You’d be forgiven for thinking Avenged Sevenfold’s Synyster Gates is a metal guitar player through and through. His leads across the Huntington Beach outfit’s discography are some of the most memorable and face-melting of the last 20 years. But Gates’ influences and abilities, in fact, stretch far beyond the realms of heavy music.
Prior to joining A7X in 2001, the guitarist studied at the Musicians Institute in Los Angeles, learning the ropes in a host of styles including jazz and classical guitar.
Perhaps it’s no surprise then, that after years on the cutting edge of metal, Gates returned to his jazzier roots, finding, or “refinding”, as he puts it, gypsy jazz, the style of small-band jazz originated by Romani-French guitarist Django Reinhardt and French violinist Stéphane Grappelli.
As he explained during a masterclass at Guitar Center back in 2014, his passion for the subgenre came after experimenting with new musical styles, inspired by guitarists including his father, Brian Elwin Haner Sr., and recently announced Mötley Crüe touring guitarist John 5.
“Basically what was happening for me was guys like John 5 – [an] unbelievable musician – he was listening to a lot of country and developing that technique. [And] my dad plays a lot of country. So I thought, these guys are doing that, I’m gonna do that, too. [But] I didn’t fall in love with the actual techniques and playing and it kind of discouraged me a little bit.
“And then I found gypsy jazz – I refound it – because I used to love listening to it but it just seemed like a very unattainable art form.”
But after clearly putting in some considerable hours, gypsy jazz is now a firm calling card of Synyster Gates’ repertoire. “I found the technique, the scales, just the whole nuance, the detail about it, to be very useful,” he added.
In the video below, watch Gates put his astonishingly well-honed chops on display with a jaw-dropping improvised performance over a backing track in the style of one of Djano Reinhardt’s most famous compositions, Minor Swing.
Naturally, Gates employs many of the same techniques he applies to his leads in Avenged, including economy picking – a blend of alternate picking and sweep picking designed to maximize picking efficiency. It’s astonishing, though, how well these work and translate in a gypsy jazz setting.
You might have to wait until 2023 for Avenged Sevenfold’s highly-anticipated eighth album, but you can feast your eyes and ears on Gates' next-level gypsy jazz chops in the meantime.