Johnny Christ , 2006

 

Written & Photos by: Jason Perlman

 

The first time I saw Avenged Sevenfold was a few years ago on Warped on a side stage, but even then you guys has this cult following. Did you see the band getting to this level?
I'd be lying if I said no. We have been striving to get to this level for a long time. It's the whole reason we do what we do. We just kept playing our asses off in front of that cult following that you were talking about and it just keeps growing and growing. And we are exciting just to keep doing that.

 

You did Warped for a while and are now on Ozzfest, not too many bands can say that. Are you surprised at how well A7X is being accepted by both the punk and the metal crowds?
It is actually something we have really taken pride in being able to cross over to a lot of different genres. We do love so many different styles of music. We don't just listen to metal or we don't just listen to punk. We listen to a lot of hip-hop, too. We are out there listening to a lot of different music and taking influence from it. So we are very proud, that we cross over into so many different genres. But this is just another way to show we kind of grew out of Warped Tour and playing in front of the same kids we did for four years. It is pointless playing in front of the same kids, so we are just trying to move on and play in front of new audiences.

The thing about your new record, the first major label release, is it has a lot more harmonies and melody than the first two records. Is that just natural progression of the band or did being on a major affect how the band wrote and recorded?
It was definitely a natural progression. Every record that Avenged Sevenfold puts out is going to be different. We are a constant changing band and we are always going to do what comes out of us at the moment. The records before, we were younger and that was more what we were into. But we have matured and evolved as musicians and as friends by touring on the road so much, and it just became exactly what we wanted to do.

 

I have heard that Avenged Sevenfold was less aggressive on this record because of the melodies and harmonies, though there is still aggression there. Do you ever listen to what fans say or what critics say?
I don't really look on the message boards or anything like that. Everyone is going to have their own opinions on whatever we do. But we are just going to keep doing what we do. We get in the moment, we get home and we write a record. It is about that moment and we put out a record that we would want to listen to. Hopefully when we put it out we will turn some ears and people will dig it.

When I saw you on Warped, the band had a more Goth look that seemed more thought about where now the band seems to be coming a bit more into their own allowing each personality to be apparent on stage. You were getting a lot of comparison to AFI then but each band has definitely gone a different direction. As you were going through the process of finding yourself, did you find yourself annoyed with comparisons?
We don't get upset about it. It's going to happen. Everyone is going to be compared to someone else all the time. Most of the time we were excited about it when we were compared to our favorite bands. When we were on the Warped Tour, they were comparing us to AFI three years ago that you were speaking of, and that was awesome. We love AFI, they are a great band and it was a really cool thing. We get compared to Guns & Roses a lot and Metallica a lot. Hell yea, those are huge influences of ours and it is just cool to see our name next to it. But we are not trying to be the next Metallica or the next anything. We are Avenged Sevenfold and our influences are pretty heavy in our music.

Before Ozzfest, you had a headlining tour with Aiden and Bullets and Octane. You have done Warped and you did Ozzfest so now the doors of touring have got to be huge. Is that a blessing or a curse to not be pigeonholed so to speak when it comes to touring?
Well, really it isn't bad because the prefect band to tour with us is just an aggressive rock band. We don't particularly care for most of those screaming bands these days. There are a few we really like that are our friends, but we usually like to pick bands that are more rock and roll based and just going out there and being hard-working and good friends.

 

From the bands on Warped, they all talk about how it is like a family reunion every show with the big picnics and get-togethers where is seems Ozzfest seems to be more competitive. Have you found those assumptions to be true?
There are little differences, but there are still the barbecues that go on every night at Ozzfest, too. We have been getting along and hanging out with all the bands out here and having a really great time. It feels very different from the Warped Tour, but more comfortable. I think Ozzfest takes better care of the bands a little bit more.

And it has to be nice playing a summer where you know your schedule before you wake up at 8am.
Yea, yea. It was a real bum out when you were out drinking all night and you are woken up the next day being told you have to play in an hour when you had no idea before.

 

What are the plans for Avenged Sevenfold after Ozzfest?
Right after Ozzfest we are going to head out to Japan and Australia and then Canada and are still debating about another headlining tour. We will see how it goes with the new single Seize the Day. Possibly we would do another American tour or just head back into the studio, take some time off and write the new record.

Speaking of that, you mentioned earlier that every Avenged Sevenfold record has a different sound to it. How excited is the band to get back to writing after being on the road for a while and playing the current catalogue?
Actually, we are more excited just to be getting home. We will probably take about a month or two off just to hang out for a little bit and collect ourselves for a little bit. Because as I was saying we like to write in the moment, so we like to be relaxed and inspired by our own experiences of chilling and hanging out. It helps us get in our creative minds so we are ready to write the record that we are going to write. But yea, we are excited to see what actually comes out of us. There are some many different directions it could go, and we are just going to see what happens.

 

You also mentioned you were not surprised by the success of Avenged Sevenfold and with all that comes a lot of attention. Are you ever feeling cursed by the success, so you can have a day to do nothing and not be on someone's radar all the time?
Well, on days that I am extremely hung-over I wish I didn't have to do anything. But there is the aspect of this that this is a job. It's the best job I could ever do and something I love very much. I love to write music and I love to get up in front of kids every day and play. But you have to do all the interviews because you have to make sure your name is getting out there and you are growing your fan base, and it's a job, too. And sometimes you are not as excited as other times.

 

Every time I have seen the band, it looks like the band is having a lot of fun on stage. How much is that for real and how much of that is just playing the part of musician?
Believe it or not, it really is about 99 percent real, unless the entire band has been out together drinking, which I guess happens very often. But it doesn't happen too often that we go a little too crazy and are still a little drunk during the show. That is probably the only time that we are not fully into it. But every other time it is real. We are best friends, we grew up together and we are out there playing in front of kids every day. We are having a blast up there. We kind of fuck with each other a little bit and goof off on stage and we are having a lot of fun. We really take pride in our live show and the whole day we are taking care of ourselves and being healthy to make sure we are going to be able to put on the best show possible since these kids came out and paid money.

 

Now that the band has a decent catalogue of music, and on Ozzfest you did a Pantera cover as well, so how hard is it to put together a set list that appeals to the cult of fans we talked about earlier?
We usually try to write our set list depending on what the fans will be. So we wanted to do a tribute to Dimebag by playing Walk by Pantera who just a few years ago were ripping up the stage and are one of our influences. So we wanted to try and let some of that spirit live on through Ozzfest. So we added that in after touring for a while and recording it for an English magazine. But every set list that we write we try to adapt to the crowd that we are about to play in front of. On Warped Tour, we may do a faster set of more upbeat songs and on Ozzfest we are bringing out our heavier side. You just write it out in hopes of what those fans would want to hear the most.

 

Having singles almost means you have to include them in the set. Are there ever times you think, "Man, it would be nice not to play Bat Country tonight?"
We actually had that discussion the night before we played Columbus, where Dimebag was shot and killed. So we had a discussion if we should maybe play a different song to tribute him and we thought about what he would want the most. We all kind of figured it was his song; we have been playing it every other day on Ozzfest, and let's just get out there and let the crowd know it's a tribute to the greatest guitarist that ever lived and we wanted to make sure that his spirit lives on in heavy metal.

How much do you think Avenged Sevenfold has found itself as a band? Comparisons are coming less; do you think Avenged Sevenfold has found its own identity?
I think we have always been doing our own thing. We change on every record. Everything is different. We really like to be surprising and to be able to stand on our own.

 

When you guys headlined, you sold out 2000-seat venues every night with Avenged fans going nuts. You did Ozzfest with 18,000 metal fans hearing your music maybe for the first time live. Do you prefer one to the other?
On Ozzfest, there are a lot of people that don't really know anything about us. It's been more of a winning over situation and it is really exciting to be able to watch the crowd change in the middle of your set. From the beginning where they don't know what to think to the end where you are looking at those people with their hands up in the air. There is something really exciting about that. That is really cool to be able to change them over. But you can't really trade that in for playing in front of your fans. Fans that live for your music. They know every word and they know everything about you. That's the difference and it is fun both ways, but you can't beat playing in front of a group of just your fans.

 

You guys brought a cool stage show to Ozzfest and even on your headlining gig, the shots I got as a photographer were this yellow and red like you were descending into hell. How much do you want to go back to the 80's metal bands that really started with kiss of theater and music together?
One of the best live bands we have ever seen is Iron Maiden. They have a show going on. If you wanted to just listen to their music, you could listen to it at home; it's going to be the same. They play great. But when you go and but a ticket, they put on a show and make that a part of it. They make that audience really feel it and let you know you are at a show, not just watching guys playing instruments. So we are really into that and always have been and we have tried to entertain and do the best we can every night.

When I was at Ozzfest here in Columbus, I saw a shitload of Avenged Sevenfold shirts in the crowd. How rewarding is it to be at a show like Ozzfest and see so many of your fans there?
Different days have a different amount of Avenged Sevenfold shirts. Some days it is especially cool because the kids were coming anyway because it wasn't even announced that we would be playing until after tickets went on sale and were already sold out. And the reason we wanted to do Ozzfest was to get in front of a new audience. So it was cool to see our shirts out there, but we also knew we were going to be playing to a lot of people who were not yet fans, and that is why we wanted to do this. And after playing, I just think there are a lot of bands on Ozzfest that we would tour well together.