It seems only fitting that Axl Rose helped run the fabled notion of sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll out of music more than a decade ago, and is now doing his part to help usher the extravagance back in the form of Avenged Sevenfold. By hand-picking the band to open for Guns N' Roses overseas, the infamous rocker has done his part to not only validate the music of the Huntington Beach, CA, five-piece, but also to add credence to their roots and fertilize their future. If “Welcome to the Jungle” were the battle cry for a modern-day successor to the Guns throne of musical misanthropy, decadence and debauchery, Avenged's “City of Evil” would be the epic soundtrack, an ingenious crossbreed of metal riffs, rock anthems, and punk funk with gothic overtures and a glam glare. While the rest of this summer's OZZfest is ripe with Top 40 cover songs, premature farewell rumors and interchangeable emo-core fodder, frontman M. Shadows, guitarists Zacky Vengeance and Synyster Gates, bassist Johnny Christ and drummer The Rev offer musical flare, personality to spare, and a live performance more scalding than the midday sun. If you're looking for the reason to attend this summer's OZZfest [July 16, Chicago; July 22, Alpine Valley], look no further than Avenged Sevenfold. Shadows sat down with Maximum Ink for this exclusive interview…
MAXIMUM INK: You're from Orange County, CA, which isn't traditionally a breeding ground for rock and metal. How'd you end up with those influences?
M. SHADOWS: My dad bought me “Appetite for Destruction” the day it came out because he'd seen Guns N' Roses on “Headbanger's Ball,” and from that day on, me and the Rev [drums] were looking for anything that had to do with metal. We'd buy the magazines, look in CD booklets to see who Pantera thanked, buy all their CDs, and we learned about it through that. We really didn't fit in when we were younger, we were the kids running around with Slayer shirts on terrorizing the town and always getting in trouble. We were just really into rock music, lived it and breathed it, and we still do.
MAX INK: Do you think kids have that same passion today, or do you think it's taken for granted, with the easy access and instant gratification that the Internet offers?
SHADOWS: I think they totally take it for granted because of the Internet. I think everything's changed because of that. When it first started and everyone was getting into it, I never wanted anything to do with it and hated it so much, but now you have to. Kids can read everything about you, know everything about you, they find out about all the bands because they can download one song, or hear songs on their MySpace page. That cheapens it, as far as I'm concerned, because you really don't get a feel for a band. You can go through a million bands in a day and not really grasp what that band's all about. When you go out and buy a CD, you feel like you have to get into it, because you spent $15 on it. If I grew up in this generation, I'm sure I wouldn't listen to half the shit I listen to now. When I got Machine Head's “Burn My Eyes” record, I didn't like it at first, but I had to get into it, and now I love it. Same thing with punk bands like Death By Stereo. I hated that band at first, now they're one of my favorite bands ever. Same thing with Black Flag. If you listen to that glossy Epitaph punk, then try to get into the older stuff, you're gonna listen to one song and hate 'em. There are bands that are really influential in my life, and I had to get into them because of the way that we listened to music.
MAX INK: It seems like people's attention span has lessened with music over the years. Do you try harder to find those one or two singles that can pull audiences in, or are you more concerned with trying to make the next “Appetite for Destruction”?
SHADOWS: Singles weren't even on our radar. We didn't think we'd have them, and we didn't care.… Obviously, because we made a 74-minute record, and that's all you can fit on a CD before they cut you off. We weren't thinking about singles, we just wrote the biggest rock record we could at that time in our life, and “City of Evil” is what we came up with.
MAX INK: Given that you know people have something of an attention-deficit disorder when it comes to music, how do you approach the live show?
SHADOWS: We've got to be really careful with how many 8-10 minute songs we put in the set, [laughing] especially on the festivals in Europe. We're playing with Metallica and Guns N' Roses on a lot of these. These people don't know who we are, we're not going to throw a ten-minute song at them. If you're having a great show, those songs go fast, but if you're having a shitty show, or the guitars aren't working or something, you've got to suffer through it for seven minutes to finish the song out. So there are ups and downs, but we have so many progressive rock influences, like old Metallica stuff that is long and in depth, and we like our music to be like that, a journey that takes you someplace. Maybe we indulge a little too much, but people can say the same thing about Dream Theater. I'd rather have Dream Theater the way they are, than any other way… We fill a certain void for people and, for some reason, it crosses over to people that don't have that attention span. We're very fortunate to have that.
MAX INK: Fans overseas are a lot more receptive to different forms of music than America is. How have the crowds been over there, opening for bands as huge as Guns and Metallica?
SHADOWS: There were some great, great shows, and there were some bad ones, where they haven't been as receptive to us yet. Germany wasn't very receptive to us, but in places like Paris and Sweden, by the end of the set we had the whole arenas going crazy even though they'd never heard of us and it was our first time over there. Our record sales were nothing special there, and we were added to those shows after they had already sold out. We were going there to play for new people, and knew it would be good and bad. I think we went over really well with the Guns N' Roses crowd, and some of the Metallica dates. Metallica draws a lot of young kids, which is great, but they also draw some extreme crowds that just want to hear screaming and shit! [Laughing]
MAX INK: Being huge Guns N' Roses fans, what was it like playing with them?
SHADOWS: We did like 12 dates with them. It's almost like walking on eggshells around that camp, because they're really cool, but you know that at any second you fuck up, they can explode and kick you off the tour. Axl has a lot of security and goes right from the car to the stage, then back to the car. But once we got involved in the tour, he invited us back, let us eat and drink whatever we want, we went out and partied with him, he was just very, very cool.
MAX INK: Was that surreal?
SHADOWS: It was amazing, but it was very weird, looking at a guy who so much younger when “Appetite” came out, but still nails it live and might be better than ever, it's so clean and perfect. Just having him know who we are, respect us, and take us on tour is amazing. I've got to tell you, being on tour with a band like that, or Metallica, they have so much respect for their fans and their crew, and they go out and shred every night, and that's who we want to take after.
MAX INK: On the opposite extreme, you've got OZZfest in America. Other than Ozzy, there's not a lot of veteran presence.
SHADOWS: It's weird. From what I've seen from kids talking, it seems like we were more welcome on tour with Metallica or GNR. A lot of these kids are like, “Fuck Avenged, they're a radio band…” Looking at that lineup, the whole fucking thing is radio bands! [Laughing] It's pretty crazy, but I think this whole tour is going to be about proving people wrong. We're going to go out there every day and shred, and own it, and see what happens. I know it's a different crowd, and it's also a lot smaller. There were 80,000 people at Donnington, we'll have 15,000 people at OZZfest, so we're not intimidated.
MAX INK: Will you be doing the cover of “Walk” at OZZfest?
SHADOWS: Yeah, we'll be doing Pantera. Vinnie [Paul, drummer] is one of our good friends now, and we're paying tribute to Dime with it. We'll close with it. We have a new single, “Seize the Day,” and we're going to add that, and we're playing “Beast and the Harlot,” “Burn it Down” and “Bad Country,” “Walk” and “Unholy Confessions” Eternal Rest” and “To End the Rapture” from the old records.
MAX INK: Do you have plans for after OZZfest?
SHADOWS: Yeah, we're going to Japan and doing Summer Sonic with Metallica, then we're going to Australia, New Zealand, flying home for the VMAs, then we're going straight to Canada for a two-week run. We'll go back out to Europe for a month, then come back here if “Seize the Day” takes off, otherwise we'll start up on another record.