It’s been five years since we got an album from Avenged Sevenfold, but 2022 could well be the year that metal’s biggest 21st Century success story come roaring back onto the scene with all guns blazing. We caught up with frontman M. Shadows, who was as enthusiastic as ever to talk everything from new material to NFTs.
How have the last few years been for you guys?
“It’s been good. We’ve been getting on well and, with Covid, we got to spend some much-needed time with our families before we got back together to ideate what we were going to do next and re-establish our relationships.”
It was a weird time, right?
“It just pointed out to us how weird our lives had been before Covid. The rat race, living in hotels. Now, piecing our lives back together, it’s going to be weird to get back onstage and to mix a record and put it out; you realise how unusual a thing all of that is. We had dinner last night and we were saying that we don’t want to come back into that space until we’ve got something new to offer. Coming back with no new stage production or nothing new? Man, that sounds so boring to us!”
You’re one of the first major metal artists to enter the world of NFTs. Firstly, for the layman, what exactly are NFTs?
“They are digital assets, digital ownership. Our generation rent out our data: be that the skins on Fortnite or music, we rent that from a third party and if that platform goes down, you’re shit outta luck. In this case, you own the guns from Fortnite and you can take them into Call Of Duty. Rather than the $9.99 you pay for Spotify and it trickles down to the artist, here you serve the superfan with a digital token and they own the music.”
What kind of things will A7X fans be able to get their digital fingerprints on?
“Real world utility is important. So tickets to shows, meet and greets, exclusive merch, digital ticket stubs, you know, you go to the show and we will airdrop you an exclusive GIF to prove you were at that particular show. And we’ve some cherries on top of the cake, like going golfing with me.
All of that’s coming, but we’re also building an online sandbox in the way that Coca-Cola or Reebok have, and you can jump into that online space and be part of a community. Just like Ready Player One, the rabbit hole can get deeper and deeper, and it gives you direct correlation with the fans.”
So, much like Metallica, Maiden and Slipknot, Avenged have become so much more than a band. You’re a brand at this point…
“Yeah, we just go where our interests are. This community-building… it’ll never take the place of the music, that’s always going to be number one, but it’ll come to a point where people will be in our club, and even if they’re not interested in our music, they won’t leave the club because all their friends are there.
That in a sense makes it bigger than the band. That idea of ‘When are A7X going to put out a record? When am I going to see them live?’, that’ll still be a special event, but that’s not going to be the mainstay of why you’re involved.”
What do you think you learned after the surprise release of The Stage and how will that impact the release of the next record?
“That’s my favourite record of ours. We were in a moment in time and things were changing. I’m so happy we did it that way; we don’t give a fuck about industry metrics. This next record, I don’t know exactly how it comes out, but the record after that, we have no label! At that point we start implementing all the new ideas of going straight to the base of people that really care more. The new frontier excites us; expect very wacky ideas!”
What plans for 2022 can you tell us about?
“In January, we’re going in to finish the strings on the record. The record’s been recorded for a year, but we haven’t been able to put the real strings on it because we couldn’t fly out to Prague. When an orchestra have to social distance and they aren’t sitting next to each other they can get out of tune, and we have just finally got to a place where we can use this 70-piece orchestra as we intended. We finish the record in February, mix it in March.”
Any little pointers of where the sound of the record is taking you?
“There are so many influences… we’re very influenced by Kanye West. The thing about Kanye is that he is pulling from such great soul music. I didn’t grow up with that stuff – my dad listened to Boston and Alice Cooper, I didn’t get that taste of black music and old soul. So, diving deep into jazz musicians… we’re not trying to do a jazz record, but the chord changes and progressions are so eye-opening to us.”
This feature originally appeared in Metal Hammer 357