Dear Guitar Hero: Avenged Sevenfold
Their band got its name from the Bible and found fame by playing the devil's music. But what Guitar World readers really want to know is about Zacky Vengeance and Synyster Gates is...
You guys have such a killer sound. What’s in your live setup? —Zakk Anderson
SYNYSTER GATES I use Bogner amps and custom-designed Schecter guitars with Seymour Duncan Invader pickups. I beef up my tone with a Boss CS- 3 Compression Sustainer. It’s kinda like my secret weapon. All this is connected to a [Voodoo Lab] GCX Ground Control Pro MIDI processor.
ZACKY VENGEANCE (Above) I’m a big fan of both Bogner Uberschall and Mesa/ Boogie Dual Rectifiers, so I switch it up between those, depending on my mood. I run from there into a Boss Compression Sustainer and a Line 6 Constrictor. From there, everything goes into a GCX ground unit. That’s really it. I try to keep it simple.
If you could collaborate with one musician, who would it be and why? —Frank Paulson
GATES Mike Patton, because he’s my favorite artist of all time. Musically, vocally, as a producer, as a label owner [Ipecac], he’s the best.
VENGEANCE That’s a tough one, but I would have to say James Hetfield. As a rhythm guitarist who plays leads, he’s as solid as it gets. I totally model myself after him. He’s the master of riffs. It would be so much fun to sit down with James and write some heavy, thrashy and melodic riffs.
I hear you guys are working on your own signature guitars. When are they set to come out, and do you have any idea how much they’ll cost? —Jeff
GATES Yes, we are working with Schecter on our signature guitar models, and they should be out soon. We’re gonna do two versions: one will be more reasonably priced, and the other will be exactly like the ones we play, which will be a little more high-end and expensive.
I love your harmony lines. Who usually plays the lower main part and who plays the higher “harmony” part? What kinds of harmony do you like to use: unison, minor third, etc.? —Alex Pelnar
GATES I usually play the harmony part, because I’m a little more knowledgeable in theory than Zacky and I have a specific way I like harmonies to sound. I don’t like using fourths and fifths. Instead, I’ll come up with a harmony line made up of major and minor thirds above the melody, then I’ll drop it down an octave so that the melody is on top and the harmony line is major and minor sixths below it.
I love the solo sections in “Bat Country.” Did you use any specific exercises to get your chops up to their current level, like stuff from Michael Angelo Batio videos? —Anthony Jilton
GATES I’ve always wanted to get videos, but I’ve just never had the time. Basically, my solution is to practice what I play and challenge myself with my writing. I’m still getting a grasp on playing the solo on “Beast and the Harlot.” [laughs] I’m always in the studio writing way over my head. So when I’ve got to play live, I have to man up and practice my fucking ass off.
The first time I saw you guys play, barely 30 people were there, but you still put on an amazing show. How do you keep up the intensity in such a setting? —Curtis Gulash
GATES Wow, good question. Well, you just gotta go in there and play every show like it means something. We do that naturally, but it’s still hard sometimes. It helps if you really mesh with the guys you’re playing with and have a good time with them.
VENGEANCE Plus, if you aspire to play for more people, when you find yourself playing in front of 30 people, you’ve gotta win over those 30 people. You can’t treat it like a small show. You’re not just playing for those 30 people; you’re playing for the millions that you hope to be playing for.
I love the dual leads on City of Evil. It seems like Zacky’s lead playing has gotten way better. Zacky, did you follow a specific workout between albums or maybe sell your soul to the devil? —Jamie Oldfield
VENGEANCE [laughs] I definitely practiced my ass off. That’s the truth. With every album, I write above my ability, and my job as a guitarist is to catch up and be able to play it live. The thing about practicing is that once you master something, you don’t have to remaster it. You just keep moving forward.
City of Evil sounds like the unholy love child sired from an orgy between Pantera, Guns N’ Roses, Iron Maiden and the Beatles. What was your inspiration in making it, and how did the end product compare or contrast to what you originally set out to do? —J Cliff
VENGEANCE It’s awesome that you hear those influences, ’cause those are all bands we love. With City of Evil, we just wanted to make a diverse album with big epic sections, western-style riffs, punk rock and heavy metal parts. I think we succeeded, and we’re very happy with the outcome.
GATES This album was written very fearlessly. We were not afraid to delve into our most extreme and eclectic influences. And the more we just went for it, the more ridiculous the writing got.