Famous Firsts: Zacky Vengeance on The Monkees and messing with illegal fireworks

Zacky Vengeance
Zacky Vengeance (Image credit: Getty)

Avenged Sevenfold might be one of the biggest metal bands of all time (and on the cover of Metal Hammer), but they weren’t always the progressive-leaning, fire-breathing monster we know and love. Guitarist and founding member Zacky Vengeance guides us through his early dabbles with heavy music through his discovery of Poison, Monkees disappointment, and the joys of illegal fireworks.

What was the first single you ever bought?

“The first single I ever bought was Something To Believe In by Poison. I was about seven years old and that song would come on the radio and I thought it was so good. It’s a cheesy ballad. I begged my mom to take me to buy it. I have no idea why I was so into it, I saw the music video, I thought they were women ha ha! I loved the fact that they were playing instruments, I thought it was cool. I didn’t really have much to base my musical preference on, when you’re young you just like what you like.”

What was the first album you ever bought?

“My first album was Flesh & Blood by Poison – I was a big fan of Poison! It’s what the radio and MTV was playing non-stop, and I just happened to be parked in front of the TV, I guess. I don’t listen to Poison so much now, all that stuff is really fun to listen to though. Going back to ‘80s metal and arena-rock, all that stuff will always have a place in my heart. When I was a kid I was listening to Poison followed by Paula Abdul, that was my playlist because I was surrounded by what my mom and my older sister were playing. When I really started branching off and discovering my cousin’s collections, I came across Metallica’s Black Album and that was one of the first heavy albums that I loved. The first music that really struck a cord with me was punk rock, I got NOFX’s Punk In Drublic and that was the album that changed my life because it turned me onto bands like Pennywise and Bad Religion, Green Day and Offspring, Rancid… they were the bands that stuck out.”

What was the first gig you ever went to?

“I saw The Monkees. My parents took me and I think I knew Daydream Believer, the Monkees’ theme song and that was it ha ha. I remember it being at minor league baseball stadium, and I don’t remember being too impressed. It sucks too ‘cause of all the concerts I couldn’t gone to, going to see The Monkees fucking sucked. It’s cool to talk about now, but my dad went to see Black Sabbath’s first ever Los Angeles concert and my mom and dad went to every Zeppelin concert when they came through town… my parents were into rock back when it was fucking unbelievable. But they chose to take me to the fucking Monkees ha ha.”

What was the first gig you ever played?

“I played a very very small coffee shop in Huntington Beach with my first band ever called Society Down. We were trying to be so crust punk with liberty spikes, and there were literally three people in the crowd – one being M Shadows, one being our friend Joel, and one guy that just sat down in the wrong coffee shop at the wrong time. I think we played five songs. But Avenged Sevenfold’s first concert ever was at The Walnut Creek Civic Center in California and we were unbelievably sloppy. We didn’t have any real gear, we didn’t know how to play, we were trying to flail our guitars around to try and incite a mosh pit… but it turned out pretty good, it was fun!”

How was the first Avenged Sevenfold tour?

“The very first tour was crazy. Everyone was packed into a van with all of the gear, the drives were way too long, playing shows in front of fucking nobody and showing up to places not getting paid fucking anything. But when you’re young, you’re crazy, you’re all packed in sleeping in a van, it’s pretty cool. The very first tour was with a band called From Autumn To Ashes and no-one knew who they were, no-one knew who we were, and they had travelled all the way from Long Island, New York, to the West Coast and stayed at Matt’s parents’ house. I think we bought a van to follow them because they had some tour dates booked and were like ‘Why don’t you just come with us?’. It was awesome.

“It was the first time we left California as a band so naturally as soon as you get out and head into the desert, you can buy all sorts of fireworks that are illegal, so we spent all of our food money on fireworks! We’d wait until someone in another band – or our own band – fell asleep, and we’d light off a bunch of illegal fireworks and shut the van doors. Or in hotel rooms. We were so lucky we didn’t kill anybody or burn down the hotels. We were so stupid, ha ha! That was about as much trouble as we could get into at that point ‘cause we didn’t have any fans, there wasn’t anybody coming to the concerts, so we took out our frustrations trying to blow stuff up.”

Avenged Sevenfold are on the cover of the Metal Hammer’s special end-of-year issue – out now!

Luke Morton joined Metal Hammer as Online Editor in 2014, having previously worked as News Editor at popular (but now sadly defunct) alternative lifestyle magazine, Front. As well as helming the Metal Hammer website for the four years that followed, Luke also helped relaunch the Metal Hammer podcast in early 2018, producing, scripting and presenting the relaunched show during its early days. He also wrote regular features for the magazine, including a 2018 cover feature for his very favourite band in the world, Slipknot, discussing their turbulent 2008 album, All Hope Is Gone.