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Avenged Sevenfold’s M. Shadows: ‘The Rev Showed Me Metallica’

Kevin RC Wilson, Loudwire
Kevin RC Wilson, Loudwire

My name is Ryan J. Downey. I’m a longtime journalist who has covered film, TV, music and politics, as well as being an artist manager, representing bands and producers mostly in the metal space. Metallica is my favorite band of all time. I often find myself engaged in conversations involving Metallica. So I started a podcast about it.

Avenged Sevenfold, who will perform at the 2017 Loudwire Music Awards at The Novo in Los Angeles, recently completed a U.S. tour as main support to Metallica. M. Shadows sat down with me for the debut episode of Speak N’ Destroy, a podcast about all things Metallica.

The A7X singer was kind enough to invite me into his home in Orange County, where we spoke in the vocal studio where he demos a lot of his music. The conversations on Speak N’ Destroy cover a variety of topics, but they share one thing in common: each guest has been involved with Metallica in some way. We talked a great deal about his formative years, digging bands like Faith No More.

“My dad saw Guns N’ Roses on Headbanger’s Ball and he got me Appetite for Destruction when I was very young, probably in first grade,” Shadows explained. “I remember rocking out with my tape player and jumping on the bed [playing air guitar to] Slash’s solos. That’s my first memory of my own musical taste and it came from my dad. I remember the Nirvana Nevermind tape being in the car. The first CD I ever bought was Pearl Jam‘s Ten.”

He credited tastemaker Los Angeles rock radio station KROQ with some of his important early discoveries, as well. “They were playing really good music – Soundgarden, Alice In Chains, Bad Religion, Green Day, The Offspring.”

But it was the late James Owen Sullivan, who fans would come to know as “The Rev,” who showed him the music of Metallica. “We were probably 10 or 11 years old. If you went into his room, it would be like every Hit Parader magazine ripped [apart] and put on the walls, all of the posters. He had this wall of tapes; he probably had 3,000 tapes and copies of tapes. Testament, Queensrÿche, Dream Theater, Metallica, King Diamond, everything…”

“He’d been doing drum lessons. I remember going into his room and he was playing [along to] the ‘Black Album.’ Divine Intervention had come out and he was playing all the Slayer stuff, all the Paul Bostaph stuff. That’s how I was introduced to Metallica. He had Live S–t: Binge & Purge, the big box set. He’d known about Metallica for a lot longer than I did. I was a casual listener. I loved the few bands I knew of from my dad; KLOS and whatever they were playing or KNAC. But he was the one that got me into the deep s–t; the bands that weren’t necessarily played all over radio. Even though Metallica was the biggest band, he was the one that kind of cemented that for me.”

It wasn’t long before Shadows went backward into the band’s catalog, discovering the majesty of early Metallica albums like Ride the Lightning. The acoustic moments in songs like “Fade to Black” spoke to him in particular.

“I don’t even know how they came up with that,” he said, marveling at the famous ballad. “It’s two different keys. It’s got the greatest little run-up; like it feels dark, into light. When you can convey stuff like that it’s almost like classical music, on the level of Mozart and the great compositions that can make you feel something with just a few notes. That’s really hard to do. I have so much respect for it because it makes you feel something so deep. When they go clean, when they go melodic, it’s brilliant.”

“The amount of power and energy [with Metallica]; nothing ever feels cheesy,” he added. “It’s always very serious and very blues-driven. It’s just done really well. It’s simple and very effective.”

It was when Avenged Sevenfold were riding high on their commercial breakthrough and major label debut, City of Evil, driven by the MTV TRL hit “Bat Country,” that Shadows, The Rev and the rest of the band were able to meet the boys in the Bay.

James Hetfield came onto the band’s bus outside a show in San Francisco, wearing an Avenged Sevenfold hoodie, as Shadows was running through vocal warm-ups. After the show, Lars Ulrich found his way to the band and hung out for a long while.

“Lars came in with a drink and we just talked to him for two hours. And he’s just chilling; talking. He’s great! He had his toothpick in his mouth, ya’ know? It’s Lars! That was our first experience with them. It was really cool.”

To hear the entire wide-ranging and in-depth discussion, where the Avenged Sevenfold vocalist spoke about his childhood, the very early days of his band, the unconventional rollout of The Stage, the state of hard rock and metal in the modern pop cultural landscape, the “loudness wars” with mastering and more, check out the Speak N’ Destroy podcast on iTunes or wherever you consume podcasts.

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