"This thing is meant to be the biggest, baddest thing that's ever hit the fucking world wide web," Synyster Gates says with a laugh. The "thing" he's referring to is the Synyster Gates School, a new online instructional platform that offers free guitar tutorials from the Avenged Sevenfold guitarist and his father, Brian Haner, Sr., (a. k. a. "Papa Gates") an acclaimed session player who has worked with Frank Zappa, Tower of Power and many others. For Gates, it's something he's been wanting to do for a long time. "My dad and I first started talking about this five years ago," he says. "Basically, I wanted to create something that I had been looking for. You can go down that YouTube hole, which I've done, but I found I kind of hit a road bump with it. Because it's just endless. And I felt like it wasn't curated. And so I thought, I play how I play, my dad's played with everybody, I went to school to be a studio musician, between the two of us we can cover a large gamut of musical genres and applications. I felt we were pretty suited to curate a really cool system or method of learning guitar."
That said, the Synyster Gates School will be more than just a place to watch videos of Syn and his dad showing you how to play, say, a Dorian mode or a five-string sweep picking pattern (though, clearly, they will do plenty of this type of thing). Rather, Gates also envisions the school as an interactive community that will connect players of all levels, as well as offer contests, competitions, interactive playthroughs and plenty of incentives and rewards for student participation, not to mention merch, swag, concert tickets, behind-the-scenes content and other unique goodies. "We're creating an army," Gates says. "A legion of fucking shredders."
Though the Synyster Gates School has yet to officially launched, interested students can sign up now at syngates.com and receive content immediately. Revolver recently caught up with Gates to find out more about what he and his dad have in store for the school, as well as what's on the docket for Avenged Sevenfold.
HOW DID THIS IDEA COME TOGETHER?
SYNYSTER GATES It started off as just a music school, basically, and it was just going to be, like, a compendium of lessons and stuff like that. Which is partly what the first iteration is. There are close to 200 lessons, along with some etude-style things from me. But I also started reading all these entrepreneurial books as we were developing this, and you learn so many different things from these entrepreneurial guys, but there are also common denominators. And one big one is crowd sourcing. And so I knew I just needed to figure out a way to get that Wikipedia-style, YouTube-style crowd-sourcing thing into this, but also have it curated a little bit more. So the first iteration of the school is, basically, learn to play like me and my dad. Which will get you through a whole host of different obstacles that we address, as well as the fundamental curriculum. But as kids sign up, they'll immediately have access to their own profile page, kind of a social media-style sort of thing, where they can upload videos and experiments with other kids and really share knowledge. And then we'll showcase their accolades and achievements as well.
IT'S GREAT THAT YOU'RE MAKING THE WHOLE SCHOOL A FREE EXPERIENCE.
Yeah. Kids have to sell their souls, but other than that ... [laughs] But in all seriousness, there's no gags, there's no tricks, there's no nothing. There will be merch and stuff for sale later, but I'm going to try to give some merch away at first. I do care about this thing being free, and it has to be a good fucking platform. But there's no up-selling. There's no paywall. You get access to every single bit of content that I put out. And another thing about it is, it's involving. We listen to these kids. And if 90 percent of them, or even 75 percent of them, don't like the way we're describing a diminished scale or a G major chord? We're gonna re-fucking-do it, you know?
IT MUST BE COOL TO HAVE YOUR DAD INVOLVED. WHAT ARE SOME OF THE THINGS HE BRINGS TO THE SCHOOL?
Ah, man. For starters, his ear. And just the amount of knowledge he has. My fans, they know my dad as Guitar Guy or whatever, and he's kind of just this shredder that plays on my records sometimes. But they don't know his ear, and how rich his harmonic scope is. Not only did he play in the biggest, craziest studios with the gnarliest artists, but he also did a lot of Top 40 during that time when us little shitheads came out and he couldn't go travel around the world. He made the conscious choice to stay home for the better part of 10 years, and he did a lot of Top 40 to supplement the sometimes sparse studio gigs in L.A. And he learned thousands and thousands of songs.
So, I mean, the ear that he has today, he's just calling out Stevie Wonder chord substitutions, modal interchanges, going, like, "Oh, yeah, he's in the parallel minor right now ..." And you're just listening to this fucking dude giving this dissertation about Stevie Wonder, even though most of the stuff he was doing was rock and pop and shit like that. He's a next-level dude.
CAN YOU TALK A BIT ABOUT THE COMMUNITY ASPECT OF THE SCHOOL?
There's definitely a lot of cool participation aspects. One of the things we're spending a lot of time on in this first version is student participation. We're going to be focusing on achievement. We're going to have a close eye on the people that give the most effort. You don't have to be great. You don't have to be good. You don't have to even have ever played. But the more you contribute, the more incentive you will be provided with.
And there will be great incentive for people to contribute to the community. We'll give them spotlights. We'll have featured students, like, "Johnny B. Goode here is a fucking badass at rock/blues." A big driving factor will also be competition. We definitely want to partner with big brands and get these crazy contests going where if you teach enough kids or have high enough ratings, then, boom, you win a masterclass with me. I'll fly you out to Huntington Beach and we'll fucking surf and eat and play guitar and just talk shop. And that's actually going to be there when we launch.
IS THERE A FIRM LAUNCH DATE YET?
You can go and sign up right now, and when you do, you just give us your name and your email and we send you content right away. But we're hoping for a full launch this year, and we really think we're going to hit that mark, to be honest. Because all the content is basically there. All the lessons and videos are done. All the tricks and little tips, anecdotes, even the behind-the-scenes stuff of me and my dad jamming. And we'll continually release content. So you're not just stuck in limbo, like, "I signed up, what's happening here?" Believe me, there will be plenty to do. It's going to be a living and breathing thing. It's fucking perennial.
CAN YOU GIVE US AN UPDATE ON AVENGED SEVENFOLD? YOU GUYS ARE ABOUT TO HIT THE ROAD WITH BREAKING BENJAMIN AND BULLET FOR MY VALENTINE.
Yeah. A couple good friends of ours. Breaking Benjamin, they're such incredible songwriters. And Bullet, we've been through some shit together way back in the day. Those guys are crazy. I'm glad they're still a band. I'm glad we're still a band. [laughs] They're fucking nuts. So this is going to be an exciting package.
HAVE THERE BEEN ANY DISCUSSIONS ABOUT THE BAND GOING BACK INTO THE STUDIO? OR IS IT JUST GOING TO BE LIVE WORK FOR THE FORESEEABLE FUTURE?
That's going to be it. We've been in and out of the studio for, I mean, two-and-a-half years. I hate to say it but I'm fucking done. I'm seriously done for another year. Maybe we'll do some fun stuff here and there but I don't want to record any more songs. I wanna fucking tour. That's my favorite thing to do, anyway. Just get out there and see the familiar faces. And we still have so much new shit to play. So, yeah, that'll fill up 2018 for sure.