One of the top up and coming alternative rock bands is the Huntington Beach California five-piece known as Avenged Sevenfold. Taking the technical aspects of metal guitar work and its elaborate arrangements, Avenged Sevenfold crafts metal-core with an emphasis on its metal roots as much as its punk background. Despite the fact that the band is just now receiving major mainstream coverage, the group has been together for some time and previously released two very successful indie albums entitled Sounding the Seven Trumpet and Walking the Fallen. With the success of these two albums, the band was able to attract the interest of major label Warner Bros. and Avenged Sevenfold recently released their debut major label release, an intense, eleven track album called City of Evil. Working once again with producer Mudrock who also produced Walking the Fallen, the band has exploded in popularity and is just now becoming a household name within the new rock community. Despite a hectic schedule of constant touring to promote City of Evil, P.G.A. was fortunate enough to catch up with the band’s bass player Johnny Christ for a few questions about the new album, touring and of course every rock band’s favourite hang out spot, strip clubs.
Avenged Sevenfold recently switched from a small independent label to recording giants Warner Brothers Music. What was it that attracted you to Warner and why did you make the switch from the indie label?
Johnny: Well you know, we wanted to make the switch from the indie label to reach a broader audience, you know, just have our same integrity with a big machine behind us. So when word got out that we were looking for a big label, there was a lot of different labels that came to us and we pretty much went around and shopped with which label we wanted to go with. So, we were on Warped Tour, two years ago was it? And ah, Warner Brothers came out and saw us then, you know, and their representative was so excited, I think it was in Portland, he was like “you guys are awesome, you have it, you’re going to be on our label, I’m telling you right now, you’re going to be on our label, because we’re going to do everything we can, we’re going to meet all your demands and you’re going to be on our label.” And we’re like “cool man, whatever” at the time, you know, we were still looking around and it came down to it and yeah, we went in for several meetings with them and they showed the most enthusiasm and gave us the most creative control you know, so we’re like, “ok, let’s go with these guys.”
What are some of the noticeable differences (perks or disadvantages) between being signed to an indie label versus a major one such as Warner?
Johnny: Well, you might miss… ah like sometimes, even though you have all control of it, they still have their guys that think they know what they’re talking about and they come to you and they’ll harp at you about one thing and you’re like “no you’re wrong.” And at the end, they always go, “yeah you were right, you know, that was a horrible idea” you know, it’s like cool man whatever. So there’s a lot of times where you’ll miss the connection sometimes, because a lot of times those guys have so much (experience) underneath their belt, you know, they’re like “well it worked with this band” it’s like “it’s not going to work with us man, it’s not what we do.” And ah, they’re like “yeah you’re one hundred percent right” at the end of the day, but, so you get a little bit of a rash from the guys. But, the perks are definitely easy to see, you know, you get more money, you get to work on your record, you know, you get just a big machine behind you pretty much to do what you’ve always wanted to do, so… that’s pretty much it.
In early June your debut major label release City of Evil hit stores everywhere. Was the recording experience any different from previous ones and how do you personally feel about the album?
Johnny: The recording experience was maybe a little different, because we came in after writing the record for six or seven months or whatever, and we had already put it on our own pro tools so we walked in and we pretty much had everything laid out and we recorded for the following two months I think it took us. It was a better environment, a better experience because we had more money to work with so we could take our time, make sure everything is perfect on the record, we could actually bring in live strings on parts that we really wanted to and we even had a boy’s choir come in and record a part. So you know, it was just better with the major label to have that money behind you to do everything that we wanted to do.
A switch as big as a label change can sometimes impact a band’s sound and fan following. In terms of pleasing old fans and drawing new ones, how has City of Evil been thus far received?
Johnny: Well, at the beginning I think a lot of kids were scared about the change and everything, and um, we got a little bit of some bad vibes from some of the kids, but they just kept listening to it, you know, eventually they were turning around and they were realizing what we were doing, you know. We’re a band that’s never going to put out the same record twice no matter what, label change or no label change, we’re never putting out the same record. So it was definitely something different, and it kind of shocked the kids at first I think, but to us it really wasn’t that different, it was just a natural evolution of the band. So, and then, with new fans, I think we’re gaining so many more new fans, you know, from the change to Warner Brothers and word of mouth, and everything that’s making Avenged Sevenfold Avenged Sevenfold, you know, I think kids are finally starting to get it.
The phrase “City of Evil” could pertain to so many different things. Why did you go with this name for the album title and what (in this instance) does it signify?
Johnny: Well, we went with it, actually we came up with it after writing “Beast and the Harlot” and that line is in there you know. And um, it’s just like, in the context of “Beast and the Harlot” it was like ancient Babylon you know, like the city of decadence that was burnt down you know. And for us in the present it’s like anywhere we go, you know, like Vegas or Amsterdam, or anything you know, it’s just all those decadent cities with the seedy underworld going on in it. It’s just something that we find interesting and we have fun in those places you know, like going to Vegas, we always have a blast and we’re like four hours away, three if you speed, so, yeah….
Your music is an amazing eclectic mix of various hard music elements. From metal to punk, your music knows no bounds. How do you guys continually create this blend of musical ingredients?
Johnny: Well we just keep an open mind you know, we bring in all of our influences every time, we all, all five of us have a lot of different influences and a lot of the same influences. So it really works well to bring it in from everywhere you know, and always try to do more, go over the top, if it makes you laugh, leave it on the record, just go out of your mind and always, like show no fear in what you want to put into your song, you know, always over the top.
The fourth song on the disc is called “Bat Country” and is dedicated to the late writer Hunter S. Thompson (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas). What was it that compelled you to write and dedicate a song to him?
Johnny: Well it’s funny you know, a lot of us hadn’t really read much of his stuff you know, Shadows has read a couple of books and mostly it was based on the Fear and Loathing, and this was before he shot himself, he died you know. The song was actually written before that, while we were recording it, it came up on the news, it was kind of weird. But it was more about the Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas because it’s more of a mixture of those stories that he’s like going crazy, he’s out of his mind you know, and us, all of our best friends that go there all the time, like I was saying earlier. It’s just, Fear and Loathing we could really relate to, because we’re just, when we go to Vegas, we’re often going pretty crazy, so you know, it’s like, it’s something we could really relate to and it’s something we wanted to write about you know.
You guys shot the video for “Bat Country” in Las Vegas. In doing so, did you try to draw any similarities to the movie Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and how was the filming experience overall?
Johnny: Yeah I mean, like totally, you could see that’s exactly what we went for, we were trying to do exactly from the movie. We wanted it to just have that feel of it you know, we needed the lizard girls with tongues and going crazy, we added in the making out but that’s different. We added in the hotel scene where our main performance is shot, you know, like everything is just thrashed around, you got American flags up and everything, you know, the American dream, the whole thing, but all in a very drugged out, ‘70s look, you know, with spray paint all over the walls, just all trash. We went in there, we rented out a hotel room and went in there and just started trashing the place, and then we set up our stuff and that’s how it came out. And um, every scene, you know the car scene, with bat wings and bats flying everywhere, you know, red convertible no top, that’s what we needed, so….
By now, it’s a well-known fact that even though you are all hard working musicians you also enjoy partying like mad. Where do you draw the line between working and partying and what would your ideal party consist of?
Johnny: Well we draw the line of working and partying at don’t party too hard so you can’t play the show the next day, of course, because none of us want to do that. We’ve all done it once or twice, but we didn’t like it and we definitely got crap for it you know. So, you just go out there, you have a good time, I don’t know, we’re not that crazy of partiers, you know, like, it kind of gets skewed away the way that we talk, you know, like we’re going crazy all the time like some kind of Motley Crue, it’s like, no you know, we don’t compare ourselves to Motley Crue, we’re not shooting up or anything you know, but, um, yeah we’re not that crazy, those guys are just the ultimate and can never be touched. But, um, you know, we go out, we’re best friends, we’re five best friends in a band, we like to drink, you know, of course we’re going to go out and have a good time, I mean, what’s the point of doing all this if you can’t have a good time while you’re doing it. My ideal party would be my band mates, some girls and some drinks, that’s pretty much it.
Rumour has it that you are sort of strip club connoisseurs. What are some of the best strip clubs that you’ve ever visited and can you recount any one particularly awesome strip club experience?
Johnny: Well, there’s been a few good strip club experiences. Actually, we were just in Montreal last night and we have a particular place we like to go called The Downtown. There’s always really good looking girls there, drinks are relatively priced, and um, they have a good lesbian show that they give you, a little private one, you know, it’s interesting (laughing). It’s a really good club and of course, you got Olympic Gardens back at home, back in Vegas, so we’re always over there, that one’s amazing, always the best girls and a lot of good lap dances at that place. There’s a few in New York we frequently visit when we go there because we have a lot of friends in the industry out there who always take us out, you know, they’re like “let’s go to a strip club” every time we’re in New York.
Have you ever been to Scores?
Johnny: Actually, we’ve all been, but there’s a crazy story that Shadows has from Scores, he went in there and dropped ten grand in one night. Yeah he had a good night, let’s just leave it at that (laughing).
Strippers, drinking, and partying aside, what else does Avenged Sevenfold have planned for the near future?
Johnny: The near future is just a whole bunch of touring, we’re going to tour our asses off, you know, we got the new record to work and hopefully our label is doing what we want them to do and getting it out there so new kids can hear it and I think they’re doing a pretty good job of that so far. And um, you know, just letting kids see what a live show is all about from Avenged Sevenfold, you know, we’re always going to do something new and entertaining so you know, you just want to give them a piece of what Avenged Sevenfold is with the live show. [ END ]