Avenged Sevenfold’s M. Shadows Talks ‘Hail to the King’ Success, Touring + ‘Deathbat’ Game
Avenged Sevenfold are one of the busiest bands in rock these days. Not only is the band promoting their hugely successful ‘Hail to the King’ album, but they’ve also got several other projects in the works, including the highly anticipated ‘Hail to the King: Deathbat’ game.
Loudwire had a chance to speak with Avenged Sevenfold frontman M. Shadows on the phone during their South American tour and he gave us an update on all of what’s going on with the band. He opened up about their spring touring, shared their plans for their next single and spoke more in depth about their video game. Check out our chat with Avenged Sevenfold’s M. Shadows below.
First off congrats on the success of ‘Hail to the King.’ Huge, huge record for you guys.
Thank you, man. I appreciate it.
What was the biggest challenge in putting together the album and what has been the nicest pay off for you so far?
The biggest challenge had to be containing ourselves and trying to stick to our original vision of doing something a little more groove-oriented, a little more stripped back and riff based. Also sticking to the blues, we like to kind of venture out and do a lot of stuff that is a little more neo-classical and get a little more melodic minor in our music. Staying in the blues is really tough for us but that was the vision from the beginning and we wanted to make sure the whole record stayed with the concept.
The biggest payoff has been getting the South American tour, the biggest songs we are playing are from ‘Hail to the King.’ Everything from ‘Nightmare’ to ‘Hail to the King’ is just going over so big down here. That is a good thing because you don’t want to be a band where you are putting out new records and people just want to hear old stuff. That has been very, very cool.
‘Shepherd of Fire’ has been huge for you guys. It definitely paints a picture in your head and I wanted to get your take on the inspiration behind that and why you decided to go that direction lyrically with that song.
Lyrically it’s got a lot of ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ in it. That was a big song for me growing up by the Rolling Stones. I just really like the idea of, not to be completely corny, but just Satan watching you around every corner. Everything you do, he’s there to help lend a hand or he’s there to push you down. It’s always been a cool concept to me and I wanted to do it in our own sort of way and we wanted to do it to open up the record. We’re looking at classic songs that open albums like ‘Welcome to the Jungle.’ We wanted to add it all together and add our own demonic twist on it.
You guys are solid storytellers in what you’re doing musically. Who were some of the people that inspired you in terms of your own songwriting?
Thank you. For us, I like a lot of people like that can express themselves emotionally without coming off cheesy or the new word, emo. For me, listening to bands like Pink Floyd and the Rolling Stones, they do it so well. I’m not really very talented at doing that so I’m a little bit better at doing the Maiden thing, where you can tell a story and maybe have some different — you get your point across in different ways. Bruce Dickinson has always been amazing at painting a picture. Our band has always been really big on imagery we’ve kind of used that as one of our strengths, we tend to do that pretty well. That’s kind of the vibe we go for. We don’t like to be too mushy or too overly emotional.
You mentioned the imagery. That’s one of the thing thats always been cool about the band, you get a full package. You take everything into consideration. Was that the game plan from day one for Avenged Sevenfold? Was there something that inspired or laid that out for you?
Yeah. When we were growing up we listened to all sorts of music but the first band that really grabbed all of us live was AFI. What they were doing out there, their image compared to everything else that was on Warped Tour and then you go see them at the Bren Events Center in Irvine, they were just always doing this cool — they were just over the top with their gothic imagery. Then Maiden, I was a fan but I had never seen them live. Then with Eddie, seeing their shows.
Always from day one, we were the band on Warped Tour with a fog machine and our backdrop had to be up — everyone thought we were the biggest idiots for that, total posers. But for us, we wanted to be over the top. We had stage names when we were 17-years-old because we liked the over the top aspect of it. We loved that Axl was a fake name, we loved that Slash was a fake name. We just love that whole, completely enamored with the whole rock n roll thing. But AFI was the first band in our scene that we felt like were really pushing the limits of their live show.
So we just kept doing it, kept pushing the limits and now where we are now, now it’s hard to push the limits because we don’t know what else we can do. But, at the same time, it’s fun to be creative with it.
It’s like Motley Crue. How do you continually top yourself when you keep doing these big productions?
You don’t want to become a novelty either. You want to be able to go and kick ass. Like right now in South America, it’s purely a black stage with some ramps and death bats everywhere and it looks sick. It’s fun to be able to go back and forth between the ‘Kings’ set with the video and the pyro and then do the stripped down type of set in South America. It’s fun to be able to be able to do both of those.
You have dates with Hellyeah coming up. Vinnie Paul is excited about this tour. He had mentioned you might have heard a few songs off their record. If you want to talk about Hellyeah, Adrenaline Mob and your excitement of bringing these bands along with you.
Hellyeah, we’ve been friends with them for a long time. We toured with them a few years back and it was great. I think Vinnie sent me three songs and they were awesome. It really captured that old bass and drum sound that Pantera used to have. It sounds huge. I’m really excited for that record to come out and we’re glad they’re putting out a record now because it makes the tour more exciting. Adrenaline Mob, I got that record early well and told Russ we’d take them out whenever we could. We had a show with them in Wisconsin that had to be canceled, we owed it to them.
I said we’d take them out on the next tour. Now we have this cool lineup that we think is going to be really great for our fans. It’s going to be great, plus it’s all three bands are friends. It’s going to be as fun for us as it will be for the fans.
‘Hail to the King’ and ‘Shepherd of Fire’ have hit here in the U.S., but what other songs off the record are doing it live for you at the moment?
‘This Means War’ is up there with ‘Hail to the King’ in terms of crowd reaction and kids chanting for it. Especially over here in South America. It’s insane how big that song is especially without that song even being a single. ‘Doing Time’ is really big here. Those are the only four we’ve been playing, but it’s like, very surprising. You get a lot of the kids in America and sometimes in the U.K. where we’ve been bigger there for longer I think, or have been our way up there for longer. So a lot of those — you hear a lot of “oh just played ‘Waking the Fallen’ stuff, or ‘City of Evil’ stuff.”
You play those over in South America and it goes OK, but really it’s the new record, ‘Nightmare’ and the ‘White’ album that they just lose their s— over. So it’s fulfilling to use to know that, that’s like our bread and butter over here. It feels good to put out a new record and have it go over as well as or even better than the previous ones. So it’ll be one of those things, determining on the nation we’re in, we’ll have to make the setlist accordingly.
Have to ask, ‘Shepherd of Fire’ has been out a while now. Any thoughts on what might be next?
Definitely ‘This Means War’ — when we sent the record to people the song originally they wanted was that one first. We wanted ‘Hail to the King’ first then they wanted it second, then we wanted ‘Shepherd of Fire’ second, so, it’s going to be the third single. Now, as a band, do we want to go with a ballad fourth? We’re not sure between the two ballads on the record what we’re going to chose. ‘This Means War’ is definitely going to be the next single.
How did that song come together?
We wanted to do something groovin’. Something with a ‘Sad But True’ or ‘Kashmir’ type of vibe with our own twist on it. It’s just one of those things where it’s got that groove down and wanted to take it somewhere different with the chorus and the melodies and keep it in that blues feel and do something really cool. Solo wise, for Gates, I think he just nailed that solo. So many cool effects on the guitar. Man, it’s just a stomper. South American fans, it’s just so crazy to watch them all jump up and down for six minutes straight to that groove. It’s pretty cool. Hopefully we can get a cool video going for it, get out there and play it live and just kick ass with it.
The ‘Hail to the King: Deathbat’ game that you guys are working on — I know you’re a big fan of storytelling games. Tell me a little bit about how the game came together and your involvement in it.
We were just looking for another medium on being able to be creative. Music videos, they just don’t cut it anymore. The way that bands were able to express themselves, they don’t really exist. There’s a lot of — either you’re on Facebook or Twitter just annoying everybody about what you’re eating or what country you’re in and I just hate all that stuff. So one day when we were on a bus to a show in Southeast Asia about two years ago, I saw everyone on their phones and they were all playing games.
I said, ‘Man we can make a game!’ And that’s what kind of kicked this off. Besides that I wanted to write a triple A game completely separate from the band. I was really into doing a game. So through all these meetings and things we had put together with GDD, which is a game document design, we decided to start building this game two years ago. Now we’re close on doing a very expansive mobile video game, which is big enough to where it should be on a console but we’re squeezing it into a mobile platform. Hopefully our fans dig it and mostly, I hope gamers dig it. It’s a good game, it’s not just for fans of the band.
I read in another interview about it, eight original songs, nine old tracks. Kind of a mix of things in there. Can you talk about coming up with some of the music?
We’ve been trying to downplay the music part because with the way our band sounds we don’t expect even half of our fans to get it or to understand it. It’s purely throwback video game music. A lot of 8-bit sounds but a lot of instrumentals. We made songs that reminded us of our youth playing ‘Castlevania’ or ‘Mario Brothers,’ ‘Zelda.’ So we made nine songs, which are original songs that we put together. They’ll be in the game. I’m sure we’ll do some sort of packaging where you can buy those songs with ‘Hail to the King’ or whatever. Or you can just play the game and listen to them. There’s nine songs, but we’re trying to downplay it. I don’t want everyone to think nine new songs, then they hear it and it’s a bunch of digital music.
You’re playing Seether’s ‘Rise Above’ festival. Can you talk a little about what it means to you to be a part of that? Especially given the message behind what they’re doing.
It’s a great cause. Very noble for those guys to step up and put something together like that. When we got the call we were more than happy to do it. We’ve known Seether — we did Uproar with them a few years back. It’s going to be a great — like I said, a great cause. We’re just happy to be out there and support those guys, and the cause.
I know you’re a big fan of Metallica. Have you heard the ‘Lords of Summer’ single yet? Your thoughts?
I texted Lars about it, I told him I loved it. I really do. I dont know where their head space is at right now, or what the record is going to sound like and I know how when you’re dealing with demos or putting a song together, things will change. What I really enjoyed about it was the solo section, I thought that was really cool and melodic. That’s what gets me excited about things. It’s going to be a beast once they do some full production on that thing. James‘ voice sounds great. It’s creative, cool. I have nothing but good things to say about it.
Our thanks to Avenged Sevenfold’s M. Shadows for the interview. You can pick up Avenged Sevenfold’s ‘Hail to the King’ album here. To see where they’re playing this spring on tour, check their dates at this location.