You listen to the self-titled new album by Avenged Sevenfold
and you hear Synyster Gates
flying up and down the fretboard like a bat that can’t find his way back home. He bashes into notes and slides up the neck to find the fret he’s seeking and then he’ll unleash a variety of finger vibratos; fast, frantic pulls or slower and more sweeping lifts. Gates
is a gifted player
, a graduate
from M.I. (Musician’s Institute) and a recognized stylist on the cutting edge of the metal divide. But the truth is, the studio is a laboratory, a staging platform, a magician’s secret lair. All types of things can be accomplished in a studio that can’t be done live: You can drop in notes; you can work over a phrase 10,000 times; you can work on a bar at a time. You can even bring in outside players to handle your parts (back in the hair metal days of the 80s this happened on multiple occasions with bands like Warrant, et al). So, you don’t know really know if what you’re hearing is the masterful virtuosity of a precocious young
guitarist or simply the results of hours and hours and hours of slaving over a single solo while this person works out the proper fingering, phrasing, and tones.
Well, if there was any lingering doubt about Gates
’ ability to rock a solo, it was laid to rest with the release of the band’s concert DVD
, Live In The Lbc & Diamonds In The Rough
. Filmed in Long Beach, California, just a hop, skip, and a jump away from the Sevenfold
’s Orange County, California hometown roots, the concert presents the band running through material from the last album (Avenged Sevenfold) as well as tracks from some of their previous releases.
On song after song, Synyster
just wreaks hell with the guitar, storming through tremendously complex solos and rhythm parts, and sometimes doing all of this while singing tight background vocal harmonies. The tone was fierce and the attack flawless. There was not one screwed note the entire evening.
We talked about the DVD and the miscellaneous tracks (the Diamonds …
. A couple years ago, I spoke to Zacky Vengenace
, and just like his counterpart, Synyster
was ridiculously low-key about his guitar gifts and almost embarrassed to talk about them. He praised his cohort endlessly, however, in almost downplaying his own talents.
UG: I watched the live DVD and what really struck me, and I knew this before of course, is that how accomplished the band really are as players. It’s one thing to hear somebody on record and you wonder, “Well, certainly he’s playing those parts but maybe he’s cutting and slicing and pro tooling.” But I was really amazed at how good the band really is and how different you and Zacky are as players. I mean, you guys are really sort of 180 degrees and you really get that sense of personalities and approaches. On record it just doesn’t come across as much but obviously you are the lead guitar player and Zack does all those harmony things with you and is more the rhythm guy.
I’m gonna take one of Zack’s quotes from our interview and I just wanna see how you might react to him. My question to him was, “Are there specific types of parts that you’re more adept at putting down, rhythms or riffs. You’re credited as guitar and Synyster is credited as lead guitar. Is that the way it tends to break down?”
His answer, “Totally. When it comes to duals or anything like that we’ll definitely miss it up. All the more technical stuff is usually left up to him, I do a lot more of the galloping, muting stuff, that’s more my specialty because that’s more of where I came from with all the punk rock stuff.” That’s still accurate I’m guessing?
Could you comment a little bit on that? You know, how you guys approach the parts and has it become even more defined?
I think it’s become a little bit more mixed up.
Yeah, you know, as people progress and stuff like that, he’ll still carry himself as a rhythm guitar player but he actually plays fucking very very well at this point of his life and he’s worked his ass off, so he could be a guitar player by anybody’s standards. So even though some of those things are rhythm oriented, some of the leads are a little more solo-esque or whatever and so, yeah, I dunno, there’s definitely advances in both parties playing.
Being a California guy I’ve been to Long Beach a bunch of times and actually my brother lives down in Orange County. It must be an unbelievable feeling to be able come back to Long Beach, basically your neighborhood, and play a show like that. It has to be overwhelming, right? It just must be an incredible thing?
|"Music is pretty much in my blood and it’s definitely in my environment."|
Yeah, it’s amazing. You definitely kind of realize where you came from when it happens and then you see your friends out in the crowd. I mean, even people you went to school with that you haven’t seen in, like, 10 years, it’s quite an amazing thing. It’s kind of a way to judge your progress; very, very excited.
Do you feel like God up there, Synyster? You know, onstage, like there’s nothing wrong with the world at that point?
Yeah, there’s definitely nothing wrong with the world at that point. I just go up there to have fun with my friends. I don’t take it as seriously anymore as I used to and I think it comes across a lot better. We have better shows. Just go up there and bust out a few beers, you know, Zack’s got a bar on the other side of the stage, take a couple of shots and treat it as a party. It’s something everybody looks forward to as opposed to something that you’d ever be nervous about or worried about performing it to the tee and performing it at 110%. You just wanna go out there and have more fun each night and the audience reacts way better, you have way more interaction. It’s just a quite the cool process at this point for this band.
That’s cool. You bring up a great point. I mean, obviously the band is enjoying themselves, you guys don’t take yourselves seriously. You’d mentioned that maybe back in the day it was a little more sort, “Hey, look at us,” or a little more of the ominous thing?
Yeah, it was just more contrived. You just wanted to put on a perfect show and every song had to be played at this exact moment and, you know, no talking in between and you wouldn’t even think about interacting with the audience. It was kind of just very mechanical and I think all bands go through that and you just chose to change, you know, if you become in tune with it. At a certain point you either wanna change it because you want a better show or you just don’t care and you just wanna have fun. We kinda wanted to do both, and we are.
And because of that events become, in my mind, it might be strange for you to say it, but certainly one of the kind of forerunners of this style, of this genre, you guys have been able to sort of take the edge off the live thing and yet bands are looking to you truly as players and musicians. It all works, it’s all working.
Yeah, I think so. It feels like it is.
I’m gonna pull some tracks off the DVD. Synyster and maybe if you could give me a few words on some of this music here?
“Afterlife.” Great chorus, you know, the harmonies going on. The band sings a lot more than I realized. Everybody sings. Rev just sings like, wow, like Phil Collins or something, man. Your solo is just so freaking cool, the way you’re sliding up to those notes and kind hitting the notes. Can you comment a bit about your performance of that song, Synyster?
Yeah, I don’t know exactly what to say but it’s definitely a fun song for us. We’re very proud of it. We focused a lot more on writing better choruses. You know, we had really long adventurous songs before and you’d go to, like, the third part of the bridge and that would be our favorite part and the rest of the song would just kinda cool or whatever. So now we really focused on our songwriting and especially choruses ‘cause it is the hook of the song, so yeah I’m very proud of that chorus and guitar work. It’s taken me a while to pull it off live and kind get it to a comfortable point where I feel comfortable performing some of those solos and that’s one of them.
So kind of relearning what you’ve put on record?
Yeah, we always write above our head and you can do a bunch of different takes and splice things together in the studio but live you have to nail it or else you’re a fraud [laugh]. And Avenged Sevenfold would hate to be ever fucking misconstrued as a fraud ‘cause we definitely go full-bore and put all our effort into recreating those songs live in their entirety just like you hear them on the album and I think we do a good job of it.
Absolutely. “Beast and the Harlot” you’re actually singing on that song as well. You do a fair amount of that where you’re playing and singing, and a lot of those riffs you’re playing are not kind of, you know, you’re not rhythmically doubling what your voice is doing. A lot of these guitar riffs you’re playing at 32nd notes and you’re playing in quarter notes. Did that take a while for you to get the two together?
Definitely. You just start off slow and you figure out where the rhythms match up. Yeah, you just start off slow like anything else and it’s learning how to do something and now that I’ve been doing it for a few years it’s easier to perform a song where you’re pretty much patting your pretty much head and rubbing your stomach and you’re playing. It’s getting easier and easier but it still sucks. You know, it takes quite a few hours of time spent alone to play and sing it and work it out. Then you go to rehearsal and it’s a totally different thing, you’ve got to do it in one take, and then live you can’t screw it up. So, yeah, it’s a delicate process. To put something to perfection, which no band is perfect, but when it is your goal it’ s tough to get there; it’s tough to get to perform those things and have good nights where 90% of the shit is pulled of comfortably.
How would you characterize the Long Beach show then?
I thought it went down great. It was a very difficult show, it’s one of our bigger ones so they put us in places not so acoustic friendly so it’s really hard to hear shit, but listening back I think we’re all pretty much in tune, solos turned down alright, Shad sounds awesome, drumming’s amazing. I mean, I’m pretty proud of it ‘cause up there I had to drink a little bit more to make things a little more comfortable ‘cause the in-ears where definitely a little ambient [laughs].
Oh really? Interesting. Yeah, it’s funny I saw that you were leaving the stage during the last song you had to go back and grab that beer I thought that was a freaking riot.
Yeah, definitely had to.
And again I hate to keep harping on it but God it just seems so effortless. I’m watching you play these things and I’m thinking, and as a guitar player, not like you but more as a songwriter, but speaking to and watching a lot of guitar players I don’t know if that’s the evil side of us but it’s like I’m watching going, “Is he gonna screw that fucking thing up?” Man, it’s like you never did. Everything came out so beautifully.
|"I find myself bringing the best out of different guitar players."|
[laughs] Well, when you’re trying that’s when you will screw up ‘cause you’re over thinking it, but when it’s second nature and you’re up there having fun that’s when you perform at your best. Unfortunately, it’s like the opposite of a Catch-22. You know, when you’re having fun and you’re not thinking about things, you’re playing better, but it’s hard to do that; it’s really hard to get to that point.
“A Little Piece of Heaven” is just, wow. It’s funny ‘cause I didn’t know until I looked online that your father actually played with Frank Zappa?
‘Cause I’m listening to the song and my first instinct is kind of a little bit of a Danny Elfman thing, I know he’s been a bit of an influence on you guys, and then I’m getting a little bit of the “Bohemian Rhapsody” Queen thing, not that you sound like Queen but that kind of an arrangement, you know? And now hearing it it’s like the Zappa thing. Obviously you’re not a Zappa clone and the band doesn’t sound like Zappa but did your dad used to play you Zappa songs or talk to you about song arrangement?
Yeah, my dad and I were definitely very close. Music is pretty much in my blood and it’s definitely in my environment. My whole family plays or does something, so he was the most successful. He was gone a lot when I was growing up ‘cause he was touring and stuff.
(Synyster is talking to his pals who are there with him. He is in a skateboard shop and we talk