Interview: Synyster Gates – 'It was just those "what if" moments. What if we did this? That would be hilarious'
Avenged Sevenfold guitarist Synyster Gates chats about the band's seventh album The Stage and their ongoing World Tour
Avenged Sevenfold returned without warning. Launching their own artificial intelligence bots, performing in virtual reality then dropping their seventh album The Stage in full with immediate effect, they showed that the downtime hadn't dampened their ambitions to do something that little bit different.
A couple of months on, and The Stage World Tour has begun.'We've got a lot of shit going on,' laughs guitarist Synyster Gates, on the tour's elaborate set-up, which whisks thousands through the deepest corners of space, through their music videos and brings the astronaut from the album cover to (larger than) life. 'It has been incredible. We wanted to do something really, really different, something next level and use new technology and things. We worked with really unique creative people [like those behind Cirque du Soleil] and tried to think as much outside of the box as we could.'
They're all too aware that experimenting can go either way – you pull off something huge, or it fizzles away. Avenged found their greatest influence to push boundaries this time around in other genres. 'We listen to a lot of hip hop,' he explains. 'They're the ones that are trailblazing. It used to be rock, but it's really turned to hip hop and they're doing really unique and cool things, and we wanted to do that too.'
But for them to do new things, they needed a new drummer, and Brooks Wackerman (Bad Religion, Suicidal Tendencies) was the perfect fit. 'Besides him being an amazing dude and a consummate professional, he is, to me, the absolute best drummer in the world,' praises Syn. 'He wrote from a sense of composition for what the song called for. Then he has all the chops in the world. We didn't really know that he had crazy feet, the fastest I've ever seen, as articulate as I've ever heard, and so we just utilised everything that he had.'
'It's really going to stoke kids out there that there's a record that has this really unbridled, unabashed, no reservations approach to playing. We all had so much fun, and he's such a great drummer that it came naturally for us.'
It's all about having a good time for them. In fact, The Stage has been about that at every step, whether making their own Deathbot, the album itself or getting pals like Chris Jericho to troll fans with fake release dates. 'We really thought the album was going to be hit or miss to be honest because we were having so much fun,' he laughs. 'We're just big fucking music geeks but we really did focus hard on crafting it, wanting to be controlled chaos rather than everything just being fucking insane at all times.'
'It was just those "what if" moments. What if we did this? That would be hilarious. [For the bot] someone would ask a really stupid question that we'd already thought of and we'll have a completely random answer – when you see kids hit those things, the shit you're excited about, then it gets really exciting. There's standard questions: Why is Syn so fat?'
'That was what really excited us, to do the kind of things that made us laugh. It tended to be a little bit more of the ridiculous kind of things and unorthodox techniques, but those were what made us smile, so we had to go with that.'
And so Avenged will continue with The Stage World Tour, bringing thousands together but not taking it for granted. 'The Avenged family is increasing and increasing and we're so fortunate for that,' he smiles. 'Not many fucking bands can go away for two and a half years and expect to have their fans still be there. We certainly don't expect it but we truly, truly appreciate it.'
Avenged Sevenfold tour the UK until Sun Jan 22; The Stage is out now on Capital Records.