Like most responsible denizens of the digital age, Avenged Sevenfold frontman M. Shadows likes to kick off his day with a scroll through the headlines. "I go on my normal websites, check out how the world's ending on the news sites and look at sports," he tells Revolver of his routine. The morning of November 28th proceeded just the same – that is, until Shadows checked his inbox. "I got an email saying we were nominated for a Grammy, and I instantly thought it was a joke. So I started Googling the nominees, and there we were!"
Beyond receiving their first-ever Grammy nomination for "The Stage" (which is up for "Best Rock Song") — it's been one hell of a year for Shadows and Avenged Sevenfold. The past 12 months have found the SoCal crushers touring with Big Four titans Metallica, expanding their 2016 full-length, The Stage, with previously unheard covers and new material (dropping December 22nd), releasing an acoustic live album (recorded at the Grammy Museum) and taking part in Linkin Park's Chester Bennington tribute show.
Revolver caught up with M. Shadows to discuss A7X's eventful year, the status of their next record and his picks for the best game and album of 2017.
WALK US THROUGH YOUR MINDSET WHEN YOU FOUND OUT AVENGED SEVENFOLD WERE UP FOR THEIR FIRST GRAMMY.
M. SHADOWS I was just shocked and really proud of the band and really excited. You know, it's one of these things — you can have small victories as a band, and the mainstream media or your parents ... there are certain things you're proud to show your parents, things that your grandparents would understand, and this is one of them. We're up for a Grammy, and they're like, "Oh wow, you guys are a real band!" [Laughs] It's kind of fun. I was just really excited and honored. I called the guys and sent them an email congratulating them, and everyone was really stoked.
WHEN YOU PLAYED AT THE GRAMMY MUSEUM IN OCTOBER, DID YOU HAVE ANY SUSPICIONS, LIKE "HMMM, I WONDER WHAT COULD BE UP WITH THIS ..."
No, because we wanted to do that. Our publicist and our management said, "Let's start doing some stuff – you guys are getting older and you guys want to do some of these things." You want to be more involved with MusiCares. You want to follow the lead of some of these bands like Linkin Park, who've had an initiative and they donate a lot of money and the philanthropic side of them is so brilliant. I think that the band wanted to do stuff like that, and because the Grammys are tied in with MusiCares, you can donate the money and do these cool little events. I think we wanted to do that, but we also knew that being in their vision, it's going to remind them, and make them want to give us a nod for the record.
So we just started doing things like that — doing things that you do when you get a little older and you care more about those things, other than being so selfish. I think that kind of worked out for us because doing the Grammy thing and just meeting those people and hanging out with the fans there and doing this live event, I think it all helped. And I think it paid off this year by getting us a nod.
YOUR HEROES METALLICA ARE UP FOR THE SAME AWARD. WHEN YOU WERE A KID LISTENING TO MASTER OF PUPPETS, COULD YOU HAVE IMAGINED THAT YOU'D WIND UP IN THE SAME CATEGORY AS THEM?
No. Honestly, I never thought we'd get a nomination for a Grammy period. To be honest, we felt that if we were ever going to get one, we thought we had City of Evil and Nightmare and Hail to the King, and those were all big records, and they never even sniffed at us. And the rock genre was getting so alternative — the winners would be artists that clearly weren't rock. We just felt like "This isn't the time or place for a band like us to be recognized by the Grammys." But they've obviously turned that around, and they're leaning heavier, obviously, with Mastodon, and Gojira and Metallica being in last year's rock category. So this is the year that it happened to us, and if you'd have told me that years ago, I would have said there's no way we can be in the same category, or even against Metallica. But it's pretty surreal. It's pretty cool.
THOSE FACTORS ASIDE, THERE'S CLEARLY SOMETHING SPECIAL ABOUT THE STAGE THAT GRABBED THE GRAMMY COMMITTEE'S ATTENTION. WHAT DO YOU THINK SETS THAT SONG – AND ALBUM – APART?
To me, it's our most mature record. Sometimes the Grammys have been known to award the critical-darling-type bands who don't necessarily have the most mainstream success, like when Beck won "Album of the Year" [in 2015]. That's a great record, but it was one of those records that was left field, it was up against Beyoncé or something. I think The Stage is kind of left field. I know Brian [guitarist Synyster Gates] called it our Pinkerton, and that's what I think. Critics have enjoyed it, and I think it's been a harder sell for some of the alternative-rock fans, the active-rock fans. So I do think that's given it an edge, where the musicians and the engineers and the producers enjoy this record, and enjoy what we did, so it got the nod. I mean, those are the people voting. The Stage is a harder record to get into, it's more progressive, it's more for musicians than the typical fans and the Grammys have always been more geared towards that anyway.
BETWEEN THE GRAMMY NOMINATION, THE NEW ACOUSTIC ALBUM LIVE AT THE GRAMMY MUSEUM AND THE ADVENTUROUS EXPANDED EDITION OF THE STAGE — WHICH INCLUDES A SITAR-FEATURING ROLLING STONES COVER — AVENGED SEVENFOLD'S SPENT THE WHOLE YEAR BREAKING BOUNDARIES AND CHALLENGING PEOPLE'S PRECONCEIVED NOTIONS OF THE BAND AND WHAT IT REPRESENTS. LOOKING FORWARD, WHAT'S THE NEXT FRONTIER FOR YOU GUYS?
I feel like our whole discography up through Hail to the King was young, fun and exciting. It was aggressively driven. The Stage was the first step in the band becoming a more mature musical entity. I feel like The Stage was the first time that we were able to put something out that had that maturity, that vision to it.
The next step is to continue down that path, and to continue to put out records that are in line with what this new vision is — and our age. We don't want to sound like 18-year-old kids playing. We're 36 years old and Brooks [Wackerman, drummer] is 40. We want to make great rock music that hearkens back to classic rock, progressive metal and keep doing what we love.
As for the sitar — we love Sgt. Pepper's. They have the sitar in a lot of Rolling Stones songs. Those are our influences, so to us, it's not that big of a barrier. It's just another piece of the puzzle to get more musical and expand ourselves more.
ALL THIS MUSICAL ACTIVITY HAS FANS BRACING FOR A NEW FULL-LENGTH; SOME HAVE EVEN SPECULATED THAT YOUR UPCOMING RECORD IS MORE THAN HALFWAY DONE. IS THAT TIMETABLE ACCURATE?
Definitely not. We have a whole year of touring to do on this record still and then we're going to do a six-month break. And then we'll start and then we'll record it. I think it's a good three years out.
WE'RE IN PEAK YEAR-END-LIST SEASON RIGHT NOW, AS I'M SURE YOU KNOW. YOU'RE A HUGE GAMER. WHAT'S THE BEST GAME YOU PLAYED THIS YEAR?
"The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild," by far.
THAT'S ONE HUGE-ASS GAME. HAVE YOU TRACKED DOWN ALL 120 SHRINES?
So... I won't look online for anything. I'm a hardcore Zelda purist. I have 117 shrines that I just found on my own, so there are just three left. I pretty much have everything.
WHAT ABOUT YOUR FAVORITE MOVIE?
There's this movie called Ra that I really enjoyed. I don't know if it came out this year. [It came out in 2014 — ed.]. It's a very artsy horror movie. It definitely gave me some weird feelings. [Laughs]
LAST ONE: FAVORITE ALBUM?
My favorite album would have to go to Roger Waters' Is This the Life We Really Want? I also really liked the Leonard Cohen record [You Want it Darker, released last year], the Mastodon record [Emperor of Sand] and the Lana Del Rey record [Lust for Life]. Those are my top four.
WHAT WAS IT ABOUT THE LANA DEL REY THAT STOOD OUT TO YOU? THE CRITICS SEEMED TO LIKE IT A LOT WHEN IT CAME OUT, BUT IT SORT OF GOT LOST IN THE WIND…
Oh, man. I think her melodies are brilliant. I love her voice. I think the songwriting is brilliant. I think the world moves really quick nowadays. If you don't have a bunch of hits all over the radio, people move on, even if it's really great. I think that record, it definitely made an impact on me. The video for its single ["Lust for Life"] is brilliant. I think she's a great songwriter. It's just really good.
WOULD YOU EVER COLLABORATE WITH HER IF SHE REACHED OUT?
If she approached us, there'd be no question about it. It'd be a no-brainer for sure.