It's been a tough summer for Avenged Sevenfold. In July, the O.C. metal band had to cancel its big headlining tour due to vocal damage that frontman M. Shadows sustained from a viral infection. "A blood blister has formed on my vocal folds and is preventing them from vibrating properly," he revealed at the time. "Luckily, doctors feel that three months of no singing and voice rest should get my cords back on track."
The setback hasn't stopped the group from ringing in the fall in style, however: They have a massive new grunge-inflected song, "Mad Hatter," written for Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, and an imminent new EP, Black Reign (it's due Friday, September 21st), featuring the four tracks they've contributed to the Call of Duty franchise over the years. Shadows is excited about it all and wants to talk about it — the only problem is that he's still in the period of doctor-mandated voice rest.
Fortunately, Shadows is allowed to respond to emails and gladly did so when we sent him some questions about Avenged Sevenfold's latest goings-on. We also asked him about the state of his recovery, what he's been listening to lately and the recent death of Pantera's Vinnie Paul, who was both a huge inspiration to A7X and an outspoken fan of the band, having joined them onstage at the Revolver Golden Gods in 2011 for a crushing cover of "Mouth for War." "He was such a sweet man and friend to us," Shadows wrote to us. Below, see what else he had to say.
WHEN DID YOU GUYS ACTUALLY WRITE AND RECORD "MAD HATTER"? WAS IT HARD KEEPING IT A SECRET?
M. SHADOWS We wrote and recorded back in March. It was easy for most band members to keep it a secret. Johnny Christ, however, had a harder time and spilled the beans in his first interview at Rock on the Range. [Laughs]
YOU'VE SAID THAT THE LYRICS TO "MAD HATTER" WERE INSPIRED BY THE STORY OF JOHN B. McLEMORE ON THE S-TOWN PODCAST. WHAT WAS YOUR REACTION TO THAT PODCAST IN GENERAL, AND TO McLEMORE'S STORY AND OUTLOOK?
I loved the podcast. It shined a light on how many people feel in this country. He was a brilliant man, but his mind took him to dark places.
DO YOU LISTEN TO A LOT OF PODCASTS? WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITES?
I do. My favorite is Waking Up With Sam Harris. I also listen to Joe Rogan and StarTalk.
WHAT, IF ANY, WERE YOUR GUYS' MUSICAL REFERENCE POINTS FOR "MAD HATTER"?
We wanted something with a minor to major contrast. To do that, we gave it a dirty grunge feel. We wanted to paint a picture with the music.
DO YOU GUYS TAKE A GENERALLY DIFFERENT APPROACH WHEN WRITING A SONG FOR, SAY, CALL OF DUTY VS. A SONG THAT WOULD WIND UP ON AN ALBUM?
Not really a different approach. You can experiment a bit more, but at the same time it has to work for the game. We just write what interests us at the time and let it roll.
WHAT'S YOUR K/D RATIO IN BLACK OPS?
Not as good as it used to be. I started playing a lot of PUBG and they don't have my normal control scheme which is called "Legacy." I basically had to teach myself how to play with "default" controls, so now when I go back to Black Ops my brain is exploding. It's pretty difficult to change the controller layout after gaming for 30 years.
WHAT WAS IT LIKE WHEN YOU SAW YOURSELF AS A VIDEO GAME CHARACTER FOR THE FIRST TIME BACK IN BLACK OPS II IN THE "CARRY ON" VIDEO?
It was truly amazing. A dream come true. We're really grateful for the end of Black Ops II.
HAVE YOUR KIDS SEEN THE VIDEO-GAME VERSION OF YOU? WHAT WAS THEIR REACTION?
Yeah, they think it's awesome. We have two little gamers, so they think it's great.
YOU'VE TALKED ABOUT HOW VIDEO GAMES HELPED YOU DEAL WITH THE REV'S DEATH. WAS HE A BIG GAMER, TOO?
He was a big gamer. Played his whole life. From Tetris all the way up for Call of Duty: World at War, he played them all.
ONE OF THE REV'S IDOLS AND ONE OF YOUR GUYS' BIGGEST SUPPORTERS, VINNIE PAUL, DIED RECENTLY. HOW DID YOU FIND OUT ABOUT HIS DEATH? DO YOU HAVE A STANDOUT VINNIE PAUL STORY YOU'D LIKE TO SHARE?
We were in France about to play Hellfest and it was a total shock. ... My favorite time with him would have to be playing the Revolver Golden Gods. Getting onstage and blasting through "Mouth for War" was surreal.
HOW HAS YOUR VOCAL REHAB BEEN GOING?
It's been fine ... just a lot of rest. Luckily, I didn't have surgery. I was just put on a long vocal rest until the swelling went down. A lot of singers get this at some point, so it's nothing to worry about. I've already been cleared to start humming and doing light warm-ups.
WHAT'S BEEN THE HARDEST THING ABOUT IT?
Not speaking when you are out in public is tough. People don't understand and think you're full of shit.
HAS GAMING HELPED WITH YOUR RECOVERY AND DOWNTIME?
It has, but sometimes I'll get a little worked up and talk more then I should. It's been nice, though, 'cause my friends know what's up, so I'm pretty silent.
WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO DOING THE MOST ONCE YOU'RE FULLY HEALED?
Singing, of course. I want to start laying down ideas.
WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN LISTENING TO LATELY?
WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE METAL ALBUM OF THE YEAR SO FAR? WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE ALBUM OF THE YEAR SO FAR, OF ANY GENRE?
Prequelle by Ghost for metal, and overall Ye by Kanye West.
IF YOU COULD ONLY GAME OR GOLF FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE, WHICH WOULD YOU CHOOSE AND WHY?
Golf for sure. Different games come and go and some are better than others, but something about being outside and being physical appeals to the human spirit. Golf is so tough and it takes a lifetime to get anywhere with it. I enjoy the challenge.