M. Shadows of Avenged Sevenfold Talks "Carry On", "Call of Duty: Black Ops 2", New Music, and More
Wed, 14 Nov 2012 18:01:52
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"Fight till we're free," sings Avenged Sevenfold frontman M. Shadows during "Carry On", the band's incendiary tune for Call of Duty: Black Ops 2.
That undying and unwavering battle cry not only serves as the perfect soundtrack for the game but as an immortal clarion call for the group. Avenged has been fighting since day one, and they've rightfully claimed the spot as modern heavy music's kings. "Carry On" solidifies their reign as one of the group's tightest and tightest anthems yet. It's got the instrumental intricacy that brings jaws to the ground with a hook that brings hands to the air. "Carry On" remains one of the best metal songs of 2012…
The band tear through it during a special sequence in Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 that's high energy and hypnotic in its own right. Nothing quite like watching them shred in digitized form…
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino, Avenged Sevenfold singer M. Shadows tells the story behind "Carry On", talks Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, shines light on the next album, reveals what he's listening to, and so much more.
Watch it below and read the interview!
"Carry On" has this intense thrash energy, but it's definitely an evolution for Avenged Sevenfold. What's the story behind the song?
Well, it came together by listening to way too much "Ozzy's Boneyard" on SiriusXM Radio [Laughs]. They play a lot of classic metal and thrash on there. It's everything from Judas Priest and Iron Maiden to Helloween and Rush. There's all sorts of fun stuff. When we got called about this song, we basically had three days to write it, a couple of days to record it, and we had to be in there doing motion capture. We were like, "Let's do something that's a bit of a throwback". It's a little more compact as a song. They needed it to be under four minutes because of animation. We wanted to make a song that punched you in the gut and left you there. We made an up-tempo song with some chord modulations and fun chorus tricks. We had a great time doing it. We wanted to make an uplifting song that was fun and entertaining at the end of the game. I think it came out really well.
Where were you coming from lyrically?
I wanted to be more vague. Sometimes, I feel like my lyrics meander a little bit, and our songs are so big I need to write more words than are necessary. I wanted to leave these lyrics more open-ended. I felt that the term "Carry On" was perfect not only for the characters but for Avenged Sevenfold moving forward. I stuck with that. I just wanted to write some epic lyrics you could think about when you were driving down the street or on your horse [Laughs]. It's a classic, vast, up-tempo metal song. "Carry On" worked with that.
You can always interpret the best metal lyrics from Metallica or Iron Maiden in a myriad of ways. There's an element of poetry to that.
I totally agree, and we've never done that before. I'm glad we experiment with that on this song because it gives me more confidence moving forward into the next record to do stuff like that. "Nothing Else Matters" or "Sad But True" are pretty open-ended lyrics. They're classics, and you can take them any way you want. You know what the terms mean, but they can mean something different to everybody and apply to their lives. It's definitely a learning process. Being in a band, we learn every day. I was really happy with the way those lyrics came out.
Were you a big fan of Call of Duty: Black Ops?
Yeah, we actually did a song for them. It was an Easter egg called "Not Ready to Die". I was a fan of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, and I got into Call of Duty: Black Ops, which was my favorite Call of Duty game of all time. I actually kept playing it all the way through until this game. Now, I play Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, and I love it! We've been friends with Treyarch and Activision for a long time. I talk to Mark Lamia, president of Treyarch, all the time. We got to Laker games together. It's a great friendship. When he said he wanted to put us in the game, we were like, "Hell yeah! We'd love to be in it. This is awesome!"
What was it like seeing yourselves in the game?
It's funny. It's like hearing yourself on a voice recorder. You cringe a little bit, but you're excited and it's fun. I didn't know how it would go over with everybody. I'm really happy and proud of how it came out. We're trying to have fun and doing an entertaining little thing at the end of the game. It's not meant to be taken too seriously.
How does the motion capture work?
We went into the same place they did Terminator 2: Judgment Day and Iron Man. We got in those funny little suits, played the song with wooden guitars, and basically pretended in a white room with 500 cameras [Laughs]. We had to act in that first scene with Woods and Menendez with the suits on. It was a full-on two or three days of motion capture. It was crazy.
Does the Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 narrative appeal to you?
I'm a complete multiplayer whore [Laughs]. The campaign is amazing. It's like playing a movie. There's an amazing story. The campaign is awesome, but it's about eight or ten hours to beat. What I love about Call of Duty is getting in there with a bunch of friends, talking shit, shooting people in the face from across the country, and having a competitive night. That's the best thing about it to me. It's so fun.
Has "Carry On" sparked the writing process even more?
After "Carry On", we took off August and most of September. At the end of September, we started writing for the record. I'm really happy with it. It's a very cool direction that we're going in. There's kind of an old school feel, but it's still modern. It doesn't feel dated. It's going to be the next evolution of Avenged Sevenfold. We're excited about it.
What have you been listening to lately?
We've really been listening to a lot of classical music, getting familiar with the chord progressions they're using, the scales, and how they put notes together. I go back to all of the old stuff I've listened to my whole life. I'm really dissecting Master of Puppets. I'm dissecting Pantera records. I'm getting into Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath for inspiration on this record as well as some Pink Floyd. I've been listening to the Ghost record. Volbeat is cool. As far as pop goes, I'm listening to Lana Del Rey. It's all over the place. I downloaded the new Soundgarden record last night. I like to get everything. I got Three Days Grace and Halestorm. I like to keep up on what everyone's doing.
On Nightmare, you balanced writing big hooks with the epic, expansive nature of the songs masterfully. Metallica's one of the only other bands in history to do that. Is that balance between slamming choruses and progressive intricacy in mind?
It's totally in my mind. When you look at bands like Pantera, Megadeth, and Metallica, they're way closer in their songwriting than you would think. They're all the same sorts of riffs. You can tell the way they write songs is very AC/DC-based. Metallica gets a little more melodic. Pantera gets a little more brutal. Megadeth has more of those creepy, melodic minor types of scales. It's riff-based. When you have a combination of that, which our band kind of does because we grew up on all those bands, you have to make sure there's a balance between the aggressive and the melodic and the stripped-down songs and the songs that are more progressive. There's always a balance. You have to weigh that balance on what the song needs and the album needs. At some point, you need to say, "We have a bunch of long songs, we need some compact songs". At another point, you need to say, "Let's make a fucking crazy eleven-minute song!" It comes to making what you want to hear.
There's an intelligence and visual element to your lyrics that's prevalent. That's atypical of modern metal.
I agree. When I used to put in a Megadeth record, I'd get visuals in my head of Dave Mustaine's voice. The lyrics would make me think. It's the same thing with Metallica. Nowadays, it seems like the idea is get signed to a label and make three-minute songs because that's what the radio wants to play. You listen to the radio, and it's like, "Where did this come from?" AC/DC can do that because they're AC-fucking-DC, and they fucking rule at making riffs that stick in your head. They have a badass singer and groove. You have a lot of people not going into depth. People wonder why rock music isn't as big as it used to be.
Do you tend to read while you're writing lyrics?
I read lyrics of other bands. My wife always tries to get me to read! I'll read autobiographies of people I'm interested in me. I write from the heart and hopefully it works out [Laughs].
What's your favorite Avenged Sevenfold song?
See our review of the song here!