Christmas is coming and the goose is getting a bit of a gut. So, in the run up to the big day, we find out how to party like a rock star on December 25. This week, HIM’s Ville Valo, You Me At Six’s Josh Franceschi, All Time Low’s Alex Gaskarth, Avenged Sevenfold, Gerard Way and Metallica’s James Hetfield all spill the Yuletide beans…
1) James Hetfield – Metallica
The Hetfield family Christmas is a traditional affair – or at least it is every other year. Because the Hetfields’ Christmas alternates venues between their home near San Francisco and the home of the Metallica singer’s wife’s parents in Argentina.
“My wife’s from Argentina so, every other year, we go down there and spend time with her parents,” says Hetfield. When they’re at his place, though, it’s a proper festive holiday with all the trimmings. “We keep it quite traditional; it’s a pretty big deal,” adds the singer, conjuring images of him donning a party hat and an outrageous jumper. “We’ll do a turkey for Thanksgiving, so we’ll have a ham for Christmas.”
He tends not to throw himself into the cooking, preferring to do the more enjoyable eating side of things. However, if there’s a chance to wield a knife, he’s there. “I don’t do the cooking – I just do the carving and take all the credit. It’s pretty good fun. The wife will be in the kitchen for 10 hours, then the kids sit down, shovel it all back and say, ‘Eurgh, this is terrible!’ It’s no wonder that the holidays are the most stressful time of the year! Families get together and remember exactly why it is that they live apart.”
Given that he was once the part owner of a private jet – those days are long gone now, “if it flies or floats, then rent it,” he has pointed out – there’s not an awful lot he’s left wanting for. So the Hetfield Christmas list is remarkably short. “I’ve got pretty much everything I need. I just want to spend time with my family and be healthy. I’ve got enough crap as it is.”
2) Josh Franceschi – You Me At Six
The frontman of You Me At Six is a creature of habit – every year, he and his family head to his aunt’s house and make themselves very much at home.
“I don’t really get involved in the cooking side of things, but I’ve got the eating side of it down to a tee,” says Josh. “We always go to my cousin’s house for Christmas day and my aunt makes an insanely good lunch. That’s my highlight of the holiday.”
He has long been a traditionalist too, throwing himself into the usual festive shenanigans. A couple of years ago he was desperate to visit a nativity play, purely for nostalgic reasons.
“It sounds really weird, but I really like school Christmas plays,” he reveals. “I remember being in those things when I was at school. I was in our school’s version of Oliver! and it was a lot of fun.
“I was the Artful Dodger’s sidekick and I played the town-crier when the school put on The Pied Piper Of Hamelin. I was walking around ringing a bell and wearing my mum’s furry hat. God knows why I was wearing my mum’s furry hat. At the time I thought it would help get me into character but, looking back, it was just a stupid furry hat.”
He takes the Hetfield approach to Christmas lists too. “I’ve got everything I need, honestly I don’t usually want anything,” he said. “If everyone’s well and having a good time, that’s absolutely fine. That’s pretty selfless of me, isn’t it?”
3) Alex Gaskarth – All Time Low
For a touring musician, Christmas represents one of the few times of the year they can guarantee they’ll be home for at least a few days at a time. For All Time Low, being at home around December 25 is now a rule in the band.
“We make a point to be home for family dates,” he said. “It’s really important to be with the ones you love at a time like that. In fact, we have almost all of December off, except for a few shows.”
Largely, however, you suspect that the reason he likes to be around his family for Christmas is so that he can slob about, stuff his face, and watch endless TV.
“I plan on getting lots of sleep, waking up late and eating the big dinner my mom will make,” he said of his regular habits. “I am a big fan of Christmas, actually. I’ve always really enjoyed it. Mostly, I love all the Christmas movies. That, to me, is what Christmas is all about. It’s about being with friends and family, eating as much as possible and not doing anything else.”
Presents-wise, he’s more ambitious than most. While some settle for socks and a Christmas jumper, for Gaskarth nothing less than a rare, live pet will do.
“Since I’m always on the road, I probably won’t have time to use whatever I get anyway. Hmm, let’s think … maybe a turtle. A pet turtle would be cool.”
Not necessarily practical for someone who spends a large amount of time on the road, though.
“No. I’d possibly have to leave it at home in the caring hands of somebody else. I don’t think I’d be responsible enough. It would be fun though. For about a minute.”
4) M Shadows – Avenged Sevenfold
The Avenged Sevenfold singer is not the most hands-on Christmas man, preferring to leave most of the arrangements, decorating, cooking and everything else to his wife. He, though, is pretty happy to place himself in the middle of it all, sit back and enjoy it.
“I love Christmas. My wife will cook a big meal on Christmas Eve for all the family,” says Shadows. “She’ll get a big tree and decorate the whole house for when I get home from tour. I love all that stuff; the holiday season makes me feel good.”
Christmas is not something that generally creeps into an Avenged Sevenfold tour, the band not exactly getting into the festive spirit while on the road. Somehow it seems hard to imagine someone called Synyster Gates pulling crackers, or Johnny Christ telling nativity stories in the back lounge of the bus. And so Shadows gets his Christmas vibe on exclusively at home.
“When you’ve been on planes and buses all day, you don’t get a Christmassy vibe – so I love getting home to it.”
Does he ever dress as Santa?
“Ha! Maybe now that I have a kid…”
5) Gerard Way
With his parents on the other side of the country in New Jersey, Gerard Way’s Los Angeles Christmas is generally focussed on his wife – the Mindless Self Indulgence bassist Lyn-Z – and on his daughter Bandit. He’s another who’s happy to let his wife take the strain; he’s not even all that keen to get involved in carving the roast.
“Am I going to be carving turkey? Not sure yet. Lyn-Z’s an amazing cook and I love to sit in the kitchen with her – I’m trying to help but really I’m getting in the way.”
Mostly, though, his daughter is the centre of attention of a laidback Christmas. “It’ll be low key; it’ll just be us having fun with Bandit,” he smiles.
6) Ville Valo – HIM
For a non-drinking, near vegetarian, Christmas is hardly the most exciting time of the year for Ville Valo. Add to that the fact that his band HIM has flirted with Satan-worshipping references, and it’s hard to think of a holiday he’s less suited to.
“My brother and I only give each other something small and my mum gives me socks,” he says. “That’s hardly breaking the bank. I’m always happy to get any present – no matter what it may be. The present represents the person who gives it to you. So even if it’s some particularly pointless item, it will still always remind me of the person who gave it to me. Anyway, people say it’s better to give than to receive.”
Oddly, he’s not averse to the idea of going to church on Christmas day – though he takes a slightly un-traditional approach to it.
“For a lot of people, going to church on Christmas day is more of a family thing than a religious thing and I think that’s quite nice. At the end of the day it’s only 30 minutes sitting down in a room and, if you’re crafty, you can listen to something like Deicide on your iPod while you’re at it. That way your mum will be happy and you’ll be happy too as you’ll be subverting the whole thing with Deicide.”
So, if you hear Deicide in the background at a carol concert, there’s a good chance there’s a Finnish rock star lurking somewhere in the background…