Avenged Sevenfold’s Zacky Vengeance on ‘The Stage’ Evolution, ‘Malaguena Salerosa,’ Touring With Metallica + More
Avenged Sevenfold opened Friday (June 9) with a surprise for fans, revealing that The Stage album would be an evolving piece of work with the band adding new songs to the 2016 release in the coming months. The first installment is a new cover of a traditional Spanish folk song called "Malaguena Salerosa," recorded with singer M. Shadows singing the track in Spanish.
Before the release, we had a chance to check out the track and to speak with Avenged Sevenfold's Zacky Vengeance about the continued evolution of The Stage. He also gave us his response to hearing "Malaguena Salerosa" for the first time as fully realized by the band, discussed the group's tour with Metallica, the launch of the Deathbat Nation fan club and gave us an update on how the two new fathers in their ranks have helped the group live up to the Avenged Sevenfold name. Check out the chat below:
You're always keeping it interesting for fans of the band. This idea of an evolving album for The Stage is very cool. Can you tell us how the idea came about?
Absolutely. When we first got excited to start writing music for this album, we wanted to do something unconventional for the sake of our fans and with that said we started throwing around different ideas as to what we could do to create excitement with our fans. Naturally the idea of a traditional album that comes out with tons of leeway into it and tons of radio singles and the album drops and you tease it, it was kind of boring to us because we've done it before and we wanted to do something different.
We really wanted to create an album that had no boundary or limit to it. There's nothing to say that we couldn't release a song that belongs on The Stage 20 years into our career. We want it to be an album that constantly grows with what we want to do, and that's what we did. While we recorded the album, we recorded additional tracks and with the attention of surprising our fans with the release and at a certain point where we felt it was the right time, we wanted to initiate adding to our album, purely for our fans. There was no intention of trying to sell these tracks and no intention of anything other than making people excited that this album was alive and that there was more to it so you could always revisit the album with new additions and new music to be heard.
You mentioned that these tracks were recorded during The Stage sessions. Was there anything recorded after the sessions with the idea that it tied into the themes of The Stage?
We laid down drum tracks while we were in the studio and it allowed us time to figure out the arrangement of these particular tracks. And then after we released the album, we went back into the studio and finished up this round of songs. We really wanted to make each one special and fun. This is purely for the fans, and if you've ever checked out the album on any of the streaming sites, this would be like you would come back to the album and realize, wow, this wasn't there the last time I checked. We just wanted to record an album with no boundaries, and doing this really means there's no limit to the opportunities. You can add live tracks, you can add commentary, you can add new songs, cover songs, anything that fits.
With The Stage, we wanted to leave this particular album wide open to anything that we've ever wanted to do, which is completely different from anything we've done on past albums. We're very historically tried and true when it comes to our albums. We pick the best songs, we get rid of the songs we feel don't fit on the album and we don't work on remixing or remastering albums. We feel like what we made at that point in time is what it is and we want it to be timeless and our fans to live with that album their entire life. This time around, we wanted to do something the complete opposite and something untouched by pretty other rock bands, apparently.
I was going to ask a little bit about the rollout of this. What does this mean if you already have the album? Are there download links for the songs and how do you go about getting them?
Yeah, to be honest, what we've been discussing is that we want to get the songs out to our fans and the easiest method, the least intrusive method, would be getting them on the streaming services, which is sort of where the music world is headed currently. It's a great tool and a great thing for music to be able to go to a site and instantly stream your favorite songs and albums. So naturally adding to the streaming services was our first intention.
It's in no way an extended edition or bonus edition and we're not trying to scrape a few bucks out of our fans. We just really wanted to do something special for our fans, and as far as a traditional rollout, we really don't have one. The songs will make their way onto the Internet, and fans are incredibly adept at finding the songs on their own whether it be YouTube or Spotify or Apple Music or sharing the songs. That's what they're kind of there for I think, just to create some excitement, some dialogue between our fans and give them something to talk about. All the song choices that we've picked are unique in their own right. They're fun and it's really just to engage our fans.
The band does such great videos. Do you see videos coming along with these songs as well?
It's hard to say. The great part of this experiment is that it lends itself to being completely wide open for any future videos, live performance videos. We don't have any plans at this moment for anything official as far as music videos, but as each song comes out and the response is reviewed, we can kind of determine what we want to do with each one of them.
I'm not sure what I expected from Avenged Sevenfold, but I'm pretty sure I didn't expect this -- "Malaguena Salerosa." And it looks like M. Shadows had to learn to sing the song in Spanish, as well. Can you talk about the decision to cover the song and the process of seeing that through?
We've been traveling around the world for almost 20 years and coming across incredible cultures and fan bases around the world. And you come across different styles of music that mean a lot to people. We're constantly paying attention to that and we're surrounded by it and once we're a part of it, it becomes part of who we are. And in typical Avenged Sevenfold fashion, we wanted to do something that was completely going to be what was unexpected. That's one thing we've always kind of stuck with. And like you said, you never really imagined we'd do something like that and that's what makes it so great.
The song itself is a beautiful song with an incredible melody. It lends itself well to a really awesome rock/metal arrangement, even though it's a traditional Spanish folk song. And us growing up in Southern California and being so heavily influenced by the culture, it just has a Western vibe to it. We had a discussion of whether we should cover it and have Matt translate it and sing it in English and I was the biggest advocate saying you absolutely have to sing it in Spanish and it's going to go a long way because it's the way the song was meant to be performed. It's fun and it's going to bring a chuckle to some fans and make some people raise their eyebrows or roll their eyes. And for some people, in typical Avenged Sevenfold fashion, it'll cause them to be in an uproar cause we did something so off the wall, but that's what makes it great and that's why we had so much fun doing it.
And I have to ask about the arrangement, as well. I'm assuming that it may have had horns back in the day that get translated marvelously here by guitars ...
Yeah, I assume, the song itself really has been passed down from so many generations that it's more like a folk song at this point that doesn't really have any definitive origin. But if I had to guess, it was probably played on a half broken untuned nylon string guitar a long, long time ago and throughout the ages because of mariachi bands horns have been added, and for us, we added guitars and boosted up the drumming a little bit, but what we did try to keep true to was the beauty and the melody and keeping the simplicity in that. And lyrically, when you do translate it, it's kind of a sad love song and we wanted to keep the melody true to that.
This feels like it had to be so much fun for you, and Matt, who is not a natural Spanish speaker, sounds like a pro here. Having done this, can you tell me about hearing it back the first time as a finished version and what that experience was like?
(laughs) Yeah, hearing it the first time with Matt singing in Spanish, it just puts the biggest smile on your face. It's definitely, and there's no other way around saying this, but it's definitely a 'What the f--?' moment (laughs). It was like, "What are we doing? This is awesome." I think it just made us happy and it was something that was do different.
Growing up, I can't even think of many of my favorite bands who would have even attempted something like this. It's just so obscure to take a folk song in a different language and be a pretty well-respected English-speaking rock band and totally take a song and twist it around and have fun with it. My initial reaction was I just had the biggest smile on my face.
You're spending your summer with Metallica and I know you're all fans of the band. What does it mean to continue to have the opportunity to play with these guys who you've admired?
It's incredible and it's an absolute honor. Being part of this tour, it's really inspiring to see what those guys have accomplished throughout their career by hard work, the love that they've shown for their fans and the crew, and that's something that we've always paid really close attention to. We've really let ourselves be inspired by that. And for us, it's about going out there and having fun onstage every night.
It's just a blessing. When you think about when you're a young kid and if someone were to tell the 10-year-old me that someday we'd be playing sold out stadiums along with Metallica, I could've never foreseen that happening. So the fact that it's really happening, we don't take any of that for granted. We get out there every single night and there's a solid case of nerves, which fuels us to go out there and play the best we can and every time I look around at my bandmates, everyone has the biggest smiles on their faces. And the fans have been absolutely incredible. It's about going out there, having fun, and doing what we were meant to do and if it's meant to be, it'd be great to follow in a similar path.
In touring with Metallica, you've put off your own headlining tour and there was talk of some pretty cool production this time. Where do things stand at this point and is there anything you can tease about what's to come?
Yeah, I mean it's a little up in the air right now cause it's still a ways away. We're really just trying to get to places that haven't seen us get to perform some of the songs from the new album and taking a look at what makes the most sense. Ultimately, the one thing I think we can all agree on, is wanting to get out and put on a killer show for our fans in the States. Typically we start in the United States and showcase our new songs from the album, but this time we started overseas and we left some fans here waiting for us to come around and bring the show to them. So we're just looking at where we need to go and what fans want to see it the most and then we'll kind of just go from there.
Since we've last talked, there's also a new Avenged Sevenfold fan club and you even had fans get involved in the naming of the club. What's it been like to see that take shape in recent months?
It's something we've talked about since the beginning. We've always wanted a fan club, well, first and foremost, we wanted fans. [chuckle] And now we're at the point where we actually have some of those, so we wanted to do something special for them. In this day and age, for us it's important to really give back to the fans and create a place for them to share in everything we're doing on the road. We've got exclusive content and videos and we want to make them part of each and every night and giving them a chance to meet us before the shows. That really pumps us up. It's one thing to go onstage and see the fans, but it's a whole other form of inspiration to actually meet these people that are the reason you get to do what you're doing. Every night we're able to meet fan club winners that are so excited to meet us and we're excited to see them and know that they're the ones with their fists in the air. It's just our way of sharing and doing something with Avenged Sevenfold with the people who care the most.
Synyster Gates and Johnny Christ both have become new fathers this year. There's another generation of Avenged Sevenfold coming along. How are the new dads doing?
Yeah, they're the rookies. Me and Matt are the seasoned pros at this point. They're the rookie dads to the club and they're figuring it out for themselves. It's fun. It's great to have a new generation of little ones around the backstage area. It's just refreshing and we all refer to ourselves as everyone else's kids' uncles. So you find yourself doing silly, goofy stuff just trying to entertain this next generation of hopefully rock and metal fans, but they'll all have their own personalities. I know that Synyster and Johnny are having a blast. And myself, personally, being a dad is one of the most incredible experiences. It's absolutely life changing and I know it's the same for Matt, as well, and Brooks, our drummer. Between us now, we truly are Avenged Sevenfold, because we have seven boys in the mix, so it makes for a wild time backstage.
Wow! Look out! As for what's on the horizon, is there a plan for when we might see the next song?
It is kind of meant to be a surprise, but I will say that we won't keep our fans waiting long. We definitely want it to be part of this, and I hate the term album cycle, but we'll call it that. We'll continue to release new music and keep our fans excited and continue playing concerts and then work toward the future. We're always looking far into the future to come up with new and exciting opportunities.
Our thanks to Avenged Sevenfold's Zacky Vengeance for the interview. The band's album 'The Stage' is currently available to purchase here, while the new song "Malaguena Salerosa" can be found here. You can look for Avenged Sevenfold on tour this summer with Metallica at these stops.
Listen to Avenged Sevenfold's New Song 'Malaguena Salerosa'
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