Avenged Sevenfold's M. Shadows: ‘We Wanted To Be The Oddball Out'
After 20 years, Avenged Sevenfold continues to grow its fan base around the globe.
Later this year, the veteran act will headline the prestigious Download Festival, while 2017 saw the group earn its first-ever Grammy nomination for the title track for the most recent Avenged Sevenfold album, The Stage.
The group is currently on tour, headlining over Breaking Benjamin and Bullet For My Valentine. Avenged Sevenfold performs at Intrust Bank Arena on Tuesday, Feb. 6.
Jedd Beaudoin: When Avenged Sevenfold was first coming together did you have conversations about the direction or is the direction and the eclecticism just a reflection of who you are musically?
M. Shadows: I think it's a reflection of who we are musically, but we've also always had an "f authority" attitude towards life. I think ever conforming to a label's wishes, or even fans' wishes, always turned our stomachs. We wanted to do what we thought was right and be the oddball out. It's about doing what we want to do, even musically. Whether it's adding flamenco guitars or a string section or doing something like "A Little Piece of Heaven," which is almost like a Broadway tune. It's bending barriers of what metal's supposed to be. I always felt that that would always ruffle some feathers, but at the same time, we kind of always liked that. We liked that people didn't understand us. We feel like we've built a fanbase off of that, where all the oddball kids and fans that want to listen to something a little different tend to veer toward Avenged Sevenfold.
Some of my favorite bands when I was growing up were bands like Metallica and Rush and Queensrÿche, bands where you listen to them and realize that they don't fit a mold.
Absolutely. Those are all bands that have been highly influential on our lives. Queensrÿche's Operation: Mindcrime is one of my favorite records of all time. Metallica is obviously a huge influence. Rush is one of my favorite bands. Those bands don't fit in any mold. They fit in their own mold. The Rush mold or the Queensrÿche mold. I think the generic stuff and people trying too hard to stay within their genre and recycle everything that's already been done gets a little boring. I couldn't imagine sitting in a studio for a year and trying to write within the borders of heavy metal. It would just be really, really tough to do.
You're playing arenas at a time when I look around and see fewer and fewer arena bands or fewer and fewer arena bands from the generation that you guys came up in. Is that something took you by surprise when you got to that level? Or is it something where you said, "That's what we're working for, that's where we want to be and good for us because we've achieved our goal?"
I think that there's a lot of ambition that goes into it but also a lot of luck. We were around in a time when we were able to hit the tail end of MTV and we were able to hit the tail end of record sales. That set us on our path to be one of those last bands that had that kind of push that a lot of bands nowadays aren't going to be able to get. I think there's definitely some luck involved. This tour has surprised me the most because we're 18 years into our career and these are the best ticket sales we've ever had. Most of these shows are selling out and they're selling out quick, so I think it has to do with an accumulation of time and if you continually put on a good show and try to do the right moves and try to put out good records. After a while, there's less and less bands at these big shows so the fans, when you come to their city, it's an event. I think that's important, that you make it an event for them so that every time you come through they want to come out.
It sounds to me like Avenged Sevenfold is still this band, even with all this mileage behind you, you're still looking for the next thing.
We were talking about it the other day. Look at Download Festival. We're headlining on the Friday or Saturday night. The other two headliners are Ozzy and Guns N' Roses. You go to any place in the country or in the world and ask people who Guns N' Roses and Ozzy are and they would all know. If you ask them who Avenged Sevenfold is there's probably a 90 percent chance that they have no clue or never heard of our name. The fact that we can be headlining those shows with them and people still don't necessarily know us everywhere, I feel like there's so much room to grow. I don't know how you get there with the way that radio is these days or how there's no MTV. I don't know how you get there, but we're just going to keep working and keep putting on the best show for our fans, and if it grows really organically and slowly, it's fine. It's probably healthier that way. But, to us, getting nominated for Grammys and headlining Download Festival — headlining festivals all over the world — and people still don't know who you are? That's kind of a good sign to us that we have a lot of room to grow.
Jedd Beaudoin is the host of Strange Currency. Follow him on Twitter @JeddBeaudoin.
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