden God Award for the Rockstar Energy Best Vocalist.
It was amazing. I'm not a big guy on awards but I was up there with Bruce Dickinson and Corey Taylor and I said, C'mon! We know that Bruce is a fucking legend and Corey is still a legend-in-training (laughs) and it's one of those things that's very flattering. Do I think I'm the best vocalist? No, absolutely not! But it was nice the fans voted and I'm very grateful for it. It was a really nice momentit was really nice to get it from Sebastian Bach cause that guy to me is one of the greatest singers of all time. He could sing anything and always have loved his voice. And so, it was really nice and it was really humbling and gratifying at the same time.
Avenged Sevenfold jammed with Vinnie Paul on Mouth of War. How did that feel?
Oh, that was sickthat was the highlight of my fuckin' night. It was probably the highlight of my year. I walked off stage and we were both like high off it. We were like, Yeah, dude. We went straight to shots and drank together all night and me and Vinnie were talking about it and talked about Dime and The Rev. We got off stage and had a fuckin' blast and he's such a great drummer and it gelled really nicely. It was nice to see him up there again just rockin' out to an old Pantera tune.
You also jammed with Duff on It's So Easy.
It was so cool, manit was just thrown together. We'd been planning on doing it for a long time and he just couldn't make it to a rehearsal at the same time that we could make it to rehearsal. We ended up being on tour and then him playing a show in LA the night before the Revolver Awards, so we never practiced it. We just kept talking to one anotherAre you sure we got this? And Duff was like, Hey, man, I know how to play it; everything will be OK. We're like Fuck, dude, yeah, I'm sure you know how to play it but we're just makin' sure. We can't just walk up there on TV and play a song for the first time and he seemed to think it was gonna be fine and it was. It was awesome; we played it really well and it gelled and we had a good time with it. But I was definitely very scared about that performance over anything else that night.
Guns were an influence on Avenged back in the day?
Oh, yeah; they were my favorite band growing up. And they probably still arethere are a couple bands that I've really gotten into in the last few years like Pink Floyd and some of the classics. But Guns N' Roses Use Your Illusion I and II are two of my favorite records of all time.
Do you have any feelings about the Chinese Democracy record?
There are great songs there and Axl is a great singer; he's an amazing singer. It's hard because a lot of times it's that feeling a band gives you when you know they're a band and you know what it's about. And there's so much drama that goes around that camp. I've met Bumblefoot and a couple of the guys in that band and they're great guys and great playersit's just really hard to play in that shadow of what Guns N' Roses was. And I think that kind of takes you away from when you're listening to a record and what it's all about. What made Dark Side of the Moon so great is some of the mystique and where it was coming from and just the authenticity of it. And that's what kinda sucks about the new Guns N' Rosesit's really hard to put your finger on it but it's not the same thing. I think for all of us it would be really nice if they could just get it together and do some stuff but that's probably never gonna happen.
"What we worked on with the new song, Not Ready To Die as a Zombies map is just scary as sh-t."
Getting back to the awards show, Mike Portnoy won the Drum Workshop Best Drummer Award, which was presented by Vinnie Paul. Are you still on good terms with Mike?
Yeah, we're on good termsit just got a little out of hand for a while there with us. And the way he runs his camp is a little different than we run ours. It couldn't co-exist in that way and I'm really happy for himI'm happy on a bunch of different levels. The Rev wrote those parts, Mike elaborated on them, and the record did really well. To me that's a success all the way around. Mike helped us out in a time of need and he really stuck true to what Jimmy's parts were, which we were really thankful for that. Cause he could have come in there and been like, No, I'm not playing thatwhy don't we do this? So he did exactly what Jimmy had written down and what we wanted him to do and kudos to him for doin' that.
Avenged won four Revolver awardsmore than anybody else.
It was nice that we got to go in there and basically sweep those awardsit was really cool. And I'm sure Mike appreciates it as well. I didn't get to talk to him afterwards but I know Zack did and they exchanged some nice words. So it was good to see that he won that award.
Synyster and Zack won the Epiphone Best Guitarists Awardit must be cool playing with two talented guitar players like those guys.
Yeah, they're great and especially Brian's knowledge of music and the stuff he comes up with and he plays; it's really awesome. And Zack is just such a raw playerhe's just all feel and he reminds me of a young James Hetfield where it's rhythm-oriented but it's solid as fuck and it's great. It is great getting to play with them and knowing that I can sing anything to them and they can play it. You know what I mean? Like I can say, Hey, you know, can you play faster here or do this? and Brian can just play it. Most people don't ever get to deal with that and I guess I'm very lucky to be able to write songs with those guys and be able to do that and not have to work on parts really. I can just kinda sing em out and have em go at it.
Your fourth award at the Revolver show was for the Affliction Album of the Year for Nightmare. Mike Inez and Jerry Cantrell presented that award. Winning this kind of award must have felt really empowering after the loss of The Rev and going through that kind of horror.
Oh, that was great. Those are our peers and they're still idols to usall those people that we went up there with and it's kinda like we still feel like a young band being in that situation. I know there was a lot of other young bands there that are more where we came from like the Warped Tour and late Ozzfest crowd. So it's really great to be up there and be able to hang out and jam with our idols and receive awards and have them have to recognize us in a way. When you're growing up that's all you want is to just be able to hang out in the same room and jam with these guys and talk to them and now we're getting awards and hanging out and drinking with some of our favorite musicians. It's really surreal and great and I think we're taking that evolution of the band very nicely into whatever it's gonna be next. But we're really excited about it and we're still looking forward to it.
[Note: Here are M. Shadows' comments upon receiving the award].
"Everyone in this room knows how hard this album was for us to make losing our best friend, The Rev. But we appreciate the Avenged Sevenfold fans for helping us get back up on our feet and putting this album out."
Interview by Steven Rosen
"We're on good terms with Mike Portnoy it just got a little out of hand for a while there with us."