A lot has happened to M. Shadows (a.k.a. Matt Sanders) in the 13 years since he co-founded Avenged Sevenfold. During that time, the band have blasted out five studio albums of frenetic hard rock, toured the world – though their upcoming gig in Abu Dhabi on May 4th is their first time in the U.A.E. – and suffered some potentially band-ending losses: in December 2009, founding member Jimmy “The Rev” Sullivan was found dead due to an accidental overdose, and Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy stepped in to help them complete fifth disc Nightmare. Shadows checks in from L.A. ahead of the band’s final tour behind the record.
What prompted you guys to schedule a show in the Middle East?
There were a couple of places on the planet that we didn’t hit during the Nightmare tour. We got over to Iraq and Kuwait to play for the troops there, but we didn’t get to play for the people in the Middle East. So when we decided to do the Asian run, we decided it would be a good time to go over to the Middle East and play Abu Dhabi. It’s always great to go and play for people who’ve never seen you. That in itself is worth going over there for.
What kind of show can we expect?
We’ll play all of the favorites. We won’t go too deep into the catalogue since a lot of people won’t have seen us before. I’m sure our production manager is trying to get all our little toys over there so that we can blow some stuff up. We’re going to put on a big, classic rock show.
You scream less these days. Will that affect the set list?
Whatever the song is, I sing it exactly as it’s played. So the stuff off Waking The Fallen, some of the stuff on City of Evil, “God Hates Us” from the new album, they’ll definitely be screamed. There was a while there when I cut out all the screaming, when I was trying to get my legs back under me after throat surgery. But now it’s all back and running 100 per cent.
After The Rev died in 2009, you guys considered calling it quits. What made you decide to keep going?
Time helps heal everything, and one thing that we didn’t want to do was shut down Jimmy’s legacy by quitting. We love music too much. We feel like the first 11 years of Avenged Sevenfold will always be the 11 years that we hold deepest in our hearts. But we have to move on. Shutting down Avenged Sevenfold would have been a complete failure. We all are best friends and we love to play music together, and until that ends, the band won’t end.
What was it like working with Mike Portnoy?
At the time we were just four guys who were heartbroken. We knew that we needed to continue the record, and Mike really was the guy that saved us. We felt it was very appropriate that one of Jimmy’s favorite drummers would step in and play his parts. If Jimmy is up there somewhere, to know that Mike Portnoy stepped in and held the reins for a while and played Jimmy’s parts on a record that he wrote… it was very epic, it was very heartfelt, and it was very touching. We owe major thanks to Mike.
Would you like to work with him again?
Mike was helping us put together the pieces. It was never a long-term solution. So as a permanent member of Avenged Sevenfold? No. But in other circumstances we’d love to play with him again.
So is new drummer Arin Ilejay a full-time band member?
It’s ongoing because we haven’t written with him yet. When we write a new record, we need to know that he can contribute and bring his drumming ability and style to the table, and that it’s something that meshes well with us. And if he does that – which I really hope he does because we love the guy – then he’ll be a permanent member.
Do you agree with Dave Grohl’s comments at the Grammys about the importance of not digitally making everything perfect?
I think it’s different for all types of music. I think this whole tirade to go on about how everything has to be real is a little silly. I think metal bands sound one way, rock bands sound one way, pop music sounds another way. I think there’s not very much good rock out there. Foo Fighters are a great band, there are bands like System of a Down and Metallica who are great bands. But the plethora of rock music that used to exist isn’t around right now. There’s no Led Zeppelin, no Pink Floyd, no Aerosmith. There are no up-and-coming bands doing that. I think if rock music and ‘un-digitalized’ music is going to earn respect, then people need to start writing better music, and stop writing for the radio. For a band like us, I agree with what he said, but I don’t think it’s for everybody.