Avenged Sevenfold 'Waking the Fallen': How Band's Biggest Risk Led to Huge Success | Revolver

Avenged Sevenfold 'Waking the Fallen': How Band's Biggest Risk Led to Huge Success

M. Shadows and Co. recount whirlwind surrounding creation of second album, and how they finally "grew into a family"
a7x-2003.jpg, Lisa Johnson/Hopeless Records
Avenged Sevenfold, 2003
photograph by Lisa Johnson/Hopeless Records

Revolver has teamed with Avenged Sevenfold for exclusive colored vinyl variants of Waking the Fallen, their self-titled album and Nightmare, each limited to 500. Order yours now!

After the cult success of their 2001 debut album Sounding the Seventh Trumpet, Avenged Sevenfold were looking for a new label and eager to record a follow-up. With the recent additions of Synyster Gates on guitar and Johnny Christ on bass, the group had solidified its lineup and their vision became clearer. As they pounded the pavement playing shows, the metal group signed to Hopeless Records and soon dropped Waking the Fallen. Here, A7X's vocalist M. Shadows, guitarist Zacky Vengeance, Christ and Gates look back at the making of their second record, the first couple Warped Tours and living on a dollar a day.

WAKING THE FALLEN

M. SHADOWS Hopeless Records came to see us at Showcase. We were playing with who knows who; it could have been Bleeding Through, or it could have been anybody, Eighteen Visions, who knows, but it was a big show for us. And they came and they said, "We want to sign you." And so we signed with Hopeless. They had bought Sounding the Seventh Trumpet; they were rereleasing it. Now we had, like, $30,000 to do a record, which was awesome, just couldn't believe it. And Larry [Jacobson, A7X's manager] started calling around producers. We caught a hold of [Andrew] Mudrock who had done the Godsmack records. So I guess they sent him a demo of "Second Heartbeat" that we had done for a Hopeless compilation, and Mudrock said he sat there listening to it and just laughed. He thought it was funny what we were doing, like, all these just silly harmonies and guitar things going on and a whole lot of crazy drumming. And Fred [Archambault], his engineer, thought it was funny as well.

So we go to have a meeting and we're, like, the little kids having a meeting with a big-time producer. Murdock's just sitting at his computer, not even looking at it. We walk in and he's like, "All right, so do you want to play to a click? If you don't, I'm not fucking doing your band," like to Jimmy. And Jimmy's like, "No, but I'll try and learn." We were already sold on that idea anyways 'cause we were listening to the record, and it's just going all over the place; it was just whatever was in Jimmy's head. And he was just overplaying so much that there's no way to follow him. So Mudrock's like, "You can't do all these drum fills anymore," You know, "We're gonna teach you how to get into a groove," and just blah, blah, blah. And so Jimmy was very upset about that, but we thought that it was probably the best thing for that record. So yeah, that was that, and then we went in the studio and did Waking the Fallen.

SYNYSTER GATES Recording Waking the Fallen was awesome. We had a big budget back then. We were so stoked. We were in the best studio we had ever been in. It was this three-story studio with Xbox linked to every single level of the whole place with different rooms. So, we were playing, like, Halo and all of this shit in the middle of it. The Lakers were going on. It was just my first experience living nicely outside of my own house.

And it was my first time in a real studio doing something for real. At that point, we were pretty green as far as producing and stuff like that. The Mudrock-Fred Archambault crew really helped us with stuff on the record and just showed us what its like to produce. We're pretty hands-on with everything. So, when it came to [A7X's follow-up to Waking the Fallen] City of Evil, we basically mimicked that whole thing and virtually produced it ourselves, I would say. Not to take credit away from anybody, but, I mean, Mudrock already admitted it on one of our DVDs. It's much thanks to those guys for showing us the way. We just absorbed it and went for it.

ZACKY VENGEANCE Waking the Fallen was the first time we pushed Matt to sing more. I remember at the beginning of "Unholy Confessions," he was all screaming, and one time he was, like, kind of dicking around, singing the melody instead of screaming, and we were like, "Dude, you have to sing that!" And so he did and it was incredible, you know, and then we were like, "OK, all right, we're allowed to fucking sing. If you have a good voice, you don't have to scream just to scream." And then certain kids hated us. They hated us, they hated the fact that we were singing.

SHADOWS Waking the Fallen was, like, our first taste of "You guys sold out." It was our first taste of "You've turned into metalcore." And I was like, OK, I don't even know what that is, but OK. But it was also our first taste of kids actually buying our record. I remember when we were on Warped Tour with From Autumn to Ashes and we got the call that we'd sold 100,000 records. We were just like, "Oh, my God, that's amazing!" We were definitely just so ecstatic to be doing 100,000 records, and we were getting moved up every day on the Warped Tour stage and there was kids that genuinely wanted to see us, like cult kids that were just about Avenged Sevenfold.

ALMOST EASY

VENGEANCE After Waking the Fallen we started touring for legit, where we actually had a van, a booking agent, so we can go and be on tour with Shadows Fall and God Forbid, you know, Five Pointe O, we were opening up for. We didn't care if they were heavy-metal bands; we didn't care if they were fucking pop-punk bands; we didn't care, we were opening for everyone. And people started taking notice. You know if your band is going crazy and breaking your instruments and playing the fastest, craziest music at a pop-punk show, people take notice, whether it's good or it's bad.

We took that mentality, got on Warped Tour, and we'd drive probably 14 hours throughout the night, get to the venue, load all our gear, fucking play with all our heart, go sell our merch until, like, 9 at night, pack up our shit, and drive to the next city. And we did that every fucking night, no sleep, literally starving to death, no money. We didn't care. Like, that's what we loved to do.

GATES At first, [touring in support of Waking the Fallen] was unbelievable, and then it fucking started sucking. They call me the lazy German. I'm sort of a man of leisure. So, passing out demos and doing my own merch in 120 degree heat just didn't sit right with me.

VENGEANCE We were just getting super in debt when we started out. You know, we're getting paid $50 to play a show and we're spending $200 on gas. And we were just taking all of our merch money, whatever we would sell, and spending it on gas. We ended up owing our merch company money at the time. You know, they'd come and be like, "Well, we gave you so many dollars worth of shirts, and you never gave us any money."

We literally lived off a dollar-a-day food budget for years. The best thing to do was save up all your dollars and go buy one of those big boxes of ramen and then go into the gas station and beg them to not make you pay for the cup of hot water. [Laughs] Sometimes they'd want to charge you the 99 cents, you know, whatever.

GATES Yeah. It really sucked. I got a fucking bean burrito and split it into thirds, and that's what I got for the day. I would eat bullshit just to be able to eat — like, pickled pigs' feet and just weird shit. If somebody would buy something weird, I'd fucking eat it just to eat.

SHADOWS I remember waking up so many times at truck stops, 'cause we had to drive ourselves. We didn't have a driver, and there's, like, eight of us in there, and it smelled so bad. It was so hot, like, just the sun beating on everybody in sleeping bags. It was just so terrible and, like, just waking up and just being fucked up and then just on the road again.

GATES The thing that always kept you going was that the band always steadily evolved. So, I always saw progress. That kept us all going. We all had our up days and bad days. But looking back on it, I have such fond, fond memories of hanging out with everybody, so some of the bad stuff goes away. We quickly grew into a family that felt comfortable living with each other after a year or two. Hard work and doing the crazy shit became the run-of-the-mill operation there. It got pretty normal. Like I said before, every month got better and the respect grew, the spoils grew — a better van with the ability to play video games. We hooked up this fucking TV, this makeshift whole crazy thing, and that lasted a couple of weeks. Then Jimmy destroyed it.

JOHNNY CHRIST Around the time of our [second, 2004] Warped Tour, towards the end of that, is when we started getting shopped out [to major labels]. We met with Capitol, DreamWorks and Warner Bros.

VENGEANCE Ah man, it was fucking awesome. All of a sudden we had all these record labels, fucking, taking us out to dinner. We were fucking ordering fucking escargot and shit. It was amazing. We were eating for the first time in fucking years, courtesy of record labels taking us out. We've got dinners with record labels that we didn't even fucking know who they were.

CHRIST We went back and forth and talked some more to Warner and found out it was a better fit for us because of the kind of bands that they had and the way they were working with those bands. The guys in Rancid had just signed to them for their record. The guys in The Used were signed with them [Warner imprint Reprise]. We were on Warped Tour with both of those bands. We talked to them and they had nothing but great things to say. The A&R agents came out to several of the shows. They really seemed enthusiastic to sign us and they were willing to give us everything we wanted. And we weren't going to do anything without creative control. We've always had a very clear vision of our music and we knew what we were capable of.