Avenged Sevenfold's Synyster Gates on the New Album and His Guitar Center and Schecter Guitar Research Master Class
"We were in the studio and we couldn't get out," explains Avenged Sevenfold lead guitarist Synyster Gates about why he and his bandmates didn't attend this year's Revolver Golden Gods. "We had pushed back the deadline three or four times, so we thought we'd do our due diligence and put our noses to the grindstone."
We can forgive an excuse like that, since at least it means the Orange County metal group is finally releasing a follow-up to Nightmare, Revolver's 2010 Album of the Year. That new Avenged Sevenfold record, Hail to the King, will come out in late August (the band will be on the cover of the next issue of Revolver, on newsstands July 30). And while details like the record's singles and song titles are secrets for now, the guitarist caught up with Revolver to discuss the few things he can about record, as well as why he's breaking his "I don't give lessons" policy for his latest endeavor, the Guitar Center and Schecter Guitar Research Master Class With Synyster Gates.
The Master Class is a forum where 10 contest winners will each receive an intimate private lesson with the guitarist in Los Angeles, among other prizes. To enter, fans can record their own solos over the backing tracks of seven A7X classics. Gates will select the winners and each will win a trip to LA for the Master Class, held at Guitar Center's Hollywood Vintage Room, a Schecter Synyster Gates Special guitar, a tour of the Schecter factory, and an Ernie Ball accessory pack (full details here).
In the meantime, though, Gates says he's looking forward to hearing what other guitarists can do with his songs. "I'm tired of the fucking old solos," he says with a laugh. "I can't wait to hear something new from fresh blood."
REVOLVER Why did you want to get involved with the Master Class?
SYNYSTER GATES Well, I want to teach kids, but I want to do it in the correct platform. Guitar Center has just been really amazing to us and supportive. And they have the means to make it a bigger deal than I could ever make it. Doing it this way has a little more purpose than making a cheesy guitar video and have it YouTubed to everybody. I wanted to add a little bit of class and pizzazz to it and Guitar Center was definitely the right collaborator.
What role have you played in conceiving the Master Class?
It's their idea. They said, "Do you do lessons?" I said, "Not really. I'm not really into it. It's just kind of a little funky." They said, "What if we did it this way and made it kind of cool. Would you be down?" I said, "Yeah, that would be amazing."
That sounds easy. What do you hope to teach the winners?
I'm just really excited to get one-on-one with a few kids, one at a time, and see what they're really going for and see what they feel like they're missing. I remember a few missing links when I was learning guitar. And when you figure out that trick or that technique, it transcends that generic style and becomes your own thing.
What were those missing links for you?
I tend to be a pretty lazy person, so I think I probably missed the boat on a few different techniques that I probably should know by now. One that completely renovated my style when I learned it was economy picking. Now it's my bread and butter. I don't even alternate-pick anymore. You're able to go to different places, mix and integrate arpeggios, small and large. It took a couple of years to really wrap my head around it and utilize it.
That's something you could introduce to people. Did you take guitar lessons?
No, I didn't. My dad [guitarist Brian Haner, Sr.] was always around, and he definitely influenced me. He's always doing different stuff. He played with Frank Zappa when he was 17. The guy's just a fucking monster. But he admits he's not the greatest teacher in the world, although he has pointed me in the right direction many times. But we're like best friends. So he influenced me. He introduced me to influential music, from Pantera and Guns N' Roses to Led Zeppelin and Steely Dan. He opened my eyes to jazz artists like Wes Montgomery and Joe Pass. But he was kind of doing his thing and he really didn't want to move a child's pudgy fingers around a guitar neck. Eventually I went to Musicians Institute, where I studied jazz, but that was only for a few months. I picked a few really cool things there, though. I wish I would have known what I was doing then, and I could have given myself a little help early on and given myself shortcuts or something.
Now that you're an accomplished guitarist, does your dad play music with you?
We've been playing Gypsy jazz a bunch now. So we actually jam every time we see each other, which is really cool and rewarding. It wasn't always like that growing up. But it always helps.
While we're talking about guitar, awhile back I read rumors that you were working on a solo project. Any truth to that?
Oh, man. I definitely am not. I guess I used to think about it. Everybody kind of does. It's not like my dreams have been deferred or they fucking passed away. I'm really excited about working with my best friends [in Avenged Sevenfold]. And when you buy a house and get a little success and start getting a little masturbatory and fucking around, doing your own science experiments, you get lonely doing that. I love being inspired by the rest of the guys. Avenged Sevenfold has never ceased to grow, in my mind and my imagination. So there's really no point for me to go and do other things because it's all right there.
For this last record, M. Shadows and I were studying everything from fucking classical music to jazz to fucking everything. Anything that we were interested in, we studied the fuck out of it. And we'd never really done that before. We just had fun making a record and doing a bunch of shit. But we really wanted to hone in on our songwriting and production craft. Just seeing how the legends did it. It's constantly inspiring and stimulating. So, long story long, I just don't feel like I need to do a solo record.
So it was just a rumor?
I think I remember saying something like, "I can't wait to do a fucking solo thing." But no. Not no more.
What can people expect from Hail to the King?
I think our songwriting has improved by leaps and bounds. Sonically, this record is our biggest record by fucking far. When you turn this fucking thing on, it blasts your fucking head off.
This is the first Avenged album that Arin Ilejay has recorded on. How did he do?
He came in fucking hot and tore us a new asshole. It was really, really cool. He has impeccable groove, which we've always known. But what I don't think we knew is his proclivity for taste. He is one of the most tasteful drummers I've ever heard in my life.
He got that caveman, fucking barbaric huge groove philosophy that we were trying to go for on this record. He really got it in his heart and soul. We definitely had to work with him on it. On the first day of recording, I think everybody was getting to him, so he started overplaying and trying to show his stuff a little bit more. And we said, "Dude, you've just got to lay back and do what we've been talking about for the last fucking nine months." And he came in the next day and just blew everybody's mind.
Originally, we thought that maybe we'd have to write the drum parts. M. Shadows and I play a lot of drums. I've been playing drums since I was 16. And Jimmy ["The Rev" Sullivan, Avenged's drummer who died in 2009] had given me a fucking thousand lessons if he's given me one. We're not great or anything like that, but we definitely understand the drums and are huge fans. We thought that we maybe were going to have to arrange all of these songs, especially on day one. But when he came in on day two, it was just so refreshing. Everybody had goose bumps and we were just looking at each other like, Holy shit, this kid's a monster.
Lastly, in recent photos, M. Shadows has long hair and you recently got a different haircut. Are these a result of being in the studio too long?
[Laughs] Matt's been growing his hair out for a solid year now. A number of times he talked about cutting it and we were like, "Come on, dude. Don't cut the fucking hair. Let it go. You're in a fucking metal band. Let the colors fly." So it got past that fucking awkward stage and he never had his hair even half as long as it is right now. So I'm sure he was waking up feeling itchy and all sorts of crazy shit. I've had long hair before and it sucks. But he fucking triumphed over it, and I think he looks fucking awesome. Pretty heavy metal. And the rest of us, I don't fucking know. We just do goofy shit sometimes.